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The Best Business Phone Systems of 2021

By Chad Brooks,
business.com Staff
| Updated
Apr 07, 2021

Our team of experts has compared the best small business phone systems for 2021. See up-to-date comparisons, reviews and costs for the top-rated services.
Best Business Phone System for Collaboration
Four pricing plans
Multiple voicemail options
Mobile app for iOS and Android
Best Business Phone System for Remote Teams
Easy installation and operation
Control from an online portal
Unlimited calling
Best Business Phone System for Voice Intelligence
No desk phone requirement
Built-in voice intelligence
Video conferencing included
Best Business Phone System for CRM Integration
HD video and voice
Four service plans
Built-in CRM
Best Business Phone System for Features and Tools
More than 80 features and tools
Phone, email, live chat support
No PBX equipment to install
Our team of experts has compared the best small business phone systems for 2021. See up-to-date comparisons, reviews and costs for the top-rated services.
 

The Best Business Phone Systems

Business phone systems have become an invaluable part of effective communication for organizations of all sizes. The best platforms not only allow you to communicate over the phone, but also offer video instant messaging and video conferencing. Because there are so many systems to choose from, we researched dozens of options to find the best ones for various types of businesses. We based our recommendations on a variety of factors including price, ease of use, available features and customer support. 

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How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
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Compare Our Best Picks

System name Starting monthly price Free trial Hosting method No. of features and tools
RingCentral $19.99 per user 30 days Cloud 50+
Ooma Office $19.95 per user 30-day money-back guarantee Cloud (with an on-premises hybrid option) 50+
Dialpad $15 per user 14 days Cloud 50+
Nextiva $17.95 per user 30 days Cloud 100+
GoToConnect $19.95 per user 14 days Cloud 100+
Grasshopper $14.99 per user 14 days Cloud  60+
8x8 $12 per user None Cloud 100+
Vonage $14.99 per user 14 days Cloud 60+
Windstream $19.95 per user No Cloud 90+
Zoom $10 per user, plus 3 cents per minute No Cloud 40+
net2phone $15.99 No Cloud 30+

Our Reviews

RingCentral: Best Business Phone System for Collaboration

This cloud-hosted business phone system requires no special equipment or wiring.
RingCentral offers an array of calling, collaboration and mobile features.
Audio and video conferencing are not included in the cheapest service plan.
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RingCentral Office is one of the best business phone services because of its wealth of features, ease of use and multiple price points. RingCentral is built with collaboration in mind, as it includes instant messaging, document sharing, conference calling and video conferencing. Access to all of these tools gives employees a central workspace for connecting internally with colleagues and externally with customers and clients. It's for these reasons that RingCentral Office is our choice as the best business phone system for collaboration.

This is a true unified communications system, as it provides phone service, audio and video conferencing, instant messaging, and online faxing all from one platform. Each user can host conference calls with up to 1,000 participants, and host their own video conference that allows screen sharing.

The VoIP phone service is hosted in the cloud and requires no special equipment or wiring to install. All businesses need is the required bandwidth to support their call volume and a router that prioritizes voice traffic.

Once the service has been activated and IP phones are plugged into Ethernet ports, your business can start making and receiving calls. The entire system is controlled through an online portal from which administrators can assign employees phone numbers and extensions, configure the auto receptionist, and set up answering rules.

Available on iOS and Android devices, RingCentral's mobile app lets users make and receive calls from their business lines, send and receive online faxes, and participate in conference calls.

In addition to the mobile app, RingCentral has a robust desktop app for both Windows PC and Mac computers. The app allows users to switch quickly between message, video and phone solutions. It offers an advanced search function that enables you to search for messages directed to an individual user. RingCentral also features calendar integrations with Microsoft Office 365 and Google.

RingCentral's phone service is available in four plans that vary in price and included features. Costs range from $20 to $60 per user, per month. You can save up to 33% per month when paying annually instead of month to month.

In addition to the standard phone service, call center services can be tacked on to any user's plan. The contact center offerings include IVRs, call distributors, outbound dialing and preview, and progressive and predictive dialers.

This phone service is extremely reliable. RingCentral boasts a 99.999% uptime, which means service is down for only a few minutes each year.

provides customer support by phone 24/7. Its website is also filled with user guides, FAQs, webinars and how-to videos.

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Ooma: Best Business Phone System for Remote Teams

Ooma is a cloud-hosted system that allows employees to tap into their business lines from wherever they are.
Ooma Office offers video conferencing and conferencing calling.
It doesn't have as many features as some other business phone systems do.
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Ooma Office is an ideal phone system for businesses with remote teams. The cloud-hosted system allows dispersed teams to stay connected, regardless of where they are working. With Ooma Office, employees can access their business lines from traditional desk phones as well as mobile and desktop apps, so they can make and receive business calls anytime and anywhere.

The Ooma platform also includes video conferencing services, which is especially beneficial for remote teams. It can support online meetings with up to 25 participants at once. This helps make Ooma a cost-effective solution, as you won't have to purchase a separate video conferencing system unless you regularly hold larger meetings.

While Ooma Office doesn't have all the extras that some phone systems offer, it has many of the features and tools businesses with a remote workforce will find most valuable. These features include unlimited local and long-distance calling, dedicated phone numbers and extensions, a virtual receptionist, voicemail, call transfers, call logs, daytime and after-hours modes, ring groups, music on hold, and online faxing. Each Ooma extension includes a conference bridge, which allows users to host conference calls with up to 10 callers at a time.

The mobile and desktop apps help make Ooma a good fit for businesses with remote employees. Via the Ooma mobile app, which is available on iOS and Android devices, users can make and receive calls using their business lines, transfer calls to other employees, and manage voicemails.

With the desktop app, employees can make calls straight from their computers. The desktop app provides all of the functionality of a traditional office phone. It can be included in ring groups, allows for extension dialing, and lets you listen to voicemail. It also lets you create a company directory that can connect colleagues with the click of a button, lets employees read voicemail transcripts, and includes many customization options that ensure employees can be reached whenever and wherever they want.

The Ooma phone system is available in two service plans, which differ in price and number of features: Ooma Office and Ooma Office Pro. Ooma Office costs $19.95 per user, per month and includes most of the features Ooma offers. Ooma Office Pro costs $24.95 per user, per month and adds several more features, including the desktop app, video conferencing, call recording, enhanced call blocking and voicemail transcription.

Ooma provides 24/7 customer support by phone, email and live chat.

Read Review

Dialpad: Best Business Phone System for Voice Intelligence

Dialpad is built for use with desktop and mobile apps.
Voice intelligence provides call roundups and transcripts.
The included video conferencing limits you to 45-minute meetings.
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Dialpad is a complete unified communications system built with on-the-go and remote teams in mind. Rather than building a system around desktop phones, Dialpad has focused on supporting calls via mobile and desktop app from the start. While you can use an office phone with the system, Dialpad provides just as much functionality on your mobile device or computer.

What really sets Dialpad apart in our eyes is its built-in voice intelligence. The platform taps into artificial intelligence technology to automatically record and study what is being said (and by whom) on calls and to provide data and insights that you can use later. This lets you focus on what is being said instead of furiously taking notes. It can also provide a post-call summary. These transcripts of your calls can be quite valuable, allowing you to search past calls for reminders of what you or your customer said or agreed to. This technology can offer huge benefits across your organization, particularly for your sales and customer service teams.

Dialpad is available in three service plans that differ in price and features.

  • Standard: This plan costs $20 per user, per month or, if you pay annually, $15 per user, per month. It has unlimited calling and SMS messaging, call controls, custom voicemail greeting, voicemail transcription, Google Workspace and Office 365 integrations, and custom off-hours routing.

  • Pro: This plan costs $30 per user, per month, or $25 per user, per month if you pay annually. It includes everything in the Standard plan plus local number support in more than 50 countries, Salesforce integration, 24/7 customer support, and API and webhooks support.

  • Enterprise: This plan has custom pricing, so you'll have to call the company to get a quote. It includes everything in the Pro plan plus integration with Okta single sign-on and service-level agreements.

All of the plans include some call analytics, number porting, spam detection, click-to-call, number forwarding, the ability to switch between devices during calls, and access to Dialpad's video conferencing service, UberConference. The Basic UberConference plan offers the ability to host 45-minute conferences with up to 10 participants. You can upgrade to the Business plan for $15 per user, per month; this plan allows five-hour meetings and up to 100 participants.

Dialpad also offers contact center solutions and Dialpad Sell, a phone system specifically for sales teams, which includes CRM integrations and real-time coaching. Pricing for Dialpad Sell starts at $95 per user, per month.

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Nextiva: Best Business Phone System for CRM Integration

Nextiva combines VoIP phone service, a CRM and help desk software into one cloud-hosted platform.
The platform includes an array of calling, productivity, mobility, conferencing and collaboration tools.
The Essential plan doesn't include unlimited audio and video conferencing.
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While most of today's business phone systems have built-in integrations with CRM systems, few offer their own version of a CRM. That's where Nextiva differs. Nextiva is a complete cloud-hosted unified communications system that also has its own CRM service. This combination can be a big benefit for businesses looking to cut down on the applications and programs they use.

First and foremost, Nextiva is a top-notch phone system. It is hosted in the cloud, so it is easy to get up and running. It has an online portal that makes it simple to use, and it offers all of the features and tools businesses look for in a communications system.

You would be hard-pressed to find a business phone system that has a more comprehensive set of features than Nextiva offers. Its service plans include HD voice and video, unlimited local and long-distance calling, online faxing, automated attendants, and voicemail-to-email and voicemail-to-text. The system also incorporates artificial intelligence, which can automate tasks and analyze calls to help spur positive conversations and solve problems.

Nextiva is a unified communications platform, as it offers conferencing and messaging tools. It has video conferencing services that support up to 250 participants at a time, conferencing call bridges that can host calls with unlimited attendees, team messaging, and unlimited SMS messages.

The service is extremely reliable. It has a 99.999% uptime, which means service is down for only a few minutes each year. Nextiva has eight points of presence and data centers, which ensures calls can keep going through even if one of its facilities is having issues.

What separates Nextiva from its competitors is its own built-in CRM system. This is ideal for businesses that want to tie all their customer communications to one platform. The Sales Pipeline CRM database includes account management, integrated business analytics, customer experience scoring, customer journey mapping, trend analysis, call history, call pops, click-to-dial and real-time data.

However, you can easily use a different CRM solution with Nextiva if you prefer, as it has integrations for all of the big CRM software, including Salesforce, HubSpot, Zoho, SugarCRM and Oracle Sales Cloud.

Nextiva is available in four service plans: Essential, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. The plans vary in features and pricing. The pricing for each also varies based on how many employees you have, if you are willing to prepay for service, and whether you commit to a 12-, 24- or 36-month contract. Prices for each plan go down as the users and contract length go up. Prices are also lower if you prepay for the length of the contract. For 20 to 99 users, monthly prices range from $18.95 to $65.95 per user. The CRM sales and customer service tools are included in the Ultimate plan. You can also purchase the CRM services a la carte if you prefer.

You can reach Nextiva's customer support team by phone between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. (MT) Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (MT) on Saturdays and Sundays.

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GoToConnect: Best Business Phone System for Features and Tools

All plans include team messaging and audio and video conferencing.
You can control the entire system from an online portal that is accessible from any internet-connected device.
If you require extensive contact center services, you need to work with inContact, one of GoToConnect's partners.

If you are looking for a business phone system that offers every tool and feature imaginable, you will be hard-pressed to find one that offers more than GoToConnect. GoToConnect is a cloud-hosted unified communications system packed with more than 100 calling, collaboration, and mobile features, tools, and integrations. Few systems (if any) offer more than that, which is why GoToConnect is our choice as the best business phone system for features and tools.

GoToConnect offers more than 70 calling features alone, including ring groups, paging, custom hold music, dial by extension or directory, call screening, call routing, Do Not Disturb, and call history. There are also several voicemail options, including virtual voicemail, voicemail-to-email and visual voicemail.

This is a cloud-hosted system that doesn't require any special equipment to get up and running. Setup is simple and entirely controlled from an online portal. The system allows users to make and receive calls from anywhere on mobile devices, computers, and desktop phones.

GoToConnect is available in three service plans: Basic, Standard and Premium. The plans vary in features, while pricing varies by whether you pay monthly or annually.

  • Basic: This plan costs $22 to $24 per user, per month, with a limit of 20 users. It includes one auto-attendant, ring group and call queue. It also has Find Me and Follow Me, team messaging, and audio conferencing. Video conferencing is included, but it only supports 40-minute meetings and four participants at a time.
  • Standard: This plan costs $23 to $29 per user, per month, with no limits on how many users you can have. It also allows unlimited auto-attendants, ring groups and call queues. This plan has hot desking, voicemail-to-email, call recording and caller analytics. There are no limits on how long video conferences can last, and you can host them with up to 150 participants; however, only 25 can have their cameras on at one time.
  • Premium: This plan starts at $39 per user, per month. It has everything in the Standard plan, as well as support center services like inbound and outbound call monitoring, queue call barge, real-time views for supervisors, and real-time queue summaries. It also supports video conferences with up to 250 attendees.

GoToConnect can easily connect to many popular programs you might be using already, including Salesforce, Slack, Google Workspace, Microsoft Office 365 and Zoho.

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Grasshopper: Best Virtual Business Phone System

With Grasshopper, you don't need any equipment or desk phones.
All calls are forwarded to your mobile or home phone. You determine which phones you want calls forwarded to and the order in which they are rung.
Grasshopper doesn't have a traditional phone system. If you need one at some point, you'll need to change providers.

Grasshopper is our choice for the best virtual phone system because it gives businesses the ability to present a professional image at all times without investing in a traditional in-office phone system. Grasshopper is the market leader in virtual phone systems because of its affordable pricing plans that include unlimited minutes, its ease of use for both administrators and employees, and its extensive call routing system in which employees can direct their calls to any phone in any order at any time.

Grasshopper is available in three service plans, all of which include unlimited minutes and all of the available features. The plans differ in the number of phone numbers and extensions they include. Pricing ranges between $29 and $89 per month. You can save more than 10% per month by paying annually. There are no contracts with Grasshopper, and the company offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee.  

Since this is a virtual service, no equipment or desk phones are needed to use the system. Instead of connecting with office phones like most traditional phone systems do, Grasshopper's virtual service works in conjunction with mobile and home phones.

When a customer or client calls, the system's automated attendant answers the call and then forwards it to the appropriate employee or department. With this service, employees designate the phone numbers they want their calls forwarded to. This could be a mobile device, a home phone or any other phone of their choosing.

Employees have total control over how calls are routed to them. They choose the numbers – up to 15 – they want their calls sent to, in which order those numbers should be rung, how many rings should occur before switching to the next, and when they want calls forwarded to them. For example, they can choose to receive calls 24/7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays or only on the weekends.

What makes Grasshopper stand out as the best virtual phone system is that it includes a number of features that give remote employees the tools many traditional in-office phone systems provide. Some of the more valuable features are automated attendants, hold music, a name directory, call screening, voicemail-to-email, voicemail transcription, text messaging and online faxing.

With the Grasshopper mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, employees can make and receive calls from their business lines, check voicemail messages, see their faxes and call history, set up push notifications for missed calls and messages, and change call-forwarding options. Additionally, iOS app users can sign faxes and PDF email attachments using their finger.

Grasshopper also has a desktop app that features a softphone. With the softphone, you can make and receive business calls and text messages from your business line.

The Grasshopper support team is available by phone 24/7. In addition, you can request help via online form. On Grasshopper's website, there is a comprehensive user guide that walks you through each aspect of the system.

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8x8: Best Business Phone System for Small Businesses

A desktop app allows users to make and receive calls from their computers.
Audio and video conferencing support up to 50 participants at a time.
The 8x8 Express plan does not include online faxing.

8x8 is a cloud-hosted unified communications system that is available at multiple price points and easy to use. It has excellent customer support and all of the features small businesses find valuable. It is for these reasons and more that 8x8 is our choice as the best business phone system for small businesses.

Since the system is hosted in the cloud, there is no expensive equipment to install or maintain. All you need is a properly configured router and enough bandwidth to handle your expected call volume.

8x8 offers a ton of flexibility in terms of how you make calls. You can do so through traditional desk phones, the 8x8 mobile app or a desktop app. With the mobile and desktop app, you can make and receive calls from your business lines, conduct a video chat, and check your voicemail and online faxes. If you prefer desk phones, you can buy them directly from 8x8. They come preconfigured, so they are ready to be used as soon as you plug them in.

Part of the appeal of 8x8 for small businesses is its initial price point. The Express plan is available for just $12 per user, per month. Small businesses would be hard-pressed to find a service as robust as 8x8 offers for that price point. There is a 30-day free trial for this plan.

There are several other service plans, giving you the freedom to choose the price and features that fit your needs best. These include the X2 plan, which costs $32 per user, per month. The monthly price drops to $24 per user if you choose to pay annually. It includes voicemail transcription, unlimited online faxing, call analytics, and some call center features that businesses may find helpful, such as barge, whisper, and monitoring.

The other small business plan 8x8 offers is the X4 plan. It costs $57 per user, per month if you pay month to month or $44 per user, per month if you pay annually. It includes everything in the X2 plan plus a 47-country unlimited calling zone and supervisor analytics.   

For larger businesses and those that need full contact center capabilities, there are three additional plans that range from $112 to $219 per user, per month.

All users, regardless of the plan they choose, have access to 8x8's video conferencing service. It gives each user the ability to host HD video meetings with up to 100 participants at a time.  

With the 8x8 mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, employees can make and receive calls from their business lines, chat over video, and check their voicemail and online faxes.

8x8 is extremely reliable. It has 17 data centers worldwide to ensure uninterrupted service. The company reports a 99.999% uptime, which means service is down for just a few minutes each year. 8x8 also provides excellent customer service. Customer support is available 24/7/365 by phone, email, live chat and the 8x8 website. The website also includes helpful training materials.

Read Review

Vonage: Best Business Phone System for Microsoft Teams Integration

Vonage's integration with Microsoft Teams allows you to access your phone system right from the Team platform.
The service is extremely reliable, with a 99.999% uptime.
Vonage's cheapest plan isn't compatible with desktop phones.

Vonage is a reliable unified communications system filled with features and tools businesses of all sizes will find useful. Its built-in integration with Microsoft Teams makes the system especially valuable for businesses using the Microsoft video conferencing service.

The direct routing integration essentially gives you and your team full access to the Vonage service directly from the Teams platform, so you don't have to toggle between applications for your communication needs. This is an ideal option for businesses that want to use Microsoft Teams for all of their communication needs, but also want to take advantage of the full suite of offerings from Vonage.

Vonage's unified communications system is available in three pricing plans. Pricing for each plan depends on how many employees you have. The more users, the lower the per-user costs.

  • Mobile: This plan costs $14.99 to $19.99 per user, per month and is built for businesses with remote or on-the-go employees. It allows you to use the Vonage platform via mobile and desktop app. It includes unlimited calling, SMS and team messaging, and access to the Vonage App Center, which allows you to tap into a number of valuable integrations.

  • Premium: This plan costs $24.99 to $29.99 per user, per month and is Vonage's most popular plan. It works on the mobile and desktop app as well as IP phones. It includes unlimited conferencing for up to 100 participants, a multilevel auto-attendant, and integration with many popular platforms, including Bullhorn, Google Workspace, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics and Office 365, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Zendesk, Clio, ConnectWise, JobDiva, and Zoho.

  • Advanced: This plan costs $34.99 to $39.99 per user, per month. It includes everything Vonage offers, such as 15 hours of on-demand call recording, visual voicemail and call groups. Additionally, Vonage will handle all of the system's setup for you.

If your business has more than 100 employees, you'll need to contact Vonage for a custom quote.

The Vonage system has more than 50 features and tools, including call flip, voicemail-to-email, call monitoring, paging groups, call screening, call queues, click-to-dial, and a 30-participant conference call bridge.

Vonage's service is extremely reliable, boasting a 99.999% uptime. The company has several built-in fail-safes with cloud backup to minimize call drops, data loss and call static.

Customer support is available by phone between 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. (ET) Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) on the weekends. After-hours emergency support is also available. 

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Windstream: Best Business Phone System for Midsize Businesses

Windstream can support employees who are in the office or working remotely.
It includes dozens of helpful features and integrations, including those for Slack, Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams and Salesforce.
Windstream doesn't provide pricing details online, so you will need to contact the company directly to even get an idea of how well the system fits into your budget.

Windstream OfficeSuite UC is a complete unified communications solution with all of the tools and functions that midsize and larger businesses need. It supports up to 20,000 users, includes unlimited nationwide calling, is filled with valuable calling and collaboration tools, integrates with many popular applications, and allows you to mix and match user types based on specific needs. Windstream also offers a number of other services that midsize businesses likely need, such as network and connectivity products and security solutions. For these reasons and more, Windstream is our choice as the best business phone system for midsize businesses.

Windstream OfficeSuite UC is a cloud-hosted solution that doesn't require a bunch of hardware, wiring, or IT support to get up and running. You can access this system from anywhere, which is especially valuable for the many businesses that have moved to full-time remote operations (or at least a hybrid model, with employees splitting their time between home and the office). You and your employees will always have access to your business phone line, whether through a desk phone in your office or a mobile app or softphone (computer) when you are working remotely. You can also manage the system entirely from an online portal, so you and other administrators can add licenses and turn features on and off no matter where you're working.

Windstream is filled with powerful features. It offers everything we look for in a top business phone system, including unlimited auto-attendants, call routing, call groups, music on hold, 10-way calling and a Do Not Disturb function. It also provides multiple voicemail options, such as voicemail-to-email, the ability to forward voicemails to co-workers, and options to receive voicemail notifications by email or text message.

The Windstream phone system also provides access to its video conferencing solution, OfficeSuite HD Meeting. This allows you to host audio and video conferences with up to 1,000 participants at a time. It includes integrated chat, host transfer, breakout rooms, polling and screen sharing.

An especially appealing aspect of Windstream is its 100% uptime guarantee. Most of its competitors promise 99.999% uptime, while Windstream promises to refund money should service go down for any amount of time. However, this guarantee is only applicable to businesses that also purchase the SD-WAN Concierge and are on at least a three-year deal.

Pricing for Windstream starts at $19.95 per user. However, to get pricing for your specific needs and user numbers, you need to contact Windstream directly. Prices also depend on how long you are willing to commit to the service. Windstream offers a rate-lock guarantee, which ensures that your costs will not increase for the length of your contract.

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Zoom: Best Business Phone System for Video Conferencing

Zoom offers combined phone and video conferencing plans as well as phone-only plans.
It gives businesses that want to keep using Zoom an easy way to combine all of the communication tools onto one platform.
Not all plans include unlimited calling.

While it is known most for its video conferencing service, Zoom also offers cloud-hosted phone service. The ability to combine the two into one platform is what makes Zoom a top choice for businesses looking for the best of both worlds from one provider.

Zoom Phone has all of the PBX features and tools businesses look for in a phone system. All of its plans include unlimited internal calling, HD call quality, a desktop and mobile app, toll-free numbers, phone extensions, voicemail transcripts, unlimited auto-attendants, and call recording.

You can choose from several service plans. Some are phone-only plans, while others combine Zoom's phone and video conferencing services. These are the phone-only plans:

  • S. and Canada Metered: This plan costs $120 per user, per year, with an additional fee for each outbound call. Rates vary by the country you are calling. For calls within the U.S., you will pay about 3 cents per minute.

  • S. and Canada Unlimited: This plan costs $180 per user, per year for unlimited calling within the U.S. and Canada. You also get some advanced phone features and the ability to make and receive calls from multiple devices.

  • Pro Global Select: For $180 per user, per year, this plan extends unlimited calling to more than 40 countries and territories.

There are three additional plans for businesses that want to combine their phone, video conferencing, and messaging into one platform, called Zoom United. All of these plans include unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Zoom United Pro: This plan costs $250 per user, per year. Businesses are limited to nine licenses per account on this plan. In addition to phone service, you get the ability to host video conferences with up to 100 participants. There is also 1GB of cloud storage recording and social media streaming.

  • Zoom United Business: This plan costs $300 per user, per year and requires at least 10 licenses. You can host meetings with 300 participants, use single sign-on, access recording transcripts, and use company branding and managed domains.

  • Zoom United Enterprise: For $360 per user, per year, this plan expands meeting capacities to 500. It requires at least 100 licenses.

Besides its ability to unite with its video conferencing services, Zoom Phone offers a number of valuable integrations, including Salesforce, Office 365 and Google Workspace.

The option to combine Zoom's phone and video conferencing into one platform is likely appealing to many businesses. Many are already using Zoom's video conferencing service and understand just how powerful it is, and the phone service can be a big plus. One example of how the two can work hand in hand is that if you are on a phone call, you can seamlessly move it to a video meeting.

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net2phone: Best Business Phone System for Growing Businesses

Net2Phone provides video conferencing services to all users, regardless of their plan.
All plans include unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada.
If you need Salesforce integration, you need to purchase the highest service plan.

Net2Phone is a cloud-hosted phone system with valuable features, a host of helpful integrations, and a wide range of affordable service plans that make it ideal for growing businesses.

Growing businesses have changing needs, and Net2Phone's five service plans are a good way to support those. You can save money by choosing a basic plan and know that, as your business and its needs grow, you can upgrade to a plan with more advanced features. In other words, no matter how much you grow, you won't have to change to a new phone provider to meet demands.

Net2Phone has a virtual-only plan and four traditional business phone plans. All of the plans include unlimited calling within the U.S. and Canada, web calling, voicemail options, ring groups, and reporting and analytics.

Monthly pricing for each plan varies by the size of your team. The more users your plan will have, the lower the per-user cost. Here is a breakdown of each plan.

  • Virtual: This plan costs $15.99 to $18.99 per user, per month and essentially serves as a sophisticated call routing system. It takes calls made to a business line and routes them to the user's mobile or home phone. You can also take and make calls from laptop and desktop computers.

  • Essentials Plus: This plan costs $19.99 to $22.99 per user, per month and adds several features, including international calling to more than 40 countries, virtual fax service, and single sign-on options.

  • Professional Plus: This plan costs $26.99 to $29.99 per user, per month. In addition to everything in the Essentials Plus plan, it offers call recording and storage, skills-based routing, call queues, and voicemail transcription.

  • Ultimate Plus: For $29.99 to $32.99 per user, per month, this plan offers a receptionist console and enhanced integrations, including Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoho.

  • Ultimate CRM: This plan costs $31.99 to $34.99 per user, per month. In addition to everything in all of the other plans, you get Salesforce integration with this plan.

You can see how this tiered system would benefit growing businesses. Instead of paying for features you don't need yet, you can choose a plan that fits your business right now. If you start growing and require more functionality from your phone system, you can simply upgrade your plan.

In addition to all of the phone system features, Net2Phone provides all users (even those on the Virtual plan) access to Huddle, its video conferencing service. Huddle supports up to 50 participants at a time, integrates with Google and Microsoft Outlook calendars, and is accessible on iOS and Android mobile devices.

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Business Phone System Costs

Multiline business phone systems have various price points and structures. How the PBX system – and the equipment that is used to run the phone system – is hosted determines your cost structure. 

The costs of an on-premises system are mostly one-time, upfront expenses, while cloud-hosted phone system costs revolve around monthly fees. The prices for each type of system vary by provider, the size of your team, and the features you want.

Cloud-Hosted Pricing 

Since the hosted PBX equipment is stored in the cloud, there usually aren't any large installation or setup costs for these phone systems. Cloud-based VoIP phone systems typically cost between $10 and $75 per user, per month. Many office phone and unified communications system providers have several service plans that vary in price and features. Many allow businesses to mix and match service plans, ensuring each employee has access to the features they need. 

For example, a service plan that includes the basic features – unlimited calling, voicemail and caller ID, and call forwarding – might be $25 per user, per month. An upgraded plan with more advanced features – such as automated attendants, call recording and ring groups – might cost $35 to $40 per user, per month. 

To give you a better idea of pricing, here are some cost estimates for businesses of various sizes. (These estimates do not include taxes or other surcharges that all providers add.) 

  • Businesses with 10 employees: $100 to $500 per month 
  • 25 employees: $250 to $1,250 per month 
  • 50 employees: $500 to $2,500 per month 
  • 100 employees: $1,000 to $5,000 per month 

A company using a cloud-hosted system will likely want new IP phones as well. Phones typically cost between $50 and $400 each. If you have a cloud system, some providers will rent you phones for as little as $5 each per month.

On-Premises Pricing 

While cloud-hosted systems mostly revolve around monthly recurring fees, on-premises system costs comprise mostly one-time, upfront fees. On-premises systems cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per user. In addition, since all associated equipment is housed onsite at your business, there are large installation and setup charges. Some providers have a set installation fee, while others charge a percentage of your per-user equipment fees.

The costs of on-premises systems are much more customized than they are for cloud-hosted systems. On-premises systems are typically used by larger organizations that can afford the upfront fees. For a business with 50 employees, you should be prepared to spend $30,000 to $60,000 in one-time fees for all the equipment and installation of an on-premises system.

There are also some smaller monthly fees with on-premises phone systems. To connect to a dial tone, on-premises VoIP phone service users have to pay for SIP trunking or PRI circuits. Depending on your call volume, this could be several hundred or several thousand dollars per month.

Another expense users of either type of system could incur is toll-free numbers. While some systems include toll-free numbers in the standard cost, they usually only offer a set number of minutes per month. Businesses that go over that number pay a per-minute fee for their toll-free numbers.

Negotiation

When you're running a business, every penny counts. You want to make sure you aren't overpaying for the services you use. Whether you go with an on-premises or cloud-hosted system, follow these tips to get the best deal possible:  

  • With cloud-hosted systems, there often isn't a lot of room for negotiation. Most cloud services have set prices that depend on the features you need and how many employees you have. However, you can ask a few questions to see if there is any wiggle room in the price. Since these are monthly services, your best chance at getting a discount is committing to the company for a long period. You should see if there are any discounts for signing long-term contracts or paying for a year in advance, instead of in monthly installments.

  • Another potentially money-saving option for a cloud-hosted system is to start with a new service near the end of a quarter. Some representatives we spoke to indicated that there is more room for discounts at the end of March, June, September and December. 

  • There is often more room for negotiation with an on-premises system. These are systems that are built for you, so, depending on how much you are spending, vendors may be willing to add some features for free to ensure they land your business. You should also always ask if they can lower the cost of installation for you, and if they'll lower the user-licensing fees if you commit to expanding your service in the future. 

  • An area you can negotiate with both types of systems is the phones. Many providers offer a lot of phone options and are willing to give you upgraded phones depending on the service you choose and the length of time you commit to. Also, they often run specials that include phones for free. See what kind of phones they are offering and whether they would be willing to upgrade them if you commit to the service. 

  • Regardless of the type of system you choose, it is always important to shop around and get several quotes. Even if the first one you investigate is the one you definitely want, researching other service providers could help you get a lower price when you do commit. If the system you like best isn't the cheapest, ask the vendor if they're willing to match the lower price. If you tell them that another system you really like is giving you a better deal, they may lower their prices to get you as a customer. 

When you commit to a business phone system provider, it will likely require you to sign a contract. It is imperative that you read all the details carefully before signing it. Make sure the terms of the contract are what you negotiated and that there are no hidden fees. 

You should also ask what taxes or surcharges will be added on top of your monthly service (as well as the estimated cost of those charges). It's important to know what your full bill will be before agreeing to the deal – not just what the service charges are. The last thing you want is to open up your first month's bill and find it is significantly higher than you anticipated. Not only does that negatively impact your budget, but you also start off on the wrong foot with your vendor. 

You should also know what you are in for should you cancel your service or change providers. Are there cancellation fees? Do you have to provide advance notice? Can you take your local and toll-free phone numbers with you if you switch to a different service? These are questions you want answered before you agree to a contract.

Buying Guide

Types of Phone Systems

The process of choosing a business phone system requires you to answer a couple of questions. First, what type of phone connection do you want – landline, VoIP or virtual? Second, how do you want to host the system – on your business premises or in the cloud? 

All business phone systems today, regardless of type, are PBX systems. The PBX equipment is what allows these systems to provide all of their features and tools, such as multiple extensions, voicemail, and call recording. However, the type of system you choose affects where that PBX equipment is physically located. 

With on-premises systems, your IT staff needs to install and maintain PBX equipment. Conversely, cloud-hosted solutions require very little IT resources, since all of the PBX equipment is housed and maintained by the phone system provider. With the cloud-hosted option, your IT team can focus more on managing the system's features rather than the infrastructure. 

Read a breakdown of each type of phone system.

Traditional Landline  

Traditionally, businesses used analog landline telephone systems. These systems were connected to the public switched telephone network and ran on the telephone company's copper wiring. 

While these multiline phone systems were extremely reliable, they required equipment that was expensive to install and maintain. Besides the copper wiring that had to run through the business facilities, landline systems required costly PBX equipment. The PBX is what is used to switch calls between the business and the telephone network. It's also necessary for various calling features, such as voicemail, conference calling and automated attendants. All of this PBX equipment (and the other hardware necessary to run the phone system) would be housed onsite at the business, typically in a server room or closet. 

Today, analog multiline landline phone systems are becoming obsolete. Telephone companies are no longer developing new analog systems or providing updates to the systems they used to offer. Finding IT professionals with the skills to keep these systems running is increasingly difficult. Telephone companies have largely shifted their attention to VoIP technology. 

Some landline systems now use a mix of landline and VoIP technology. There might a traditional landline connection to a business, but instead of having traditional wiring throughout the building, the business uses an internet connection to tap into that outside landline. 

Very few new businesses are choosing landline phone service. Because support for these systems is diminishing, they are best suited for a business with an in-house IT team that is skilled in this technology and can handle all the maintenance and upgrades. However, landline systems are the only option for businesses in communities with no high-speed internet access.

VoIP 

Nearly all new business phone systems use VoIP. Instead of running on copper wiring like landline systems do, VoIP systems run on a high-speed internet connection. It's the same connection most businesses already use to get online.

When you make a phone call with VoIP, your voice is instantly converted into a data packet that moves through the internet like an email or shared image would. Tapping into an existing data connection saves you the trouble and expense of installing and maintaining phone lines throughout your offices or stores. 

VoIP systems also work in conjunction with cheaper and less bulky PBX equipment. This allows small businesses to access phone features they previously couldn't afford, like auto-attendants, conference calling and call recording. Similar to how a landline system works, the VoIP provider allows you to choose a phone number with a local area code, a toll-free number or both. 

VoIP systems easily integrate with computers, which lets employees make calls from their own devices and have voicemails sent directly to their email, among other things. It can also be beneficial for businesses using CRM programs, because you can use the systems in tandem.

Ease of use and scalability are a big benefit of VoIP phone systems. Most VoIP systems can be managed from an online portal. By logging in to the system, administrators can assign phone numbers or extensions and turn various features on and off. 

VoIP providers make it easy to add new users. Administrators can quickly log in to the portal to add new lines. This simplifies the process of setting up new employees with their own phone lines. 

When VoIP was first introduced, call quality was a concern. Many people felt calls sounded staticky; others had problems with calls dropping off. As the technology has improved, so has the call quality. In fact, the difference between VoIP and landline call quality is now so insignificant that most landline callers have no idea when they are speaking to someone using VoIP. 

Soon, nearly all U.S. phone users will use VoIP. The only businesses that can't take advantage of VoIP phone systems are those in communities without access to high-speed internet service or with unreliable internet service. 

A huge factor when you're choosing a phone system for your business is how you want the PBX equipment hosted. The choice is generally between cloud and on-premises hosting, though some phone providers offer a hybrid option. 

On-Premises VoIP

With an on-premises system, the PBX equipment is installed inside your business. Your IT team is responsible for securing it, keeping it up and running, and upgrading it when necessary. Hosting your phone system on your business premises gives you the ability to keep a few traditional landlines working alongside SIP-trunked VoIP lines. 

Similar to landline systems, on-premises VoIP systems have all the equipment installed and housed onsite at the client business. The hardware is typically stored in the business's server closet. 

With this option, you have total control of your system. You aren't relying on anyone else to make sure it is running, and you can configure it to your exact specifications. However, this also means your own IT staff has to handle all repairs and upgrades. On-premises systems need to be professionally installed, and you will need SIP trunking or PRI circuits to connect a dial tone to the system. 

One benefit of this hosting method is tighter security. On-premises systems don't have the same security concerns as cloud-hosted solutions, since all your data is stored within your business. You can configure your firewalls exactly the way you want to protect your phone system from any type of intrusion. This makes on-premises hosting the best option for businesses that have highly sensitive phone data and can't entrust it to cloud-based phone providers.  

Other businesses well suited for on-premises phone systems are large corporations that can afford the upfront costs and businesses that want a system they can customize extensively. 

Cloud-Hosted VoIP 

Cloud-hosted phone systems are increasingly popular among small businesses. With this type of system, the equipment is housed in the cloud by your service provider, which handles all maintenance and upgrades. The only equipment you need is the phones themselves. 

Most cloud systems are essentially plug-and-play. Once you activate your service and receive your phones, you can plug them into any Ethernet port, then make and receive calls with them. 

The downside to cloud-based solutions is that you're at the mercy of the provider to keep your service up and running. To ensure this, most of the top vendors have several redundancies built into their systems. For instance, they have multiple data centers so that if one goes down, the data can be transferred seamlessly to another center to ensure the continuation of your business's communications service. 

One important consideration in a cloud-hosted system is bandwidth. Consult your business's internet service provider about the bandwidth required to support a new phone service. Most of the cloud providers we considered required just short of 100 Kbps per phone call for the best quality. You'll also want to estimate internet needs for other equipment, such as computers, servers and Wi-Fi-connected devices. 

Cloud-based VoIP systems are ideal for small businesses: They have few upfront costs, the consistent monthly charges fit easily into a budget, and they don't require trained IT experts to keep them running. You can add new users and features through a convenient online portal, and cloud-based options also easily support multiple locations. 

Nearly all of the providers we examined have an uptime of at least 99.99%. That means their systems are down for just a few minutes each year. It's still best to install backup equipment that can reroute your business calls during power or internet outages, though.

Virtual Phone System 

Virtual phone systems differ from regular office phone systems in that, when someone calls your business phone line, they aren't necessarily calling a dedicated number to a phone inside your office. Instead, they are calling a virtual phone number that routes calls to you (or your employees) wherever you are. 

Virtual phone systems are essentially extensive call-forwarding systems. Your business has a main number, with each employee receiving their own extension. Instead of transferring customers to an employee's office phone, the virtual system transfers calls to their mobile and home phones. Employees control the numbers their business calls go to and the order in which those numbers are rung. 

Virtual PBX systems offer other valuable features, including automated attendants, voicemail, voicemail-to-email, music on hold, call forwarding and online faxing. 

These systems are ideal for businesses that don't need a full-fledged phone system. This could include solopreneurs who work out of their homes and don't want to give out their personal phone numbers to clients, and small businesses with a remote workforce. This service allows them to present a professional image at a fraction of the cost of complete phone systems. 

Desktop Phones 

Once you decide which type of phone system you want, you need to choose the actual phones. (This doesn't apply to virtual systems, of course.) 

Most business phone services are compatible with a variety of IP phones and offer adapters so analog phones can connect to their systems. It's likely that you can continue using the phones your company already owns. 

IP phones come in various styles. There are cordless phones and conference room phones as well as traditional corded options. The phones can cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000 each. The per-phone analog adapter can cost up to $60, and a traditional fax-machine adapter costs $100 to $150. If you don't want to buy the phones outright, some providers let you rent phones for a monthly fee. 

The benefit of buying IP phones from your phone system provider is that they come completely configured and ready to be used once you plug them in. If you buy phones from an outside source, your IT team will need to configure the phones to work with the system you are using. 

If you can afford it, it makes sense to upgrade your phones. If you can't afford new phones, carefully consider how much the workaround will cost your company in the long term.

Phone System Features

Today's business phone systems are filled with valuable features and tools. The number of features varies by VoIP provider. Some offer a couple dozen features; others offer over 100. 

Calling Features 

These are some of the calling features business phone systems offer:

  • Unlimited calling: Most of today's VoIP phone systems allow an unlimited number of calls – both incoming and outgoing. This usually only applies to domestic calls and calls using local phone numbers, though. Many providers have extra charges and restrictions for toll-free calling. 

  • Voicemail: Each employee has access to their own voicemail. Most systems allow you to check your voicemail from anywhere.

  • Voicemail-to-email: When you get a voicemail, the system sends you an email with your message as an audio attachment.

  • Caller ID: You can see the number of the person calling you.

  • Speed dial: Instead of dialing an entire number, you can push just a couple of buttons to connect to the numbers you call most.

  • Personal directories: A personal directory is an easy way to manage your contacts. It gives you access to your contacts' phone numbers whenever you need them.

  • Do Not Disturb: When working on a big project or important task, you can put your phone in this mode to ensure you aren't interrupted. Your phone will not ring, and all callers are sent directly to voicemail.

  • Automated attendant: An auto-attendant automatically answers calls to your business, plays a greeting, and directs the caller to the person or department they are trying to reach.

  • On-hold music: You can choose the music callers hear while they wait on hold.

  • Paging: You can use your phone to send a message to everyone. This is similar to a traditional intercom system.

  • Presence: This shows employees whether their peers are on a call or available to chat.

  • Call reports: This feature provides analytics on your company's phone usage. You can often break down usage statistics by employee, department, etc.

  • Online management: All VoIP systems can be managed in an online portal. From the portal, you and the other administrators can add users, set phone numbers, review call reports, create ring groups and see monthly statements. Employees can also access the portal to check their voicemail, see a company directory and set their call-forwarding routes.

  • Call forwarding: Your office phone can automatically forward calls to another number, such as your cell phone when you're out of the office.

  • Call recording: Most systems give you the ability to record your calls.

  • Call queues: This tool is typically used in call center settings. It allows callers to be put in line so their call can be answered when operators become available.

  • Extension dialing: Employees can use this to dial a co-worker by their extension instead of their entire phone number.

  • Ring groups: You can create ring groups for employees who answer calls from the same set of customers. For example, the customer service team might have its own ring group. When a caller asks to speak to a customer service representative, the entire group is notified.

  • Directory assistance: This allows callers to access a company directory to help them reach the employee they are looking for.

  • Call transfer: Employees can quickly transfer calls to their colleagues.

  • Speakerphone: Many IP phones include a speakerphone option that allows you to speak to a caller without using the phone's handset.

Unified Communications System Features 

In addition to all of the calling features today's phone systems offer, some providers offer unified communications systems. Besides phone service, unified communications systems include conference calling, video and web conferencing, online faxing, and text and instant messaging. 

  • Conference calling: Most phone systems include a conference bridge that allows each user to host their own conference call with up to several dozen participants. If the system you choose doesn't have a conference bridge that supports as many callers as you need, you may need a separate conference call service

  • Video conferencing: Video conferencing allows users to host online meetings from their computers or from rooms with video conferencing equipment. These conferences allow you to share your screen with participants.

  • Instant messaging: Many systems give employees the opportunity to instant-message each other. This is an easy way for co-workers to communicate without leaving their desks or all being in the same place.

  • Texting: Some systems allow you to send SMS messages from your business phone number.

  • Internet faxing: Instead of hooking up a traditional fax machine, you can send faxes from your computer with this feature. 

Mobile Apps 

Mobility is another important aspect of today's business phone and unified communications systems. Most systems offer an app for iOS and Android mobile devices that let employees tap into their business phone lines wherever they are. 

The biggest benefit of a mobile app is that you and your employees can make and receive calls using your business phone line wherever you are. This gives you the freedom to leave the office, even if you are expecting an important call. When out of the office, you can also make a call from your business phone number by using the app. This allows you to keep your personal number private without using multiple cell phones. 

The mobile app also lets you review your call history, check and manage your voicemail, IM your colleagues, start one-on-one video calls, and view your online faxes.

Frequently Asked Questions

WHY AND WHEN DO YOU NEED BUSINESS PHONE SERVICE?

Whichever type you choose, every business needs a phone system. At the very least, a business phone system allows you to present a professional image to those you work with. Having customers or clients reach you on your personal phone line might be practical in some instances, but it doesn't allow you to present that image most businesses are striving for. 

Even if you don't want to spend the money or need office phones, you can still use a virtual phone system to project a professional appearance. This service directs calls to your mobile phone while still giving you access to key features like automated attendants and voicemail transcripts. 

As your business grows, so will your communication needs. A unified communications system can meet these needs. Not only will your employees have their own business lines, which they can access from anywhere with a mobile app, but they can also take advantage of other communication tools, like video conferencing. 

All things considered, your business, regardless of its size and whether you operate out of an office or your own home, would do well to invest in some type of business phone system. 

HOW LONG DOES A BUSINESS PHONE SYSTEM LAST?

How long a business phone system lasts depends on the type you use. In the case of a cloud-hosted system, however, how long it lasts isn't really a concern; cloud providers handle all of the maintenance and upgrades. All of that key equipment is stored on the provider's end, so they can work on it at any time without interrupting your services. 

On-premises systems are different. Since the equipment for these systems is housed on your own servers, it has a shorter life span. If you have an IT team to maintain this equipment properly, you can expect it to last five to eight years.

HOW DO BUSINESS PHONE SYSTEMS WORK?

The exact way a business phone system works varies by type (landline, cloud or virtual), but the general principal is the same for each. Business phone systems provide ways for your customers and clients to reach you by telephone, and vice versa. 

Each user of a business phone system has either a dedicated phone number or an extension. When someone calls that number, their office phone, or any other phone they are having their calls forwarded to (such as their cell phone), will ring. 

Business phone systems use PBX equipment to provide many features and tools that expand the system's functionality. These features include an automated attendant that answers calls to your business and then routes those calls to the appropriate person. The PBX equipment also allows for tools like voicemail, caller ID, conference calling, instant messaging and call recording. 

HOW MUCH DOES A BUSINESS LANDLINE COST? 

The cost of just one business landline can run $50 to $100 per line. Businesses typically require more than just one line, though, and they want PBX equipment as well as the added features that business phone systems include. 

In all, businesses can expect to pay several hundred to several thousand dollars for a landline system. However, most landlines are becoming obsolete. Phone system providers are investing resources into the continued development of VoIP phone systems. Because of this, no new technology is being developed for landline phone systems, and the number of technicians who can maintain and service these systems is declining.

WHAT IS A UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM? 

A unified communications system is a service that gives businesses all of the communication tools they want to use in one platform. Besides phone service, unified communications systems include conference calling, video and web conferencing, online faxing, instant messaging, and text messaging. 

Many providers now offer these complete systems rather than simple phone systems. Having all these tools in one platform can not only save your business hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars a month, but also boost your employees' productivity and make things easier on them. Instead of toggling between different services to access each tool, employees can just log in to their unified communications portal and tap into all their communication apps from the same place. 

WHAT IS A FOUR-LINE PHONE SYSTEM? 

A four-line phone system is designed for very small businesses and provides phone service for up to four users. Four-line systems typically don't include the wide range of features that VoIP business phone systems do. 

WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD YOUR BUSINESS PHONE SYSTEM HAVE?

You should consider several factors when choosing a business phone system. First and foremost, it should support all of your employees. Most systems today allow you to add lines easily and can accommodate hundreds, if not thousands, of users. Some providers require a minimum number of users, though, which very small businesses can't always meet, so make sure the system you want can support your needs. 

The second factor to consider is whether it offers all the tools your employees need. Besides the traditional calling features, does it offer video conferencing, conference calling, text messaging or any other communication methods you want? You may want to look for a provider that allows you to mix and match service plans. This gives you the flexibility to ensure each employee has the tools they need without paying for enhanced plans for employees that don't need every feature. 

Price should also be a consideration, of course. With so many options on the market, you should be able to find a service that fits in your budget. In addition to the per-user cost, you should get a true sense of what your monthly bill will be once all the fees and taxes have been included.

The final quality you need to consider when choosing a business phone system provider is strong customer support. In an ideal world, the system would always work perfectly, but that is rarely the case with any piece of technology. Make sure the provider you choose offers the support options you want, such as 24/7 phone support, live chat operators or helpful online guides.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PHONE SYSTEMS FOR LARGE BUSINESSES AND PHONE SYSTEMS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES?

While there used to be big differences between phone systems for large and small businesses, all sizes of businesses now have access to the same types of solutions. 

Before cloud-hosted PBX systems became an option, only larger businesses typically had the ability to use sophisticated phone systems with tons of features and tools. The on-premises PBX equipment necessary to power those features was so expensive to buy and maintain that only large businesses could afford it. That left small businesses with simpler options that didn't have the bells and whistles that their larger counterparts could enjoy. 

Cloud-hosted business phone systems have leveled the playing field. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for PBX equipment, small businesses can now tap into the same features for a fraction of the cost. Cloud-hosted systems provide all the features and tools for a much smaller monthly fee. In addition, since the equipment is housed in the cloud, there is nothing to maintain or upgrade. 

The cloud has given small businesses the chance to use phone systems that they never could have before. They can access features like auto-attendants, on-hold music, call recording, voicemail-to-email, and video conferencing, which only larger businesses could afford previously. Cloud-hosted VoIP phone systems give every business the means to present a professional image, regardless of size.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO SET UP A VOIP PHONE SYSTEM?

VoIP business phone systems run on the same connection your company uses to get online, so the first thing you need is a strong internet connection. For the system to run smoothly, you need enough bandwidth to support your call volume and the rest of your online needs. You also need to set your router to prioritize voice calls over other online use.

If you use a cloud-hosted system, the only other supplies you need are the phones, since all of the PBX equipment is hosted in the cloud. The PBX equipment is what provides all of the phone system's functionality.

If you are operating an on-premises VoIP phone system, you will need all of the PBX equipment to be hosted inside your business facilities. This type of equipment typically needs professional installation.

Most of today's systems are compatible with IP phones and analog phones. However, if you use analog phones, you will need a special adapter to connect them to your system.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VOIP AND PBX?

VoIP is the type of connection used to run the phone system. With a VoIP system, calls are made and received over an internet connection. Traditional landline systems relied on copper wiring to provide those functions.

PBX (private branch exchange) is the equipment that provides the features and tools of the phone system. Both VoIP and landline systems rely on PBX equipment. The difference is that some VoIP systems are housed in the cloud, which means you don't need to install PBX equipment within your business location. On-premises VoIP systems and traditional landline systems use PBX equipment that is installed and stored inside your business, most often in the server room.

Community Expert Insight

We spoke to unified communication and business phone system users to find out which systems they found most valuable and what they liked about them. 

Ian Kelly, vice president of operations for NuLeaf Naturals, said they had been a longtime user of Ooma, and were pleased with the service, but eventually switched when their needs became more advanced. It was then that they decided a switch to 8x8 would be in their best interest. 

"Ooma was very simple and a great option for us until we decided to upgrade our needs," Kelly told business.com. "The main reason for the switch was the video conferencing feature which was lacking in Ooma." 

Pricing also came into play. Kelly said as a small business, affordability is a critical factor. 

"8x8 had an express plan, which was cheaper than what we were paying for [with] Ooma," Kelly said. "That was the deal-breaker." 

Similarly to Kelly, Will Ward, CEO of Assistive Listening HQ, said as his company grew, so did his communication needs. Originally, they had been using Grasshopper. He said they liked it because was the most hassle-free installation, no equipment was needed, and it was available in a monthly subscription. 

However, Ward said they came to conclusion that they needed to have dedicated equipment inside their office.

When using their mobile phones, people got distracted," Ward said of the virtual service Grasshopper provided. "So, we switched to Ooma, and it was a great decision. The installation was very simple, and they even gave unlimited calling." 

Tyler Roark, president of Kentucky Printing Richmond, said his company was operating from two locations. One was using a simple home wireless phone, while the other was using a 30-year-old system that had very limited functionality. It had no answering system, caller ID or voicemail. It really only allowed employees to put callers on hold and transfer to other phones within the building. 

When that system died, Roark ran the numbers and determined the capital outlay required to replace the system wasn't worth the investment. 

"We ended up settling on a Voice over IP system by Intermedia with Yealink T465 phones," Roark said. "It was going to cause our monthly expenses to go up a little but had very little expense in terms of initial setup." 

After getting the system up and running, Roark said they uncovered a number of advantages they hadn't foreseen. One big advantage was that his company could use one employee to answer and route calls for both locations. 

"This has allowed us to free up time from having to deal with as many spam calls and gives us a more consistent presentation," Roark said. 

Another benefit is that the system can connect with each employee's mobile phone. 

"So we aren't necessarily tethered to our desks anymore," Roark said. While cost is always a major consideration, Roark said there is another key factor businesses should consider when looking at a new unified communications system. 

"Next to [cost], and perhaps more important than that, you really have to consider how the system will impact the overall systems within your business," he said.

Methodology

To determine the best business phone systems, we started with more than 70 providers. Next, we separated all the vendors that had a good online reputation, including services that consistently rank high on other review websites. 

We also, at periodic intervals, queried business owners to see which services they use. If multiple business owners raved about a particular vendor, we added that service to the list of contenders. 

We then visited each company's website. If a company stood out to us, we added them to the list of contenders. We also eliminated most companies that only serve businesses in their local regions. 

We ultimately narrowed down our pool to 8x8, Avaya, Cisco, Dialpad, GoToConnect, Grasshopper, Mitel, Net2Phone, Nextiva, OnSIP, Ooma Office, Phone.com, RingCentral, Vonage, Windstream and Zoom. 

We researched each of these finalists by investigating their services, watching tutorials and how-to videos, and reading user comments. We contacted each company, posing as business owners to gauge the support it offers its potential customers. In all, we analyzed each system based on the following factors: 

  • Deployment options  
  • Level of service
  • Reliability
  • Customer service
  • Calling features
  • Collaboration tools
  • Mobility options
  • Cost
  • Better Business Bureau accreditation, ratings and complaints
Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks
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Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has spent more than 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014.

Other Services Considered

Dialpad

Dialpad is a complete unified communications system built with on-the-go and remote teams in mind. Rather than building a system around desktop phones, Dialpad has focused on supporting calls via mobile and desktop app from the start. While you can use an office phone with the system, Dialpad provides just as much functionality on your mobile device or computer.

Dialpad is available in three service plans that differ in price and features.

  • Standard: This plan costs $20 per user, per month or, if you pay annually, $15 per user, per month. It has unlimited calling and SMS messaging, call controls, custom voicemail greeting, voicemail transcription, Google Workspace and Office 365 integrations, and custom off-hours routing.

  • Pro: This plan costs $30 per user, per month, or $25 per user, per month if you pay annually. It includes everything in the Standard plan plus local number support in more than 50 countries, Salesforce integration, 24/7 customer support, and API and webhooks support.

  • Enterprise: This plan has custom pricing, so you'll have to call the company to get a quote. It includes everything in the Pro plan plus integration with Okta single sign-on and service-level agreements.

All of the plans include some call analytics, number porting, spam detection, click-to-call, number forwarding, the ability to switch between devices during calls, and access to Dialpad's video conferencing service, UberConference. The Basic UberConference plan offers the ability to host 45-minute conferences with up to 10 participants. You can upgrade to the Business plan for $15 per user, per month; this plan allows five-hour meetings and up to 100 participants.

Dialpad also offers contact center solutions and Dialpad Sell, a phone system specifically for sales teams, which includes CRM integrations and real-time coaching. Pricing for Dialpad Sell starts at $95 per user, per month.

Comcast offers multiple cloud-hosted business phone systems for companies of all sizes. You can choose a system for small businesses of up to 10 employees or for midsize and larger businesses with up to 5,000 employees, and these solutions can grow with your business. In addition, Comcast offers PRI and SIP trunks designed for your business's on-premises private branch exchange (PBX) equipment. All of its systems have a variety of valuable features and tools, including automated attendants, caller ID, call forwarding and voicemail. Read Review.

Mitel is a robust unified communications system that can serve businesses of all sizes. Part of what makes Mitel such a good option for all businesses is the multiple ways it can be deployed. The system is available in the cloud or as an on-premises system. There are also multiple service plans that give businesses the flexibility to ensure every employee has the features and tools they need to best support their job responsibilities. In addition, Mitel offers a complete contact center solution with a number of helpful features, including call routing with queuing capabilities, skills-based routing, CRM integration, interactive voice response (IVR), call monitoring tools like whisper and barge, and call recording.. Read Review.

OnSIP is a cloud-hosted VoIP phone system that can be configured in hundreds of different ways. The system requires no equipment to install and allows you to choose the type of service – pay as you go or unlimited – that best suits your business's needs. Read Review.

Avaya offers businesses several different phone systems that can be customized for your organization's needs. The system can serve thousands of employees and offers over 600 features in all. Read Review.

Grasshopper is our choice for the best virtual phone system because it gives businesses the ability to present a professional image at all times without investing in a traditional in-office phone system. Grasshopper is the market leader in virtual phone systems because of its affordable pricing plans that include unlimited minutes, its ease of use for both administrators and employees, and its extensive call routing system in which employees can direct their calls to any phone in any order at any time.

Since this is a virtual service, no equipment or desk phones are needed to use the system. Instead of connecting with office phones like most traditional phone systems do, Grasshopper's virtual service works in conjunction with mobile and home phones.

When a customer or client calls, the system's automated attendant answers the call and then forwards it to the appropriate employee or department. With this service, employees designate the phone numbers they want their calls forwarded to. This could be a mobile device, a home phone or any other phone of their choosing.

Employees have total control over how calls are routed to them. They choose the numbers – up to 15 – they want their calls sent to, in which order those numbers should be rung, how many rings should occur before switching to the next, and when they want calls forwarded to them. For example, they can choose to receive calls 24/7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays or only on the weekends.

What makes Grasshopper stand out as the best virtual phone system is that it includes a number of features that give remote employees the tools many traditional in-office phone systems provide. Some of the more valuable features are automated attendants, hold music, a name directory, call screening, voicemail-to-email, voicemail transcription, text messaging and online faxing.

With the Grasshopper mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, employees can make and receive calls from their business lines, check voicemail messages, see their faxes and call history, set up push notifications for missed calls and messages, and change call-forwarding options. Additionally, iOS app users can sign faxes and PDF email attachments using their finger.

Grasshopper also has a desktop app that features a softphone. With the softphone, you can make and receive business calls and text messages from your business line.

The Grasshopper support team is available by phone 24/7. In addition, you can request help via online form. On Grasshopper's website, there is a comprehensive user guide that walks you through each aspect of the system.

Vonage is a reliable unified communications system filled with features and tools businesses of all sizes will find useful. Its built-in integration with Microsoft Teams makes the system especially valuable for businesses using the Microsoft video conferencing service.

Vonage's unified communications system is available in three pricing plans. Pricing for each plan depends on how many employees you have. The more users, the lower the per-user costs.

  • Mobile: This plan costs $14.99 to $19.99 per user, per month and is built for businesses with remote or on-the-go employees. It allows you to use the Vonage platform via mobile and desktop app. It includes unlimited calling, SMS and team messaging, and access to the Vonage App Center, which allows you to tap into a number of valuable integrations.

  • Premium: This plan costs $24.99 to $29.99 per user, per month and is Vonage's most popular plan. It works on the mobile and desktop app as well as IP phones. It includes unlimited conferencing for up to 100 participants, a multilevel auto-attendant, and integration with many popular platforms, including Bullhorn, Google Workspace, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics and Office 365, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Zendesk, Clio, ConnectWise, JobDiva, and Zoho.

  • Advanced: This plan costs $34.99 to $39.99 per user, per month. It includes everything Vonage offers, such as 15 hours of on-demand call recording, visual voicemail and call groups. Additionally, Vonage will handle all of the system's setup for you.

If your business has more than 100 employees, you'll need to contact Vonage for a custom quote.

The Vonage system has more than 50 features and tools, including call flip, voicemail-to-email, call monitoring, paging groups, call screening, call queues, click-to-dial, and a 30-participant conference call bridge.

Vonage's service is extremely reliable, boasting a 99.999% uptime. The company has several built-in fail-safes with cloud backup to minimize call drops, data loss and call static.

Customer support is available by phone between 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. (ET) Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) on the weekends. After-hours emergency support is also available. 

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