The explosion of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in the phone service industry has changed the landscape for businesses. Being able to access robust phone systems with hundreds of tools and features for a fraction of the cost of a traditional landline phone system continues to drive the demand for VoIP phone systems in 2019.
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Instead of using copper wiring to make and receive calls, VoIP systems tap into the same internet connection your business is using to get online. Using this type of connection has opened the door to a number of added features that many businesses find valuable, such as the ability to make calls from your computer.
However, as the number of businesses using VoIP phone systems has grown, so too has the number of phone system providers offering them. With hundreds of VoIP phone system providers operating in 2019, choosing the right one for your business can be an arduous task.
Besides features, tools, price and mobile accessibility, you need to take various other factors into account when looking for a business VoIP phone system. We want to help you narrow down your choices.
In addition to spotlighting some of the most important tools to look for and sharing advice on getting a VoIP business system that fits into your budget, this guide offers our recommendations on the business VoIP phone systems for various needs. 8x8, RingCentral, Ooma Office, Jive and Dialpad are the systems we think are best for different types of businesses. You can read more about each and the types of organizations we think they are best for below.
If none of our recommendations work for you, scroll down even farther to see of a comprehensive list of VoIP phone systems for businesses.
What to Expect in 2019
Each year, VoIP business phone system providers look for new ways to enhance the services they offer. In 2019, look for additional attention to be paid to artificial intelligence and voice analytics.
While businesses with call centers have long used these types of tools to analyze how their call center agents are operating, we expect an increase in the number of VoIP phone system providers looking to find ways to work these tools into their core offerings for all businesses.
One example of a company already taking these steps is RingCentral. In the fourth quarter of last year, the VoIP phone system provider announced new partnerships with three companies to provide artificial intelligence enabled voice analytics. One of these partnerships is with Velvetech. The company is developing a custom, real-time transcription solution with machine learning capabilities in order to discover insights that help improve the performance of sales teams.
Another trend that took hold last year that we expect to continue in 2019 is increased emphasis on unified communications. Instead of building phone systems wherein the basic function is to make and receive calls, many VoIP phone system providers have focused their attention on incorporating other communication elements into their platforms. This includes options for instant messaging and video conferencing.
With a growing number of businesses now looking for unified communications features, we expect more VoIP phone system providers to continue adding these tools to their platforms.
On example of this move toward more unified communications is what Vonage is doing with social messaging. In the fourth quarter of last year, Vonage unveiled a new integration with Facebook Messenger. This allows customers to reply to messages sent in Messenger through all applications of their Vonage service. We see this trend of adding new communication options to the business phone system platform to continue in 2019.
The cost structure for a business VoIP phone system differs based on whether you have a cloud-based or on-premises system.
Cloud-based systems have monthly fees, but little to no upfront costs. Conversely, on-premises systems have large upfront capital expenditures with small monthly fees.
The exact prices for each type of system vary based on how many lines you need and how many features you want access to. Cloud-based phone systems can run anywhere from $10 to $75 per user, per month. Your per user cost typically decreases with the more users you have.
Besides user costs, some providers also charge extra fees for things like additional toll-free numbers, international numbers and vanity numbers. However, since most cloud-based systems are plug-and-play ready, there usually aren't any major installation charges involved.
With on-premises systems, most of your expenses are paid upfront. You can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars per user. The price will depend on how many users you have and how many features are included.
There are also some significant installation costs to consider with on-premises systems. Since these systems will be housed within your business, they need to be professionally installed, which, at a minimum, will cost a few thousand dollars. There are also smaller monthly fees with on-premises systems for SIP trunking, or PRI circuits, which brings a dial tone into the system.
The other expense you need to consider with a business VoIP system, regardless of whether you have a cloud-based or on-premises system, is the cost of IP phones. There are a wide variety of handset phones on the market and wide range of price points. Phones can run as cheap as $50 each to more than $400 each.
While many VoIP phone system providers have set pricing, there are a few steps you can take to get the best deal:
- See if the provider offers discounts for agreeing to a long-term contract or paying for an entire year in advance.
- Check if it would give you a lower price to start if you plan on adding more lines in the future.
- Ask if it would be willing to match a competitor's cheaper price.
- See if it would be willing to give you phones for free if you commit to a long-term contract.
A critical step when signing any contract, regardless of whether the company is willing to negotiate price with you, is to closely read the entire contract before agreeing to anything. You need to make sure the terms of the contract are exactly what you were expecting and don't include any hidden fees or price increases. Be sure to get specific costs of tax and any surcharges. Many businesses are shocked to see their first bills after signing up for a VoIP service because they weren't anticipating ancillary fees like taxes and surcharges.
It is also imperative that you fully understand the phone system provider's cancellation policy. You need to know how much advance notice is necessary to cancel and whether there are any fees for it. Make sure you have answers to these questions before signing any contract for VoIP phone service.
To determine the best business VoIP phone systems, we started by looking at a comprehensive list of more than 70 phone system providers. To narrow that list down, we separated all of the vendors that had a good online reputation, such as those services that were consistently ranked highly by other websites.
We also, at periodic intervals, queried business owners to see which services they use. If we got multiple business owners raving about the vendor they use, they were also added to the final list of contenders.
Finally, we visited each company's website. If a company stood out to us, we added them to the final list. We also eliminated most companies that only served businesses in their local region.
We ultimately settled narrowed down our pool to: 8x8, Avaya, Booth, Cisco, Dialpad, Digium, ESI, EVoice, FreedomVoice, Grasshopper, Jive, Mitel, Nextiva, OnSip, Ooma Office, Phone.com, RingByName, RingCentral, and Vonage.
Next, we researched each provider by investigating its services, watching tutorials and how-to videos, and reading user comments. We also contacted each company's customer service department and posed as business owners to gauge the type of support each provider offers its users.
In all, we analyzed each system based on the following factors:
- Deployment options
- Level of service
- Customer service
- Calling features
- Collaboration tools
- Mobility options
- Better Business Bureau accreditation, ratings and complaints
Understanding VoiP Phone Systems Infographic
State of the Industry
The introduction of VoIP has given the business phone system industry a dramatic makeover in recent years. A growing number of businesses have forgone traditional landline technology in favor of VoIP systems.
Research shows that with landline services losing 500,000 customers a month, the VoIP market is expected to grow by 10 percent every year through 2020.
Typically operated by local phone companies, landline systems run on copper wiring, and require businesses to purchase and maintain a large amount of expensive PBX equipment.
The move to VoIP systems can be attributed to a number of factors, including cost and convenience. VoIP systems run on the same internet connection used to get online. While you can have an on-premises VoIP system, many businesses are forgoing the upfront expenses by using a cloud-based offering. Instead of investing in expensive equipment, you pay a monthly fee for each user with cloud-hosted VoIP phone systems.
Research has shown businesses see significant savings when moving from landline to VoIP phone systems. Research by RingByName found that companies that switch to VoIP save between 50 and 75 percent. In addition, small businesses save about 40 percent on local call costs with VoIP.
Ease of use is another factor for why some businesses are switching to VoIP. These phone systems require no maintenance and include a wealth of valuable calling and collaboration features. Overall, VoIP systems offer upwards of 100 features and tools.
Common Business VoIP Phone System Questions & Answers
Farzad, There's a number of great solutions out there. As with all things, the answer is as complex as your needs are. The company I work with has a fantastic VoIP platform that is very cost-effective and delivers great value... for the right customer segment. Every technology provider has certain markets and/or verticals that they service better than others. It's important that the company you work with do a full needs-assessment. Sadly, many companies will represent themselves...
Hi Paul, your question raises more questions. The answer is really not about one provider over another, it is about why your call quality is not up to par and not stable. VoIP is only as good as the connection the calls flow over. You can have a the Ferrari of VoIP providers but if they are driving on a pot-hole filled road, your ride will stink. I would suggest that attention needs to be paid to your connection to the provider as well as your internal networking. VoIP is very sensitive...