Small businesses looking for a phone system should focus on a few factors. You most likely don't have a full-time IT staff to handle installation and maintenance, so you'll want a business phone solution that doesn't require much setup or upkeep. With this in mind, a cloud-hosted VoIP phone system is a good fit. There is nothing to install, and the phone system provider handles all maintenance and upgrades. These types of systems all offer fixed monthly costs, so it's easy to budget for them.
Small businesses also want a phone system that has a lot of features but doesn't break the bank. Auto-attendants, voicemail, voicemail-to-email, ring groups, mobile apps, collaboration tools and conference calling are all features small businesses will want from their phone system. You can read more about why we believe 8x8 is the best business phone system for small businesses below.
8x8 is our choice as the best phone system for small businesses because it is hosted in the cloud and easy to use, has a wide assortment of valuable features, is affordable and reliable, and provides excellent customer support. 8x8 also offers contact center services and supports businesses with multiple locations.
In addition to all of its phone functionality, 8x8 includes a robust video conferencing service that all users can access. Each user can host a video conference with up to 100 people at a time. This is an excellent unified communication system that is well suited for small businesses, especially those looking for a VoIP phone system, with all the bells and whistles they could want.
View all our recommendations for business phone systems on our best picks page.
Competitive Pricing and Terms
8x8 offers three service plans that differ in the included features and prices. All plans include unlimited calling, text messaging, instant messaging, an auto-attendant, voicemail, single sign-on, mobile and desktop apps, access to call analytics, call queues, HD voice, and integration with Salesforce, Zendesk and NetSuite CRM.
Here's a breakdown of the three plans:
- The X2 edition is the cheapest at $25 per user per month. This plan has a 14-country unlimited calling zone, 1GB of media storage, and audio and video conferencing for up to 100 participants at a time.
- The X5 edition, $35 per user per month, includes a 32-country unlimited calling zone, 5GB of media storage, audio and video conferencing for up to 100 participants, call recording, and an operator switchboard.
- The most expensive plan is the X8 edition, which is $55 per user per month. It includes a 48-country unlimited calling zone, 10GB of media storage, audio and video conferencing for up to 100 participants, call recording, and an operator switchboard. It also offers an assortment of contact center features, such as inbound and outbound services, Salesforce analytics, supervisor analytics, 2,000 contact center minutes, three months of call recording storage, and a visual IVR.
Customers sign at least a 12-month contract. However, fees are paid monthly and not annually.
8x8 has an impressive set of features. It offers all the calling, collaboration and mobile tools small businesses find most valuable. In total, the system has more than 50 standard features and more than 20 optional features.
Calling features include automated attendants, hold music, directory assistance, ring groups, call forwarding, call waiting, caller ID and blocking, voicemail, voicemail-to-email, and extension dialing. Other call-related features that come with every plan are call transfers, three-way calling, do not disturb, group call pickup, intercom paging and call parking.
8x8 offers tools that make it easy for employees to work with their peers and clients. Collaboration tools include instant messaging, a presence feature that shows employees which of their colleagues are available and who is busy, and the ability to host online meetings that allow screen sharing.
The 8x8 system integrates with a number of programs many small businesses are already using, including eAgent, Click2Pop, NetSuite, Zendesk, Web Dialer, Skype, Desk.com, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Act!, Aryaka and Salesforce. These integrations allow a wide range of added functionality, such as allowing employees to call contacts directly from those programs and keeping track of customer interactions.
With this service, employees can use a softphone that allows them to make and receive calls from their computer. All employees need to do is plug in headphones to start making calls. This feature comes in all plans.
The system has a mobile app that allows employees to tap into their business phone lines from their smartphones. With the app, which is available on iOS and Android devices, employees can make and receive calls, chat with other employees, check their voicemail, see the status of co-workers, join and collaborate in online meetings, and view online faxes.
Some of the optional features that 8x8 offers are toll-free numbers, hotdesking, four-line appearance, virtual extensions, additional auto-attendants, switchboards, power keys service and deeper analytics reports. The company also offers audio production for businesses looking for professional audio recordings for their auto-attendants and IVR. There are added costs for the optional features.
8x8 also offers more robust contact center services than those available in the X8 service plan. Three different contact center service plans are available: Standard, Pro and Ultimate. The features available in all three plans include skills-based routing, an online knowledgebase, CRM integration, historical and real-time reports, internal chat for agents and supervisors, personal agent connect, live monitoring, whisper and barge, standard IVR, queue and web callback, customer experience analytics, and post-call surveys. Added features available in the Pro and Ultimate plans include proactive chat, enhanced IVRs, quality management, and additional wallboards.
For businesses with multiple locations, 8x8 offers a branch office feature that lets system administrators segment employee extensions based on their work locations. In addition, each location has its own unique employee directory, IVR script and presence management.
Each user license includes video conferencing services. This gives all users the opportunity to host video meetings whenever they choose. 8x8's video conferencing services allow users to host meetings with up to 100 participants. What's nice is that all of those attending a meeting can be on camera at one time. Some of the other video conferencing services we examined limit the number of video feeds that can be on during a video conference.
The video conferencing system has a wide range of features, including both HD video and audio to ensure crystal-clear picture and sounds. One of the most useful tools is the screen sharing. The meeting host can share their desktop with those attending, which is helpful when giving a presentation, highlighting information in a document or explaining how to use software.
Other features in 8x8's video conferencing services are options to record meetings, integrated scheduling with Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar, the ability to add co-hosts to a meeting, and team and private chat tools.
You can start or join an 8x8 video conference from a computer or mobile device. You can also add video conferencing equipment to a conference room to participate in meetings that way.
For those who can't join a meeting over video feed, dial-in numbers allow them to connect by phone. While they won't be able to see what is going on, they will still be able to hear everything and join in the conversation.
All 8x8's service plans include all of the video conferencing services. There is no additional cost for these services. You can find more information on these services on our video conferencing best picks page.
8x8 has a complete conference calling service built into its phone system. With the conference bridge feature, which is included at no extra charge, each employee can hold their own conference call with up to 15 callers. If your company is looking to host conference calls with more people than this, you will need to use a conference calling service. These services allow for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people on each call. You can find more information on these services on our conference call services best picks page.
Ease of Use
8x8 is a cloud-hosted VoIP phone system that doesn't require any special equipment or wiring. Since the system runs on a data connection, all businesses have to do to use 8x8 is properly configure their routers and make sure they have the bandwidth to handle the volume of calls they expect. With that, it's as simple as plugging phones into an Ethernet port to start making and receiving calls.
A benefit of a cloud-based system is that you aren't responsible for any of the system's maintenance or upgrades. 8x8 handles all of that for you behind the scenes.
For established businesses, 8x8 allows you to bring your current phone number with you for no additional cost. Note that this process typically takes at least eight days for a local number and 2-5 weeks for a toll-free number.
The entire system is controlled via online portal. Those in charge can log in to the portal, which 8x8 refers to as the Configuration Manager, to assign employee telephone numbers and extensions, set up the automated attendant, and create ring groups. All of this can be completed on a self-service basis and doesn't require the assistance of an IT team.
Administrators aren't the only ones who can take advantage of the 8x8 online portal. Employees can also log in to the system to manage their phone features from anywhere. From the portal, they can access the softphone, check their voicemail, view a company directory, message other users, see which of their co-workers are free and which are busy, and conduct online meetings. In addition to the online access, there is a desktop app that employees can download to access the system.
To get businesses up and running smoothly, 8x8 provides one free hour of training from a technical installation specialist. More hands-on and onsite training is available at an extra cost.
8x8 is an extremely reliable service. It has a 99.999 percent uptime, which is the highest we discovered during our research of cloud-hosted business phone systems. This means the system is only down for a few minutes each year. In addition to its high uptime, 8x8 has 15 data centers around the world. This built-in redundancy allows the business phone provider to easily move data around should one of the centers go down. All of the data centers are SSAE 16 audited.
8x8 provides some of the best support we encountered during our research of business phone systems. We contacted the company multiple times by phone and email, posing as a small business owner interested in phone systems. Our calls were all immediately answered, and the representatives we spoke with were extremely helpful. They answered all our questions thoroughly and left us with a clear understanding of what the system offers and how it works. We never felt that they were pressuring us to make an immediate decision on the service; they always respected our timeline. Not all of the services we researched operated in that manner.
We followed up with some representatives over email. Each time, they quickly answered our messages with all the information we were looking for. They also always offered to host a call with us to discuss the issue in more detail or answer any other questions we had.
Customer support is available by phone, email, chat and the 8x8 website 24/7/365. Additionally, the website features a number of valuable resources, including whitepapers, infographics, data sheets, videos and webinars.
8x8 is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating. Over the past three years, 75 complaints have been filed against it with the BBB. Of those, 17 were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. The others were unresolved or the BBB had not heard back from the complainant as to whether they were satisfied with the resolution.
While 8x8 offers round-the-clock support, there are times when the representative you are speaking with may be in another country. This can be a problem if you need service at an irregular hour and can't get the level of support you expect. That being said, each of our interactions with the company, regardless of the time we reached out, was a positive one.
8x8 recently changed its service plan offerings and raised some prices. Previously, the cheapest plan was only $19.99 per user per month. Now, the cheapest plan available is $25. Additionally, 8x8 makes you sign a contract. Some of the business phone solutions we considered don't require a contract, allowing you to cancel at any time with no penalty.
Editor's note: Looking for a business phone system? Click the Compare Quotes button below to have our sister site BuyerZone connect you with vendors that can help.
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