The Best VoIP Service Providers for Businesses: A Quick Guide
Selecting the best VoIP provider is a process that is inherently subjective. Every business has a unique set of needs, so the best VoIP service is the one that will address the most pressing issues facing the company. For example, a small business owner dealing with local customers will have a different opinion about the best deal on a VoIP system than an operations manager at a larger company. One small business owner may prioritize integration with video conferencing while another requires unlimited international calls with multiple toll-free numbers.
Small business owners often ask about the best VoIP services, which we do not provide. The question of which VoIP provider is best equipped to meet the unique needs of small businesses comes up repeatedly. However, this question does not have a simple answer, so it seems that the best way to tackle it is to create a blog explaining some of the benefits and potential drawbacks of each provider. Think of this article as a quick reference guide for comparing the key features of the most vetted and trusted VoIP providers on the market.
Overview of VoIP Providers for Small Businesses
Searching for the best VoIP provider for small businesses should not cause excruciating headaches. This is why we took the time to outline the benefits of using custom VoIP services while also providing readers with a quick overview of the most attractive features provided by selected companies. We believe that every offer appearing on this list has merits that should be considered by anyone interested in using or upgrading their VoIP service.
Some Items Not Included
This overview of the benefits and drawbacks of major VoIP providers goes into detail, yet it is worth mentioning that some of these offers contain fine print. In general, check with provider for optional items not included in the main package. For example, some providers allow users to add an additional phone number for a small fee every month, but a simple extension might be available at no extra charge. The outline below is only intended to provide a quick glimpse of the most relevant features for the majority of small businesses. This includes large, complex organizations as well, for many are classified as small businesses for tax purposes. Additional features and options can always be found directly on the VoIP provider’s website.
Low Price Range, VoIP Providers
Many of our clients are just getting started in their small businesses, and they are primarily interested in saving as much money on their monthly phone bill as possible. This is a normal experience for new entrepreneurs, for many seek to upgrade at a later period in time after establishing a solid revenue stream. Since the main benefit of a lower-tier VoIP service is in the reduced monthly bill, the business may have to accept lower audio quality, a lower quality of customer support or other drawbacks. Additionally, most low-cost VoIP service providers do not include the handset in the price, so this will have to be purchased separately. The cost of the handset typically ranges from $50 to $225. Even with these limitations, a low-tier plan can be the perfect solution for ambitious entrepreneurs who just want to use their own tech skills to navigate the system.
- VoIP Studio – This VoIP provider offers one of the lowest prices on the market. At only $5 per month, customers can take advantage of the most essential features including free Internet calling, virtual telephone numbers, voicemail, multipoint registration and more. It also integrates seamlessly with Microsoft’s CRM or similar services. Customers can also enjoy using call waiting, conference calls, call transfers, music-on-hold, call pickup, time-based routing, a company directory, call recording, limitless storage, fax service and other useful features. Customer service is available around the clock, and the sound quality is exceptionally good for such a low monthly rate. This appears to be one of the best available packages for the types of services included in the basic plan.
- Phone.com – This provider offers a relatively low monthly rate for small businesses who need to make frequent international phone calls. This is a good deal for companies that want to use annual contracts. There are some drawbacks to using this inexpensive VoIP service, but it may still be appropriate in some situations. For example, this service does not allow users to have a unique number automatically, but it is offered as an add-on for a small monthly fee. Other additional services are also available as add-ons, so potential customers will have to go through them one at a time. These options may include voice transcription, automatic call recording and analytic services.
- Grasshopper – This is another excellent low-cost VoIP service that offers a 30-day period where customers can request a money-back guarantee if the service proves insufficient. This VoIP package does not require any additional hardware to use the service, and users can add phone lines for free. In fact, the installation can be done completely online. Every option can be customized during the setup process, and the company’s customer support professionals are responsive and helpful. Customers can use the Internet to get access to voicemail via email. In addition, users will enjoy unlimited extensions with this package. The pay-as-you-grow plan offers one of the lowest monthly rates available, and it can be upgraded as needed over time. Grasshopper is a great starting VoIP service for small businesses who wish to convey a professional image to their clients.
Mid-Level Price Range, VoIP Providers
At the next price tier, small businesses can expect to receive more minutes, advanced customized service features and additional support. The companies who provide VoIP services at this level usually add these additional services automatically, which add value to the total package.
- Cabertel – This mid-ranged provider offers service plans designed to save customers up to 60 percent of what they would normally expect to pay on a traditional phone bill for land line or cell phone service. There are no contract fees or setup charges in this plan, and the company offers free IP phones to new customers. This service integrates with Smartphones, and it can be used with standard app features. In this plan, customers get to take advantage of a cloud concierge who acts as a personal attendant. Live assistance is always a click away with this plan. In addition, a dedicated account manager provides any extra support necessary to avoid long waiting times while holding for a customer service representative. This plan provides a generous package of 2,500 minutes of phone service every month, and many other optional features are available. This is an exceptional plan for businesses who need fast access to a specialist in the event of any technical problems. Cabertel also offers a premium-level business package for larger companies.
- 8×8 – This provider is unique because the company uses a dedicated in-house platform instead of a third-party service to run the technology. This is also a publicly traded company that works with organizations of all sizes. This provider has the capacity to handle the needs of governmental organizations and large corporations, so small businesses will also benefit. Customers can expect excellent services at a reasonable price. This includes video and web conferencing, mobile app support, voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, corporate directory, music-on-hold and other business-related options. The unlimited international calling plan is one of the most popular features. There are also options for businesses who make only a few outgoing calls. Users can obtain premium rates on an annual plan in exchange for an advance payment. This provider offers flexibility and reliable service in a format that confers professionalism, which is essential for the growth of any small business or enterprise.
- Phonebooth – This VoIP provider offers two distinct plans, and they are both suitable for users looking for a balance between price and performance. One of the two plans is possible because the service provider is part of a larger company, Bandwidth, which owns a network. The other plan is a real deal, but customers have to know that it exists on the provider’s website. This is a free service with 200 minutes available exclusively for incoming calls, and this could be the perfect service for new small businesses. The lack of any required contract is another attractive feature that customers of Phonebooth will enjoy. This provider offers continuous support with live representatives who are available on weekends and holidays every week of the year. The rates offered by Phonebooth are competitive. With this plan, single users can enjoy the same rates offered to companies who order 50 or more phone lines with annual contracts. Two free numbers are included in the plan, and additional numbers only cost $1 per month. Overall, this is an excellent deal for users who require unlimited local or long-distance calling in their package.
Premium-Level Price Range, VoIP Providers
Premium VoIP services are suitable for businesses with enough money to spend on a higher monthly rate in exchange for the best service package possible. Every payment tier offers a different set of support options, and customers can expect to receive exceptional customer service at this range. For example, customers in this tier can expect to get a customer support representative on the phone within an extremely short amount of time. Premium services also provide a large number of phone lines, which is a suitable solution for small businesses that are growing rapidly.
- RingCentral – This is one of the most comprehensive plans for businesses who want to invest in a solid system that offers all of the bells and whistles. With more than 30 extra features and a 30-day trial period, RingCentral provides flexible and reliable plans without an annual contract. This plan offers enhanced features including integration with mobile devices, toll-free calls, team collaboration options, caller ID and phone rental options for multi-year contracts. It can work with apps like Microsoft and Dropbox. The multipoint HD video conferencing can also be done on a mobile device, and apps are available for iPad, iPhone and Android. There are three price levels available, but the premium plan has the full suite of services including a single sign-on, Salesforce compatibility, Zendesk and Desk.com compatibility, and voicemail-to-text services. This plan also includes limitless conference calls, Internet fax and Business SMS. Every plan comes with a 30-day trial period, and the premium package includes 10,000 minutes and a total of 50 people per meeting. This provider also offers the option of starting at a lower rate and moving up to a plan with more advanced features at a later time.
- Nextiva – This is an excellent choice for companies who need to transfer existing numbers to a VoIP service. Since this VoIP plan is designed for small businesses, every aspect of the product can be run from any computer system. Users can quickly review the options, and use a central hub for all of their communication or collaborative projects. There is no charge to set up this service, for it is one of the routine procedures offered by this company. In addition, customers can enjoy the professional greeting that customers will hear when they call. This service comes with a toll-free number, and there are no set-up costs involved. The customer service support is excellent within the United States, and unlimited faxing and calling is available through the standard plan. Nextiva enjoys a reputation for excellent customer service, and they have great ratings compared to many similar VoIP providers. The monthly rate is reasonable, and additional services are available as options upon request. This system is comprehensive, so it is sold as a package. For additional details, interested customers should visit their website and contact a friendly customer service representative.
- Vonage – The enterprise package from Vonage is a premium option for complex small businesses who require award-winning customer service and support. The Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS, provides complete integration and an easy learning curve. The CRM offered through VonageConnect is designed to merge the business phone with a suite of CRM products. This is an innovative solution for growing businesses looking to increase worker productivity through streamlining the phone service with a range of additional options. This system works with Salesforce, Sage, Microsoft Dynamics, GoldMine and other CRM reporting systems. This is also an excellent choice for companies who require fully hosted audio conferencing, and Vonage provides unique numbers with passcodes for authorization. Get a full report of the conference with no restrictions on the number of moderators. Another unique feature is the BYOB option, which means bring your own broadband. This allows users to take advantage of the broadband already provided by their current Internet service. The scalable call center allows business owners to modify the phone lines over time as the company grows. Call recording, IP PBX and auto attendant services are included. The video conferencing is seamless, and the enterprise security protocols ensure that clients can communicate confidentially. The transcription from voicemail feature is helpful for record keeping, and the WebConnect service offers a host of useful features for communicating while traveling. The advanced MySphere Receptionist is a complete, integrated call directory and routing system that is sure to save a lot of time and money.
Does VoIP Save Money for Small Businesses?
Most small businesses do not initially expect to receive long-distance or international calls, but what if the situation changes suddenly? If the business starts to attract international customers, should it just continue to use a phone plan that was set up for local commerce? What if the business experiences a sudden surge in customers, or it is just growing rapidly? Flexible VoIP services would certainly be a top priority under these circumstances. It is not always possible to anticipate the future needs of any business, but it is possible to get an idea of what level of service might be necessary under the most probable set of conditions. This type of projection is helpful when deciding what type of VoIP service is the best fit for the business.
Many similar scenarios are extremely common in today’s connected and fast-changing digital world. Many businesses experience a sudden surge of interest in their product or service, and a lot of this accelerated activity is made possible because of the Internet. Businesses now have the option of using an Internet-based phone service instead of a traditional cell phone or land line. Many of the normal costs are simply absorbed into the usual costs associated with paying for an Internet connection. The efficiency of this routing system is what saves money for the average small business.
What is the Main Advantage of VoIP?
Voice information can now be transmitted through the Internet. This process is efficient because it reduces the surges that often occur when there are high amounts of calls coming through a traditional phone line. Instead of paying for a usage-based phone service, the VoIP connection provides a steady monthly service fee, which can allow small business owners to plan their regular operations without sudden spikes in the phone bill.
When it comes to making international phone calls, VoIP can save enough money to pay for itself over time. However, the audio quality might not meet the quality standards offered by some traditional phone services. If this is a problem, then the business owner simply has to determine the most important priority. For many small businesses, the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues overseas or employ foreign freelancers and telecommuters with special skills is enough to warrant installing a VoIP service.
How Does VoIP Add Value?
In addition to providing standard audio communications, the VoIP service easily integrates with audio and video conferencing calls, and this provides a seamless user experience that replicates the sense of speaking to a person in the same room. This is an essential part of making important presentations to prospective clients, and it is an extremely helpful tool when the business needs to close a deal on the same day.
When it comes to collaboration, VoIP services genuinely add value to every interaction. Discuss any project using video conferencing technology connected to a VoIP service just one time, and it becomes hard to do it any other way. This experience is so similar to communicating in person that it is easy to get attached to this way of working. It also adds value by providing the flexibility necessary to use this service during trips. In this respect, it can be easily used as a mobile office.
Tax Issues and VoIP
It is important to keep in mind that there is no adequate method available for calculating the taxes associated with each of these plans. The exact amount of tax the business will pay depends on the state in which the business is located, and the amount charged will be determined by the specific state or country. Since tax laws are constantly changing, it is important to work with a competent tax professional when doing business in any state. In most cases, this tax issue will be a minor one, and it will usually be absorbed into the regular amount charged by the tax professional.
There are different ways to determine which one of these services is the best fit for a business. The size of the organization plays a large role in determining the type of VoIP service package that will address the needs of the company. Price plans vary according to the complexity of the package and the additional features desired by the customer. This service provides small companies with a professional image that encourages consumer confidence in placing orders. It also allows larger businesses to reduce overhead costs by routing an entire call center through the Internet. It is normally possible to save money because VoIP services condense a variety of features into the Internet architecture already in use. This allows most businesses to save between 30 and 60 percent of the phone bill used through traditional service providers. If the VoIP service is not achieving this kind of savings, it might be necessary to switch the plan to a different package level.