Best business phone service
While consumers have largely dumped their traditional phone connections in favor of multi-functional smartphone devices, desktop phones continue to be a business necessity.
After all, a landline offers the advantages of the highest quality voice connection, and more affordable calling plans than mobile devices. These days, business phone landlines are increasingly digital rather than analog, and leverage the data capacity of the internet via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology.
Selecting a phone plan for your business requires planning and foresight beginning with your company’s needs. Think about the number of phone lines required for employees, including dedicated lines for those archaic fax machines that continue to soldier on (although they will eventually be replaced by online fax services one day soon, we hope). Also consider what additional services are needed, such as voicemail, integration with mobile devices and any international calling needs.
Once you have done your homework, you are ready to do the shopping for a new small business phone service, and here are the best picks in this arena.
- We've also highlighted the best smartphones for business
Put your business phone system in the cloud
Mitel MiCloud Office is a UK-based business VoIP provider that hosts their service in the cloud. Their Essential plan starts at an affordable £3.63 ($4.79) per user per month, for a deskphone with basic capabilities and voicemail, which is fine for simple needs.
Their step up plan is the Premier plan that starts at £8.18 ($10.80) per user per month, and adds features including a fax inbox, SMS from a desktop app, a web portal, and parallel ringing. There is also the option of a mobile VoIP app on the higher tiered plan.
A premium VoIP service
Vonage is a well known player in the residential VoIP market, and their Vonage Business offering focuses on commercial phone service; it has distinct plans that cater to enterprise, and to the small business market.
For the latter, Vonage Business endeavors to use your current Internet to have a plug-and-play solution that does not require on-site installation, and offers a 14-day trial. It is a more premium service with over 40 included phone features, and claims a business grade “99.999% uptime reliability.”
The plans are priced depending on the number of users. For example, for 1 to 4 users, the bottom rung Mobile plan starts at $19.99 (£15) per user per month, which includes unlimited calling and SMS messages, and apps for both desktop and mobile use. Premium features include a call log, an administrative portal and a virtual receptionist. The next plan up is the Premium plan that costs $29.99 (£23) per user per month, and adds video conferencing and file sharing via Amazon Chime, as well as integration with popular Customer Relationship Manager’s such as Salesforce and Zoho.
The business phone plan with the powerful base station
Ooma Office is the business version of the popular (almost) free residential service. Here, service plans require a one time purchase of an Ooma Office base station for $199.99 (£151), and then unlimited calling to the US and Canada service starts at $19.99 (£15) per user per month, which includes bonus features such as virtual fax, a local or toll-free phone number, and a conference extension. More users can be added for $19.99 (£15) each.
Rounding out the service, features include 24/7 customer support, music on hold, a virtual receptionist, a mobile app, and a choice of modes for answering calls after hours. Ooma Office is mildly hampered with no lower tier more budget plan for cash strapped businesses, and there is no lower cost for economies of scale as additional users are added to the plan as each is charged at full price.
The VoIP that offers a virtual office
The 8x8 Virtual Office is a VoIP plan that offers a cloud-based phone system that unifies communications. The lowest Virtual Office tier includes unlimited calling with apps for iOS and Android. The feature set also incorporates music on hold, a softphone, SMS/texting, instant messaging, and integration with the Salesforce CRM.
The next higher plan, Virtual Office Pro adds the advanced features of web conferencing, call recording, and internet faxing. The highest plan, Virtual Office x8, adds a Contact Center with 2,000 minutes, plus graphical reporting and analytics.
Pricing is not listed on the 8x8 Virtual Office website.
The affordable business phone service
Phone.com endeavors to be an affordable business VoIP service, and with a pay per minute base plan that starts at $9.99 (£8) per month (when paid annually), it does best the competition at the low end in terms of cost. The trade-off is that the plan only offers a limited 300 voice minutes monthly with 5,000 SMS, which is only adequate for the most limited business use.
On the bright side, even on this bare plan there are included premium features, including voicemail to email, call blocking and call queuing. It is also indicated that the service is HIPAA compliant to meet the standards of privacy for healthcare-related businesses.
Perhaps the more realistic option for most businesses is the base unlimited plan, which has unlimited minutes and an unlimited number of extensions. It also includes over forty premium features, and costs $19.99 (£15) per month when paid annually which is a good deal considering the total package.