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, ease of use with a dedicated phone device, and more affordable calling plans than mobile phones. These days, business phone landlines are increasingly digital rather than the analog copper phone lines of yesteryear, 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 (which will eventually be replaced by online fax services one day soon, we hope). Also factor in 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. In making our selections here, we compared features, pricing, user and professional reviews to pick out the best services around.
- We've also highlighted the best smartphones for business
Put your business phone system in the cloud
MiCloud Office is a business VoIP provider that hosts its service in the cloud. This allows the firm to create a robust service to be used at the desk in the office, but which is equally useful on the go via a smartphone app.
This solution can also grow with the business, including options for a call center with 'customer experience', with integrated analytics to better understand your customers.
Unfortunately, pricing for MiCloud Office is opaque, and requires a call to customer service.
A premium VoIP service
Vonage is a well-known player in the residential VoIP market, and its Vonage Business offering focuses on commercial phone service; it has distinct plans that cater to enterprise, as well as 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 free 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 (£16) 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 (£24) per user per month, and adds video conferencing and file sharing via Amazon Chime, as well as integration with popular Customer Relationship Managers such as Salesforce, Office 365 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 (£158), and then unlimited calling to the US and Canada starts at $19.99 (£16) 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 (£16) each.
Rounding out the service are over 35 features including 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 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 Desktop is a VoIP plan that offers a cloud-based phone system that unifies communications. The lowest Virtual Office X2 tier includes unlimited calling to 14 countries with apps for iOS and Android. The feature set also incorporates music on hold, a softphone, SMS/texting, instant messaging, plus integration with the Salesforce CRM, and it starts at $25 (£20) monthly.
The next tier plan, Virtual Office X5 Edition, adds the advanced features of web conferencing, call recording, and internet faxing for a cost of $35 (£28) per month. The highest plan, Virtual Office X8 Edition, adds a Contact Center with 2,000 minutes, plus graphical reporting and analytics for $55 (£44) monthly.
Unfortunately, there is no discount when adding additional users.
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 premium features included, such as 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 options for most businesses are the Plus Plan for $14.99 (£12) monthly (when paid annually) which gives you a still paltry 500 minutes, and 10,000 text messages. Disappointingly, even the top Pro Plan (which is $29.99 or £24 monthly on an annual contract) also limits your minutes to 1,000 per month, and 20,000 SMS messages.