What Makes a VoIP Service Provider the Best?
If you’re running a business in 2022, then chances are, you have already heard of and might even use some form of VoIP or internet phone service through your business phone line. If you’ve ever used Skype or Facebook Messenger—or any kind of internet service to make a call—you’re experiencing the power of Voice Over IP (VoIP).
What Is VoIP?
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a method of making and receiving phone calls via an internet connection rather than via traditional analog or mobile networks. It’s an efficient and cost-effective communication method, particularly for business users requiring a flexible phone solution.
Most VoIP providers offer video and text chat tools on top of basic audio calling functionality. Voice data is usually encrypted and sent via a secure connection to ensure there’s no risk of data theft, and you will usually benefit from various call management and business productivity tools.
On top of this, most VoIP solutions are compatible with various devices. You should be able to access your phone system via a web client on your computer. You may also have access to mobile and desktop apps, and many programs can be used with dedicated deskphone hardware and headsets.
What Is Business VoIP and How Can It Help Your Business?
Business VoIP is basically VoIP with added productivity and collaboration features. For example, you may be able to integrate your VoIP platform with third-party programs to streamline workflows. You may also benefit from things like video conferencing, intra-company chat, and smart call forwarding.
The most noteworthy way in which a business VoIP system can help your business is in the time it saves. Since you can use most VoIP for business on your smartphone, desktop computer, and various other devices, you can basically manage your calls from anywhere. It’s super easy to set up things like call forwarding and interactive voice response (IVR).
On top of this, Business VoIP systems are convenient and very scalable. Unlike traditional phones, which require physical phone-line infrastructure, all that a VoIP system requires is an internet connection and a compatible device. You can usually add and remove users from your plan as required.
Key Benefits of Using Business VoIP Phone Service
There are numerous benefits associated with using VoIP phone services, including the following.
Scalability - Most VoIP systems are highly scalable, enabling you to add new licenses to your subscription as your business grows. This is great for startups and businesses expecting to grow significantly in the future. You can also usually remove licenses from your subscription just as easily.
Affordability - When compared to traditional business phone solutions, VoIP is a much more affordable option. In most cases, you will have a single monthly fee to pay that’s clear and doesn’t depend on your call volume. Many plans come with unlimited inbound and outbound calls, and there are no expensive setup or installation fees when you’re getting started.
Versatility - Most VoIP systems are super flexible. You will usually be able to configure your system to meet your business needs. On top of this, you will almost always be able to use your VoIP system on your mobile device, enabling you to work from virtually anywhere with an internet connection.
Quality - While this will depend on the VoIP provider you use, most systems offer significantly better audio quality than the average analog phone network. This is particularly useful in a business sense, where a poor connection could be the difference between you gaining a new client or not.
Business features - Along with simple voice and text communication tools, you will often have access to a range of extra features. These can include everything from simple call recording and voicemail transcription to advanced features like analytics and call center capabilities.
Remote working - With a suitable VoIP system, remote working becomes a breeze. Many platforms come with versatile productivity and team management tools, and you may have access to streamlined intra-organization messaging.
Device compatibility - Unlike landline systems, which usually require dedicated business phone devices, VoIP programs can be used with a range of different devices. For example, you might decide to use a desktop client or a dedicated desk phone. Or, you could download the relevant mobile app to turn your smartphone into a business softphone.
Global accessibility - Many VoIP platforms enable you to register a business number in a different country or region. This is particularly useful for companies who want to build a presence in an area without opening a physical office.
How to Choose a VoIP Provider for Your Business
Selecting the best VoIP service for business use can seem like an overwhelming task to begin with, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. The following steps should help you get started.
Identify your budget and how long you’re willing to commit to a subscription for. This will immediately narrow your choices.
Note the features you need. Some VoIP phone systems offer basic communication services, while others are more versatile and offer third-party integrations, collaboration tools, and more.
Pay attention to customer reviews. A great way to gauge the reliability and trustworthiness of a VoIP provider is to check out third-party review sites.
Shortlist your favorite options by slowly eliminating the ones that are lacking in certain areas.
Where available, take advantage of free trials and money-back guarantees to test your shortlisted platforms.
Once you get through this list, you should be able to select the right option for your business. If you’re unsure, we’d suggest going for a monthly subscription to begin with rather than committing to a year or more in advance.
Finding the Best VoIP Phones for Your Small Business
When it comes to integrating VoIP into your business, there are some factors to consider before you choose a provider. The top VoIP providers can help you lower costs, reach more customers, and even enhance your mobility and productivity. For example, what you need to take into consideration when looking at VoIP for small businesses is very different to a VoIP service for your home.
The most important features to look for when searching for a VoIP solution are:
- Ease of operation and setup
- Reliability and customer service
- Features and customizability
- Mobile options
- Video conferencing and screen sharing
Switching to a VoIP system entails some initial costs, which are quickly offset by the savings. VoIP services can also increase the efficiency, convenience, and flexibility of your communications and help you incorporate the business tools of a larger company. Before you choose your VoIP provider, try to determine how easy it will be to adopt the system and operate it, and also if it has any specific features you need. For example if you want your business to present a professional and polished impression, such as that of a law firm, then you'll want to make sure you have the necessary features.
Types of VoIP Systems
The biggest difference in cost is going to depend on the type of VoIP service you choose for your business. There are 3 main systems available:
Similar to a website hosting plan, this means that the vendor owns the hardware, and your business leases or buys the phones. Maintenance will be handled by the vendor, too. Companies will usually charge a subscription to use the internet business phone system.
Best for: Smaller businesses
In this scenario, your business owns the hardware, which means you are responsible for any upgrades or maintenance work. This sort of setup can be prohibitive for a smaller business because of the higher initial costs of purchasing the hardware. In addition, the upkeep may require the manpower that a small company doesn't have. On the other hand, these systems can provide better options for customization and a higher level of security.
Best for: Larger businesses
With this system, the business still owns the equipment, but the vendor is in charge of set up and maintenance. This is a great “best of both worlds” option, in that it allows the customer to use their own equipment—like with the on-premise system—while still being able to enjoy the assistance provided by a hosted system.
Does Switching to VoIP Save Money?
Not only can a managed VoIP service do wonders for your business’s productivity, but it generally costs less than a traditional landline system. For medium-to-large businesses with hundreds or thousands of employees and complex software-integration needs, VoIP can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
Here are 4 ways that VoIP can save your business money:
1. Cordless Costs Less to Setup and Maintain
Whether you’re sticking with cable TV over Netflix or Hulu at home or a traditional landline over VoIP in the office, the same principle applies: cords and wires are hardware, and hardware costs extra. With a landline system, a medium or large business could easily pay tens of thousands of dollars on installing, setup, and licensing of a private branch exchange (PBX), thousands per month on line rental, and a great deal more on maintenance. With a managed VoIP there are no hardware requirements, so you can get by with only paying a simple monthly fee per user.
2. Remote Workforce = Reduced Overheads
One of the greatest benefits of having a VoIP for business is that it allows your employees to communicate through mobile phones—which makes it easier to orchestrate a remote workforce. The more employees you have working outside the office, the lower your overheads. Having fewer employees in the office on a full-time basis means you can cut back on furniture and equipment costs, air conditioning, office parties, rent, everything.
3. No Paying Through the Roof to Move or Expand
Using a traditional phone network—as opposed to VoIP—requires businesses to set up and maintain a PBX system at each office. Each time that those businesses upgrade their PBX, replace an aging system, move offices, or open a new location requires a significant capital investment. With VoIP, on the other hand, businesses can take their audio communications with them wherever they go. Whether it’s one employee working from home or an entire company moving office, being mobile pays dividends.
4. One Communications Bill Instead of Many
The terms VoIP and unified communications (UC) go hand in hand, and that’s because VoIP lets you integrate all types of forms of communication–such as voice, text, fax, video, and conferencing–into one system. With unified communications, businesses don’t end up purchasing fax services, video conferencing, etc. from separate providers. With UC, it all falls under the one bill.
Calculating the Cost Savings of VoIP
How a VoIP phone system impacts your company’s bottom line depends on your needs. Variables include: number of users; features and third-party integrations; and optional equipment, such as hardphones. Choosing a hosted or managed VoIP solution is generally cheaper than having an on-premise VoIP, unless you prefer your IT team manage the system.
The following example is intended only as a general guide and not as a substitute for your own calculations. It is based on the RingCentral Office plan for 100-999 people, when compared to a cross-section of traditional landline plans for businesses of a similar size. Obviously, it doesn’t take into account how VoIP can enhance productivity and efficiency, further boosting the bottom line.
*Optional accessory for VoIP users, requirement of traditional landline
#Varies by country. For both VoIP and traditional, calls to mobile are more expensive than calls to landlines.
^Based on prices from Xfinity’s landline plan.
No matter which way you look at it, VoIP systems are far cheaper than traditional business landlines. As the above table shows, VoIP has minimal setup costs. Traditional phone lines, in contrast, can cost up to $14,000 to set up, not to mention up to $4,000 per year in licensing fees. Small businesses that go down the traditional route can install a KSU-less system for less, although the costs of setting up the system can still reach up to $300 per user.
The following table compares VoIP to traditional business lines by cost per user per month, including yearly software licenses, unlimited calls in the US and Canada, and the cost per user per month and excluding setup costs. In both columns, cost per user falls as the number of user grows. Again, VoIP is clearly the cheaper option.
10 Advantages of Having a Virtual Phone Number
People dial virtual phone numbers just like any other number, but they actually connect to an existing mobile or office line of your choice. You may also link them to specific extensions and voice mail boxes. Here are 10 advantages of having a virtual phone number:
1. Multiple numbers: Without paying for multiple lines, you can use separate numbers for personal and commercial purposes.
2. Marketing data: Virtual phone lines supply helpful marketing data. If you use print or radio advertising, you may promote a different local or toll-free number in each ad.
3. Avoid long-distance rates: When you acquire a telephone number in another area code, clients in this region may call you without paying long-distance rates.
4. Local numbers: If you purchase advertising in a distant locale, your company may promote a virtual number without publishing the area, country or extension codes.
5. No equipment required: Compared to separate telephone lines, these numbers are easier to set up and maintain. There's no need to buy additional equipment for each number, and most virtual phone providers don't require long-term contracts.
6. Ease of use: You can quickly and conveniently manage your numbers on the Internet. It's possible to instantly purchase or cancel them at any time.
7. Avoid telemarketers: If it comes with automatic call screening, a virtual number can help you avoid telemarketers. You may use it whenever you have to enter contact details on a form.
8. Added features: These numbers often include more features than standard cellphone or landline services. They make it simple to record calls and arrange phone conferences.
9. Money savings: If off-site employees frequently call your main office, you can ask them to use local virtual numbers. This eliminates the need for you to finance their long-distance calls.
10. Brand multiple businesses: If you run multiple small businesses, it's not hard to introduce different virtual numbers and voicemail greetings for separate companies.
How Do VoIP Phones Work Compared to Landline Phones?
While analog landline phones send and receive call data through physical phone lines. When you use a landline, soundwaves are sent as coded pulses of electricity which are decoded and returned to audio format at the receiving end.
With a VoIP system, your voice data is packaged, usually encrypted for extra security, and sent directly over the internet. This is particularly useful for mobile businesses, as it enables them to access their communication system away from the office.
What to Look for in VoIP Providers
Finding the right VoIP platform for your business can take some time, but there are some features that reliable platforms tend to share. For example, the top 10 VoIP providers we’ve listed here are all reliable, competitively priced, and offer versatile communication solutions.
One thing you should look for in particular is mobile compatibility. Although most VoIP platforms offer mobile apps, some of these work poorly. We’d suggest checking out customer reviews on the Google Play and Apple App Stores.
You should also look for a provider that offers the call management features you need. For example, not all platforms have on-demand call recording or voicemail transcription. Unlimited calls will be important for some users, while contact center tools will be essential for others.
Important Features of VoIP You Must Know
Along with their voice and text communication tools, most VoIP companies offer a selection of advanced features, including the following.
Call management features - You will usually have access to call recording, voicemail transcription, call forwarding, and more. In some cases, you will get advanced call management features such as smart call routing. Pay attention to what you get here, as some tools, such as call recording, are notably absent from some reputable providers.
Mobile compatibility - Most VoIP systems are fully compatible with mobile devices. Through the appropriate mobile app, you will be able to manage most aspects of your system. This is particularly useful for business owners who are regularly out and about.
Integrations - Often, you will be able to integrate your VoIP program with other business productivity and workflow management platforms. For example, many providers offer CRM integrations with platforms such as Salesforce, and you will sometimes be able to create your own integrations via a custom API.
Collaboration tools - Your business phone system may include team collaboration tools such as intra-company team messaging, video calling, and call conferencing. These can be useful for geographically spread-out teams, such as those with remote workers.
Additional numbers - You can usually add extra business phone numbers if required. These generally come in at an affordable price of a few dollars or less per month. A toll-free number will often be more expensive, but should still be quite affordable.
Video conferencing - One of the most popular VoIP features is video conferencing. This enables you to chat within your company and with clients via video, which is usually much more interactive and useful for in-depth conversations than basic text or audio communication.
IVR - Interactive voice response (IVR) technology enables you to create automated menus to route callers to the correct department or team member. You can record messages, prompting callers to either press a button or say a certain word to move forward or be connected with a staff member.
Questions to Ask a Potential Business VoIP Provider
Do I need additional hardware or software?
Most VoIP systems will be compatible with your existing computers and mobile devices. However, a small percentage require specialized desk phone hardware.
Are there any hidden costs?
Find out exactly what you can expect to pay from the beginning. Is the monthly fee all-inclusive, or will you have to pay for things like outbound calls and a business phone number? Are there any setup costs?
What features do you offer?
Ask the provider to explain what features are included with their platform. If they are vague or unwilling to do so, look elsewhere.
Is there a contract?
In some cases, you will be bound by a long-term contract. Exiting this early could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Do you have a mobile app?
This is particularly important if you’re planning to use your VoIP system with your smartphone.
What data center security methods do you employ?
Find out how a provider protects their data center(s). Are they spread out over more than one location? Is the network redundant and able to function if one data center experiences technical issues? Are there any security measures taken on-site?
Get the Right VoIP System for You, Today
VoIP systems have become the norm for businesses large and small, as they provide an easy, surefire way to make telecommunications more efficient—and affordable. For small and medium-sized businesses, these savings can make a big difference. The efficiency of a VoIP system can also ease some headaches for companies that may not have the manpower to handle complicated or less streamlined communication needs. Small businesses generally don’t need some of the more sophisticated VoIP features—like video conferencing that can accommodate 100 or more participants—but the flexible pricing, ease of operations, and customer service offered by many VoIP providers can be of real assistance.