Traditionally, when a business wanted to create a phone system including an automated answering message and routing tree, they would have to deploy a private branch exchange (PBX) system. This was usually a physical server at the business’s base, with space, noise, hassle, and equipment to maintain and troubleshoot.
These days, companies don’t need to even deploy a true phone system to take advantage of amazing phone connectivity or advanced features that Voice over IP (VoIP) provides. Cloud-based VoIP systems bring all the benefits of the best VoIP systems, but are hosted entirely in the cloud—on someone else’s infrastructure.
So which system is best for your needs? We've tried and tested the best ones to help you find the perfect one for you.
Our Top 10 Virtual PBX (Cloud-Based) Phone Systems in 2023
Ooma: Best for no-frills setups
Grasshopper: Best for competitive rates
GoToConnect: Best for unlimited international calls
Vonage: Best for scalability
A Closer Look at Our Top 10 Virtual PBX Phone Systems: Quick Reviews
Reliable connections built on global infrastructure
End-to-end encryption on every call
Limited basic plan
Fee charged for fax to email
$19.99 - $34.99
$29.99 - $44.99
$39.99 - $59.99
RingCentral is a large VoIP provider that works with clients across a range of types and sizes. It offers a highly flexible range of packages—from an Essentials package offering the absolute basics, to a standard package designed for growing SMBs, to Premium and Ultimate packages stacked with features. The Essentials and Standard plans include dedicated iOS and Android apps, unlimited video conferencing with screen sharing for up to 4 users, and integration with Microsoft and Google.
If what you’re looking for is a no-frills virtual PBX that does the job, look no further than these packages. The price structure also favors growing businesses, with different prices for businesses with 2-99 employees, 100-999 employees, and 1,000+ users. Once you’re a RingCentral customer, it’s really simple to switch between RingCentral’s virtual cloud VoIP packages according to your immediate needs.
Unlimited number of users
Few software integrations
Ooma provides a range of VoIP services for small business and enterprise. Its Ooma Office phone system results in an average 50% saving versus using traditional telephony—and includes more than 35 features.
These include a desktop app so that users can access the tool, and make calls, from their desktop, mobile apps, SMS messaging, and a virtual receptionist which automates the routing of internal calls.
Users can also avail of automatic call recording; ring groups to allow callers to easily reach specific departments within the business; and features to make the calling experience more enjoyable for users including hold and transfer music.
There’s unlimited calling in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico plus low international rates and free number transfer.
Great app interface
Easy phone forwarding system
$500 deposit for international calls
Grasshopper is a cloud VoIP provider that allows users to keep their personal and business calls separate.
- Call blasting: Inbound calls can be dialed on up to 15 lines simultaneously in order to reduce waiting times for customers.
- Voice studio: Grasshopper works with a team of experienced voice actors who can create polished and professional greetings for phone systems. Want your small business to get that large business look and feel? Tapping into Grasshopper’s talent pool is an easy way to do that.
- Ruby Receptionists: Grasshopper also maintains a network of live US-based receptionists waiting to handle calls and route them through your VoIP system. New uses even get a 35% discount on this service that is sure to wow your customers.
Grasshopper also offers: simultaneous call handling, VoIP / WiFi calling, and call transfers. It’s a mature system designed for businesses that want all of the benefits of VoIP but none of the infrastructure.
4. GoToConnect (Jive)
Host conference calls with up to 10 attendees
Integration with top business software
Easy to set up and migrate contacts
Very limited digital fax feature
While most cloud-hosted VoIP providers offer different prices for different features, GoToConnect, formerly known as Jive, works in a simpler way. All packages include access to all 80+ features, and the per-user price keeps dropping as your business gets larger. This makes it a good solution for growing SMBs because you can just move over to the next pricing package once you hit a certain number of users.
Key features include unlimited free calling to the US, Canada, and 51 other countries; an online portal to control and update your phone from any device with an internet connection; and time-based routing and custom schedules to accommodate for day/evening hours, weekends and holidays.
Reliable solution with 99.999% uptime
Conferencing for up to 100 people
Installation and setup included
No free version
Slow support chatbot
Vonage Business Cloud is a flexible cloud-hosted VoIP system targeted at the needs of small and medium businesses. All packages comprise more than 40 features, including a virtual receptionist, call logs, and admin portal. All packages include a 14-day free trial period.
For an extra cost, businesses can add an array of additional features, including video conferencing for up to 100 people, call recording, and more.
All its packages include unlimited calls and SMS service throughout North America. It also offers cheap international calls and a bunch of mobile-friendly functions to support SMBs with a high number of remote employees or plans to branch out and grow abroad. Being a cloud-hosted VoIP, Vonage’s highly scalable infrastructure can support growing businesses of all sizes.
What is a cloud-based VoIP phone system?
A cloud-based voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone system is a combination of software and hardware that enables you to make audio calls over the internet rather than via a traditional phone network. Most cloud phone solutions are hosted in large, highly secure data centers, which makes them reliable and secure.
Cloud-based VoIP solutions can be used with a range of different devices. Some can be used with traditional phones (with some sort of adapter) or specialized desk phone hardware, while others are limited to computers and mobile devices.
Unlike traditional business private branch exchange (PBX), cloud VoIP requires very little infrastructure at your end. You won’t have to maintain your own hardware systems, which means less work for your IT team.
It’s important to note that not all cloud phone systems are suitable replacements for business PBX. Some are more consumer-facing, with fewer business features.
How does a cloud-based phone system work?
In the most simple terms, cloud-based phone systems break audio data down into small packets. These data packets are transmitted via the internet before being decoded and reassembled at the receiver's end.
In a business sense, a cloud-based PBX enables you to manage internal communications and route external communications appropriately. This is usually achieved via a centralized software interface that can be managed by your company’s IT team.
On a more technical level, cloud-based phone systems use a variety of internet protocols and standards to ensure voice data is transmitted effectively. Many systems also come with video calling and text messaging capabilities, and you will nearly always have access to internal communications tools.
The main thing to understand about cloud VoIP systems is that they require a strong internet connection. Without this, you will most likely experience poor-quality audio and connectivity issues.
Virtual PBX Features
The best virtual PBX systems come with a wide range of business-specific features, including numerous call and audio management tools. Feature availability varies between providers, but we’ve listed some of the most notable below.
One of the most useful features of cloud VoIP systems is that they typically come with excellent security, including full audio encryption. This means hackers and other malicious third parties can’t steal or access your data without your permission.
Call management features
Some of the most useful call management features are call recording and voicemail-to-email transcription. In most cases, you will also have access to things like call forwarding, conference calling, virtual receptionists, interactive voice response (IVR), and automatic call blocking.
A selection of local and toll-free numbers
Another useful perk of using a VoIP system is that you can choose your own local or toll-free phone number. You can even use numbers from different geographical locations to give yourself an apparently local presence in target regions.
Mobile and desktop apps
Most VoIP platforms come with native mobile and desktop apps designed to optimize the user experience. These usually provide access to most VoIP features, including audio calling and call management tools.
Many modern VoIP platforms include video conferencing tools. These can be particularly useful for things like internal meetings and conference calls. Businesses also use video conferencing tools for training sessions and team briefings.
Benefits of Cloud-Hosted Phone Systems
Cloud-hosted VoIP systems have numerous benefits for businesses, such as:
You can choose your hardware
Cloud VoIP systems can typically be used with a range of different hardware devices. At their simplest, they can be used through your laptop or desktop computer. Most platforms come with mobile apps that enable you to transform your smartphone into a VoIP softphone, and many can be used with specialized desk phone devices.
One of the key benefits of cloud VoIP services is that they come with a clear cost. There aren’t usually any setup fees, which makes hosted VoIP systems much more affordable to get started with than traditional business PBX phone systems.
Additionally, you should only have to pay a preset monthly subscription. This enables you to budget appropriately, and ensure you’re not spending too much on business communications.
Since they run in the cloud, most business VoIP solutions are reliable. Most providers have multiple data centers with excellent redundancy, which means an outage at one center shouldn’t cause issues at your end.
Most virtual PBX systems also come with a range of extra features you wouldn’t get with a traditional system. For example, you can usually choose a toll-free business number, you will have access to numerous call management tools, and you should be able to create clear access permissions. Some programs even come with advanced features such as integrations with third-party platforms.
One of the best things about cloud-based VoIP is that it’s almost always location-independent. This makes it an exceptional choice for businesses with remote employees or multiple offices.
Cons of Cloud-Based Phone Systems
Cloud-based VoIP systems have a lot going for them, but there are a few potential downsides you should be aware of.
If you have a strong internet connection, you shouldn’t experience any performance issues with your new business VoIP system. However, you will have problems if your internet isn’t up to standard. This can cause your VoIP software to lag, and even become unusable in some cases, which could have significant negative impacts on your business.
You may have to upgrade your hardware
Most VoIP systems aren’t compatible with old analog hardware, which means you may have to upgrade to new desk phones if you want dedicated calling devices. This can get quite expensive, though you could always opt to use your VoIP system through existing computers or mobile devices.
Latency and jitter
VoIP phone systems send audio data via small data packets that are converted back to audio at the receiver's end. If there are issues with this process, you may experience network latency (lag) and jitteriness, or low audio quality caused by poorly decoded data packets.
Take VoIP To The Cloud!
Selecting a cloud VoIP system for your business is a great way to take advantage of 2 innovations at once: cloud computing (no infrastructure to maintain!) and VoIP (lower priced calls and many more features versus traditional PBX solutions). Check out one of our top cloud-hosted VoIP providers to see how it can help your business.