Our ‘work from home’ culture is here to stay.
But that’s not to say you should expect mammoth phone expenses in 2021. Because VoIP services use internet connections to make calls. In doing so, they let businesses run entire phone systems off any existing internet connection, which translates into a very economical, very reliable way to handle telecommunications.
Most small businesses choose a cloud-based VoIP service provider, as by plugging your existing business phones into a ready-and-waiting network, you incur no upfront costs: you simply pay a monthly user fee, ranging from $10 to $50+ per month. But with lots of VoIP services to choose from, how can you find the right one for you?
To start with, prioritize the features you need — then read a guide, like this one, on the five best VoIP providers in 2021.
1. Top Pick: Star2Star Communications
Star2Star Communications is a favorite of small and medium-sized businesses alike. The company offers a cutting-edge feature set with flexible pricing bundles and remote work solutions, perfect for SMEs.
Star2Star guarantees a near-faultless phone line, with crystal-clear connections that work 99.9% of the time. If your internet is down, safeguards ensure you can still make (and receive) calls — while if you’re just out-of-office, transcribed voicemails arrive straight in your email inbox.
Conference calls and video meetings are there for all to use. But one of our favorite aspects of Star2Star is their software works with any VoIP-enabled phone, meaning no expensive upgrades when you make the switch.
2. Also Great For Small Businesses: 8×8
8×8 is another excellent unified communications platform for small businesses. All you need is a high-speed internet connection and VoIP-enabled phones, and you’re good to go.
8×8 enjoys high reliability and, thanks to its network of distributed data centers, even if one goes down, your connection will never fail. Three-way calling, call forwarding, call waiting, and call transfers make it ideal for remote workers — while automated attendants and online voicemail ensure no customer is ever kept waiting.
A conference calling bridge lets any employee host a call with up to fifty attendees; or, they can switch to video calls with just as many participants. You can even connect your account to Office 365 (and other business suites), a bonus for any distributed team.
3. Great For Tiny Businesses: Ooma
For sole traders and micro-businesses, Ooma might be your best port of call because Ooma’s Office package is targeted squarely at you.
Ooma Office is an ultra-affordable VoIP service that recently added video conferencing to its more basic feature set. Employees can host a video call with up to 25 participants, sharing their screen via a desktop app. Ooma requires next-to-no technical expertise to set up: it’s a simple plug-and-play base unit that channels voice calls.
And it includes most of the functionality you need, like online voicemail, call transfers, call logs, hold music, and dial-by-name calling. You can even use a virtual receptionist to redirect calls depending on who the caller is trying to reach.
4. Best Overall VoIP Service Provider: RingCentral
RingCentral is the world’s leading unified communications platform. The cloud-hosted system is easy to install and easy to use — and it offers a vast array of calling, collaboration, and mobile-optimized features.
A network of global data centers ensures calls rarely fail. Meanwhile, a virtual receptionist, call forwarding, call recording, call screening, call logs, message alerts, and predefined answering rules help businesses set up the perfect telecoms workflows. But what sets RingCentral apart is its collaboration features.
A conference calling system supports up to 1,000 participants with video calls and screen sharing available whenever you need. An app lets employees use their mobiles to connect to their business phone lines, while a ‘softphone’ feature can even turn a computer into a phone.
This extensive feature set does come at a cost — although pricing plans suit small, medium-sized, and enterprise clients alike.
5. Best Virtual Phone Service: Grasshopper
The main difference between Grasshopper and typical VoIP services is that the service simply redirects calls to the phone of your choosing. Meaning if your employees are on-the-go as much as working from home, then it could be your ideal solution.
Grasshopper establishes a professional appearance no matter where your employees sit by connecting callers to any mobile or home phone. The virtual phone service does this by giving your business a dedicated phone number — with each employee getting a personal extension — so that when a client or customer calls your organization, an automated attendant can redirect the call to the appropriate individual.
But that’s not all. Grasshopper offers VoIP-like features, including voicemail transcription, call screening, conference calling (with up to ten participants) — even an app that enables voice calls to happen over an internet connection.
Five VoIP Features Every Small Business Needs
Even if you ignore our recommended VoIP services for 2021, we suggest taking these five features into account whenever you consider a VoIP service provider. Because without these, you may be left wanting:
- Voicemail: A must-have of any modern service, made all the more valuable by a feature that can send audio or transcribed messages straight to your inbox.
- Call recording: You may want to record calls to share or playback at a later time, which is what call recording enables, storing calls in the cloud until you need them.
- Automated attendants: Think of a virtual receptionist there to answer all calls and re-route them to the appropriate employee or department; that’s your automated attendant.
- Ring groups: Imagine if you could program a group of phones to ring when someone calls a specific number. With ring groups, you can — you can even configure numbers to ring one after another until someone picks up.
- Unlimited calling: Most cloud-based VoIP phone systems offer unlimited domestic calling. The fixed-cost service means you know precisely what you’ll pay each month, helping with budgeting.
In truth, there are plenty of features available across VoIP providers. The ‘must-haves’ versus the ‘nice-to-haves’ can boil down to your business needs.
If you need any help working your needs out, we’re just a phone call away.
For more advice on VoIP services or general IT services, feel free to give Mid-Coast Tech at 207-223-7594.