To help businesses work from home, RingCentral provides unlimited internet faxing and audioconferencing on all the plans listed above. Video meetings can include up to 100 participants, and meetings can last up to 24 hours—just in case your group needs to burn the midnight oil. Standard plans and higher also include popular communication integrations like 365, G Suite, and Slack.
Work When & Where You Want – One very popular and common feature of business VoIP systems is called “find me/follow me.” Instead of having separate numbers for your office, cell phone, and home office, you have one “virtual extension.” You can program the virtual business phone service to ring all of your extensions simultaneously, or in a specific order, and you decide how to handle a missed call. You decide if a call should go to your voicemail, or to another extension. When you make a call using your cloud phone system, the receiving caller ID will show your business phone number, regardless of which device you are calling from.
Not every internet connection is VoIP ready, so before you sign up, make sure that your line will provide you with the level of VoIP speed and service you need. You can easily find resources online for checking the speed and call quality of your connection. The quality of your connection can potentially impact the clarity of your calls, so pay close attention.
SIP networks usually have a proxy server and a SIP gateway. The proxy sever helps lighten the functional requirements of SIP endpoints. It also acts as both client and server, but it adds functionality around call routing and policy-based management. SIP gateways handle the routing and connectivity requirements for connecting SIP calls to other networks. Typically, the advanced features of the VoIP vendors we review here are largely based on the proprietary management technology they build into their proxy servers and gateways. By offering VoIP solutions where these elements of a SIP solution are hosted in the cloud, the providers reviewed here have more flexibility in building advanced features since they have more control over deployment and reliability.
When you're considering a new VoIP phone system for your business, it's important to include stakeholders from all of the key parts of your business in the planning and decision making process. Yes, this especially includes the IT staff and the data security folks since your voice communications will now be data. But it also needs to include folks who will be using the system to get work done, especially the work that drives revenue and engages customers. These people have invaluable insights into what's really needed versus what's simply cool and new. Plus, you'll need their input to select a phone system that will actually move your business forward as well as fit into your IT environment.
If you want to compare pricing for multiple residential service providers you can use our Home Phone Rates Tool. Please note that the pricing does not include additional fees like sales tax, regulatory fees and any other taxes/fees that may be relevant to your location. These tend to be the same for each provider as it is based on location, however, some providers may include additional "recovery" fees for the overhead involved in state and regulatory compliance (e.g. FCC reporting compliance).
Editors' note: Line2 is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag's publisher, Ziff Media Group. If you have questions you need answered about business VoIP, then remember to subscribe to PCMag's Small Business Newsletter and join the [email protected] business community on LinkedIn, and you can ask vendors, other professionals like yourself, and PCMag's editors.
That covers VoIP basics, but what about the more advanced options, and why is VoIP able to offer more advanced features where a regular phone can/t? Again, the secret is software. A VoIP system, whether home or business, can access a much richer software layer than a standard line from the plain old telephone service (POTS). On the business side, this flexibility has extended to integrating VoIP with other forms of communication to such a degree they all become a single platform, generally called Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). You won't anything that sophisticated when you're shopping for residential service, however.
There are two basic kinds of softphone: a "fat" phone that's coded to run only on a full-fledged PC be that a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine. This software needs a real desktop or laptop CPU and all the other accouterments associated with a full-on PC in order to perform its functions. The other kind of softphone is one designed for a mobile device. Mobile VoIP clients are "slimmer" than a desktop softphone, which really just means they're designed to look a little different and probably have a few less features since mobile devices aren't as powerful as desktop machines. But if you're looking to run your home phone off your mobile phone wherever you are, then a mobile softphone is definitely the ticket; so be sure to investigate whether you residential VoIP provider offers a dedicated mobile client, whether that client will run on your mobile device, and how much it'll add to your monthly service charge.
A high speed Internet connection is required to "carry" your calls so if you have an Internet outage (or your ISP has an outage) then your phone service will not work. Internet services have improved significantly in the last few years and outages tend to be much less common than they use to be. Again, if you have a cell phone then this may not be an issue for you.