Unlike traditional telephone lines, VoIP numbers can’t be traced by 911 operators. This doesn’t mean you’d be helpless in case of a natural disaster or Sasquatch attack, however. Upon initial setup at a location, you simply need to enter your info manually through the system’s E911 (Enhanced 911) feature, which will attach a physical address to your VoIP number.
Fortunately, there are several dedicated residential VoIP providers who offer nationwide service, usually with worldwide calling plans. With one of these you should be offered at least four core features. Those include caller ID, voicemail hosted by the provider (meaning you don't need an answering machine), call waiting (essentially a one-line hold), 911 support (sometimes called "E911"), and three-way calling allowing you to reach out to a third participant in any phone conversation. There will likely be a slew of other features available, but they'll differ across quality providers while these four should always be available. Most of these will work in a two-step process:
Our editors have researched and tested hundreds of systems, filtering out industry leading business phone services with the highest levels of reliability, backed by unparalleled customer service, and aggressive price points. The small business VoIP providers we've featured below offer custom packages for any budget, dedicated support reps, competitive pricing, and a fully managed, hands-on approach to getting your new business VoIP system up and running in the shortest possible time. Compare these providers below, some of which are from our partners, to find the right one for you.
Mobile clients are softphones optimized for a particular mobile OS and for being used in mobile situations. This means they're designed to switch easily between different cell and wireless connections on the fly. This means you can let your employees use whatever the cheapest wireless connection around them happens to be—and often that can be free. They also let your employees use your company's phone system on their own devices.
Yealink YHS33-USB is a professional headset with the over-the-head style that eliminates background noise and helps you get in your concentration zone and focus. Coupled with wideband audio technology and HD voice, the YHS33-USB delivers richer and clearer conversations, as well as reduces listening fatigue. Simple plug-and-play setup allows you to use the USB port to the USB-supported Yealink IP phones, plug it into the USB port or 3.5mm jack to your laptop, or use the 3.5mm jack straight into your smart device. Get easy access at your fingertips via the intuitive control unit to the frequently-used functions, such as accept incoming calls, adjust volume and mute the microphone. Yealink YHS33-USB stands its unique position in the market with the combination of exceptional comfort, durable lifecycle, premium quality, and brilliant sound.
If you're wondering what you get with a softphone that you won't with a standard phone handset, then that depends on the service. Business-class softphones offer all kinds of features related to online meeting collaboration, call routing, multi-line conference calling, and more. From a residential VoIP perspective, you'll most often find video conferencing (though more and more this is becoming a separate product from most providers), a voicemail-to-text converter, detailed call records, and user controls for users other than yourself. Some services also offer faxing, text chat, and call metering so you can see how much you're spending.
Vonage Business is the biggest name in VoIP, and the good news is it’s a leader in residential VoIP too. Vonage has powerful, nationwide infrastructure, ensuring 100% uptime whenever you make or receive a VoIP call through your home IP phone or the Vonage smartphone app. All pricing packages are billed monthly, with no contracts. However, if you agree to be billed annually, Vonage will reward you with close to a 50% discount on your first 6 months.
Sometimes things don’t go exactly according to plan and it’s good to have all your bases covered. Check if the company you’re signing with has a money-back guarantee and to what extent they back up their promises. You should also favor one that has multiple avenues for customer service—around the clock if possible—and read online reviews about the customer service the company provides.
On the higher end of this space, hosted PBX providers, such as RingCentral Office, will generally offer (sometimes even require) on-premises handset hardware, like desk or cordless VoIP phones that get sent to you pre-configured to work with their service. Plug the phones in, make sure they see an internet connection, and after some self-configuration time, your VoIP service goes live auto-magically.
The problem there is that VoIP traffic is much more sensitive to network bumps and potholes than most general office traffic. That translates to conversations breaking up or cutting out entirely, difficulty connecting over Wi-Fi, or (worst case) dropped and lost calls. If your business is small and your network is essentially contained in one or two wireless routers, then your configuration and testing headaches might be fairly small (though still there). But for medium and larger networks, these tasks can not only be complex, but also time consuming, which translates into added cost in terms of man-hours.
It's also possible to switch a call from a mobile device to a desktop line or vice versa. Business products generally offer several pricing levels based on the number of lines needed, ranging from approximately $20 per line for large organizations to $35 per line for smaller groups. Even from an administrative perspective, you should be careful, however, when migrating to a new phone system. Whether you're an individual just buying a new land line or a business moving from an old-style PBX system, or even just switching to a different VoIP provider, the process should be approached carefully and only after thorough planning.
Choose the service that is appropriate for your calling needs. Residential VoIP plans are cheaper than business VoIP plans because: (1) they have fewer features and (2) residential phones are used less frequently than business phones. Don’t use a residential VoIP service for a home-based business unless you’re willing to pay overage fees or to have your VoIP service canceled. VoIP providers are serious about enforcing their Fair Use guidelines.
He is the co-founder of NP Digital and Subscribers. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies. Neil is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.
Some of that software is running on the provider's servers, but parts of it will be running on your devices, whether that's a PC a mobile phone or a VoIP phone. It's this software layer that provides the rich feature fabric, which along with its lower price, is what's drawing residential customers to the technology. Some of the more popular advanced features you'll find available in a residential service, include:
From an end user point of view, the actual phone service works in the same way, you pick up the phone to answer a call or to dial a number just like with a landline service. Number porting means you can keep your existing phone number and simply switch it over to your new service provider. The residential VoIP providers take care of the call routing and you can call any destination and receive calls from anyone, just like with regular home phone service.