Our real estate investment company has 14 phone lines altogether. For a phone service, we needed a local number, good call quality, uninterrupted service, calling apps for our laptops and cell phones, and an internal messaging platform for team communication. We started out with a niche company called Sound Communications, but their call quality and app were not very good. So once we made a bit more income, we decided to switch to RingCentral. RingCentral provides great call quality and is highly recommended in the real estate investment community. They are on the pricier side—$419.88 per line per year—but I’m OK with the price because their service is worth it and the high-quality phone calls are very important to our business.

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.
A key attraction of VoIP is that it gives these systems the flexibility to work in a wide variety of environments ranging from analog desk phones to softphones piggy-backing on a cell phone. These systems can often also integrate all or part of their softphone clients into other back-office applications, like your customer relationship management (CRM) or help desk platforms. Simply picture the standard interface of such an app that suddenly sports a dial pad and some function buttons as a pop-up screen and you'll have a very basic idea of how some of this works. In addition, these cloud based systems can have a variety of phone numbers in global locations, so that your customers can have free access to your phone at little or no charge.  
The following table provides a high level summary of how residential VoIP service compares to other alternative solutions for home phone service. The table compares this service to a regular landline, a bundled phone service from a cable company such as double or triple play, and a cell phone service. The cell phone is included as some people decide to just get rid of their wired phone and use their cell phone for all calls. Free services such as Skype are not included as they are not effective, like for like, landline replacements in our opinion.
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.
The interest that VoIP technology is generating for consumers and businesses alike, is creating a high level of demand that is being addressed by more and more providers entering the market. Choosing the best home phone service can now be a challenge as it can be difficult to compare providers that have different pricing structures, different features and different contract terms. Many residential providers names are becoming familiar in the home, such as Vonage, MagicJack and Ooma. Vonage, one of the more expensive options today, is popular due to its unlimited international calling feature. Evaluating Vonage competitors can save you even more money depending on your exact needs.
Nextiva also provides a number of helpful features for businesses working from home. For starters, there’s the Nextiva app, which lets you use your business phone number to make calls remotely from your desktop or mobile devices. Nextiva’s team collaboration tool, Cospace, also lets your team collaborate via video chat, so you can keep everyone one the same page.
First, there might be a very low cost or even free "basic" or "introductory" tier that's just so feature poor that the vast majority of customers will opt for the next level up, which will be the full-priced tier. Another common practice is a one- or two-year contract, each with a slightly lower price that are offered next to a significantly higher-priced month-to-month tier. Additionally, while most residential VoIP services offer unlimited calling, some vary their pricing on call restrictions. Those will come either in the form of minutes (with higher pricing attached to monthly overages) or geographic region. The latter usually start with nationwide calling and then tack on another charge for worldwide calling or even separate charges for different countries.
In addition to making sure your internet service can handle your VoIP traffic, you also need to make sure your local area network (LAN) can handle it. What makes network management tricky with VoIP is that if you simply drop it onto your network, that traffic will get processed the same as any other traffic, meaning your shared accounting application or those 20 gigabytes worth of files your assistant just stored in the cloud.
Grasshopper isn’t technically a VoIP and it isn’t technically for residential customers, but it offers basically the same service for a competitive price. Technically speaking, Grasshopper is a cloud-hosted system that works on top of your existing landline or cell service so voice quality doesn’t suffer. While there’s a technical distinction, customers shouldn’t notice the difference. Grasshopper is built for entrepreneurs and small business owners who work from home. The Partner package is suitable for families, as it includes 3 separate contact numbers with up to 6 extensions. 
For a VoIP system to work, it needs a means of routing calls between users or to the outside world. In a cloud based system, a virtual PBX does that job. What that means to you is that the provider is running a large PBX operation in a data center somewhere, and slicing off a little of it to dedicate to your organization in exchange for your money. You're essentially sharing a large PBX with that provider's other customers, but because these companies use multi-tenant segmentation, your PBX will appear dedicated to you. This engine will take care of routing calls on your VoIP network.
The caveat there is the proverbial fine print, usually located just below the really attractive dollar figure. This small print generally details exactly how many months that nice number will remain in effect before the bloom comes off the rose and you start getting billed a much higher number that represents the service's actual cost. Many providers don't even print this higher number on their websites, so be sure to ask the sales guy on the phone before you sign up. The nice number that pulled you in can often double or more once the introductory period wears off. Some providers even attach a minimum length of time that you'll need to suffer these higher costs before you can change or modify the service without getting hit with an additional early-termination penalty fee.

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.

One advantage of the traditional landline services is that electrical power is sent over the telephone wires so your phone service is isolated from your house power. This meant that your phone service would continue to work if your house power went out. However, with VoIP, power is used not only for the ATA, or the IP phone, but it is also used for your Internet modem and router devices. No power also typically means no Internet service.
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