One of the most exciting and clear differences between a cloud PBX provider and a standard telephone system is software. Your IT staff will find a host of new software tools to help monitor and manage the system. But what catches most business operators' eyes are two key capabilities that software provides: back-end integration and softphones. The latter is exactly what the name implies, a phone that's rendered entirely in software allowing any compatible device to become a phone as long as it has an internet connection, a speaker, and a microphone. More on that below.
Packed with advanced phone system features necessary to operate a small to medium businesses, such as hosted PBX capabilities, desk-to-desk calling, automated attendant systems, call routing and even music-on-hold, Business phone services powered by VoIP technology make it easy for any company to operate with the same level of professionalism customers expect from large scale enterprise systems. Business VoIP systems also include overall Unified Communication solutions to empower the mobility and flexibility needed for any size businesses. With an inexpensive, feature filled phone solutions, your business can operate at a high level on par with large scale systems, without having to worry about the cost.
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.
However, for many businesses there's a need to route calls to the PSTN and other analog phones that might remain in use, too. This may mean a PSTN gateway, or even a hybrid PBX, where there's at least a small telephone switch located on-site. Note that these days, a PBX looks exactly like the other servers in your data center, except with an attached means of handling local and analog phones. Many small businesses, however, are avoiding on-premises PBXes partially due to cost savings and partially because the capabilities offered by all-cloud systems are more than advanced enough for their needs. Some virtual cloud PBXes can handle PSTN connectivity without on-site hardware requirements.
By moving to internet phone technologies, companies are not only able to save a lot of money but also improve their communication infrastructure. Small home-based businesses that could never have a fully-equipped telephone system installed in their premises can now enjoy all the benefits at a fraction of the cost. Some VoIP services offer value for money business call plans that are specifically targeted at small home based businesses.
While home VoIP systems are fairly straightforward to set up and use, a VoIP system for all but the smallest of businesses can be quite complex, In addition to have multiple users, business VoIP systems have complex feature sets that are necessary to conduct business in today's world. In addition, a business VoIP implementation must take into account the existence of the data network, even though in most cases it won't share the same infrastructure. This will mean switches and routers optimized for voice traffic, and security that's suitable for both business and VoIP.
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:
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.
GoToConnect VoIP is a simple setup if you buy their preconfigured phones—which come from recognized names like Cisco, VTech, and Panasonic, so quality isn’t an issue. GoToConnect’s customer service is US-based, with 24/7 phone, live chat, and email options, as well as specific lines for small businesses, larger businesses, government entities, and education clients. GoToConnect also hosts an exhaustive YouTube channel dedicated to understanding phone systems and features.
If that all is starting to sound more complex than it's worth, remember that turning your PBX into a software solution means significant opportunity for flexibility and integration that you simply can't get any other way. After all, programmers can now treat your phone like an app. Where that's taken us is to the fast-changing UCaaS paradigm (more on that below). Here, traditional VoIP providers, like the ones we review as part of this review roundup, provide additional software capabilities that are all implemented and managed from a single, unified console.
An important disadvantage of the landline is that you cannot easily scale it up or down. This is why many companies with rapidly expanding or contracting business sizes prefer VoIP because it allows enterprise management to easily add, edit or even delete user rights centrally through the control panel. It is not necessary to follow the tedious processes involved if you are using a regular landline. This makes internet phone technology significantly more suitable for large business organizations.
Figure out how much you’re willing to spend on your VoIP and this will help you better hone in on the company that’s right for you. Your residential VoIP should cost less than your current landline, but it’s still smart to do some price comparison and see which companies offer special deals (for instance, many companies will offer you a better rate if you sign up for a year plan rather than a month-to-month plan). Take a look at your monthly phone bill and the features you’re paying for, and compare that side-by-side with what you’d be signing up for with a VoIP plan.
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.