Like the rest of us, you probably don't like to get hassled with unwanted phone calls when you’re at home. You can also implement “enhanced call forwarding” to reroute and block the numbers that you specify, without the caller having any idea. You also can set up your phone to block international and directory assistance calls, so they don’t bother you at home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To get a better picture of the savings of VoIP for home use, here's a real life example: Long distance calls with a VoIP provider can be as little as $10 per month, if not less. Major telecommunications corporations typically charge more for such packages, even 2 or 3 times as much. If you look at this over the course of a year, that’s no small change.
Other basic features to consider include the phone itself should your provider offer its own handsets. Many residential providers don't since their bridge devices allow them to work with old-style landline phones, but some, especially the larger and more business-oriented players, do offer special VoIP phones. These look and work the same as a regular phone aside from the initial setup process, which will require making sure the phone is connected to your Internet router in some way and then configured to access the VoIP provider's service from there.
We think that’s understandable, though, considering Vonage offers top-notch customer support to match its top-notch phone systems. All Vonage customers enjoy 24/7 customer support and IT solutions. And with Advanced Vonage plans, business owners get Orange-Glove Setup of their phone systems. And in case you’re wondering, Orange-Glove Setup = white-glove setup, but, you know . . . orange to match Vonage’s colors.
We recognize that not all our readers’ businesses are based in the US. So we took another pass at our content to provide more information on each provider’s international offerings. And because 8x8’s international rates on calls made from the US are so good, we bumped it up to our number five spot. Finally, we added info about Ooma’s new plan (Ooma Office Pro) to the offerings mentioned below.
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.
E911 (Enhanced 911) is a little different to traditional 911 services and is something that you should be aware of. With E911 you need to provide your home address, and this information gets passed to the emergency services if you dial 911. The concerns are that if you have a power outage or an Internet outage then you will not be able to dial 911. If you have a cell phone then you can dial 911 from your device. If you are ONLY reliant on VoIP for your phone service you should be aware of this situation.