Fortunately, most of the providers reviewed here have engineering staff that will contact you as part of your setup process to help your IT staffers test and optimize your network prior to deploying their solutions. That's definitely something we recommend, but there are steps you can take now to prep your LAN for VoIP and make the deployment process that much easier.
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.
A critical part of the discussion with your IT staff will be whether your existing data network can handle the extra load that will be placed on it by the new phone system. You'll need a network that can handle more advanced network management capabilities, including tools to fight jitter and latency as well as to provide Quality of Service (QoS) and different kinds of network segmentation, especially virtual LANs (VLANs). Only tools like these can help free up your network from too much congestion, which can cause your call quality to decrease or even crash the VoIP system entirely.
Similar to its popular small business VoIP solution, Ooma Office, the company touts its on-premises VoIP appliance to power its residential service. You'll find three versions of this device to choose from: the Ooma Telo, Ooma Telo Air or Ooma Telo 4G, but they all sit between your Internet router and your phones, making installation of this low-cost service plug-and-play.
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.
BYOD stands for bring your own device. This term refers to employees conducting company business on personal laptops, tablets, and phones instead of on company-owned gear. Most VoIP companies offer BYOD features and solutions within their plans, either included or at additional cost. However, extra IT security layers and company guidelines for BYOD are on you.
PhonePower is one of a handful of VoIP providers that actually specialize in residential VoIP rather than business VoIP. Although PhonePower has many plans, it’s best for calling within the US (including Puerto Rico) and Canada. That’s because it has possibly the cheapest prices in residential VoIP, providing you’re calling solely on local numbers. PhonePower also enables calls abroad, although there are cheaper options such as Vonage if you’re planning on making more than an hour’s worth of calls internationally each month.
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.
Ooma is a popular VoIP solution for businesses, and now that there’s a residential option, Ooma is even a great option for you at home. With this new addition to its services, Ooma has traditional phone companies running scared. After all, you just can’t compare the features, quality, and service that you get from a top-of-the-line brand name like Ooma. To begin with, the service is totally free. You read that correctly; Ooma’s residential VoIP is totally free. If you need more advanced features, you’ll have to pay for them. But even the Premium plan is very affordable. With both plans, you’ll get crystal clear sound quality, basic features like call waiting, online call logs, call return, and 911 services bundled into the plan. More advanced features include voicemail forwarding and monitoring, Ooma mobile calling, international calling, and custom ring patterns.
While the exact features offered in any particular UCaaS solution can change radically from vendor to vendor, most include options for video conferencing, shared meeting and document collaboration tools, integrated faxing, mobile VoIP integration, and device-independent softphone clients. All of these options let customers look at communications in a whole new way, namely, in an a menu-style manner where they can implement only those features their business needs and then access them any time they want and in any combination. This new approach to business communications has been growing steadily among customers over the past few years as recent research from Statista bears out.
Back-end integration with custom and third-party apps, like CRM systems, also open a whole new world for your calling data because now it can extend the phone system beyond just basic voice communication. Such integrations allows users to transfer calls to and from their mobile phone, place and receive calls from their personal phone (that appear to be coming from the business), and interact with colleagues and customers via voice and text -- all from a variety of devices. But it also allows recording and analysis of call data to measure things like customer satisfaction, understand your sales audience at a new level, and even handle customer requests and problems automatically without the customer ever being aware they never spoke to a human.