On the phone providers' side, since this review roundup was first published, some of the products listed here now belong to other companies and some have merged into new products. If you're planning to depend on your phone system over the course of the next decade, then you should consider a vendor that's stable enough to still be around when it's time to up upgrade.
Flexible Messaging Options – There are a number of business phone service options available that make retrieving and maintaining your business messages very simple. With Voicemail Transcription, you can read the message in your inbox, or receive it as a text instead of listening to it. Let’s say a client calls you about a fax he needs, and leaves a fax number on the message. With a few clicks you can virtually send the fax as a PDF to that number.
Not every internet connection is VoIP ready, so before you sign up, make sure that your line will provide you with the level of VoIP speed and service you need. You can easily find resources online for checking the speed and call quality of your connection. The quality of your connection can potentially impact the clarity of your calls, so pay close attention. 
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.
There are some solutions to this issue if you have concerns. The most obvious is to utilize Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) for those short outages, or a generator if you live somewhere where outages are more common (and for your fridge!). With so many people having cell phones these days most people will not be too concerned with this issue, especially when they consider the money they are saving. Most services include a call forwarding feature so you can always set that up to go to your cell phone so you do not miss important calls.

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.  
Business VoIP is the modern form of business phone service utilizing an internet connection instead of a PSTN landline connection. By sending your voice, video, and data communications through your internet network, your business can achieve a high quality VoIP phone system for a fraction of traditional legacy setups. Business VoIP solutions differ from landline services as feature rich alternatives for small to medium sized businesses.
Voicemail routing can take multiple forms, but they're basically rules you can apply to incoming calls that will automatically route them to voicemail without even causing a ring. For example, if calls come in with Caller ID blocked, those can be routed directly to voicemail. Or if you're simply not into talking to anyone, you can hang out a digital Do Not Disturb sign and route all calls to voicemail, perhaps until you're feeling more social or every day between the hours of 9 PM and 7 AM. 
You don’t want to cheap out on your business’s VoIP plan, but . . . admit it, you sort of want to cheap out on your business’s VoIP plan. Nextiva offers an impressive balance of pricing and features that could assuage any guilt over saving a few bucks. Also, their online management platform makes it simple to juggle multiple lines and employees in different locales (read our review of Nextiva for more info).

Few things in life are set in stone, and the same should be true of your VoIP plan. It’s wise to find a plan that is scalable and which you can easily expand if need be. You’ll want to know if you can break your contract early if you find a better deal elsewhere, or if you can easily switch plans with the same company in order to take advantage of more features, or to get rid of some you don’t need. 
The products and services in this review roundup are focused on business use and because of this either provide some PBX features or serve as full-on virtual PBXes. This may mean, among other things, that they provide service to telephone sets on your employees' desks. Most also support electronic faxing in some fashion, either directly (which can be a significant challenge for some VoIP services) or by simply integrating an incoming fax with your email system. Other popular features are video conferencing and shared meeting software (so meeting attendees not only hear each other but can present presentations or documents in a shared work space).
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.

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. 


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.
Once familiarized with VoIP services,  hone in on what these features can do for you and how to transition to the next level. First and foremost, is cost – a universal concern for anyone. Check the provider’s plans and pricing and be sure they’re the most cost efficient for your calling needs. There is also quality & reliability, portability, customer support, and a satisfaction guarantee; all key factors that may be clinchers or deal-breakers when going through the process.
GoToConnect has nearly as many glowing critical reviews as the Radiohead discography, minus the pretentious lyricism. GoToConnect has established a positive industry reputation since its launch as Jive in 2006, thanks mostly to its interface simplicity, focus on small businesses, and large array of telephone features that are available to all pricing tiers.
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.

SIP networks usually have a proxy server and a SIP gateway. The proxy sever helps lighten the functional requirements of SIP endpoints. It also acts as both client and server, but it adds functionality around call routing and policy-based management. SIP gateways handle the routing and connectivity requirements for connecting SIP calls to other networks. Typically, the advanced features of the VoIP vendors we review here are largely based on the proprietary management technology they build into their proxy servers and gateways. By offering VoIP solutions where these elements of a SIP solution are hosted in the cloud, the providers reviewed here have more flexibility in building advanced features since they have more control over deployment and reliability.
You don’t want to cheap out on your business’s VoIP plan, but . . . admit it, you sort of want to cheap out on your business’s VoIP plan. Nextiva offers an impressive balance of pricing and features that could assuage any guilt over saving a few bucks. Also, their online management platform makes it simple to juggle multiple lines and employees in different locales (read our review of Nextiva for more info).
These include features like voicemail-to-email (and/or fax to email) which will automatically take your voicemail messages and send them as audio files to your email, making you much less likely to miss important messages. Many companies can also provide you with voicemail transcription to text, which will automatically convert the messages to text in an email, saving you even more time. 
The Auto Attendant is your fully customizable virtual receptionist, allowing callers to select their desired destination at will. Whether they need a specific department, directions to your business, or access to your Dial-by-Name Directory, your Auto Attendant can do it all. Configure your Auto Attendant in a snap through your online Web Portal, or by ca
As a consultancy marketing business for small-business owners, part of our business is to help small-business owners set up their VoIP and local phone numbers. We used to have RingCentral, and we advised our clients to use it. RingCentral gives you a local phone number regardless of whether you are in the building or not—or even in the city. You will always have a local phone number that you can redirect to any cell phone, depending on who’s working in the company. RingCentral offers good customer service and has great flexibility, but it’s a bit expensive.
VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a phone service that operates over the Internet. It creates a digital signal from an incoming or outgoing call. After this, it converts that signal to reach members who are not using VoIP. This cloud-based solution allows you to receive calls from a VoIP phone, any phone with a VoIP adaptor, mobile hotspot, or computer.

Editors' note: Line2 is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag's publisher, Ziff Media Group. If you have questions you need answered about business VoIP, then remember to subscribe to PCMag's Small Business Newsletter and join the [email protected] business community on LinkedIn, and you can ask vendors, other professionals like yourself, and PCMag's editors.   
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.
Work When & Where You Want – One very popular and common feature of business VoIP systems is called “find me/follow me.” Instead of having separate numbers for your office, cell phone, and home office, you have one “virtual extension.” You can program the virtual business phone service to ring all of your extensions simultaneously, or in a specific order, and you decide how to handle a missed call. You decide if a call should go to your voicemail, or to another extension. When you make a call using your cloud phone system, the receiving caller ID will show your business phone number, regardless of which device you are calling from.
Editors' note: Line2 is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag's publisher, Ziff Media Group. If you have questions you need answered about business VoIP, then remember to subscribe to PCMag's Small Business Newsletter and join the [email protected] business community on LinkedIn, and you can ask vendors, other professionals like yourself, and PCMag's editors.   
If cookie-cutter solutions aren’t a good fit for your communication needs, we can help. Our need-based, custom solutions are developed from years of working with businesses just like yours. Whether you need a cost effective replacement for your current system or want to custom tailor a new system with our suite of features, SpectrumVoIP can assist.
For instance, while AT&T offers landlines with unlimited phone calls for $33.99/month, with RingCentral you can get the Essentials plan, which includes unlimited phone calls starting at just $19.99 per person per month, and you can also enjoy a more extensive list of features. On Grasshopper, the introductory plan costs as little as $26/month, but that includes 3 extensions. With residential VoIP, you have a bundle of features you couldn't find with traditional landlines. Also, because of technology's continual advancements, the features continue to improve every year without a sharp rise in costs. VoIP for home use makes sense because you derive so much more value than what the traditional phone companies of today are offering.
There are some solutions to this issue if you have concerns. The most obvious is to utilize Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) for those short outages, or a generator if you live somewhere where outages are more common (and for your fridge!). With so many people having cell phones these days most people will not be too concerned with this issue, especially when they consider the money they are saving. Most services include a call forwarding feature so you can always set that up to go to your cell phone so you do not miss important calls.
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