Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase.
The only additional piece of equipment that you need is an Analog Telephone Adapter (also referred to as an ATA) that allows you to connect your existing telephone to your home Internet. This equipment is typically provided on a free lease basis from the home VoIP provider that you choose, or you can use you own device if you prefer. You can also use IP phone(s) instead of using the ATA with your existing analog phones. The sound quality is better but there is more up front cost as IP phones are more expensive than the ATA devices.
However, VoIP traffic to and from the on-premises systems can often also be sent over secure private links. Examples include personal VPN, site-to-site VPN, private networks such as MPLS and SD-WAN, or via private SBCs (Session Border Controllers). While exceptions and private peering options do exist, it is generally uncommon for those private connectivity methods to be provided by Hosted or Cloud VoIP providers.
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.
Mobile clients are softphones optimized for a particular mobile OS and for being used in mobile situations. This means they're designed to switch easily between different cell and wireless connections on the fly. This means you can let your employees use whatever the cheapest wireless connection around them happens to be—and often that can be free. They also let your employees use your company's phone system on their own devices.
When people mention voice over IP (VoIP) most are thinking about a business phone service rather than home phone. After all, businesses run data networks and that's what VoIP needs to operate. But now that the majority of homes have an Internet connection, that means they're also running a data network, just usually a smaller and simpler one than you'd find at the office. If you're careful about what you buy, you can take advantage of VoIP's key benefits, which include far more features and a much lower price tag than an old fashioned landline.
Some form of call center capability is often available, though many times either as a different product version or simply a higher pricing tier, so be careful before you assume you'll be getting those features. These capabilities are meant to support large sales or service desk staff and their need to route and process a relatively large number of incoming customer or user calls. That means complex menu trees, an auto-attendant for routing, and service queues. You'll probably find you need interactive voice response (IVR) capabilities, and that should be backed up by support for a live operator or some other type of human intervention.
1. The Microsoft 365 Business Voice service components of Domestic Calling Plan and Audio Conferencing are sold inclusive of all required taxes and fees, including 911 fees and other transactional taxes that typically apply to communication services in the U.S. The price includes these taxes and fees until June 30th, 2021. The Phone System component is sold tax exclusive and any applicable sales tax will appear as a separate charge in the U.S.
At the VoIP level, a phone or gateway may identify itself with a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) registrar by its account credentials. In such cases, the Internet telephony service provider (ITSP) knows only that a particular user's equipment is active. Service providers often provide emergency response services by agreement with the user who registers a physical location and agrees that emergency services are provided to that address only if an emergency number is called from the IP device.
Before you can start considering a phone system, you need to figure out what it's going to be used for, and how much of your business will be involved. You need to look at your existing phone system and decide whether you're going to simply keep all of it and bolt some VoIP functionality on top, retain only part of it, or replace the whole thing. Frequently, a total replacement isn't in the cards if only because some parts of your existing phone system can't be easily changed over to softphones or even desktop VoIP phones. For example, if you have a heavy manufacturing environment with outdoor activities, such as a steel fabrication yard or even a landscaping company, your old outdoor phones may be exactly what you need. You also need to decide what features of the existing phone system are required, and what features of a future phone system you feel are necessary to carry into the future.
Private VoIP systems can be physical hardware PBX appliances, converged with other infrastructure, or they can be deployed as software applications. Generally the latter two options will be in the form of a separate virtualised appliance. However in some scenarios, these systems are deployed on bare metal infrastructure or IoT devices. With some solutions, such as 3CX, companies can attempt to blend the benefits of hosted and private on-premises systems by implementing their own private solution but within an external environment. Examples can include datacentre collocation services, public cloud, or private cloud locations.
Such emergency services are provided by VoIP vendors in the United States by a system called Enhanced 911 (E911), based on the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999. The VoIP E911 emergency-calling system associates a physical address with the calling party's telephone number. All VoIP providers that provide access to the public switched telephone network are required to implement E911, a service for which the subscriber may be charged. "VoIP providers may not allow customers to "opt-out" of 911 service."
Similar to Ooma's residential service (below), AXvoice deploys its home VoIP with the help of an appliance, appropriately called the AXvoice Device, which sits between your home's phones and your Internet router. This device not only serves as a bridge between your old phones and the new VoIP service it also enables many of the advanced features that straight POTS bridges often don't address.
In the European Union, the treatment of VoIP service providers is a decision for each national telecommunications regulator, which must use competition law to define relevant national markets and then determine whether any service provider on those national markets has "significant market power" (and so should be subject to certain obligations). A general distinction is usually made between VoIP services that function over managed networks (via broadband connections) and VoIP services that function over unmanaged networks (essentially, the Internet).
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.
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.
Be aware, however, that there are significant security implications regarding the use of mobile softphones on employee-owned devices. While it's possible for your employees to simply download the appropriate software from their respective app store, your IT department should be involved with allowing access while also confirming that necessary security steps are taken. Also be aware that there are important reasons not to allow soft phone installations on private devices of any type because you may not be able to remove that phone client if the employee leaves the company, and because local laws may impact how much control you have over the use of the device.
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.
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.
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.