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.
It's also critical that you consider the impact of mergers and acquisitions on your phone system, both from your own organization's perspective as well as your VoIP provider. Because VoIP systems turn calls into data, the whole process isn't as plug-and-play standards-based as the old-fashioned analog phone system might have been. Should your company merge with or purchase another, VoIP compatibility will become another significant IT issue.
A VoIP media gateway controller (aka Class 5 Softswitch) works in cooperation with a media gateway (aka IP Business Gateway) and connects the digital media stream, so as to complete the path for voice and data. Gateways include interfaces for connecting to standard PSTN networks. Ethernet interfaces are also included in the modern systems which are specially designed to link calls that are passed via VoIP.
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.
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.
That situation is for fairly pristine network and business conditions, however. Companies with legacy equipment or unique business needs may need a hybrid PBX, in which a portion of the voice network remains in the analog world, while the rest is converted to cloud-based VoIP. This could happen if you occupy an older building without the necessary Ethernet infrastructure to support VoIP or if you had custom software built a long time ago that simply isn't compatible with newer phone technologies.
SIP is built to work on a peer-to-peer (meaning endpoint to endpoint) basis. Those two points are called the "user-agent client" and the "user-agent server." Remember that those points can be swapped, so that in SIP, the endpoint making the call is the user-agent client initiating the traffic and endpoint receiving the call is the user-agent server receiving the call.
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.
It gets even better! Calling internationally using VoIP is far less expensive than using a traditional landline phone company. Every region of the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, has its own combination of technological development, geographic obstacles, regulations, and taxes. Cell phone carriers, much like VoIP providers, have their own network, which is why it usually costs more to call international cell phones. If a VoIP provider has a significant presence in a country, it’s likely that landline calls will be unlimited with an international package. For example, if you are using Vonage Word, calling from the U.S. to a landline in Germany is included, but it costs US$.0061 per minute to call a cellular phone. If you are using ViaTalk World, you can call both German cell phones and German Landlines for the same rate – free up to 1200 minutes per month. Don’t forget that with every VoIP provider, if you call within their own network, calls are always free no matter where you are in the world. With the development of SIP, you can easily make and receive free international calls from your home using VoIP.
One important advanced feature that's ubiquitous in the world of business VoIP services, and quickly growing in the residential market, is the softphone app. Imagine a piece of software that simply uses the network connection, speakers, and microphone of your computing device to turn that device into a phone. If that softphone is attached to your VoIP account, that software will ring whenever your home phone does and when you place calls on it, those calls will register as coming from your home phone number. Just by installing the software you'' be able to immediately place and receive voice calls over your home phone account on your PC, your Apple iPad, or even your smartphone. That last one is a gotcha, however.
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.
Fortunately, there are several dedicated residential VoIP providers who offer nationwide service, usually with worldwide calling plans. With one of these you should be offered at least four core features. Those include caller ID, voicemail hosted by the provider (meaning you don't need an answering machine), call waiting (essentially a one-line hold), 911 support (sometimes called "E911"), and three-way calling allowing you to reach out to a third participant in any phone conversation. There will likely be a slew of other features available, but they'll differ across quality providers while these four should always be available. Most of these will work in a two-step process:
Therefore, VoIP solutions also need to handle MNP when routing a voice call. In countries without a central database, like the UK, it might be necessary to query the GSM network about which home network a mobile phone number belongs to. As the popularity of VoIP increases in the enterprise markets because of least cost routing options, it needs to provide a certain level of reliability when handling calls.
By default, network routers handle traffic on a first-come, first-served basis. Fixed delays cannot be controlled as they are caused by the physical distance the packets travel. They are especially problematic when satellite circuits are involved because of the long distance to a geostationary satellite and back; delays of 400–600 ms are typical. Latency can be minimized by marking voice packets as being delay-sensitive with QoS methods such as DiffServ.
For a VoIP system to work, it needs a means of routing calls between users or to the outside world. In a cloud based system, a virtual PBX does that job. What that means to you is that the provider is running a large PBX operation in a data center somewhere, and slicing off a little of it to dedicate to your organization in exchange for your money. You're essentially sharing a large PBX with that provider's other customers, but because these companies use multi-tenant segmentation, your PBX will appear dedicated to you. This engine will take care of routing calls on your VoIP network.
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.
With integration being at the heart of VoIP and UCaaS, you can't make a purchasing decision here without thinking about the future. On one side, think about what you'll need in 1-5 years. On the other side, consider each vendor carefully to see what they've done over the last half decade in terms of product development and keeping up with VoIP and UCaaS trends.
Setting up a residential VoIP system can mean big savings on your phone bill, especially if you make a large number of long distance and international calls. In addition, these systems are mobile-optimized, and provide a wealth of features that may just change the way you think of your home phone service. Take a look at the features you need and the budget you can handle, and make the decision that’s right for you.
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.