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.
RingCentral’s VoIP service isn’t the cheapest option right out of the box, but it does include features that other providers charge extra for (such as generous toll-free minutes and unlimited video conferencing). Plus, RingCentral offers price matching on plans with less than 50 lines, so you can rest easy knowing you’re getting the best possible price for your service.
While we think Grasshopper is great for small businesses, it misses out on our “Best Small-Business Phone Service” title because, compared to Ooma, Grasshopper is a little expensive. Grasshopper plans start at $26 per month, assuming you sign up for annual billing. And starting plans include only one business phone number with up to three extensions.
Vonage is probably one of the most well-known PBX providers on the market—and for good reason. Vonage phone service is easily scalable, so it can keep up with your business as it grows while maintaining affordable pricing. Vonage also offers integrations with everything from Salesforce to Slack. So if your business outgrows your current customer relationship management tools, you can switch without having to worry about whether your VoIP communications service offers integration with your new CRM.

The security concerns of VoIP telephone systems are similar to those of other Internet-connected devices. This means that hackers with knowledge of VoIP vulnerabilities can perform denial-of-service attacks, harvest customer data, record conversations, and compromise voicemail messages. Compromised VoIP user account or session credentials may enable an attacker to incur substantial charges from third-party services, such as long-distance or international calling.


VoIP solutions aimed at businesses have evolved into unified communications services that treat all communications—phone calls, faxes, voice mail, e-mail, web conferences, and more—as discrete units that can all be delivered via any means and to any handset, including cellphones. Two kinds of service providers are operating in this space: one set is focused on VoIP for medium to large enterprises, while another is targeting the small-to-medium business (SMB) market.[13]

Typically, price is one of the most important reasons people opt for residential VoIP. One of the most attractive is the "triple play" sales pitch we mentioned above made by almost every regional residential cable company and internet provider: Get your Internet, TV, and phone service all rolled into one monthly charge. Not only is that usually an attractive number, it also means a technician will hook everything up for you including your phone, and you'll probably be able to use the same phone you're using now instead of having to migrate to a VoIP phone.


While we think Grasshopper is great for small businesses, it misses out on our “Best Small-Business Phone Service” title because, compared to Ooma, Grasshopper is a little expensive. Grasshopper plans start at $26 per month, assuming you sign up for annual billing. And starting plans include only one business phone number with up to three extensions.
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.
Communication on the IP network is perceived as less reliable in contrast to the circuit-switched public telephone network because it does not provide a network-based mechanism to ensure that data packets are not lost, and are delivered in sequential order. It is a best-effort network without fundamental Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees. Voice, and all other data, travels in packets over IP networks with fixed maximum capacity. This system may be more prone to data loss in the presence of congestion[a] than traditional circuit switched systems; a circuit switched system of insufficient capacity will refuse new connections while carrying the remainder without impairment, while the quality of real-time data such as telephone conversations on packet-switched networks degrades dramatically.[16] Therefore, VoIP implementations may face problems with latency, packet loss, and jitter.[16][17]
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.

Communication on the IP network is perceived as less reliable in contrast to the circuit-switched public telephone network because it does not provide a network-based mechanism to ensure that data packets are not lost, and are delivered in sequential order. It is a best-effort network without fundamental Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees. Voice, and all other data, travels in packets over IP networks with fixed maximum capacity. This system may be more prone to data loss in the presence of congestion[a] than traditional circuit switched systems; a circuit switched system of insufficient capacity will refuse new connections while carrying the remainder without impairment, while the quality of real-time data such as telephone conversations on packet-switched networks degrades dramatically.[16] Therefore, VoIP implementations may face problems with latency, packet loss, and jitter.[16][17]
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.
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.   
One of the most exciting and clear differences between a cloud PBX provider and a standard telephone system is software. Your IT staff will find a host of new software tools to help monitor and manage the system. But what catches most business operators' eyes are two key capabilities that software provides: back-end integration and softphones. The latter is exactly what the name implies, a phone that's rendered entirely in software allowing any compatible device to become a phone as long as it has an internet connection, a speaker, and a microphone. More on that below.
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.
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.

While we think Grasshopper is great for small businesses, it misses out on our “Best Small-Business Phone Service” title because, compared to Ooma, Grasshopper is a little expensive. Grasshopper plans start at $26 per month, assuming you sign up for annual billing. And starting plans include only one business phone number with up to three extensions.


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. 
While understanding the basics of VoIP and SIP is important, setting one of these systems up will require some general network knowledge, too. For the best quality, you will need to meet a minimum upstream and downstream data throughput requirement. In addition, you'll also need to meet a minimum latency number (that is, the time between when a signal leaves a remote computer and when your system receives it), typically measured in milliseconds. It is possible to test your network connection to see if it will support a VoIP service. RingCentral offers this service from their website, other vendors like to have their service engineers do it for you.  
That's the basics of UCaaS, but the concept is constantly evolving to include more communication and collaboration technologies. Those capabilities also get tweaked to provide new benefits, sometimes general, sometimes aimed at specific business use cases, like call centers or help desk operations, for example. The key is integration. Voice is becoming integrated with other back-end apps.

However, for many businesses there's a need to route calls to the PSTN and other analog phones that might remain in use, too. This may mean a PSTN gateway, or even a hybrid PBX, where there's at least a small telephone switch located on-site. Note that these days, a PBX looks exactly like the other servers in your data center, except with an attached means of handling local and analog phones. Many small businesses, however, are avoiding on-premises PBXes partially due to cost savings and partially because the capabilities offered by all-cloud systems are more than advanced enough for their needs. Some virtual cloud PBXes can handle PSTN connectivity without on-site hardware requirements.
All 8×8 plans include team messaging, HD videoconferencing, and screen sharing, you you can easily keep all your at-home team members engaged and collaborative. And contact centers that have transitioned to remote work can still enjoy features like omnichannel routing, which allows your employees to engage with customers via chat, social media, text, and phone—all in one platform.
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
A key attraction of VoIP is that it gives these systems the flexibility to work in a wide variety of environments ranging from analog desk phones to softphones piggy-backing on a cell phone. These systems can often also integrate all or part of their softphone clients into other back-office applications, like your customer relationship management (CRM) or help desk platforms. Simply picture the standard interface of such an app that suddenly sports a dial pad and some function buttons as a pop-up screen and you'll have a very basic idea of how some of this works. In addition, these cloud based systems can have a variety of phone numbers in global locations, so that your customers can have free access to your phone at little or no charge.  
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