Every business needs to speak to its customers, suppliers and team members so telephone calls are vital for any business – especially if you run a service business relying on incoming calls and bookings or have outgoing sales calls. It’s also an area that has seen huge technology changes that now provide great features, flexibility and low price.
The technology that has driven all of these changes is called VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and it allows you to make phone calls over broadband internet connections. Like your regular phone lines, VoIP relies on devices like business phones and smartphones but it can also be used directly from your laptop or from a special handset. If you’ve ever used a video-calling platform like Zoom, Teams or Skype, then you’ve used a version of VoIP.
Although VoIP uses the internet to route your phone call to another telephone, it normally lets you dial a telephone number. This is not the same as meetings organised over the internet via Zoom or Teams where everyone on the meeting call is using the same software. Confusingly, Teams and Skype can also dial out to a traditional telephone number as well as operate as a closed meeting. Take a look at our article on web conferencing software for more details.
When you setup your new business phone system, don’t forget to look at answering services to ensure all incoming calls are answered and you never miss a potential customer: VoIP systems can be setup to route via an answering services. And if you are looking for a quick and free way to start, you might consider getting a free telephone number for your business and then routing this to your business’ telephone system.
Benefits of VoIP for small businesses
There are plenty of benefits in using a VoIP system in your business. First, it can reduce your costs when compared to a traditional phone system that can be expensive to install, maintain, and has call charges. VoIP eliminates the need for separate phone lines and allows you to make calls over the internet at a fraction of the cost.
Second, VoIP is scalable which means that as your business grows, you can add new phones for new employees with very little cost – often just a software upgrade and headset for the laptop, making it a flexible solution that can adapt to your needs.
Lastly, VoIP has smart features built into most of the software platforms to improve productivity and efficiency – for example, automatic call transcription, call forwarding, contact management and more.
Types of VoIP phone system
There are two main types of VoIP phone system available: hosted VoIP and on-premise VoIP.
Hosted VoIP, also known as cloud-based VoIP, is a popular choice for small businesses. With hosted VoIP, your phone system is hosted and maintained by a third-party provider. This means you don’t have to invest in expensive hardware or worry about maintenance and upgrades. Hosted VoIP offers flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, making it an ideal choice for small businesses with limited resources.
On-premise VoIP, requires you to purchase and maintain equipment in your office or business premises. This option gives you more control over your phone system and allows for greater customization. However, it’s more expensive upfront and requires technical expertise to set up and manage.
Choosing a VoIP solution
When choosing a VoIP solution for your small business, think about your key requirements such number of staff making calls, do you need video conferencing or call analytics? Then think about the features you might like in your new system. Some to look out for include:
- HD Voice Quality: Ensure that the VoIP phone system offers high-definition voice quality for crystal-clear calls. This is particularly important if you frequently communicate with clients or partners.
- Mobile Apps: Look for a VoIP solution that provides mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. This allows you and your employees to make and receive calls on the go, ensuring seamless communication even outside the office.
- Integration with business software: Check if the VoIP system integrates with your existing business tools and software, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems or project management platforms. This will streamline workflows and enhance productivity.
- Auto-Attendant: An auto-attendant feature allows callers to navigate through a menu to reach the appropriate department or individual. This eliminates the need for a receptionist and ensures efficient call routing.
- Call Analytics: Look for a VoIP system that provides call analytics and reporting. This feature allows you to track call volume, duration, and other metrics, helping you make data-driven decisions to improve your communication processes.
Cost comparison: traditional phone systems vs. VoIP
One of the key advantages of VoIP for small businesses is cost savings. Let’s compare the costs of traditional phone systems versus VoIP to understand the potential savings.
Traditional phone systems typically require significant upfront investment in hardware and installation. Additionally, there are ongoing charges for line rental, long-distance calls, and maintenance. These costs can quickly add up, especially for small businesses with limited budgets.
On the other hand, VoIP eliminates the need for expensive hardware and installation. Many VoIP providers offer all-inclusive pricing plans that cover domestic and international calls, eliminating long-distance charges. Furthermore, system maintenance and upgrades are usually handled by the provider, reducing additional costs.
Best VoIP services for small businesses
There are plenty of VoIP products on the market, each offering slightly different features and benefits. I’ve looked across the market and selected five of the best providing services aimed at small business users.
Find out more at: ringcentral.com
RingCentral offers small business one of the most hard-to-resist services. Besides the many features that make business activities much easier and more effective, RingCentral also provides budget-friendly subscriptions that can easily fit into a small business’s meagre budget. You will have unlimited internet faxing and substantial messaging and video conferencing services.
The ease of use is particularly something small businesses will appreciate about this company. Their services are both user-friendly and cost-effective.
You can use dedicated VoIP hardware or an existing mobile phone number. Equally, you can enjoy these services using a desktop or mobile app. You can also pick up one of their toll-free numbers and get all your calls and virtual faxes over the internet.
On top of this, your small business can choose subscriptions that cost as low as $19.99 per user per month.
- Services available in over a hundred countries
- It integrates seamlessly with CRMs
- Availability of subscriptions suited to modest budgets
- Works well with many devices and apps
- It’s still possible that some small businesses find it expensive
- The unlimited calls are available only in the US and Canada
Find out more at: ooma.com
Ooma is another company that offers VoIP services suited to small businesses. As a small business owner, you can start with their Office Essential Plan and gradually upgrade as your business grows. That gives your business access to simple faxing, call routing to suit business hours and other needs, and free local phone numbers.
A top unique feature that is the icing on the cake is the virtual receptionist. If put to good use, this feature can save you money and facilitate the smoother running of things. Using this feature is an opportunity to free up staff members so they can work on some other aspects of running the business.
Likewise, Ooma, as a Cloud Private Branch Exchange solution, provides you with information about all calls. Thus, keeping track of things and arranging follow-ups is easy.
- There is a feature for automating the re-route of calls to other locations in the case of an emergency
- They based their charges on a pro-rata basis, according to the number of features you use
- Low international calling rates
- More than 50 communication features
- The voice calls require a strong internet connection to be clear
- Not all promos and bonuses are available outside the US and Canada
Find out more at: openphone.com
This VoIP provider offers services that help you automate your work. You can sync your contacts, analyse calls and track conversations. Like every other VoIP, you can make calls, and send texts from anywhere, so long there is an internet connection. Your small business will enjoy all of this from a single app.
Effective collaborations can help you work better as a team if you have one. With the ability to seamlessly integrate into many top-rated lightweight CRMs, the lead conversion rate boosts. You can join phone number inboxes to listen to auto-recorded calls and read text message correspondents. You can review these audio and texts and leave feedback to help your team improve.
In addition, OpenPhone is so easy to configure. You can add teammates to your workspace and re-assign phone numbers with just a few clicks. The menu is simple and enabling, and its design gives you complete control of all business activities.
- App straightforward setup
- The app comes with its CRM
- Every phone number with a dedicated inbox
- It can integrate with many other management tools
- Offers easy-to-use custom properties that aid easy identification of contacts
- Members of staff may find some features intrusive.
- Some users are complaining about the quality of the voice calls
- Some plans do not include many of the great features
Find out more at: nextiva.com
Nextiva is a powerful, easy-to-use VoIP solution for small businesses. This VoIP service provider helps your business to get focused and remain focused. Besides over-the-internet voice calls, there is much more you can do with Nextiva.
You can unify all business communications on Nextiva and have all clients, customers, and staff contacts synced. The result is that you reduce time wastage and enhance the chances of more efficient management.
By extension, teams can collaborate without hassles. They can share notes and files and carry out customer surveys to gauge the performance of marketing campaigns. There are team rooms where team members discuss and make critical decisions.
Also, you can deploy Nextiva to monitor customers’ progress and journey. These data are available to all authorised team members, so that about any team member can attend to any customer effectively. This same data can give insight into what your customers think about your services, even when they do not want to tell you.
- It has features that can render hiring attendants and a receptionist redundant
- CRM integrations and user customisation through APIs
- It has a very cheap starting point plan that costs below $20 per month.
- Works well with most operating systems, from windows to android and mac
- There are discounts restricted to multiple-year plans
- The interface can be complex for some people
Find out more at: dialpad.com
Dialpad promises an AI-Driven VoIP for small businesses. The developers targeted many typical pain points of running a small business and provided straightforward solutions. For example, as a small business owner, you likely have few employees. Yet, you have a business to run and market. With Dialpad’s artificial intelligence (AI), coping without having much staff becomes easy. Dialpad’s AI takes care of transcribing notes from meetings and calls. That way, you do not need a secretary or a note-taker.
You can also use the video conferencing feature of Dialpad to hold business video meetings. It means your team members can work remotely from anywhere worldwide and still be efficient and effective. You can have unlimited video meetings as a team and connect with clients.
Another feature of Dialpad that your business will benefit from is its flexibility and easy adaptability. Dialpad integrates with many CRMs, including Google Workspace, and you can link up all apps you use with Dialpad.
Despite all these innovative features, Dialpad is easy to use. The interface is straightforward, with guiding graphics. There is also AI coaching and Companion mode where you can get answers to your questions. You will also have real-time access to their reps and agents.
- Availability of a 2-week free trial
- Smooth Integration with Google Workspace and Microsoft 365
- Unlimited video meetings across all plans
- Availability of Artificial Intelligence driven assistance
- Offers 24/7 customer service and phone support at an extra cost
- It may be too expensive for some small businesses
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are VoIP services better than the regular phone?
Yes. As the internet becomes more ubiquitous, VoIP services are becoming more efficient. For businesses, regular phones cannot satisfy your everyday needs, and they have way too many limitations, not to mention the high costs. On the other hand, VoIP services usually come with features meant to satisfy all your communication needs, from conferencing to calls and text messaging.
2. Which VoIP services are best for small businesses?
Deciding on this depends on so many factors. For instance, after considering the many unique needs of small businesses, we can tell you that RingCentral is fantastic. However, that may only be true for some small businesses. Consider what the VoIP service provider offers and what your small business needs most. The provider that offers the best services in your area of needs is the best for your business, even if it sucks in other areas.
3. Are there any differences between VoIP and PBX?
Yes, there are differences. In a way, we can say PBX is VoIP’s predecessor. PBX (private branch exchange) allows businesses to produce large numbers of internal and external calls.
Also, PBX uses landline telephones for calls over PSTN, whereas VoIP routes call over the internet.
There are many VoIP platforms available and we’ve looked at five of the best-known and rated providers that could be a great fit for your business. Our top tips would be to work out your business requirements, list your current technology (for example, do you use Microsoft Outlook or GMail) and then match your business needs and your existing technology with the provider that offers the best fit.