As cloud computing has taken over the business technology landscape, Unified Communications as a Service has been added to the solutions business leaders seek out. With the right software in place, businesses of all sizes can access the features they need to collaborate as teams and communicate with clients. Today’s telecommunications solutions go well beyond the audio-based phones of the past. They incorporate many of the features that once required installing multiple pieces of software on each computer in your organization.
But to truly save money and power your business to the fullest, you need to find the right phone solutions provider. That means first identifying your own needs, while also taking some time to understand the many options out there. We’re here to make that a little easier by walking you through the best features found on today’s phones, as well as what they can do for you. Here are a few ways UCaaS can benefit your business.
What Is UCaaS?
Before we can go into detail about the best UCaaS solutions for your own business, it’s important to stop to answer the often-asked question, “What is UCaaS?” First, any time you see the words “as a service,” it simply means that a cloud services provider offers that particular item as a service. Software as a Service refers to the practice of selling access to software as a service, usually paid at a monthly rate.
Unified Communications is the term used to pull various communications tools into one place. The voice, video, chat, instant messaging, text, and email solutions a business uses to keep in touch are all part of Unified Communications. Instead of operating separate communication channels through various types of software, Unified Communications allows businesses to bring everything together in one place.
As with other solutions offered as a service, UCaaS providers generally charge a small monthly per-user rate for services, rather than requiring a large installation fee followed by a hefty monthly utility bill. For small and midsized businesses, this can bring substantial savings, since they’ll only be charged for the workers they currently have. But even for large enterprises, UCaaS services can usually help make a switch that saves serious money, especially if they can transition a company from traditional phone service to the much less expensive Voice over IP phone solutions that include UCaaS.
Benefits of VoIP
Let’s say you’re running an old-fashioned phone service through the telephone company. They came out and ran the lines when you started your business and now they charge you a hefty monthly fee. Or perhaps you’re an entrepreneur thinking about launching your own startup from your home office. By making the move to VoIP, you’ll save money right out of the gate, since there usually won’t be an installation fee or expensive hardware to purchase. You’ll have a business phone service that you can simply plug in and use, with software that allows you to manage everything from your computer or smartphone.
Here are a few of the other benefits you’ll enjoy by opting for VoIP:
- Portability—Your phones will work wherever you place them in your office. If you need to move, you can take them with you and when you plug them in, they’ll work as they did in your previous location.
- Scalability—Instead of calling the phone company out every time you add a new team member, your VoIP system will allow you to easily add a new extension or phone number.
- Conferencing—Host a video or audio conference on short notice with built-in meeting features.
- Phone number masking—Traditional phone lines were very limited. With VoIP, smartphones, desktops, and laptops can call out, with the person at the other end seeing the call coming from your business number.
- Advanced call features—Even the smallest business can give the appearance of a large corporation with features like auto-attendants and simultaneous ring.
Here are some of the top VoIP providers to help you find the right one for you.
When it comes to VoIP phone systems, Nextiva has cornered the market, offering a full suite of features designed for today’s global workforces. They even offer both toll free and local VoIP phone numbers, so whether you’re a small startup or large organization Nextiva has a custom solution that fits your needs.
On the basic plan, customers get unlimited calling and virtual faxing, but for just a slight upcharge, you can also add conferencing and the Nextiva mobile app.
With the app, you can make and receive calls for your business using your cell phone, with full access to in-office features like chat rooms, desktop sharing, and call management. One of the best things about the mobile app is that you can easily hop back and forth from your cell phone to a laptop or desk phone, all without the person on the other end realizing you’re switching devices. The software powering it all resides on a highly-redundant network that keeps businesses up and running 24/7/365.
With MegaPath, you can choose between VoIP phone service alone or a voice and data bundle that includes UCaaS. With the full bundle, you get voice and video conferences, group IMs, and the ability to use your cell phone as your business line thanks to the MegaPath app. You’ll also get click-to-dial capabilities and automatic call logging, along with advanced analytics.
If you need call center capabilities, you can choose MegaPath’s call center package that gives you intelligent call routing to handle the heaviest call volume. There’s also a fax pro package for businesses that still deal with a high volume of incoming and outgoing faxes. One issue with MegaPath is that everything is sold in bundles, so you could find that the same features you get on a lower-priced plan with other providers cost much more here.
- Simple Phone Co
Simple Phone Co promises to be “packed” with features, starting with a drag-and-drop call flow manager to help you route incoming calls the way you want them to go. Other features include find me/follow me, ring groups, multilevel menus, auto-attendants, voicemail to email, and customizable conference call bridges. Every plan includes free calling to the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.
You’ll also be able to connect your CRM and easily add click-to-call within your web browser. Most of the features are included in their basic plan, but one negative is that you’ll need to pay extra to add on features like virtual fax, a dedicated conference line, and the previously-mentioned CRM integrations.
Blueface offers phone systems for both enterprise and small and midsized businesses. Features include mobile softphone, conferencing, call recording, call routing solutions, and call reporting. You can also get a local number in more than 40 different countries to make it easier to take your business international.
It’s important to note, though, that your Blueface plan will come with only one geographic-specific number and one non-geographic number. To add other phone numbers, you’ll have to pay, and pricing is based on which country you choose. For enterprises, Blueface offers predictable billing to keep your monthly phone bills the same rate each month for easier budgeting.
Affordable plans and all the most popular features make VoIPLy a top business VoIP service. Features include auto-attendants, visual voicemail, email to fax, voicemail to email, and a dial-by-name directory. You build the system that works for your business, adding the features that are important to you.
This starts with choosing a phone number and the type of desktop phones you want to purchase. Then you’ll add your features and get a price. The most basic plan includes unlimited calling within the U.S. and Canada, auto-attendants, HD voice, hold music, and voicemail to email. You will need to pay for first and last month’s service during signup, as well as any equipment you want to order.
PanTerra comes with plenty of features built in to its basic plan, including business analytics, unlimited calls and meetings, and intelligent call routing. With PanTerra’s cloud collaboration suite, called Streams, you’ll have video conferencing, team messaging, web meeting, and digital fax, all built into the phone system you use every day.
You can also use the provided administrator panel to create hunt/ring groups, multilevel auto-attendants, and other advanced functionality. You’ll also have an unlimited number of team rooms to allow your employees to collaborate on their various projects.
Small businesses are MightyCall’s focus, with features like visual call flow configuration, call forwarding to any device, music on hold, conference calls for up to five people, and call recording. You can operate MightyCall off the mobile devices and computers you already have, which means you’ll never have to buy any hardware. You can also port your existing phone number at no cost.
The solution integrates with Facebook and Twitter, helping you easily communicate with your customers on the sites they use every day. As emails come in, you can set the system up to automatically turn them into a task in the activity queue to make sure nothing will fall through the cracks.
One of the biggest benefits of OnSIP is that pricing is not based per line, but on the apps your business uses. So, you can save money if you have more than a few lines but have a limited need for features. But you’ll get plenty of features with the free plan, which includes up to 100 users, voice and video conferencing, business hour rules, and web phones. You’ll also get integrations with Slack and Zendesk, as well as a Chrome extension. The free plan includes internet calling only, though, or calls through OnSIP’s specialized OnSIP phone software.
When looking for the best VoIP for small business, one common feature you’ll find is the ability to easily add and remove users as your needs change. AirCall is one of the VoIP providers advertising that scalability, along with advanced call analytics that help you see how well your team is doing. AirCall also has a large number of integrations, including popular applications like Zoho, Salesforce, Zendesk, and Pipedrive. You’ll also get a virtual call center, international numbers, and an interactive voice response system so you can make sure your calls go where they need to go.
You’ll have to buy one of the higher-priced plans to get access to Salesforce integration and live call monitoring, so it may become pricier than competitors if you need those features.
With awards from a variety of sources, 8×8 is a top choice of many brands. Solutions are customized to industry, business size, and product types, each with its own pricing and features set. For small business, 8×8 offers phone, fax, collaboration, and content center services, all combined in one platform.
Collaboration tools include teleconferencing, web meetings, video conferencing, and mobile apps. For enterprise customers, 8×8 provides Virtual Office editions that include unlimited calling zones to at least 14 countries, fax, analytics, instant messaging, and audio and video conferencing with meetings. 8×8 also integrates with Salesforce, Zendesk, and Netsuite CRM to make collaboration even easier.
Like some of the other top small business VoIP providers, RingCentral allows you to use its services on your existing devices, including your personal cell phone. You’ll be assigned a business number, as well as features like high definition video conferencing, messing, and file sharing. You’ll need an iOS or Android device in order to download the app to your devices and access all of the calling and collaboration features.
Once downloaded, you can manage your setup directly from the app. Basic plans allow only a few people per video or audio meeting but include unlimited phone calls, unlimited SMS, and access to RingCentral’s collaboration app, Glip. There are also phone rental options that include desk and conference phones to allow you to have a dedicated handset for each worker.
Jive’s online portal is one of its most notable features, with a visual dial plan editor that makes it easy to set up your system. You can create schedules that route calls a certain way throughout the day, as well as generate custom greetings to give your business the appearance of being a large corporation. You can even create the entire year’s schedule in just seconds.
One of the best ways to choose a technology solution is to learn what others are saying about it. Fortunately, VoIP and UCaaS have both been around long enough to have gathered plenty of reviews. With so many people having tried out all of these services, you don’t have to guess. You can go through various online review sites and read for yourself.
Although many providers don’t have reviews on every site, we’ve searched some of the most popular online review services to give you the lowdown. Sites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Ripoff Report serve as virtual logs of the history of customer interactions for various companies. Below are a few of the highlights we’ve found on the review sites of some of the above-mentioned providers.
Better Business Bureau
Since 1912, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has collected reviews on companies to protect consumers. The agency issues each business a grade, similar to what you see on school report cards. Although you may associate the BBB with a service you check before hiring an exterminator or buying an appliance, they also do a great job of applying that same rating system to on online companies and cloud service providers. Below are the reviews for above-listed services that have BBB profiles.
Overall Review Rating: 84% positive
Stars: 4.80 out of 5
More than 100 customers have reviewed Nextiva, with the vast majority of the reviewers giving it a positive score. The company gets high marks for customer service and reliability, as well as the improvements it has made to its customers operations.
Overall Review Rating: 100% negative
Stars: 3.68 out of 5
Although MegaPath’s ratings are 100% negative, it’s important to note that only three people have reviewed the service. That makes it difficult to determine whether it’s a reliable measure of customer mood. However, the BBB registers 25 customer complaints, with problems with the product or service getting the most of all the negative activity.
Score: Not BBB accredited
Overall Review Rating: No rating
MightCall is not BBB accredited and has no positive reviews. The only review is a customer complaint about problems with the product/service, and information that the business attempted to resolve the issue. The customer had difficulty with phone number porting.
Overall Review Rating: No rating
OnSIP does not yet have any reviews or complaints, but it does maintain an A+ rating.
Overall Review Rating: 93% negative
Stars: 3.73 out of 5
Added to 14 customer reviews are 75 customer complaints, most of which are in regard to billing and collection issues. Customers report having their credit cards charged long after they cut off service, with no easy way to get customer service to refund the overcharges. There are also plenty of complaints about the product.
Overall Review Rating: 35% positive
Stars: 4.14 out of 5
With 29 positive reviews and 54 negative, RingCentral gets high marks for its low cost and reliability, as well as the flexibility it offers by allowing users to conduct business anywhere. But RingCentral also gets 64% percent negative reviews from BBB members, with complaints including customer service and billing issues.
- Jive Communications
Overall Review Rating: 93% positive
Stars: 3.15 out of 5
Jive Communications is one of the few business VoIP providers that have a largely positive overall rating with only a moderate star rating. Reviewers love the dashboard and metrics, as well as the customer service.
Although Yelp has become known as a way to rate local restaurants and attractions, businesses looking for services can also browse reviews. Many of the above-mentioned services don’t have a presence on the review site, so we’ve only included the ones that do.
Number of Reviews: 112
Number of 5-Star Reviews: 66
Once again, Nextiva gets high marks for customer service and reliability. Complaints include issues with credit card charges and low app ring volume.
Number of Reviews: 134
Number of 5-Star Reviews: 3
Unfortunately, MegaPath’s reviews are overwhelmingly negative, with customers complaining about reliability, call quality, customer service, and billing.
- Simple Phone Co.
Number of Reviews: 7
Number of 5-Star Reviews: 5
Simple Phone Co gets high marks for its customer service and affordability. Customers complain about call quality and lack of after-hours support.
Number of Reviews: 2
Number of 5-Star Reviews: 1
It can be difficult to gauge PanTerra’s customer service by its two Yelp reviews, since one is overwhelmingly positive and the other is one-star negative. The issue in the complaint was trouble with billing, compounded by a difficulty in getting customer service to resolve the issue. But the positive commenter complimented the price and quality of service.
- Jive Communications
Number of Reviews: 54
Number of 5-Star Reviews: 18
Many customers appreciate the all-inclusive pricing and customer support. However, there are many complaints about the reliability of the service. It’s important to note, though, that some customers report improvements after a more recent update, so the issues could have been addressed.
GetVoIP offers reviews specific to VoIP services, with many of the above-mentioned services included.
Number of Reviews: 94
Recommended by: 82 percent
Customers praise Nextiva’s customer service and uptime, with a few complaints about support and issues with various features.
Number of Reviews: 10
Recommended by: 70 percent
MegaPath fares much better on GetVoIP, with customers praising its customer service and sound quality. There are also complaints about customer service and call quality, so it seems to vary from one customer to another.
Number of Reviews: 20
Recommended by: 85 percent
Most customers enthusiastically recommend VoIPLy for its customer service and easy-to-use portal. However, there are a few complaints about reliability of service and lack of features.
Number of Reviews: 25
Recommended by: 100 percent
PanTerra gets glowing reviews on GetVoIP, where customers compliment the reliable service and user-friendliness of the interface. Only one con is even mentioned by any of the reviewers, and it simply requests more language support in the user panel.
Number of Reviews: 9
Recommended by: 78 percent
Reviews include multiple instances of customers saying that they priced competitors and couldn’t find anyone offering similar services at the same rate. However, other businesses complain that they weren’t the cheapest. This highlights the importance of pricing several services and making sure you’re getting the best deal for your own specific needs.
Number of Reviews: 159
Recommended by: 72 percent
Reviewers are largely happy with RingCentral’s offerings, praising the convenience of its features, as well as its customer support. However, there have been some issues with prices increasing for some customers after they’ve been with the service for a while.
Number of Reviews: 61
Recommended by: 72 percent
Here, customers once again report issues that later cleared up after an update. But there are complaints about billing and customer service that are fairly recent.
Software Advice displays customer reviews of various types of software, including VoIP and UCaaS platforms.
Number of Reviews: 109
Reliability is a top compliment on this review site, as well as the speedy customer service people received when they needed it. Complaints revolve around the time required to learn the many features provided.
Number of Reviews: 1
MegaPath barely has a presence on Software Advice, since only one person has rated the service so far. That customer praises MegaPath’s installation turnaround and tech support.
Number of Reviews: 3
OnSIP gets high marks for customer support and features, with a few complaints about its limited international calling options.
Number of Reviews: 109
Integrations and usability are two of the top compliments in Aircall’s Software Advice reviews. Customers complain about a lack of reporting and malfunctions within the software.
Number of Reviews: 121
Reviews are mostly complimentary, with customers praising the solution’s ease-of-use and customer service. There are some complaints about calls dropping and the need to download software to participate in a conference.
Number of Reviews: 445
There are plenty of people praising RingCentral as one of the best small business VoIP providers, but there are also a few complaints. Many customers enjoy the ease of setup and the many features, but others find the cost higher than with similar services.
Number of Reviews: 460
Customers praise the many features offered with Jive, but they also issue concerns about customer service. Reviewers also point out that call recording isn’t included with the service.
As noted in the reviews above, uptime should be a vital part of any service you choose. Your service’s reliability not only means you’ll be able to make calls when you need to, but it also affects the quality of the voice and video communications you have throughout the day. Below, we take a look at the uptime statistics we found when we checked the above services using the most popular uptime detection sites.
com: No problems in the last 24 hours.
Uptime.com: 900ms to 1600ms response time for past 24 hours.
Status.Nextiva.com: 100% uptime for the past 90 days across all service areas.
com: 1 outage report in the past 24 hours. Recent issues primarily in Santa Clara, Ronkonkoma, Delmar, Little Falls, Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, Agoura Hills, Raleigh, and Detroit.
Uptime.com: 1000ms to 1500ms response time for past 24 hours.
- Simple Phone Co
SimplePhoneCo.com: 100% uptime for the past 24 hours.
PanTerra Service Monitoring: 100% uptime for the past 30 days.
com: 6 outages have been reported in the past 24 hours.
Uptime.com: 700ms to 3200ms response time for past 24 hours.
com: More than 30 outage reports in the past 24 hours.
Uptime.com: 600ms to 1250ms response time for past 24 hours.
Is VoIP the Right Solution for Your Business?
At one time, businesses had to carefully weigh business VoIP against the features offered by their local phone company. The switch might have been expensive and intrusive, for instance, since they already had so much invested in cabling and handsets. However, as workplaces have gotten increasingly mobile, traditional landlines have had a tough time keeping up, especially while also remaining competitive in price.
Even if your entire team works onsite, you can benefit from VoIP features that allow you to take business calls either on your desktop or cell phone. This is the biggest reason to consider VoIP. Many solutions are built with mobile in mind, rather than offering the feature as an add-on to a traditional desk set.
When it comes to deciding whether VoIP is the right solution, often it’s just a matter of finding the best business VoIP provider for your own unique circumstances. There are now more VoIP options than landline ones, thanks in large part to the fact that landline providers often focus on local markets, rather than a national customer base. This means you can shop numerous VoIP providers and choose the pricing and features that are best for your needs, which makes it highly likely you’ll find a much better offer on VoIP versus landline options. However, you can still price a landline-based service as part of your research just to make sure. Doing this will also give you the satisfaction of knowing just how much money you’re saving each month.
Your search for the best business VoIP provider doesn’t have to be an extensive one, as long as you know what your needs are. If you can narrow down your list to the best in the field, you can study those features and find a solution at a price that meets your own needs. Many of these solutions will offer free demos to interested customers, so you can easily get a look at how a phone system works before you sign up.