Small Business VoIP: Easier, Cheaper, Better than Ever - Page 2

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Must-have Features for Small Business VoIP

In addition to support for mobile devices, be sure the provider you pick offers other calling features that are important to your business. You'll want unlimited local, long distance and international calling, of course, as well as caller ID, voicemail and music (or a custom message) on hold. Other common features are three-way calling and call forwarding, so you can redirect calls to your mobile number when needed. Some providers even offer a feature that sends text alerts to your mobile phone when you've missed a call in the office.

Most business-class systems also deliver an automated attendant with a company directory. You'll also want the option to present callers with access to different departments (sales, marketing, accounts payable and so on). Even if the various selections lead to just a couple of people, it's a good way to make your business look larger than it is. Another convenient feature is automatic call distribution (ACD), which routes calls to a different extension if the selected extension is busy. This ensures that your customers always get a human on the line.

Advanced Small Business VoIP Features

More advanced features that you might be interested in include Web conferencing, Internet faxing and call recording.  But our favorite feature is call "spoofing:" when you place a VoIP call via mobile apps, some systems can make it look as though you're calling from your office phone number. This lets you keep your cell number private when making work calls.

As for pricing, small business VoIP systems can be very reasonable given the conveniences you get. Expect to pay $20 to $40 per month per line, depending on the plan features and the number of lines you need. This can wind up costing between 40-80 percent less than traditional small business phone service.

Small Business VoIP Providers

When it comes to selecting a VoIP vendor, you must do your homework to find the right long-term partner. Here's a quick overview of the major VoIP vendors for small business.

The logical place to start is with your local phone/cable/Internet provider. One of the leaders is Comcast and its Comcast Business VoiceEdge service. This hosted, cloud-based system means no capital investment or ongoing management of on-premise PBX equipment.

Among VoIP specialists, Fonality is one of the oldest and best-known providers. The company has a range of communications offerings for small and mid-size businesses, as well as products tailored to particular types of businesses, such as real estate offices and non-profits.

Another early leader is 8x8, Inc. The company claims Its Virtual Office system, designed for growing businesses, is the only hosted VoIP phone service that offers both instant messaging and Web conferencing among its myriad features.

RingCentral offers its RingCentral Office service, and all-inclusive communications platform that delivers phone service and HD video meetings. Also of note is RingCentral Professional, an offering tailored to mobile pros and businesses with remote employees. Its advanced inbound call management features can route calls to you or your employees—anywhere, anytime—with customized rules for routing calls and even faxes.

You are probably familiar with Ooma thanks to its home VoIP service, but the company also has products suitable for smaller businesses. Ooma Office is exceedingly easy to deploy, and the system supports up to five phone extensions and 15 virtual extensions with features such as virtual receptionist, conferencing, music on hold and more. For more information, read our review.

VirtualPBX invented the first hosted PBX, and it provides its own VoIP service and supports VoIP from other providers. It offers full-featured office plans with unlimited minutes, as well as "anywhere plans" that let you route calls to cell phones and land-lines on a cost-per-minute basis. The company offers a simple network speed test to see if your network is ready for VoIP. Or you can opt for the in-depth  ProSIP Network Health Check service (starting at $799), which monitors the health of your network for 7 days and provides a custom analysis to let you know of problems.

And finally, Voxox specializes in flexible, cloud-based business VoIP solutions that can scale larger as your company grows. Its hosted IP-PBX service comes with state-of-the-art IP phones and the latest phone system features.  And because it's a hosted service, Voxox provides upgrades automatically without interruption of service or additional costs.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on February 11, 2014
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