VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has revolutionized business phone systems over the last 15 years. VoIP technology transports voice calls over the internet rather than traditional phone lines. This allows businesses to benefit from cheaper calling rates, advanced features, and greater flexibility.
However, the advantages realized depend heavily on choosing the right VoIP service provider for your organization’s needs. Not all VoIP providers are equal regarding reliability, call quality, capabilities, and ease of use. Performing thorough due diligence across the myriad provider options is imperative to identify the ideal match.
This comprehensive guide outlines the key factors to evaluate when selecting a business VoIP provider. We will compare the leading providers across essential criteria like cost, features, call quality, and usability. Equipped with this detailed analysis, your organization can confidently pick the perfect VoIP solution fitting technical requirements, workflows, and budgets.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a VoIP Provider
Selecting the ideal hosted VoIP provider for your firm requires analyzing a number of critical aspects that will maximize performance and savings for your specific environment. Here are the 5 most pivotal evaluation criteria:
Cost and Pricing Plans
VoIP elicits substantial cost savings over old-fashioned business phone services. But between dozens of providers touting aggressive pricing, discerning true value for features becomes imperative. Cheapest plans often have hidden gotchas or lack capabilities that quickly frustrate organizations.
Dig deeper beyond surface pricing to compare capabilities bundled into plans across different subscriber tiers. For example, entry-level options may cover only basics like number of extensions and minutes while mid-range plans toss in key needs like mobile apps, video conferencing or contact center seats. Top-tier plans cater to larger enterprises with abundant calling, sophisticated routing functionality and integrations.
Also consider the cost to add extra lines, features or services which varies greatly. Watch for setup, equipment rental/purchase and administration fees too that jack up monthly rates. Calculate total costs aligned to business requirements and workflows to identify optimal pricing value.
The entire purpose of transitioning to VoIP revolves around enhanced capabilities beyond traditional telephony. Evaluating specific productivity, mobility, call control and routing features included in plans at each subscription tier is paramount.
Entry-level plans tend to cover basics like auto-attendant, call forwarding and desktop/mobile apps. Mid-tier options add integrated contact center queues, intelligent call routing tools and API integration capacities. Top-level accounts pile on extras like video conferencing, custom analytics and workflows, SMS messaging, and real-time visibility dashboards.
Confirm which features are essential to support workflows and growth right off the bat, and which could be adopted later to maximize value. Also verify ease of turning features on/off as needs change.
Scalability and Flexibility
Another prime advantage VoIP solutions hold over legacy phone systems is quick scalability. As your business grows, seamlessly adding extra lines, features, service regions or call centers is crucial. Most leading providers efficiently support scaling via online portals and self-service options.
Analyze how readily providers can scale to add extra call capacity, new locations or features like contact center seats. The best offer near instant ramp ups while some rely on manual processes. Also confirm if they own or lease infrastructure as this impacts growth support reliability.
Voice Quality and Call Stability
Call quality is often the top priority for evaluating business VoIP providers. Despite amazing internet speeds and VoIP advances, call quality still varies dramatically among hosted VoIP vendors based on network infrastructure and call routing optimization competence.
Pay attention to factors like jitter, latency and packet loss which disrupt clarity and prompt garbled connections and distortions. Voice quality consistency should be guaranteed contractually as well based on technical performance metrics. The best providers furnish dedicated VoIP platforms and connectivity optimized specifically for voice.
Also request or review call quality monitoring dashboards and historical metrics that highlight reliability, surges and incidents. Testing call quality directly from multiple network points during trials is highly recommended before final selection.
User Interface and Ease of Use
An often overlooked but equally critical element is how intuitive and effortless the provider’s interface is to use daily. Technology adoption always suffers when workflows feel complicated and painful irrespective of functional capabilities.
Key areas that either simplify or impede usage involve the admin portal, call control menus, smartphone app UI and routing/forwarding functionality. If configuring call flows or accessing real-time analytics feels cumbersome, frustrations arise that dampen the VoIP experience and ROI.
Delving into the provider’s app store ratings, online help resources and community forums proves telling regarding real-world ease of use feedback. Testing the UI thoroughly during a trial first-hand offers the best analysis. Choose platforms balancing sophistication with simplified ease of use for workflows.
Popular VoIP Providers
Numerous VoIP solutions exist but a select few leading options tend to dominate based on features, reliability and value reputation. Below outlines top providers evaluated deeply across critical requirements:
Overview: Enterprise-grade VoIP with exceptional call quality and reliability
- Highest caliber voice quality and uptime
- Intuitive interface across devices
- Contact center integrations
- Expensive premium plans
- Steep learning curve
Best For: Midmarket and larger firms needing enterprise-level reliability, call clarity and scalability.
With crystal clear calls, rock-solid dependable infrastructure and intuitive interfaces, Nextiva satisfies organizations demanding enterprise-grade voice performance.
Overview: Unified communications merging meetings, chat, contact center with VoIP
- Bundles video meetings and team chat
- Integrated contact center options
- Global deployment support
- Complex admin portal
- Steep learning curve
Best For: Larger teams needing integrated meetings, messaging and contact center functionalities beyond basic VoIP.
8×8 unifies essential collaboration tools with VoIP under a centralized platform making workflows more seamless.
Overview: Robust VoIP solutions tailored for large multi-site organizations
- Carrier-grade voice reliability
- Full suite of collaboration tools
- Contact center integration
- Clunky customer portal
- Complex solution for small businesses
Best For: Midmarket to large organizations seeking enterprise-level VoIP with advanced unified communications capabilities.
Mitel MiCloud flexes reliable VoIP with sophisticated collaboration tools scaled for global organizations.
Overview: Cost-effective VoIP perfectly suited for small businesses
- Excellent value and low pricing
- Plug and play convenience
- Crystal clear call quality
- Light reporting/analytics
- Scalability requires upgrades
Best For: Smaller companies prioritizing affordability and simplicity.
Ooma keeps costs low without sacrificing features which smaller teams need to drive productivity and growth.
Overview: Flexible VoIP tailored for mobile and remote workers
- Seamless mobility
- Affordable plans
- Easy web portal
- Learning curve without hands on support
- Limited advanced features
Best For: Remote teams and mobile workers needing simple affordable VoIP supporting BYOD.
OnSip cuts cost and complexity out of VoIP catering to budget-conscious mobile and distributed workforces.
Overview: Intuitive VoIP with generous included minutes plans
- Very simple web interface
- Scales up to 250 employees
- Free phone rentals
- Limited advanced features
- Hardware costs extra
Best For: Lean SMBs who want easy to use VoIP with great value.
Phone.com makes VoIP approachable for SMBs without sacrificing core features central to workflows.
Overview: Pioneer and leader in VoIP solutions for growing SMBs
- Rich features suite
- Reliable network infrastructure
- CRM integrations
- Clunky desktop interface
- Expensive tiered pricing
Best For: SMBs needing confidence of proven market leader with plenty of options to customize.
Vonage Business Cloud sets itself apart by delivering the reliable core features growing teams expect from this VoIP trailblazer.
Overview: Top VoIP provider for SMBs to large enterprises
- Industry leading capabilities
- Reliable uptime record
- Deep customization options
- Steep learning curve
Best For: Midmarket and beyond needing reliable VoIP supporting custom needs at scale.
RingCentral maintains its leadership position by cornering essential reliability, capabilities and integration requirements up to the largest deployments.
VoIP Costs and Pricing
One of the biggest allures for switching business phones systems to VoIP revolves around abundant cost savings over conventional phone bills. But price tags for VoIP solutions themselves vary tremendously depending on necessary capabilities which quickly get complex translating functional needs into bottom line costs.
Below outlines key factors driving overall VoIP costs:
Overview of VoIP Pricing Structures
In general, hosted VoIP pricing relies on simple per “seat” monthly subscriptions bundling together capabilities instead of metered plans charging per minute/call with expensive overages. Entry-level tiers cover solo users and very small teams with basic features while enterprise-level accounts serve 1000s of employees across the globe with full unified communication suites.
The majority of buyers need mid-range options optimizing advanced functionality, mobility, sales enablement and contact center tools for dozens to hundreds of employees which is where deciding best value gets trickier based on specific needs. Carefully balance capabilities against prices when comparing providers.
Factors Affecting VoIP Costs
The headline monthly user license subscription only scratches the surface for cost considerations:
Features Sets – Entry tiers cover basics like call routing, mobility and collaboration. Advanced options like contact centers, CRM integrations and custom analytics come at premiums or require pricier plans.
Service & Infrastructure Quality – Crystal clear audio, sharper video, proactive monitoring and instant scalability amenities increase costs but also productivity and customer satisfaction.
Number Porting – Transferring existing phone numbers often incurs additional one-time fees around $10 per number.
Phone Rentals – While many providers now offer free Deskphone rentals, choosing extra models with more displays/buttons or DECT wireless phones cost extra monthly. Purchasing phones adds more hardware expenses.
Toll-Free Numbers – Toll-frees always require separate fees around $5/mo per number plus minute bundles on some providers.
Conferencing & Storage – Large group video meeting minutes, call recording storage consumption etc. also add variable usage costs depending on needs.
Professional Services – Custom application development, community roll outs, project management and dedicated onboarding/training services appeal to large customers but accompany service fees.
Comparison of Pricing Plans
Calculating apples-to-apples monthly service costs entails digging deeper across different provider’s various plan tiers and add-on costs:
User Licenses – The per seat monthly fee can start as low as $20/mo for solo-preneurs and up to $60+ for enterprise executives including thousands of shared minutes.
Minute Pools – Once beyond included thresholds, overage minute costs average 2-5¢/min for national calling and 10x more for international calling.
Mobility – Mobile apps are usually free but mobile carrier charges still apply without WiFi.
Hardware Phones – Extra Deskphones, cordless models or conference room telephony carries added equipment and installation/configuration costs if not waived.
Beyond reliable connectivity, hosted VoIP services unlock a plethora of versatile features for enhancing communications and getting work done faster. Below outlines popular capabilities:
Basic VoIP Features
Most modern business VoIP solutions start with baseline features even solo businesses require on up to larger organizations:
Desktop & Mobile Apps – Make and receive calls via desktop softphone apps or mobile apps over WiFi/cellular. Access same contacts, tools and account controls.
Voicemail Boxes – Personal voicemail for every employee extensible includes greetings and remote message access.
Call Controls – Individual easy control over transfers, holds, forwards, recording and other functions via phone menus or apps.
Call Parking – Shared line spaces to stage calls on hold for authorized colleagues to retrieve. Enables seamless collaboration and delegation.
Conference Calling – Almost all providers support at least 3-way calling and up for larger conferencing options. Call quality varies greatly however during larger conferences.
Softphones – Software phone apps provide click to call, call pulling, drag and drop transfers eliminating separate desktop IP phone needs for some workers resultant in BYOD flexibility benefits.
Beyond basic call handling, VoIP unlocks advanced capabilities:
Team Chat – Built-in team messaging helps circumvent email/IM app sprawl while allowing quick discussions and file sharing tied to projects, groups or the whole company.
Video Conferencing – Upgrade group meetings with face-to-face HD video built into leading platforms eliminating third-party services. Call quality and reliability varies widely however.
Intelligent Routing – Smart IVRs greet callers with customized menu options to departments or auto attendants enable direct transfers to mobile workers anywhere.
Call Queueing – Dynamic queued callbacks when teams get swamped to capture callers instead of lost calls. Most offer custom greetings, estimated holds and options to upgrade priority as needed.
Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) – Sophisticated auto attendants instantly distribute incoming calls to ideal available agents according to configurable skill sets, geographies, hours and other criteria balances loads optimally.
CRM Integrations – Many solutions now provide productivity enhancing CRM data screen pops timed to incoming calls. Integration availability spans systems like Salesforce, Zoho, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics availability.
Importance of Feature Availability and Integrations
As organizations scale, consolidating point solutions into interconnected platforms streamlines operations exponentially while sophistication through intelligent features unlocks productivity, sales and support. But integrating communications systems introduces daunting technical complexity if not executed strategically.
Fortunately, leading hosted VoIP providers recognized integration challenges early on to pioneer open unified communication ecosystems with APIs welcoming compatible auxiliary tools. Salesforce compatibilities now prove essential to unifying workflows as do popular collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Confirming specific existing important software systems interconnect smoothly without major consulting projects steers decision making today given distributed digital workplaces. Choose VoIP systems based on currently leveraged CRM, analytics, workflow and other integral tools for maximizing unified functionality.
Scalability and Flexibility
Unlike cumbersome legacy phone systems requiring full replacements and rewiring to accommodate business growth, modern hosted VoIP solutions readily scale to support growing users, locations and calling demands through online management portals.
Below highlights how VoIP solutions provide businesses vastly increased flexibility:
How VoIP Providers Cater to Different Business Sizes
Top tier VoIP platforms today easily accommodate organizations from fledgling startups right through the largest multinationals:
- SOHO Microbusiness – VoIP entry plans service tiny teams on tight budgets with generosity included minutes, mobility and essential features.
- Main Street SMB – Midmarket plans satisfy most small businesses balancing robust call controls, intelligent routing, integrated messaging and contact center capabilities.
- Enterprise – Premium options deliver abundant included user allowances, ironclad service levels, global deployment assistance, integrations ecosystem and customization capabilities multinationals require.
Advantages of VoIP Systems
Some inherent advantages SIP trunking and cloud-based VoIP architectures hold over legacy phone systems include:
- Increased Accessibility – Software admins freely manage the entire system right from web browsers rather than convoluted PBX command line interfaces enabling staff additions and feature adjustments in minutes no matter location.
- Greater Portability – Uncoupled from hardwired desktop phones, VoIP apps on smartphones, laptops and tablets accompany workers anywhere maintaining constant access and identity.
- Higher Scalability – Hosted VoIP solutions leverage efficient pooled resources and capacities that easily expand just by purchasing additional subscriptions versus cumbersome legacy systems with fixed ports and offices.
- Improved Business Continuity – Cloud infrastructure intrinsically provides higher availability and redundancy to counter regional outages versus vulnerable localized PBX hardware susceptible to power/internet interruptions.
Flexibility with Softphones
Another benefit SIP trunking based systems introduce involves softphones – with software based VoIP, the same call controls, directories, corporate identity and productivity features accessible from desktop phones install directly on laptops and mobile devices alternatively. This circumvents tying up precious desktop real estate with bulky IP phone hardware should employees prefer to use headphones for VoIP calls alongside existing laptops.
For growing hybrid remote workforces, the softphone capabilities most leading business VoIP systems offer today deliver exactly the workplace flexibilities distributed teams require saving costs over hard IP phone deployments as well. Workers can also effortlessly migrate calls across devices whenever stepping away from desks across multiple contexts unlike handcuffed legacy phones.
Voice Quality and Call Stability
Sincehandling calls represents the core VoIP service, assessing voice fidelity and connection dependability prove essential in provider decisions. Below explores the factors impacting performance:
Improvements in VoIP Call Quality
Over early teething years, VoIP call quality suffered from garbled connections despite surging internet speeds. But thanks extensive infrastructure investments, proprietary data channel optimizations and codec improvements, VoIP voice quality now matches or exceeds traditional telephony today assuming optimal conditions.
Wideband HD audio codecs like G.722 prevalent in modern solutions accurately capture richer human vocal textures and dynamics exceeding legacy phone systems reliant on dated narrowband codecs initially engineered just for intelligibility.