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In a nutshell, VoIP (short for Voice over Internet Protocol) is the technology that lets you make calls over the internet. This means that unlike with regular landlines, you don’t need a public-switched telephone network (PSTN) to make a call—you can make and receive calls from anywhere as long as you have internet. It also works with cloud PBX technology, which is what helps businesses manage incoming phone calls by routing them to the right person or department. Together, VoIP and cloud PBX form what’s considered the modern VoIP phone system—which, compared to traditional on-premise systems, doesn't need expensive equipment and hardware to install and use.
But beyond just savings, modern VoIP phone service providers for small businesses have transitioned into a complete unified communications system, meaning they can combine VoIP’s ability to let you make calls from anywhere with cloud PBX’s ability to route incoming calls with other communications and collaboration features like:
You can now find all these features on a single platform, which can be accessed from anywhere as long as you have internet. This gives businesses and their employees flexibility that they can’t get from traditional on-premise systems.
Besides flexibility, the best VoIP phone system should give you a few other key benefits.
When you’re deciding on a VoIP service, choose one that has your security in mind. After all, you don’t want your calls to have eavesdroppers—and you wouldn’t want your personal and business data to be compromised either.
A good business VoIP provider should have multiple layers of built-in security measures at every level of its infrastructure and processes. This includes transmission security (aka protection of the actual call from end-to-end), network security (protection of the network and data), physical security (protection of the physical IT assets that host the service), and proactive fraud mitigation (to prevent identity theft, stolen login details, and other forms of fraud).
A VoIP service that’s cheap, but always interrupted, isn’t very useful.
Look for a business VoIP provider that takes pride in being reliable. This means hosting the service in different locations and in highly-redundant state-of-the-art data centers, where the VoIP service is duplicated multiple times in multiple servers as a fail-safe in case of emergencies. That way, there’s plenty of back-ups to take over if a server in one data center goes down.
You can also ask your VoIP provider about their Service Level Agreement (aka SLA). The SLA is the contract between you and your VoIP provider that defines the level of quality of service you should expect from them. The closer the SLA is to 100%, the better.
Did you know? RingCentral is hosted in secure bi-coastal state-of-the-art data centers that ensure ultimate reliability through redundancy. With a 99.999% SLA, it handles over one billion minutes of voice calls every year—more than twice the capacity of its customer base of more than 350,000 businesses worldwide.
Look for simplicity when setting up your business phone system, whether it's for just one location or multiple locations. The best business VoIP phone systems use the cloud. Why? Traditional systems need expensive and complicated hardware to buy, install, and maintain. Having a cloud-based phone system means you don’t need any of that because the service itself is hosted, maintained, and managed by the provider. In other words, they manage it while your company uses it.
One of the perks of going with a cloud-based VoIP system is that you can set up and customize it in minutes. Everything is activated right away. When you want to add new business phone numbers or assign virtual extensions to people, you can do that instantly too. You can even connect a new office to the phone system with just a few clicks (or taps if you're using a mobile device)—no need to install a separate virtual office phone system for each location. Even if you have multiple locations and a distributed workforce, everyone’s connected under one cloud communications solution.
Setting up a new location is easy, now that we have RingCentral. In the past, we’ve had deadlines as short as two weeks, and we needed a service carrier to come out for the installation. With RingCentral, we can get a new location up and running on our own in less than a week,
Director of Information Technology,
If you have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to configure your phone service instead of focusing on your business goals and other important projects, then something’s wrong.
You shouldn’t have to work on your phone system. Your phone system should work for you.
The good news is the best VoIP phone systems out there don't need you to have any IT experience or skills. For example, they have easy-to-use dashboards that you can personalize without knowing how to code.
Anybody can manage user settings and permissions without having to bother the IT department, saving you the trouble of having to hire someone whose only task is to manage your business phone system.
The best part is that users and administrators don't even have to be in the office to do all this—you can manage your own settings from anywhere, as long as you're connected to the internet.
Most growing businesses need a wide range of features to make it easy to communicate with each other and work together. The best VoIP phone system should be able to solve those challenges. Here are a few tips to help you narrow down your selection.
Beyond just going straight for what the internet says is the best VoIP phone system, you should look for something that helps you manage incoming calls and organize your call queues. This is especially important if your business takes a lot of phone calls. Here are a few ideas:
With a few simple advanced call handling features, any business—even small ones—can make sure that every call gets picked up quickly. Look for a solution that:
Other than handling incoming calls, a good business VoIP solution needs to be able to sync up with different communications and collaboration tools to let you:
The best business VoIP providers allow you to port your existing company phone numbers to them.
This is important because your existing customers are already familiar with your current phone number. Changing it just because you’re getting a new system can disconnect you from your customers because they may dial your old number and wonder if it’s changed because you went out of business, or they may think your calls or texts from your new phone number are spam because they don’t recognize it. Not getting to keep your old number defeats the purpose of getting a reliable VoIP phone system in the first place. Ask your VoIP service provider about their process for transferring your existing phone number to their system.
You want a phone service that works with the apps that you're already using for your business.
Whether you want a CRM integration that lets you see Salesforce customer information associated with a phone number, or simply add a dialpad to your productivity apps (like Google’s G Suite or Microsoft Office 365 apps), the really good providers out there have integrations that connect to most popular apps that businesses use.
That also means you won’t have to always switch from app to app. Imagine that.
Most top providers give you unlimited calling across the U.S. and Canada— even toll-free minutes. This is a big advantage over traditional phone providers that charge customers long-distance fees for every call outside their area code.
If your company regularly communicates with people and businesses around the world, you want a VoIP provider that allows you to call outside the country without breaking the bank. Like traditional phone solutions, a lot of modern VoIP companies also offer international calling VoIP plans. While the rates may vary between providers, VoIP international calling rates are typically lower than regular international rates from telecommunications carriers.
RingCentral offers different international calling plans depending on what your business needs. You can even pay-as-you-go with international phone call credit bundles or get monthly unlimited VoIP plans if you regularly call outside the U.S. and Canada.
The best providers also support different types and brands (you may have heard of Cisco, Polycom, and Yealink office phones) of VoIP-enabled devices.
The most common types are IP desk phones (these are the ones that look like analog or landline telephones).
There are also VoIP phones that are specially designed for specific purposes. For example, conference VoIP phones are specifically used for conference calling and receptionist phones help human receptionists when they’re routing calls manually (though they could also use an automated-attendant).
If you don't have the budget to buy new devices, you can use your laptops or mobile devices. The best VoIP phone system providers have free softphone apps that can be installed on your PC or Mac (desktop app) or your Android or iPhone smartphone (mobile app).
VoIP is particularly good for small and mid-sized businesses. The main reason for this is that most of the best VoIP companies charge customers on a per-user per-month basis rather than basing it on how many minutes are collectively used by your business every month.
That—and the fact that you don't need to buy expensive equipment and hire dedicated IT staff to manage it—leads to significant cost savings for you.
Plus, it's easier to factor this cost into your budget since the monthly per-user plan has predictable fees—you get everything you need to communicate with your customers and team in one service without surprise charges on your bill.
RingCentral Office is a cloud-based unified communications solution that includes enterprise-grade voice, virtual faxing, text messages, online meetings—and over 50 more communications and collaboration features designed to help businesses grow while staying in sync.
You can get started quickly with new local or toll-free numbers, or port your existing phone numbers onto a cloud-based business phone system that works for business of all sizes. If you don’t want an expensive or conventional on-premises system, take RingCentral Office for a spin.
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"We’re easily seeing a 40%-50% reduction in communications costs with RingCentral. Several years after choosing RingCentral, I am still confident and happy with that decision."
"Having calls, texts, emails, faxes, and documents all under one umbrella creates a more streamlined workflow for employees. RingCentral makes the creates a more streamlined workflow for employees. RingCentral makes the phone a powerful tool that travels with you."
"We spent a lot of time working outside of the office. 40% of our employees use the RingCentral mobile app, which gives us the ability to use our business phone number rather than our personal cell phone numbers."
"From receptionists to the executives, everyone is delighted with our new system. Migrating communications to RingCentral was the best move we have made."
"Compared to when we had multiple vendors for phone, meetings, and chats, we are saving 30% to 40%."