The best VoIP phone system for business

Choose the best business VoIP provider

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One thing’s for sure: VoIP is here to stay. Today’s dynamic business landscape is fuelled by shifts in technology, consumer demands, and the remote workforce. Staying connected is more important than ever before, and—luckily—businesses have a plethora of tools at their fingertips to help them do just that. 

The range of VoIP services on the market provides businesses with a wealth of choices they’ve never had before. Check out VoIP phone systems along with all-in-one unified communications platforms to figure out which one best aligns with your business needs.

Implementing a cloud-based communications suite like RingCentral MVP into your company’s tech stack kills a whole lot of birds with one stone. You’ll get access to HD VoIP calling along with a range of features like video conferencing and team messaging in a single, easy-to-use platform.

 

RingCentral MVP: A VoIP phone system for your business

RingCentral MVP is a virtual PBX solution that offers all the advantages of traditional PBX (extensions, paging systems, voicemail, etc.) without the limitations and expenses related to hardware, management, and maintenance. 

RingCentral MVP provides businesses with an integrated platform for voice, video, and message, as well as a range of advanced features to improve communications. Key features of RingCentral MVP include:

  • Complete mobile integration
  • Business SMS
  • HD voice and video with screen sharing
  • 99.999% uptime and enterprise-grade security
  • Advanced call management features (intelligent routing, automatic voicemail transcription, custom greetings, etc.)
  • Real-time data insights
  • Business app integrations and open APIs

What is VoIP and why should you use it for your business?

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:

Video conferencing

Business SMS

Virtual Faxing

Team Messaging

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.

Choosing between hosted PBX and on-premises PBX

What is hosted PBX?

Cloud-hosted PBX or simply, hosted PBX (also known as virtual PBX or cloud PBX), is one where the service provider hosts, manages, and maintains the servers and technology required for the phone system to function. 

A virtual PBX provides all the benefits and features of a regular PBX while being rooted in cloud technology. Cloud PBX solutions are hosted in remote data centers, and their services are delivered through internet connectivity.

In addition to offering all the call management and routing features of legacy PBX systems, they also provide businesses with numerous benefits such as flexibility, mobility, and lower overall costs.

Virtual PBX systems have evolved to provide end-users with a range of advanced features that simplify business communications and collaboration. Moreover, IP PBX solutions are offered as a service with flexible pricing and payment plans, making them a great option for small businesses.

What is on-premises PBX?

On-premises PBX systems reside on-site at your premises. Your company or organization is responsible for hosting and maintaining the PBX system, which increases the overall costs. 

With on-premises PBX systems, phone calls can be made either through a traditional phone company or VoIP with SIP trunking through an internet phone service provider. The PBX system requires the business to have the appropriate infrastructure, including servers, hardware, and data network security. 

On-premises PBX systems are more suitable for large enterprises with the budget, infrastructure, and resources to deploy and manage them. For instance, you need a dedicated IT team to ensure the security and maintenance of the system. 

On-premises PBXs give end-users more control over the system and their data but come with a lot of additional costs. Virtual PBX service providers like RingCentral have evolved to offer end-users more flexibility and customization of their IP PBX without those costs. That makes RingCentral the provider of choice for many large companies.

On-premises PBX

  • High initial expenses for hardware and installation
  • High maintenance costs at the expense of the business
  • High expansion costs
  • The company is responsible for software updates
  • Telephone lines required for each handset
  • In-house IT department required to ensure system functionality

Hosted PBX

  • Little on-site hardware or installation costs
  • Few maintenance costs; servers and hardware are the service provider's responsibility
  • Easy to expand or reduce the system as required at little to no cost
  • Automatic and non-intrusive software updates
  • New users and numbers can easily be added
  • Reduced dependency on in-house IT teams; everything is taken care of by the service provider

Is VoIP good for small business?

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.

Benefits of a cloud business phone system

1. Improved data security and maximum uptime

On-premise PBX systems rely on a specialized in-house IT team or third-party service vendors to handle security, data breaches, and access control. However, your data isn’t all you have to worry about. You’ll also need to ensure your physical premises are protected with video surveillance systems and other types of security systems. 

Compared to those hosted on-premises, top-level cloud PBX and VoIP phone systems eliminate many threats that legacy systems are more susceptible to, like security breaches, power outages, and even natural disasters. A major benefit of cloud PBXs (when compared to on-premises) is that you don’t have to worry about how secure your data is anymore—it’s all taken care of. 

Solutions like RingCentral house your cloud PBX in secure, Tier 1 data centers protected by enterprise-grade security. This means you can rest assured that your data is secured and ensure business continuity in case of emergencies or disruptions. 

When your business experiences downtime, it comes at huge costs to your business. It can reduce your customers’ trust in you and set you behind on projects. Hosted PBX providers guarantee maximum uptime, most of them (like RingCentral) adhering to the enterprise gold standard of 99.999%.

2. Lower costs

One of the most obvious benefits of implementing an IP PBX phone system is the cost savings for businesses. By eliminating on-site PBX appliances, businesses can reduce initial costs as well as the long-term costs of managing and maintaining an on-premises PBX system. 

IP PBX systems function using cloud technology, which means there are little to no costs associated with hardware, management, and IT support. 

With a cloud-hosted VoIP solution like RingCentral MVP (Office), you can manage your entire system online. If you want to add new extensions, modify features, or contact IT support—you can do it all from the simple RingCentral MVP interface. 

With RingCentral MVP, you’ll pay a single monthly cost that covers unlimited voice calls, video meetings, instant messaging, and a host of call management and collaboration features to streamline your business communications and enhance productivity.

3. Increased mobility

In today’s digitally connected world, remote work has taken center stage. 

An IP PBX allows team members to sign in from any internet-connected device, whether that’s a cell phone, tablet, or desktop. With the mobile app from RingCentral, users can access all the functionality of a business phone system from their mobile device. 

Users can make calls, join video conferences, send text messages, send and store files, and much more with RingCentral for mobile. 

Hosted PBX empowers employees with the freedom and flexibility to effectively work remotely. Not only does this increase their productivity, but it also improves your company’s bottom line.

Manager dialing a team member’s number from his mobile phone

4. Scalability

Hosted VoIP PBX phone systems offer more scalability for small businesses as users can easily add new phone lines, phone numbers, locations, and extensions in no time at all. This makes it extremely easy and quick to scale your business phone system as your business grows—so you can get down to business immediately! 

Say you’re experiencing a period of rapid growth or need to scale your call center software to accommodate more phone lines during a hectic period. You can do so without incurring huge costs or investing in equipment that’ll go unused for most of the year. 

Moreover, hosted VoIP PBX systems can accommodate remote sales staff and business teams by allowing them to sign in to their business phone system from anywhere in the world. This opens up the hiring pool for businesses to work with remote talent.

5. Easier to install new features

Business phone systems give users access to a range of advanced features like:

  • Auto-attendants
  • Call reporting and analytics
  • Cloud storage
  • HD video conferencing 
  • Intelligent call routing for fielding incoming calls
  • Mobile apps
  • Voicemail-to-email transcription
  • Business app integrations (CRM, project management tool, etc.)

These advanced features enable businesses to maximize productivity and enhance communications internally (among teams) and externally (with customers and clients). 

On-premises PBXs rely on in-house IT teams to handle new feature installations. This can be a slow and complicated process and means you’ll spend more time waiting for those features to get up and running. With IP PBXs, installing new features is handled by the service provider, saving you time, money, and confusion. 

What’s more, cloud PBX providers have access to a wider pool of resources. This makes it simple for users to customize their business phone system with the latest feature sets.

How to choose a VoIP phone system for your business

Whether you’re looking for VoIP for small business or a VoIP solution for your enterprise company, there are some key things to consider when choosing between business VoIP providers.

1. The type of VoIP provider

There are three main categories of VoIP providers to suit different business needs.

  • VoIP only: 
    Some providers provide VoIP-only services that are ideal for small businesses. A basic VoIP phone system offers HD calling along with features like call forwarding, caller ID, and voicemail. 
  • VoIP and cloud PBX:
    Combines a VoIP phone system with a cloud PBX system. This type of provider offers VoIP functionality and advanced cloud features like auto-attendants. 
  • Unified communications:
    A fully hosted cloud communications platform that combines virtual phone services with video conference calling, team messaging, collaboration tools, and more.

RingCentral MVP is a unified communications platform that offers all the functionality of a cloud phone system, with video calling, team messaging, business SMS, and much more. If you’re looking for a robust solution to keep your team connected internally and externally, RingCentral is the perfect solution.

Stay Connected with RingCentral

  1. 2. What are your telephony needs?

First of all, you’ll need to consider the kind of telephony your business needs. Do you need a VoIP for small business solution that just allows you to make a few long-distance calls to clients? Or a more robust solution to connect remote teams around the world? Consider the following questions:

  • What kind of calls does your business usually make?
  • Do you require advanced features like auto-attendant or call routing to handle inbound calls? 
  • Is video calling an important feature for your business needs?
  • What business tools (such as CRM or project management tools) do you want your phone system to integrate with?

With RingCentral MVP, you can tailor the platform to suit the needs of your business. RingCentral’s all-in-one business communications solution provides a flexible, reliable, and secure platform to keep your team connected with integrated voice, video, and message. 

Moreover, a range of advanced calling features and integrations take your communications to the next level. 

3. Consider pricing plans

The top VoIP providers offer a range of plans from low pricing to suit small-medium businesses to more comprehensive packages for large enterprises. Most VoIP plans operate on a per-month basis, which means you’re charged for the minutes that you use and the number of users. Consider whether you need the option to scale quickly and ensure that adding users is affordable under the plan you choose. 

Looking for an affordable and completely scalable unified communications solution? RingCentral MVP is available with a range of pricing plans to suit the needs of businesses of all shapes and sizes. Whether you just need the basics for now or you want a fully-fledged enterprise solution—there’s a plan for you.

4. Mobile accessibility

In today’s world of remote work, it’s becoming increasingly common for businesses to choose VoIP solutions that provide a robust mobile app to benefit employees and customers. Mobile accessibility is important for ensuring your team can log on on the go from any mobile device (iOS and Android).

RingCentral is the leading business VoIP provider offering a mobile-ready business VoIP and unified communications solution. With the RingCentral app, users can make and receive calls, join video meetings, send messages, and share files from their favorite device. This way, employees are empowered to work from anywhere. 

Interface of RingCentral’s unified communications solution with message, video, and phone features

A few questions to ask VoIP phone service providers

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.

R Logo

Could RingCentral be the best VoIP phone system for businesses?

RingCentral 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-premise system, take RingCentral for a spin.

A modern business phone system video

RingCentral MVP™* plans for your small business

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    and more
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  • Automatic call recording
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  • Multi-site admin and management
  • Up to 8-digit extensions with site codes
  • Hot desking
  • Advanced call handling including whisper, barge, and more
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  • Real-time analytics
  • Popular CRM integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk, and more
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Business phone or toll-free numbers
One phone number for calling, team messaging, and video meetings access.
Each user gets a dedicated phone number at no additional cost. Essentials edition doesn't include video meetings.
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Toll-free minutes
Inbound Toll-free minutes
Included minute allotment varies by tier. Toll-free minutes are pooled across the account, regardless of number of lines. Additional minutes available for purchase.
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Included minute allotment varies by tier. Toll-free minutes are pooled across the account, regardless of number of lines. Additional minutes available for purchase.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Unlimited calls within the US/Canada**
Unlimited calling/phone calls within the US and CA. Plus, choose from affordable and convenient international calling plans that fit your business. Terms and conditions may apply.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Enhanced Business SMS
Designed to meet latest carrier requirements and improve deliverability. Included SMS allotment varies by tier. Additional SMS available for purchase. Available upon request.
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Voicemail-to-text
Automatically convert voicemail messages into text form so users can screen messages easily and respond to the most important call first.
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Visual voicemail and voicemail-to-email
Access voicemail messages from your desk and mobile phones, email, desktop app, and online account.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Team messaging
Collaborate more effectively with colleagues, clients, and contractors with team messaging, task assignment, calendar sharing, and more. Also, utilize out-of-the-box integrations with Jira, Asana, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, and more.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Document sharing
Access documents and files stored on your computer or your Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, and Dropbox accounts and easily share them with your team members.
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Call management and phone system
administration
Sophisticated call management, enabling you to configure your phone system across the entire company, regardless of location or device. Optimize communication with custom admin and user configurations online or using the mobile app.
Call management features include:
  • Answering rules
  • Call forwarding
  • Call transfer
  • Call screening
  • Call flip
  • Call logs
  • Presence
  • Notifications
  • Shared lines*
  • Call park
  • Intercom*
  • Paging*
*Not available with Essentials.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Mobile apps for iOS and Android
Whether you're an Apple or Android user, you can use your smartphones and tablets to make and receive calls, join and host meetings, team message coworkers and partners, send and receive faxes and texts, set up and join conferences, and configure phone system settings, notifications, and voicemail.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
High-definition (HD) voice
To consistently deliver the highest HD quality possible, RingCentral utilizes the Opus Interactive codec for audio and video, as well as the G.722 codec for audio.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Call log reports
Get a complete record of all your inbound and outbound calls and faxes. View the name of the caller, the number or extension dialed, as well as the time, date, and duration of the call.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Phone rental options: desk and
conference phones
Rent any desk phone or conference phone for a low monthly price.
Contact sales for details and pricing.
Learn more
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Add Video Pro and Video Pro+ users
Administrators can add Video Pro and Video Pro+ users from within MVP.
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Unlimited internet fax
Send and receive faxes from your computer, mobile device, Microsoft Outlook, cloud storage providers (such as Dropbox), and more.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Unlimited audio conferencing
Host an unlimited number of audio conference calls, with up to 1,000 attendees per conference. Each user gets unique host and participant access codes.
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Video meetings and participants
Hold video meetings with screen sharing, in-meeting public and private chat capabilities—anytime, anywhere, on any device.
Maximum number of participants varies by the video platform:
Premium with RingCentral Video (up to 200)
Standard with RingCentral Video (up to 100)
Available as an add-on
Up to 100 people
per video meeting
Up to 200 people
per video meeting
Up to 200 people
per video meeting
High-definition (HD) video
RingCentral delivers crystal-clear HD quality video and voice.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Quality-of-service reports
Gain the ability to proactively review overall RingCentral system health and diagnose quality issues impacting users. A holistic overview of quality measured by location, endpoint, codec, ISP, and more enables easier monitoring and faster troubleshooting.
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Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Popular integrations including Microsoft 365,
Google Workspace, Slack, and more
RingCentral offers the largest ecosystem of integration apps in the communications and collaboration space to maximize productivity and efficiency. Get integrations for bots, AI, analytics, archiving, automation, productivity, and more.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
24/7 support
Unlimited chat and phone support.
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Multi-level auto attendant
Answer callers automatically with customized greetings, and ensure every call is directed to the right employee or department.
Learn more
Auto-attendant is a virtual receptionist service that greets your callers and routes them to employees, departments, or to any phone in the world (i.e. an employee's mobile phone, an office deskphone, or a virtual phone on the RingCentral app).
With the multi-level auto attendant feature, you can create rules to handle incoming calls for multiple office locations or language selections. For example:
“Press 1 for our New York office. 2 for Chicago office. 3 for Los Angeles office.” OR
“Press 1 for English. Marque 2 para Español.”
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Professional implementation
Get the most out of RingCentral with a portfolio of professional and personalized services, ranging from planning, designing, and implementation to project management, ongoing support, and consulting.
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Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Call recording
Automatic call recording: Set your RingCentral phone system to automatically record inbound and outbound calls for individual users or inbound calls for departments.
On-demand call recording: Allows Users to manually record phone calls anytime using an IP Phone provisioned with RingCentral, Forwarding Number, or RingCentral Phone for Mobile.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
On-demand
Automatic
Automatic
Compatible with RingCentral Rooms™ (add-on)
Turn any space into a conference room.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Compatible with RingCentral Room Connector (add-on)
Room Connector allows room conferencing systems on legacy hardware with SIP-based endpoints (third party endpoints) to connect and access video meetings on RingCentral.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Included in plan
Single Sign-on
Users can log in to RingCentral automatically with their corporate credentials. Reduce the IT cost of assisting in password recovery and benefit from a central authentication point that securely accesses your RingCentral service from any device.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Multi-site admin and management
Get the flexibility to manage and support your branch offices based on their unique operational needs.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Up to 8-digit extensions with site codes
Simplified intra-site dialing for large multi-site customers.
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Hot desking
Allows users to log in to shared phones to access their own RingCentral extensions, voicemail and greetings, and other features.
Hot desking lets employees share office desk phones while keeping their separate extensions, greetings and voicemail access.
It enables companies to save costs of desk phones while still letting their employees remain productive.
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Advanced call handling including whisper, barge, and more
Advanced call management controls (monitor, whisper, barge, takeover) to allow authorized users to listen in on employee calls with clients to monitor the conversation, provide coaching, and facilitate discussion.
Other features include overflow call queues, user groups, and role-based access control with customized roles/permissions.
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Real-time analytics
Gain real-time insights into your RingCentral system and gather business-relevant data, alerts, and reporting metrics.
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Popular CRM integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk, and more
Bring the functions and features of RingCentral MVP into your business apps such as Salesforce, Zendesk, Microsoft Dynamics, ServiceNow, etc.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Industry-specific integrations with Canvas, Smarsh, and more
Bring the functions and features of RingCentral MVP into your vertical's business apps such as Canvas, Smarsh, etc.
Learn more
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Developer platform and custom integrations
RingCentral APIs let you create your own custom applications and seamlessly integrate business communications into your key business processes, so you can automate workflows, drive efficiency, and gain valuable insight from communications data.
Visit Developer Portal
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Included in plan
Device status reports
Monitor hard phone registration status globally and gain visibility into your devices' history.
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Device status alerts
Set up automated monitoring rules and receive notifications when devices are offline.
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan
Unlimited storage***
Store an unlimited* amount of documents, spreadsheets, presentation files, contracts, invoices, images, videos, and recordings.
*Retention period applies.
Store an unlimited* amount of content within your RingCentral app. This could be documents, spreadsheets, presentation files, contracts, invoices, images, or videos that you send as attachments within messages; or these could be the recordings of your video meetings.
*Retention period applies.
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Available as an add-on
Included in plan

More on VoIP phone systems

VoIP uses digital phones that can provide comparable voice quality to traditional PTSNs by using packet switching technology and a variety of internet protocols. Instead of using copper-wired phone networks to transmit calls, VoIP relies on computer networks. This is what happens, at the most basic level:

  1. Voice data packets are compressed and sent to the VoIP service provider.
  2. Data signals are routed to the receiver.
  3. The packets are uncompressed and the receiver hears sound through their VoIP-enabled analog phone, computer, or cell phone.

The process of sending voice as data signals via the internet happens near instantly. For this reason, VoIP call quality is often better than voice calls made over traditional phone lines.

Often, all that’s required to use internet phone services is a high-speed internet connection and a compatible device. VoIP phone systems, however, can be configured in different ways. 

VoIP phone systems for VoIP to VoIP calls involve an IP desk phone. Users make a call as normal, and then SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) establishes a connection with the server of their IP phone service provider. Then, the server connects to the call’s recipient, and SIP establishes the connection when they answer. 

This setup allows for the scaling of business communications needs with video conferencing, instant messaging, file sharing, and more. 

A similar process occurs when making a VoIP call to a recipient on the traditional landline. What’s different is that when your digital voice travels to the internet, it reaches a VoIP gateway. This gateway—a component of SIP—then converts the digital voice to analog so it can be sent on to the recipient on the PSTN.  

VoIP configurations, though, can also involve:

  • A traditional desk phone and a VoIP adapter: 
    Special analog telephone adapters allow users to make VoIP telephone calls from their existing phones by plugging them into a socket or the router. 
  • A computer: 
    There are numerous VoIP software programs that can turn a PC or laptop into a so-called softphone. This allows users to call over the internet directly from a desktop app. 
  • Mobile phone: 
    Some VoIP services provide mobile apps that allow users to make calls on the go using their mobile network data or wi-fi. 

As VoIP services function using the internet, all of your important company data is stored in the cloud. This means it’s managed and secured by the third-party service provider. A VoIP telephone system allows for call management using an online dashboard or interface. There, users can add, edit, or remove phone numbers and leverage a range of advanced calling features (which we’ll come to shortly!)

Voice over IP technology is actually a set of different protocols working together to replicate telephony functions. Each protocol has a different function but all are working simultaneously in real-time.

Session Initiation Protocol or SIP

The general purpose of SIP is to set up real-time multimedia sessions between two or more participants over the internet. In VoIP, this protocol is the signaling component of the technology. It:

  • initiates the call (when you dial a phone number) 
  • establishes connection (when the person being called answers the phone), and 
  • terminates the connection (when either of the participants drop the call). 

While there are more complex processes going on to establish these connections, that is basically what SIP does for VoIP. 

Real-time Transport Protocol or RTP

RTP, on the other hand, is the one responsible for carrying multimedia; which in the case of VoIP is voice audio, over the internet. It carries the digital voice audio data packet back and forth during VoIP phone calls. After which, codecs then convert the compressed digital audio data packet to uncompressed audio so that it can be played or heard by the call participants. There are many different types of codecs, which can affect call quality and clarity. RingCentral, in particular, supports G.722 audio codec and OPUS audio codec for HD voice. 

Transport protocols for VoIP

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) are the two primary types of transport protocols used for data transmission across the internet. How does one differ from the other?

As previously mentioned, data travels over the internet in packets. These data packets are transmitted using the IP network. Imagine sending a letter—you need an envelope to make sure it is delivered to its destination untouched and without delay. TCP and UDP are two kinds of envelope you can use, and both carry the voice signals in the form of data packets.

Transmission Control Protocol for accuracy

TCP is a connection-based protocol module that offers some good integrity- and error-checking capabilities, which is why it’s commonly used in most web-based traffic. Between the two protocols, TCP is more reliable because it’s designed to cope with network failures and can adapt to available resources in the network.

When a packet is sent from one end to the other, the destination acknowledges receipt by sending a packet back to the source. If the source doesn’t receive an acknowledgment packet or if the packet states that there was a problem during transmission, the packet will be resent.

Sometimes, it takes a few seconds for a packet to be fully transmitted. This accurate delivery of information is the reason TCP is typically used for websites and emails. However, problems come when the packets get lost or distorted. This causes time delays, and user experience can take a hit.

TCP is so prevalent across the internet that it’s usually combined with Internet Protocol (IP) and written as TCP/IP (TCP over IP).

User Datagram Protocol for speed

While TCP is more optimized for accuracy, UDP is focused on speed. It is connectionless so the data packets can be sent without any “negotiation.” In a sense, it’s almost like a “send and forget” protocol, as it provides just enough control information to understand what app is running and to check whether the packets got distorted in transit.

The process ensures swift transmission. But since there’s little error checking involved, it’s likely for packets to get distorted along the way. For VoIP calls, this could mean a slight slip in words, choppy voice, or distorted audio.

Exceptional VoIP technology does not require a completely reliable transport protocol since errors like packet loss or distortion only have a minor impact on voice signals. You should be better off dropping a packet and have a few milliseconds of silence than to have seconds of lag. 

To illustrate, imagine being in a call—you hear something a second or two after the person on the other line actually utters the words. Contrast this with simply missing a syllable of sound but being able to fill in the gaps through context clues—it’s arguably less frustrating.

While there are many VoIP service providers that employ only one type of protocol, truly good VoIP companies like RingCentral use both to ensure the best call quality and efficiency possible.

VoIP ports

In network terms, a port is a communication endpoint used by the transport protocol to facilitate the stream of information. Every single piece of data has a destination port associated with it, and this port is associated with a number to enable the server to sort traffic and deliver the data to the correct recipient.

Imagine a seaport where numerous cargo ships dock on a regular basis. Each ship is assigned a berth number corresponding to its designated spot in the seaport to avoid confusion. Think of the berth number as the network port number, which provides a fast and easy way for the network to identify its recipient.

Port numbers range from 0 to 65535. For VoIP traffic, the standard port is 5060, which is used for both TCP and UDP connections. Consider it the gateway for VoIP functions such as media streaming and video conferencing. Often, port 5004 UDP is preferred when transmitting packets of data within a computer network.

In the case of VoIP providers, they use a variety of ports based on their specific product designs and requirements. They may also have a supplementary list of UDP ports for when they need to upgrade their products.

Apart from network ports, you may also need hardware ports in order to use complementary VoIP accessories like a headset for devices that are not designed to be used like regular telephones. If you have to use a USB phone, you need a USB port.

Different Protocols under one VoIP technology

While these are not all the components of VoIP technology, these are the main protocols and elements that work with each other to allow for voice calls over the internet. 

VoIP phones are designed to provide users a regular telephone-like experience by implementing these protocols in real-time. This allows IP phones to deliver IP telephony to users.

The viability of VoIP for businesses rely on its ability to replace traditional telephone carriers. If VoIP-based solutions are only able to establish calls with other VoIP-based telephones, then it will not work for most organizations.

While residential VoIP has caught on and is rapidly being adopted by regular consumers, most people are still using traditional carriers for both landlines and cell phones. 

These are the same people that businesses are targeting, so if VoIP cannot connect to regular landlines and cell phones, then it is a no-go for many companies. 

Fortunately, VoIP can connect to regular landlines through gateways.

VoIP Gateways

VoIP gateways allow digital voice calls from VoIP phones to be converted to analog or multiplexed voice data that can be consumed through regular landlines and cell phones. In turn, it is also able to convert analog multiplexed voice data into a digital format so that it can be broken into IP packets, which can then be transmitted through VoIP.

VoIP hardware to maximize your internet telephone usage

As businesses all over the world continue to embrace cloud communications, you should find ways to enhance your internet phone experience. You can make the most out of VoIP technology with any of the hardware listed below.

Better yet, turn to a reputable cloud communications provider like RingCentral. It and companies like it will expertly assess your needs so you save on capital and operational costs. Hosted VoIP solutions call for very little hardware, which means fewer expenses on your end. Because the provider manages your hardware (and software), you can relax knowing you are safe from equipment issues and unimaginable maintenance costs

Business routers

A router is responsible for forwarding data packets between devices in a network or from the devices to the internet. To ensure the data packets don’t get lost within the network, the router designates a local IP address to every device.

If your company spends a lot of time communicating with customers and suppliers, you are extra vulnerable to information leakage and cyber attacks. In this case, a router is your network’s first line of defense.

Businesses take security into account when setting up their network infrastructure. The larger ones usually have designated IT professionals to make sure it remains secure. But if you sign up for a hosted VoIP service, everything is handled by the provider.

Consumer-level routers should be able to support about a dozen devices. But if you need something that could handle more computers and provide increased security and additional traffic for voice and data streams, it is a must to invest in a business-class router. After all, growth should be in every business owner’s mind.

Handsets

Originally, “handset” was the term used to describe the device you pick up and hold close to your ear and mouth so you can listen and talk with the person on the other line. In a regular landline phone, you will see the handset connected by wire to the unit.

Along with the advances in business communications technology, “handset” has also been used to refer to the part of the phone—whether wired or wireless—that delivers the same function. In the case of mobile phones, the entire unit can be referred to as the handset.

A VoIP handset typically has the same basic features and capabilities as that of a traditional phone. After all, it delivers the same function, but with help from the internet. Sure, you can use VoIP technology in many other ways (instant messaging, web conferencing, video conferencing, etc.). But perhaps depending on the situation, nothing compares to the experience of lifting a handset to place a call.

Analog telephone adapters (ATA)

With this VoIP adapter, you can place calls over the internet even if you’re using a traditional landline device (and be able to use the same number).

Yes, it’s possible! ATA acts as an interface between your analog phone and your VoIP system, converting analog signals into digital traffic. At first look, this seems like a huge money-saving practice, especially if you want to keep your existing PSTN phones and don’t have enough budget to purchase new VoIP phones.

But the thing is, ATA does not give you access to all the advanced features built in to modern VoIP handsets. As such, some businesses use ATA only as a transitional device until they are ready to purchase their own IP-enabled phones.

Computers and mobile devices

By installing an app (more on this later), you can use your computer or mobile device as a VoIP phone. You get the full functionality of a “regular phone” without having to purchase one. This is a common practice among businesses, as it offers mobility and usability unseen in traditional phone systems. It also gives your employees flexibility because they don’t have to be tied to their office desks all the time.

Apart from the wrong prioritization of QoS, dropped calls can also be attributed to insufficient bandwidth. This is especially the case if dropped calls are frequent during the busiest times in your office.

There are different kinds of VoIP phones available, and each has a specific purpose. Sure, a desk phone would work in a conference setting—but you could be missing important features without a conference phone. This is something to consider if you plan to have a full VoIP deployment for your company.

Hard phones
  • Desk IP phones: This is the standard business VoIP phone that delivers everything you need from an internet phone. Most units have a graphical LCD screen that shows different features like caller ID and call transfer, programmable buttons with speed dialing options, and dedicated speakers and microphones. Some even have touch screens and expansion modules for easier manual routing of calls. The desk phone is connected to your computer or router for connection and power over ethernet cables. Some examples include the Polycom VVX series of desk phones, Yealink SIPT46S, Yealink W60P, and the latest Cisco 8845 and Cisco 8865 with video phone capabilities. These desk phones work well as regular phones, as receptionist phones, or as call center phones.
  • Wireless or cordless phones: Wireless phones are essentially portable handsets. They combine the functionality of a regular desk phone with the mobility of a smaller device, allowing you to move freely in your place of business even while on a call. The built-in Wi-Fi enables you to place calls from wherever there is a hotspot.
  • Conference phones: In cases of multi-party phone calls, VoIP conference phones are your best bet. One of the more popular examples is the Polycom soundstation IP conference phone. You can have multiple callers together, but since the lines are electronically balanced, you can hear and speak with each caller clearly. You’ll be surprised how productive your business conversations can get with a conference calling phone.
  • USB phones: As the name implies, USB phones are plugged directly to your device using a USB jack. They are typically used alongside a softphone so you can use VoIP more comfortably.
Softphones

Softphones are basically software apps installed onto your computer or mobile device so they can be used like a hard phone. In essence, they are virtual phones that are not tied to any physical location. You can connect a USB phone to your computer so you can leverage the softphone’s functionality and features and communicate as you would using a regular phone. Often, softphones running on a computer and coupled with a headset deliver better call quality than VoIP apps on smartphones. But generally, aside from the computer or mobile device, there is no need for other devices or physical phones that require a power adapter or an ac adapter.

Along with the benefits previously mentioned, hosted VoIP phone systems offer an array of additional features that can enhance employee productivity, improve the customer experience, and offer more flexibility for businesses. 

Here are some essential features you should look for when choosing an enterprise cloud phone system and how they can be used to improve business communications.

  • Auto Attendant: This feature allows you to instantly greet callers and direct them to the most suitable agent or employee.
  • Caller ID: Caller ID lets you know who’s calling so you can better prepare to take the call or route it to the correct person/department immediately. 
  • CRM integrations: A business phone system offers the possibility to integrate with your current CRM, allowing you to use customer data to provide better service. 
  • HD VoIP calling: Make high-definition calls to teammates, customers, and anyone else. 
  • Incoming call routing: This feature allows for calls to be routed based on skill and availability to ensure your customers, clients, and contacts receive seamless support. 
  • SMS: Send SMS text messages for quick reminders or appointment setting. 
  • Team messaging: Improve team collaboration and communication with instant messaging between colleagues. 
  • Unlimited calling: With VoIP, you can make an unlimited number of HD voice calls to phone numbers around the world. 
  • Unlimited internet faxing: VoIP phone systems allow you to send and receive unlimited faxes. This feature is great for sending important documents and messages. 
  • Video conference calling: One of the most important features of business phone systems, users can improve remote client and team communication with face-to-face video meetings. You can also utilize a range of video calling features like screen sharing and calendar scheduling.

Make the switch to a cloud PBX today

If you’re weighing up the pros and cons of implementing a cloud PBX business phone system, it’s important to consider your business needs. Choose a solution that provides the flexibility and scalability you need to grow your business communications simply and affordably.

More resources about VoIP and Internet Phone services

VoIP Main (Software)

What Is VoIP and How It Works

VoIP Caller

Internet Phone Service

VoIP Provider

VoIP Network

Small Business Phone Service

Virtual Phone Service

How Virtual Phone Call Works

By placing your trust in a cloud PBX provider like RingCentral, you can focus on serving your customers, connecting your team, and achieving your business goals. Learn more about our solution by viewing our demo.