December 19, 2014

22 Small Business Phone Services

22 Small Business Phone ServicesCan you hear me now? That phrase is one we all utter, most frequently from mobile phones, but sometimes from landlines and VOIP phones. We have to keep up with voicemail and text messaging.  I want phone services to keep up with me, not the other way around.

In this post, we highlight 22 phone services that small business owners will want to check out. Some of them save time, effort, money or a combination of those. Some say you can’t have all three, but you can.

Here are just a few of the many features these services provide for growing companies: Voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP), Voicemail, Call Forwarding, 3-Way Calling, Conference Calling, Web Conferencing, Call Following (no, not stalking), Voicemail to Text or Email, Voice Transcription, and toll-free numbers.

Grasshopper is best known as the professional, but very hip virtual phone services company. They produce videos that are heartwarming in some cases and LOL funny in others. No free trial, but a 30-day money back guarantee. Plans start at $9.95/month for the Pay as you Grow plan, then $24/month. $25 Activation fee.
Feature I Like: Faxes emailed as PDFs.

Ringcentral is a VOIP service aimed at small business. They offer unlimited phone and fax from your existing phone or a RingCentral one. No free trial, but 30-day money back guarantee. Plans start at $49.99/month with 1,000 free toll-free minutes. Feature I Like: Flexible answering rules so you can specify hours and days that work for my company and employees.

Yahoo! Voice is similar to Skype or Google Voice. It is pretty simple if you’re a Yahoo! User (or even if you’re not). Computer to computer calls are free; all others are low per minute rates.  You can get a number so that those not on Yahoo! Voice can call you. Feature I Like: Super fast site and rate checker so I don’t have to scroll through miles of country rates.

3Jam is an up and coming VOIP provider.  Two-way SMS/text messages from web to mobile, or even email. Unlimited incoming text messages. 30 voicemail transcriptions a month. All the usual calling features. No free trial, but you don’t need it with plans starting at $4.99/month, then per minute charges. Features I Like: All the texting (SMS) options. No one else has these. Oh, and you can manage groups of phone numbers.

Onebox is a virtual phone system with lots of great features, but the one thing that stands out is their LIVE receptionist option.  Many small companies want to have an affordable option for someone to answer their calls with a personal touch; Onebox offers it. They have a 14-day free trial, then plans start at $49.95/month for the phone portion. Live receptionist option starts at $169.95/month.

Phone.com is one of the market leaders and keeps their site and offering well organized. No free trial, but plans start at $9.88/month.  Feature I Like: Click to Call option with buttons for the web or email signature.

Freedom 800 is a virtual phone system that gets the “cloud computing” future. They have a user-friendly website with instant number activation, a 15-day free trial, then plans start at $9.95/month.  Feature I Like: Availability Scheduling. I can specify the times when I want calls forwarded, or not.

Toktumi is shaking up the VOIP world. They have a feature-rich package. 30-day free trial, then only $14.95/month. Feature I Like: Up to 20 callers can join a conference call and you can even record the call, all part of the monthly fee.

Vonage is probably as well known as Skype. They were one of the first VOIP providers that made it truly easy to get a virtual phone system going. First month free with a one-year agreement, then $25.99/month.  But the contract is because they send you a telephone adapter that allows any touchtone phone to be used on their VOIP system.  Feature I Like: SimulRing which will simultaneously ring 5 other phones to reach me.

Kall8 is a powerful toll free number service that starts at $2.00/month, if you can live with an 888 or 877 or 866 number.  They then only charge a per minute rate. With these rates, and no monthly minimums or contracts, you could easily use this service to tie a Google Adwords campaign to a phone number and allow you to track which ad performed best. They must have customers doing this because they talk about online campaign management. Feature I Like: the online tools for tracking.

FreedomVoice is a virtual phone system that acts like an enterprise system, according to their site. They offer a 15-day free trial, then $9.95/month. Features I Like: Great blog. And I like the idea of getting my voicemails as MP3s (other services often make them into .WAV files or something proprietary (Skype).

Google Voice. You simply can’t ignore Google. One number for voice, messages, call routing, voicemail transcription, delivered to your inbox. It used to be invite-only, but now it is open to everyone.  Feature I Liked: They are making the service faster and better on mobile devices like Android and Blackberry.  I also liked that you can set a “Do Not Disturb” option and it will roll straight to voicemail.

Evoice does not want to lose a single prospective customer – they offer a six-month free trial for their virtual phone number service. Six months free for the simple $12.95/month plan only. Beyond that amazing offer, they have tons of features like voicemail to text, toll free numbers, music on hold, and call routing (follow me type stuff). Feature I Like: I can’t get away from that six month trial. What’s not to like?

American Voicemail offers a wide range of voicemail features, but also includes fax receiving and fax-to-email for $19.95 a month. No free trial. Feature I Liked: Automated Order Taking and Surveys: Asks your callers questions, one at a time, and record their answers for an additional $9.95/mo.  It includes 8 questions. Responses are delivered to you by email as a single voice message.

Voicenation is a toll-free voicemail service. No free trial, but starts at $9.95/month that includes 100 minutes.  Features I Liked: Wake up call option. This is sweet – no more alarm clocks. Also, they allow you to use their service as a hotline where you play a greeting message, but don’t accept actual voice messages. Think real estate hotlines, sports team announcements.

Skype is probably the best known voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) provider on the planet. I use this service for my small business and love it. I spend about $70 per year for my business line, voicemail, and other features. It is not as feature rich as some of the others, but I make it work.  Feature I Like: Pamela for Skype, which is a free and premium add-on that lets me record calls or conferences. It does more, but you’ll have to read about Pamela for Skype here.  Oh, you can have Skype completely free if you’re calling another Skype user.

Workeasy is focused on being voicemail for growing businesses.  They also offer a toll-free virtual phone number service. No free trial, starts at $19.95/month. Feature I liked: Voice talent service – they’ll provide a professional to record your voice message for you.  Loads of services from fax on demand to an auto-attendant (For Service, press 1, for Support press 2…)

Voiceshot positions itself as your virtual receptionist helping to manage your calls. It offers a free trial and rates start at $25/month with a set amount of minutes.  Features I Liked: Group texting function (as in text messages/SMS) and Outbound Calling that lets you send a voicemail to a number of different people (think Get Out the Vote type campaigns – love ‘em or hate ‘em).

My1Voice:  I like that they lead with a statement about being the virtual phone system for small business.  They are focused. The home page highlights customer quotes from real people with websites you can check out. Offers a free trial, plans start at $10/month. Feature I Liked: Call me button you can put on a website.

These last three seem to be more for the small business that has more than a few lines and employees:

Sipcat offers free and paid software IP telephony systems. You can set up your own Voice over IP system, which they explain is easy to setup and manage. Install it on any computer in just 15 minutes time. You can use it free, buy a license pack, or use their hosted version and buy bundles of minutes. Feature I Like: fully functioning free version.

Neobits is a leading distributor and reseller of phone systems for the small to midsize business. They offer business phone systems from well known brands like Panasonic. They specialize in helping design phone system solutions for specific requirements, especially in the VOIP category. Feature I Liked: When you need actual phone hardware to go with your virtual phone service, this site is a good resource and store.

VirtualPBX offers a hosted PBX service aimed at users who already have VoIP phones or want to use a low-cost VoIP service. They have a free 30-day trial and plans start at $9.95/month. Feature I Like: Their website explains VOIP and PBX details really well, so you know what you’re getting.

Let us know if you have a favorite phone service or system. We’d love to hear about it.

24 Comments ▼

TJ McCue - Product Editor


TJ McCue TJ McCue served as Technology/Product Review Editor for Small Business Trends for many years and now contributes on 3D technologies. He is currently traveling the USA on the 3DRV roadtrip and writes at the Refine Digital blog.

24 Reactions

  1. Don’t forget Packet8 business services. They have a virtual PBX, with real extensions, the ability to have the system forward calls to your mobile phone and actual equipment (if you want/need it). We’ve been using them for the past three years successfully with employees all over the U.S.

  2. TJ: Great list. I am looking forward to a new mobile service starting soon, called GreenWin Network. It is the next generation of communication platform. [Full disclosure: I am an affiliate and I have banner ads on my blog in order to give my readers a way of supporting my blogging and communicating in an economical way! :)]

  3. TJ,

    So, when are you going to do a training class for folks that would like to learn how to craft killer product and service reviews?

    Awesome job.

    (I use Verizon. My Smartphone IS my business phone. I got rid of the land line a year ago.)

    The Franchise King

  4. I agree with Joel, TJ is great compiler of product reviews.

    Joel: It is interesting to hear that you have ditched the land line. In Sweden it has become pretty common to only use mobile phones in personal and business life.

    GreenWin Network will come out with a global SIM card that you could use worldwide. It will be very interesting to see the reactions on the mobile phone market…

    Did you know that Skype iPhone app is blocked on some mobile phone systems?

  5. This “Product Review” is a lot less helpful that is first appears. It amounts to little more that a list of providers, with no attempt to provide a feature-by-feature comparison, something that a “real” product review would provide. For example, which providers use a phone adapter (a la Vonage)? How many minutes do you get for the plan(s) mentions? Etc.

  6. Great article! I kinda agree with Richard, this is more of an overview rather than an in depth review, but thats fine. Just see which service interests you the most and then go to their respective website. It’s really not that difficult.

  7. Thank you for the great information. Do you know if any of the services you listed above allow to transfer and keep your existing land line numbers?
    This is the only thing that has kept me from retirering my current provider who is a master playing BOHICA.

  8. Emilio:

    In my experience, many provides allow you to keep your number. Number portability is required of telecom providers in the US and I’ve successfully “ported” landline numbers to both Vonage and Packet8. I can’t speak for other providers though.

    Shawn

  9. Don’t forget TollFreeFreedom.com. We have a great toll free virtual PBX with many custom options including, geo-routing (route a call based on the callers area/zip code), voicemail transcription, and coming soon: unbundled custom solutions including toll free number only, voicemail only, Google Analytics call tracking and much more.

  10. I got Bandwidth.com service, T3 lines, and VoIP phones for my 5 locations. They send me one bill for all of them taking alot of hassle off my hands and cut my long distance charges out of the picture. Glad I made the digital switch, and if anyone else is looking check out bandwidth I’ve liked them so…for the 6 or so months I’ve had them.

  11. I liked your article and actually used it to try out 2 or 3 of the services you reviewed. I tried eVoice first and although I like their system, I felt that the support could have been better. The second company that I tried was RingCentral, they had really good features and service, but the plan was a bit on the expensive side. I ended up using a company called Receptionist.US and have been with them for 3 months now, I switched because their plans are much cheaper and I went from paying $29.99 per month to paying $9.99 per month. Although I originally switched for price, I have been really impressed with their features and their 24/7 live support (a real person). I have also gone over my minutes in the last 2 months and they didn’t charge me anything extra. Having used 3 of the top companies, I would definitely recommend Receptionist.us, being a start-up our budget is always really tight and they definitely have the best prices.

  12. I can’t believe comvoice isn’t up there.

    I’ve been with Ringcentral AND onebox. Both had A LOT of problems I didn’t want to deal with anymore. I stumbled upon this site looking for some desks, weird lol.

    Anyways I would recommend comvoice to ANYone to not deal with the BS of most phone companies for their business.

    Just my 2cents.

  13. I’m actively researching phone services for our company, and I agree with some of the others. This is an overview more than a review, doesn’t go in-depth enuff. But, it’s a good start for me, I did find it helpful, weblinks are easily accessible. Just not as informative as I’d expected and hoped.

  14. Wow, I didn’t really know most of the services – great find, TJ!

  15. There is yet another reputable business phone service, http://www.voiceonyx.com that works hard to see that the business receives the very best phone service just as they need it to be. Many small businesses struggle with financing in the beginning of their journey. They do not need the added stress of worrying about the service that will be provided by their phone service. They need to know that they are not going to lose business because of lost calls.

  16. Nice list TJ. Another Virtual Receptionist phone service is All Call Technologies. We provide services for small offices and entrepreneurs. The differences are the customization and total system management. All Call Technologies has a very robust phone system with and extensive feature list and the best part is there is no programming or setup for the client to do. We will write scripts, record the greetings and program the system. With some of the companies you have listed they require the client port their phone number to them, in most cases we do not need that. The office phones and phone lines stay as is. Visit us at http://www.allcalltechnologies.com.

  17. Check out http://www.mightycall.com, all the features of many of the small business phone solutions listed above + integrated social channels, activity queue and more.

  18. Would like to add to more:
    1) FreeJe – http://freeje.com/
    2) JustVoip – https://www.justvoip.com/

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