The business world had to adapt to a whole new way of working since last year, and we expect to see more of the same in 2021. Many small businesses opted to conduct business over Zoom or use other tools like Google Meet to have meetings. But these solutions can’t replace your business phone system. You need VoIP Service Providers to really stay connected.
VoIP, formally known as Voice over Internet Protocol, has advanced so much in recent years that it’s capable of completely replacing your traditional phone setup. 2020 led to an explosion of new VoIP services on the market. Some focus on business VoIP while others emphasize residential VoIP, and there are plenty of options in between. We’re going to help you find the best VoIP service and choose the right solution for your needs.
What Do VoIP Service Providers Offer?
Although the exact services you’ll get from each VoIP service provider varies from company to company, most have similar features. You can get virtual phone numbers, and some companies can even give you an international phone number which can help you save money on international calling. Nearly every VoIP service provider will give you unlimited calling within the United States.
Some companies on the list today offer complete VoIP phone systems designed to replace your home phone or business phone system completely. You can get a smart IP phone that lets you use VoIP from the comfort of your desk, replacing your traditional phone entirely. Others keep the traditional phone by combining VoIP with regular phone technologies like SIP trunking.
Still other providers offer software solutions that give you unified communications, meaning you can send text messages, make and receive calls, and set up your own call center. Imagine doing all of that through a single application! Some go even further and give you customer support tools and additional features like call recording that help you improve your business.
Does VoIP Require a Service Provider?
But do you really need a VoIP provider to get all these features? Well, technically you don’t. It’s possible to design your own VoIP system using open-source software like Asterisk. However, this is extremely technical and requires programming knowledge. It’s not something you’re going to set up in a weekend by any means.
But if you’re interested in designing a custom VoIP phone system, and you’re willing to invest more up front to make it happen, then creating your own open-source VoIP solutions is an option.
Which VoIP Providers Are the Cheapest?
The best thing about VoIP is that it can help you save a ton of money! Not only will you get unlimited calling and avoid paying for long distance calls, but the extra calling features can make your company more efficient and professional.
Of course, if you splurge on the most expensive VoIP services, you could find those savings wiped out quickly. It’s important to pay attention to how VoIP service providers charge you. Most charge per user, per month, with cheaper rates as you add more users or features. They also offer big discounts when you pay the whole year up front.
In this article we review six of the top VoIP services to find the best VoIP service for you. We also compare the prices and give you a recommendation to help you decide which one is right for your business.
Is There a Free VoIP Service?
Free Voice over IP phone calls are possible! If you live in the United States, you can download Google Voice and get a free virtual phone number that you can use to make unlimited calls as long as you have an internet connection. However, this probably won’t be enough for small businesses. Business customers should instead look at paid VoIP providers.
Some services market themselves as free only to have very high per minute calling rates. These quickly get more expensive than a paid plan. We’ve left those out of our list since they’re more likely to end up costing you more money than they save.
One of the last options we talk about, however, offers a residential VoIP service that is essentially free after a one-time payment. They also have a business phone system that might interest you.
Who Is the Best VoIP Provider? Six VoIP Solutions Reviewed
Nextiva: A Top Business VoIP Phone Service
Nextiva is competing for the crown, that’s for sure. They’ve been rated as one of the top business VoIP providers out there. Their main product is Nextiva One, which has everything you need in one app. They also have mobile apps and offer a Voice over IP phone that you can use with their business phone package.
If you still want to use your vintage red desk phone and pretend you’re calling Moscow, you can even buy adapters to give them the magic of VoIP. Their software supports modern communication methods like video conferencing, and their cloud based system has a 99.999% uptime, meaning you’ll never drop a call.
You can add on many extra features to your VoIP plans, including hosted PBX and SIP trunking, and even get access to the latest in artificial intelligence for businesses. Nextiva really does stay on top of the latest features for your business, and that makes them one of our favorite VoIP providers.
Setting Up Nextiva
Setting up Nextiva can be as easy as a few clicks or a bit more complicated, depending on what services you require. Almost all of their features work with their software, so you just have to download it from their website and install it on each computer. You can also download the mobile app to your cell phone and use Nextiva from there.
If you need to replace your desk phones with a VoIP phone system, you’ll need to determine how many phones to buy. Nextiva recommends several different models, some of which have Wi-Fi connectivity. In those cases, you can just plop them down on your desk and add them to your network. You’ll then need to login to your Nextiva administrator’s account and configure the devices with virtual numbers.
If you opt for a hard-wired IP phone model, make sure you have Ethernet ports nearby. The last thing you need is a lawsuit when someone trips on a wire run haphazardly across a hallway.
Most Important Features
Nextiva’s phone service features virtual phone numbers, unlimited calls with no long distance charges, and other calling features like call forwarding and caller ID. You can even enhance the caller ID by linking your contacts list to the system. All of your VoIP calls are handled via the apps, unless you spend extra for the hosted PBX system which lets people make calls to and from a VoIP phone on the desk.
Besides VoIP calling, Nextiva also has video conferencing and smart features like the auto attendant, which can use pre-recorded messages or menu systems to handle clients while they wait for a representative. But Nextiva takes intelligence even further.
Nextiva’s NextOS comes equipped with artificial intelligence to help you understand your interactions with your customers. For example, you can track call time and compare it to the different issues your customers have, all with automatic conversation analysis. With this, you can see what problems are bogging your business down and address them first. The software can even detect your mood and that of your client.
For small businesses with 5-19 users, Nextiva starts at $21.95 per month per user. This gives you all the calling you can shake a stick at, plus toll free phone numbers with 1,500 toll free minutes. However, you ought to spend a little more to get the Professional plan which gives you video conferencing and 24/7 customer support.
The artificial intelligence features are limited to the Enterprise plan, which comes at a heftier cost. You’ll need to spend $35.95 per user per month. If your business has 20 users or more, you’ll save about $3 on every user regardless of your plan.
Nextiva makes upgrading easy. You can quickly add users and your rates will be adjusted accordingly. Stepping up to a higher level plan is also trivial. While Nextiva isn’t the cheapest VoIP option on our list, it’s definitely one of the best VoIP providers and its business VoIP solutions are worth the price of admission.
We like Nextiva for small business customers that are on the cusp of becoming medium-sized businesses. The features included can certainly help a small business to grow faster and Nextiva’s scalability makes it a good fit for the long term.
Sole proprietorships and smaller startups may not want to splurge on Nextiva. You can opt for one of the more affordable business VoIP providers and use cheaper video conferencing solutions like Zoom or Google Meet to fill in the gap.
Big business customers can also benefit from Nextiva. Hosted PBX and SIP trunking features mean you can run an enterprise with offices around the country and have no problems keeping in touch.
RingCentral: Great for Small Business Situations
RingCentral is one of the fastest growing VoIP services for small businesses. They compete directly with Nextiva in terms of features, however they focus a bit more on VoIP phone service and a little less on some of the fancier analytics features. Phone calls are where RingCentral’s high quality VoIP services shine.
All of their VoIP plans include a free virtual phone number for every user that you pay for. You can make unlimited calls on any device, whether that’s a dedicated internet phone or your mobile phone using the RingCentral app. The software is extremely easy to use and works on your computers as well. In the end, you’ll have unified communications for your small business in a snap.
International calling is also a RingCentral specialty. With virtual phone numbers available in over 100 countries, you can skip the long distance international fees and instead have unlimited calling within the country where your number is based. Every call goes through RingCentral’s cloud based system, and VoIP calls are enhanced with HD audio.
Setting Up RingCentral
Much like Nextiva, you can get RingCentral up and running in a matter of minutes. Simply create an account, choose the number of users, and make your payment. You can then use your admin account to create user accounts, and everyone can download the software and get started.
RingCentral also offers the same hosted VoIP PBX feature that Nextiva does, meaning you can assign extensions to your smart office phones. Their software supports a wide range of internet phone models, so you can buy the ones you like most and set your office up right away.
Of course, you’re going to need a high speed internet connection to make a VoIP call. If you have a larger organization, consider upgrading your plan to accommodate the extra data flowing through those blue cables.
Most Important Features
One of the best things about RingCentral is how easy it is to handle customer service through their platform. They have call center features that let you direct your phone call traffic to the right department in seconds. You can even get multiple numbers assigned to a single user so that you can give clients the impression that your business is bigger.
The RingCentral software supports file sharing and instant messaging between coworkers, making it great for internal business communications. Video conferencing is available as well, and their software integrates well with other platforms. You can add your Google contacts and calendar in seconds, or link up with Office 365 to share documents more easily.
RingCentral has lots of add on features, and we like that they aren’t locked into all of the VoIP plans. For instance, you can tack on an extra international phone number for just $5.99 a month. They even have international toll free numbers for $14.99 a month. Now that we’re talking money, let’s look at the plan pricing.
RingCentral’s VoIP phone service is quite affordable. They charge the same rate per user for organizations with two to 20 users before the price drops. The base plan gives you unlimited calling in the US and Canada, along with a toll free number and virtual phone number for every user you sign up. This also includes their platform with messaging and document sharing.
Every level includes basic calling features like call forwarding and caller ID. However, video conferencing is unlocked at the Standard level, which costs $24.99 per user per month. You’ll also get integrations with other software and extra features like internet fax and 24/7 customer support.
The fun stuff starts with the Premium plan, where you can get access to RingCentral’s hosted PBX. That gives you 8-digit extensions so that even if people call one virtual phone number, they can be redirected to anyone in your business. You also get analytics and access to RingCentral’s API so that you can incorporate your own programs and use them to handle calls. This plan costs $34.99 monthly per user.
At first, you might look at RingCentral and think it’s more expensive than Nextiva. But it actually gives you more features at each level than Nextiva does. It has mostly the same functionality. Perhaps its only weakness in comparison is the lack of strong AI features.
If you’re a small business that wants powerful VoIP services, this is the VoIP provider for you. It’s great for handling your internal business communications and providing excellent customer support. If you handle international business, then you’ll love all the virtual numbers available. There really isn’t a business that couldn’t benefit from RingCentral.
Microsoft 365: Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams
VoIP phone services may not be Microsoft’s forte, but that doesn’t mean they can’t give you some great Voice over IP solutions. Microsoft 365 is Microsoft’s subscription service, which gives you access to all of Microsoft’s office programs, including PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and much more.
Microsoft used to provide VoIP phone service with Skype for Business plans, while video conferencing and internal communications were handled with Microsoft Teams. However, since 2020 saw Teams explode in popularity, Microsoft has since merged the services. This is part of a global rebranding effort: Everything once called “Office 365” is now Microsoft 365.
You can still sign up for Skype on its own if you’d rather not have all of Microsoft’s software. You won’t be able to get a true phone service that replaces your desk phone, however. But if you’re an individual or very small business, Microsoft 365 could be a great replacement for your phone system.
Setting Up Office 365
All you have to do is go to Microsoft’s website and sign up for their Microsoft 365 standard plan, which gives you access to all of their applications. You can download these apps to your computer and mobile phone, or you can use the web-based versions through your web browser. We highly recommend downloading them as they work faster this way.
If you need a virtual phone number, log into your Skype account and add a number in the country you want. Each country has different costs, but most of the virtual numbers range between $6-10 a month.
Use Teams to handle your video conferencing and messaging between your team members. Teams is a great business tool that more companies are shifting towards, so you may want to get familiar with it.
Most Important Features
We love that Microsoft 365 is easy to use. Probably all of your workers are familiar with Microsoft’s software, if they’re not using it already. That makes it easy to get started with Microsoft 365. Their customer service is quite good and very attentive to any technical issues you might have, and there are a ton of forums where other users can answer your questions.
OneDrive gives you cloud based storage for your files so that you can collaborate with your team members. That’s something that nobody else on this list has to offer. Skype makes international calling easy with affordable per minute rates and international phone numbers.
Best of all, you get all of Microsoft’s programs, which you were probably going to use anyway. If you’re a very small business that doesn’t want to spend extra on VoIP phone service providers, you can get away with Skype and Teams and save a bundle.
Speaking of savings, Microsoft’s prices are jaw dropping. How can they offer their standard plan for just $12.50 a month for each user? It almost feels like you’re committing a crime.
You can save a bit more with the Home plan if you pay up front, as this allows 2-6 people to use the plan for just $99.99 a year. If you’re a very small business or you are self-employed, this could be the best deal for you.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to rip your phone off the wall and beat it with a baseball bat Office Space style. Skype can replace some of your phone calls, but it’s far from a complete phone system, especially if you’re a small business.
Microsoft 365 can work for just about anyone, as long as you don’t truly need a dedicated VoIP provider to handle your phone service. It could act as a residential VoIP solution instead of relying on your home phone to handle business calls. But for larger organizations, you’ll probably need a service that gives you VoIP calling on a larger scale.
If you see VoIP phone services as a secondary need, or a “nice to have” feature, and you intend to use Office software, then Microsoft 365 is the perfect choice for you. It’s also one of the most affordable VoIP providers.
Microsoft provides a very reliable service, and if you don’t cheap out and get the basic plan, you won’t even need an internet connection to use the main Office programs.
Aircall: Manage Your Business Customer Service
We like to think of Aircall as a light version of RingCentral or Nextiva. Instead of worrying about hosted VoIP PBX or SIP trunking, they just focus on providing the best VoIP call possible. Their phone services are excellent and easy to use. They also place a heavy emphasis on customer relationship management, or CRM, and have several features that nobody else has thought of.
Aircall’s service is exclusively online and runs through the Aircall apps. You can set up a call center to deliver the best customer service possible. While they don’t offer physical phone systems, their software makes them a top VoIP provider.
Aircall can be a good residential VoIP option, or a solid VoIP service for business customers. It’s easy to use and has plenty of call features that your business needs. For instance, there’s the “warm transfer” feature that lets you talk to your coworker before passing off a client, or the Interactive Voice Menu that uses AI to talk to clients and direct them to a staff member.
Setting Up Aircall
Aircall is extremely easy to set up. Just create an account and download the software. You can even try their VoIP calling for free. But if you want to dive deep into the Aircall rabbit hole, you can. It’s one of the only VoIP providers that has a marketplace where you can download more apps and integrate them into your Aircall experience.
You can even go further and connect your own applications with Aircall using their API. Of course, this is a feature only programmers would be able to take advantage of. However, if you’ve got one on your staff or don’t mind hiring one, you can customize Aircall to your liking. It’s easily one the most flexible VoIP provider we’ve come across.
As a phone system, however, Aircall might not be the best option. Inbound calls are totally free, but outgoing calls come at a price, one that Aircall refuses to publish on its website. So you may not be able to rely on Aircall to replace your phone service if you frequently make calls.
Most Important Features
The most attractive feature of Aircall is its ability to integrate with over 50 apps. No other VoIP provider has that level of integration. It’s also very modern, with features your IT staff will love, like easy user management and custom call forwarding options.
They have international numbers in over 100 countries, which can help an international business to keep work flowing smoothly. Toll free numbers are also available. All of these are managed through the Aircall software, which links to each user’s phone number through their mobile device.
You can take advantage of that feature to make outgoing calls using your existing phone number or individuals’ phone numbers, instead of paying Aircall directly. Ideally, however, you’d like to see an unlimited calling option.
Aircall costs more than most VoIP providers. The cheapest rate is $30 per user per month. You have to have at least 3 users to sign up, making Aircall a tough sell for very small businesses.
More advanced features like analytics and call monitoring require the Professional plan, which gives you some amazing VoIP features but costs $50 a month for each user.
Aircall definitely isn’t cheap, and isn’t designed to completely replace your business phone service. It’s more of an enhancement package that has lots of connectivity with other software. It’s meant for pro-level, advanced users who want the best features right away.
It’s hard to recommend Aircall for most customers. Given its price, it’s a difficult sell. But if you think your business needs a flexible solution for its phone calls, you might want to give Aircall a look. It’s like a high end suit that you need to take to the tailor to get fitted just right.
We can’t call Aircall the best phone service for VoIP calling since it doesn’t offer unlimited call options or provide business phone service, but if you plan on doing nearly everything through your internet connection, it could be a good option for your business.
Mitel: Hosted PBX and SIP Trunking for Business Communications
Mitel makes no attempt to present itself as a residential VoIP provider. They’re not aiming to be a small business service for the little guy. This is a VoIP provider that doesn’t care about your home phone or giving you a great deal. They’re all about professional grade service for large organizations.
This is evident from the homepage, which is locked behind several Captcha challenges. They highlight their small business and midsize & enterprise business phone systems. All of their products are supported by MiCloud, a cloud based VoIP system based on the latest technology.
Their platforms, the MiCloud and MiContact Center, provide your business with strong customer service tools and collaboration software that handles everything from video calls to standard phone calls.
Setting Up Mitel
Mitel requires you to contact their sales team in order to start using their services. They have a network of partners that handle installation and setup. Clearly, this service isn’t meant to be activated with little more than an email and a credit card.
Mitel recommends buying their IP phones, and they even have their own model called the 6900 series. Their partners can come to your business and evaluate your needs. You’ll get a full price proposal.
Most Important Features
Mitel’s service boasts a very powerful cloud network that ensures your call comes in with the best quality possible. They also provide training services to your employees if they’re not familiar with VoIP software. Their customer support is top notch, and with their network of service providers, you won’t have to wait long if something breaks down.
Their applications are robust and have all the main features you’re looking for. They can customize the features according to your needs, and target major industries such as healthcare or government buildings.
They also make sure that data you share through their system is compliant with data privacy laws, which is important for larger corporations.
Mitel is not very transparent about their pricing. Perhaps it’s one of those “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” situations. They recommend their Premier plan, which costs $26.59 for each user, but the estimates are based on organizations with at least 50 users.
If you compare that price to what Nextiva or RingCentral charges for the same number of users, it’s definitely more expensive. Considering that they’re likely to charge you for some installation with one of their partners, that’ll add to the cost too.
If you’re a big corporate customer that doesn’t mind splurging on VoIP service, then consider giving Mitel a call. However, it’s clearly not a service that’s designed for the little guy, even if they do advertise small business service.
Ooma Telo: The Best Residential VoIP Phone System
Ooma is an interesting company. They offer the most innovative residential VoIP service, which is free after you buy an Ooma Telo unit. Call as much as you like at home, or call from your cell phone while you’re out with the Ooma mobile app.
Their business solution is also starting to gain ground. They offer VoIP phones and have flat rates for pricing that make their service very transparent.
Setting Up Ooma
For residential VoIP, Ooma sells Telo units that connect to your internet network at home. This then transforms your home phone into a VoIP calling machine, and lets you make a call from any device in your home, including your mobile phones.
Business VoIP is more akin to what you’d get from RingCentral. There’s an app you download and install on your devices, and you can start calling immediately. If you want to set up IP phones, you can do that too.
Ooma makes it easy to build your own phone system with simple questions and easy to understand information. Whether you run your business out of your home and want a replacement for your home phone, or need to upgrade your office VoIP capabilities, Ooma has something for you.
Most Important Features
Ooma has most of the features we’ve discussed already, but one that we really love is the fact that residential VoIP is free after you buy the unit. Nobody else has anything like it!
Another cool feature is that you can link up your Ooma Telo with other smart devices, like Philips Hue lights, letting you turn your room into a disco when somebody gives you a call.
Residential VoIP is free after you buy an Ooma Telo, which starts at $99.99. You do have to pay local phone taxes each month, but these typically cost about $5-6.
Business prices are $19.99 monthly for each user that you want to sign up.
We highly recommend Ooma for residential VoIP, but we would encourage business customers to explore all their options. Ooma certainly provides a good business VoIP service, but for a bit more you can get a lot more in terms of features and function.