Small businesses need to be able to communicate with clients quickly and efficiently. A regular phone line can be useful for some, but as more and more business moves online, you should be looking for a VoIP provider instead of relying on landlines. Best of all, you can get free VoIP solutions and save your business even more money!
While free VoIP options may not offer all of the features of paid plans, they’re a great way to get started with VoIP and get your business going. Instead of an expensive business phone system, you can start out with free audio and video calls, instant messaging, and even get a real phone number that your customers can call. There are even more features that you can get with a VoIP provider, but how does it all work?
What Is VoIP?
VoIP means Voice over Internet Protocol. Let’s break that down for a second. Internet Protocol is how computers communicate with one another over the internet. Everything from your emails to your aunt’s questionable Facebook posts depend on internet protocol to function. Voice over Internet Protocol is a special set of instructions to send audio in real-time over the internet.
Without VoIP, you would only be able to record audio and send it when the recording is finished, similar to how you might leave a voicemail or send a voice note on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. VoIP lets you have a conversation in real-time online.
VoIP calls require an internet connection to function, as you might have guessed. While wired connections work best, you can use Wi-Fi as well without any issues as long as the signal is decent. You can even use mobile phones with a data plan to make a VoIP call, all you need to do is install a mobile app on your device.
What Is SIP?
If you’ve been reading up on VoIP providers, chances are you’ve come across SIP. And no, we’re not talking about taking a sip of your favorite drink! SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol, and it works alongside VoIP. SIP is responsible for establishing the real-time connection between two devices.
SIP is used in video calling and conference calls that require VoIP. For example, when you first place an audio-video call using your VoIP software, SIP will tell the device on the other end that this connection needs to remain open and allow live streaming. Once that’s done, VoIP takes over and transmits the data.
It’s a lot like when you place a regular phone call. You know how there’s a delay between when you first dial and when the phone starts ringing? That’s essentially what SIP does for online calls, it’s setting up that connection and then you can receive calls.
Why Should My Business Use VoIP?
At first, it’s easy to think that your business doesn’t really need VoIP. After all, isn’t a traditional phone number good enough if all you need to do is make calls? While that solution might be good enough for some small businesses, a free VoIP option can replace that option and save your startup some money.
See, when you sign up with a free VoIP provider, you’ll get a virtual phone number that you can utilize just like you would a regular phone service. You can make calls anywhere in the world, although you might have to pay per minute if you make international calls. Most services offer unlimited calling for incoming calls.
But where VoIP really shines is its flexibility. Your traditional phone line is trapped within the walls of your office or your home. You can’t take that phone number with you. With VoIP, however, you can use a mobile app or VoIP software on any device and have access to your number wherever you are.
How Can I Get Free VoIP?
We know by now you’re salivating at the prospect of using VoIP for your business calls. So, how do you get started? Fortunately, it’s not too difficult. You can find several providers offering free VoIP service in the United States.
All you need to start is an email address to sign up for these accounts. You don’t need to provide a physical address for your business VoIP account, which is perfect if you work from home or have an online-only business. Since there’s no installation involved, you can get your free account going in minutes and be ready to make VoIP phone calls like a pro.
Of course, not all service providers are created equal. There are many out there that advertise a free phone number that, in reality, offer very little in the way of free services. Plenty of these businesses are just trying to lure people into paying more.
Are Free VoIP Providers Any Good?
While there are definitely some that are just trying to sucker people out of their hard-earned money, we’ve looked for the best VoIP providers that offer free VoIP software. To make this list, the service has to do more than just give you a virtual number.
They need to also have some kind of VoIP software platform that you can install on your computer or a mobile app you can use. We also looked for companies with a good reputation and a solid history of providing calls using the internet. Above all, they had to have a free plan that would let you have access to these features.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the four best free VoIP services that we were able to find.
Dialpad: Among the Most Advanced Free VoIP Providers
Dialpad came into existence thanks to the VoIP software engineers that worked on Google Voice. Nearly everyone on their leadership team worked at Google and helped develop their potent VoIP software, so you know that Dialpad knows what they’re doing. After working on Google Voice, they decided to form their own company in 2015 because they wanted to add even more features than Google was willing to.
They hope to rid the world of the boring old desk phone, and we can’t thank them enough for their commitment to it. While they don’t proudly promote their free services on their site, they have been offering a free plan to new customers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given how many people have had to shift to working from home, it’s nice to see a company that looks to support people in a time of need.
With Dialpad, you can count on having access to the latest features and high-quality VoIP software. It’s no wonder why so many businesses rely on Dialpad’s system for their VoIP calls.
A Robust Business Phone System
The main app that Dialpad promotes is called Dialpad Talk, which aims to replace your entire business phone system with a single platform. They have VoIP software for your Mac or PC. Using this software, you can make calls, receive calls, and use instant messaging features.
They also have a version for your mobile devices so you can stay connected even when you’re on your tablet or your cell phone. You can leave multiple devices logged in and take a call or place a call from any one of them at any time.
The software even allows you to set up your own call center and includes automated features that can keep clients comfortable while they wait for the next representative to be available.
Powered by the Cloud
One of the most common criticisms of VoIP is that it’s unreliable. While that used to be true, that argument holds about as much water as a colander today. Now that we have cloud technology, it’s almost impossible for these services to go down. Dialpad uses the cloud to make sure there’s always a server able to handle your call.
For a small business, this is extremely important. If your service is dropping calls or experiencing lag, your clients are certainly not going to be impressed. Fortunately, Dialpad’s system has never had an outage to date and can proudly boast a 100% uptime.
Excellent Video Conferencing
Dialpad didn’t just stop at voice calls. They recognized that voice video features like video conferencing were important to their customers. Dialpad conferencing is integrated into its VoIP software, so you won’t need a second app to access these services.
Video conferencing is the best substitute for old school conference calling. It provides you with other features like screen sharing and HD video, meaning you can have realistic interactions as if you were sitting in a meeting room. Best of all, you avoid that one smelly coworker.
No business VoIP software is complete without this feature, and we’re glad to see that Dialpad allows you to use it as part of its free plan.
Although this feature is only available on the free trial of a standard plan, it’s one we have to mention. Voice Intelligence automatically analyzes your calls and provides you with a transcript of the call, including highlights and a summary of the main points.
How does this work? It’s not magic, it’s just the latest in artificial intelligence. By listening to your call and identifying phrases that repeat several times, it can figure out what topics appear in your meetings and it’ll make a list of them. But it doesn’t end there, oh no.
This intelligent VoIP software can even analyze other factors such as the tone of your voice and gauge the response from other people on the call. It listens for command verbs as well, so it can even give you a list of things to do after the meeting is over. Now you can finally sleep through meetings and still look as though you were paying attention.
Paying for Dialpad
The free service probably won’t last for long. Sign up as soon as you can to get the most out of Dialpad for free. If you like the service that Dialpad provides, consider upgrading. Their standard plan costs just $15 per month and gives you unlimited calling plus video conferencing features.
Bitrix24: Free VoIP Software With CRM
Bitrix24 is another VoIP phone service that offers an incredible free plan, one that’s only gotten better in the last couple of years. However, unlike Dialpad, they focus a bit more on internet communications within your company. Bitrix24 aims to be your one-stop shop for everything your business needs, whether it’s VoIP software, customer relationship management, or project management tools.
One slight disadvantage, however, is that Bitrix24 stopped providing free virtual phone numbers in 2021. In order to get virtual phone numbers from Bitrix24, you do have to upgrade to one of their commercial plans. However, you can get phone numbers from 43 different countries, each with a single monthly rate that provides unlimited calling for inbound calls, and extremely affordable rates on outbound calls.
If you can overlook that, Bitrix24’s free plan is one of the most extensive we’ve seen. You’ll get access to all kinds of services for your business. If you are looking for a system that can do more than just handle phone calls, consider Bitrix24.
Manage Customer Relations
Perhaps the best feature of Bitrix24 is its Customer Relationship Management software. CRM has been proven to boost sales and keep customers coming back by providing them with a personalized and consistent experience. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of customer service and turns your contact center into a virtual luxury lounge.
Their software starts by organizing all of your communications into a single portal. Whether you want to communicate with your customers via email, instant messaging, or voice calls, you can do it all from the same window. Even if you use multiple methods of communication, every action will be saved there for you to review.
Bitrix 24 also has toll free numbers so your clients can call toll free. This makes Bitrix24 more than phone service: it turns it into a fully-featured business VoIP service that provides it all.
Bitrix24 takes the same approach to your internal affairs. They make it easy to call your colleagues and start conference calls or use video calling. This is great for businesses that have employees working from home or for a business whose workers are scattered around multiple locations.
They even have project management software with features like Gantt charts and their famous “Activity Stream” that acts as a news feed, telling you exactly what’s going on in your company at all times. It’s almost like a social media platform for your internal business activity.
Of course, the best features are set aside for professional business plans. The Sales Intelligence feature gives you access to valuable business intelligence data. You can set your own KPIs and the software will analyze all of your activity and tell you what you need to improve.
Paying for Bitrex24
Bitrex24’s free plan is one of the best we’ve ever seen. They even took away their limit to the number of users that could be on a free plan, so it’s perfect for all kinds of businesses. Even their paid plans are billed differently from the competitors.
While many other providers charge per user per month, Bitrex24’s plans include a maximum number of users. For example, the CRM+ plan lets you have up to 6 users, and only charges $55 per month. At less than $10 per month per user, that’s an incredible deal.
Even if you’re looking for free VoIP options, Bitrex24 offers you a path to upgrading that we greatly appreciate.
Google Voice: One of the Best Free VoIP Solutions
No list of free phone replacements would be complete without Google’s products. Google Voice provides people in the United States with a free virtual number that allows people to call you directly or for you to make free calls.
And with a price of Free Ninety-Nine per month, it’s hard to compete against Google. Like any other VoIP option, you’ll need to stay connected to the internet to use Google Voice. If you have a data plan for your phone that’ll do, or you can rely on Wi-Fi.
On its own, Google doesn’t have too many features. It’s a simple app that allows you to make or receive a call, and send messages back and forth. If you need other features, you can use Google’s other software.
Google Meet for Video Conferences
You can make video calls using HD video with Google Meet. Google loves to have multiple apps for every one of its services, which could be annoying for some people who prefer an all-in-one solution. But beggars can’t be choosers. Don’t complain about free.
Google Meet allows you to make unlimited video calls with up to 100 participants. You’ll have one hour for free per meeting, which is better than the 40 minutes per call that Zoom allows you to have without paying.
You can download the app and run Google Meet on your phone, or you can open a tab in your web browser just like you do for your Gmail.
Although it’s primarily focused on text messages and group chats, Google Hangouts can also make video calls and audio calls. Hangouts is automatically integrated into your Gmail window when you have it open, so you don’t need to open yet another tab.
Google’s options are powered by Google’s industry-leading cloud network, so you shouldn’t have to worry about outages. However, there was an unprecedented recent Google crash that put the world on hold for about an hour.
If you and your employees already rely on Google’s services, it only makes sense to incorporate these VoIP tools into your business. While Google may not have the fancy features of the other options on our list, it’s easy to use and doesn’t cost a dime.
Asterisk: The Open Source Solution
We normally try to keep these lists free of services that require a ton of technical know-how, but we know that smart business owners are able to hire people with skills they may not have. That’s probably what you’re going to need to do if you want to use Asterisk.
Asterisk is an open-source software. This means that it is free to download and use. The downside is that most open-source software isn’t ready to go right out of the box. It’ll take some configuration that requires programming skills. If you don’t have those, call your tech guy or look for someone who does.
Why would you bother with such a hassle? Well, open-source software can essentially do whatever you want as long as you set it up correctly. If you want features that none of these other options have, like call forwarding, call recording, or call transfer, you could program the system to do those things for you.
Design Your Own VoIP Phone System
You can literally build your own VoIP app from the ground up using open source software like Asterisk. Asterisk can be combined with other tools to custom build a phone system from scratch. While this won’t be the best option for most businesses, it allows you to address very specific needs that other providers have mostly ignored.
You won’t be able to create your own virtual phone numbers, however. You’ll need a real number that you can attach to your system if you want regular numbers to call you. But you can set up custom call forwarding and other features that nobody else has even thought of yet.
This is also a good option if you value data privacy and don’t trust other companies with your data in their cloud servers. So if you’re starting an underground organ trading service (please don’t) then perhaps going open source is right for you. In reality, open source could save you a fortune down the line. While the up-front cost is significant, whatever you design is yours, so you won’t have to make monthly payments after that.
The Best Free VoIP Option
We would strongly recommend Bitrex24 for its robust set of features and excellent upgrade path. It’s one of the most affordable options if you decide to move on from the free plan. Google is still the best option if you have to have a virtual number. All these options have free trials, so explore which services are right for your business and enjoy.