Zoom went from being a little-known video conferencing tool to being the most essential service of 2020. Schools switched to Zoom, big businesses embraced Zoom, and even friends turned their Friday fun nights into Zoom meetings. In 2021, Zoom continues to be a force to be reckoned with, and they even have other services that you might not have heard of. Today we’re going to look at Zoom phone pricing and features of the Zoom phone system.
Now, if you’ve never heard of Zoom phone, you might be confused. What does Zoom have to do with phones? Unbeknownst to many, Zoom also offers a cloud-based business phone system that rivals the best offerings of other VoIP providers like Nextiva and RingCentral.
Zoom Phone Pricing and Features of Zoom Explained
Isn’t Zoom Just a Video Conferencing App?
Most of us have probably only used Zoom to make video calls. Everyone knows that their software has become the gold standard for video conferencing. With its plethora of audience participation features, its high quality and reliable video transmission, and its convenient integrations with other software, there’s plenty to love about Zoom’s video conferencing. However, Zoom has had a business phone system for quite some time now.
If you still need Zoom for video conferencing, fear not because you can get both the video app and your phone service bundled together, as we’ll see when we take a closer look at Zoom phone plans. In fact, for just a few dollars more per month, you could have a virtual phone service and a power web conferencing solution, all from the same provider.
If you already pay for Zoom and you’re thinking about getting a virtual phone service, then you definitely need to learn about Zoom phone. It would almost be foolish to pay anyone else if you truly need both services. But can Zoom phone keep up with the competition? Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Zoom Phone?
Zoom Phone is basically a virtual phone system. A virtual phone system uses the servers in a data center to make and receive calls, in lieu of traditional phone lines. When you use a virtual phone system, any device connected to the internet can make or receive a phone call. You’re no longer dependent on your local phone company, and you don’t have to use traditional phones that plug into the jacks in your walls.
Zoom markets its virtual phone system as Zoom Phone, and it has its own app that you can download from Zoom once you become a paying customer. When you sign up, you’ll get a virtual phone number that you can use to make calls. Other people can dial this number and reach you wherever you are as long as you have the Zoom phone app installed on your device.
For businesses, Zoom phone has extra features that can replace your typical business phone service entirely. If you need extensions, you can get those from Zoom. If you seriously need desk phones, you can still get ones that work with Zoom’s technology. You’ll always be connected and ready to get to work. But what wizardry could make such a system possible?
How Does a Cloud Phone System Work?
The secret sauce that makes Zoom phone so delicious isn’t actually that big of a secret. It’s called VoIP, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol. This technology has existed for well over 20 years now, and it’s matured to the point where it can handle all of your business phone needs. It might have been the butt of jokes a couple of decades ago, but today VoIP is ready for the big time.
VoIP lets you take voice data from your computer or mobile device and beam it up to the internet. From there, your data gets sent to data centers packed full of powerful servers. Zoom uses Amazon’s cloud system, known as Amazon Web Services. It’s a very reliable cloud system that has not had a major outage since its inception.
The data centers know which numbers are connected to which devices, so once a call reaches the center it simply connects it automatically. It’s like the old-timey switchboards, except instead of a person sitting on a stool plugging cables into different ports, computer software routes calls to where they’re needed. The end result is a calling experience that is just as seamless as your typical phone call on a landline.
Can I Make Zoom Meetings With Zoom Phone?
If you’re considering Zoom phone, you probably already love Zoom meetings and want to continue to use Zoom for your video conferencing. The good news is that this is absolutely possible if you choose the right plan. Zoom phone has plans that only offer the phone service, but there is a complete package that includes video conferencing with phone calls.
In fact, Zoom phone is so integrated with video calls that you can actually turn your phone call into a Zoom meeting with a single click. If both of you are using the Zoom phone app, a video conference can start immediately. If the caller is using their cell phone, you can text them a link to join your video call and they can switch to the Zoom video app on their device.
So, no matter what your situation is, you can definitely continue to use Zoom for every video call in addition to making phone calls with Zoom phone. But how much more will you have to spend to get all of these features?
How Much Does Zoom Phone Cost Per Month?
Zoom Video Communications has four plans for their phone service, and only one of these includes video meetings. Unlike their other services, Zoom doesn’t offer a discount when you pay for the whole year upfront unless you opt for the most expensive plan. Plans for Zoom phone range from $10 per month to $25 a month, and all prices are charged per user.
Regardless of the plan you choose, each user will get a virtual phone number and access to the app so that you can make calls from any device. All of Zoom’s advanced phone features are included at every level, although there are a couple of extra bells and whistles on the top-level plan. Let’s compare the plans to see which one would be right for your situation.
US & Canada Metered Plan
The metered pay-as-you-go plan gives you unlimited internal calling. This means that you can make calls to other Zoom phone numbers, including other users in your organization, for free! You will also be able to receive calls to your number at no extra charge. The metered plan will only cost extra when you decide to make outbound calls from your Zoom phone number.
This plan only costs $10 per user per month, which makes it a very economically friendly option to start out with Zoom phone. It could be a good choice for small businesses that don’t generally need to make calls. If you only receive calls on a regular basis, this might be the right plan for you.
However, this plan doesn’t include Zoom video so you won’t be able to make a video call. You can, of course, purchase an additional Zoom Meetings license and add that feature on, but we would recommend waiting until you see the Pro plan before doing that. Overall, the metered plan is a barebones option that can get you up and running with a phone number, but probably won’t be enough for most companies.
US & Canada Unlimited Plan
Now this is more like what you expect from a proper phone system. With the unlimited plan, you can forget about being charged extra for making calls on your Zoom phone. You’ll get unlimited calling within the US and Canada, and just like on the metered plan, you can take as many incoming calls as you can handle. You’ll also get unlimited SMS to send to any number you desire.
This plan costs $15 per month per user, making it a reasonable option for a virtual phone service. Compared to many of its competitors, this is actually much more affordable. When you consider that the leading competitors like Nextiva and RingCentral charge upwards of $20 for this same level of service, Zoom phone starts to look appealing.
You still don’t have video meetings yet, but you could always opt to use the free version of Zoom for short meetings of up to 40 minutes. This is the plan we would recommend for most small business customers that are just looking for a reliable phone system and not much else.
Pro Global Select Plan
But what if your business needs to make calls outside of the United States or Canada? In that case, it’s time to upgrade to the Pro Global Select plan. Select gives you unlimited domestic calling in over 40 countries! Most of these are in the European Union and Latin America, but there are a few outliers, such as Singapore and South Africa.
This plan will set you back a solid $20 per user per month. It’s not cheap, but neither is international calling with your phone company. In fact, you’ll save a lot of money by using a virtual phone service instead of a traditional phone line. If you need even more nations on your list, you can add on an extra plan that gives you 18 countries in addition to the original 40.
We like this plan for businesses that have to make frequent calls abroad. If your business has multiple locations around the world or frequently does business with any of the countries included in the Select plan, then it’s clearly a great choice for your business. However, for just a teeny bit more you can upgrade to the United Pro level, and that’s really where you ought to be.
Zoom United Pro Plan
This is the Thanksgiving dinner of Zoom phone plans. With United Pro, you get everything in the Unlimited plan plus all the Zoom video meetings you can shake a stick at! While you won’t get the same level of international calling as you do with the Global Select plan, the addition of video meetings with up to 100 participants more than makes up for it.
Oh, and the price is pretty impressive. Billed monthly, this plan costs $25 per user. If you decide to pay for the whole year at once, you’ll get two months for free with a final price of $250. When you consider that your normal Zoom video account costs around $15 per month, you’re essentially paying just $10 per month to get unlimited calling. Not even the most competitive virtual phone systems can match that deal.
In addition to your video meeting package, you get 1GB of cloud storage recording. You can use this for call recording or to record your video call in the cloud. This plan is perfect for businesses that need both calling and web conferencing features in the same bundle. You save money by opting for both services from a single provider.
Optional Add-on Plans
Zoom Video Communications also provides several additional services that you can add to any of the previously mentioned plans. This lets you customize your plan to suit your business needs. Here are the four add-on plans that Zoom offers:
Toll-free numbers let customers call you for free. This is a great way to encourage people to call your company directly. You can decide whether your toll-free number is the default business number, or if you want to use it as a secondary number for people to call.
Each toll-free number costs $5 per month to add to your plan. You can add as many as you like at any time.
Additional Phone Numbers
Besides toll-free numbers, you can also add another business number or order a specific international number. This is great if you just need to focus on one international destination or if you would like to get a specific local number to appear as if you were operating in that area.
The price varies depending on where the number is based, but each number starts at $5 per month.
Hardware As a Service
While you don’t need a desk phone to use a virtual phone system, many people find that a traditional phone is easy to use. Offices that are switching to a virtual system likely already use their desk phones frequently, so it makes sense to keep your operating procedure the same after making the change. If you think that your employees would prefer to keep desk phones handy, then ask Zoom about their Hardware as a Service option.
You’ll pay about $6 per month per device that you rent from Zoom. They’ll ship desk phones to your company and help you set them up. From there, you can manage them through Zoom’s software. You can configure extensions to these phones or create a call routing hierarchy, wherein calls are routed first to a desk phone, then a computer, and finally to a mobile device. You can, of course, change that order however you want.
Just make sure that your office is ready to adopt these IP phones. IP phones have to be connected to the internet, so you may need to run additional Ethernet cables. There are Wi-Fi models available, so make sure you have plenty of access points in your office to accommodate the influx of new devices.
Extra International Calling
This plan costs $10 per month, but it’s not available on the most basic metered plan. You’ll get unlimited calling to the English-speaking world, as well as major countries in the EU such as the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, and several others.
Before you opt for this, consider whether it would just be cheaper to get a single international number. If you only do business with one foreign country in particular, it’s probably easier to just get a number in that territory and use it for unlimited domestic calling. If you have an international number, you can configure call forwarding to send calls to your office in another country.
If your country is not listed, you can opt to “bring your own carrier”. The option to bring your own carrier lets you connect your phone number with Zoom’s network, however, you’ll have to do a bit of paperwork with your local phone service provider.
Features of the Zoom Phone System
Regardless of the plan you choose, you’ll get the same great Zoom phone features. High call quality is always guaranteed as you’ll use Zoom’s cloud-based network to power all of your calls. You’ll also get unified communications through Zoom’s app, which also lets you launch a video meeting at any time.
If you have the free version of Zoom, then your meeting will be subject to the 40 minutes time limit before kicking you out. However, you’ll still have all the typical Zoom features, like screen sharing and Zoom rooms (breakout rooms). Cloud recording won’t be enabled, but you can record to your PC.
Paid plans include several fancy features. Let’s take a look at some of these features that you get with the Zoom phone service.
Call Routing and Auto Attendant
Call routing is how you get a call to the right destination. You can configure this in Zoom’s software. Every number on your business Zoom account can be configured in specific ways by using call routing. For instance, you could create a rule that says all calls from a certain area code must be routed to a particular call center or office.
If you have workers at home right now, as many businesses do, you’ll want to use call routing to make sure that calls to your business number end up reaching a real person, and not just ringing an empty office. The app is easy to use so it won’t take you long to configure.
If you want to make your life even easier, use the auto attendant. You can set up a menu system so that callers can direct themselves by pressing a number. This is one of the phone features you won’t be able to live without once you’ve tried it.
Secure Data Transmission
Whenever you use Zoom, whether it’s for a phone call or a video meeting, your data is encrypted using the latest standards. There was a bit of controversy around this earlier in 2020 when Zoom claimed that it was encrypting all transmissions. In reality, not every call was protected, and when this issue came to light Zoom apologized and fixed the problem.
This is extremely important if you manage sensitive personal information on calls, especially to the EU. Data privacy laws like the GDPR protect this kind of data, even in phone calls. If you’re not using encryption, someone on your local network or your client’s network could pilfer the data you’re transmitting and hear everything you say!
Security comes standard with all Zoom plans, and you never have to configure anything.
Unified communications are the way of the future. Instead of having one app for texting, another for calls, another for web conferences, and still others for other types of communications, you can do everything in one app. Zoom’s phone app gives you the power to text your colleagues, make phone calls, and start a video meeting whenever you feel like it.
Their app works on desktop PCs and iOS, as well as mobile devices including Android phones. When you run the app on multiple devices, you can configure which devices should ring when you receive a call.
Call recording is a very useful feature. Whether it’s a virtual meeting or a phone call, you can use call recording for a variety of purposes. The files can be saved in the cloud if you’ve purchased the Pro plan, or you can simply record them on the same device you used to make the call. So, why would you bother to record calls?
One reason is for legal protection. Should a client accuse your business of some form of misconduct on a call, being able to pull up the recording and review it could save your company. Likewise, if a client agrees to something over a call and later denies it, you’ll have proof to back up your arguments.
More commonly, companies use call recording to review their employees’ communications with clients. It’s a great way to check on your workers without actually having to intrude on their work. This can improve your call quality and customer service in general.
Nobody likes to see a notification on their phone for a voicemail. With Zoom phone, you’ll never have to use a clumsy voicemail menu ever again. Voicemails on your virtual numbers get turned into useful emails through the magic of artificial intelligence. The Zoom cloud listens to the voicemail and transcribes it into an email, which it can send to any address you choose.
Our Zoom Phone Review
We asked Zoom for a free trial of their Zoom phone service and found it to be an excellent option for our needs. We were up and running in less than an hour after a phone call to the sales team and authorization for 5 free numbers to test out the features. We were able to make calls to those numbers from our mobile phones and the outgoing calls we made were crystal clear.
The real fun came from using the app. Ease of use was clearly a priority, as the app was super clean and easy to understand. We were able to go from audio to video in less than a minute with a single click. On mobile, it was the same story.
Doing a Zoom phone review isn’t easy. It’s tempting to simply see Zoom phone as a secondary service to Zoom’s video solutions since we’re all so used to using Zoom for video only. However, we need to be completely fair.
Room for Improvement
While Zoom phone pricing is unparalleled, it does lack some features that we would like to see. For example, it could use better call blocking and Zoom doesn’t yet have a virtual fax option, which could be a deal-breaker for some companies. Automatic text response for callers who can’t get through would also be greatly appreciated.
Zoom Phone Pricing: Our Final Verdict
We think that Zoom phone is an excellent service that comes in at an incredibly good deal, with one huge caveat: If you need Zoom for video as well. If you already use Zoom to cover your virtual meeting needs, then it’s the right choice for your phone service. It’s one of the best deals on the market for both of those services.
Even when competitors like Nextiva or 8×8 Express offer video in addition to their phone system, it’s usually a few dollars more each month compared to Zoom. Based on our experience, we’d recommend Zoom phone for businesses that are also paying for video separately. Otherwise, you can probably get a better deal on your business phone by looking at RingCentral.