VoIP Services Review
What is VoIP Service?
The top performers in our review are Phone Power, the Gold Award winner; VOIP.com, the Silver Award winner; and Broadvoice, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of ten VoIP services.
Most people associate VoIP with free, personal services like Skype and FaceTime. These services are great for connecting you to family and friends but represent only a small facet of what VoIP services are capable of.
What Is VoIP Service?
VoIP, voice over internet protocol, is a flexible service that has quickly gained popularity in the business world. VoIP transmits calls over the internet rather than the typical phone network. This allows you to access your phone network from virtually anywhere there is a mobile connection.
VoIP systems offer substantial cost savings compared to traditional phone systems. Often, they have lower monthly fees and provide exceptionally low rates for calls, especially international calls. Additionally, most VoIP systems have features not found with regular phone systems, such as voicemail to email forwarding and apps that allow you to answer your calls even when you’re away from your desk. VoIP services are a great option for home use and small businesses; if you have one phone in a home office or up to ten phones, you can pick the plan that best meets your organization’s needs.
VoIP Options for Business
If you are looking for an enterprise system that can handle 15 phones at once or more, check out our business VoIP site, or if you will be placing a high number of international calls, check out our international call services site. If you are in the market for a VoIP system, we encourage you to read our articles about VoIP services.
VoIP Services: How We Tested, What We Found
Staying connected is the backbone of your business; having a reliable phone system is part of an essential communication between you and your customers. To test these VoIP services, we obtained a basic trial from each service. These trials were acquired independently, and the companies had no influence over our decisions, nor were they given any additional information about the results prior to publication.
VoIP System Setup & Accessibility
Setup is a huge part of selecting a VoIP system. When you select a service, you want to rest assured that you will be able to easily access the service and set it up without hassle or unnecessary extra steps.
When we evaluated the accessibility of services, we looked for a few key features. One of these features was how easy it was to access and sign up for the service. Were we able to input our information into an online form and fulfill our request? Or, did we have to go through multiple steps before receiving access to a service? Once the service was attained, we evaluated the setup process. How many steps did it take between receiving the service and being able to place calls?
Another thing we looked for was the ability to place calls on the first try. For example, even though we specifically requested plans that would allow us to make international calls, some VoIP providers required us to go through additional activation steps for international calling once the plan was set up.
One VoIP service that did exceptionally well in this test was Broadvoice. This service has an online form that is easy to understand and submit to the company. Our VoIP adapters were shipped almost immediately, and even more helpful was the no-charge softphone. With the softphone, we were able to instantly access the Broadvoice network and begin placing calls. The platform was easy to use and calls went through with no issues.
In our tests, we looked for the overall sound and quality of the calls. Could we clearly hear the party and could they clearly hear us? To test this, we placed calls to local and international numbers. This helped us determine how well a service could connect, no matter what our calling needs were. During these calls, we surveyed features of the calls and asked those we called to fill out forms rating how well they could hear us, how much feedback the calls had and how much background noise got through. We also noted if a call was dropped or had difficulty establishing a connection.
In our tests, VOIPo performed well even though it falls in the middle of the lineup. The calls were clear on both ends with very little feedback.
Help & Support
The last key feature we examined in VoIP service providers is help and support options. We evaluated common things, like whether they have a searchable FAQ and knowledgebase or if they provide comprehensive installation manuals. We also looked closely at more important features, like the quality of support provided by service representatives.
We tested response and hold times for phone, email and live chat. We also looked for support that was helpful and representatives that were knowledgeable about their service rather than those who just referred us to pages on the company website.
Vonage, a popular name in VoIP service providers, provided helpful customer support. It offers all of the features we were looking for, including live chat. Wait times were reasonable, and when we connected with agents over chat or the phone, they were helpful and knowledgeable. Another thing we appreciated was that support agents did not try to upsell us on products or push new, costly features on us.
Picking the Best VoIP Service Plan for Your Needs
VoIP service plans and costs are one of the biggest factors for deciding which VoIP service you choose for your small business. For example, many VoIP providers offer low rates for long-term contracts –one or two years. While month-to-month plans are more convenient, they often come with higher fees. Each VoIP service on our featured lineup includes a month-to-month plan and long-term contracts.
VoIP provider plans vary in what they offer in features, the number of international minutes they provide and whether Puerto Rice is considered domestic. For example, some services include X11 services, like 411 calling, for no additional cost, while other plans charge extra for this add-on feature. When services include features for no additional costs, we gave them full credit. If companies charge extra for these features, they only received partial credit in these sections.
Another important aspect of your internet phone service plan is the long-distance and international rates it provides. One of VoIP’s biggest draws is that it provides less expensive long-distance and international calling. If these features are important to you, make sure to pick a plan that works for you. Some services, like VoIP.com, offer unlimited world plans. Others, like RingCentral, focus on local calls. This can be a plus if you don’t call internationally on a regular basis and are looking for a low-cost, high-quality service.
Each VoIP system provider on our lineup features unlimited minutes. As with any unlimited feature, unlimited may not mean truly unlimited. Most often, the number of minutes you are allotted are constrained by what each VoIP phone system determines as reasonable use. Excessive calling can lead to extra charges. Make sure to read the fine print of each service provider to find the “unlimited” plan that works best for you.
Online VoIP Account Management
VoIP providers all provide online account management through portals accessible via their websites. While each service has this feature, not every online dashboard has the same functionality. 8X8 has a user dashboard that is clearly marked and easy to use; it even provides a softphone so you can make calls without any hardware setup. Other providers have convoluted dashboards that are difficult to work with.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
The best and most efficient VoIP services we tested permit you to place calls easily without the hassle of extra setup or dropped calls. They provide quality calls without feedback or excessive noise on either end.
Our top three services, Phone Power, Voip.com and Broadvoice, provide exceptional call quality and friendly customer service. If you are looking for a company that provides a high level of service with a focus on local calling, RingCentral is a good choice. While the company does not offer international plans, it focuses on business solutions that allow you to take your calls on the go.
Another noteworthy choice is 8X8. This service offers a variety of custom plans for clients. While you cannot fill out an online form or have instant access to a service, you are paired with a support representative who walks you through the steps of developing a customized plan for your small business. This is helpful if you have a little more time and do not need a plan right away.
VoIP phone services offer a more reasonably priced and feature-rich option than a traditional phone service. Depending on your needs, whether it is cutting costs or getting more features from your phone service, the selections on our lineup present workable solutions for small business telecommunication needs.