Business Phone Plans Compared: Key Pricing and Feature Differences to Lookout For

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While today an increasing number of businesses are preferring to use various digital platforms such as live chat, social media, etc. for their business communications, the telephone still is a vital means of communication that is irreplaceable.

Most businesses are switching to VoIP-based services for the benefits they offer in terms of a lower cost, robust and a wide array of features like unlimited calling, auto attendant, voicemail, faxing, etc. that gives even small businesses the flexibility and capability of doing much more like large organizations.

In this article, we will be discussing some of the key factors that businesses consider when deciding on a phone business plan for their organization and what makes one phone plan better than the other.

Key Factors That Businesses Consider When Choosing a Business Phone Plan

Hardware/ Equipment

VoIP phone systems are quite inexpensive as they are completely handled by 3rd party service providers. Usually, the monthly cost for VoIP phone systems includes a monthly fee per user and the costs can range between $5 – $35 per user per month. Most of the service providers do not charge a setup fee for the phone system and offer a wide array of features. If you are opting for an all-virtual phone system, then this is all you will need to pay.

 

However, if you connect the VoIP system to a phone network, then you will incur extra costs of the IP phone handsets and the infrastructure for the system. With a cloud-based VoIP phone service, you don’t have to worry about the installation, maintenance and upgrading of the hardware, as all this is handled by the service provider. Many of the VoIP service providers offer the option of working with your existing phone system only, while other services such as RingCentral offer hosted-PBX solutions.

 

International Calling

While most of the VoIP business plans offer unlimited domestic calls, most service providers do not offer free international calling in their plans. The international calls are usually charged and the cost depends on the call destination and usually start at around $0.01 per minute. The rates can also vary depending on the location of your business and your phone plan.

 

Some of the service providers offer a certain number of international calling minutes free of cost for an extra payment of around $5 – $10 per month. However, it is a good idea to read the fine print as several of the plans which claim things like “500 international minutes free” work only in certain countries and with only particular numbers. And, if you’re looking for international calling specifically, you can opt for 8×8, which includes free international calling with its basic plan, which no other service provider offers.

 

There are 2 types of international numbers:

Local International Number

These are more common. For example, if you get a local number in Mexico with RingCentral, then your phone number will have the same are code like the locals of Mexico and your incoming calls will be free, however, you will have to pay the standard international rates for the outgoing calls.

 

On the other hand, with Phone.com, for a charge of $5, you can get a local international number valid in over 30 countries and for an additional 9 countries at $12 per line. While in this case, the number that you have is local, you will be charged international rates for both the incoming, as well as, the outgoing calls.

 

International 800 Number

800 numbers or toll-free numbers are not very common and not all service providers offer them. Also, they are more expensive. For instance, RingCentral charges around $15 per line per month for a US 800 number which is within another country. Any caller calling your international 800 number within their country will not have to pay any charges for calling. However, you need to pay for all the incoming and outgoing calls.

 

Some service providers offer toll-free minutes along with their basic plan at low rates and sometimes these international minutes may even be free; however, once you have exhausted these toll-free minutes, any additional minutes will be charged. Toll-free numbers have many advantages. They offer the perception that your business is much larger than it is, it is easier for your customers to remember and also allows customers to call your business free of cost.

 

You also have the option of calling other users on the same VoIP phone service network free of cost irrespective of the location.

 

Integration with Apps

Integration of the phone system with key platforms and apps such as Microsoft, Google, SalesForce, Desk.com, Zendesk, Office 365 is an essential feature, especially for medium- and large-sized organizations as they operate with several of these tools and having them as part of the phone system can help to decide if the business will choose the particular phone service provider vis-à-vis another.

 

For example, RingCentral offers integrations with Dropbox, Google Box and Microsoft, while providers like 8×8, Vonage and Nextiva do not offer these integrations, making RingCentral an obvious choice for businesses working with these platforms.

 

Pricing Features

The calling with a VoIP-based phone system that you select for your business really depends on your calling habits and the needs of your business. If you do not use your phone very frequently, you could choose a pay-as-you-go Plan or a metered plan where you will be charged a per minute rate for the calls and this could cost you very little in the long term.

 

Whereas, if you make calls very regularly, then choosing an unlimited plan is a better option, which is quite affordable too. Unlimited plans offer unlimited local and long distance calls within the US and Canada area. International plans offer unlimited calls to specific countries and on-network calls with your phone provider is free irrespective of where your business is located.

 

Number Portability

Retaining the same number even when moving the business phone service from one service provider to another is extremely important for most businesses. Your phone number is essentially the identity of your business and an important way by which your customers and clients remember your business. Many VoIP service providers offer number portability for a one-time fee, while others like RingCentral offer number portability free of cost.

 

Contract vs No Contract

Depending on the requirements of your business, you can decide whether to enter into a long-term contract with a VoIP service provider or not. While entering into a long-term contract with the VoIP service provider can help you get a considerably cheaper rate per month and can offer hefty savings on your phone bill. Also, sometimes the service provider may also provide the phone equipment free of cost. A month-to-month contract offers more flexibility and you will not get locked in with a specific service provider for a long period of time.

 

If you are planning to enter into a long-term contract with a VoIP service provider, you must decide whether it is a good idea to enter into a contract or not. Service providers like Jive, Vonage, etc. offer per month plans, while service providers such as Broadvoice have both metered plans, as well as, yearly contracts. The longer the contract you enter into, the stronger your position for negotiation will be. You can decide whether entering a contract is right for your business or not on basis of a few factors such as:

  • How long to plan to retain the VoIP service?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you need any hardware/ equipment?
  • How many extensions are needed?

 

If you are already a VoIP customer, then you probably have all the equipment required to enable the VoIP phone service. In such a situation, you can negotiate a few months of free service to enter a year contract or you could opt to forgo a contract if you want flexibility at a later date. However, if you’re a new VoIP customer, some service providers may offer discounted equipment when you sign up with the service or may even offer the equipment free of cost. You could try negotiating for free phones and some free months of usage as an alternative option or you could consider a service provider offering a monthly service.

 

Most of the VoIP service providers offer free trial periods that allow you to test the services before signing up. This is the best way by which you can check out the various factors such as the features of the service, call quality of the various service providers and other factors before deciding on the best one for your business.

 

Other Features

The best part about choosing a VoIP plan for your business is that you get a range of several useful call management and collaboration tools. You must ensure that the phone service provider that you choose offers all the features that are required by your business such as auto attendant or virtual receptionist, IVR, business messaging, call forwarding, call queuing, call hold, conference calling, call recording, voicemail-to-email transcription, hold music, assigning extensions, etc.

 

With so many VoIP service providers available today, making the choice of the right one for your business can be quite a difficult and challenging decision. So, it is a good idea for you to compare the various business providers and plans available in terms of the features, pricing, etc. and make a final decision so that you have an efficient and productive business phone system.

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