Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Compare Complete VOIP Small Business Telephone Solutions

I recently found out how many different small business telephone solutions are available today when I was asked to help recommend and install a phone system for a small company.

In my research, I chose to focus on VOIP solutions for several reasons:
  1. low cost
  2. ease of installation
  3. convenience of online management
After much background research and comparisons, I narrowed my search down to two providers, Packet 8 and RingCentral.

Here are the benefits of each:

Packet 8

Packet 8 offers both VOIP telephone equipment and service for a reasonable monthly cost. The phone equipment is well designed, fairly easy to use and plugs in using normal RJ11 telephone jacks. High speed internet access is required and the routers connect your telephone lines to your cable modem.

All phone lines are managed online through a control panel, which is a bit confusing at first, where you can modify your settings, phone extensions and system functions.

You can also add dedicated voip fax lines as well by adding an additional router you can purchase from Packet 8.

All plans include unlimited calling in the US, advanced call forwarding, outlook integration, and an auto attendant option that basically manages your incoming calls and routes them to any phone in your system. Each physical phone has a direct number as well as an extension that is available through the attendant.

You can either rent the telephone equipment or purchase it outright.

There are many service plans that start at $39.99 (auto attendant and single phone) depending on where you'd like to call and whether you want to rent or purchase the telephone equipment.

Customer service is available Monday-Saturday during working hours.


RingCentral is setup differently by providing all services except VOIP digital telephone through an online control panel allowing you to get started within minutes of signing up. RingCentral is basically a virtual PBX where you either setup a new business phone number in area code available (or transfer an existing number) and allows you to setup how your callers will be directed without any hardware or equipment.

You can have extensions going to phone numbers anywhere in the world, setup custom greetings, voicemail, setup rules based on time of day, dial by name directories, call forwarding, call screening, music or personalized recorded messages on hold, call screening, caller id, click to call from your web site, outlook integration, call logs, fax on demand, email fax, calling card function and many more.

Service plan costs start at $9.99 a month although you'll most likely end up with the more robust plan at $24.99 which is very reasonable for the features offered. VOIP digital telephone service is available for as little as $4.99 a month and is available in addition to the RingCentral Virtual PBX service.

A 30 day free trial is currently available without obligation. It's one of the only services I found where you can try it and if it's not for you, you can just cancel and walk away.

Support is available 24 hours a day and is quite helpful.

Bottom Line

In comparing these two services I took the following into consideration.

The company I was helping already had phone lines and numbers active in their office and had many contractors working with them throughout the country. The office was small and the principals often worked from home and traveled.

With these factors the RingCentral plan made the most sense for their company. I recommended the Digital VOIP service for their physical office and the RingCentral virtual PBX service that would manage all their incoming calls through one phone number. They could choose to add a toll free number (currently RingCentral is offering 800 numbers at no cost) or user their existing business telephone number.

The positive testimonials and press that RingCentral has received is hard to overlook and gave me comfort in making the recommendation.

If the company was new and didn't already have existing equipment, the Packet 8 service may have been a cost effective alternative, depending on how many 'virtual' employees or contractors were involved.