Best VoIP Service Providers
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Welcome to Voip-Catalog.com! The VoIP Catalog is a database of VoIP providers, VoIP companies, VoIP news, and any other telecom related companies and providers. Here you can find all the information you need to know about VoIP technology including the terminology of the VoIP industry, VoIP provider reviews, comparisons of VoIP providers and VoIP service plans, VoIP hardware manufacturers, business VoIP providers, residential VoIP providers, SIP providers, IP PBX manufacturers and vendors, wholesale VoIP origination and termination providers, and much more. If you represent a VoIP or telecom related company, feel free to add your company to the VoIP Catalog database free of charge. In addition, VoIP Catalog also provides a platform for issuing press releases about your VoIP company for free.
Business VoIP Providers
Business VoIP phone systems are a key component to any business that wants to keep costs low. Since VoIP uses an Internet connection to send and receive calls, the monthly fees for business VoIP are significantly lower than traditional business phone service. A business VoIP solution is very similar to a residential VoIP solution, but usually includes more phone lines and much more robust features. View business VoIP providers in your area below.
Switching to residential VoIP service from traditional telephone service is a quick and easy way to save up to 70% on your monthly phone bill. Residential VoIP phone service gives you a reliable, feature-rich phone system for less than half the price of a regular phone system. View residential VoIP providers in your area below. We've done the research on the monthly rate and plan offerings for each of the residential VoIP providers below, so you can make an informed decision.
With the improvement of internet and cell phone service, as well as the expansion of added softwares and features, traditional landlines are becoming less and less attractive. More and more people are turning to VoIP (Voice-over-IP) phone services these days. It's the perfect solution for those who don't want a landline but need more versatility than a smartphone, plus it can save you a lot of money. This review talks about the top VoIP providers available this year.
How VoIP works
Nowadays, no one goes anywhere without their smartphone. It's as common as a wallet, and having your smartphone is a great way to make sure that you're always available to both your employees and clients. With the rise of unlimited calling, the idea of running a business from your personal smart phone is becoming more and more appealing. Unfortunately, mobile phones just aren't as reliable as landlines yet. There are still plenty of dead zones and phones can still drop calls too. When it's family or friends dropped calls are a slight inconvenience, and you might suffer some teasing once you've reconnected. With an important business call, however, dropped calls are something that can kill a deal or permanently damage your relationship with a client. Technical issues are not something you want happening during important calls - the kind you're usually taking at work or you used to send to the landline. Anymore though, nobody wants to keep a landline phone around - or even pay for one, since they're usually expensive. Most of us have to go through a phone or cable company to even get a landline, which means more time spent with Comcast, AT&T, or Time Warner Cable. Not to mention that most traditional phone services come with contracts to get better rates - but also mean that if your needs change or your business grows drastically during that time, your might be paying a hefty cancellation fee. If you're interested in something with a bit of a lower price tag, the internet can help you out. VoIP phone service uses your existing internet service (that you'll be paying for either way) to give you phone service. This efficient utilization of resources should tempt any savvy business owner, but VoIP providers sweeten the pot even more. VoIP services come with the basics and a bunch of extras, like softphones, voicemail, sending and receiving texts, video calls, and being able to route calls to different lines or mailboxes. There's always business grade subscriptions too for enterprise-level companies that need more from their phone service.
Just like cell phone carriers, there's a VoIP provider for everyone. We'll be talking about the providers who started with just the basics and then expanded into more of the bells and whistles for a fully integrated, fully customizable service. We'll also go through VoIP providers that started in the cloud, like Skype, and then expanded into the phone service portion of the business. There are VoIP providers who only exist in the cloud, and then there are ones that have cloud options, but can also provide a physical phone, for people who need that "real world" touch, or for businesses that are just getting started, and need to be outfitted with the hardware as well as the software.
Polycom is a provider that has the option of several different phones. They partner with RingCentral for handsets, and they also have options for those using Skype for Business. With either cloud-based or hardware-enhanced services, these VoIP providers can give you the communication tools that fulfill all of your needs.
VoIP works because the way we connect phones and communicate over that network has changed a lot since it's original conception, especially in the last fifty years or so. The original telephone connection was two phones that had a cable running between them. This was groundbreaking for direct conversations but also meant that anyone who was connected to one phone could hear the entire conversation, like the old "party lines" that were just a bunch of phones all wired together. Once the idea of switching developed, you could have multiple devices on the same line, and an operator could "switch" from phone to phone to make connections. Along with providing a breakthrough in privacy, this innovation allowed telephones to become more reliable as a method of communication. Once automatic switching developed, electronic switches could do what the operator did, and then digital circuits simplified the entire process even more.
Once phones began to catch on and the number of people with phones grew larger, telephone numbers became more important. Phone lines had to be carefully identified to ensure that the correct calls were connected. With large numbers of phones, the lines had to be grouped by the local exchange they originated from. This three-digit number comes after the area code and is still used today. This number means that you can assign up to 10,000 numbers to the same exchange, from 0000 as the last four to 9999. This is also true for corporations who have phone extensions, though they use Private Branch Exchanges (PBX) to achieve the same result.
VoIP is the next step in this phone evolution. When the phone call starts on a VoIP providers network, things work a little differently. Firstly, VoIP requires a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). Once that is in place, the VoIP call will take place completely over the internet. VoIP works by encoding your voice as you talk into your handset into data that is then sent to the other party's side of the conversation, where the data is decoded by their handset.
The Session Initiation Protocol can be fully explained by the RFC protocol 3261. RFC stands for Request For Comment, and they are the documents that the Internet Engineering Task Force keeps a record of and maintains. These RFCs explain the majority of the systems and protocols that are used today for most internet services. SIPs are also used for other streaming services, like video or conference calls. SIP is what stops your call from dropping midway through, and makes sure that the session lasts until one or both parties move to disconnect the call.
Private Business Exchanges (PBXs) are a part of most VoIP services. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it works just like any other exchange, and makes sure that the calls they are connecting go to the correct lines. The other reason is so that people calling into the VoIP service from a Public network (PSTN) are able to connect to a VoIP call from their own number.
Since VoIP is an internet service, you'll need a solid internet connection for the service to work as required. Most VoIP providers have a minimum speed for upstream and downstream for the service to perform as it should. Poor internet quality can mean laggy audio, bad sound quality, and overall frustration on both sides of the telephone. Along with signal requirements, there's also a requirement for latency, which is the time from a signal leaving a computer and reaching yours. There are online tests available to see if your current internet service will work for VoIP or if you'll need to upgrade to something a little faster. RingCentral offers one such self-test on their website.
Once you've chosen a provider, the actual mechanics of setting up VoIP are easy. There will be an adapter box sent to you from your provider. Setting up your phone service is as easy as plugging the box into the power outlet, your phone handset, and your internet router. If that sounds like too many cords for you, another option (though it's not that popular) is to buy a phone already equipped with the technology needed for a Session Initiation Protocol, thereby not needing the adapter box.
VoIP is much more affordably priced than traditional landline phones. Verizon in the upper Atlantic seaboard runs around $60 for an unlimited calling plan (that's local and long distance). AT&T will let you have an unlimited plan at $35 in the great lakes region - but you'll have to have an internet subscription to use it, which is at least another $15.
This averages out at about $50 for phone service every month through traditional phone companies. With VoIP, your price tag will be significantly lower. Single line residential plans are available starting at $8.97, and Vonage or Phone.com will put your cost up to $9.99. If you want a little more bang for your buck, RingCentral has a Standard plan that runs $24.99. Jive Hosted will give you every voice feature they have for $19.95, with la carte options for add-ons. VoIPstudio is the winner for lowest price, going for $4.99 a month for a one user subscription. Mitel MiCloud Office has several different options, starting at $19.99 and then ranging up to $24.99 and $29.99 depending on the level of service you want.
Along with a lower price tag, VoIP comes with more user utility and additional features that are available in web-based services. Vonage, Phone.com and Mitel MiCloud Office all have apps available for both iOS and Android operating systems that add extra efficiency and functionality. Jive Hosted provides you with a click-to-call option in Chrome, as well as drag-and-drop options for your dialing. RingCentral ups the ante with an auto-receptionist and call screening, as well as conference calls.
Both Skype and Skype for Business were platforms that started with video calling and then expanded into VoIP, but they've made up for lost time, offering text messages, speed dial, call routing and even some extras with Skype Translator. There's also the added feature of "phone hunt" where the service will try a multitude of different phones or lines until it gets the phone you're at currently. Skype also includes blocked calls, three-way calls, and call waiting.
Skype also comes with IM capabilities, that also includes what they call Moji, and are emoji stickers you can select from chat. There are also many different helpdesk bots that can reply and interact in a variety of languages, to provide a more streamlined experience for translation.
VoIP also boasts a feature called E911. Reliably calling emergency services used to be a problem for VoIP providers, which led to the development of E911 or enhanced 911. Enhanced 911 includes your address that you gave for your phone service registration, and automatically flashes that information to the 911 operator. This means that the operator will know your address even if you can't speak to them or respond. VoIP providers also usually ask for a number for forwarding calls to if your internet connection fritzes out, or if you have service interruptions or problems.
VoIP for Business
VoIP for business comes with additional features, most serving as PBXes of their own. This means that you can use most of the services brick and mortar telephone companies provide, like call routing, recordings, conference calls, and IVR queues. This not only adds to the overall favorable impression of your business but also allows you to use your time and people more efficiently, freeing up employees to do something other than queue up calls.
VoIP providers also allow a feature that's common on smartphones, being able to click-to-dial straight from a contact entry. This is a great feature, especially when it works with your Google or Microsoft office accounts. RingCentral Office and Zendesk both offer these features.
VoIP for business also works for mobile employees that use virtual or softphones when they work from varying locations. One of the nice things about the PBX function of VoIP is that you can route calls to different people at different times, meaning that you can operate at any time without worrying about operating hours being different for your phone service.
VoIP also offers the option to move a call from your mobile phone to your desktop if you're just reaching the office, or from computer to phone if you need to run out the door. Most of the services provided will range in price depending on how many lines you need. The prices usually range $20 from $35, with discounts for bulk buyers. There are also added costs for some of the more advanced options, like integration with your other business softwares, Salesforce's $75 subscription is one such option. There are other options though, like Mitel MiCloud Office and VoIPstudio, that come with built-in integrations (through Salesforce) and or other CRM providers.
Mobile VoIP and Softphones
Softphones are a great way to save money on your monthly phone bill. Softphones are purely based on your computer, with all of their functionality based in software. Since VoIP itself operates with an internet connection, softphones are just making use of what's already there - your network connection, as well as your speakers and the dialer you can use from your computer. VoIP also adds the extra bells and whistles that can only come from a software-based solution.
Any more, any VoIP provider will have a softphone software included, and the corresponding apps for most mobile phones, like Apple's iOS, Android's OS, and Windows Mobile OS. If they are offered, it's a great idea to try them out. Softphones and mobile apps can give you more functionality that you might not be able to find in a traditional hard phone or calling plan.
Softphones are especially useful in that they allow you to call anyone from anywhere. You can use your computer software to log on to your company's PBX and make calls no matter where you are, as long as you have a valid internet connection, or you can use your mobile phone to access your provider's app. This means that no matter where you are or what's going on, you can still make important calls and conduct business as usual. Softphones also have the unique ability to work with other means of communication as well, something that traditional phones just can't do. The benefit of being able to use your softphone along with chat or IM capabilities, as well as be able to share screenshots or other images with your colleagues will make work sessions that much more productive. If you need to get more input or help from others, they can log on with a click of a button, and be in the loop as soon as they join the sessions, especially with access to the chats and images. This means that it's never been easy to collaborate with colleagues since you won't have to reserve rooms, wait for meeting time, or try to establish a conference call around busy schedules.
The app that your VoIP provider will give you for your mobile phone is the same softphone you're using on your office computer. The only difference is that they're designed for use on a cellphone, so they can switch between your cell providers network or Wi-Fi without dropping the call. This is great for those who are constantly seeking out free Wi-Fi at cafes or restaurants and can save you a little bit on your cell phone bills every month. It also means that employees can use their own phones for business if needed, just by downloading your VoIP providers app and using their login information to get onto the company PBX. From there, it's business as usual, without hassling your IT department for extra phones or networks.
Many softphones these days come with even more options to integrate your phone calls into the extra software. Gone are the days where your softphone is just a pop-up with a dial pad and some extras. These days softphones can work with the company email system to send out client marketing materials or notifications. They can tie into the helpdesk systems to make identifying customers and aid in their issues even easier. Softphones can also work with your CRM software to make that portion of customer service more seamless and less frustrating for your average caller. The best part of this is that even though these features go through VoIP; to your average users, they just show up - with no extra steps or frustrating setups. This has become a focus of some VoIP companies, such as DialPad. Dialpad started as a simple softphone, and they are now working on adding more and more integration for a variety of apps. Of course, if you just need a softphone, that's an option too. VoIP's key selling point is that it takes the basic necessities of phone service, and then uses the internet to make itself an integral part of your business. VoIP softphones allow you to utilize both your software and your employees in the best way for you, as well as providing more and more opportunities to integrate extra software and features into your everyday business best practices.
VoIP vs. Landline
With as advanced as cell phone providers have become in recent years, there's no reason you can't run a business off of your personal smartphone. However, you'll still have to worry about your cell's battery life, network dead spots, and dropping crucial business calls. VoIP services take care of all those worries, as well as providing better call quality and better sound. If not having to worry about a battery, or your cell providers weak spots is appealing, make sure you check out the summaries of the top VoIP providers, along with the reviews, to see which one is best for you.
One caveat of having VoIP for your business is that if your internet goes down, so do you. With mobile apps and softphones, that might be less of an overarching concern than it used to be, but it's still something to think about when you set up for VoIP. VoIP also needs a certain amount of your bandwidth, so if you share internet, or are running your business through your home with other people, you may need to consider if you'll need better or even separate internet service. However, if you're committed to avoiding a brick and mortar phone provider, with all the extra expenses and contracts that come with it, VoIP is an attractive solution. It's also more than capable of growing with your business, and with so many options to choose from, you're sure to find something that will fit your needs.
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9 January 2015
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