The problem there is that VoIP traffic is much more sensitive to network bumps and potholes than most general office traffic. That translates to conversations breaking up or cutting out entirely, difficulty connecting over Wi-Fi, or (worst case) dropped and lost calls. If your business is small and your network is essentially contained in one or two wireless routers, then your configuration and testing headaches might be fairly small (though still there). But for medium and larger networks, these tasks can not only be complex, but also time consuming, which translates into added cost in terms of man-hours.

Vonage Business is the biggest name in VoIP, and the good news is it’s a leader in residential VoIP too. Vonage has powerful, nationwide infrastructure, ensuring 100% uptime whenever you make or receive a VoIP call through your home IP phone or the Vonage smartphone app. All pricing packages are billed monthly, with no contracts. However, if you agree to be billed annually, Vonage will reward you with close to a 50% discount on your first 6 months.

Figure out how much you’re willing to spend on your VoIP and this will help you better hone in on the company that’s right for you. Your residential VoIP should cost less than your current landline, but it’s still smart to do some price comparison and see which companies offer special deals (for instance, many companies will offer you a better rate if you sign up for a year plan rather than a month-to-month plan). Take a look at your monthly phone bill and the features you’re paying for, and compare that side-by-side with what you’d be signing up for with a VoIP plan. 


While the exact features offered in any particular UCaaS solution can change radically from vendor to vendor, most include options for video conferencing, shared meeting and document collaboration tools, integrated faxing, mobile VoIP integration, and device-independent softphone clients. All of these options let customers look at communications in a whole new way, namely, in an a menu-style manner where they can implement only those features their business needs and then access them any time they want and in any combination. This new approach to business communications has been growing steadily among customers over the past few years as recent research from Statista bears out.  

While there are still a few other legacy protocols around, and a few non-SIP standards, such as H.232, SIP is what's used for the vast majority of modern VoIP phone systems. The most common use I've seen for H.232 has been in dedicated video conferencing systems. SIP, meanwhile, handles phone service, video conferencing, and several other tasks just fine, which is why its use is so widespread. Where it has trouble is with data security, but more on that in a bit.  

An IP phone or VoIP Adapter (ATA) – You’ll see a wide range of prices between the different providers when it comes to equipment. Some providers have expensive equipment and “freemium” service; others will lease you equipment for free and charge more per month. Between those two, you have a lot of in-between. An IP phone plugs directly into your modem or router, and an ATA lets you use a legacy phone over the VoIP network. You need an IP phone to truly enjoy all the benefits of VoIP calling, which is why VoIP phones are becoming more popular.
Ooma advertises only two plans: Ooma Office and Ooma Office Pro. Ooma Office includes unlimited domestic calls, three-way calling, virtual fax machines, plus most of the industry-standard features you’d expect from a leading private branch exchange (PBX) provider. Meanwhile, Ooma Office Pro offers more premium features, including call recording and enhanced call blocking—to name a few. But with either plan, you’ll have to pay a $29.95 one-time activation fee to get your service started.
There are some solutions to this issue if you have concerns. The most obvious is to utilize Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) for those short outages, or a generator if you live somewhere where outages are more common (and for your fridge!). With so many people having cell phones these days most people will not be too concerned with this issue, especially when they consider the money they are saving. Most services include a call forwarding feature so you can always set that up to go to your cell phone so you do not miss important calls.
Early providers of voice-over-IP services used business models and offered technical solutions that mirrored the architecture of the legacy telephone network. Second-generation providers, such as Skype, built closed networks for private user bases, offering the benefit of free calls and convenience while potentially charging for access to other communication networks, such as the PSTN. This limited the freedom of users to mix-and-match third-party hardware and software. Third-generation providers, such as Google Talk, adopted the concept of federated VoIP.[1] These solutions typically allow dynamic interconnection between users in any two domains of the Internet, when a user wishes to place a call.

Because they're working across such a multitude of channels, many of today's phone systems are adopting the moniker of Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS). These are generally cloud-based, virtual PBXes (private branch exchanges) that include at least one, usually multiple, software clients to enhance their functionality on the web, desktop, and a variety of mobile devices. UCaaS systems have a wide variety of feature sets based on the tried and true VoIP. Even residential VoIP systems come with features that are simply impossible using a conventional telephone system.
While we think Grasshopper is great for small businesses, it misses out on our “Best Small-Business Phone Service” title because, compared to Ooma, Grasshopper is a little expensive. Grasshopper plans start at $26 per month, assuming you sign up for annual billing. And starting plans include only one business phone number with up to three extensions.
Fortunately, most of the providers reviewed here have engineering staff that will contact you as part of your setup process to help your IT staffers test and optimize your network prior to deploying their solutions. That's definitely something we recommend, but there are steps you can take now to prep your LAN for VoIP and make the deployment process that much easier.
Most of these VoIP solutions will require stable and consistent internet connectivity at every location where wired phones are to be used. At the very least, your business phone system must have access to a business class internet link to the cloud. This should be a dedicated link through a dedicated router if you expect your phone calls to sound as if they were coming from a business and not someone's home Skype connection. But it's important to know that you will also need a router that can create a virtual LAN (VLAN), and one that has the ability to encrypt voice traffic, and only your voice traffic. VoIP security from end to end for all calls is now a business necessity.
Packed with advanced phone system features necessary to operate a small to medium businesses, such as hosted PBX capabilities, desk-to-desk calling, automated attendant systems, call routing and even music-on-hold, Business phone services powered by VoIP technology make it easy for any company to operate with the same level of professionalism customers expect from large scale enterprise systems. Business VoIP systems also include overall Unified Communication solutions to empower the mobility and flexibility needed for any size businesses. With an inexpensive, feature filled phone solutions, your business can operate at a high level on par with large scale systems, without having to worry about the cost.
Therefore, VoIP solutions also need to handle MNP when routing a voice call. In countries without a central database, like the UK, it might be necessary to query the GSM network about which home network a mobile phone number belongs to. As the popularity of VoIP increases in the enterprise markets because of least cost routing options, it needs to provide a certain level of reliability when handling calls.
The relevant EU Directive is not clearly drafted concerning obligations which can exist independently of market power (e.g., the obligation to offer access to emergency calls), and it is impossible to say definitively whether VoIP service providers of either type are bound by them. A review of the EU Directive is under way and should be complete by 2007.[citation needed]

An IP phone or VoIP Adapter (ATA) – You’ll see a wide range of prices between the different providers when it comes to equipment. Some providers have expensive equipment and “freemium” service; others will lease you equipment for free and charge more per month. Between those two, you have a lot of in-between. An IP phone plugs directly into your modem or router, and an ATA lets you use a legacy phone over the VoIP network. You need an IP phone to truly enjoy all the benefits of VoIP calling, which is why VoIP phones are becoming more popular.
Editors' note: Line2 is owned by J2 Global, the parent company of PCMag's publisher, Ziff Media Group. If you have questions you need answered about business VoIP, then remember to subscribe to PCMag's Small Business Newsletter and join the [email protected] business community on LinkedIn, and you can ask vendors, other professionals like yourself, and PCMag's editors.   
If that all is starting to sound more complex than it's worth, remember that turning your PBX into a software solution means significant opportunity for flexibility and integration that you simply can't get any other way. After all, programmers can now treat your phone like an app. Where that's taken us is to the fast-changing UCaaS paradigm (more on that below). Here, traditional VoIP providers, like the ones we review as part of this review roundup, provide additional software capabilities that are all implemented and managed from a single, unified console.
If you're wondering what you get with a softphone that you won't with a standard phone handset, then that depends on the service. Business-class softphones offer all kinds of features related to online meeting collaboration, call routing, multi-line conference calling, and more. From a residential VoIP perspective, you'll most often find video conferencing (though more and more this is becoming a separate product from most providers), a voicemail-to-text converter, detailed call records, and user controls for users other than yourself. Some services also offer faxing, text chat, and call metering so you can see how much you're spending.
The early developments of packet network designs by Paul Baran and other researchers were motivated by a desire for a higher degree of circuit redundancy and network availability in the face of infrastructure failures than was possible in the circuit-switched networks in telecommunications of the mid-twentieth century. Danny Cohen first demonstrated a form of packet voice in 1973 as part of a flight simulator application, which operated across the early ARPANET.[69][70]
One advantage of the traditional landline services is that electrical power is sent over the telephone wires so your phone service is isolated from your house power. This meant that your phone service would continue to work if your house power went out. However, with VoIP, power is used not only for the ATA, or the IP phone, but it is also used for your Internet modem and router devices. No power also typically means no Internet service.
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