Let’s Talk About VoIP
What is VOIP?
The definition of a work phone has taken many forms with the advancement of technology. We’re no longer tethered to a desk or a physical device used to make and receive phone calls. Today there is a slew of different options out there for VoIP (Voice over IP) providers.
Organizations can decide between providing their employees with a traditional desktop phone or allowing them a softphone option where the user can install an application onto their mobile devices that they can log in to in order to make and receive calls or join a conference.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the best options on the market if you’re looking to implement a phone system for your organization. We hope this breakdown will help to inform you of the options that you have and equip you with general knowledge on these different systems in order to make an informed decision on how best to move forward.
Dialpad is a good place to start. Dialplan is claimed by some to be the future of how small business communicates. Dialpad is simple to set up. Their services start at $15 per user per month for their standard plan or you can opt for their pro plan for $25 per user/per month for extra features like integrations with other systems you may already use like G Suite, Slack, or Office365. Your sales team will also appreciate that Dialpad integrates seamlessly with Salesforce. There’s also an enterprise option but like most vendors, they ask that you contact them directly for pricing. Dialpad also offers free trials for their standard and pro plans, respectively.
As always we’ll start with some of the benefits of implementing Dialpad. One of Dialpad’s repeated claims is how easy it is to set up. One of the biggest headaches of implementing any new phone system is set up. We live in a time of instant gratification where we just want things to work. Setup for Dialpad takes almost zero effort. As an administrator, you have access to Dialpad’s web-based admin console in order to add, remove or make changes to a user’s account. As an admin, you can also immediately sync a user’s Dialpad account with the other services in your organization.
Dialpad tends to push their softphone options as the standard compared to other VoIP providers who have models with a strong focus on traditional desktop phones but Dialpad does offer the option for desktop phones should you want them. They also provide conference room phones. Aside from convenience, having your phone and conference system under the same vendor streamlines workflow, and should anything go wrong, you just have “one throat to choke”
Dialpad is the mobility’s’s first VoIP provider. This means that their solutions are focused on users who aren’t in an office for 40 hours a week. All of the best features can be found in their mobile applications for iOS and Android. One of their most notable features is “Call Flip” This allows you to seamlessly switch your phone call from a WiFi call to a call linked to your cellular network during a call without the other person realizing it. This feature is really helpful if you find yourself in an area with a weak WiFi connection.
Dialpad has a long list of features available to you but of course, there are some drawbacks. For one, Customer Service. As someone who has worked in customer service for a large portion of my life, support is top of mind. One of Dialpad’s biggest criticisms is its support. It’s a combination of long wait times and trying to hunt for a support specialist who is really knowledgeable on the platform. Some users have reported having to call back a few times until they got someone on the phone who was able to help them. In a world where time is money, the last thing you want is to waste valuable resources waiting on support calls.
Call quality tends to be a topic of conversation as well. Many users report frequent call drops or audio degradation problems when on a call. This can sometimes be attributed to the strength of your phone signal. While this problem isn’t common for all users, it’s something you should take note of. In a scenario where you’re having audio quality problems, you can utilize the aforementioned “Call Flip” feature to try and combat these call problems.
Pricing can be a sticking point for most organizations as well. Dialpad while very affordable starting out, starts to add up as you continue to grow and scale out your team. There are a lot of extra fee’s you’ll notice on your bill without any explanation as to why. As most organizations opt for Dialpad’s Pro plan, at $20 a user/month, this add’s up over time. Also, keep in mind that these fee’s don’t even begin to cover any hardware costs like desktop phones or headsets that your team may want.
Dialpad is a great solution for small businesses but as organizations continue to grow, a more robust solution may be required.
A lot of you may not be familiar with OnSip but it’s what I like to call the dark horse of VoIP providers. OnSip is another great solution for small and medium sized businesses who are looking for a reliable phone provider but may not necessarily need all of the bells and whistles you get from other providers. The user interface of OnSip’s admin portal could benefit from some visual improvements but overall the portal is easy to pick up after playing around with it for a little while.
OnSip has two main offerings, an unlimited plan for $18.95/user/per month and their basic plan for $49.95 a month. It goes without saying that the unlimited plan is going to give you the best bang for your buck. Not only that but OnSip provides free desktop phones for organizations with 5 or more users. if you’re having issues deciding on which option to go with, you can start free trials for both the unlimited and basic plans.
One of OnSip’s greatest strengths comes with it’s call redundancy. OnSip is a cloud based service, which means you’re relying on OnSip’s servers to keep running so that your calls do too. With a lot of VoIP providers, should one of their servers go down, this could mean phone outages for your organization. With OnSip, should one of their servers go down, call data is automatically shifted to another server.
This happens instantaneously without anyone noticing on a call. When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, OnSip was able to route all of the data from their New York data center to their data center in Los Angeles. This resulted in a 99.9% uptime for users on the East coast; avoiding dropped calls and signal degradation.
OnSip gave their mobile app a large visual upgrade this year. It’s very reminiscent of their desktop app available for Mac and Windows machines. The app is really easy to use and is a great alternative for teams who don’t need or want to invest in physical desktop phones.
Setting up a new OnSip instance takes some time to get used to the system. To be fair, you can say this about all of the providers on this list. This is why OnSip relies heavily on its integration partners. While organizations are absolutely capable of setting up an instance, it’s recommended that you partner with a consultant to discuss your specific needs for a phone system.
I really want to highlight is OnSip support. OnSip by far have one of the best support models in the industry. Waiting to talk to a technician is quick and painless. They’ll even do physical testing on their end to try and narrow down an issue. Response times are quick and for anyone who is venturing into OnSip for the first time, this is a major lifeline.
In terms of drawbacks, there aren’t very many. Texting within the OnSip app isn’t a feature yet. This is a feature many people have asked for and it’s reportedly in development. While this may seem like a small ask, think about how many clients you text on a daily basis. Having a texting option would be great as it negates the need for you to text someone using your personal number. A mobile world requires mobile solutions.
For those of you who decide to opt for desktop phones, these phones will most likely be Polycom’s. Some may see these as pretty straightforward devices but there is a level of technical know-how needed in order to properly deploy devices. OnSip also offers conference room phones as an optional add on.
RingCentral is one of the most used VoIP systems in the world. A few weeks back we did a deep dive into conferencing options where we focused on that aspect of RingCentral’s offerings. Today we’ll dive into. their bread and butter, the phone system.
RingCentral does a lot of things well. Their phone system is reliable, they have amazing customer support with options for email, a call or a live chat. Their admin console is generally easy to pickup and provisioning accounts for new users is made very simple.
RingCentral offers cross-device access to your RingCentral account. This means whether you’re at the office or on the go, you’ll always stay connected. You can opt to use the RingCentral desktop app, the mobile app or a physical desktop device provided by RingCentral. RingCentral also offers number porting options if you have an existing phone system that you’re moving away from.
Call reliability is also something to point out. RingCentral boasts that they have a constant 99.99% uptime for all of their customers. This is generally the experience i’ve seen with RingCentral. Rarely do we hear about service interruptions and when there are, RingCentral is usually pretty quick about solving these issues.
With RingCentral, all of your users automatically get access to their own conference bridge. This is a very useful feature if you have any users who spend most of their day presenting to clients or if their workflow includes regular conference calls.
RingCentral offers a few different pricing options. Plans start at $29.99/per user/per month for their Essential’s plan all the way up to their Ultimate plan which starts at $59.99/per user/per month. It’s no secret that there are other VoIP providers out there that offer services for a lot less than RingCentral does but the saying ‘you get what you pay for rings top of mind. In this case, the extra money is absolutely worth it for what you get.
One drawback of the platform is the inconsistency of their apps. Users will get a different experience depending on whether they’re using the desktop app, one of their mobile apps, or the plugin that can be used to integrate RingCentral with a mail client like Outlook. RingCentral also offers different versions of their desktop app (RingCentral & RingCentral Classic) which can be confusing to the average user in regards to which one to download and install.
For those of you who still utilize a fax machine, RingCentral can integrate faxing as well, though with mixed results. Users have reported that faxes often don’t send or the faxes are illegible forcing the sender to try again. Integrating multiple fax numbers can also be a challenge as you cannot differentiate between them while using the mobile app.
Perhaps the biggest headache we’ve seen with RingCentral is how buggy their apps are. With RingCentral, you can dial internally within your organization using extensions. There is a bug where if someone is attempting to make an outbound call, the app defaults to an internal extension. This means you end up accidentally calling a co-worker when you may have meant to call a client. For the most part, quitting and re-opening the app will solve this issue.
Does anyone else remember those catchy Vonage commercials? No, just me? OK – moving on then. We’ve come to the final provider on our list, Vonage. The company was founded in 2001 by Jeff Pulver and Jeffrey Citron. The platform is very similar to RingCentral when it comes to the type of businesses they target. Every VoIP provider will tell you that they can support both the SMB market as well as Enterprise but very few actually deliver. Vonage is very comfortable in this space.
Pricing for Vonage starts at $19.99 per user/per month for their Mobile (or basic) plan and scales up to $39.99 per user/per month for their Advanced plan. The Mobile plan gives you the basics: text and talk. Organizations who want a more robust solution will opt for the Enterprise or Premium plans which unlock a slew of features like video and audio conferencing on a per user basis.
Vonage users rave about call quality. From all of the reviews we found, there was almost no negative feedback on the reliability of calls via Vonage. Unlike some of the platforms we’ve already discussed, Vonage does offer texting plans! A very useful feature and one that helps you avoid sharing your personal number with 3rd parties.
One drawback seems to be Vonage’s customer support. From what we’ve found, Vonage support is very similar to Dialpad’s. It can be inconsistent at times and depending on your problem, you may get some canned responses from their support team as to why your service is down such as low network speeds, out of date versions of their app or they may place blame on the computer or phone that you’re using. When it comes to customer support, IT should really be taking over these types of conversations.
Followthrough is also a running theme for unhappy Vonage customers. We found a case where an organization was attempting to port over numbers from a previous provider to Vonage. The organization was charged for this service but the work was never completed. I’d recommend discussing timelines and implementation plans with your Vonage rep as early in the conversation as possible. You should be prepared to hold Vonage to what they’re responsible for delivering and confirm these responsibilities (preferably in writing) before signing any contracts.
Finally, and this goes without saying but having a strong reliable network is vital. More often than not you’re making work calls via your cell phone using an app from your chosen VoIP provider but some people prefer to do their calls right from their computer. This works really well until you lose your internet connection or if your network happens to be slow that day. Dropped calls are a very real concern in low bandwidth environments.
Like a lot of the solutions we discuss in these blog posts, the choice is king and you have a lot to choose from. When it comes down to it, you want to choose a phone system that’s easy to set up and integrate into your ecosystem. You also want an easy-to-understand platform that your team can set up and hit the ground running on day one.
We have experience setting up and managing a few of the solutions on this list and encourage you to get in touch if you’re in the market for a new phone system. We’ll be happy to discuss advantages and disadvantages and ensure that the system you decide on is custom configured to meet the needs of your organization.