Top 10 VoIP Providers, Bios and Summaries
Traditional telephone technologies (analog telephones) use a public switched telephone network to transmit voice, voice messages, faxes, and text messages from one user to another. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies use a broadband network to perform all the same functions. With VoIP you can talk, text, and fax via the internet, without a landline or cell phone subscription. VoIP is popular because it is less expensive than traditional technologies and, for commercial customers, can offer a greater number of professional features. There are many VoIP providers to choose from – here are ten of the most popular:
Residential VoIP Providers
Phone Power focuses on providing low-cost calling solutions to residences (primarily) and businesses (secondarily). It offers unlimited international(capped at 1500 minutes) and U.S. & Canada (capped at 5000 minutes) calling plans for residential customers. Phone Power also provides cloud-based private branch exchange (PBX) phone systems to small businesses and, unlike other providers, also allows businesses to use its residential plans for commercial use (perfect for the self-employed).
Phone Power’s international plans come without contractual obligations. Its U.S. & Canada plan is also available without a contract, but Phone Power reduces the monthly fee for customers who agree to a one-year prepay or a two-year contract. Phone Power’s business plans require either a one-year, two-year, or three-year contract. Customers who break their contract must pay an early termination fee (ETF) of $99.00.
Phone Power is the residential VoIP provider with the highest customer satisfaction. In online reviews customers praise the provider’s customer service, but cite lower call quality and reliability when compared to analog phones.
Via:talk offers VoIP plans to both residences and small businesses. Its two residential plans offer the same features: unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada (capped at 5100 minutes) and 60 minutes of free international calling. The VT Business_1500 plan includes 1500 minutes of free calling to the U.S. and Canada and, intuitively, the VT Business_Unlimited plan includes unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada (capped at 10,200 minutes).
Via:talk frequently runs promotions to attract new residential customers. These promotions include a range of obligations that sometimes require a prepay or a two-year contract. After a fourteen day grace period, Via:talk charges its customers a disconnect fee of $50.00 per line and an hardware fee of up to $50.00. Via:talk is affordable, but the downside of this affordability is Via:talk’s questionable customer service, customer service that PC Magazine has unabashedly described as “terrible.”
Vonage offers eight VoIP plans through DigitalVoice that cover domestic and international calling, limited (100-1500 minutes) or unlimited calling (capped at ~3000 minutes), and residential or commercial calling. Vonage offers competitive plans specific to calling the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and India. Vonage offers year-long contract and contract-free subscriptions.
New customers are allowed to cancel their contract without penalty within the first month. After the month long grace period Vonage charges an early termination fee (ETF) of up to $120.00.Vonage customers are, overall, satisfied with the quality of their VoIP, but dissatisfied with the company’s customer service. Vonage has a sordid history of using poor customer service to mask deceptive business practices; in 2009 it entered a voluntary settlement for deceptive marketing and preventing customers from cancelling service. Since then Vonage has sought more ethical business practices.
Commercial VoIP Providers
8X8 offers VoIP business phone systems, cloud-based contact centers, and a unified communications suite to businesses around the world. 8X8’s 40,000 customers include large multi-national corporations, so scale is not an issue for this provider. 8X8 emphasizes the fact that their VoIP grows with its customers, so it is a good choice for a business anticipating rapid growth.
8×8 offers all the typical VoIP services (voice, voice messages, fax, text messaging) and more. Because they offer many services on many different scales, 8×8 forgoes pricelists in favor of a quote system that gives customers a tailored plan and contract. In online reviews some customers voice suspicion that their small-business accounts were neglected in favor of larger, more lucrative accounts, but customers are typically satisfied with 8X8’s high quality and feature rich VoIP and its professional customer service. 8X8 is one of the largest and longest standing VoIP providers, so they have to be doing something right.
eVoice offers VoIP services to small businesses and professional entrepreneurs. Its four plans offer up to fifteen extensions, up to 45 numbers, and up to 4000 free minutes. The small scale of eVoice’s plans limits their clientele to small operations. eVoice’s features – toll free numbers, extensions, automated call handling, hold music – lend a professional gloss to small businesses’ phone system.
Its other features – conference calls and, for premium subscribers, video conferencing, call recording, and transcriptions – lend functionality. eVoice sometimes offers promotions, like free trials. It does not charge cancellation fees and users may be eligible for a partial refund if they terminate their account. Instead of charging per user, eVoice charges per account. This translates into savings for larger small businesses. Because the capabilities of eVoice are limited, the service has mixed reviews. PC Magazine gives the provider a positive review, citing its useful features and lack of a set-up fee.
Fonality offers three business phone systems for small to medium-sized businesses. Features include all management and collaboration with built in presence, instant messaging, screen sharing, and audio conferencing. Fonality Ultimate, the provider’s most feature rich plan, also includes video conferencing.
The more users on an account (Fonality offers a pricelist for from one to 100 users) the less expensive the service costs per user. At its least expensive (100 users on the Fonality Essentials plan) Fonality can cost as little as $19.99 per month per user. New customers sign a 12-month contract that locks in the monthly service rate. Fonality is an international provider that serves 30,000 businesses in 99 countries worldwide. Its 300 employers operate from five global offices and four data centers. Like Nextiva, Fonality’s service is simple to use and the company backs it up with good customer service, which results in uncommonly high customer satisfaction.
JIVE Hosted PBX offers VoIP services to enterprises, businesses, institutes of learning, government offices, and hospitality-related establishments. Like many of its competitors, JIVE also offers its customers bonus features like video calling and video conferencing. JIVE does not list its monthly fees online (it uses a quote system instead), but a PC magazine review reveals that JIVE’s graduated monthly rates decrease in proportion to the number of users.
Businesses with 50 or more users pay the lowest rate per user, as low as $19.99 per month. JIVE customers typically enter into contracts that last either eighteen months, two years, or three years. The fines for breaking a contract with JIVE are hefty: up to $300.00 per user, but the fines are waived in instances where a reallocation of funds makes continuing the subscription impossible for the customer. JIVE customers are, overall, very satisfied with JIVE’s sound quality and customer service.
Nextiva offers three VoIP plans, hosted call centers, and expandable private branch exchange (PBX) trunks for small to medium-sized businesses. All its VoIP plans (the least expensive of which is a very competitive $19.95 per month per user) include unlimited calling. Nextiva is less expensive than other VoIP providers, but it offers fewer features. For a company that requires a simple VoIP solution, Nextiva is the sensible solution.
For Nextiva customers, contracts are optional. If a contract would benefit a business, the customer can negotiate terms with Nextiva directly. Nextiva is an award winning company that prides itself on being a good corporate citizen: it purchases carbon credits, contributes to military charities, and has been one of Phoenix Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” multiple times. Nextiva’s service is simple to use and the company backs it up with good customer service, which results in uncommonly high customer satisfaction.
Phone.com offers a virtual private branch exchange (PBX) phone system, plus features, to small and large businesses. Its features include an unlimited number of extensions with voicemail, high definition call conferencing for up to 500 people, and call forwarding and scheduling. Its plans are customizable, but separated into two types: Pay Per Minute (suggested for accounts that use under 600 minutes per month) and Unlimited (suggested for accounts that use more than 600 minutes per month).
Both types get unlimited toll free minutes and the Unlimited plans get unlimited local minutes. Phone.com’s Pay Per Minute plans do not require a down payment. Its Unlimited plans start at $19.99. Neither type of plan requires a contract. Because its Unlimited service is highly affordable most customers were very satisfied with Phone.com (one cites cutting his phone bill to one fourth its previous balance). Dissatisfied customers mostly complained about the Pay Per Minute Plan, which they accused of having uncommonly high overage minute fees.
RingCentral offers three VoIP plans for small to medium-sized businesses. The plans offer between 1000 and 10,000 toll-free minutes, conference calls for between 4 and 50 people, domestic and international calling, a call queue, and other features to facilitate successful business communication. Designed for the modern office, RingCentral is synched with Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce, ZenDesk, and Desk.com.
RingCentral offers contract-free subscriptions with no early termination fees. Customers are charged a monthly fee dependent on the number of users attached to an account. Flexibility, of course, has a price: RingCentral’s monthly fee is higher than alternative VoIP providers given, especially, that its plans do not include unlimited calling. RingCentral is somewhat of a darling with industry insiders. The Silicone Valley start-up was named a 2010 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, is a two-time winner of PC Magazine’s Editior’s Choice Award, and was named a 2009 CNET Webware 100 award winner. Note: The conclusions regarding customer satisfaction were drawn from an aggregate of customer reviews posted on yelp.com, voip-info.org, and voipreview.org.
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