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Business Phone Service Providers

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Nextiva Office logo
 
Winner of the "Product of the Year" award by Internet Telephony magazine for the last 4 years running, Nextiva's Business VoIP solutions offer small businesses enterprise-level telephony features at an extremely affordable price point.... Read More
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Winner of the "Product of the Year" award by Internet Telephony magazine for the last 4 years running, Nextiva's Business VoIP solutions offer small businesses enterprise-level telephony features at an extremely affordable price point.... Read More
 
FluentStream VoIP logo
 
FluentStream is a business phone solution designed for companies of all sizes. It offers call monitoring, telemarketing, IVR and reporting within a suite. The software is available both in cloud-based and on-premise deployment options. The... Read More
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FluentStream is a business phone solution designed for companies of all sizes. It offers call monitoring, telemarketing, IVR and reporting within a suite. The software is available both in cloud-based and on-premise deployment options. The... Read More
 
Vonage Business Solutions logo
 
Vonage Business Solutions is a cloud-based unified communication solution suitable for small and midsize companies. The solution offers a business phone system that enables businesses to connect their VoIP phone system to any internet... Read More
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Vonage Business Solutions is a cloud-based unified communication solution suitable for small and midsize companies. The solution offers a business phone system that enables businesses to connect their VoIP phone system to any internet... Read More
 
Jive PBX logo
 
Jive Communications delivers a cloud-based unified communication solution to organizations of all sizes across the U.S. Jive Hosted PBX includes integrated products for business VoIP, video conferencing and contact center. All these... Read More
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Jive Communications delivers a cloud-based unified communication solution to organizations of all sizes across the U.S. Jive Hosted PBX includes integrated products for business VoIP, video conferencing and contact center. All these... Read More
 
ShoreTel Sky logo
 
ShoreTel is a cloud-based VoIP phone system that offers collaboration and conferencing tools to enable efficient information flow within the organization. ShoreTel is a managed hosted VoIP solution that configures and manages everything... Read More
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ShoreTel is a cloud-based VoIP phone system that offers collaboration and conferencing tools to enable efficient information flow within the organization. ShoreTel is a managed hosted VoIP solution that configures and manages everything... Read More

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MegaPath logo
 
MegaPath is Business Voip software that works with medium to large-size businesses in any industry. The system offers companies Internet connectivity, unified communications, security services, managed networking services, and more. With... Read More
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MegaPath is Business Voip software that works with medium to large-size businesses in any industry. The system offers companies Internet connectivity, unified communications, security services, managed networking services, and more. With... Read More
 
AVOXI Core Cloud PBX logo
 
Since 2001, AVOXI has been developing call center and VoIP systems that serve the needs of businesses around the globe. With customers in 50 countries, AVOXI combines a telecom service with PBX and call center software in a hosted... Read More
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Since 2001, AVOXI has been developing call center and VoIP systems that serve the needs of businesses around the globe. With customers in 50 countries, AVOXI combines a telecom service with PBX and call center software in a hosted... Read More
 
inContact Hosted Call Center logo
 
inContact is a SaaS-based call center software that helps businesses to maximizes the quality of leads and minimizes the cost of client interaction. The solution comprises of many features required to process inbound support requests... Read More
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inContact is a SaaS-based call center software that helps businesses to maximizes the quality of leads and minimizes the cost of client interaction. The solution comprises of many features required to process inbound support requests... Read More
 
RingCentral Office logo
 
RingCentral Office is a cloud-based business phone solution that offers business communication tools and helps to optimize communications for voice, fax and text. Core features of the solution include conferencing, auto-recording and... Read More
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RingCentral Office is a cloud-based business phone solution that offers business communication tools and helps to optimize communications for voice, fax and text. Core features of the solution include conferencing, auto-recording and... Read More
 
Business Voice logo
 
Business Voice is a cloud-based VoiP solution created by PanTerra, which allows users to take or make calls from their office phone number, communicate with their team, and have file access, all from any device with an internet connection,... Read More
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Business Voice is a cloud-based VoiP solution created by PanTerra, which allows users to take or make calls from their office phone number, communicate with their team, and have file access, all from any device with an internet connection,... Read More

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ContactWorld by NewVoiceMedia logo
 
ContactWorld, created by NewVoiceMedia, is a unified communication platform for any size corporation. It offers standalone call center functionality, including automatic call distribution, predictive dialer, call recording, auto attendant,... Read More
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ContactWorld, created by NewVoiceMedia, is a unified communication platform for any size corporation. It offers standalone call center functionality, including automatic call distribution, predictive dialer, call recording, auto attendant,... Read More
 
Five9 Cloud Contact Center logo
 
Five9 Call Center software enables agents to manage inbound, outbound, blended or multi-channel contact centers.  The smart dialer features help agents handle their live prospects. An intelligent routing tool routes calls to agents... Read More
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Five9 Call Center software enables agents to manage inbound, outbound, blended or multi-channel contact centers.  The smart dialer features help agents handle their live prospects. An intelligent routing tool routes calls to agents... Read More
 
Virtual Office by 8x8 logo
 
Virtual Office is a collection of comprehensive web-based business VoIP solutions from offered by 8x8. Enterprise grade phone service, virtual meetings, mobile applications, virtual contact centers and more are available to help companies... Read More
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Virtual Office is a collection of comprehensive web-based business VoIP solutions from offered by 8x8. Enterprise grade phone service, virtual meetings, mobile applications, virtual contact centers and more are available to help companies... Read More
 
Solgari Cloud PBX logo
 
Solgari Cloud PBX is an all-in-one, fully integrated PBX solution that can be customized to meet the needs of businesses of various sizes. Features and functionality as well as users and locations can be added or removed on an as-needed... Read More
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Solgari Cloud PBX is an all-in-one, fully integrated PBX solution that can be customized to meet the needs of businesses of various sizes. Features and functionality as well as users and locations can be added or removed on an as-needed... Read More
 
SafeSoft Cloud Contact Center logo
 
SafeSoft Cloud Contact Center by SafeSoft Solutions is a robust, integrated call center solution with a predictive dialer and inbound call support.  This cloud-based solution gives small and medium-sized businesses a full set of tools... Read More
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SafeSoft Cloud Contact Center by SafeSoft Solutions is a robust, integrated call center solution with a predictive dialer and inbound call support.  This cloud-based solution gives small and medium-sized businesses a full set of tools... Read More

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Fonality logo
 
Built on the idea that big company phone features should also be available to small- and medium- sized businesses, Fonality offers robust functionality that fits the the SMB budget. Their suite of applications is both flexible and... Read More
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Built on the idea that big company phone features should also be available to small- and medium- sized businesses, Fonality offers robust functionality that fits the the SMB budget. Their suite of applications is both flexible and... Read More
 
Answer360 logo
 
Answer360 is a powerful business VoIP phone system ideal for small and mid-sized businesses. Features include call transferring, call forwarding, auto attendants, and message delivery via email.
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Answer360 is a powerful business VoIP phone system ideal for small and mid-sized businesses. Features include call transferring, call forwarding, auto attendants, and message delivery via email.
 
Slingshot logo
 
Slingshot is a robust VoIP solution that offers numerous advanced features. Far more than a straightforward hosted PBX, it offers a predictive dialer and allows you to bring your own device instead of using specialized equipment.
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Slingshot is a robust VoIP solution that offers numerous advanced features. Far more than a straightforward hosted PBX, it offers a predictive dialer and allows you to bring your own device instead of using specialized equipment.
 
UNIVERGE 3C logo
 
UNIVERGE 3C, NEC’s software-based IP-PBX, is a sophisticated platform for unified communications and collaboration. Its comprehensive functionality helped it earn the 2014 Internet Telephony Product of the Year award from technology... Read More
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UNIVERGE 3C, NEC’s software-based IP-PBX, is a sophisticated platform for unified communications and collaboration. Its comprehensive functionality helped it earn the 2014 Internet Telephony Product of the Year award from technology... Read More
 
Avaya IP Office logo
 
Avaya IP Office is a comprehensive communications and collaboration solution designed for small to midsize businesses. It’s capable of scaling up to support 2,000 users, so your phone system can easily expand as your business grows.  Moreover,... Read More
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Avaya IP Office is a comprehensive communications and collaboration solution designed for small to midsize businesses. It’s capable of scaling up to support 2,000 users, so your phone system can easily expand as your business grows.  Moreover,... Read More
 

Buyer's Guide

by ,


Business phone service has transformed dramatically over recent decades—so it’s critical to know your options if you’re thinking about switching providers or replacing your phone system.

Recent changes in carriers’ offerings have mainly been driven by the evolution of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP makes it possible to send phone calls over the Internet, as opposed to traditional phone lines.

VoIP service is technically complex, so you’ll need to understand the key elements of a solution before you begin evaluating providers. Additionally, there are reasons to explore other types of phone service besides VoIP even though most businesses are now migrating to VoIP service when they need a new system.

We’ve written this buyer’s guide to familiarize you with the major kinds of business phone service on the market today. Here are the topics we’ll explore:

Phone Service Types: POTS, VoIP, Cellular and PRI
Pros and Cons of Different Service Types
Finding the Right Service Type for Your Phone System
The Difference between SIP Trunking Service and Business VoIP Phone Service

Phone Service Types: POTS, VoIP, Cellular and PRI

The following graphic breaks down the basic types of voice service available in North America:

Voice Service Types

POTS offers one unique advantage over other kinds of voice service: POTS transmits voice information as an analog audio signal using electricity, so POTS lines supply power to both phones and voice service. This means that POTS will keep phones ringing even if the power gets knocked out.

That said, the FCC is currently overseeing the sunset of the traditional copper telephone network. If you’re currently using POTS, you need to be aware that copper phone lines will be dead for good in just a few more years.

VoIP is a technology that transmits real-time voice information as data using an Internet connection.

VoIP differs from other digital voice services in that the voice information isn’t just digitized, but also transmitted using Internet Protocol (IP). This means you can use broadband Internet access for both voice and data. Other kinds of digital voice service businesses need both Internet and voice service.

VoIP can be used with various types of Internet access, including:

  • Broadband cable
  • DSL
  • Fiber optic
  • T1

You just need sufficient bandwidth for the calls. Just like streaming video, VoIP demands lots of bandwidth, as calls are streamed in real-time.

Cellular service only supported voice calling at one point, but it now refers to a family of services that also enable wireless data connections to the Internet.

On a smartphone, a voice call can be routed via the cellular carrier, which will rack up per-minute rates. However, the call can also be sent over a long-term evolution (LTE) data connection, so you only pay for the data used by the call—no per-minute rates.

This is a variation on VoIP known as Voice over LTE, or VoLTE. (While LTE refers specifically to 4G networks, a 3G or wireless Internet connection can also be used.)

Finally, T1 connections support a whole family of digital voice services:

  1. Primary Rate Interface (PRI) service is a specialized type of digital voice service that’s been available since the 1980s. With PRI, a T1 trunk line is divided into 24 channels, 23 of which can be used for voice calls. The 24th channel is utilized for signalling information like caller ID. While PRI has been in use in enterprise contact centers for decades, the technology has limitations when it comes to scalability. In particular, because only 23 channels are available for voice calls, a business will need to buy a whole new trunk line with another 23 channels for calls in order to handle 24 calls at once. This means that you’re essentially paying for unused capacity. VoIP, on the other hand, is much more scalable and affordable in North America. (There are regional cases to be made for using PRI in other countries.)
  2.  
  3. Channelized T1 is a T1 trunk divided into 24 channels for voice calls. With channelized T1, there’s no separate channel for signalling information as there is with PRI, which means the service can’t support essential capabilities, such as caller ID.
  4.  
  5. Unchannelized T1 is just that: a trunk line that hasn’t been divided into channels. Unchannelized T1 is used for data service, whereas PRI and channelized T1 are used for voice service. An unchannelized T1 connection can support VoIP service.
  6.  

Pros and Cons of Different Service Types

The table below summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of each service type:

Finding the Right Service Type and Provider for Your Phone System

There are two basic elements of a communications solution: the hardware- or software-based phone system (also known as a Private Branch eXchange or PBX system), and the phone service that allows you to make and receive calls.

Contemporary phone systems can be based on hardware or software deployed at your company, on-premise, or they can be hosted in the cloud.

Some businesses don’t even have desk phones—just softphone applications installed on laptops that connect via the Internet to a phone system in the service provider’s data center.

VoIP-based systems are particularly flexible in this respect.

The table below shows the major phone system types and the voice services they work with. Definitions of each system can be found below the table:

System Type POTS PRI VoIP Cellular
Traditional PBX    
Cloud-based or on-premise IP PBX    
Hybrid PBX
Virtual PBX      
  • A traditional PBX is a system designed either for analog voice service or PRI service (in addition to other types of digital voice service based on time-division multiplexing, which is the fundamental technology behind PRI service).
  •  
  • An Internet Protocol PBX or IP PBX is a system designed specifically for VoIP service. An IP PBX can be deployed on your business’s premises or in the cloud.
  •  
  • A hybrid PBX is a system that can handle both VoIP service and traditional analog and digital voice services.
  •  
  • A virtual PBX is a stripped-down hosted phone system designed for very small businesses that primarily want to use employees’ personal cell phones for business communications. No hardware or software is deployed at the business’s premises. Instead, employees get special work phone numbers. When a call is made to one of these work numbers, the virtual PBX provider forwards it to the employee’s personal mobile device.
  •  

Similarly, employees can call out from their mobile devices using their work numbers, though some virtual PBX solutions have limits when it comes to outbound dialing; others treat it as an add-on capability. Virtual PBX solutions also offer a very limited set of basic phone system features like auto attendants.

The Difference Between SIP Trunking Service and Business VoIP Phone Service

As we’ve explained, calls between offices are free with business VoIP service because they don’t have to travel over the traditional phone network (known as the Public Switched Telephone Network or PSTN). This is also why services such as Skype offer free voice and video calls, but only to other Skype users.

In order to connect calls between VoIP numbers and numbers serviced by the PSTN in this country or internationally, you need a special service known as SIP trunking. SIP trunking is a complex network service, but it essentially acts as a bridge across which voice calls can travel between the Internet and the PSTN.

Confusingly, the term “VoIP service” can refer either to the delivery of phone system functions (call routing, voicemail, call recording etc.) over the Internet with a cloud-based PBX, or to SIP trunking service.

With an on-premise IP PBX, you’ll need a SIP trunking provider to connect calls, unless you’re planning to restrict communications to calls between offices.

 

Configuring SIP providers in Digium Switchvox

With a cloud-based PBX, you may or may not need a separate SIP provider.

Many cloud PBX vendors handle SIP trunking for their customers via their relationships with major carriers. This means that you only need to deal with one company for both your phone system and SIP trunking needs.

On the other hand, some businesses choose to go with separate companies: one for the phone system and one for SIP trunking. This setup makes sense if your SIP provider is offering you particularly good rates on calls, or if you’ve had good experiences with the providers’ uptime and quality of support.

You can connect SIP trunks from various providers to a phone system hosted in the cloud, just as you can with a phone system on your business’s premises.

Whether you have a cloud-based or on-premise IP PBX, you’ll need to make sure that your SIP trunking provider is compatible with your phone system (unless, of course, the same company is handling your hosted system and your SIP trunking).

The graphic below shows the different ways in which SIP trunking can be combined with VoIP systems:

Different SIP Trunking Setups with IP PBX Systems

Free Download:
Business VoIP Systems Pricing Guide

 

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