Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice helps small businesses choose the right small business phone system software so they can save with VoIP and get the features they need.

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GoToConnectFrontRunners 2021

GoToConnect (formerly Jive) delivers a cloud-based unified communication solution to organizations of all sizes across the U.S. GoToConnect includes integrated products for business VoIP, video conferencing and contact center whic... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 22 recommendations

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Nextiva

Nextiva is a platform that brings communications together with business applications, intelligence, and automation. This helps businesses communicate and build deeper connections with their customers. The platform brings all ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 20 recommendations

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RingCentral MVP

RingCentral MVP is a cloud-based business communications solution that offers tools for Messaging, Video and Phone. Core features of the solution include conferencing, auto-recording and unlimited long-distance and local calling. ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 19 recommendations

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BroadVoice Cloud PBX

BroadVoice b-Hive helps call and collaborate from anywhere with a single cloud communication solution that unifies business phones, video conferencing, texting and collaboration under a single phone number. Untether your team fro... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 19 recommendations

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Vonix

Vonix flex is a business VoIP solution that provides hands-on support and reliable service with all business phone plans for small and medium businesses across the U.S. This cloud-based communication platform helps businesses conn... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 11 recommendations

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Vonage Business Communications

Vonage Business Solutions is a cloud-based communications solution suitable for small and midsize companies. The solution offers a business phone system that enables businesses to connect their VoIP phone system to internet-enable... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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8x8 X SeriesFrontRunners 2021

8x8 X Series is a cloud-based solution that helps businesses of all sizes establish communication via text messaging, voice calls and video conferencing. The team messaging module lets employees create project-specific public and ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 7 recommendations

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Ooma OfficeFrontRunners 2021

Ooma Office is a cloud-based voice + video solution suitable for businesses of all sizes. The platform includes a full suite of business phone features designed to deliver a flawless communications experience and advance team coll... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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PanTerra Streams

Business Plus 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 con... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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VirtualPBX

VirtualPBX is a cloud-based phone solution that caters to all-sized businesses. VirtualPBX enables companies to streamline and improve communications with features such as unlimited minutes, video conferencing, business SMS, auto-... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 3 recommendations

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Bandwidth

Bandwidth is a modern communications platform giving you access to voice, messaging, and 9-1-1 from the cloud. They offer you the power and reliability of a fully-owned nationwide all-IP voice network paired with a platform of ent... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 1 recommendations

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Zoom Meetings

Zoom Meetings is a cloud-based video conferencing software solution that allows organizations in the educational, financial, health care, and government sectors to conduct virtual meetings and collaborate in real-time using integr... Read more

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Google Meet

Google Meet is a video conferencing app. It is the business-oriented version of Google's Hangouts platform and is suitable for businesses of all sizes. The solution enables users to make video calls with up to 30 users per high-de... Read more

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GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is a video conferencing and collaboration software that can launch meetings from various locations such as email, Microsoft Office, and instant-messaging tools. The solution is suitable for businesses of all sizes and ... Read more

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TeamViewer

TeamViewer is an online meeting and video conferencing solution that connects any PC, mobile, and server to each other globally. The solution is available in nearly all countries and supports over 30 languages. TeamViewer is suita... Read more

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Microsoft TeamsFrontRunners 2021

Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based group chat solution that helps teams collaborate on documents. Its key features include messaging, conferencing and file sharing. Microsoft Teams has replaced Skype for Business as Microsoft's onli... Read more

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Webex

Webex brings together Calling, Meeting and Messaging modes of collaboration into a seamless, engaging, inclusive and intelligent experience. Seamless collaboration across devices, locations and organizations • Use any computer, t... Read more

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ConnectWise Control

ConnectWise Control is cloud-based operations management solution that allows technicians to perform remote support, gain remote access and run remote meetings. It acts as a meeting point for technicians and customers, enabling th... Read more

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Join.Me

Join.me is an online meeting platform that helps businesses manage meetings and team collaboration. Key features include real-time presentations, mobile whiteboards, scheduling, toll-free audio, chat and more. Designed f... Read more

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Doodle

Doodle is a cloud-based appointment scheduling platform, which helps small to large size enterprises schedule meetings and appointments. The prime features of Doodle comprise of access invitation, calendar management, invite ... Read more

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Buyers guide


Last Updated: December 3, 2021

What is VoIP phone software?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems allow users to make voice calls over the Internet. It converts callers' voices to digital signals that travel over the internet, allowing people to make calls from their computers.

Features include Do Not Disturb status updates, voicemail to email transcription, bandwidth utilization, and call routing, recording, and conferencing.

Here's what we'll cover:

Common reasons small businesses shop for a new phone system

Many small businesses contact us every day, looking for advice as they search for a new phone system. Some are new businesses just getting started, while others are looking to replace an old or problematic system. The most common reasons they have are that they're:

  • Wanting to switch to VoIP
  • Relocating or adding new offices
  • Unhappy with current call quality
  • Looking for more features, such as an IVR
  • Needing a system that's more user-friendly
IVR designer screenshot in Five9 Cloud Contact Center
IVR designer in Five9 Cloud Contact Center

While there's a long list of reasons, there's an even longer list of systems and features addressing these common challenges. However, we find most small businesses require one or more of these core phone system capabilities:

Feature Function Benefit
PBX The central component of every multi-line phone system, the PBX acts as the switchboard, transferring and routing calls. It's also the component that lets users put callers on hold and have conference calls. It integrates most of the other features listed here. Provides commonly used functions that allow many phone extensions to share lines and work together as one system.
Auto attendant An Auto attendant greets inbound calls with basic information such as the the business's name, location, and hours, and also lets callers choose how their call will be connected. They often begin something like this: Thank you for calling Software Advice. Please choose from the following menu options... Answers and directs inbound calls. Helps small businesses present a larger, more professional image.
IVR The Interactive Voice Response feature is similar to, but more advanced than, Auto attendant. IVRs allow customers to access account information, schedule and make payments and complete other transactions requiring deeper interaction all without requiring an employee's time. Automates many basic call transactions, freeing employees from some repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
CTI Computer-Telephone Integration is a broad term for a collection of functions offered primarily with VoIP systems. CTI allows customer-specific information from the company's database to be automatically displayed on a computer whenever that customer is on the line. Streamlines call processing, saves employees from having to repeatedly look up basic information when customers call.
FMFM Find Me Follow Me is a feature that makes sure important calls get through to the right person, even if the right person isn't at their desk. FMFM lets users program a sequence of alternate numbers, including external and mobile numbers, to dial in case their desk phone rings and is unanswered. Ensures important calls are always answered. Valuable in sales-focused industries, where missing a call can mean missing a sale.
Softphone Many VoIP systems include software telephones, or "softphones." These are programs that run on office computers and, when used with a headset, allow calls to be made and received directly from the computer. Reduces equipment costs by letting offices purchase fewer desk phones.
Voicemail-to-email Another feature common to VoIP systems, this is an automated transcription service. When callers leave voicemail, this service transcribes the audio to written text and sends it as an email. Saves time listening to voicemail messages.
Conferencing Some PBX systems only allow for three-way calling, whereas others offer true conference calling with dedicated dial-in numbers. Facilitates internal and external collaboration.

Key considerations for small businesses

System complexity: Some businesses we speak with tell us they're replacing their existing phone system because it's too complicated and not user-friendly. Buying an overly complex system can be as bad as buying one that has too few features. Apart from paying for features that won't be used, advanced systems can present usability issues.

So before you begin shopping, start with a clear assessment of exactly which functions you need. Don't get caught up in a more-functions-is-necessarily-better mindset when comparing systems. Also, take advantage of the trials and demos offered by some companies to get a firsthand feel for exactly how user-friendly a system is.

VoIP or analog: Telephony technology is split between digital phone systems, which send voice calls over the Internet (Voice over IP, or VoIP), and older analog phone systems, which use traditional phone services. Though VoIP phones can call analog phones and vice versa, and there are hybrid systems that contain components of both, it's best for a business that's looking to start from scratch to choose one or the other. The vast majority of businesses are choosing VoIP.

But VoIP requires a reliable broadband Internet connection. So for businesses that don't have access to broadband, an analog system may be the only option. If you're unclear on how the two systems differ, this Guide to VoIP compares them in easy-to-understand language.

On-premise or hosted PBX: This isn't a choice all businesses will face. Small analog phone systems usually come with a simple hardware PBX that's kept on-site. And medium and large businesses often want the control of an on-site PBX, but they also have the IT budgets needed to maintain them.

Aside from these cases, most businesses should consider using an off-site or "hosted" PBX. It is an option on many small business VoIP systems and offered by many ITSPs. The big benefit with a hosted PBX is it can offer more advanced phone system functions, such as auto-attendants and IVRs, without the expense of purchasing and managing an on-site hardware PBX.

Lines and extensions: With an analog phone system you might, for example, pay your telco for two or four lines to allow your business to have that many simultaneous phone calls. For that to work, you'd need a two- or four-line analog business phone system, which are some of the most common analog systems on the market.

With VoIP systems, extensions can be added by simply connecting the office's internal computer network.

Hardware and special-use requirements: Businesses in certain industries or with unique workplace environments will have specific phone system requirements. Identifying which features are needed will help focus the search for the right phone system for your small business.

There are, for example, industry-specific systems for hotels, call centers, and hospitals. Though most small businesses will not be looking for specialized industry systems, they often do have special hardware requirements. Some need wireless handsets that can operate outdoors or a long distance away from a base station. Others don't use handsets, but instead require wireless headsets with long battery life. Knowing what is needed before you begin will make the selection process easier.

FrontRunners

Your Guide to Top Small Business VoIP and Phone Systems Software, November 2021

Software Advice uses reviews from real software users to highlight the top-rated Small Business Phone Systems products in North America.

Learn how products are chosen

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Software Advice
“Usability” includes user ratings for Functionality and Ease of Use.“Customer Satisfaction” includes user ratings for Customer Support, Likelihood to Recommend and Value for Money.Reviews analysis period: The reviews analysis period spans two years and ends on the 15th of the month prior to publication.