One of the first orders of business for any small-business owner is to establish a professional telephone line. Having a business phone system both gives your company a professional presentation to clients and helps separate business contacts from personal ones.
There is currently a wide range of phone services available to the modern small business owner. As an alternative to traditional business phone systems, many small-business owners are turning to VoIP phone services, which provide virtual phone numbers and transmit voice communications over the Internet.
There are many advantages for smaller businesses in choosing a virtual number. The most obvious is that, unlike traditional phone systems, there are no expensive and complex equipment to purchase, install and maintain. In addition, if you are familiar with relatively simple software applications, virtual phone systems can be completely controlled and customized online.
Most virtual phone services provide an online control panel through which you can design most if not all features of the phone system. Also, if you are accustomed to running your business through your mobile phone, calls can be routed to it at the times when you need to leave your office and your voicemails can be transcribed and sent over as either an email or text message.
Virtual phone services offer most of the popular features of traditional phone systems, such as:
However, virtual services often provide additional benefits that can be tailored to each business’s needs. For example, one virtual number can route the caller to a number of different mobile phones or landlines. This feature is especially helpful if your business has several partners, offices, or departments that your clients may want to reach without having to dial multiple phone numbers.
If your company does business internationally, most virtual services also provide international calling, and more importantly, allows you to accept international calls on a local mobile phone number when you are traveling.
If you already have a local phone number that you use for your business, you can port that number to your new virtual phone service. You can also choose a toll-free or vanity number instead of or in addition to a local number.
Most virtual phone services also supports internet fax services, which allows you to send faxes as well as receive them as an email attachment.
If you make the decision to use a virtual phone service, there are a number of service providers you can choose from, ranging from free services like Google Voice to more professional, subscription companies that provide more comprehensive services, including Phone.com, and RingCentral.com.
Google Voice is a free virtual phone service that is popular with many individual users. Because there is no fee charged for this service, this may be a good option for very small businesses run by only one person.
However, for businesses that have two or more partners, offices, or departments, Google Voice lacks more professional features. For example, Google Voice does not offer toll-free numbers, and some local area codes are not yet available. Google Voice also does not support multiple extensions, multiple voicemails, or auto attendant service to route the call depending on the caller’s needs. In addition, Internet fax, which is a common and popular feature among the subscription services, is unavailable through Google Voice.
Phone.com is one of the most comprehensive virtual phone service providers available, and the winner of several Product of the Year awards.
It offers all of the virtual number features described above, and many more including global numbers, IP business phones, adapters to analog phones, and 24/7 customer support. Phone.com customers have access to a comprehensive online control panel through which they can control every detail including which phone line, extension, greeting, or voice mailbox the caller reaches based on the time of calling and the caller’s ID.
In addition, Phone.com accounts have highly customizable features such as professional greetings, on-hold music, and calling queues, all of which can be individually designed or uploaded.
Phone.com’s pricing and plan structure is based on flexibility and optional features, with their Virtual Office monthly fees starting at $14.88 per month, providing 300 free monthly minutes. More comprehensive plans go up to 2,500 free monthly minutes at a cost of $74.88 per month.
While most calling features are included in the base price, additional features such as toll-free numbers, vanity numbers, IP business phone, analog telephone adapters, and additional minutes cost extra. If you have a business that is starting out on a smaller scale, but has room to expand and grow, the flexibility of Phone.com‘s plans may be the best choice for your business.
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Like Phone.com, Ringcentral.com is an established, award-winning virtual phone service providing comprehensive features and customer service.
While RingCentral’s list of available features is similar to Phone.com’s, it offers a slightly different type of pricing structure, and may be best for businesses that are already growing and need more built-in features than optional ones. While RingCentral also offers a basic Professional plan at $14.99 per month, its more business-oriented Office plans start at $49.99 per month and includes unlimited calling and faxing, toll-free numbers, and IP phone systems as well as analog telephone adapters for your landline phones.
RingCentral’s Office plans are more ideal for businesses that already have substantial client bases, or use the phone frequently in conducting their business so that unlimited monthly minutes is an important feature.
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