In this article we are going to discuss a little known Virtual Phone Number Service that can effectively turn any phone into a business phone system with enhanced features. This results in a very enticing solution for small businesses that want a low cost service, but are not ready to move to a full featured hosted business VoIP solution. Setup is quick and easy with no additional hardware required.
Smartphones, VoIP, PBX, softphones, office phones, land-lines, etc all come in different shapes and forms with widely varying costs and features. This makes choosing the best business phone solution a somewhat painful and time-consuming process. To add to the confusion, there is also a growing trend towards desktop office phones being replaced by mobile devices, which is in turn, increasing the popularity of these call management solutions.
The following article will help businesses address this challenge and will be discussing:
- What your small business likely needs from a phone service, and how to reduce costs by eliminating what you don't really need.
- Explanation of a typical Virtual Phone Number Service that can turn any phone into a business phone.
- Comparison of some popular providers that are worth considering.
Please note that if you are specifically looking for a full service VoIP solution for your business that uses desktop IP Phones, this article does not cover that topic and you should refer to our business VoIP section. The type of service that we are discussing, is however a great phone solution for any business and is well worth evaluating.
Please leave a comment and let us know if you have questions. We would love to hear about any experiences with these services.
What does a Small Business really need from a Phone Solution?
Hosted VoIP service providers typically compete on both price and features. Both of these are often presented in ways in which it makes it difficult to compare like for like and see who really offers what you need, at the best price. We like to think we do a pretty good job of helping you read between the lines, but with the typical hosted VoIP service costing in the range of $20 to $40 per month, per user for businesses with under 10 users, a feature loaded hosted VoIP service may not be the best option for your small business.
What do you want your Business Phone Service to be able to do?
There are now so many features available with a VoIP service that you need to take a step back and ask yourself what your business really needs. Here are some that we think are highly likely to be very important to the majority:
- Business Phone Number - you need at least one unique and dedicated number for people to call your business.
- Toll Free Number - any business doing business outside a local area should offer this option.
- Multiple Local Phone Numbers - if your business has multiple physical locations, then consider unique local numbers for each location.
- Remote Worker Support - businesses typically need options for remote workers that often work from home.
- Virtual Receptionist (Auto-Attendant) - gives a big company appearance to even the smallest business.
- Automated Call Handling - ensure you never miss a call with find me, follow me feature that will try you at every number.
- Outbound Caller ID - all outgoing calls should show your company phone number.
- Direct-Inward-Dial (DID) - skip the switchboard and set some numbers as DID to enable clients to contact employees directly.
- Smartphone App - nice option to have if employees own Smartphones.
- Low Cost Service - every business wants low cost, reliable service with the required feature set.
Some items related to Phone Service that your Business may not want or need right now?
VoIP can be a very attractive proposition for any business looking to reduce expenses and increase calling features. However, here are some reasons why a business may be hesitant to switch to a hosted VoIP solution while the business is still small and expenses are tight:
- Upfront Cost of IP Phones - required to take advantage of available VoIP features that a service provider offers.
- Increased Bandwidth - although existing bandwidth may be sufficient to support voice, a business may need to upgrade.
- Feature Overkill - lots and lots of available features but you do not really need many of them.
- Unlimited Outbound Calling - nice to have, but do you really need it?
- Small Business Price Penalty - larger businesses often qualify for reduced per user rates as they purchase more lines.
Explanation of how Virtual Phone Number Services can turn ANY Phone into a Business Phone
You should now have a decent idea of what your business needs and what it does not really need. Before we summarize the list of options, we are going to explain what this Virtual Phone Number calling service offers and how it can effectively turn any phone into a business phone system with an enhanced feature set. In a nutshell, the first list (above) focusing on what you want your phone service to do, is typically what this type of call management service can provide, in addition to some other features such as conference calling, faxing, voicemail to email and voicemail transcription. These services typically also include what are considered to be basic features such as call forwarding, call blocking, call waiting, etc.
A good example of this type of service is offered by a company called RingCentral. If you visit the RingCentral site, you will see that the company offers a Professional plan that offers a wide range of features starting at $9.99 per month for a business that needs up to two extensions.
In summary, the most popular features of this type of service are:
- Business phone number that rings to your cell phone, your home phone, an office phone or any other existing line.
- Local or Toll Free Numbers available
- 24/7 Auto-Attendant
- Call Routing (Find-me-Follow-me)
- Voicemail Transcriptions
- Conference Calling
All this starting at only $9.99 per month - so what is the catch?
- Outbound calls need to use either (a) Mobile App - both cell phone and service usage minutes will be used (b) Click-to-call via online account (c) Login to account by phone and make a call. This is the same idea as a calling card. The bottom line here is that using a Smartphone app can make outbound calling seamless.
- Usage minutes are limited depending on plan selected. Unlike unlimited plans, the price increases the more you use the service and if you go over your monthly limit, there are overage charges that are billed on a per minute basis. An entry level plan typically includes 300 minutes of usage per month with a 3.9c/min overage fee. These usage minutes are used for both inbound and outbound calls with faxes typically using up 1 minute of usage per page. This still results in an incredibly low cost service.
- Some form of additional phone service is required unless a softphone is used.
- Employees may need to use their own cell-phone if the business decides on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) option that utilizes a mobile app.
- You will not be able to make 911 calls with these services. Just remember to use your regular cell-phone interface if you need to make a 911 call.
Comparison of Business Phone Solutions that can be used with ANY Phone
Each of the providers in the following table include a number of standard features with the service. We have focused on listing what we consider to be the most important and differentiating pricing and features to make an evaluation much easier. The comparisons below have been split into similar plan categories, followed by supported methods of calling and additional fee's and services.
Basic Plan Comparison
Mid-Level Plan Comparison
Larger Business Plan Comparison
App and Calling Support
|Virtual Calling Card|
Additional Fee Comparisons
|Additional Toll Free or Local Numbers||$4.99/#/mo||Not Available
Must move to next Plan
|Port out Local Number if Account Closed|
|Port out Toll Free Number if Account Closed|
|Port out Numbers Ported in if Account Closed|
|Vanity Number Fee||$30||$30||$30|
|Internet Fax Receive|
|Internet Fax Send||Requires $49.95/month plan
Plus $1.95/month + usage fee
|Number Porting Fee||Free||Free||$30|
|Choose your Toll Free Number|
|Toll Free 800 Prefix Fee||$30||Free (if available)||$30|
WhichVoIP does not guarantee the accuracy of this information. Please visit providers website to confirm information.
What do we recommend?
It really depends on what the specific needs of your business are. While the features of each provider are somewhat similar, it is important to check the cost of what is considered to be a premium feature, if that feature is a must have for your business. Also, depending on how many lines and extensions you need, the price can vary quite a bit. Let's look at an example of what a small business might need:
Requirements: 300 minutes per month, 2 extensions that require Direct-Inward-Dial (DID) and a main business phone number.
Requirements: 1,000 minutes per month, 2 extensions that require direct-inward-dial (DID) and a main business phone number.
Please note that these calculations are not taken from quotes provided from service provider and are simply estimates made based on information listed on company web-sites. For exact information, please contact a provider directly. Let us know what your price quote is by adding a comment below.
When evaluating the costs, it is important to remember that some form of additional phone service is required. This enables the service to send calls to a cell-phone, land-line or some other form of service that provides dial-tone and can receive calls. While the logic in this type of service is often driven by the fact that most employees already have cell-phones or Smartphones, if a business is determined to keep some form of desktop phone service using analog phones, it is worth comparing this service to the cost of a hosted VoIP service.
Hosted VoIP Comparison to Virtual Phone Number Service
Using the same requirements as either example 1 or 2 from above:
Requirements: 300 or 1,000 minutes per month, 2 extensions that require direct-inward-dial (DID) and a main business phone number
Ringcentral: Standard Office Plan (2 x $27.99) includes unlimited minutes and DID's plus one main number ($4.99) = $60.97
For additional information and to compare similar hosted VoIP plans for businesses, please visit our feature comparison tool.
These call management services can be a great solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs that want to create the perception of a big company while avoiding the higher costs of a complete hosted VoIP phone solution. These Virtual Phone Number Services are also great solutions for any business that wants to take advantage of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, and integrate a business phone solution with employee's Smartphones.
Simply put, these services can turn any phone into a business phone system. The services typically have no contracts, no additional hardware requirements, are low cost and are quick and easy to setup. This makes these services increasingly attractive to any small business that is in the market for a new phone solution.
One final point to consider when choosing a provider for your Virtual Phone Number, is that if you expect to grow your business in the near future, you may want to check and see if the provider also offers a regular hosted VoIP service. As your business grows you will likely need more telephony features so choosing a provider that offers both services will enable an easy and smooth transition from one service to the other.
** Most providers include an upper limit on minutes for their unlimited plans as part of a reasonable usage policy in their T&Cs.