Ring Group Strategies

There are many ring group strategies your business can implement for its phone system. In this guide we will explain the different types of ring groups and when you should consider using each of them. We will also discuss some additional features that can be utilized with ring groups.

Ring Group Strategies

What is a Ring Group?

First of all, the basics, what is a ring group?

A ring group, also frequently called a call group or a hunt group, is simply a group of phone extensions in your business that are considered part of the same call flow. For example, your sales team may consist of four sales personnel each with their own dedicated phone extension (e.g. extensions 200, 201, 202 and 203). When an inbound call is to be directed to your sales team you want all four extensions to ring in a specified manner. The ring group strategy determines how these four extensions should ring.

It is also worth noting that the ring group does not have to be just phone extensions, it could also consist of a group of cell phone numbers, landline numbers or any combination.

When Should You Use a Ring Group?

You would use a ring group whenever you need to group specific people in your business for certain call flows.

The most standard ring groups are for sales teams, support teams and customer service representatives. You would group phone extensions together based on the department they reside in. It is worth noting that a phone extension can exist inside multiple ring groups and advanced settings can be used to differentiate the call flow to the employee on that phone extension, more on that later.

Usually a business will either have dedicated direct-dial phone numbers for certain types of inbound calls (e.g. a dedicated sales or support phone number) that flows straight to the respective ring group or it will have an auto attendant which plays a recording and routes to the correct ring group based on the selection that is made by the caller (e.g. press 1 for sales or 2 for support).

Ring group timeouts can be used to send callers to voicemail or backup ring groups or phone extensions should nobody answer the inbound call.

Types of Ring Groups

There are a number of different ring group strategies you can use for your business and these are highlighted below.

Rollover Ring Group (also known as Cyclic)

If you are used to older landline technology you will likely be aware of the rollover methodology since this is what it used.

Landlines have the inherent weakness of only allowing one call per phone line. For this reason if your business was already handling a call, either inbound or outbound, any subsequent calls were rolled over to a different phone line (and phone number). This has some unfortunate consequences. For starters you need to own multiple phone lines and numbers to support multiple concurrent calls. This means that customers can be called using your rollover phone number(s) which is never great from a branding standpoint since customers may store your rollover number instead of your main branded number.

In an ideal world you want to have one phone number that customers know and trust and this is in fact what VoIP offers. With VoIP all inbound and outbound calls can use one phone number. This is because calls are made over the Internet and therefore as long as your Internet is of good quality and bandwidth you can support multiple concurrent calls to the one phone number.

If you have a business VoIP service you can recreate rollover ring groups which behave in a similar manner to the landline rollover where busy destination extensions are skipped. If you have four extensions (extensions 200, 201, 202 and 203) and a new call comes in and 200 is already on a call it will be skipped and will ring 201 instead. If 201 is also busy it will instead ring 202 and so forth.

For VoIP we rarely see rollover strategies being employed as there are better ones to use, in our opinion.

Sequential Ring Group (also known as Linear or Cascade)

Sequential ring groups (see Figure 1) behave similarly to rollovers but have the added advantage that delays are programmable between each destination and call waiting can be used so that the highest priority phone extension can be set such that it gets every call by default, even if busy. In practice most users will not do this and instead use it like a rollover. Simply set the priority for the sequence and the delays between destinations and calls will always follow this sequence but skip busy destinations in a similar manner to rollover.

Businesses may use this if they wish to prioritize their incoming calls. For example, let's say there are only two sales people in your business, one experienced and one junior employee. You may set the sequence in the ring group such that the experienced sales person gets higher priority for calls, followed by the junior person followed by a non-sales person to handle overflow cases.

Sequence Ring Group

Figure 1: Sequence Ring Group

Circular Ring Group

The circular ring group (Figure 2) is very similar to the sequential ring group. The only real difference is that in the case of the sequence case, often after the last destination it will be configured to go to voicemail whereas for circular ring groups it can loop back to the first extension in the sequence.

This may be useful if you never want a call to go to voicemail. It acts almost like a basic call queue from that perspective.

Circular Ring Group

Figure 2: Circular Ring Group

Simultaneous Ring Group (also may be called Enterprise)

In our experience the simultaneous ring group (Figure 3) is one of the most popular ring group strategies that we have come across. Typically all destinations will ring at the same time although you could stagger them so extension 200 and 201 ring together for 20 seconds and then 202 and 203 ring together for 20 further seconds. It is very programmable. Most businesses just set them all to ring together and then after 30 to 45 seconds, if the call is not answered, go to voicemail. The first phone extension to answer wins the call and then all phones stop ringing.

Some platforms will also add a slightly more advanced version of simultaneous called an enterprise ring group. It behaves very similar but each destination has its own thread meaning that it can support further advanced features. For example, let's say extension 200 was one of the enterprise destinations and that extension had followme enabled so that it would ring extension 200 plus a cell phone number. An enterprise ring group would allow the ring group to ring and the followme destinations of extension 200 and the cell phone number. For a simultaneous ring group, only one of the followme options for extension 200 would ring in this scenario. For this reason, if enterprise ring groups is an option we normally would recommend that over simultaneous.

Simultaneous Ring Group

Figure 3: Simultaneous Ring Group

Random Ring Group

Not too much to add here, yes it does as it name suggests, it would ring random destinations in the ring group. We do not see this used very often but it may be useful since over a prolonged period of time it would likely average out so every destination had an opportunity to answer first.

Additional Ring Group Settings

Most VoIP companies also let you configure various additional settings for your ring groups. Some of the most common ones are detailed below:

Call Timeout and Destinations

Set how long you will let the ring group ring before timing out. Once the time out is reached, set the destination for the call (e.g. voicemail).

Caller ID Prefix

You can add caller ID prefixes to the incoming call when it passes through the ring group. This is really useful if your phone extension can be called from multiple ring groups. For example, you could prefix the caller ID with Sales or Support. By doing that you can determine the reason your phone is ringing before answering.

Ring Group Forward

This can be useful for after-hours or holidays. Forward the ring group to a different phone number, such as a cell phone or third party call center.

Ring Back Tone

Set the ring tone the caller will hear while waiting for someone in the ring group to answer. This could actually play a recording about your business or highlight promotions you are running.

Distinctive Ring

Set distinctive ring tones based on each ring group. Again this provides a way to distinguish inbound calls. Your sales ring group could be a different ring tone than your support ring group.


In this guide we covered some of the reasons for having ring groups and the different strategies you can employ for your business. We also covered some additional settings that can be useful to optimize call flows and distinguish multiple ring groups.

If you have any questions or comments on ring group strategies use the form below to let us know.

Published by WhichVoIP

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