The reports of the death of the landline phone are not overblown. This apparatus is still available, although it will join the Rolex, fax and floppy disk in the small business graveyard in the next ten years.
You can call using FaceTime, Messenger and Google Voice or any number of other apps. Virtual phone systems also allow you to make calls for your office number. VoIP (voice over the internet protocol) and virtual phones are better than landlines. They’re cheaper, more flexible and can be used on all devices, including mobile phones, laptops and desktops. Instead of using copper wires to attach office phones to make and take calls, virtual calls can be made via a broadband internet connection.
With so much work done at home, or combined with an office environment, it seems impossible to have clunky wired phones. As long as your internet connection is available, virtual phones can be used to free you from any tethering and make and receive business calls wherever you may be.
We tested dozens of virtual phones systems and came up with these five top VoIP solutions.
5 Best Virtual Phone Systems
- Dialpad to transcribe conversations
- GoToConnect to scale business operations
- Aircall to support and sell teams
- 8×8 to create an unlimited, all-in-one communications system
- OpenPhone is a low-cost phone system that can be used by small businesses and startups
Add automation to your VoIP platform if you want it to communicate with other apps you use. You can connect it to ticketing systems and team communication platforms.
What is a virtual telephone system?
Virtual free phone call online work with a broadband internet connection. They are just as simple to use as email. To receive a discount, you will need to choose a service and use your credit card to pay monthly or for the whole year. Next, you will choose your phone number and then download the app to make calls on your desktop, laptop, or mobile phone within minutes. No long-term contracts. There is no need to wait for a technician to add cables or install hardware.
Many services provide a variety of numbers, including local, toll-free and vanity listings like 1-504-FATCATS, or any other combination you choose, if available. You will need to transfer existing business numbers from your current provider (e.g. AT&T) to be able to use them. This will be taken care of by your new provider, however it may take several weeks before you are able to use your old numbers with the new service. You can still use your old number to transfer calls to the new provider, and you can get a new number from them.
Some providers also offer compatible VoIP models for an additional fee if you prefer to make and receive calls from a physical telephone. Because I was so used to the physical dial pad, cradle and VoIP handset, I used it for years with my virtual system. It was a pain to get rid of and I started using my desktop for calls.
Once your numbers are set up, there are many options for how your system works. Voicemail and interactive voice responses (IVR) can be used to route calls to the correct person or department. Other features include call analytics, call recording, call transfers, calling extensions, and recording calls.
Virtual phone systems: Why?
Virtual phones require you to have power in order to access the internet to make or receive calls. However, you can use a mobile phone that is charged to have other options. You can use the mobile app of your phone provider to make and receive calls. Or forward work calls to it. If you live in an area that is prone to long outages, an uninterruptible power supply (200 to $2,000) may be an option to keep your business running.
Small businesses will find it prohibitive to invest in a landline phone system because of the high cost. A PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is required to set up a mini-network in your company. The PBX hardware is installed on your site and acts as a hub for all lines. It provides features like auto-attendant and voicemail and call forwarding. Here is a breakdown of the potential costs for landlines:
Hardware for PBX: $1000 or more, depending on how many lines you have
Handsets: $50-$500 per phone
Monthly fee: $60 per Line
Installation/maintenance: Varies depending on your office/building
These costs can be compared to virtual phone systems which require only a phone (mobile, laptop, or desktop) and a monthly fee of $10/person. There is no additional hardware to purchase or replace. There are no maintenance fees or installation charges, and there are no contracts. You just need to select the number you want for your business or port an existing number, provide a credit card and download an app. Within minutes, you can be making calls.
It is important to ensure that your internet connection can handle the number of calls and lines you expect. Use this article to check your internet connection speed and find out how VoIP calling may be affected.
What makes a virtual phone system great?
I evaluated 20 phone systems for the research phase. These were chosen based on two factors: how easy it was to get a trial and my experience with dealing with support/sales staff. These are important considerations. You won’t buy anything you don’t try. The first impression should be positive, if not great–and definitely not unpleasant as it was with some.
The following criteria were used to evaluate each platform:
Easy of setup: Is it possible to find supporting articles if the setup was not intuitive?
Productivity tools: Tools like call recording, call distribution and voicemail to text can be used by employees to help them be more productive and better support customers.
Integrations: Integrations can be used with messaging, CRMs, live chat, live chat, and other software to provide deeper customer understanding and improve employee productivity.
Customer service: I reviewed various online review sites to confirm that each vendor had received positive customer support ratings. This was based on my personal experience in research and testing.
Affordable: Every platform should be reasonably affordable, based on all these factors.
All platforms tested offer unlimited U.S. calling, texting, mobile apps, IVR, auto-attendants (IVR), and unlimited U.S. phone calling. Each platform had reliable, clear calling and fast connections, whether it was for outbound calls or receiving inbound calls.
The best virtual phone system to transcribe conversations
Dialpad (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
Dialpad is a powerful tool with many features that businesses will love. Their Voice Intelligence is a feature that automatically transcribs phone conversations into text. Voice transcription technology has been around for a while, but it’s rare to find a phone application with this feature.
Even with all its features, Dialpad was the most enjoyable of all the ones we tested. The central app has everything you need, including the dialer. It launches in a single click. Intelligently organized call inbox lists categories for missed calls, voicemails and other types of calls. It makes it easy to see what is on your plate. Although the Android app was not as advanced as most mobile apps, it was reliable for testing calls.
Call routing is a smart way to handle incoming calls. There are several routing options available: fixed order, round-robin, longest idle agent and all agents ringing at once. Fallback Option lets you know what to do if all agents are busy. It can send calls directly to voicemail or to a custom message, as well as sending calls to another department. You can send automated text messages to SMS messages when you are in “do NOT disturb” mode, and after business hours.
When activated (turn it on from the call screen at anytime), the Voice Intelligence feature takes a real time transcript of your calls and highlights the key sections. This eliminates the need for you to take notes. My calls were dictated with a 90% accuracy or higher. To help the system recognize the words you add words to the Company Dictionary.
The transcript appears on the screen when a call has been concluded. To view call details , click. You can play back the call, take notes, create action items, and assign them agents. Sentiment Analysis provides context by identifying specific words such as “frustrated” or “frustrated”. The system will alert a manager if a call becomes particularly negative. He or she can then listen to the call or join it. You can find out if reps mention the company’s latest promotion during a call. To find out if your reps are mentioning the company’s latest promotion in a call, go to All calls and click Keyword. These intelligence features are useful for business owners and managers to train their reps in support and sales calls, and can also be used to improve their performance.
To enhance Dialpad’s functionality connect it to Zapier. This will allow you to create tickets in your support system and activities in your CRM when there are new Dialpad calls.
Dialpad price: Starting at $15/month/user, for the Standard Plan which includes unlimited calls, texts and internal chat. You can only have one local number on your plan. To get a toll-free number you will need to pay $15 per month plus $.02 per minute. Only the Enterprise plan, which has a minimum of 100 users, offers phone extensions.
The best virtual phone system to scale business communications
GoToConnect (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
GoToConnect, formerly Jive Communications, will be familiar to users of sister platform GoToMeeting and any brands under LogMeIn. GoToConnect will show you some of these GoTo products – Webinar, Meeting and Training – when you visit their site. The pricing structure for the VoIP platform is based on how many users you have. The per-user cost for the Standard mid-tier plan drops to $26 to $23 when you move up to the 2nd user tier (21-99). You can also bundle the plans and save up to half off Let’s now look at the features of the phone.
After creating an account, you will be taken to the web application and a setup list with six items. This includes selecting your phone number. You can search for a vanity keyword when selecting local or toll-free numbers. I searched for “fatcat” and found a few results, including 1-209-7FATCAT. Also, you can try pattern searching using combination of numbers and letters such as 1-720-867-5303 (this was not available). You can make your first call once you have selected a number, routed it to an extension (step 6) and completed the selection. Download the mobile or desktop app, or go to your account’s menu and select GoToConnect.
You can route calls using the Find Me Follow Me feature based on a sequence. Let’s suppose you have a busy day at work but do not want to miss any sales calls. For incoming calls, you can create a sequence: 1. Ring your coworker’s extension (ring for 10 seconds), 2. Ring your mobile number (ringfor five seconds), and finally, 3) Ring your manager. You can vary the steps and the ring times. You can create call filtering lists to block spammers or VIP clients to direct calls directly to your line, without having to go through the auto-attendant.
The app allows for basic internal chat as well as video conferencing. Both can be accessed through the app. The robust integration options include Slack and Salesforce, Zendesks, Zoho Microsoft, Zoho, Microsoft, as well as about 60 other apps.
GoToConnect Price: Starting at $22/month per user for up to 20 users under the Basic plan. Next tier Standard plans are $26/month for 20 users or $23 for 21-99.
Virtual phone system that is best for sales and support teams
Aircall (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
Aircall costs $30 per month for a minimum three user Essentials plan. This is our most expensive upfront system. They have some features that are specific to service and sales teams, which others don’t. Aircall is worth the trial if these departments spend a lot time on the phone and require features to keep them productive.
The initial setup was easy. It took only five minutes to choose a number and test it. Then, you can add greetings to incoming calls. These include after-hours messages, music on hold (my favorite being “Jazzy Frenchy”) and a voicemail message. You can customize each of these with your audio file, or in the case for messages, text-to voice options. These are pre-recorded male and female voices accented in American English, Australian or British English. This section is structured like a decision tree with clickable links to each action. It’s intuitive for the novice user.
Sales and service teams will benefit from the productivity features. They can automate the routing process and improve team collaboration. Parallel calling allows you to pause a call and begin a conversation on another number (to gather more info) and switch back and forth as necessary. Call routing allows you to control who gets the next incoming phone call based on availability and technical skills.
You can add as a contact or create notes after the call ends. If you receive a call from a prospect that a colleague has previously spoken to, you can add a note, click assign and choose their name from your team.
The Live feed gives real-time metrics such as call answer times, calls in waiting, average wait time, and user availability. You can also use this feed to monitor live calls for coaching purposes. The agent will be informed that their manager is listening and they will be able hear both the customer’s and their manager. Of course, the customer will only hear the agent.
Aircall has over 60 integrations with CRMs and help desks. With just a few clicks, HubSpot CRM was integrated and I was soon making calls using Aircall from my contact records. All details of the call, including duration, date and recording, are stored in HubSpot’s contact record as well as in the Aircall dashboard analytics and dashboard. When you call a contact in HubSpot, their employer and last contact are displayed in the dialer. A link is provided to get to the record.
Aircall Prices: Starting at $30/month/user for a minimum of 3 users
The best virtual phone system to provide an unlimited, all-in-one communications system
8×8 (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
When I landed on 8×8’s website, my first thought was “enterprise”. This is because this service is for large companies with many locations and thousands of employees. Their resources section is extensive and the site seems to have phone solutions for all types of organizations, including financial services. They have large clients but also offer unlimited calls and videos. Chat starts at $12 per month. 8×8 is a great option for small businesses that need an all-in-one communication platform. However, there’s one caveat.
The only problem with 8×8 is the awkward navigation. Logging in takes you to an empty page that has four options. My 8×8 Admin Meetings (video setting) and Support each take you to a different page. Each page appears to be from a different website, further disorienting the user. Dr. Frankenstein would be proud. It shouldn’t take too much effort once you know the layout of the land. This app is not as well-thought out as the others reviewed.
Given my navigation experience, I was expecting a similar difficulty in setting up navigation. Configuring incoming calls was, to my surprise and delight, the easiest task of all the people tested. You are asked to set up a welcome message. The text-to-speech greeting I sent was not as pleasant as I expected. However, it was easily tested by clicking a button. You can upload a file to record a greeting or have the app call you cell phone. You will need to include a call menu in your greeting if you intend to use it (“press 1 for sales, 2, for support”)
Call handling offered options to send incoming calls: ring your team or team voicemail, an automated menu, or redirected directly to a number. An automated menu made it easy to select the location of each call. Before you publish your settings, the app will run a test call to make sure that everything is working correctly.
You can initiate a video or send a message during a call by clicking one button. The call quality was great and my test calls were connected quickly. Video also connected quickly and was of good quality. Screen sharing, chat, closed captioning and recording are just a few of the many video features. Video analytics–which can be found in Meetings on the main menu–capture data such as duration, feedback from users, and other information. Although the internal chat system is basic, you can create chat rooms and hold multiple chats. You can also attach files. This is likely sufficient for most small teams.
Sync your calendar with Google, Outlook, iCloud and other platforms to schedule calls and video conferences. For CRM integrations, native integrations are available with platforms like Sugar, HubSpot and Zoho. Zapier allows to connect 8×8 with thousands of apps . This lets you send 8×8 SMS to new leads, or 8×8 messages to Slack.
8×8 price: Starting at $12/month/user. This includes unlimited calling, video and chat.
The best virtual phone system to provide a cost-effective solution for startups and small teams
OpenPhone HTML3_ (Android. iOS. Web. Windows. Mac.
OpenPhone can be a great choice for anyone who is solo or managing a small business and needs a low-cost, simple phone system. It is easy to set-up and use. There are also handy automated features that allow you to stay in touch with your callers. Like the website, you can choose any color for the app as long as it is black. It took me a while to adjust to the black background as it is not like other apps on my phone. But once I did it was enjoyable to use.
You have the option to choose a local, toll-free or porting an existing number. Click on the new number to view all settings. Fill out the short form to have OpenPhone authorize authorization from CNAM (CallerID Name) to set your caller ID so that it displays your company name. Authorization took about a week for my “Acme Corporation” name request.
You can give your colleagues access to the number if you work in a small shop or office. You can make and receive calls. You can also set up automated text messages for missed calls during business hours. If you are going to be absent from work but need to reply immediately to callers, an automated text can be sent to “Thanks for calling.” I will be attending a meeting from 3:00 p.m. MST. What can I do to help? Additional features include call forwarding as well as a list to block spam callers.
You can call from any contact’s record by adding your OpenPhone number into HubSpot’s CRM. Also, you can create HubSpot contacts from one OpenPhone click. You can also integrate with Slack and Google Contacts. This allows you to log new incoming SMS messages in Google Sheets and send SMS messages when there is a Calendly event.
OpenPhone Price: Starting at $10/month for unlimited calls in the U.S.A. and Canada. Additional phone numbers can be added for $5 per month
Which phone system works best for you and your team?
Are you looking for sales and service team productivity tools? Aircall is a tool that makes it easier to handle high volumes of calls. It has features like parallel calling, automated routing, and a list of actions that appear on the screen after a call has ended. Managers will love the Livefeed feature that provides real-time insight into how their reps perform.
Are you looking for a low-cost option? OpenPhone’s Standard plan costs only $10 per month per user and is also the cheapest.
Do your business need internal chat, video and calling? 8×8 is a reasonably priced package that covers all three channels.
Are you interested in having your calls transcribed? Dialpad is the best option for this and it’s a great solution all around.
You might want to combine your VoIP with other business solutions. GoToConnect is part a group that includes webinar, meeting and training software. It’s a great option if you already use LogMeIn software and plan to scale it in the future.
All five of these systems performed well in our tests. They were both easy to set up and had excellent call quality. You can call anywhere in the world as long as there is an internet connection. Register for a free trial to learn more about each service and give them a try.