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Best cloud phone systems of 2019: set up a business PBX system in the cloud

TechRadar logo TechRadar 10/10/2019 Nate Drake
Best cloud phone system© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Best cloud phone system

Editor's note: Looking for a cloud phone system and PBX for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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PBX (Private Branch Exchanges) are used by companies to route telephone calls within their own premises. Depending on the type of PBX used people in your organization can have their own extensions, place calls and even send SMS messages and faxes. 

Setting up your own PBX has traditionally been time consuming and costly. These days however, there are a number of companies offering phone systems in the cloud. 

In this guide, you’ll discover some of the top cloud-based companies offering this service today. All of these providers will save you the trouble and expense of installing your own hardware, although some are compatible with existing PBX systems too. As their systems are based online, many of these providers also support video and VoIP calling as well as regular telephone calls.

  • Want your company or services to be added to this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to desire.athow@futurenet.com with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line. 

Best cloud business phone systems - at a glance

  1. 8x8 Cloud
  2. RingCentral
  3. Ooma Office
  4. Vonage Business Cloud
  5. Avaya OneCloud
a screenshot of a cell phone: 8x8 Cloud© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. 8x8 Cloud

1. 8x8

Comprehensive cross platform cloud-calling for those who can afford it

PROS:

+ Mobile apps
+ Good customer support

CONS:

- Relatively Expensive 

8x8 Inc. is a provider of cloud communications and customer engagement solutions. Services available include cloud –based voice, contact centre, video, mobile and unified communications for small, medium and enterprise businesses.

The platform offers a unified communications system which is easy to use. It has many features including calling, collaboration, mobile apps and tools. 8x8 is a cloud-hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone system. No complicated PBX hardware is needed.

Phones can be purchased directly from 8x8. If you choose to do this, the will come preconfigured and ready to use upon arrival. However, if you purchased from an outside vendor, an 8x8 representative will help you during initial setup.

The entire 8x8 system is setup and managed via online portal. From where users have access to billing, call logs and support. Administrators can also create and setup extensions and call groups.

8x8 offers three price plans. In order to subscribe, users will need to contact the sales team directly. All plans include unlimited calling, mobile apps, auto attendant, online call management and business SMS.

Users have complained that the cost is high compared to other providers.

a screenshot of a social media post: RingCentral© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. RingCentral

2. RingCentral

Unlimited telephone and video calls, RingCentral ticks all the boxes

PROS:

+ Demo available
+ Unlimited video & audio meetings

CONS:

- UI learning curve

RingCentral is a provider of cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions. It was founded in 1999.

The solution includes all PBX administration functions, Android and iOS apps and unlimited calling.

Upon registration, users will be assigned an ‘implementation specialist’ to help determine the number of phones you need. They also help to either transfer over or create new numbers for you. Any phones you purchase directly from RingCentral are preconfigured and ready to use upon receipt.

RingCentral offer several pricing tiers for small businesses. These range from $19.99 for the ‘Essentials’ package to $49.99 for the ‘Ultimate’ package. All plans include unlimited phone calls, unlimited business SMS and mobile apps. They also offer unlimited video and audio meetings with screen sharing on both the desktop and mobile apps. However, the number of screen-sharing users is limited by the package you choose.

For enterprise business, subscribers can request a demo and a quote by filling out a form on the website.

Online commentators have noticed that it takes some time to get used to the interface.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Ooma Office© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Ooma Office

3. Ooma Office

PROS:

+ 35+ features
+ Budget pricing
+ Hardware available

Ooma Office is a cloud-based business VoIP solution aimed at providing enterprise-level features and service for small business customers.

Even better is that Ooma doesn't lock you into a contract, meaning you can set up and stay with them only as long as you want, with no penalties.

There are a number of features available to help ensure your business phone service sounds professional to customers, such as extensions, a multi-level virtual receptionist and call transfers, as well as conferencing features. 

Additionally there is a mobile app for use on smartphones so that you and your staff can use the Ooma phone system while on the go out of the office.

Ooma is compatible with a number of existing VoIP protocols, but new customers can buy a specially-built base station with range extenders. Existing businesses should be able to use their existing VoIP equipment, but additional phones and bundles are available if required.

Another advantage of Ooma is that it has a single flat-rate fee for small businesses of $19.95 per user, which is a lot cheaper than many other providers, making it particularly price-competitive.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Vonage Business Cloud© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Vonage Business Cloud

4. Vonage Business Cloud

Keep your switchboard in the cloud without breaking the bank

PROS:

+ Mobile apps
+ Web-based console

CONS:

- Some connectivity issues

Vonage is an internet telephony service which provides business and residential telecommunication services. They were founded in 2001.

Vonage Business Cloud provides users with video conferencing and online collaboration. The solution offers businesses access to a web-based console. Users can view extension numbers, the number porting tool and setup guide.

Subscribers have access to a variety of plug-ins as well as services. Some plug-ins are free such as integration with Clio, ConnectWise, Google G Suite and Microsoft Dynamics.

Vonage claim to have an easy to use service with no need to install complicated PBX hardware as everything is cloud-based.

The ‘Mobile’ package starts at $19.99 which includes unlimited calling and messages, mobile app, desktop app and Vonage Flow Team messaging.

The ‘Premium’ plan starts at $29.99 per month per user and comes with extras such as CRM integrations, multi-level auto attendant, conference calling, online meetings and video conferencing. 

The top tier plan available, weighs in at $39.99 per month with all the first two tiers have to offer plus on-demand call recording and Vonage Visual Voicemail.

Vonage offer a 14-day free trial for all packages.

Some users have claimed that calls can disconnect at times.

a screenshot of a social media post: Avaya OneCloud© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Avaya OneCloud

5. Avaya OneCloud

A powerful cloud phone system

PROS:

+ Strong suite of features
+ Unified Communications
+ Different cloud options

Avaya OneCloud aims to create a truly scaleable business phone solution that can work for every size of business, whether small business or enterprise.

For small and medium-sized businesses Avaya OneCloud operates through Google cloud, meaning that you receive continuous service and don't have to concern yourself with software upgrades or IT buy-ins.

For enterprise companies that already have a private or hybrid cloud service, a customized solution can be set up under the OneCloud ReadyNow service. There's the option of setting up any required server hardware on premises, or else host it in one of Avaya's datacenters.

Of course, Avaya OneCloud is more than just calls, and as a unified communications solution it means integrating all communications channels into a single system.

Avaya have a solid track record in their expanded VoIP and UC service provisions, and the sheer scaleability of the OneCloud solution has to be attractive.

Other cloud phone systems and PBX options to consider

We've only scratched the surface in terms of cloud-hosted phone and PBX providers with considering for your business. Here's we'll look at some additional options which are well worth a look:

aircall is one of the more innovative cloud-based phone providers for business. Not only is it entirely cloud-based, making it an excellent choice for those with mobile devices, it also comes with a ton of standard features. Even better, it comes not just with analytics, but with a huge number of integrations, such as SalesForce, Zendesk, Zoho, Freshdesk, and Shopify.

Jive is another company that offers a hosted cloud VoIP system which combines both voice and video, making it ideal for use on mobile devices such as cell phones. It also comes with a lot of standard features, including analytics, and of course video conferencing. Although it starts from $29.95 per user for up to 4 users, the cost-per-user decreases the more users you sign up.

Dialpad is another big cloud-hosted PBX worth looking at. Dialpad runs using Google's Cloud, and as above includes both voice and video conferencing as standard. It also offers AI to work through your logs to offer actionable insights to help improve business efficiency, customer retention, and profitability. It's also cheap at $20 per user, though costs more to unlock more features.

Microsoft Phone System is part of the Microsoft Teams stable, which not only offers cloud-hosting calling, conferencing, and chat, but also promises full integration with the Office 365 office software suite. However, if you don't want to move to the cloud you can use your existing PBX hardware.

MiCloud Connect is the hosted PBX solution by one of the world's biggest specialist VoIP providers. Although it looks geared more to enterprise, it's also accessible to smaller business, with a range of scales available according to need. It also comes with CRM options and a host of other features to improve business operations.

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