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Best cloud phone system and PBX of 2021

TechRadar logo TechRadar 11/25/2021 Nate Drake
Daniel Szczypa standing in front of a window: A man in an office on a phone call. © Provided by TechRadar A man in an office on a phone call.

The best cloud phone systems make it simple and easy to run a software-based cloud phone system and PBX at a fraction of the cost of a hardware alternative.

The advantage of this is that it allows even small businesses access to phone features normally only affordable for enterprises, and work not just with the office phone system but also with employee smartphones.

As cloud-based phone systems run through software and use VoIP for calls and communications, they can offer a cheaper service while delivering a richer range of additional features, such as software integrations and analytics. 

Even better is that cloud phone systems only require you to pay for what you use, rather than having to invest in expensive on-premises hardware. This means that even small businesses can now access full-featured VoIP services for the office and even the home, which include features previously only enterprise companies could afford to build.

The outcome of all this is that a small business now have access to cloud-based phone services that can provide a wide range of advanced features, from Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) - for managing calls, messaging, and video conferencing - to cloud-based Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) services, all running on the same platform.

Overall, the digital transformation of the telecoms industry has vastly improved the range and accessibility of phone services for business. Here we'll feature the best cloud phone systems.

We've also featured the best VoIP service for home.

RingCentral Office provide a cloud-based communications and collaboration platform for businesses of all sizes. The solution includes all PBX administration functions, Android and iOS apps and unlimited calling.

There is a comprehensive set of features included as standard, including call logging, monitoring, recording, and online faxing. It also offers HD voice and audio conferencing through mobile devices, as well as team collaboration through screen sharing and HD video for both tasks as well as video conferencing.

There are also options for expanding more advanced features such as UCaaS, CCaaS, and CPaaS to cover all aspects of communications. There's also a developer platform available to ensure that your service offers all of the features and connections you might ever imagine you need. And yet, all of these are available at a price affordable for small businesses.

RingCentral Office offers several pricing tiers. 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.

Read our full RingCentral Office review.

Ooma Office is a cloud-based phone service that presents itself as a big business phone experience to small businesses, and is priced very well in this respect.

Ooma Office gives you all the core features you would expect, plus some more advanced functions like a virtual receptionist that allows for calls to be automatically directed to the right department.

Subscribers also benefit from hold and transfer music, and Ooma provides mobile apps for iOS and Android, so you can set up capabilities such as call forwarding, enabling calls to be sent from your desk phone to your mobile when you’re out and about. That said, some of the online feedback about the mobile apps isn’t great, so bear that in mind.

Generally speaking, though, Ooma gives you a lot of functionality for a relatively modest outlay. There’s no fuss – you get all the features with that one subscription plan – and what’s more the system is easy to set up and get going with.

Naturally, you don’t get everything compared to the feature-sets of the more costly rivals out there, and the most notable missing piece of the puzzle is a lack of CRM software integrations.

Read our full Ooma Office review.

GoToConnect represents the merger of LogMeIn's Jive VoIP platform and their GoTo conferencing platform into a single service offering that provides a comprehensive range of options.

General features include custom call routing, team-based call distribution, as well as time-based and geolocation routing to ensure that calls are picked up fast. Screen sharing and personal meeting rooms are a standard part of the package, and users can easily join in with a single click rather than wait around or have to generate a PIN.

What's even better is that rather than have differently priced plan levels with an increasing range of unlocked features, GoToConnect has a single pricing system based on the number of users. This could be especially welcome to small and medium-sized businesses who can enjoy all of the same features as an enterprise would, but without having to pay extra for the privilege.

Altogether, GoToConnect advertises itself as a unified communications and collaboration platform, that will surely work well for a lot of business set ups.

Read our full GoToConnect review.

Aircall is another cloud-hosted phone solution, which can be set up with just a few clicks. This then provides your business with a complete communications center for calls, video, and messaging from the web, desktop, or mobile. 

Aircall also includes a wide range of CRM, helpdesk, and productivity functions, to help improve how your sales and support teams handle calls, not least in terms of transferring them as well as approaching customers. And, as expected, there's an analytics suite to help gauge efficiency and track KPIs in workflows and look for ways to improve them.

Because of this, Aircall also provides a large number of integrations, such as for SalesForce, Zendesk, Hubspot, Zoho, Freshdesk, and Slack. However, note that a minimum of three users is required to operate this service.

Overall, Aircall provides excellent functionality with a low cost cloud phone system that's easy to use and accessible for small businesses as well as enterprises.

Read our full Aircall review.

Dialpad has built its phone service for the cloud from the ground up, which means you avoid the issues that legacy providers have traditionally suffered from when trying to backward engineer their services.

Dialpad provides all the features you'd expect from a business phone system, such as voice, video, and messaging options, which can run from your existing devices using soft phone apps, and there are also options for automation, web conferencing, and an AI-powered call center platform.

Dialpad also advertises its Voice Intelligence feature, which uses AI to support human users through a combination of speech recognition, natural language processing, machine learning, and real-time coaching. This allows transcripts and analytics to be automatically for all calls, making it easier to better learn and understand your business workflows and customer experiences.

Overall, Dialpad offers a full-service cloud PBX platform for business users. Set up takes only a few minutes, and there's a 14-day free trial available.

Read our full Dialpad review.

8x8 offers a feature-packed bundle that means even with the most basic plan, you still have a comprehensive set of services as you'd expect with a full-blown business PBX system.

There's a comprehensive range of features in the starter 8x8 Express plan, which offers basic functionality for small businesses and start-ups, including all aspects of call handling, auto-attendant, as well as audio and video conferencing with screen sharing supported. Team messaging and SMS is also included, as is voicemail services which includes voicemail transcriptions. Integrations include Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace.

The X2 plan adds Single Sign On (SSO), along with integrations for Okta, call recordings, and unlimited fax. After that, the X Series X4 plan adds an operator switchboard, analytics, and call quality reporting, as well as extending unlimited calling from 14 to 47 countries. There are more advanced X6 and X8 plans aimed at enterprise use.

Read our full 8x8 X Series review.

Avaya OneCloud is the latest unified communications offering from Avaya, succeeding the previously successful IP Office platform and expanding its current Avaya IX Workplace and Contact Center range.

The service aims to create a truly scaleable solution using whichever cloud solution you're most comfortable with. For small and medium-sized businesses that are happy to rely on third-party suppliers, Avaya OneCloud can easily run through a public cloud, meaning that you receive continuous service and don't have to concern yourself with software upgrades or IT buy-ins.

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.

While the product name may have changed, Avaya have a solid track record in their expanded VoIP and UC service provisions, and the sheer scalability of the OneCloud solution has to be attractive, especially for enterprises.

Read our full Avaya Onecloud review.

Grasshopper offers a comprehensive cloud phone service platform for small businesses across North America.

The solution needs no hardware and is easy to setup. It is a virtual phone system. All calls are answered by an automated phone assistant, which then forwards them to the relevant person or department. Users can create a unique vanity 800 number upon registration. Grasshopper integrates with Skype, LiveChat, Google Voice, Zapier and Bitium.

Grasshopper has an app for both Android and iOS. Users will be able to receive calls through their business line from the app. The cheapest plan includes 1 number and 3 extensions. Additional plans offer additional numbers and extensions.

All plans offer business texting, online fax, call forwarding, custom greetings, Wi-Fi calls, desktop, mobile apps and unlimited minutes.

Read our full Grasshopper review.

We've also featured the best VoIP phones.


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