Best VoIP service in 2021: RingCentral, Vonage, Ooma, and more

Remember when landlines still ruled the land, before smartphones were sophisticated pocket broadband machines? There was a time when telephone handsets were essential business gear, when we put a phone near every chair in the house. Those were the days, my friend. Those were the days.

Now, however, welcome to 2020. You know the story. COVID-19, lockdowns, shelter-in-place, the rise of work-from-home, offices deserted in favor of newly remote workers. For many companies, especially those that had already gone through their own digital transformation, business was pretty much as usual. Their teams communicate via Slack or Teams, set up Zoom meetings four times a day, and create email chains and threads that can make you question the meaning of life.

But those aren’t the companies and individuals we’re addressing. In this article, we’re talking to companies that still have a handset on every desk (but now the desks are at home), still do business by talking on the phone (really, some folks do that), and who route calls and transfer to extensions (which now have to traverse the planet instead of the building).

For those of you, there are VoIP (Voice over IP) solutions that allow you to run a PBX in the cloud, and connect employees working from home just as if they were wired into the on-premises phone switch. Here are solutions that should help you stay connected chk; Family VoIP plans.

When I started asking around about VoIP providers, RingCentral was the one mentioned the most. RingCentral offers solutions for small vendors all the way up through giant enterprises, and it also has a focus on developer integration, allowing external vendors to hook into the RingCentral environment in new and creative ways.

Their core product is RingCentral Office, which offers all the key virtual PBX features, including auto-attendant, company directory, call forwarding and handling, and multiple extensions. Additional programs provide voice mail, call forwarding, fax, and meetings and webinars. RingCentral has a nice iOS and Android app that allows you to turn your smartphone into what seems like a more traditional office phone for callers.

Don’t want to give our your personal mobile number to customers and clients, but also don’t want to carry a second phone? Consider Line2 which — wait for it — adds a second line to your phone.

Actually, Line2 offers a bit more. It moves the traditional hard-wired on-premises PBX to the cloud and moves the dedicated PBX handsets into your team’s smartphones. You can assign additional phone numbers to phones, transfer calls between team members, set up an auto-attendant function to annoy callers while sounding official. You can even turn your team into a virtual call center with the ability to dynamically distribute calls to agents.

We last included Intermedia in our best email hosting services roundup, and now it’s back in our VoIP list. Intermedia actually offers a number of unified communications products including virtual PBX, SIP trunking, and various conferencing apps. In this roundup, we’re looking at the company’s combined system, Intermedia Unite.

While Intermedia Unite recommends mostly Polycom, Cisco, and Yealink VoIP phones, the company’s Anyphone BYOP (bring your own phone) program allows certain other devices to connect into the Intermedia VoIP environment. In terms of features, this is enterprise VoIP with all the fixin’s. As you might imaging from a vendor we recommended as a leading email host provider, Intermedia Unite has strong ties to Office 365 and G Suite as well as Slack and Salesforce.

In pandemic times, the ability for workers to bring their desk phones home, plug them into their home Internet, and still have a receptionist capability that allows AAs and operators to view the availability of everyone in their organization, perform blind transfers, warm transfers, and transfers to voicemail — all remotely — is a huge boon.