Shopping around for a VoIP phone system can be a daunting task when there are so many different services out there with so many different options. Before you settle with any one provider and get stuck with lengthy service contracts, which we all know are a huge pain in the ass to get out of, here are three important questions to help you decide which service is right for your small business. Specifically, we’ll compare RingCentral, Vonage and Telzio.

Telzio VoIP
photo credit: cphoriginals.com

1. What is the cost per user?

One of the reasons I’m sure you’re thinking about switching to VoIP is for the cost benefits. While VoIP does offer better calling rates, lower maintenance and less hardware than traditional PBX systems, service plans vary significantly from provider to provider, so choosing the right plan for your business needs will make all the difference in your final cost.

Most VoIP providers such as RingCentral and Vonage charge by the number of users you have. A user is any employee or phone that you need connected to your phone system. If you have 10 employees with phones then you will need at least 10 users.

Vonage plans range from $14.99 per user to $39.99 per user, and RingCentral plans range from $19.99 per user to $69.99 per user. What you need to look into are the hidden terms. To get the lower rate with RingCentral, you have to pay one year upfront.

Telzio plans include free unlimited users and range from $1 per month to $29.99 per month. Instead of paying per user, you pay per phone number and add as many users as you need to the phone number.

You should ask prospective providers about the number of devices you can actually log into with one user. Vonage limits you to three devices, RingCentral limits you to one IP phone and one mobile device, and Telzio has no limits on the number of devices you can be logged into with one user.

2. How many free minutes do I get?

If you don’t know how many minutes you’ll need each month, that’s okay. Most providers offer plans with free minutes included and some providers offer unlimited plans.

What you need to be aware of is the fair use policy, because that’s what defines what “unlimited” really means. When you find this fine print, you will notice that all providers have restrictions on what constitutes as “normal” based on how their customers call. Some are more vague than others, but you can get an idea of whether your usage will violate their terms.

RingCentral and Vonage offer up to “unlimited” calling plans per user, whereas Telzio states upfront the number of free minutes that are included with each plan. With RingCentral and Vonage, you choose a plan for each user, and with Telzio you choose a plan for each phone number where users are included and share minutes. At the end of the day, you can do a quick calculation to see what’s most cost effective for your business.

voip providers

3. How do I manage my services?

Finally, who’s going to be setting up and managing your phone system? Whether it’s an IT consultant or a total newbie, you want to cut down the amount of time and effort it takes to set up your phone system and make any changes later.

You should test out the user interface of the different VoIP providers you are comparing through a demo or test run. Most providers have a dashboard where you can log into your account and manage your phone system. See how easy (or painful) it is to configure a feature or add an extension. Is it intuitive and seamless? Or does it look like it was designed in the ’90s?

Since some providers require contracts to add on users and certain features, you would need to reach out to them and sign new service to make the changes. As far as I’m concerned, the less you have to call in to any service provider, the better.

Telzio has a complete do-it-yourself platform from start to finish, so you can do everything from get a new phone number to build IVR menus to add new users all through the website. In fact, the entire service was built on the premise that you can do everything yourself, with no IT experience whatsoever.

Conclusion

No matter which VoIP provider you choose, know what you’re getting yourself into. I see too many people waiting to get out of two-year contracts so they can switch to a better service. You never know how the quality or support is going to be after you’ve made a commitment, and those are usually the reasons people get fed up with their service providers and want to leave – after it’s too late.