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VoIP telephone systems may not seem all that interesting at first glance, but the evolution from old school traditional VoIP phone services to innovative unified communication platforms is totally worth getting excited about.
Being able to manage phone calls from a mobile app, setting up a video conference call with multiple team members and communicating through team messaging are all essential requirements today, and the best part is that a modern VoIP service can do it all in a single interface.
It’s even possible to get rid of all your VoIP phones and equipment all together, especially with some of the software tools available.
It may seem obvious to point out how businesses are completely dependant on technology, especially when it comes to communication. Working remotely is fast becoming the new normal, and as time goes on, ‘owning’ expensive business IT infrastructure is totally not necessary any more. VoIP providers are having to innovate and thankfully, this is exactly what has happening.
That’s the focus of our article today, we’re taking a detailed look at 9 of the best VoIP providers to see who offers the best features, customer service and products overall. We’ve also put together a load of technical tips further down, so let’s jump right in!
Who are we to judge?
I thought I should mention our credentials seeing as you’re looking for trustworthy advice. We’re an IT support team with loads of experience using just about every available VoIP phone system available, we’ve rolled out 100’s of installations over the years and maintain a large number of business networks.
Hopefully our experience in the VoIP sector will provide you with a comprehensive overview. If you’re in the market for a new VoIP provider and want an unbiased sounding board to discuss options, feel free to get in touch with us.
We’re more than happy to discuss our VoIP expertise and tailored managed IT services designed specifically for small to medium sized businesses.
The 9 Best UK VoIP Providers
Here are a few of our favourite business VoIP providers and a quick overview of features. We’ve focused on more than just the standard stuff, it’s not enough to just offer a fancy dashboard, VoIP phones and clever call routing with hunt groups (well get into all this techno mumbo jumbo later).
We’re after the creme dé la creme of features and call packages that all established businesses would really benefit from and which should be included in a single VoIP service. We’ve also tried to balance our choice of reviews against customer service, features and overall impression so that you are able to find the best match for your business requirements.
Possibly one of the most interesting platforms to have launched in recent years which focuses on the needs of collaborative businesses. Microsoft Teams started as a way for Microsoft to compete with Slack (an amazing team messaging application) but because of Microsoft’s enormous multi-platform eco system, it’s quickly starting to dominate the VoIP market too.
Team’s VoIP/phone system capability includes auto attendant (press 1 for sales, 2 for support, etc), call queues, call recording and voicemail which is pretty standard stuff you’d expect to find. But, the real magic is taking place behind the scenes. The cloud dashboard is incredibly good, you’re able to manage the smallest levels of detail, from permissions to Outlook calendars and just about anything else your business could possibly need.
The reporting element is also really good, each user can be sent an email every week highlighting usage between emails, meetings, video conferences, etc. Office 365 is an already powerful suite of business software built into one package, adding their VoIP phone system to the mix is a cherry on the top. You will definitely find cheaper providers out there, but as unified communications go, you’re getting a lot of cool software and features at a reasonable cost.
Are there any negatives? Microsoft have a large offering of business products so it’s complicated to get the information you need from their support docs and pricing pages. It also takes quite a lot of Microsoft knowledge to set up and port over your existing phone numbers. But, if properly installed and managed, this are one of the best VoIP platforms available.
RingCentral are another innovative business-grade VoIP provider worthy of consideration. For all the features that are available, their offering of inexpensive call packages and service as a whole is impressive. The highlights include a well designed mobile/desktop app, video conferencing and team chat interface covering all the core basics you’d hope to see with a modern VoIP phone system.
The admin portal is also easy to navigate and provides advanced features, including call user management, analytics, shared lines (similar to Team’s auto attendant) and many more. They also include a good level of security with the addition of single sign-on and the ability to set different permissions for every user and department.
Overall, the feature set is impressive. You’re able to integrate with other cloud platforms like Office 365 and GSuite, you’re also able to purchase new phones and handsets directly through their website and they have loads of positive feedback which bodes well for their innovative VoIP system as a whole.
Are there any negatives? Although RingCentral do get positive reviews, there are some mixed opinions when it comes to customer service. In our experience, any large VoIP provider will share this problem as their support team are limited in their ability to solve complex requests in the same way a hands-on IT support company or VoIP provider would do. It’s not a bad thing, just means it may be worth handing over the management of all business related VoIP queries to your IT provider rather than engaging directly.
4com could be considered a more traditional provider matching a solid VoIP phone system with great customer support and training. The reason we’ve included them on our list is because they do get a lot of positive reviews across google, and as rock-solid VoIP phone systems go, they do deliver superb quality across the board.
As with the other reviews we’ve covered, 4Com also provide mobile apps, video conferencing, call recording and reporting – all the features you’d expect to have but maybe not as wide range or advanced as some of the others on this list.
The strongest aspect to their service is the hands-on business support provided and team training, making it easier to switch over. For example, setting up more advanced features like auto attendant, call forwarding, configuring call monitoring, etc would be something they would do for you on the administration side as part of their installation project.
So what are the negatives? There is nothing wrong with going for a traditional VoIP phone system per say, but if you’re looking for a completely unified communications platform which integrates into other cloud systems and performs multiple functions like instant messaging/team messaging, going the traditional route just won’t cut the mustard. It may seem that their mobile apps are of the same caliber as Microsoft Teams, but it won’t be the case. That said, customer satisfaction is really important too, and this is where 4Com’s UK based support team are exceptional.
Vonage are one of the largest UK VoIP providers who have been in operation for the last 15 years. Their VoIP service is a good mix of technology with an impressive range of features including desktop and mobile applications, video conferencing and team collaboration/messaging. They’ve integrated Amazon Chime which is a suite of collaboration tools which works similar to MS Teams, mixing in voice, messaging and video communications.
They also include an endless list of essential features like call recording (business wide and on-demand), voicemail to email, virtual receptionist, trendy hold music, etc – it goes on and on. They also have CRM integrations and connections to different cloud platforms like Office 365 and GSuite, which makes for greater unified communications overall.
Similarly to RingCentral, their aim is to make the whole experience easy to use through their interface design, which has its positives and negatives.
What are the negatives? As with most of the giant UK VoIP providers, customer service is somewhat hit and miss depending on who you talk to. Vonage are usually consistent with feedback but some of their latest platform updates have caused a few problems with long-time users, so customer satisfaction is not at the level it used to be. That said, there is a reason they have survived for so long, and ultimately, they still do deserve a spot on our top 9 list of VoIP suppliers.
Berry are not as tech forward as MS Teams or RingCentral, but they do deliver affordable business VoIP phone systems with excellent customer support to back it up. Similarly to 4Com, their main selling point is customer satisfaction with the addition of a dedicated UK account manager to make sure you’re getting the best possible support, and their features are not too bad with access to mobile/desktop user applications, albeit very basic in design.
I wouldn’t say the technology they’re using truly qualifies as a fully unified communications package, there is room for improvement in areas like integration with other cloud services and team messaging. But, their VoIP system still delivers a decent level of technology features, you’re able to access voicemails, call routing, click to call and review statistics on all devices through reports.
Other features include call recording, group calls, hold music and marketing functionality. They also provide business mobiles, phone-specific broadband and on premise telephone systems (PBX) if that’s your preference.
Are there any negatives? It’s a balance between innovation and customer service, the VoIP providers who have the coolest toys are not necessarily the best at delivering personalised customer service. Berry certainly delivers the service element in spades, but they do lack a lot of functionality which you may get with MS teams, RingCentral or Vonage.
No UK centric VoIP review could be complete without mentioning BT, they have a massive foothold and are worth mentioning seeing as they do support a lot of businesses throughout the UK. Believe it or not, they have a fairly popular VoIP service with a good dashboard and decent call management features (standard stuff like automatic call routing, hunt groups, voicemail to email, call forwarding, etc)
BT controls and operates most of the internet cabling networks in the UK and so are able to offer cost effective call packages to larger businesses which include VoIP phones/handsets and connectivity bundled into one. The downside is it usually entails a long and bloated contract for 3 years or longer, which is not ideal for most small businesses.
Their entire platform is cloud based, and they do have CRM integrations available, but everything is a chargeable extra. Where other providers deliver call recording, analytics and CRM integration inclusive of their service, BT bolts this on as an additional charge. It just feels like they’re behind in their offering, especially considering all the other providers we’ve looked at offer more value in essential business features for less money.
Are there any other negatives? Sadly, BT have a bad reputation for customer service with one of the lowest scores on trust pilot. We’ve had a fair number of our clients use BT’s VoIP phone system over the years and while it generally works, it’s just unnecessarily expensive for what you get. There isn’t a team messaging app or much unification going on which would add much better value to a small business.
What is the cheapest VoIP service?
The next few reviews may just be the best VoIP for small business where affordability and excellent support are needed in one package. They may not offer the most innovative technology with fancy integrations and extensive controls but they have the business features that count, and are a pleasure to work with whenever you need help.
Based in the UK (Manchester), the Voxcloud team are definitely customer focused in the way they deliver their service. You get all the business VoIP features you may expect, including ring groups (similar to auto attendant, group calls or hunt groups), voicemail to email, virtual receptionist and an easy to use cloud portal where everything can be managed.
Their per user pricing is designed to offer small businesses a lot of flexibility (as low as £5 per user per month) and competitive call bundles on either a pay as you go basis or per month. Their premium package also include more advanced services like call recording and click to dial. The best part is, there are no contracts so you’re able to switch VoIP providers whenever your business requirements change.
Voxcloud to offer a product demo and trial period (with a test phone number) if you want to evaluate their services before you commit, but overall, they’re definitely worth checking out.
One of my personal favourites are soho66. They get a ton of positive reviews for their business VoIP service, and their control panel has a good amount of customisable features which are easy enough for average users to change. It’s by no means the most modern platform – it does feel a little dated, but it works nonetheless.
I’m not kidding when I say they’re ultra affordable, prices start at £2.99 per user per month on pay as you go pricing. All the call management features are there, including call director, hunt groups, hold music, voicemail to email and a cost effective virtual receptionist service who can help answer missed calls.
My only criticism based on using their services for several years is it doesn’t scale very well, you tend to miss having good user reporting, video conferencing and more advanced mobile/desktop apps to use. It’s a basic service with no bells and whistles, but that is perfectly fine for the average micro/small business who just needs a traditional phone system.
It can be a little technical to set up, although they do have a good UK based support team. I’m a tech nerd and still had to call them a few times to figure out how some aspects of their service should be configured.
Lastly on our list is Gradwell who have a number of offerings. Their SME and startup product (called Wave) is a highly affordable business VoIP system with prices starting as low as £2 per user per month, and they do have a basic level of integration with a simplified mobile application.
The focus is on delivering excellent support with all the standard business features including call recording, custom hold music, call routing, a virtual receptionist to help answer missed calls and voicemail to email. There aren’t a great deal of innovative integrations available, but as a phone system goes, it’s still far better than ‘some’ of the bigger providers we’ve mentioned.
Overall, their offering is worth looking into if price is a big factor, their business call packages are very reasonable and they do have a few other services on offer i.e. broadband internet and leased lines which ensure you have the perfect network in place to handle VoIP telephone connectivity.
What is a VoIP Phone System?
VoIP is an acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol, all that means is instead of having to make calls over physical phone lines, you’re able to use an internet connection instead. But, setting up a fast business network and dedicated channel of internet is just as important as the VoIP provider you choose.
Whenever anyone has a bad experience with the quality of phone calls (like having bad mobile reception), it’s usually down to the configuration of their local business network and/or the speed of their internet connection. What we generally recommend to our own customers is to either have a dedicated connection purely for phones. Alternatively, if their network equipment provides, it’s also possible to split a single fast internet connection into two parts, one for voice calls and another for data (using something called VLANs).
The big positive with a dedicated business VoIP service over more traditional ‘on premise’ platforms is the sheer amount you’re able to save on operational costs. We’re not talking a small amount either, you’d be looking at 50 – 70% less per month. The cost savings are a result of cheaper bundles which include free UK minutes and cheap international calls, as well as not requiring multiple ISDN or phone lines.
Switching services is not too difficult to do (in the right hands), if you already have a business phone number you’d like to keep, it can be ‘ported’ across to a 3rd party VoIP provider. If you need to port more phone numbers or purchase new connections, they usually they are able to be ported or acquired one at a time, or in sequential bundles.
What is hosted VoIP?
Older VoIP phone systems required having a dedicated business PBX server located in individual offices which processed incoming and outgoing calls. These VoIP servers would include an administrative interface (usually a nightmare to operate), a separate network and a dedicated internet connection. These platforms are designed to physically operate independently to the rest of your IT environment. As with all cumbersome processes in technology, it was only a matter of time before VoIP phone systems moved into the cloud.
Cloud or hosted VoIP is basically the same thing but without any of the expensive equipment. All you need are some compatible desk phones (or mobile/desktop app) and you’re ready to make and receive calls. It’s that simple.
A lot of services are able to work with existing handsets depending on the age and design. It’s often more economical to upgrade. But, in all honesty, with platforms like Microsoft Teams which have a brilliant softphone application, you don’t need handsets at all.
PBX servers still do have their place in larger businesses. It’s rare to find small businesses hosting their own VoIP servers, but it does make sense to do in certain large scale circumstances. The initial cost may be high, but is cheaper to operate (per user) at scale.
What is the best VoIP service and phone system?
There are a lot of business VoIP services on offer, from ultra affordable to feature packed, it all depends on the size of your business and whether or not some of these features are all that important to you and your team.
If you’re a startup or micro-business looking for a simple telephone system, a service like Soho66, Voxcloud or Gradwell would be perfectly fine in the short term. The cheapest per user pricing starts at around £2 for a virtual ‘phone line’ which includes a phone number of your choosing, and you can either sign up for a call bundle of UK local and mobile minutes (and some include international call packages too), or pay as you go pricing on a per call basis.
Small to medium sized businesses who are looking for better ways to collaborate, I highly recommend going for Microsoft Teams or VoIP systems on that level. The per user pricing is not extortionate (I can’t recall what package we’re on) and call user bundles are very competitive with a choice of multiple suppliers.
My personal experience testing several VoIP systems over the years is that it’s not worth being too tight on budget. It can be a little stressful having to port over your telephone numbers whenever you switch providers, and you only really want to have to do it if it makes financial sense or adds value to your business.
What is the best VoIP app?
We’ve tested a wide range of phone systems and business VoIP services over the years, and we’ve also tested every version of ‘softphone’ we could along the way. Some VoIP apps work well over WiFi connections but fail horribly over 3G and 4G mobile connections. While a lot has changed with better development, it’s never perfect on slower internet but some apps do better than others.
But, if I had pick just one winner, it would have to be – surprise, surprise – Microsoft Teams! It makes sense if you think about it, they’re a huge software business with more app developers per square foot than all of the UK VoIP businesses combined. You have to bear in mind that most (if not all) mobile apps that are being included as part of a VoIP service are not developed by the provider directly. They’re rebranded versions of whatever platform is being used in the background.
Is that a bad thing? Not at all. They’re reasonably well designed and updated regularly, and if you go on user feedback for all the better rated VoIP systems/providers we’ve mentioned above, you’ll find their assortment of applications perfectly fit for business purposes. The biggest difference you will notice is how well a phone app can handle calls when subjected to slow connections, and that’s where the big developers have the leg up.
Softphone apps are also free to use internally i.e. making and receiving calls from your colleagues on your business VoIP network is not chargeable, and you can make and receive external calls using your direct number (or the main office number if you prefer). Very clever and useful indeed!
Choosing the best VoIP supplier for your business is definitely worth careful consideration. Do you actually need physical VoIP phones or just apps? Would having a bunch of well designed collaborative features increase your business productivity? Do you absolutely need call recording or international calls? Whatever you’re after, there is sure to be a collaborative phone system in this list which will fit your business requirements perfectly.
It’s also worth figuring out how much effort you will need to put in to doing a migration from one telephone system to another. Most small businesses don’t have the extra capacity or technical confidence to port across every important phone number already in use, and ensure everything is installed without disruption. Choosing the right supplier (like ourselves!) to manage your project is just as important as choosing the service itself.
Hopefully this article is helpful, I’d love to hear your feedback so please leave a comment below!