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RingCentral Review: Best Virtual Phone System

RingCentral Review: Best Virtual Phone System

After conducting extensive research and analysis in 2017, we recommend RingCentral as the best virtual phone system for businesses with a mobile workforce. We chose RingCentral from a pool of the dozens of business phone systems we considered. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of business phone systems on our best picks page.

RingCentral's virtual phone system is easy to use and offers a wealth of features that are well-suited for businesses with remote employees. RingCentral's virtual service, RingCentral Professional, costs between $12.99 and $39.99 per month.

RingCentral Professional is a virtual phone system that doesn't require any equipment, IP phones or special wiring. Instead, the system serves as an extensive call-forwarding service that gives employees the freedom to work from home, or on the road, without missing a business call.

RingCentral Professional is easy to set up and use. Since the sign-up process is completed online, you can have the system up and running in just a few minutes.

The first step is to pick a local or toll-free business phone number. If you already have a number you want to use, it can be transferred into the system for no additional cost.

Editor’s Note: Looking for information on business phone systems? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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Once you have a number, you have immediate access to the service and can start personalizing it via RingCentral's online portal. The interface is well-labeled and simple to navigate. It includes tabs for messages, activity logs, contacts, settings, billing and tools. [See Related Story: VoIP for Business: Why It Makes Sense]

After each employee is assigned their own extension, such as 101, 102 or 103, they log into the system to set the numbers they want their calls forwarded to. Employees can forward calls to multiple numbers and can configure the service to ring their selected numbers simultaneously or in sequential order. They can also define the number of times a phone rings before calls are forwarded to another device. This lets on-the-go employees work from anywhere without having to change their forwarding number when switching locations. Employees can have as many as 10 call-forwarding numbers in their queue.

From the caller's perspective, the process is just as simple as calling an office-based business. When customers or clients call the main business number, they hear a professional business greeting, followed by the auto-receptionist asking them to hold while the service locates the employee they are trying to reach. The call is either transferred immediately to the employee, or the employee can have the auto-attendant ask the caller to state his or her name so it's immediately known who is calling before deciding if the call should answered or sent to voicemail.

In addition to setting up the call forwarding, the online portal provides access to voicemail messages and online faxes.

One nice aspect of RingCentral is that should a business grow to the point where it needs a more traditional phone system, it can easily upgrade to RingCentral Office. This cloud-based system is designed for businesses that have an office full of employees who make and receive calls. The interface and online portal are exactly the same as on the Professional version, so it would make the switch rather seamless. Not all of the virtual system providers we examined also offered traditional phone systems.

RingCentral's virtual service offers a comprehensive suite of calling features that allow businesses with a mobile workforce to present a professional image. All of the features, except for the dial-by-name directory, come standard with each service plan. Many of the other providers we examined charged extra for some of their best features.

One of the features we liked most was the ability to use "softphones," which let you receive calls on your desktop or laptop computer. All you need to do is download the RingCentral for Desktop app and plug in a headset to start answering calls. This feature is a nice option because it does not chew up any mobile minutes or tie up phone lines. This feature was not offered by all of the companies we looked in to.

The system also includes an auto-receptionist feature, which welcomes callers with a custom company greeting and helps direct them to the person or department they want to reach. You have the option of recording your own greeting, and having it professionally recorded by RingCentral partner Snap Recordings.

RingCentral Professional offers several voicemail options. In addition to being able to check messages over the phone, you can have voice messages sent directly to an email inbox. There is also visual voicemail via the system's online portal or mobile app that shows all the voicemails you have waiting so you can prioritize whom to call back.

The RingCentral mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, allows you to take business calls using an Internet connection, rather than using mobile phone minutes. In addition, the mobile app gives users the option to change call-forwarding settings and check visual voicemail wherever they are.

Some of the other features we found valuable included call recording, on-hold music, and notifications that instantly alert you via email or text message when you missed a call or have a voicemail or online fax waiting for you. 

You can see the full list of features on the RingCentral website. 

With RingCentral Professional you pay a monthly fee based on how many extensions and minutes you want included. Unlike some of the other virtual systems we analyzed, there are no setup or activation fees.

You can pay for the service on a month-to-month basis or annually. If you sign a one-year contract, the price of each service plan is significantly reduced. This was one of the only providers we researched that gave such deep discounts for committing to at least a year of service.  

RingCentral Professional is offered in three service plans:

Pro

  • Cost: $12.99 per month with yearly contract; $22.99 per month with no contract.
  • Minutes: 300 local, long-distance and toll-free minutes included; 4.9 cents for each additional minute.
  • Extensions: Two included
  • Support options: Web support only

ProPlus

  • Cost: $19.99 per month with yearly contract; $29.99 per month with no contract.
  • Minutes: 1,000 local, long-distance and toll-free minutes included; 4.4 cents for each additional minute.
  • Extensions: Four included
  • Support options: Web and phone support.

ProPower

  • Cost: $24.99 per month with yearly contract; $39.99 per month with no contract.
  • Minutes: 2,000 local and long-distance minutes and 1,000 toll-free minutes included; 3.9 cents for each additional minute.
  • Extensions: 10 included
  • Support options: Web and phone support.

While the Pro plan does include online faxing, the ProPlus and ProPower plans are the only ones that include a dedicated fax number. These two plans also offer a dial-by-name directory.

The only other costs you can incur with this service are $4.99 per month for additional local or toll-free phone numbers, $2.99 per month for additional extensions and $4.99 per month for a dedicated fax number. There is also a one-time $30 fee for vanity numbers.

RingCentral offers a seven-day free trial in order to test out the service to see if it works for you.

Overall, we were pretty pleased with the customer service we received from RingCentral. To gauge the type of support you can expect, we called the company multiple times posing as a new business owner interested in virtual phone systems.

While our first experience with the RingCentral team was disappointing, the several times we called since were a significant improvement. During our initial call, the representative we spoke with gave short answers to our questions and seemed uninterested in spending time on the phone with us after we said we were only investigating phone systems and weren't immediately ready to make a final decision. 

However, during subsequent calls the level of support improved dramatically. The representatives didn't rush us off the call and gave clear and detailed answers to all our questions. In addition, they each followed up via email to see if we had any other concerns or questions.

We also evaluated RingCentral's live-chat support. The service received from this outlet was a little hit or miss. While some of our questions were answered relatively quickly, it took other representatives between 15 and 30 minutes to answer us, and one time, our question went completely unanswered. In addition, there was a time when we weren't even able to ask a question because it said no agents were available.

RingCentral offers support over the phone Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. EST.

The RingCentral website offers a host of support materials, including a comprehensive learning center and knowledge base, as well as a litany of FAQs, user guides and videos.

RingCentral is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has an A+ rating. Over the past three years, there have been 199 complaints filed against RingCentral with the BBB. Of those, 67 were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. The BBB reports that RingCentral did address the other complaints; however, the customers responded that they were not happy with the result or never let the BBB know if they were satisfied with the response. It is important to note, however, that not all of these complaints concern RingCentral's virtual system. These complaints encompass all of RingCentral's products and services. To read more about the nature of each complaint, visit the Better Business Bureau website.

The biggest downside with RingCentral is its inconsistent customer service. While most of our interactions were positive, our initial one left a lot to be desired and gave us a poor first impression. We have been pleased, however, to see that the service has improved since our first contact with the company. While the phone support has been better, the live-chat support still needs to be improved.

Another negative with RingCentral's virtual system is that when using the mobile app, you can't have your business-line Caller ID displayed when making outbound calls. If this is a feature your business must have in a virtual system, we would encourage you to consider our second choice for this category, Grasshopper.

Grasshopper is a virtual system that works similarly to RingCentral Professional. While it doesn't have all of the features RingCentral does, Grasshopper does offer many of the most important ones, including an auto-attendant, call screening, voicemail-to-email, conference calling and music-on-hold.

We were also very pleased with the level of support we received from Grasshopper. Each time we called the company we spoke to helpful and responsive representatives, each of whom provided clear and thorough answers to all of our questions.

Grasshopper is available in four service plans that each includes unlimited extensions. The cheapest plan is $12 per month and 6 cents per minute. The other plans come with included minutes. They range from $24 for 500 minutes to $199 for 10,000 minutes.

Grasshopper, however, only offers a virtual system. So, if you think your business might grow out of a service like this, you won't be able to obtain a traditional phone system from this company.

Best for Small Businesses
8x8
Read Review
  • On-Premise or Cloud
    Cloud
  • Total # of Calling Features
    60+
  • Customer Service
    Phone and email
  • Mobile App
    iPhone and Android
Best for Small Offices
Ooma Office
Read Review
  • On-Premise or Cloud
    On-premise
  • Total # of Calling Features
    20+
  • Customer Service
    Phone and email
  • Mobile App
    iPhone and Android
Best Virtual Phone System
RingCentral
Read Review
  • On-Premise or Cloud
    Cloud
  • Total # of Calling Features
    20+ (Virtual System Only)
  • Customer Service
    Phone, email, live chat
  • Mobile App
    iPhone and Android
Best for Call Centers
ShoreTel
Read Review
  • On-Premise of Cloud
    Both
  • Total # of Calling Features
    100+
  • Customer Service
    Phone and Email
  • Mobile App
    iPhone and Android

Ready to choose a business phone system? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor’s Note: Looking for information on business phone systems? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

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Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.