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Ooma Office Review: Best Business Phone System for Small Offices

After conducting extensive research and analysis of business phone systems, we recommend Ooma Office as the best business phone system for small offices.

Ooma Office is specifically designed for very small businesses, and offers all the features and tools most companies that size need, for a low monthly cost.

What makes Ooma Office an ideal phone system for very small businesses is how simple it is to install and use. The system can be set up in just 20 minutes — no additional wires are needed, and it works with any type of phone, including standard analog phones. Nearly all of the other systems we analyzed required special IP phones, which cost anywhere from $100 to $700 each.

The system itself includes a base unit and Linx devices, which are used to wirelessly connect additional phones to the system. You can connect up to four Linx devices to the base unit. If your business has more than five employees, you need an expansion base station and additional Linx devices. Each expansion base station supports up to five additional users.

Once you have the hardware, it takes just a few minutes to set up the system. You activate your account by logging in to the Ooma online portal and entering your seven-digit activation code, providing your contact information, creating a login and a password, and entering an address for 911 calls. 

Next, you select a new main business phone number, or temporary number if you plan on transferring over a current phone number. You have the choice of a local or a toll-free number. After picking a new number and clicking Activate, you start setting up the system's hardware by connecting the base unit to a high-speed modem. You then plug the AC adapter into a power outlet and plug a phone into the unit. When the base unit turns blue, you can start making and receiving calls. 

To connect other phones, plug the Linx wireless devices into a power outlet near the base unit, and press the Page key for 3 seconds. The Linx turns blue when the system recognizes it. Once it's recognized, you can move it to another part of the office and plug a phone into it. [See Related Story: VoIP for Business: Why It Makes Sense]

The system's online portal is very user-friendly. It requires no extensive training, and can be updated and maintained by anyone, not just those with phone system expertise. Compared with many of the other systems we examined, Ooma Office was one of the simplest to set up and personalize.

Editor's note: Looking for a phone system for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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The online portal is divided into five main sections: Manage, Home, Account, Add-ons and Support. The Manage section is where you add extensions or phone numbers for each employee and set up the virtual receptionist. The Home tab is where you can review call and fax logs, and the Account tab gives you access to business and administrator information, as well as security settings and payment details. The Add-ons tab is where you can check the status of a phone number transfer and purchase any additional hardware you may need. The final tab is for Support, which is where you can access any help you may need with the system.

Low cost is another reason Ooma Office is so appealing for small offices. The cost is broken into one-time hardware costs and monthly service fees.

The starter package of a base station and two Linx wireless devices is $250. Each additional Linx device is $50, and each office expansion unit is $99. Ooma runs promotions regularly, which can lower that price. For example, while we were conducting our analysis, the starter package of the base unit and two Linx devices was on sale for $100. 

The second half of the cost equation is the monthly service fee. The service starts at $19.98 per month for one phone number and one user. Each additional user is $9.99 per month. With this option, each employee has his or her own extension. If you want each employee to have a dedicated phone number, there is an additional $9.99 per user, per month charge.

What we really like about this pricing structure is that nearly all of the features — such as voicemail, music on hold, the virtual receptionist, ring groups and virtual extensions — are included in the price. Many of the other services we analyzed had a variety of plans that each included a different number of features for a different price. The only features that cost extra with Ooma are Internet faxing and conference calling, each of which is $9.99 per month.

Included in the cost of the system is unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada for each local number. If you are using a toll-free number, however, only 500 minutes of inbound calling is included in the monthly cost. Each additional minute is 3.4 cents.

While many of the other VoIP cloud-based systems we looked at didn't charge the initial hardware costs, most had higher monthly fees, which ranged anywhere from $25 to $50 per user. In addition, some of the other companies charged an activation fee and required yearlong contracts, neither of which Ooma Office requires.

We were also impressed with how straightforward the company's pricing was. Many of the other providers we examined gave us estimated costs and said they would only get us a more definite quote when we were ready to sign up for the system.

Ooma offers a 30-day risk-free trial. This gives you the option to try out the system for a month and get all of your money back if doesn't fit your business's needs. 

We were impressed with the variety of features the system includes. Though it doesn't offer every feature offered by every other provider, it does have many of the features small offices would find most valuable.

One such feature is the virtual receptionist, which answers incoming calls and makes it easy for callers to reach the employee they need. This feature is supported by text-to-speech technology, so you simply type in what you want it to say, and it automatically converts that into a recording for your callers. You also have the option to record your own greeting and upload it into the system via .wav or .mp3 files. In addition to directing callers to specific employees, the virtual receptionist can provide information on your business, such as the hours it's open or directions on how to get there. You can also set the system up so it plays one set of greetings and prompts when your business is open and another when it's closed. 

For businesses with employees who aren't always working in the office, the mobility features will be especially valuable. The system offers the ability to assign virtual extensions to employees who always work from a location outside the office, as well as a mobile app thatlets you make and receive phone calls from anywhere as if you were in the office with any iOS or Android device.

Another feature we like is the Ring Group option. This allows businesses to group employees by departments. So, for example, if you have multiple employees who work on a sales team or in customer support, you can have those calls directed to that group of employees. You can have calls transferred to employees in a specific sequence or simultaneously.

Other features your small office may find valuable include the ability to set up conference calls for as many as 10 users, caller ID, call logs and the option to play music or company messages while callers are on hold.

We were extremely pleased with the level of customer service we received from Ooma. To gauge the level of support customers can expect, we called the company multiple times, posing as a new small business owner interested in phone systems.

During our first call, the representative we spoke with initially wanted to make sure our business was a good fit for the system. Knowing that the Ooma system is designed for very small businesses, the representative wanted to ensure that one of the other providers, which serve larger businesses, wouldn't be a better fit. After believing we would be a good match based on our size and needs, the representative went on to thoroughly walk us through all of the service's calling features and how the system worked.

During subsequent calls, we spoke with representatives who were just as helpful and friendly. Over the course of our calls, we discussed how to set up the system, the hardware that was needed, the mobile app, the features included and the pricing structure. In each of our calls, our questions were answered clearly and thoroughly. Some of the other providers we spoke with didn't provide the same level of detailed answers that Ooma did. Each representative we spoke with followed up several times via email, inquiring if we had additional questions, providing us with videos of how the system operated and informing us of several promotions.

To further examine the company's customer service, we also tested out the live-chat tool on its website. Unlike some of the other services we looked into, this service was very helpful and extremely prompt. When we tested other providers' live-chat options, some representatives gave us incomplete or differing answers from what we got over the phone, or took a long time to respond. This wasn't the case with Ooma.

For users of the system, Ooma offers a variety of support options on its website, including video tutorials, answers to frequently asked questions and ways to troubleshoot any problems you may run into.

Support is available by phone Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT and on the weekends between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT. You can also contact support via email and live chat, which is available 24/7. Not all of the systems we investigated offered the ability to reach a support representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The biggest limitation of Ooma Office is the upfront hardware costs. Most of the other cloud-based systems didn't require you to purchase the same type of hardware that Ooma does. Depending on how many employees you have, you can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $1,250 in initial costs. However, most of the other systems make you use special IP phones, which cost at least $100 each. With Ooma, you don't have those same costs.

Another potential negative is that the system only supports up to 20 users. If you are hoping to grow your business beyond that, you might be better off finding a phone system that can grow with you along the way, such as 8x8, our pick for the best phone system for small businesses.

Another possible downside of Ooma is that it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles that some of its larger competitors offer. If you want every feature that's out there — such as call screening, missed call notifications or videoconferencing — this service probably isn't for you. 

We chose Ooma Office from a pool of the dozens of business phone systems we considered. To read our full methodology and see a more comprehensive list of phone systems, visit our best picks page here.

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

Editor's note: Looking for a phone system for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance 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.