1. Business Ideas
  2. Business Plans
  3. Startup Basics
  4. Startup Funding
  5. Franchising
  6. Success Stories
  7. Entrepreneurs
  1. Sales & Marketing
  2. Finances
  3. Your Team
  4. Technology
  5. Social Media
  6. Security
  1. Get the Job
  2. Get Ahead
  3. Office Life
  4. Work-Life Balance
  5. Home Office
  1. Leadership
  2. Women in Business
  3. Managing
  4. Strategy
  5. Personal Growth
  1. HR Solutions
  2. Financial Solutions
  3. Marketing Solutions
  4. Security Solutions
  5. Retail Solutions
  6. SMB Solutions
Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
Find a Solution Small Business Solutions

8x8 Review: Best Phone System for Small Businesses

After conducting extensive research and analysis of business phone systems, we recommend 8x8 as the best phone system for small businesses.

8x8 combines an easy-to-use, reliable and affordable business phone system with excellent customer service.

What attracted us most to 8x8 is its reliability. Overall, 8x8 has one of the highest documented uptimes — 99.997 percent — among all cloud-based VoIP systems. This translates into the system being down for only a handful of minutes each year. Overall, the service hasn't had a major outage since 2011, when it was down for just 30 minutes, according to data provided by the company on its website.

To help prevent systemwide outages, the company has a number of built-in redundancies. For example, 8x8 has multiple data centers around the world that are mirror images of each other and provide automatic and transparent failover to prevent disruptions in service. This means that if one of the data centers were to crash, all of the information is instantly transferred to one of the other data centers so your service is uninterrupted.

The company also works with seven different call carriers to guarantee high call quality at all times. Before each call, the system selects the path of least resistance. Should a carrier go down, the traffic is automatically redirected to one of the other carriers to ensure call continuity. We were impressed by the extra steps 8X8 takes to insure uninterrupted service. We didn't get this same level of assurance from many of the other providers we analyzed.

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:

buyerzone widget

Since 8x8 is a cloud-based VoIP phone system, it doesn't require any complex PBX hardware. All that's needed is high-speed Internet access and IP phones. 

You can configure the service for your office via an easy-to-use online portal. This is where you create and set up employee extensions, personalize the auto-attendant and create ring groups. The portal, which is accessed through the 8x8 website, also allows you to manage billing, run call log reports and get help if needed. [See Related Story: VoIP for Business: Why It Makes Sense]

One step of personalizing the system is assigning extensions and numbers to each employee. In addition to 4-digit extensions, each employee is given his or her own dedicated phone number. Once employees are entered into the system, they can access it on their own through a desktop application, via a mobile app, or by logging in on any computer that's connected to the Internet. Accessing the system allows employees to use a softphone on their computer to make and receive calls, review the company directory, check their voicemail, instant message with co-workers, as well as make video calls, send and receive online faxes and conduct Web conferencing. We like how easy it is for employees to access the full scope of the phone system, especially when they aren't in the office. Not all of the systems we examined offered this level of remote access.

Setting up the auto-attendant feature is also done within the online portal. You can record and upload your own greetings, or upload customized pre-recorded greetings. 8x8 also offers the use of its audio production store for professionally recorded options. This service starts at $79, but can be more expensive depending on if you want music involved and how quickly you need it completed.

An added benefit of 8x8 is that it provides a technical installation specialist to walk you through the configuration steps during a free, 1-hour session. Unlike some of the other providers we investigated, 8x8 spends a little extra time to make sure you understand exactly how to tailor the system to your business. This is a nice option for small businesses, especially those who don't have an IT staff on hand. 

Getting your IP phones configured for the system is also an easy process. If you buy phones directly from 8x8, they come preconfigured and can be used as soon as you receive them. If you're using phones from an outside vendor, an 8x8 support team member helps you configure them yourself. From there, all you need to do is plug the phones in, activate them and restart them.

The affordable cost is another appealing aspect of 8x8. Besides the phones, you don't have to purchase or maintain any other hardware. The only other costs you have are your monthly service fees.

The company offers two different types of service packages: unlimited and metered. The unlimited package include unlimited local and long-distance calling, while the metered package comes with a set amount of included calling minutes. Within both options, you have a choice between the Virtual Office and the Virtual Office Pro plans. 

For the unlimited package, the Virtual Office plan costs $21.99 per user per month for between five and nine employees, or $19.99 per month per user for more than 10 employees. This plan offers a large range of features, such as voicemail, an auto-attendant, online call management, access to a softphone and the ability to connect to the system via mobile devices. 

The Virtual Office Pro plan is an added $6.99 a month per user for businesses with less than 10 employees and $5.99 per month for those with more than 10 users. This plan includes all of the features offered in the other plan, as well as Web and video conferencing, Internet faxing and call recording. 

If your business doesn't make many outbound calls, there is also an option to pay for metered extensions, which only include unlimited inbound calling. These plans come with the same Virtual Office and Virtual Office Pro options, except they only include 250 minutes of outbound calling to the U.S. and Canada. Each additional minute is 2.9 cents. These plans are $9.99 per month per user for the Virtual Office plan and $14.99 for the Virtual Office Pro.

The metered option is one not all of the providers we checked out offer. While it might be more cost-effective to just go with an unlimited plan so you don't have to concern yourself with how many outbound calls you're making, it is nice to have the choice to pay for something with fewer minutes if you know you don't need them all.

Other features that cost extra under both plans are the branch office function, which allows you to have a separate auto-attendant and corporate directory for multiple branches, call queuing and a virtual attendant. 

What we really like about all of the 8x8 service plans is that you pay on a month-to-month basis and aren't bound by any lengthy contracts. While many of the other providers we looked at did offer month-to-month pricing, they charged a much higher rate for that option. Some charged nearly double 8x8's costs for the same level of service, just for the option of not locking into a year-long contract. 

Besides the monthly service fee, you will pay extra for a toll-free number or if you choose to purchase IP phones from the company. Toll-free numbers are paid for monthly, with costs based on the number of inbound-calling minutes included. Plans range from as little as $4.99 per month for 150 included minutes to as much as $1,700 per month for 100,000 minutes.

While you don't have to buy your phones through 8x8, the prices they quoted us were cheaper than what we found elsewhere. For example, one specific IP phone was $69, which was nearly $50 less than the average price of the same phone at many other retailers.

8x8 phone systems include just about every calling and integration feature available. In analyzing phone systems, we had a tough time trying to find a feature that 8x8 didn't offer.

One of the features we found most valuable is the direct phone number option. Each extension includes its own unique direct inbound dial telephone number, so customers can call an employee directly rather than dial the main business line. While most of the other providers offered this feature, many charged extra for it.

There are also a variety of mobility features we think business will find valuable. The 8x8 mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, let you take the functionality of the phone system wherever you go. This includes making and receiving calls, checking online voicemail, making video calls, instant messaging with co-workers and sending and receiving Internet faxes. What we really like is that when you make calls using the mobile app, your business-line caller ID will be shown to those you are calling.

Some of the other calling features many small businesses will find appealing are three-way calling, call forwarding, conference calling, call waiting and call transferring. You can also view and listen to your voicemails online, or have them delivered to your email inbox. 

The system also offers a variety of features that allow employees to communicate with each other inside the office. There is an online chat system, as well as a presence feature that shows who is available and who is busy.

The system integrates with a wide range of other programs that your business may already be using, such as:

  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Skype for Business
  • Salesforce
  • eAgent
  • Act!
  • NetSuite
  • ZenDesk
  • SugarCRM

Most other providers offered some integration options, but few offered a list that was this extensive.

8x8 offered some of the very best customer service we received during our analysis of business phone systems. To gauge the level of support offered, we called the company multiple times posing as a new small business owner interested in phone systems.

During our first call, we spoke with a representative who took all the time needed to answer our questions. We had a list of questions and for each one the representative gave us clear and thorough answers.  We also liked that he understood we weren't looking to make a final decision during our call. Knowing that, he gave us suggestions on how we should evaluate providers during our search process and even emailed us a list of 13 questions he thought would be helpful when comparing and contrasting each provider.

During subsequent calls, the representatives we spoke with were just as helpful. They all answered our calls promptly and gave us clear, detailed answers to our questions. During our follow-up calls we spent more time talking about how the system worked, how it would fit in with our needs, the features it offered and the pricing structure. We also talked about the phones 8x8 offered and how much they cost.

After each of our calls, the customer service representatives followed up with emails that outlined the service and had detailed price quotes. Even though they did follow up, we were pleased that they didn't flood our inbox with emails checking to see if we made a decision. Many of the other providers we spoke to sent us daily emails inquiring if we were ready to move forward with their service. While we understand their job is to make a sale, at some point the constant follow-ups become annoying and too aggressive.

Overall, the entire U.S.-based 8x8 customer support team is available Monday through Friday between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. PST and on Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST. In addition, live-chat support, which we also found very helpful, is offered between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. PST Monday through Friday. 

One downside we found with 8x8 is that some of the features you may want, such as having a toll-free number or call queuing, cost extra. Some of the other providers we examined included these features in the cost of their service plans. This could be, however, why many of the company's competitors have higher monthly costs. It's nice to know that with 8x8 if you don't need these features, you aren't paying for them. 

Another potential downside is that 8x8 doesn't have round-the-clock customer service. Some of the other providers we looked at offered ways for customers to reach them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Additionally, we were a little unhappy that 8x8 doesn't include a breakdown of its pricing on its website. Having to call to get a price quote can be a turnoff for some small business owners who are just trying to get an idea of what costs they can expect.

We chose 8x8 from a pool of the dozens of business phone systems we considered. To read our full methodology and for 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:

buyerzone widget
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.