Finding a phone system that is easy to set up and use is critical to very small businesses. Unlike larger organizations, most very small businesses don't have the luxury of an onsite IT staff to handle all of their technical needs. Since they will be the ones installing and maintaining the phone system, it is critical that the phone system a very small business owner chooses for their office or store provides the level of simplicity they need.
In addition, the phone system should be easy to move. Often, very small businesses are not locked in to a location for a long term. They may open up shop somewhere only to find a better place somewhere else just months later, or they may outgrow the space they are in and need to move to a larger location. The phone system should be able to move with them. Scalability is also important. It should be a simple task to add more lines as needed. When you bring a new person on board, setting them up with phone service should be an easy process that you can complete on your own, without the help of an IT staff.
There are several key features that very small businesses need to make sure the phone system they choose has. Their business phone solution should offer flexible conference calling, the option to forward calls to any device, automated attendants and voicemail.
Why Ooma Office?
After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend Ooma Office as our pick for the 2018 best business phone system for small offices. Ooma Office is specifically designed for very small businesses. The system is simple to install and easy to use. It can be set up by anyone, not just those with IT experience, and running in minutes.
A plus for very small businesses is that the system is compatible with all phones. If you already have analog phones that you want to use, you can easily connect them to the system using a Linx device. If you want to use IP phones, they can be plugged directly into your network. Ooma Office also has an impressive mobile app that allows you to make and receive calls from your business line wherever you are.
While Ooma might not have all of the features and tools some of its larger competitors do, it does have the ones very small businesses will find the most valuable. This includes automated attendants, music on hold, voicemail-to-email and call forwarding. Ooma Office has one-time equipment fees that start at $200 and monthly fees of $19.95 per user per month.
To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology, as well as a comprehensive list of business phone systems, on our best picks page.
Ease of Use
What makes Ooma Office an ideal phone system for very small businesses is how simple it is to install and use. It takes just 20 minutes to set up. No additional wires are needed, and Ooma Office works with any type of phone, including standard analog phones.
Equipment: The main component of the system is a base unit, which is a full router capable of prioritizing voice data and directing traffic to ensure reliable phone service. Ooma Office also includes Linx devices, which are used to connect analog phones to the system. You can connect up to four Linx devices to the base unit.
Phones: Ooma Office works with both analog and IP phones. Analog phones connect via the Lynx devices, while IP phones are ready to use after being plugged directly into a Local Area Network port.
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.
Setup: After activating your account via the Ooma online portal, you select a new main local or toll-free business phone number, or a temporary number if you plan on transferring over a current phone number. Once that has been assigned, you set 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 either plug an IP phone into your network or plug an analog phone into the base unit. When this base unit turns blue, you can immediately start making and receiving calls.
Users: The types of phones you use determine the number of users who can connect to the system. The system can only support 20 analog phones, and to accommodate that many phones, you will need three expansion base units. However, if you are using IP phones, you can connect as many as 200 devices to the system.
Configuration: You configure the system through the online portal. This portal is where you assign employees extensions and phone numbers, set up the automated attendant, and create ring groups. The portal requires no extensive training, so anyone can update and maintain it.
Ooma Office Features
Though it doesn't include every feature other providers offer, Ooma Office does have many of the features small offices would find most valuable.
Standard calling features: The features that all Ooma Office users have access to include unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada, caller ID, 911 service, voicemail, call transfer, call log, call park, music on hold, extension-to-extension calling, and dial-by-name calling.
Virtual receptionist: The virtual receptionist answers your incoming calls and makes it easy for callers to reach the employees they need. It uses text-to-speech technology, so you 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 to the system. In addition to directing callers to specific employees, the virtual receptionist can provide information on your business, such as hours and directions. The system can also play one set of greetings when a business is open and another when it's closed.
Virtual extensions: For companies with employees who don't always work in the office, the system can assign virtual extensions. With this feature, anytime someone dials those employees' extensions, the call is forwarded to their home or mobile phone.
Conference calling: The Ooma Office conference bridge comes standard for all users. With the conference bridge, employees can host conference calls with up to 10 participants for no additional charge.
Ring groups: This allows businesses to group employees by departments. 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.
Mobile app: All users have access to the Ooma mobile app, which is available on iOS and Android devices. With the app, you can make and receive phone calls from anywhere as if you were in the office. In addition, you can use the app to listen to and manage voicemails, access co-workers' extensions, transfer calls to another extension or voicemail box, and direct-dial customer support.
IP phone features: Businesses using IP phones have access to several other features: three-way conference calling, a do-not-disturb function, and the ability to transfer calls, put calls on hold and dial by extension.
Ooma Office's costs are broken up into two parts: one-time hardware costs and monthly service fees.
- One-time costs: The starter package of a base station and two Linx wireless devices is $200. Each additional Linx device is $50, and each office expansion unit is $100. Office expansion units are needed when you connect more than four analog phones to the system.
- Monthly user fees: The second half of the cost equation is the monthly service fee, which is $19.95 per user. With this, each employee gets their own dedicated phone number, and the ability to set up and participate in conference calls and send and receive online faxes.
- Phone numbers: There is also a monthly fee for your phone numbers. The first number is included in your service; there is an extra fee for additional numbers. Local numbers are $9.95 per month. Toll-free numbers are also $9.95 per month. However, they only include 500 minutes of calling. Each additional minute is 3.4 cents. There is no charge for number porting.
- Phones: You can use any type of phone you want. If you want IP phones, you can purchase them directly from Ooma. Ooma has a Yealink desk phone that costs $69.99, a Yealink conference phone for $399.99 and a range of Cisco phones that start at $89.99.
- Trial period: Ooma Office includes a 30-day risk-free trial. This allows you to test out the system to ensure it fits your needs.
Customer service: To gauge the type of support customers can expect, we called the company numerous times, posing as a small business owner interested in phone systems. During our calls, the Ooma representatives were helpful and friendly. They answered all of our questions clearly and thoroughly. Each representative we spoke with followed up several times via email, asking if we had additional questions, providing videos that showed how the system operates and informing us of several promotions.
Customer support hours: Support is available by phone Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends. You can also contact support via email and live chat 24/7.
Online knowledgebase: For users of the system, Ooma offers a variety of support options on its website, including video tutorials, FAQs and troubleshooting.
Number porting: If you are an established business and want to transfer your current number over to Ooma, you can do so for no additional cost. Many of the phone systems we researched charge an extra fee for this service. It typically takes 3-4 weeks to complete the porting process. While your number is being transferred over, you will be assigned a temporary number.
The biggest drawback of Ooma Office is the upfront hardware costs. Few other cloud-hosted systems require you to purchase the type of hardware that Ooma does. Depending on how many employees you have and the type of phones you are using, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $1,250 in initial costs. However, most of the other systems make you use special IP phones, which cost at least $70 each.
Another possible downside of Ooma is that it lacks some of the bells and whistles many of its larger competitors offer. If you want every feature that's out there – such as call screening, missed-call notifications and video conferencing – Ooma probably isn't for you.
Ready to choose a business phone system? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:
- Business Phone System Buyer's Guide
- The Best Business Phone Systems 2018
- Best Business Phone Service
- Best for Small Businesses
- Best Virtual Phone System
- Best for Call Centers
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.