Being able to communicate with customers and clients is critical for small businesses. That's why choosing the right business phone system is an important decision.
When searching for a phone system, small businesses need to take several factors into consideration. First and foremost, you want a system that is reliable. It is imperative that small businesses choose a phone system that works every time an employee picks up the phone to make a call. Even if a phone system is down for an hour, it could have a significant impact on your bottom like.
Another important aspect that small businesses are looking for in a phone system is a robust feature set. Having key calling features, like automated attendants, ring groups, mobile apps and voicemail-to-email, along with collaboration tools, such and conference calling, online meetings and instant messaging, is a way to present a professional appearance to both customers and employees.
When choosing a phone solution, small businesses should also be looking for a system that has low rates, valuable integrations and excellent customer support.
After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend 8x8 as our 2018 pick for the best phone system for small businesses.
8x8 is a reliable cloud-based unified communications system that is easy to use and packed with valuable calling, collaboration and mobile features and tools. The company offers excellent customer support and mobile app that allows you to tap into your business phone line from anywhere. 8x8 costs between $25 and $55 per user, per month depending on how many employees you have and how many features you need.
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.
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.
Ease of Use
8x8 is a cloud-hosted VoIP business phone system, so it doesn't require any complex PBX hardware. All that's needed is high-speed internet access and IP phones.
Once your network is configured to have the required bandwidth (8x8 recommends 100 kbps for each concurrent call) and the voice traffic is prioritized over other online uses, the system is ready to use as soon as you plug the phones into an Ethernet port.
If you buy your IP phones directly from 8x8, they come preconfigured and are ready to use as soon as you receive them. If you purchase phones from an outside vendor, you will need to work with an 8x8 representative to get them configured. You will have the same functionality with either option; however you will save a bit of time getting everything up and running if you purchase the phones directly from 8x8.
Once the phones are up and running, the entire system can be set up and managed via an online portal. Here, you can do things such as create and set up employee extensions 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.
Another key feature administrators can manage from the portal is the automated attendant. They can record and upload their own greetings, or upload customized pre-recorded messages. 8x8 also offers an audio production store for professionally recorded options.
Employees have access to the online portal through a desktop application, 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 and message co-workers. They can also use the portal to make video calls, send and receive online faxes, and conduct web conferencing.
As an added benefit, 8x8 provides a technical installation specialist to walk you through the configuration steps during a free one-hour session. Even though the system is easy to use, this extra instruction can be extremely valuable for small businesses that don't have an IT staff to handle their technical needs.
From built-in redundancies to multiple data centers and call carriers, 8x8 takes several steps to ensure the system is always up and running.
- Uptime: Few business phone systems are more reliable than 8x8. It has one of the highest documented uptimes (99.9999 percent) of all the cloud-hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems we investigated. This means that the system is down for only a handful of minutes each year.
- Data centers: 8x8 has 15 identical data centers around the world that provide automatic and transparent failover to prevent disruptions in service. Each data center is SSAE 16 audited. If one of the data centers crashes, all the information instantly transfers to one of the other locations to keep the service up and running.
- Call carriers: The company also works with 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.
- Security: 8x8 is an extremely secure business phone system. This is displayed in all of 8x8's third-party verified certifications. Among the certifications 8x8 has are HIPAA, FISMA, Privacy Shield Framework, PCI-DSS, CPNI and Cyber Essentials.
8x8 phone systems include just about every calling, collaboration, mobile and integration feature available.
Standard Calling: Overall, the system has more than 40 standard features, including three-way calling, call forwarding, call waiting and call transferring. You can also view and listen to your voicemails online, or have them delivered to your email inbox. Other calling features include automated attendants, ring groups, music on hold, extension dialing, company directories, caller ID, caller ID blocking and a do not disturb option.
Optional Calling: In addition to the standard features, 8x8 offers a few other features that cost extra. These include branch office tools, hot desking, call queuing, overhead paging, 4-line appearance and switchboards.
Mobility: The 8x8 mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, lets you make and receive calls from your business line, check voicemail, record calls, make video calls, instant message with co-workers, and send and receive online faxes. 8x8 also offers a softphone, which allows employees to make and receive calls from their computers. All they need to do is plug a headset into their computer to use the softphone.
Collaboration: The system offers a variety of tools that facilitate working with others. 8x8's systems include an online chat system, as well as a presence feature that shows who is available and who is busy. All service plans include both audio and video conferencing. With 8x8's conference bridge, each employee can host their own conference call with between five and 50 participants. The online meetings allow employees to have "face-to-face" meetings from their computers. These meetings, which allow for screen sharing and recording, can also support five to 50 participants at a time. The number of participants for both the audio and web conferencing depends on the service plan selected.
Call center: For businesses that need call center capabilities, 8x8's X8 edition includes some contact center features, including Salesforce analytics, call quality reporting and analytics, call-recording storage, and a visual IVR. For those who need full contact center services, 8x8 offers three different plans that include skills-based routing, IVR, queued callback and real-time monitoring.
Integrations: 8x8 integrates with a wide variety of other programs, including Salesforce, Zendesk, eAgent, Click2Pop, Desk.com, Google Calendar, Act!, Outlook and NetSuite.
Business Phone Service Plans and Costs
8x8 offers three different service plans – X2, X5 and X8 – which vary in features and price. All of the plans include online faxing, text messaging, single sign on, HD voice and some call analytics.
- X2: The X2 edition costs $25 per user, per month. It includes, among other things, all standard calling features, unlimited calling in 14 countries, 1GB of media storage, mobile and desktop apps, instant messaging, presence, voicemail, call queuing and audio and video conferencing for up to five participants.
- X5: The X5 edition costs $35 per user, per month. It includes everything in the X2 plan, and in addition, the unlimited calling zone is for 32 countries, there is 5GB of media storage, and 25 users can participate in the audio and video conferencing. This plan also includes call recording and an operator switchboard.
- X8: The X8 edition costs $55 per user, per month. It includes all the calling features in the X5 plan, a 46-country unlimited calling zone, 10GB of media storage, and audio and video conferencing for up to 50 participants. It also offers some contact center tools.
The contact center services are also available in three service plans: standard, pro and ultimate. 8x8 offers customized pricing for its contact center services. You need to contact the company directly for a price quote for these services.
Customer service: 8x8 offered some of the best customer service we received during our analysis of business phone systems. To gauge the level of support it offers, we called the company numerous times posing as a new business owner interested in phone systems. All the representatives we spoke with answered our calls promptly and gave us clear, detailed answers to our questions. At no point were any of them pushy, and none tried to give us a hard sell of their service. We also received follow-up emails from the representatives. Anytime we sent them a message asking a question, they always responded promptly with an answer, as well as the offer to jump on another call for more details. 8x8 offers customer support 24/7.
Better Business Bureau: 8x8 is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating. As of July 2018, 75 complaints have been filed against the company over the past three years. Of those, 17 were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. 8x8 addressed the issue with the other complainants, however they were either not satisfied with 8x8's response or the BBB was never notified of their satisfaction.
Analytics: 8x8 offers a wide range of analytics that give businesses better insight into the calls their employees are making and receiving. Among the data 8x8 provides organizations with are the number of active and abandoned calls, talk time, ring time and call detail records.
While we were pleased that 8x8 offers customer support around the clock, a representative we spoke to said it is not 100 percent based in the U.S. The rep said there are times when you may be asked to speak to a support technician overseas.
Another potential downside is that 8x8 recently raised some of its pricing. Previously, it only had a two-tiered pricing plan, which ranged from $19.99 to $29.99 per user, per month. Now, the minimum monthly price is $25 per user, per month.
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 Offices
- 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.