What's the best cloud-based VOIP telephony system?

For a small or medium sized business (SMB), finding the best cloud telephony calling system can be a bit like buying a new mobile phone and contract. There’s a bewildering range of options. This is compounded when you try to work out how well it will work with the meeting and collaboration apps such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx Teams, Avaya Spaces, RingCentral Office or Google Meet.

Benefits of Voice over IP Telephony

The suite of cloud-based collaboration and communications options is known in the industry as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) - and I’m afraid that won’t be the last acronym you’ll be seeing in this blog.

The calling part is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Calls are made over the internet using traditional IP networks or via the cloud. Cloud-based telephone calls reduce costs and remove the need for dedicated Private Branch Exchange (PBX) hardware and potentially expensive service contracts.

Being cloud-based, there’s no need for specialist VoIP hardware on-site. Cisco’s Unified Communications Call Manager (CUCM), for example, is a sophisticated on-premise solution, but it requires in-house expertise to install and maintain. This is something that any business, small or large doesn’t need to worry about if its telephone system is all run securely in the cloud.

How do some of the major UCaaS suppliers compare?

OK, so there are many questions to consider when assessing which cloud telephony solution provides the best fit for your business. How does Cisco WebEx Voice compare with Ayava Cloud Voice? Or Google’s G-Suite voice services compare with Microsoft’s Teams Direct Routing offerings? Which is the best Voice calling package for SMBs? How easy is it to set up and configure? What are the Voice and Telephony price and cost differences for Avaya, Microsoft, Cisco WebEx, Google and RingCentral?

Let’s take a look at the different options available and see if we can answer some of these questions.

Avaya
Long-time leader in the PBX space, Avaya provides VoIP as part of its Avaya OneCloud offering. The system is robust and can be hosted in either a public or private cloud, or as a hybrid offering. It’s managed by an online portal where features and users can easily be managed by an administrator. It supports Windows and Mac computers, plus Android and IOS mobile devices.

Pros

  • Feature-rich services that integrate well with Avaya Spaces
  • Robust and reliable

Cons

  • Set-up can be tricky
  • Some users report mixed call quality
  • Avaya support can cause frustrations
  • Avaya Spaces not so widely used and not as refined as the Teams or Zoom experience

Pricing (all features inherited to next level)

  • Entry: £7.99 per month, 100 minutes per user. Team messaging and doc sharing
  • Standard: £14.00 per month. 750 minutes per user. Video meetings, unlimited audio conferencing. QoS reports. Integrations
  • Premium: £19.99 per month. 2,000 minutes per user. Single Sign-on. Video meetings of 200 participants. Extension codes, call handling. More integrations. Developer platform
  • Ultimate: £24.99 per month. 4,000 minutes per user. Status reports. Unlimited storage

Overview

  • List voice price is more expensive than other options. Make sure Avaya Spaces meets your video and meeting needs

Cisco WebEx
Previously known as Cisco Spark, Cisco WebEx Calling is now marketed as part of WebEx and can run as part of WebEx Meetings or as a standalone VoIP application. It supports all desktop and mobile devices with comprehensive PBX features such as extensions, personalised voice mail boxes and directory-based dialling. It can run on mixed cloud or on-premise networks.

Pros

  • Industry leader in the Unified Comms space
  • Cisco offer a well-developed and supported product
  • Integrates well with Cisco WebEx Meetings app

Cons

  • Pricing is complicated by the plethora of options available
  • Some find the user experience less optimal
  • Noise and muting options are a challenge for some

Pricing

  • As Cisco operates through a reseller model, pricing is not publicly available
  • Some vendors offer a subscription and calls minute model with call costs dependent on location
  • Overall feedback is that Cisco WebEx is perhaps not the cheapest option

Overview

  • Long-standing, high-quality, feature-rich and robust solution
  • WebEx Meetings is a well-respected conferencing solution. Compare prices via resellers with other options.

Google
Google’s Voice solution is part of its G-Suite range of cloud applications. It integrates well with both the newer Google Meet and their earlier offering of Hangouts. The interface is simple and easy to use and can be customised to meet individual workflows and needs. It works on all devices using the same work number on all of them.

Pros

  • Quick and easy to set up
  • Users like the way it seamlessly integrates with other Google tools
  • One number for all devices

Cons

  • Integration with other applications is not so straightforward
  • Voice mail transcription presents issues for some users
  • Calls based on subscription model outside the US

Pricing: (all features inherited to next level)

  • Starter: Up to 10 users. £7.80 per user per month. Integration with G-Suite. 24/7 support. Free calls in to US, others on a subscription model. UK calls from $0.01 per minute
  • Standard: Unlimited users. £12.30 per user per month. E-Discovery. Desk phone support. Free calls in to US, others on a subscription model. UK calls from $0.01 per minute
  • Premier: Unlimited users. £18.50 per month. Advanced reporting. Free calls in to US, others on a subscription model. UK calls from $0.01 per minute

Overview

  • One of the world’s major tech companies with a great UX, Google will not disappoint
  • Pricing may work out dearer, if regularly dialling to further afield countries

RingCentral

A major player in the US, RingCentral provide VoiP as part of their Glip Team collaboration platform and can also integrate with other applications. They provide a simple secure cost-effective offering that works on multiple devices.

Pros

  • Easy to use and set up

Cons

  • App is a little clunky
  • Glip can be intrusive if you just want to make calls

Pricing: (all features inherited to next level)

  • Entry: £7.99 - £12.99 per user per month (cheapest for 100 + users). 100 UK minutes per month. Packaged with Glip. 24/7 support
  • Standard: £12.99 - £19.99 per user per month. 750 UK minutes per month. Unlimited audio bridge licences. 4 video meetings with screen sharing. Roles and Permissions
  • Premium: £17.99 - £24.99 per month. 2,000 UK minutes per month. 100 video meetings. Call monitoring. Integration with Salesforce, Zendesk. Developer platform
  • Ultimate: £22.99 - £29.99 per month. 4,000 UK minutes per month.

Overview

  • Widely used in the US
  • Robust and reliable solution
  • Glip may not offer the same user experience as WebEx or Teams
  • Compare prices with other solutions

Microsoft

As part of their Microsoft 365 suite of solutions (previously Office 365), Business Voice is available as an additional subscription for Microsoft Teams. Teams is replacing Skype and offers all the same internal calling features.  Microsoft provide a simple extra option: you buy a single Voice bundle of features for Teams. This enables calls from any device running Teams. With Direct Routing, Teams calls can be made to landlines and mobiles across most of the globe, essentially turning it into a PBX system.

Pros

  • Fully integrated into Microsoft Teams and the wider set of 365 solutions
  • Voice quality and reliability is a big improvement over Skype

Cons

  • As part of Teams, you need to learn how to use and navigate the application to make calls

Pricing

Microsoft provide Business Voice as either an additional subscription in 365 or, like Cisco, use a reseller model. The reseller model, including Direct Routing is often a much more cost-effective model for businesses with more than 50 people

  • Buying direct from Microsoft means the options are bundled as part of 365. Adding Voice costs £12.00 per user per month on all 3 M365 options
  • M365 Business Basic, M365 Business Standard, M365 Business Premium: £12.00 extra per user per month

Overview

  • Teams has become ubiquitous across the UK and is a leading component of the 365 platform of solutions
  • Better pricing can often be gained by buying from a Direct Routing provider such as Resonate.

The choice is yours

As you can see, there are a range of excellent options available. If your business is already heavily using Cisco WebEx or Google Hangouts, then there are advantages to sticking with one vendor.

The same logic follows for businesses running Microsoft Office 365 with Microsoft’s Business Voice completely integrated - the £12 per month option is a simple subscription change in the 365 admin console.

However, if you are interested in the more cost-effective alternatives, Resonate can help. We are Microsoft Gold Partners and can provide very affordable VoIP Direct Routing calling options for businesses, small to enterprise. We also offer a Free 60-day trial and implementation of Teams Direct Routing.

If your business is still running Skype for Business, and you plan to switch to Teams, we can also assist with migrating you over. Please get in touch to see how we can help.

All prices current as of July 2020.

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