Based in Encinitas California, FreedomVoice have been involved in the virtual phone industry for twenty years now and have built up a customer base of over 200,000 loyal subscribers. In previous reviews, we have looked favourably at their three-tier structure, which was then aimed at consumer, small business and enterprise. However, lately they have rebranded their product line albeit it still has a three-tier structure aimed at entrepreneurs/home-based business, small business (1-4) and medium business (4+). The difference now is that FreedomVoice is placing much more emphasis on their cloud-based services, in CloudNumber, CloudPhone and CloudPBX respectively. So how do these new rebranded services match business requirements.
The entry-level virtual phone service is targeted at the entrepreneurs or home business user that requires a professional business number. The idea here is similar to Grasshopper’s virtual phone service in that it provides a business number that can be forwarded to any telephone including a mobile telephone and if required an answering service an auto attendant menu can be configured. This is all very convenient and can allow an entrepreneur to be mobile and still be contactable through a real business number transferred to their mobile phone. Similarly the entrepreneur could receive voicemails, messages, faxes and configure the phone service directly from their mobile app (iPhone and Android) they can also make outgoing calls from their mobile using the business number as the caller ID. Virtual phone systems work in this standard way so there is nothing new here.
So what does differentiate CloudNumber from the competition in the virtual phone services market?
Well, with regards the business number, a customer can select a choice of toll free 800 and local numbers, and the customer can test the service for 30 days free. The customer can even port over their own number if they have an existing business number they wish to keep. What’s more, you can port it over free of charge, normally service providers charge around $30 dollars for this service.
With regards virtual phone service features FreedomVoice’s CloudNumber has probably the most extensive range of features of any virtual phone service at around 40+ features. These include all the basic features such as auto-assistant, call menus, call redirect to a configurable list of phones, simultaneous ringing of extensions. However CloudNumber also support some advanced features such as online faxing, unlimited extensions – you can add as many phones as you like, custom auto professional recording of the auto-attendant greeting, custom music on hold, call recording and a host of call center type advanced call queuing techniques. These advanced features clearly and very positively differentiate CloudNumber from the vast majority of other virtual phone services.
The intermediate service in FreedomVoice’s service portfolio is branded CloudPhone and it is aimed at the small business with up to four users or extensions. CloudPhone comes with the same feature set at its sibling CloudNumber and with the same choice of 800 or local numbers, including free porting of an existing business number. Where CloudPhone differs is that it is based upon supplying if required plug and play pre-configured VoIP telephones that the customer can install and working in minutes. The range of telephones is very impressive with phones from Cisco, Polycom, Jabra, Linksys, amongst many other top branded phones.
However, fancy phones and an impressive array of features are not everything, as most users of the service would have no need for the majority of the functionality provided, so how does the service compare on price?
CloudNumber Price Plan
This is where things start to unravel a little bit for FreedomVoice, with CloudPhone and this applies to CloudNumber. The problem that arises is that FreedomVoice can become expensive if you do not select the correct service plan. For example, there are three service/price plans:
- Start: $9.95 per month per user with 400 free minutes
- Edge: $19.95 per month per user with 1200 free minutes
- Suite: $29.95 per month per user with 3000 free minutes
All these service plans are identical with regards features and services and they only differ due to the amount of free minutes per month, ranging from 400 to 3000 minutes. Additional minutes over and above those free allocated minutes are charged at 3.9c per minute. The issue here is that the amount of free minutes is low compared to competitors and the additional minutes charge is higher. We also have to remember that with virtual cloud services incoming and outgoing calls are included when calculating the minutes used. Therefore, it will not take long for one user on the start plan to exhaust their supply of 400 incoming/outgoing minutes of service and then they will be getting charged 3.9c for every additional minute of service both incoming and outgoing and that can soon mount up.
FreedomVoice’s flagship product is their cloud based PBX system CloudPBX. This service is a professional quality system suitable for businesses with four or more users or extensions. CloudPBX comes, as you would expect with the usual vast array of IP PBX features common to all IP/PBX cloud providers services. Where CloudPBX appears to differ is they are offering the unusual service of having the phone physically connected and configured by a local certified FreedomVoice technician. Why this would be necessary is unclear given their assurance to CloudPhone customers of the plug and Play nature of their service. Presumably, this is to provide businesses peace of mind, but is it necessary now that cloud and VoIP have a high degree of acceptance within IT.
Similar to its sibling service CloudPhone there are the same wide options of phones available and as with CloudPhone and CloudNumber there are also Softphone and mobile apps available at no extra charge.
CloudPBX has decided to differentiate its flagship service from its siblings and the competition by abandoning the industry standard pricing plans per seat per month. They market this as advantageous to the customer as, and this is quite correct not every extension user is a heavy user of the telephone; indeed some may hardly use a telephone at all. Instead, FreedomVoice proposes a minimal charge per seat per month and shared group minutes. In addition, they will charge for trunk line capacity, which determines the number of simultaneous calls that can be made (both incoming and outgoing). FreedomVoice believes by separating the service charge into two distinct charges will afford customers the options to control their expenditure to match their usage.
However, this means that the company can only supply pricing on request after an initial consultation and review of the customer’s network and requirements.
FreedomVoice have rebranded their core services as Cloud orientated services aimed at entrepreneurs, home business and small to medium business with their CloudNumber, CloudPhone and CloudPBX respectively. Their basic virtual telephone service, CloudNumber, aimed at the entrepreneur has rich features and good pricing, but an unlimited minutes option is missing and at their pricing for additional minutes on both incoming and outgoing, watching the minutes is going to be pretty awful. The same vague pricing problem is being addressed now with the CloudPBX service whereby FreedomVoice have tried to offer the customer a better charging model – hopefully it will prove acceptable to customers and this will filter down to the sibling services.