Grasshopper is a virtual telephone system operator that is based in Needham MA in the USA. Grasshopper’s target market is the solo entrepreneur or the small business market, typically those with between 1-25 telephone users. As such Grasshopper is primarily a virtual telephone service with the typical voice features that you would expect from a business telephone system.
When Grasshopper first started out it was distinctive because it used a PSTN overlay model this required that you had to have an existing phone service (landline or mobile) in which to operate and to forward calls over.
In recent years Grasshopper has shifted away from the PSTN overlay model towards being a cloud PBX utilizing VoIP over the internet. What this means is you can now make, receive and forward calls using VoIP on Wi-Fi or over a Mobile data connection using a smartphone or a PC with a softphone app. This has significantly improved the features and flexibility of the Grasshopper system. For example, users can now make outbound calls using VoIP over the internet from a mobile app. But, at the same time, the move has reduced what was its significant advantage, which was its previous guaranteed voice quality and reliability as these factors were due to the underlying PSTN network.
Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Nextiva started out in 2008 as a VoIP service provider but has grown over the last decade into a leading cloud-based unified communication provider. Today, Nextiva is a leading UCaaS (unifies Communications as a Service) provider in the USA and Canada and is always there or there about when the annual awards are being handed out. What makes Nextiva so popular with its users and market observers is that it covers all of the bases that small to medium business require from a modern unified communication platform. This is because today small businesses are just as dependent on supporting their customers’ diverse communication channels such as voice, email, SMS messaging, webchat, online forms, voicemail and even video voicemail, as their enterprise competitors. This is because small business as much as anyone needs to be able to handle their customer’s preferred communication channels.
To that end Nextiva have developed a unified communication platform that is feature-rich yet still affordable for small businesses. Moreover the abundance of features does not mean added complexity as Nextiva still manages to be easy to configure, and administer.
Comparing Grasshopper vs. Nextiva
When it comes to comparing vendors’ products in the virtual telephone systems marketplace it is essential to make sure that we are comparing comparable systems. What this means is that we must select and compare service and price plans aimed at the same market sector, such as for small office-home office (SoHo) or small medium businesses (SMB), or small to medium enterprises (SME).
As a result we have chosen to compare Grasshopper’s Solo, Partner and SMB service plans against Nextiva’s basic small business plans. What we do need to bear in mind is that this is a like-for-like comparison as both Grasshopper and Nextiva have service plans that are targeting the entrepreneur and small business market sector.
When comparing Nextiva small business plans with Grasshopper we have to keep in mind that Grasshopper targets entrepreneurs, young startups and small businesses. Nextiva’s platform however can scale from that same entry-level demographic of solo and small business customers up to SMB (small medium business) and even SME (small medium enterprise). Consequently, when we consider Nextiva we should do so through the lens of its Basic and Pro service plans as they are more comparable in price and functionality. This means that we can ideally compare prices and features on a more equal basis.
Grasshopper uses a pricing model based upon the number of virtual business numbers used and the number of extensions. With Grasshopper the entry level service is called Solo ($29 per month) and as you would expect this is designed to support a single user with one number and 3 extensions on a per month basis. Moving up the scale there is the popular Partner service plan ($49) that is designed to support up to 5 users with 3 numbers and 3 extensions. At the top end there is the Small Business ($89) service plan which can scale to around 25 users with 5 numbers and unlimited extensions. Across all the plans there are no activation fees, contract needed or cancellation fees involved but local taxes will apply.
The Nextiva service has three basic plans for small to medium businesses; Essential, Professional and Enterprise and each differs in price and feature-sets as they target businesses of different size and technical requirements. The entry level plan, Essential, is aimed at the entrepreneur or SoHo (Small office Home office) type business or the one or two man entrepreneurs that need a modern communication system. The next step up is the Professional Plan, and this service plan is targeting the small business that requires multi-channel communications for today’s technically advanced customers. Both service plans however come packed with features to meet the requirement of even the most technically demanding small business.
- Essential starts at $29.95 per user per month (1-20 users billed monthly)
Voicemail to email, unlimited US calling, free number porting
- Professional starts at $32.95 per user per month (1-20 users billed monthly)
Comes with all basic features plus – Unlimited conference calls, Nextiva mobile app, professionally recorded greeting
- Enterprise starts at $39.95 per user per month (1-20 users billed monthly)
Comes with all Pro features plus – Advanced Voice analytics, call recording, live chat on your website
These are the entry level prices for Nextiva based on the comparable service plans for businesses on 1-25 users. There is considerable saving however if you want to take on a 36 month contract and you have 100 or more users. In that case, you will begin to realize Nextiva’s advertised rates of $20 per user per month for the Essential plan, $25 per user per month for the Professional Plan, and $30 per user per month for the Enterprise plan.
Therefore, when pricing Nextiva service plans you really do need to get sales quotes from Nextiva because Nextiva offers multiple price variances based on the length of the service contract and the number of users on your plan and there simply is not enough reliable information on the site or in the terms and conditions to determine per user pricing.
Grasshopper despite its move to being a cloud PBX is still fundamentally only an incoming call handing service. What that means is that Grasshopper is an inbound call answering service that does not provide users with a dial-tone so no outbound calls are possible. Grasshopper works by using an auto-attendant to answer incoming calls to the virtual business number. The incoming calls to virtual business numbers are duly answered 24/7 with a professional customized greeting. The users can make their own greeting using Grasshopper studio or have a professional voice actor record the greeting for them. After the greeting has been played to the caller, the auto-attendant will present them with a menu of user configurable options – such as press 1 for Sales, 2 for Support, 3 for Billing. When customizing the menu the user can construct the menu so that it is made up of a hierarchy of departments or extensions that reflect the organizations structure. Moreover each extension can be redirected to a different phone or user. A handy thing is any number of real phones can be linked to the virtual extension number, which can ring in sequence (call hunt) or ring simultaneously (call blast). Therefore, the user could set up the sequence to have their mobile as the first number and their house phone as the second, this way they can ensure that they would not miss an important call.
There are also voicemail and voicemail-to-email features. Voicemail is a standard feature which will kick in after a configurable number of unanswered rings. On the other hand, Voicemail-to-email is a transcription service which sends a copy to the user’s email inbox so that it can be read rather than listened too.
Business calling and SMS, which use the virtual business number as the caller ID are again standard features across the plans. Both services allow the mobile or desktop app to substitute the virtual business number for the devices real mobile number as the caller ID which is good as it prevents the personal phone number of the mobile phone being visible to the person receiving the call or text.
Quality and reliability are built into Grasshopper by default as it operates on top of the PSTN network which guarantees call quality and high-availability. Nonetheless, Grasshopper can also use your mobile minutes or shift to VoIP on Wi-Fi when a strong signal is available. This can be easily setup on the mobile or desktop apps which comes with the service.
Other notable Grasshopper features are:
- Fax Support (incoming)
- Conference Calling (3-way or more if subscribing to Join.Me)
- International Calls – charged at International call rates
- Mobile app for iOS and Android
- Toll-Free, Local or Vanity number
- Softphone for Windows or Mac
- Caller ID/Screening
- Call transfer
- Call blocking
- Call Forwarding
- Call Blasting
Grasshopper is focused on being a basic, reliable and high quality telephone service hence its lack of multi-channel, collaboration, productivity and call center tools. However, Grasshopper does have complementary tools that deliver some of these functions. The two services in question that bring some advanced features to the basic Grasshopper voice service are; 1) Grasshopper Connect, which brings contact sharing and email integration and 2) Join.me, which provides much needed support for video and audio conferencing as well as desktop/screen sharing.
Grasshopper Connect can be used as a standalone product or as a supplement to Grasshopper Solo. However it is priced at $29.99, which brings it to parity with Ring Central’s Essentials service plan at $29.99 billed annually for a single user. This dilutes much of Grasshopper’s price advantage. Nonetheless, in return you will get a contact-sharing feature on the mobile app as well as email integration for Google Gmail accounts. These are handy but basic functions that most of Grasshopper’s competitors deliver as part of the basic feature set.
Grasshopper is pushing a partnership with Join.me as a supplement to its own basic virtual voice service. What Join.me brings to the table are collaboration and productivity tools such as video conferencing, video team meetings and desktop or screen sharing. These are excellent additional features to Grasshopper but they come not via mutual integration but as an extra subscription. The point being that to get features, such as video conferencing, above Grasshoppers basic feature-set is going to cost extra and this has to be taken into consideration when planning for the service.
One of Nextiva’s major selling points is its feature-rich unified communication platform. It has over 50 built-in VoIP features that cover just about everything you could need for a technology driven small business. The entry level Essentials service plan is aimed at the small business that typically does not have a single fixed office but has remote locations, home workers and that is looking for a cost effective virtual PBX service that will run effectively on smartphones or mobile devices. The Essentials service plan comes with the standard 50+ VoIP features as standard, such as:
- Cloud PBX
- Free phone number porting
- Mobile call management
- Unlimited US calling
- Free local number
- Free toll-free number
- Voicemail to email
- Unlimited virtual faxing
- Shared call appearance (multiple phones on one line)
- HD hold music
- Voicemail to text ($2.95 per line)
- Barge In (manager monitoring)
Additional features available in the Professional Plan include:
- Professionally recorded greetings
- Call Me Now (phone call via website link)
- Conference bridge (up to nine users)
- Nextiva mobile app
The Enterprise plan brings the additional features:
- Call recording
- Nextiva Anywhere
- Business Application Integration
A single differentiator between Nextiva and many of its rivals is its array of business application connectors for seamless integration wide a wide range of applications, such as:
- Skype for Business
Another interesting point about Nextiva is that it has removed most of the call handling and routing features from the standard plans and made them available as specialized Call Centre editions. There are two Call Centre service plans the Call Centre Pro, which is suited for small to medium contact centers and Call Center Enterprise for medium to large call centers.
- Call Center Pro – $50 per user per month
- Call Center Enterprise – $100 per user per month
Mobile & Desktop Apps
Grasshopper is dependent upon having good mobile phone support as it is one of its biggest selling points. For example Grasshopper is attractive to small businesses that have users that are on the move and typically working from their mobile devices. Consequently, Grasshopper has developed a mobile app for both Android and iOS for smartphones. For desktops and Laptops there is also a softphone application that can be downloaded and configured as an extension. The pre-requisite for a softphone being that the computer, laptop or tablets has a headset and microphone.
The mobile app provides the opportunity to select whether to use VoIP or the carrier network, for example 4G to make calls. The user can select the default through the mobile apps setup. This means remembering to switch over to the carrier network when you leave the Wi-Fi network in the house or office.
A disappointing aspect of Nextiva in the mobile app is not included with the Essentials plan. Indeed you need to upgrade to the Professional plan before it is included as standard. The same is true of another great mobility tool called Nextiva Anywhere which allows you to unplug a VoIP phone and take it with you and plug it in to the internet wherever you go and it works – due to local DNS trickery – as if it was still on the local network. They can also have calls diverted from their business lines and ring any other phones such as their mobile or home landline phones.
In addition to Nextiva Anywhere, another great tool is Nextiva’s mobile app, which runs on iOS and Android devices. The mobile app allows remote users to make and receive phone calls on their smartphones. They can also work as normal on their business lines, making use of all the standard features such as making video calls, chat with team members via instant message, access the company directory or manage their contacts and leads within CRM. In addition, there is seamless call transfer so that you can start a call on a desk phone and then move the call transparently to a mobile phone, and vice versa without the caller realizing.
The Nextiva softphone allows you to make and receive calls from your desktop computer or laptop. Just plug in a handset into your device to transform it into a fully functional VoIP phone.
Types of Numbers Available
An important consideration when choosing a virtual telephone service is whether the vendor can supply the type of business number that you need. There are several types of virtual telephone numbers available:
- Local Number that matches your location or desired location or virtual business presence.
- Toll-Free Numbers
- Vanity Numbers
- International Numbers
- Existing Business Number
Almost all virtual telephone service vendors will support these types of numbers the difference is whether they charge for them or not.
The Grasshopper service supports Local, Vanity and Toll Free. You can also port an existing number over to your Grasshopper account. All of the grasshopper features are attached to the virtual business number you choose such as business SMS, Confirmation Texts and outgoing caller ID use the business number even on a smartphone. The price of the virtual numbers is included within the plan, so for example you can have 1 number in Solo, 3 in Partner and 5 in Small Business. Additional numbers are charged at $5 per number per month. Also there are set monthly charges for features that use these numbers such as:
- $5 per month for each additional Grasshopper number above the amount included in your pricing plan
- $5 per month for each Canadian number that you transfer to Grasshopper
- $10 per month if Call Blasting is activated
- $10 per month if Read Your Voicemail is activated
- $10 per month, per phone number with Grasshopper Business SMS (Texting) activated
With Nextiva you get one Toll Free or Local Number per service plan. Alternatively you can port an existing business number across for use on the Nextiva system. However porting an existing number does take time – typically 2-3 weeks.
With Regards to VoIP local numbers Nextiva can supply local telephone numbers in every region across the USA.
Nextiva’s cloud based VoIP technology allows you to manage a presence in any city or state that you have customers. It doesn’t matter where you are located you can still have local VoIP phone numbers for nearly any other area code across the USA. Unfortunately Nextiva does not extend this service out with the USA, so there are no international local numbers available.
An important factor when comparing vendor virtual telephone solutions is Customer Service. Each vendor approaches this area differently with some more focused on online material such as FAQ, Podcasts, and Blogs as well as website training videos. Whereas others aim for the personal contact via telephone, email or web forms. Whichever channel you prefer should be available to you from the vendor.
Another important factor is where the Support service is based. Generally a few years ago vendors took advantage of offshoring contact centers to Asia and other places to take advantage of lower costs. Unfortunately this often backfired resulting in poor customer experience and so recently there has been a shift back to on shoring Contact Centers in the USA.
Grasshoppers support is 24/7 and based in the USA.
Grasshopper supports the following channels:
- Telephone – 24/7
- Live Support – Chat
- Ticket System – Online Forms
- FAQ and online documentation
Nextiva support is during office hours ET time and based in the USA.
Nextiva supports the following channels:
- Telephone – Toll Free 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST on weekends.
- Live Support – Chat
- Ticket System – Online Forms
- Live Training
- FAQ and online documentation
Grasshopper used to be available in the USA/Canada as well as in the UK. However, now Grasshopper is only available in the USA and Canada. The lack of international local numbers is also a major constraint for businesses that work out with the USA and Canada.
Nextiva is a virtual PBX so it can support diverse geographical locations thereby providing enhanced mobility by allowing companies to choose state or city numbers as local phone numbers. With Nextiva your virtual business number can be chosen or customized to specific geographical or regional preferences within the USA. Nextiva also offers international virtual business calling rates but does not provide international local numbers.
Cancelling the Service
A very important factor to consider is how you end the contract if things just don’t work out. After all no matter how affordable and well delivered a telephone service may be it just might not fit with your own business model or direction. Therefore you should be aware of any potential cancellation fees or contractual obligations before you subscribe to the vendor’s service.
This is the ideal model for small businesses as there simply is no contract involved as you pay on an ongoing month to month basis in advance. Therefore if you don’t like the service you simply stop paying for it. This is the simplest and easiest way to terminate the service. Alternatively you could call up their support and ask them to terminate the service but you will not be reimbursed for part of a month.
Nextiva can be run on a month to month contract or on long term multi-year contracts (36 months). You have to be sure you know the renewal date or the contract will simply roll over and start anew when the time expires. Therefore you need to contact Nextiva within the notice period to cancel the service.
You may cancel your NEXTIVA Service at any time by providing NEXTIVA with a notice of your intent to cancel by sending an email to [email protected] or calling our Customer Care Department at 1-800-983-4289.
Grasshopper is a basic no-frills virtual telephone system available only in the USA and Canada. The virtual telephone service targets the entrepreneur, young startup or small business that functions best on mobile devices. Grasshopper delivers all the basic voice functions a small business requires but lacks many of the features such as multi-channel support as well as the collaboration and productivity tools that have become increasingly necessary in modern businesses. Nonetheless Grasshopper is an affordable, simple to use and reliable service especially when using mobile phones.
Nextiva on the other hand is also a cloud based Virtual unified communication platform that is affordable and feature rich. Unfortunately, Nextiva does not offer services out with the USA or even International local numbers. Nonetheless, despite being targeted at the same entrepreneur and small business market – less than 25 employees – as Grasshopper, Nextiva has a more extensive set of features covering voice, call handling, application integration, collaboration and productivity as well as some basic call center features.
In short if you are a small business with less than 25 telephone users that work outside of the office from their own mobile devices and you only need voice and text communication at an affordable price then Grasshopper may well be for you. On the other hand if you are a growing SMB based inside the USA and are willing to pay extra for service plans that have many added-value features that differentiate Nextiva from Grasshopper, then Nextiva Basic is more suitable for your needs.