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.
Vonage is a pioneer in VoIP as well as residential and small business virtual telephone services. It began over two decades ago back in 2001 in New Jersey USA as a supplier of residential telephone services. In subsequent years it spread its operations to Canada and then to the UK. However lately due to acquisitions Vonage has shifted its focus to virtual cloud-based PBX systems for small, medium and large companies. As a result of this has emerged the Vonage Business Cloud, which targets small medium businesses, while a larger sibling Vonage Enterprise focuses on large and enterprise organizations.
A primary difference between Vonage Business Cloud and Vonage Enterprise is that the former is delivered across public high speed internet connections. The latter, Vonage Enterprise on the other hand, is delivered across a private MLPS network, which provides additional redundancy, security and reliability. Of course most small medium businesses do not need that level of availability and reliability but they do need many of the same advanced features for omnichannel support that delivers upon a unified communications platform.
In the past decade Vonage has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a provider of bulk minutes to the residential market. Today, in 2020, it is a provider of a unified communication platform that brings multi-channel and unified communications as well as collaboration and productivity tools to small and medium businesses. Hence, no matter how small or large your business Vonage has a solution to suit your unified communication requirements.
Comparing Grasshopper vs. Vonage
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 Vonage’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 Vonage have service plans that are targeting the entrepreneur and small business market sector.
When comparing Vonage Business Cloud with Grasshopper we have to keep in mind that Grasshopper targets entrepreneurs, young startups and small businesses. Whereas Vonage Business Cloud scales from that same demographic of solo and small business customers up to SMB (small medium business) and even SME (small medium enterprise). Consequently, when we consider Vonage Business Cloud we should do through the lens of its Mobile and Premium service plans as they are 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 ($24 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.
Vonage is a cloud-hosted system that is bill monthly on a per-user basis. The service is focused primarily on small businesses but is still affordable for the entrepreneurs or SoHo businesses that want a feature rich phone service.
Vonage Business Cloud has three basic small business plans, Mobile, Premium, and Advanced, which we can use as a like-for- like comparison with Grasshopper’s Solo, Partner and Small Business service plans.
Vonage Business Cloud
Vonage is a cloud-hosted system that charges a monthly per-user fee so plan prices depend on the number of users. Vonage Business Cloud and is available in three service plans that target growing small businesses and all plans include the 40 standard features, unlimited calling and text messaging, as well as a free to download mobile and desktop app. Here’s how the plans differ:
- The Mobile plan is $19.99 per user per month for 1-4 users, $17.99 for 5-19 users, and $14.99 for 20-99 users.
- The Premium plan starts at $29.99 for 1-4 users, $27.99 for 5-19 users, and $24.99 for 20-99 users.
- The Advanced plan starts at $39.99 for 1-4 users, $37.99 for 5-19 users, and $34.99 for 20-99 users.
Prices for companies with more than 100 users should look to the Vonage Enterprise service plans.
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.
Vonage has over 50 build-in VoIP features that cover just about everything you could need in a unified communications platform for small businesses. The entry level Mobile service plan is aimed at the small business, that typically does not have an office or the need for desk phones and that is looking for a cost effective virtual PBX service that will run effectively on smartphones or mobile devices. The Mobile service plan comes with the standard 50+ VoIP features as standard, such as:
- Mobility and omnichannel: Mobile app, Follow Me, Call Forwarding, Paperless Fax, Business SMS, voicemail to email, Vonage visual voicemail as well as many devices on an extension
- Collaboration and Productivity: Call Conferencing Bridge, Call Monitoring, Call Announce, Call Groups, Team Meetings and Team Messaging
- Customer and employee experience: Call recording on-demand, Call screening, Call queues, Do Not Disturb, Call Continuity, Call Park and Spam shield
- Flexibility: Set Caller ID, Call Block, Smart Numbers, Local or geographic numbers, and an App center
The aim of Vonage Business Communications is to provide an advanced UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) platform for communication across many diverse channels, such as voice, video, SMS text messaging, chat and email to aid collaboration and boost productivity.
As a result of the desire to deliver unified communications to even small businesses the Mobile plan provides integrated calling and messaging via SMS using the virtual business number as the caller ID. However it does not support all those goals as it lacks several of its larger siblings’ features. The VoIP feature set is still very good for a SoHo or small business but it does lack some features such as voicemail to email and business application integration.
The Premium service plans prices (per user per month) start at $29.99 for 1-4 users, $27.99 for 5-19 users, and $24.99 for 20-99 users.
The Premium service plan comes with all the features in the Mobile plan but with some notable extras, such as:
- Video conferencing, chat & file sharing for up to 100 people
- Multi-level auto attendant
- CRM integrations
The Advanced service plan prices (per user per month) start at $39.99 for 1-4 users, $37.99 for 5-19 users, and $34.99 for 20-99 users.
The Advanced plan includes everything in the Premium and Mobile plans but it also has some extra specialist features such as call recording on-demand (15 hours per month), call groups, as well as visual voicemail.
Not all the features in Vonage are available through the standard service plans as some are bundled together in a supplemental offering called VonageFlow. Just like Grasshopper Connect, VonageFlow is a supplementary collaboration tools offered to all users and it provides group chat, video calls, and file and media sharing. The way it works is that SMS and social media messages to be routed directly into a team messaging location. This means that when customers make contact with an issue via SMS or Social Messaging, all team members associated with that extension or business inbox would receive the message in real-time, regardless of their current location.
In a similar way to Grasshopper’s partnership with Join.me, Vonage has also integrated with third parties to deliver enhanced features. In this regard Vonage teams up with Amazon Chime, which allows video conferencing for up to 100 people but the subscription is billed at an extra cost.
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.
Just like many other virtual phone systems Vonage supports a mobile app and desktop softphone. The concept is the same in that you create a Vonage extension and then link the virtual business phone number to your mobile device. This is all managed through the Vonage Business Communications Mobile App. Once the Mobile App is linked to a Vonage extension, your mobile phone then becomes a fully-functional extension which can not only make and receive business calls but can also utilize all of the Vonage features such as making video calls or integrating with business applications such as CRM when you are away from the office.
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
Vonage lets you choose from local and toll-free numbers. In addition you can port over your existing business number to Vonage. You can also transfer local voice and fax, toll-free voice and fax, and even wireless numbers.
- Local Number – $9.991
- Toll Free Number – $39.99
- International Local Numbers – $39.99
- Local or Geographic Number – $9.99
- Paperless Fax Number $14.99
- Toll Free Fax Number $19.99
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
Vonage support is during office hours ET time and based in the USA.
Vonage supports the following channels:
- Telephone – Vonage offers phone support between 8 a.m. and midnight (ET) Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) on Saturday and Sunday.
- 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.
As Vonage Business Cloud is a virtual PBX so it can support diverse geographical locations thereby providing enhanced mobility by allowing companies to choose local phone numbers in over 40 countries. With Vonage your virtual business number can be chosen or customized to specific geographical or regional preferences. Vonage also offers international virtual business numbers that provide your business with a virtual in-country presence. In addition Vonage has regional offices in the US, Canada and the UK.
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.
Unfortunately Vonage Business Cloud does not make it easy for customers to cancel their subscriptions. Indeed you will need an authorized system administrator to call Vonage Business as they provide no way to cancel online or through the admin portal.
The accepted cancellation process is that services may be cancelled by Customer only through the Superuser by contacting Vonage Customer Care by telephone during normal business hours or via email to [email protected]
Month-to-Month Services. For Services provided on a month-to-month basis, either Party may terminate the Services by providing at least 30-days’ notice, with termination being effective the following month.
Fixed Term Services. For any fixed term contractual agreements you must give 90 days’ notice of cancellation.
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.
Vonage Business Cloud on the other hand is also a cloud based Virtual unified communication platform that is affordable. In addition Vonage Business Cloud offers services out with the USA and Canada and has far greater international scope the Grasshopper. Nonetheless, despite being targeted at the same entrepreneur and small business market – less than 25 employees – as Grasshopper, Vonage’s Mobile plan 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 with international ambitions or are based outside the USA and Canada and are willing to pay extra for many of the added-value features that differentiate Vonage from Grasshopper, then Vonage is more suitable for your needs.