Phone.com and Vonage are two of the major players in the virtual telephone and VoIP service provider market place. Phone.com as a virtual telephone system targets the residential and the small business sector, which is now an area that Vonage is moving into after years as the dominant VoIP residential service provider. However, managing the client expectations and requirements in the residential sector is not the small as managing a virtual telephone service for a business. So how do they shape up in their respective roles as small business service providers?
Phone.com has over 250,000 + business subscriptions and won awards for excellence in 2014; presently it has three business products in addition to its residential offering. Vonage on the other hand has been operational since 1999 and is considered to be one of the most reputable and largest of the VoIP service providers. Indeed Vonage is considered one of the pioneers of VoIP in the residential and International calling market. Vonage in addition to its residential VoIP service provides a cloud hosted virtual telephone system, branded Vonage Business Services. Therefore, we will compare both Phone.com and Vonage’s business services rather than their established residential products.
How they Work
Since our last review of Phone.com they have expanded and enhanced their service from being a high grade virtual telephone service into a hosted PBX service offering a plethora of features and collaboration tools usually associate with much more expensive service providers. They now pride themselves on providing affordable business telephone systems for businesses – but really they have gone well beyond that level.
For example only a couple of years ago Phone.com was offering an incoming call answering service with call transfers and a package of nice VoIP add-ons that set it above its typical competition in the VoIP field. However the service has been enhanced so much that it no longer qualifies as a virtual telephone service but as a fully-fledged incoming/outgoing hosted PBX.
If we consider some of Phone.coms basic features as some are extra but we will come to them later for now let us concentrate on all the included bells and whistles. For starters Phone.com offers local, regional and toll free numbers (two are included in the base price) and there are even global numbers available or you can port your existing numbers. In addition Phone.com will work of any phone, analogue or VoIP/SIP as they can supply the required adapters if necessary they also support a mobile app for Apple and Android and their own softphone for use on a tablet/laptop or PC. To enhance business credibility the service provides HD voice quality and HD voice conferencing for over 300 participants all as standard. As expected there are all the standard VoIP features such as advanced call transfers, auto-attendant, an IVR and find-me/follow-me as well as voicemail-to-email text. For premier features you have to pay extra some will be worth the additional fee but some of the features could have been provided as standard. The stand out premier features for business are call recording which is typically an extra, video conferencing, professional recording of greetings and IVR menus and CRM integration. Other premier features are voicemail transcription and custom local, toll free and global numbers. The CRM integration feature is possibly one of the widest ranging services available today as Phone.com claim to be able to integrate with a vast array of third party business software vendors such as Salesforce, Microsoft, SugarCRM, Oracle, Rethink, and many more. Furthermore there are cheap international call rates with U.S. local rates to landline numbers in: Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, USA and iNUM global numbers.
Vonage has also not been resting on their laurels of late and have made strenuous moves into the business orientated world of unified communications. It would be fair to say that Vonage is now a major player in the small medium enterprise world of UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) with their growing portfolio of business telephony products, business analytics and diverse communication channel support.
Vonage though has many options and tools that can be used together to customize a service but the core elements for telephony are within Vonage Essentials. Vonage includes within Essentials all the necessary features required by a SME including tools categorized by Business Customization (auto-receptionist, IVR, Local, toll free or geographic numbers), Contact Centre (call queuing, simultaneous ring, call hunt, group paging), Call recording ( on-demand or company wide), Collaboration (chat, video conferencing, file sharing, desktop sharing), Mobility (visual voicemail, voicemail-to-email, mobile apps, find-me/follow-me, text messaging and work from anywhere.) The latter being a feature, which allows you to take your desk phone home or away from the office, plug into high-speed internet, and get the full business phone system experience you have back at the office. With the “Work from Anywhere” employees can work virtually and connect to their system functionality no matter where they are. Vonage also has an abundance of features that they categorize as Convenience and Efficiency (Computer softphone, virtual mailbox, voice conferencing, paperless Fax, click-to-call, and many more standard VoIP features are included).
Vonage also has CRM and third-party software integration for many of the major players such as Oracle, Microsoft, Saleforce, SugarCRM and many others but these are extra. Included with Essentials though is Amazon Chime with enables web video conferencing and it is offered at 50% discount for Vonage Essential users.
Furthermore if you don’t want the daily chore of running and maintaining your phone system you can opt-out and get a managed service and network through Vonage premium who will run, administer and support the networked service on your behalf. So it seems Vonage have come a long way from their residential service or for that matter their small business service.
Phone.com supports three basic service and price plans.
To see some of the changes that have been introduced into their new service plans we can start with the migration away from a pay as you go and minutes orientated teo tier service to a more industry standard three tier service plan approach focusing on per-seat monthly fee for a fixed feature rich service. Consequently, Phone.com now supports 3 plans; a Base plan, a Plus plan and a Pro plan with the major differentiator other than the price being the number of ‘free’ minutes allowed each month. The Base plan comes with 100, the Plus plan with 500 and the Pro plan with 1,000. Of course as the plans all share a common rich feature set then the price differential accounts for the number of included minutes.
Vonage business model is built around three types of extensions:
Vonage Essentials starts at $19.99 per extension per month for 21 + extensions but is now quote driven, however guidelines on their website indicate that for 1 – 5 extensions the price is $39.99 per extension per month, 6 – 9 is $29.99, and 10 -20 is $24.99, but you need to get a free quote to validate those prices which are also dependent of any premier features.
Phone.com has full 24/7 support through an agent manned contact centre, by chat or my email. Furthermore, Phone.com has an extensive online library – Phone.com University – webinars, and helpful blogs.
Vonage has online support organized in five topic centers, technical support, billing, manage account, features & settings, and plans & services. There is also telephone support, an active community and extensive online tools and documentation.
Both Vonage and Phone.com are major players in the small business VoIP telephone market. Phone.com uses a virtual incoming call management system, where as Vonage hosts a cloud based IP PBX service. However, Phone.com provides over 40+ basic features included in all its service plans, which is more than Vonage provides. Vonage however can provide more features but they are all premium features and will be billed as extra. Phone.com is the simpler of the two services to build out as you can easily add new extensions and assign up to five telephones of any type. Vonage follows a similar model but only allows three telephones to be added per extension.
With regards service and price plans, both have similar pricing though both charge extras that must be taken into consideration. Phone.com charges extra for Softphone and other features that other competitors include in their service plans for free. Vonage on the other hand charge for everything other than the core features. This however can work both ways, if you know exactly what features you will and will not require, you will then not be paying for those you do not need.
Scalability in a small business model is important, as you will want the telephone system to be able to scale to meet any future growth. Vonage has the advantage here, as Phone.com’s model limits growth due to administrative burdens. Vonage also has the advantage when it comes to call charges both domestic and international rates are better than Phone.com as it can leverage its vast VoIP network that has been established since 1999.
If you are looking for a small business virtual telephone system and have basic requirements then both Phone.com and Vonage are very competent service providers. Phone.com is best for the small business that just wants a simple service with most business features included. Vonage is better for small businesses with strong growth plans and a clear understanding of their telephony requirements. Both plans have extras charged on top of the service plans therefore make sure you know what the actual monthly fee will be.