Virtual PBX Phone Systems for Small Business – Providers & Reviews

RingCentral

Company: RingCentral
Website: RingCentral.com
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What is RingCentral Office? – Small Business Phone System & Enterprise

RingCentral has over the last few years shifted from a Small-Business virtual phone answering service called Profesional to a range of products that cover a business of any size. Indeed RingCentral Small Business service and Enterprise offerings are now delivered via a selection of service plans Called; Standard Office, Premier Office, and Ultimate Office. The new portfolio of products. which consist of:

  • A modular cloud-based IP/PBX service called Dial, which has been at the forefront of the industry for well over a decade. The service is famed for its robust nature and rich feature set that can accommodate all the functions that any small medium or even enterprise business would require.
  • A module of service features aimed at collaboration and called Meeting, which can scale from an SMB to a Call Center such is the abundance of call handling and management features available.
  • Another module of features focuses on messaging, which allows a business to unify their communication channels as they grow.

In order to demonstrate how Office works in practice we will need to take a look at some of the basic features that underpin the service and provide the platform for enterprise class PBX communications.

RingCentral as a Unified Communication as a Service – More Than Just a Virtual PBX System

RingCentral’s Office product has evolved over the years from being predominantly a virtual IP PBX to a fully-fledged UCaaS (Unified Communication as a Service) platform. What that means in terms of the customer is that RingCentral have added and tightly coupled other communication technologies, such as IM, email, chat, video conferencing, desktop sharing for remote presentation and training, and business SMS into their product. These new features work seamlessly across IP phones, desktop Softphones and even on employee’s own mobile phones. This effectively means that employees can access online meetings, video conference calls and collaborate with team members and partners wherever they may be and all communications go through the company’s RingCentral Office application. For small businesses this provides a roadmap for progressing in easy affordable steps as they grow from a voice focused communication system to a fully featured unified communication platform. A suggested path could be from:

  • Start with the virtual call features for voice;
  • Progress as you grow to add messaging functions such as integrated email, chat, video etc as you adapt your business to your customer’s preferred communication methods.
  • Add the Meetings module to further enhance your business’s collaboration capability by supporting HD video and voice conferencing as well as shared desktops.

RingCentral Flexibility

However if you feel that you would prefer to start small and build as you grow, then there are a range of service plans available within All-In-One or you can even start with just the Call service and add collaboration and messaging functions later as needed. To enable this roadmap RingCentral provides three separate service plans; Call, Meet, and Message which each has three additional plans such as Office Standard, Office Premium and Office Ultimate. This presentation of available feature sets allows customers to build their communication system to meet their own requirements and objectives.

A RingCentral Roadmap for an SMB (Small-Medium Business)

The concern may be that for a small business is that All-in-One – even with its standard service plan of Office Standard – will be terribly complex to deploy and a nightmare to implement, but nothing is further from the truth. You should understand that you need only follow the roadmap:

  • Implementing any of the RingCentral Office service plans is simply a case of connecting your IP phones, Desktops – if using Softphone – to your broadband internet connection and you are ready to go. Implementation, from the customer’s perspective really is that simple.
  • Additionally, RingCentral has experts at hand to help you through the deployment and can supply you with IP phones, headsets, Softphone and mobile apps.

Choice of Available Business Numbers

Choosing and getting an appropriate business number can be critical to the success of the business. Unlike many of the competitor services RingCentral provide a wide selection of International numbers in addition to the standard local, toll-free and vanity numbers typically offered.

International Numbers

Having the option of supporting International numbers is becoming a necessity today for any internet facing business where customers are no longer resident locally but are globally dispersed. As a result RingCentral offers a choice of:

  • International numbers in over 70 countries. International numbers work in the same way as local numbers in that inbound numbers can be transferred seamlessly to a number or extension in the home region giving the impression and savings to the customer of a local call. In this way an SMB can set up a presence internationally as well as regionally by using international or local business numbers.
  • In addition there is also a wide range of Toll-free numbers available but these like all toll-free numbers may not be free for callers out with the United States.

Mobility

A major driver towards virtual telephone systems for most small businesses is the need for mobility. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs spend a lot of their time out of the office but they still need to stay connected and communicate with customers and others in the company. There, a major feature for SMB employees is a mobile app that they can load onto their smartphone. This will allow them to be out and about but remain connected to the virtual telephone system as surely as if they were sitting at their desk. RingCentral recognises this and thus have developed a very impressive mobile and desktop app that allows subscribers to turn their devices into fully featured unified communication hubs.

Virtual Phone System – Mobile App

Practically all virtual phone system vendors today issue their products with a free to download mobile app. This is simply because it’s a cheap way for small business users to connect to the virtual telephone system. Hence, you will normally find a link to  download a mobile/desktop app on the vendors website. Unfortunately not all mobile/desktop apps are of the same quality some are simply remote VoIP extensions with limited integration whilst offers such as RingCentral’s mobile and desktop apps are fully integrated and work exactly as a desk extension in the office.

Why use the Mobile App?

 The RingCentral mobile app is designed to let you perform all of the core functions of the virtual telephone system, such as communication through calling, text, video conferencing and team chatting. Hence you will have all the features from Call, Meet, and Message that you have a subscription for. This tight integration allows you to seamlessly transition between incoming or outgoing phone calls, video meetings, and even team chats on your mobile phone. This means you don’t have to toggle between applications as everything works just as it would if you were sitting at your desk.

Mobile App Features

Some of the notable features that makes RingCentral mobile or desktop app stand out are:

  • The ability to make and receive calls and texts using your business number.
  • You can also switch seamlessly from your carriers minutes to Wi-Fi and back again without any interruption in service.
  • Other advantages are that you can transfer, forward, flip and park calls just like you can on any standard extension. That might not sound much but few competitors mobile apps can do these things transparently.

Apart from working as a system extension your mobile phone can also be used to administer the admin portal while you are on the go. This makes administration of the system far more convenient and secure.

RingCentral Office doesn’t require a physical phone as it has two mobile apps available for download one for the Apple iPhone/iPad and the other for Android phones and tablets. Both devices once registered with RingCentral Office work as phone extension with full capabilities. For instance, you can make and receive calls using the business number, send faxes and texts, even join conference calls and check voicemail.

In addition having your mobile register with the company’s Office cloud application means you will always have direct access to the company directory and extensions. What’s more, you can make Wi-Fi calls using VoIP and not use any of your carrier minutes.

Administering RingCentral Office

If implementation is easy then so is administering the system as this is all done through a web portal, so you can add, edit or delete extensions from any internet connection on a tablet, laptop or even your phone. The administration portal is user friendly and designed for web-se with simple drop-down menus, checkboxes, and text fields. There are also handy tips available with each option. Furthermore, you can enable employees to administer their own extension, which relieves the admin burden considerably. Another handy feature is that you can set up user templates so that you can administer groups of users at one time, saving on repetitive manual tasks.

Global Office

RingCentral covers the entire business spectrum from single operative businesses to large enterprises so they have solutions for everyone. For larger companies with regional or international offices you can simplify the management and costs associated with long distance calls by managing each office as part of a global phone service. This has the added benefit of saving on international calls as all extension-to-extension calls come at no added costs. This alone can greatly aid in collaboration between offices as employees can communicate with employees in distant locations as if they were in the same building.

Cloud PBX Phone System

As you would expect from RingCentral’s pedigree in the IP/PBX field, the Call and All-In-One products comes with a feature-rich set of voice functions for businesses of all sizes. There are amongst many features too many to list here, but some of the notable useful features are:

  • Auto-receptionist – which answers and greets the caller with your own customized message.
  • Multi-tier IVR, which plays a voice recorded menu to the caller, which works in conjunction with.
  • advanced call transfer for passing an incoming call to a pre-configured extension, or a group of extensions.
  • There is also the ability to call blast or hunt through a group of extensions – ring simultaneously – or to ring a group in a listed order. This is a handy feature if you have several phones configured, as for example you could have the primary extension as your desk-phone, a secondary extension you mobile phone and a third your home landline. Office will ring each phone until it finds you so that you never miss a call.

Third-Party Application Integration

The unified communication tools that RingCentral provide with the Office product comprise of voice, video, email, chat and SMS as well as a comprehensive set of third-party software integration tools such as APIs for Outlook and CRM applications. In today’s business environment integration with CRM and Email platforms is becoming extremely important as so much information is being collected and presented to call agents in order to provide callers with the best possible experience.

Getting The Benefit from App Integration?

Call integration can deliver tremendous efficiencies in a small business contact center as it means that:

  • A call agent will have on their screen, the incoming callers details and call history so that they can be informed and knowledgeable of the callers query or account history.
  • Furthermore, CRM integration is not the only type of third party APIs available as there is also support for financial packages so that agents can check on subscription status or perform account queries on behalf of the caller and they can do this seamlessly as the information is on the screen before them.
  • Additionally, Email integration is another great feature as it enables inbound calls to be recognized and the relevant contact details in Outlook opened as the call is answered allowing the agent to personally greet the caller using the caller’s name or title.
  • When integrated with CRM, messaging and Financial packages the business agents will have all the relevant information on screen so do not have to flip between applications thereby the agents can greatly increase first call problem resolution rates and hence increase customer experience and satisfaction.
  • For increased productivity third-party integration is also a benefit as it allows agents to use cloud-based storage such as Dropbox or Box amongst others. In addition there is also internet fax which means agents can send or receive faxes from within third-party applications such as Outlook.

Of course much of these benefits would not be convenient if there was not a desktop softphone application that can provide a common platform for the telephone, video and applications. Therefore RingCentral provides a desktop PC softphone application for call agents that unifies the experience and provides a single dashboard.

Team Collaboration

Office has introduced Glip as their integrated team workspace application for collaboration. Glip is available in all versions of Office from Standard to Ultimate. Glip is effective as it provides a workspace for all team communications so that emails, notes, files tasks and calendars are stored in a single shared workspace. In addition, Glip provides a single source for task management so that project teams can collaborate and all are on the same page.

Other Collaboration Tools

Other collaboration tools that come with Office are audio/video conferencing, desktop sharing and integration with other popular applications. By integrating with major business applications such as Salesforce.com, Oracle, Zen desk, Desk, Dropbox, Outlook, Microsoft 365 and Google, then Office can share contacts and customer details. In a contact center, this is hugely advantageous as Office could pull up a customer’s call history when the agent answers the incoming call thereby having the customers, name and details before them without flicking back and fore through different applications.

Pricing & Plans

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the RingCRingCentral Office

RingCentral Office is a cloud-based business communications system that delivers enterprise-grade features at affordable flat monthly rates.

What use is RingCentral to a small business?

RingCentral can deliver high quality voice, fax, text, online meetings, video conferencing, and the collaboration tools you need today in the modern business. These are features normally only associated with and affordable by large businesses. But with RingCentral Office your SMB can now access these crucial business tools.

Will I own my new business telephone number?

Yes, after one month service the telephone number becomes yours.

Can I purchase an International Number for my business?

Yes there are international numbers available in 75 countries and there is also RingCentral Global Office from some supported countries.

How easy is RingCentral to deploy?

The beauty of almost all virtual telephone systems is that much of the heavy lifting during deployment and configuration is done by the vendor. This is true with RingCentral as in most cases all you will need to do is install the phones or download the mobile/desktop app and get started immediately.

The telephone system is critical to my business. What happens if I lose my Internet?

As RingCentral is cloud based it is not affected by your loss of internet so you should still be able to forward calls to your mobile phone or laptop that has internet access.

Is there an entry level starter plan for small business?

Yes entrepreneurs and small businesses can start by selecting only the fundamental voice features within the Call plan. Then as your business or requirements grow you can add collaboration and unified messaging as and when needed.

What would happen to our business should the data center go down?

This is a very good question and in the case of RingCentral they have designed, their platform to scale to support hundreds of thousands of users and to handle 2X capacity so can handle unexpected spikes in activity.

With regards to disaster recovery, RingCentral has data centers located on each coast to mitigate any local or regional disaster.

Summary

RingCentral has over the last decade evolved from a virtual PBX into a fully-fledged UCaaS service that provides all the scalability, stability and reliability that enterprises required of a cloud based service. RingCentral now provides advanced modern communication channels all tightly integrated and seamlessly provided through one application interface but through a variety of service plans that best suit your business usage and requirements. These new collaboration and communication tools, whether they come included with All-In-One or purchased separately as Meet, or Message, which take Office from being a fully featured voice IP/PBX to a real world UCaaS product.

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