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.
RingCentral is a cloud based virtual PBX, based in Belmont CA, which is both feature rich and cost effective. RingCentral is targeted at all sectors of the virtual telephone market from Solo entrepreneurs to enterprise sized companies. As such RingCentral has a vast array of VoIP voice, collaboration, productivity and call center features to meet the requirements of even large enterprise organizations.
As RingCentral is a cloud based PBX it can make all its inherent VoIP features available to any size of business through a selection of price and service plans. Consequently, RingCentral bases its service model on the number of users but some of their advanced collaboration and productivity tools are only available on the more expensive plans. However, there is nothing stopping even a small business of around 1 to 5 users subscribing to an advanced enterprise service plan to gain access to the advanced feature set.
Comparing Grasshopper vs. RingCentral
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).
Comparing like-for-like services is especially valid when we consider making a comparison between an entrepreneurs, SoHo or SMB service such as Grasshopper’s virtual telephone system alongside an industry giant such as RingCentral’s cloud based virtual PBX.
As a result we have chosen to compare Grasshopper’s Solo, Partner and SMB service plans against Ring Central’s Essentials plan. What we do need to bear in mind however is that this is Grasshopper’s full service portfolio up against RingCentral’s entry level plan.
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.
RingCentral takes a slightly different approach to pricing as it basis its plans on the number of users. Furthermore RingCentral offers both monthly and annual –in advance – payment models. As a result the entry-level Essential service plan is priced at:
Essentials – The cheapest entry price is from $19.99 per month per user paid annually in advance.
However, their service fee can be billed monthly or annually
- Billed Annually the fees can be as low as $19.99 for 2-10 users
- Billed Annually for a single user the fee is $29.99
- Billed Monthly the fees will be higher at $29.99 for 2-10 users
- Billed Monthly for a single user the fee is $39.99
You will need to take the variance in the billing price into consideration when contemplating RingCentral as there can be considerable savings to be made if you are willing to pay annually.
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.
RingCentral is a cloud based PBX and so has an extensive feature set that it delivers across 4 service plans that cater for all the marketplace from the smallest one person business to the largest of enterprises. Consequently, RingCentral is well place within the market to fulfill not just all a business’s telephone requirements but also all its modern multichannel communication needs.
Businesses today have to handle many different types of customer communications and they need a unified platform that gives them the ability to handle these diverse channels. Whereas Grasshopper can handle voice and SMS texts and if you subscribe to the Connect service also some rudimentary contacts and email integration RingCentral provides the full gamut of multichannel support tools.
As we are comparing Grasshopper with RingCentral’s Essentials service plan we will restrict the feature list to what is native to that plan – but be aware that RingCentral’s larger sibling service plans have considerably more Omni channel support tools.
The standard features found in Essentials are:
- Unlimited video and audio meetings with screen sharing (4 people per meeting)
- Unlimited phone calls
- Toll-free numbers 100 free minutes
- Unlimited Business SMS
- Call management & phone system administration
- Phone rental options: desk and conference phones
- Mobile apps for iOS® and Android™
- High-definition (HD) voice
- Visual voicemail and voicemail to email
- Team collaboration
- Integrations with Microsoft®, Google, Box, and Okta
- 24/7 Customer support
- Professional implementation
As can be seen from viewing the feature set from RingCentral’s entry—level service plan, Essentials it is a far more comprehensive service than Grasshoppers basic service plans. Indeed to be able to have video conferencing or any sort of video, collaboration and productivity tools Grasshopper needs to be supplemented by Grasshopper Connect or an additional subscription to a third party service called join.me.
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.
The RingCentral mobile app and their computer softphone are designed to deliver the same full functionality as any other RingCentral extension. Hence running the RingCentral mobile app on a smartphone or the softphone will be pretty much indistinguishable from using the desk phone that is connected to RingCentral’s system. The main differential is that a desk phone or softphone cannot transition or fail-over to a carrier network like a smartphone.
Indeed with RingCentral mobile app you can choose which service to default to, whether it is network carrier or Wi-Fi using VoIP. As the RingCentral mobile app runs on Apple iOS as well as Google’s Android most phones will automatically handle the seamless transition from poor Wi-Fi (Internet) conditions to the mobile carrier’s data network.
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
RingCentral supports all categories of telephone numbers such as local, Toll-Free, Vanity, and International numbers as well as porting over an existing business number. Similar to other vendors the RingCentral features work on the virtual business number, such as business SMS, Confirmation Texts and outgoing caller ID amongst others. The number of business numbers available for use – of any type – is determined by the service plan. Additional numbers are available at a charge of $4.99 per month per number. Additional Vanity numbers have in addition to the $4.99 fee a one off setup fee of $30.
Additional charges for add-on services are also applied for large meetings and webinars, such as :
- RingCentral Webinar – 100 licenses – $40 each
- RingCentral Large Meeting – 100 participants – $14 each
- RingCentral Large Meeting – 300 participants – $140 each
- Additional International local number – tier 1- $4.99
- Additional International Local Number – tier 3 -$14.99
As you can see with both vendors there are some significant hidden charges, so make sure you read the service contracts carefully.
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
RingCentral support is also 24/7 and based in the USA.
RingCentral supports the following channels:
- Telephone – 24/7
- Live Support – Chat
- Ticket System – Online Forms
- FAQ and online documentation
- Professional implementation
- VIP support for higher plans
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 you might expect from a company of RingCentral’s size and scope they cover over 30 countries. Indeed with RingCentral’s Global Office feature allows you to connect offices and employees around the globe by using international local numbers so calls between geographically dispersed locations count as local calls.
With a RingCentral Global Office account each location is given 1,000 minutes of in-region calling credits per month per user based on location that are pooled and shared with all users worldwide. On top of the 1,000 in-region calling credits per month, all users have unlimited extension-to-extension calling from anywhere in the world.
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.
The way to cancel with RingCentral is a bit more complex even if you are paying monthly on a non-contract basis. In this case so long as you do not have any RingCentral equipment i.e. phone headsets or VoIP phones, etc. you can simply call up the support number and cancel the service. If you do have RingCentral equipment then you must send back the hardware immediately and the cancellation only takes place upon RingCentral receiving it in good condition.
For annual subscriptions you can cancel the service by telephone and you will receive a rebate based on pro-rata months unused.
When comparing RingCentral with Grasshopper it really is a case of selecting horses for courses as both excel within their own specific market sectors.
Grasshopper is a basic no-frills virtual telephone system that is targeting the entrepreneur, young startup or small business that function best on mobile devices. It delivers all the basic voice functions a small business requires but lacks multi-channel support as well as the collaboration and productivity tools that have become increasingly necessary in modern businesses.
RingCentral is a behemoth in the virtual telephone industry and has developed a cloud PBX system packed with VoIP features that covers every aspect of voice, omnichannel, collaboration, productivity and contact center technologies.
In short if you are a small business with less than 25 telephone users 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 that requires multichannel support with video, messaging, email and business applications integration and are willing to pay for the added-value then RingCentral is going to be hard to beat.