It wasn’t very long ago that we all had phone lines provided by one of the Baby Bells. Sure, there have been other choices, though the alternatives still used the same wires. This was a constant problem for our office as the lines in our neighborhood were fairly rotten and often would be chewed by some of the desert critters. How can you run a business when the phone lines are at the mercy of rats and rabbits?
This year I had had enough of CenturyLink and the prices we had been paying for phone service to our office and I decided to explore some alternatives. All alternatives are based on VOIP (Voice Over IP) service, which means all calls are routed through an Internet connection. Most of you are familiar with the Skype service and it is probably the most well-known example of VOIP service. Unfortunately Skype doesn’t have all the features needed in our office and so wasn’t considered a primary solution.
One service that seemed like a good fit was Ooma. They have recently come out with an “office” phone system, though it didn’t seem like it was ready for release. Ooma does not offer support for toll-free numbers or faxing through the Internet. Remember, if your phone line is going through the Internet then devices that send “data” over those lines most likely won’t work. So while Ooma sounded good, we would have needed to connect some services via another company.
RingCentral Was Our Choice
I did explore a number of other providers, but everything led me back to RingCentral. Let me make one thing very clear, we are talking about office phone service and not home service; RingCentral is probably overkill unless you have a home office. RingCentral is able to handle toll-free numbers and also provides fax service as part of their package.
Let’s start with the biggest benefit first. Our monthly phone bill has dropped 75%! Your phone bill is your phone bill so I can’t say if you will see the same savings. Unless you already are using VOIP in some form, you will likely see a decrease and it could be a big one.
Moving to VOIP means the plugs in the wall will no longer be connected. You can still use your existing analog phones, but you will have to purchase an adapter to connect them to the Internet. Or you could purchase phones designed for VOIP that connect directly via Ethernet (or possibly WiFi).
RingCentral also provides software for your computer if you wish to place calls through the computer. Want to use your smartphone? Yes, there is an app for RingCentral that allows you to place calls. I want you to think about what this truly means. No matter where you are in the world, you can place and receive calls with your office number through your computer or smartphone. Or if you want some peace and quiet, you can turn it off.
When you get a voicemail, an MP3 of that voicemail is e-mailed to you automatically. This makes it very easy to save all your voicemail without leaving them on the phone. When someone sends you a fax, an e-mail is sent with a PDF attached. No longer will spammy faxes waste paper! Sending faxes also is routed through your computer. Most fax machines these days have a way to scan to a PDF so it is just as easy to do that and e-mail the PDF directly to the recipient. We don’t send or receive a large number of faxes and have found no downside to the new method.
What about your existing phone numbers? If you want to keep them, you can port them to RingCentral once you know everything works. We tested RingCentral for about a week to know it was the right solution for us and then it took another week before the numbers were fully ported. In the interim, the numbers were just forwarded to temporary numbers provided by RingCentral. We also had a support representative dedicated to helping us get started with the system and to port our numbers seamlessly. I have to give their customer service a very high rating!
There is one other feature I really like. Remember the post I wrote entitled Sharon From Google Called Though It Isn’t Google Calling? Now if I get a phone call like that, I can simply login to my RingCentral account and permanently block the number.
We’ve now had RingCentral in our office for about two months and have only scratched the surface as far as the features included with our account. Even with the features we are using, we get a lot more than we had in the past with CenturyLink and we are saving a lot of money every single month!