Katy ratican headshot b w april 2021
Written by
Katy Ratican
21 Nov 2022
14 minutes

VoIP small business phone systems: Pros, cons and top features

A comprehensive guide to UK VoIP small business phone systems for small businesses. Looking at the advantages and disadvantages of using a VoIP system to grow your business
VoIP small business phone systems

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) business phone systems are cost-effective, dynamic, flexible and remote-friendly. Since they use the internet to make and receive calls, there’s no need for expensive investments in devices and infrastructure. This makes VoIP business phone systems particularly suitable for small businesses.

In this article, we will compare the top eight VoIP small business phone systems in the UK, explain what you should keep in mind when opting for VoIP, share their advantages and disadvantages, examine on-premise and hosted VoIP and discuss where the technology is headed in the future.

Contents:

8 top VoIP providers for small businesses: An overview

VoIP small business phone systems: What to consider

VoIP small business phone systems: Features to look out for

Advantages and disadvantages of VoIP

On-premise or hosted VoIP: Which is better for small businesses looking to grow?

Chalkboard: The VoIP business phone system for small businesses

VoIP small business phone system FAQs

8 top VoIP providers for small businesses: An overview

Why these eight? We have chosen these top VoIP business phone providers in the UK based on how they can help small businesses control their costs, improve collaboration and customer service and grow their business.

Burner

If your business has to call several leads in a day and you don’t want your team members to share their personal numbers, Burner is a VoIP phone system for you to consider. Its primary benefit is that it gives you a second phone number for temporary use.

Whether you’re cold-calling leads or sharing a number for an online listing, you can use a Burner number as a temporary number. With Burner, you can have different numbers for different groups of contacts like family, friends and colleagues. Other features include auto-reply, spam blocking and call muting.

If what you want is an additional number for business use however, Burner isn’t the phone system for you. You will need additional features that Burner simply doesn’t have.

Burner pros

  • Protects your personal number

  • Different numbers for different contacts

  • Auto-reply for missed calls

Burner cons

  • Temporary numbers make businesses look unprofessional

  • Limited features for business use

  • No business texting capabilities

Burner pricing

If you download Burner from the app stores, you have to pay £8.80 per month. If you subscribe and download from the web, it will be £4.41 per month.

Chalkboard

If you’re looking for a VoIP phone system for small businesses, Chalkboard is your answer. This second number for work has everything you require from a modern business phone at an affordable fee. For starters, you can share your number with your colleagues, which will significantly improve customer service and collaboration.

Chalkboard knows the power of texting. You can organise your contacts and send group broadcasts to share promotional messages or information about new product launches. The advanced chat improves customer engagement while auto-reply enables you to send pre-written texts to missed calls.

Chalkboard is recently introduced templates too – these aim to save you time and remove the repetition of having to manually type or copy and paste responses to customers.

Unlike other VoIP small business phone systems, Chalkboard also takes care of your marketing. The app sends automated requests to your contacts for Google and Facebook reviews. You also get a free trial and affordable subscription plans designed for small businesses.

Chalkboard pros

  • Contact organisation to separate work and personal lives

  • Group broadcast for mass texting

  • Auto-reply for missed calls

  • Number sharing for increased collaboration

  • Marketing automation to build your online profile

  • No binding contracts

Chalkboard cons

  • Doesn’t have video conferencing

  • No call centre features

Chalkboard pricing

By subscribing through the App or Play store, you'll get a seven-day free trial and then it's £9.99/month after that. There are no hidden costs and you are free to cancel anytime.

Get your new work number instantly

Download the app to get started right now with your new VoIP small business phone number.

Second number download module

Google Voice

While searching for VoIP small business phone systems, you will certainly have come across Google Voice. There are two reasons for its popularity. First, it’s from the search engine giant and second, it’s free. The VoIP service has a free plan that allows you to make free calls and send free texts to all domestic mobile phones and landlines in the country.

Google Voice also comes with certain tools that businesses might love. You get call forwarding, voicemail transcription and call blocking, for example. With a one-time fee, you can also port your existing number to the service.

If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur with a small number of clients, Google Voice should be enough for you. It is a business phone system for when you don’t need additional tools and don’t need to prioritise customer service.

Google Voice pros

  • Unlimited calls and texts to domestic numbers

  • Call blocking helps you avoid telemarketers

  • You can forward or download transcripts of your voicemails

Google Voice cons

  • No reliable customer support

  • No toll-free or vanity numbers

  • You can’t separate your personal and business contacts

Google Voice pricing

The paid plans start at £8.90 and go up to £22 per month.

Grasshopper

Among VoIP small business phone systems, one of the most recognisable is Grasshopper because it was one of the first to enter the market. When it was launched, there weren’t any major competitors, due to which the service became immensely popular.

It may not have all the features that small businesses need but Grasshopper is known for its ease of use. Both the mobile and desktop versions are intuitive, making it a credible VoIP small business phone system for distributed teams.

You can get started merely by downloading the app without disrupting your operations. Although it only offers basic business features, you can still separate your work and personal calls. The app will alert you whether an incoming text or call is professional or personal.

Grasshopper pros

  • Easy to set up and use on multiple devices

  • Effortless to separate business and personal communication

  • Intuitive and simple interface

Grasshopper cons

  • Limited business tools such as advanced texting

  • Unreliable voicemail transcription

  • Connectivity issues since it uses cellular signal

  • No video conferencing option

Grasshopper pricing

Starts at £23 and can reach £71 per month for small businesses.

Line2

In our list of the top VoIP business phone systems, next is Line2, a cloud-based service that focuses on ease of use. By simply signing up, you’ll have your new second line for work to help protect your primary number.

The ease of getting started makes Line2 the right option for freelancers, sole traders and small businesses who don’t want enhanced business tools or integrations. It’s an affordable and simple service that gives you professional call greeting and call screening which allows you to answer calls with a text and request the caller to give their name.

You also get caller ID, hold music and call forwarding with Line2. So, why isn’t it suitable for businesses with growing communication needs? Because it doesn’t offer basic tools such as contact organisation or auto-reply. Number portability has also been flagged as an issue by several users.

Line2 pros

  • A simple app that’s easy to set up

  • Call screening will help you filter calls

  • Professional call greeting

Line2 cons

  • Doesn’t have auto-reply, something that all businesses need

  • No contact organisation to separate work and personal contacts

  • To see updated call logs, you need to refresh the app

Line2 pricing

The basic version is available for £10.96 but it doesn’t have a call scheduler or auto-attendant.

TextFree

If you’re searching for VoIP small business phone systems, TextFree is another option that you could consider. More specifically, if you’re only looking for a basic VoIP phone that you need to talk to your family and friends, this second number app should be on your list.

With TextFree, you get a phone number and an area code. But what makes it a compelling proposition is the fact that it’s free. You can make calls and send messages without paying any charges. You can also share photos, emojis and videos and even use group messaging features for free.

Along with free calls and messages to any virtual or mobile number, TextFree also gives you free MMS and customised voicemail. But while it’s free, the app is ad-supported. If you want an ad-free version, you will have to buy minutes, just like with a prepaid phone.

TextFree pros

  • Calls and messages are free

  • You can customise your voicemail

  • Share photos and videos and use group messaging

TextFree cons

  • No business tools such as contact organisation or auto-reply

  • The free version has ads

TextFree pricing

The basic version of TextFree is free but ad-supported. To get rid of the ads, you need to purchase minutes.

Dialpad

Dialpad is a unique VoIP small business phone system because it’s powered by AI (Artificial Intelligence). It’s a unified communications system for globally distributed businesses, large sales teams or companies that have to manage call centres.

More than a standard business phone, it’s a voice intelligence software application that allows you to capture notes, provide coaching, note action items, deliver sales recommendations and even diagnose sentiments in real time when you’re on a phone call.

Dialpad also integrates with popular communication and project management apps like Slack, Office365 and G Suite. If you’re looking for call coaching software for your customer service agents or sales personnel, this is a credible option. But the company’s reports aren’t as advanced as some of its competitors in unified communications.

DialPad pros

  • Powered by AI

  • Real-time sentiment analysis and recommendations

  • A reasonable range of integrations

DialPad cons

  • Subpar reports

  • Too complex for small businesses

Dialpad pricing

The standard version is priced at £13.40 per month, billed annually. The pro version will cost you £22.30 per month.

RingCentral

Another entrant in our top VoIP small business phone systems is RingCentral. Focusing on unified communications, the VoIP service provider integrates messages, video and calls through its business phone. You get high-definition voice, auto-attendant and service reports to measure the performance of your employees.

RingCentral excels in its integration with hundreds of apps including Google, Salesforce and Microsoft 365, making it a value-added tool in customer service. The app is ideal for medium-sized businesses that have multiple departments such as an integrated agency.

This VoIP system can be deployed alongside your existing technology. The company offers a dedicated account manager with its premium plan and has 24/7 customer care for all plans.

RingCentral pros

  • Unified communications combining video, phone, and messages

  • Excellent integration with other commonly used software

  • Service reports to manage employee performance

RingCentral cons

  • Questionable customer service despite 24/7 customer care

  • Not easily scalable, according to customer feedback

RingCentral pricing

The Essentials plan will cost you $19.99 per month when billed annually. For the Standard plan, you have to pay $27.99, while the Premium plan is priced at $34.99 per user per month. The Ultimate plan costs $49.99 per user per month.

VoIP small business phone systems: What to consider

If you’re a small business owner or startup founder, here are the main things to keep in mind when comparing VoIP small business phone systems.

Complexity

You should only choose a VoIP small business phone system if it’s easy to set up and use. Don’t be swayed by added features that you don’t need since they might make it a challenge to use the system.

Price

If you’re a small business, the VoIP phone system you choose should be within your budget. Don’t pay for features that you won’t use even if they come as a bundled package.

Focus

Is the VoIP business phone system designed for small businesses or medium and large enterprises? For example, you won’t need call centre features that would only suit companies with hundreds or thousands of customers.

Customer support

Can you easily get access to customer support with your VoIP small business phone system? Or do you have to rely on online forums to seek solutions? Remember, even a day’s interruption can cost you revenue.

Scalability

While most VoIP small business phone systems are scalable, some might force you to upgrade to expensive packages. Check how scalable the provider is if you plan to expand your business or hire more employees.

Ease of exit

Some VoIP small business phone systems lock you into long-term contracts. This will make it difficult to exit the service if you’re not happy.

Free trial

It would be helpful if your VoIP small business phone system gives you a free trial to check out its features, customer support and user interface.

VoIP small business phone systems: Features to look out for

Make sure that the VoIP small business phone system you choose has the following essential features:

  • Auto-attendant: This lets you route calls to extensions without the need for human intervention.
  • Call forwarding: This is how you forward an incoming call while staying connected to the current call.
  • Integrations: You will increase productivity if your VoIP small business phone system can easily integrate with the other apps that you use.
  • Number sharing: If your employees can share their numbers, your business will improve its internal collaboration and customer service.
  • Call recording: If you use the number for customer support, call recording helps you manage and train your customer service representatives.
  • Advanced texting: The VoIP small business phone system you select should empower you to send mass texts and strengthen your marketing.

Advantages and disadvantages of VoIP

Like with any technology, it helps to know the pros and cons of a VoIP small business phone system before you select one to try.

Advantages of VoIP

Mobility

Since VoIP uses the internet, you can make and receive calls as long as you have an internet connection. You could be at home, in the office or travelling and still be connected.

More and more businesses have remote and hybrid employees and VoIP is the perfect solution for these organisations.

Cost-effective

If you opt for hosted VoIP, you don’t have to spend on additional devices or invest in expensive infrastructure. This makes VoIP particularly useful for small businesses. Beyond that, the operational expenses are also lower when compared to traditional phone systems.

Most VoIP small business phone systems have affordable plans, especially for international and long-distance calls. This significantly reduces your monthly expenses.

Ease of setup

One of the biggest advantages of VoIP – specifically hosted VoIP – is that it’s exceptionally easy to set up. You don’t have to call a telecom provider, make the initial payments and then wait for them to set up your phone lines.

By downloading the app, you immediately get a new number that you can use for business. Want to add or remove more users? You can do it through your dashboard.

Business tools

In conventional phone systems, you have to make additional payments to get even basic business tools. But VoIP small business phone systems come with tools that help you improve collaboration and customer service while reducing costs.

From call forwarding to group broadcasts and number sharing, these tools help optimise your business communication. The best part? You can also manage your telephone usage and make the necessary changes.

Scalability

If you use any of the traditional phone systems, you have to contact your telecom provider to add users or features. This takes time and can cause needless interruptions to your business.

With VoIP small business phone systems, you can easily add users or features. So, if a remote team member joins your business, you can quickly give them a new number with the required functionalities.

Disadvantages of VoIP

You have to be online

If your internet connection gets interrupted, it will lead to dropped calls. Like any cloud-based service, you won’t be able to use any of the features if your device is offline.

Unreliable audio quality

Unstable internet connections or inferior hardware can affect the audio quality. Depending on the problem, there could be echoes or other background noise.

Latency and jitter

In case your internet network is congested, it could result in delays in the transmission of digital packets used in VoIP. When they are improperly reassembled at the receiver’s end, it creates latency and jitter.

On-premise or hosted VoIP: Which is better for small businesses looking to grow?

In VoIP, you will have to choose between on-premise or hosted systems. An on-premise PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is deployed at the location of the business. The system includes devices, servers and the network that will connect them.

An on-premise PBX gives you better control over the system. You don’t have to depend on a provider to add or remove extensions. But it’s costly since you have to spend on the initial hardware and take care of its maintenance. You will also need trained personnel to manage the system.

A hosted or cloud PBX is hosted by the VoIP service provider at their location. The company will take care of the infrastructure and technology. It’s exceptionally cost-effective since you don’t have to spend on hardware and devices or manage their maintenance.

You also get additional features with hosted VoIP and easily manage and control the system. But any disruption to your internet connection will affect your service.

Chalkboard: The VoIP business phone system for small businesses

Chalkboard gives you everything you expect from a VoIP small business phone system and much more. You get a second number for work with number-sharing that will improve customer service and internal collaboration. With group broadcast and advanced chat, you can unleash the full power of text marketing for your business.

All prices as of October 2022.

Download Chalkboard and start your free trial

It's an affordable and feature-rich VoIP small business phone system that can help you grow.

Second number download module

VoIP small business phone system FAQs

Can you use a VoIP phone anywhere?

You can use it anywhere as long as you have a stable internet connection with enough bandwidth.

What happens if you have to move your office or workspace?

Since there’s no hardware involved, you can easily move without any interruption to your service.

Are VoIP calls cheaper than traditional phone calls?

Most VoIP providers give you a certain number of minutes tied to a subscription plan and these tend to be cheaper than conventional phone charges, especially for long-distance and international calls.

What is the future of business VoIP?

VoIP small business phone systems are here to stay and will be increasingly popular due to their mobility, cost-effectiveness, scalability and functionality. With the introduction of 5G, there will be a substantial increase in internet speeds and bandwidth. This will make it easier to conduct the full range of unified communication through VoIP.

Most providers will also integrate AI into their phone systems. This will make it easier to detect calls, provide context, diagnose security issues and generate real-time analysis and feedback.

Share
Chalkboard is a separate phone number for work
Keep your real number private, easily recognise work calls, and get extra tools to help you 👌 stay organised and 🚀 grow.
Learn more
Wedding Shop

Continue reading

Help & advice
15 minutes

Your comprehensive guide to VoIP mobile phones – and why it makes sense for businesses to switch to VoIP

Help & advice
4 minutes

Knowing the cost of VoIP will help you choose a service that suits your business needs