So, you’ve started a business. You want to order some spanking new business cards, but first you need a business phone number.  You’ve seen lots of buzz around VoIP and call forwarding services, but there seems to be a ton of them, and they’re all so confusing.

You’ve come to the right place.  Here’s a breakdown of phone service options based on your needs.   Just find out what scenario best describes your business.

Scenario: The One-Person Business

Perhaps you’re a consultant.  You simply need another phone number that isn’t your personal cell phone number, which you’ll accidentally end up answering at a loud bar or baseball game.

Solutions:

Google Voice offers a free phone number, voicemail, and voicemail to your email. When a client calls, they’ll be forwarded to your cell phone.  They’ll have to state their name first, and you can choose to accept the call or send to voicemail.  Right now, the calling is free in the US and Canada, with discounted rates everywhere else.  Warning, though: If your business grows, you cannot port this number anywhere else.  We’ve heard it belongs to Google.  Also note, this will charge your cell phone minutes.

Skype offers an “online” number for Skype-In.  This is $60 a year, or 50% off plus $2.99 a month if you choose to go with an unlimited calling plan to US and Canada.  (See their website for other countries).  This includes a voicemail box and is a good option if you are an avid Skype user.  You can run Skype on your iPhone or Android to accept calls.  It’s probably not the best option if you aren’t a Skype user.

If you just want a dependable desk phone, try Vonage.   While it’s pricier than the prior two suggestions, you’ll benefit from dependable calling (not on your cell network), and 3-way calling.  Compared to Google Voice, with Vonage, you won’t need to use your cell minutes, and you’ll have no problem porting your business phone number when your business grows to an office.   It’s $17.99/mo for 500 minutes, including local and long distance calling.

Scenario: 2-4 Person Business

You need one phone number with extensions for multiple business partners.  You’d like an auto-attendant to prompt the caller and give them options.  But, you don’t really want to invest in some hardware (IP) phones; you all want to use your cell phones and/or home phones.

Solution:

RingCentral offers RingCentral Mobile, which gives you a 1-800 number or local number, unlimited extensions, and internet faxing.  You’ll set up your calling rules so that each extension routes to yours and your partners’ cell phones as you wish.   Cost is $24.99/mo for 1000 local and long distance minutes. $39.99 for unlimited.   Note: You and your partners will have to pay for your cell phone minutes per usual.

Scenario: 5+ Person Business

Like the 2-4 person business, you also need a service that provides 1 phone number and multiple extensions.  Though, at this point, it’s become more cost-advantageous to actually get a hosted VoIP service so you don’t need to pay cell phone minutes for each person in your business. Plus, you would like higher quality calls and to be able to transfer calls, put calls on hold, conference call, extension dial, etc. Simply put, it’s time for a real phone service.

Solution:

OnSIP offers a reliable, business phone service with everything you’d expect from a traditional phone service.   Packages start from $39.95 (+2.9 cents/min off- network calling) a month for unlimited extensions, 5 voicemail boxes, 3 attendant menus, 3 calling groups (e.g. Support, Sales), call routing rules, music on hold, and more.

The nice thing about going with OnSIP over other VoIP or traditional business phone services is: It’ll come out to under $20 a month per person, which is less than other services.  You can use any SIP phones or phone software you want – answering calls on your home computer, on a desk phone, or on an app on your cell phone.   Plus, you get a nice browser client with phone and presence status of each of your team members.  And, everyone gets free voicemail to email.   It’s really the ultimate business-class solution.

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