Lots of small businesses use their personal cellphones when making work related phone calls. Some may even be using old landlines for their calling needs. While it makes sense to use your cellphone, and it can be scary to make a change, owning a business in the 21st century may require an upgrade.

The alternative to personal cellphones and landlines is VoIP, or Voice over IP, which will give your company a more professional feel and a competitive edge. If you’re looking into separating your personal phone from work, but you aren’t sure if it’s the best decision, look no further. We’ll review some of the reasons why you’ve made the right choice.

The Traditional Way: Get a Separate Line

If you’ve decided to stop using your personal phone for your business, the traditional way to get a new number was to simply get a separate line. That means contacting the phone company, asking them to run a new line to your house (which usually includes a setup fee), and then paying extra every month for the new line—you’ll pay $20-30 per month on the low end for a residential line, and in the $60+ range per month for a business line. This is still an option, but the problem is that now your business phone number is tied to your house or office location, and can only be answered if you’re physically there. Even if you’re able to get a cheap landline, this option lacks convenience.

Since it’s 2018 and more people have cell phones without even owning a land line, your second option is to simply get a second phone and carry that around with you. Tons of small business owners do this, carrying around two iPhones and constantly switching between them. This solution works, and allows you to answer the business phone line from anywhere, but it’s not very cheap. The cost of an expensive phone plus the money for the extra line adds up really fast—for instance, a $699 iPhone plus around $30 per month for an extra line ends up being over $1000 over a year. Not the best way to go.

The Better Way: Voice over IP, or VoIP

Now that we’re in the days of always-connected internet access from every device, you don’t need to use the traditional phone networks anymore. We can make phone calls over the internet that are not only cheaper and unlimited, but actually sound clearer than a traditional phone, so you can better understand what your customers are saying.

VoIP can not only be used to power physical phones sitting on your desk, but can also be used as an app on your current phone that allows you to place and receive calls from any existing phone, and all for a fraction of the cost.

Need more than one phone line for your business? It’s not a problem with VoIP, you just upgrade your plan and plug in extra phones into your network, or setup the apps on your computer or phone.

And if you’re upgrading your business from a landline or cell phone number, you can usually port your current number to the VoIP system so your contacts will be able to reach you.

VoIP Has Huge Advantages Over Traditional Phones

The cost is the biggest reason that people choose to switch to VoIP, but it’s not the only thing to consider—there are also great features that will save you time and money, and simply aren’t possible with the traditional phone line options available for small businesses.

Large corporations have the budget to setup and maintain a complex PBX system with a receptionist and extensions for each desk. But you don’t need to bother with all that by using VoIP, which has those features and a lot more, built right in to a low monthly fee.

  • Call Forwarding can ring on all your devices, can ring on multiple phones at once, and you can set rules to forward calls only during certain hours.
  • Auto-Receptionists make your business sound more professional.
  • Automatic Call Recording can record all inbound and outbound calls.
  • Extensions let you use a single main number to reach everybody (there are still direct lines for each person).
  • Conferencing allows you to give your clients a number to call in so everybody can be on the same conference line easily.
  • Powerful Voicemail will send you emails with the voicemail, and can even transcribe them to text.
  • Internet Faxing just in case you need to deal with government or some other industry that hasn’t caught up with the times.
  • And literally dozens of other features and integrations into the rest of your business.

It’s 2018, everything is going to be in the cloud soon, so why not your business phone? VoIP isn’t just the best thing on the market right now, it’s the future of all phones.

How to Choose a Business Phone Plan

Now that you know all about the advantages of VoIP, it’s time to choose a business phone plan, and that’s where it gets tricky because there’s a lot of solutions out there, and none of them are necessarily right for everybody. But luckily we’ve got experience running a business, so here’s our recommendations based on what we know.

If you work for a very large corporation, you’re probably going to end up with a solution from a large company like Cisco or Avaya, but those systems don’t work for everybody, and certainly aren’t usually a good choice for a small business.

Best Overall: RingCentral Office

If you’re looking for the best solution for the best price, RingCentral Office is definitely the one we’d pick. And, in fact, RingCentral is the phone system that we’ve used for years at How-To Geek HQ for our backend operations. It’s pretty rare that we directly recommend a service, but we use it.

One of the other benefits of RingCentral is that it is actually owned by Cisco and AT&T, which means that it isn’t some fly-by-night service that will disappear. They are here to stay.

RingCentral has all of the features you’d expect from a phone service, including local numbers, unlimited calls and texts, mobile apps for iPhone and Android, voicemail to email, extensions, auto attendants, and every other feature that you might need.

And if you want to upgrade, you can even get an 800 number for your business, use high quality desk and conference room phones from Cisco and other vendors, or integrate with Microsoft, Dropbox, Google, Box, Salesforce, Zendesk, desk.com, and a lot more.

And with plans starting at $20 per month with a free trial, it’s even cheap enough for a business with only one person.

The Other Choices: Vonage for Business, eVoice, and Skype for Business

There are plenty of other VoIP providers to choose from, of course. Vonage for Business is a pretty solid alternate solution, although their pricing model is a little more confusing, and you’re going to need to get a consultation. They do have most of the same features that you’d need, and they are a recognizable brand name. We’ve used Vonage in the past and never had problems with the service.

There’s also eVoice, which doesn’t have any hardware phone options and is actually more expensive to start with. They have a lot of the other features, like extensions, auto attendants, 800 numbers, and voicemail to email, but overall you’d be better off with RingCentral or Vonage for Business since those packages scale better and give you physical phones, rather than just a simple app on your phone.

Finally, you could try using Google Voice or Skype for Business, but these don’t have all of the features that you’d expect from a business phone system, and you’re left only using an app to make all of your calls. You lose the professional aspects of having an auto attendant, extensions, and scalability to a bunch of lines as your business grows.