If you’re considering implementing a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service, then there are several important things you need to consider. Which service offers the best pricing? Which service offers the most advanced feature set? Where will you get the best and fastest customer service? The best business VoIP services give you flexible and powerful solutions designed to mirror the capabilities of an on-premises private branch exchange (PBX) system. Such cloud PBX services provide not only a dial tone but also features such as managed voicemail, auto-attendants, call routing and grouping, call forwarding, and much more, depending on the usage scenario. They also offer something most on-premises PBXes can’t, namely, the ability to integrate with popular business software solutions, especially call-intensive ones such as customer relationship management (CRM) and helpdesk.
Two of the most popular systems we’ve reviewed are Microsoft Skype for Business and RingCentral Office. RingCentral Office ranks highly as a business VoIP package, while Microsoft Skype for Business trails closely behind, offering a package intended for large companies and businesses that have already bought into the Microsoft ecosystem. In this article, we’ll break down exactly what you’ll get with each vendor, at each price tier, and how they perform head to head.
Plans and Pricing
Anyone can launch a Skype video conference for free but, if you’re looking for a platform that integrates with document sharing, file storage, email, and large group meetings, then you’ll need a Skype for Business Enterprise E5 account. This includes a fully installed Office 365 Business suite, meeting broadcasts for up to 10,000 devices, voice conferencing, and the option to purchase a fully-managed cloud PBX plan (which lets you transfer calls, place calls on hold, provides call forwarding, and gives you a record of your company’s call history). This plan will begin at $35 per user per month but you’ll have to work with Microsoft directly to work out specific PBX pricing.
For simple video conferencing, plans begin at $5 per user per month, and include a full Office 365 Business Essentials package. This means your users are getting access to Microsoft PowerPoint, group calls up to 250 people, Office for the cloud, 50 gigabytes (GB) of Outlook email, and 1 terabyte (TB) of file storage. For $12.50 per user per month, you can upgrade to get fully installed Microsoft Office applications on your desktop or laptop. But, again, you’re not getting VoIP at these price tiers.
RingCentral comes in three different service tiers, all of which offer traditional VoIP: Standard, Premium, and Enterprise. Both the Standard and Premium offerings max out at 19 users for $24.99 and $34.99 per month, respectively, when paid annually. You can add additional users to these plans for slightly less per user (the more users you add, the lower your monthly per-user fee). The Enterprise plan offers you 99 users for a monthly price of $44.99 per user, when paid annually. At the Enterprise level, you’ll gain access to all of the bells and whistles RingCentral has to offer, including voicemail-to-text and 50-person video conferences. As with the Standard and Premium plans, the more users you add, the cheaper your plan becomes. All plans max out at 999 users.
Microsoft offers incredibly powerful video conferencing and VoIP functionality that let your team take advantage of the full suite of Microsoft apps. The E5 plan costs the same as RingCentral’s Premium plan but you’ll also get access to Office 365. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to state what Microsoft will charge you for adding PBX functionality so it’s hard to make a concrete recommendation either way. If you decide that you want a basic VoIP solution for a small team, then you should go with RingCentral Standard. Edge: Tie.
Features and Integrations
RingCentral offers integrations with Dropbox, Google Drive, and yes, even Microsoft Office 2016. At the Premium level, RingCentral integrates with Salesforce and Zendesk, all of which give your sales and service reps instant access to customer records. RingCentral offers developer application programming interface (API) accounts that let you tie legacy and custom apps to your RingCentral service.
Tying yourself to Skype for Business gives you access to a wide variety of Microsoft’s powerhouse solutions. You’ll get storage, email, productivity—all of which sit on top of your robust business VoIP service (if you choose to buy one). If Microsoft makes a product, then you can likely tie it to your Skype for Business Enterprise E5 plan. Unfortunately, if you don’t want to be shackled to Microsoft’s ecosystem, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by purchasing the E5 plan. With RingCentral’s plans, you’re giving yourself a bit of flexibility in working with third parties such as Google.
Having said that, Microsoft has started to do a better job of bringing third parties such as Salesforce into the Skype fold, and it now offers a developers program for integrating custom apps. Before making your purchase decision, though, it’s worth looking into whether or not your legacy apps are Skype-friendly. Edge: RingCentral.
Service and Support
RingCentral offers 24/7 phone support for customers with plans for two or more users. If you’re a single user, then you’ll only be able to get someone on the horn during 13-hour blocks, Monday through Friday. RingCentral also offers 24/7 live chat support.
Skype for Business provides 24/7 phone support for technical issues at all pricing levels. At the Enterprise level, billing questions and non-urgent requests are funneled through a web portal for Skype administrators, which is probably for the best as you don’t want to sit on hold for answers to questions you could get via email. Edge: Microsoft.
RingCentral is our top choice for small businesses and home offices and we stick by that recommendation. If you just want a one-off VoIP system that can tie in nicely to your existing suite of apps, then you’ll be better off implementing RingCentral. It does a better job of fitting into your workflow than does Skype, which is designed to entice you to convert to Microsoft’s app suite.
However, if your company is ready to scale and you’re still in the process of deciding which productivity and scheduling apps you’d like to use, then you should pick Skype for Business. With your Skype for Business package, you can get access to 24/7 support across all of your Office apps, which means you’re dealing with one vendor for most of your collaboration and conferencing needs. Unfortunately, this use case is applicable to only very large businesses that don’t already have a chosen VoIP and collaboration provider; this is a very small segment of the population. For most other companies, RingCentral will be the better bet. Recommendation: RingCentral.