Cloud-based PBX systems abound. Some do it better than others, delivering a sleek interface with features so versatile and plentiful you wonder how they managed to pack it all into one platform. Finding such a service at a cost you can afford is sometimes a challenge, and although Ring Central isn’t exactly the cheapest on the block, it’s readily apparent where the money goes the minute you begin to tinker with it.
Ring Central replaces traditional PBX telephony with VoIP, with cloud elements that bring integration with third party programs like Oracle, Office 365, Google, Dropbox, Salesforce and Zendesk. Even if a company doesn’t need integration, Ring Central’s ability to bring landlines in sync with smartphones is impressive and highly useful.
Complicated Price Structure
In answer to the previously alluded issue of cost, here’s how Ring Central breaks down. There are three available plans: Standard, Premium and Enterprise. In all three, cost depends on how many employees you have signed up at once. Individual cost per employee drops when you add more users. All plans include a new phone number, call management administration, functionality with mobile apps for Android and iOS, call log reports, unlimited calling, unlimited conferencing, and unlimited use of internet fax.
The Standard plan starts at $34.99 per month for an individual user. For between two and 19 users, the cost drops to $24.99 apiece. If you have 20 to 99 users, the price is $21.99 per head, and if you have 100 to 999 users it drops to $19.99. In addition to the aforementioned inclusions that all packages have, Standard allots 1000 toll free minutes per user per month and imposes a limit of four participants for HD video conferencing and online meetings.
The Premium plan costs $44.99 monthly for one user, $34.99 for two to 19 users, $31.99 for 20 to 99, and $29.99 for 100 to 999. Toll free minutes are boosted to 2500 per month, and as many as 25 people can participate in HD video conferencing and online meetings. The Premium plan also adds inbound caller ID, automatic call recording, HD voice quality, and integration with Salesforce, Zendesk and Desk.com.
The Enterprise plan costs $59.99 per month for a single user, $49.99 for two to 19, $44.99 for 20 to 99, and $39.99 for 100 to 999. For that, each user gets 10,000 toll free minutes per month and up to 50 people at a time can join HD a video conference or online meeting. Enterprise folds in all other features offered by the Premium and Standard plans, plus voicemail to text transcription.
Signing up for Ring Central gets each account a new primary number, which can be a local number or a toll free number. International numbers can also be assigned, although this process takes up to 10 days to set up. Even “vanity” numbers are supported. For example, if you wanted your company to assume an easier name for clients to remember, like 1-800-789-COOL. Phone numbers are assigned within minutes of signup (with the exception of international), after which you can sign in to the online portal and begin assigning extensions and setting preferences with the provided auto attendant. Ring Central does give you the opportunity to test drive the service for free for 30 days, however getting a test account established can take up to 24 hours. Existing numbers can also be ported, in the event you already have an established phone number you wish to continue using.
Since inbound call management is one of the features most often sought after by small business owners looking to the cloud for a second phone number, we threw much of our focus into evaluating what Ring Central offers there. Not surprisingly, you get plenty of options and adjustable preferences that can be catered to manage calls professionally. Using the auto attendant, you can record an official greeting that all callers will hear when they ring your business phone number.
The capabilities of the auto attendant are so vast that you can set up complex rules that govern how calls are treated at specific times of day, where and when to forward certain call types, and even what music to play while a caller is on hold. Auto attendant also lets you set up a dial-by-name directory that can forward calls to any number in the world.
There’s An App for That
Ring Central does have an app, which means that you and your employees can use a smartphone in place of a physical landline to receive and place calls in HD quality, send and receive texts, access voicemail and faxes, and join conference calls remotely. Placing outbound calls via the app also shows your assigned phone number on the call recipient’s caller ID instead of displaying your personal mobile number. Making calls through the app over a cellular connection will use up minutes on your individual mobile plan, however calls placed over Wi-Fi won’t. The app also lets you access cloud storage and set up call forwarding. The Ring Central app is available as a free download for iOS and Android devices. Naturally, it requires an active Ring Central account to use.
The interface for both the computer-based and mobile-based applications are well designed and highly responsive. Unlocking the full capacity of the service might take some getting used to, but that’s more a reflection on the complexity of the service and the diversity of features on offer than any shortcomings in the way of design.
Ring Central is far from ideal if you’re a small business owner with only a handful of employees. It’s a complicated service to master and it requires some time to get the hang of it. It’s even less valuable if you’re a sole proprietor simply shopping for a cheap way to add a second phone number to your smartphone so you don’t have to think about how to answer every time it rings. But if you’re at the helm of a quickly expanding company, or in the decision-making chair of a small to medium sized corporation, you may find the money you spend to unlock all of the service’s available features a smart buy.
There are other business phone options, like OneSuite and eVoice. Read our full review.