Profit Minded

Ooma puts some oomph in phone systems for small business

Ooma Call LogOne of the few universal requirements for a small business is a phone system – or at least some way for customers to call you. Without it any business is cutting off the single most used way for potential customers (and thus potential revenue) to reach your business.

Until recently, small business options have been limited to three basic choices. The simplest is to just use your personal phone systems for your business (home phone or mobile phone). This is fine if you are a one person business with no plan to grow further and if you are fully capable of separating your business and personal life.  The second option – and the one used by most businesses - is to call the local phone company and get business service at a minimum cost of $35 a month or so plus paying for equipment and for any additional service (long distance typically is not included in basic business plans). The third option is one of the newer VoIP business plans that is based in the cloud (essentially all operated and managed over an internet connection). On the face of it these are as expensive as other solutions but they typically deliver a lot more for the money in terms of features. The downside is that you have to have decent internet service to use them at all. Nowadays that is more or less a given, however.

Now, Ooma has given small businesses a new option. It is a hybrid cloud/internet and hardware solution and reduces the overall cost while maintaining features and services that match or exceed more expensive VoIP offerings.

The new Ooma Office is a small black box the size of an internet router that plugs into any internet router. This box controls your first phone line and additional lines can be added anywhere in your office by plugging a black box the size of a box of cigarettes directly into a power adapter. These boxes communicate to the first box using wireless DECT technology and each one adds a new line to your system. To turn them into a phone line just plug a phone into one.

You manage the system over the web and can add and turn on and off the special features this way. And the features are part of what sets Ooma Office apart – for example, you get a virtual receptionist that can automatically greet callers and direct their calls – including rules that change depending on date and time.  You get unlimited calling and long distance in the US and Canada; you get caller ID, extension management, voicemail, voicemail-to-email, call transfers, ring groups, a conference bridge and on-hold music as well as multi-ring and call forwarding. You can also connect a fax machine to the system and use electronic fax services. All of those features add up to a very robust and thorough offering for a small business.

The system can be expanded easily up to five extensions and the pricing is very aggressive. Ooma charges $9.99 per user and $9.99 per phone line. The distinction is important because for businesses with light phone usage more than one person can share an actual phone line. That means the lowest rate for one user and line is $19.98 per month but also that a three person business with a fax line still comes in at under $50 per month.

And on top of the current offerings, Ooma shared with us some plans for 2014 that include dramatic additions to the feature set.

Find out more at www.ooma.com/products/business.

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