Review: RingCentral Office, a phone system in the cloud

RingCentral provides a business-class phone system in the cloud that can be accessed from anywhere at a relatively low fixed cost.

Traditional business-class telephone systems have become an anachronistic expense to many small businesses, especially those like independent consultants, who are always on the move, or those with multiple offices.

Many independents rely on their mobile phone instead, but then they miss out on the benefits of a business phone system, which include multiple extensions for different purposes, specific answering hours, a toll-free number, and avoiding giving out their personal phone number. For the rare occasions when they need a fax, they must either have a landline for that purpose or use an outside service, neither of which are both convenient and cost-effective.

RingCentral seeks to remedy these problems by providing a business-class phone system in the cloud that can be accessed from anywhere at a relatively low fixed cost.


  • Product: RingCentral Office
  • Pricing: $49.99 a month would work fine for a small business with multiple mobile users. The "one phone" means one IP phone -- you can still have 10 extensions, and those can be accessed via mobile. The $99.99 plan should be enough for most small, office-based businesses -- with unlimited extensions. $179.99 gives you eight users - otherwise, it doesn't seem to be much better. $24.99 per user for extra users not included in the plan. Visit RingCentral's site for more details about pricing.
  • Browser: No restrictions, but it requires JavaScript. It's also available in Mobile format.
  • Phones: Pre-configured IP phones (three models, including a conference phone), but you can also connect existing mobile and standard phones.
  • Bandwidth: Each simultaneous call requires 36 kbps.
  • Mobile: Free iPhone app available now; BlackBerry and Android in development. App is only required to dial out through the phone system; you can receive auto-forwarded business calls on any phone.
  • Windows (XP and up), Mac (OS/X Leopard and up): Call Controller application answers and makes calls from your computer, can sync Outlook Contacts.
  • Cloud platform: Proprietary, claims 99.9% uptime.

Who is the target market?

RingCentral benefits any business that wants the features of a full PBX available from anywhere at a fixed but scalable cost.

What problem does it solve?

Traditional PBX's have a high initial cost with fluctuating recurring costs and are usually limited to one physical site. By putting the system in the cloud and using VoIP to carry conversations, RingCentral makes the business phone system accessible from anywhere at a fixed recurring cost with low-entry cost.

Standout features

  • Comprehensive professional phone system feature set, including a toll-free number, virtual extensions, and departments with distributed answering.
  • Smartphones can behave exactly like members of the office phone system, including calling out through that system with a caller ID from a business number extension.
  • Cloud-based fax service included -- send and receive.
  • Web site provides fully self-service shopping for all features and plans.
  • Monthly cost is fixed -- there are no usage-based fees.
  • TechRepublic photo gallery of RingCentral Office

What's wrong?

The monthly premiums are a bit higher than some of its competitors, but the premiums are all-inclusive. You should weigh the options and usage that you'd anticipate, as well as your tolerance for uncertainty, to determine what is the best deal. RingCentral does, however, offer a starter plan using your existing phones for $9.95 a month.

Also, the RingCentral Office account must be based in the United States or Canada. RingCentral has support for remote users anywhere you can get a network or a mobile connection. (RingCentral offers the Mobile and Fax plans in the United Kingdom but not the Office plan.)

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If you're not using a hosted PBX system, you' probably either missing out on features, or you're paying too much. For small businesses that have been using only one line or a mobile phone, a hosted PBX such as RingCentral Office can give your business a more professional look at a lower cost.

User rating

Have you used RingCentral Office? If so, what do you think about it?

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By Chip Camden

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...