Updates on 01/18/2013…

8×8 and Fonality are two heavyweights in the business VoIP arena. Both made big splashes at this year’s ITEXPO West, and are constantly innovating. Fonality will soon be rolling out its Web Client as the third of the Fonality Five, joining Voicemail Transcription and Fonality Mobile on the marquee. 8×8 is scaring the competition with its new Virtual Office and Virtual Office Mobile platforms.

Services/Features Compared 8x8, Inc.
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Monthly Cost of Cheapest Service $19.99/mo $29.99/mo
Number of Suggest Employees Per Pricing Tiers <5, 6-20, 21-50, 51-100, 101-500, 500+ 5-10, 110-25, 26-50, 5-100, 101-249, 250-500, 510-1000, 100+, unknown
Monthly Price per Extension, Unlimited U.S. & Canada Plans $19.99/mo, (will match competitor quotes) $29.99/mo, minimum 5 lines
Metered Plans 250 mins + 2.9c overage: $9.99/mo + $39.99 activation, includes all other features, including iPhone app n/a
Activation Free  (8×8 Offers Simple Service Activation, not requiring MAC address entry) Free
Awards/Top Clients 30,000 clients, Frost & Sullivan 2012 Market Share Leadership Award 2012 Best SMB Solution ITEXPO, 2011 Product of the year by Internet Telephony Magazine
Call Group/Simultaneous Ring/Blast Group Group Intercom / Multicast Paging  (Free);  Configurable Ring Groups Available default sets of ten
Call Queues Set of 6 call queues for $14.99/mo + $9.99 activation, free mailbox for each queue
Call Recording Up to 35 hours (1GB) included, $12.99/GB over 1GB Available with Call Center
Click2Call Outbound Chrome, IE, or Firefox Plugin Firefox Plugin
Cloud Integration APIs support third-party Social Networks and CRM, including Salesforce and Sugar CRM APIs support third-party Social Networks and CRM, including Salesforce
Conference Bridge Up to 15 callers at once, free $15/ virtual room
Contract/Prepay $350/yr + one-time activation fee, unlimited (will also match competitor quote) 1 Year
Fax Options – Paperless Free with Virtual Office Pro Paperless fax, $10/monthly DID or Toll Free number
$35 optional number porting fee
Fax Options, Paper Unlimited US/Canada Fax $40/month, $30 fee, $60 fax machine

Metered fax: $16/month, $30 fee, $60 fax machine

Unlimited fax extension: $40/month, $30 fee, fax included in above plan

Metered Fax extension: $15/month, $30 fee, fax included in above plan

Free Mobile App Compatibility iOS, Android iOS, Android
Group Paging/Intercom Free Free
International Calling $79.99/mo, $39.99 fee, Unmetered Per minute, per country
Money Back Guarantee/Trial 30 Days, startup/disconnection fees may apply 30 Days, startup/disconnection fees may apply
Music On Hold Free Free
Number Porting Fee Waived Free
Option to have greetings recorded by professional voice actors Minimum $63, available custom prompts, music, greetings, cell phone greetings Yes
Overhead Paging Third party equipment compatible, $59.99 equipment charge for adapter, $9.99 activation fee, no ongoing fee Not supported
Price of Phone Numbers Virtual Number: $9.99 Activation + $4.99/mo
International Virtual Number: $9.99 +$9.99/mo
Toll Free: $9.99 + $4.99/mo + minutes used
$2 Each
Softphone 8×8 Softalk Office Video/Audio Conference PBXtra Softphone, $49.00, includes headset
Switchboard Software for Live Receptionist $19.99/mo/installation, $9.99 activation Available with Call Center
Tech Support Hours & Location, Phone M-Sat 5AM-9PM PT 24/7 Emergencies, 9AM-6PM EST General
Tech Support, Online Chat, M-F 8-5 PT, documentation + videos online Troubleshooting, knowledge base
Toll-Free Minutes Minutes may be shared between phones, must purchase $4.99 toll-free number, $9.99 one-time activation + (overage minutes)
150 minutes/month $4.99 (4.5c)
1,500 minutes/month $39.99 (3.9c)
5,000 minutes/month $94.99 (3.85c)
20,000 minutes/month $359.99 (2.75c)
50,000 minutes/month $849.99 (2.49c)
100,000 minutes/month $1,599.99 (2.95c)
$5 + $0.029/minute
Voicemail Transcription n/a $5/user
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Shared Features – Standard Call Features, Advanced Call Hunting, Auto Attendant, Call Recording, Call Rules, Call transfer, Intercom, Desktop Integration, Dial-By-Name Directory, Paperless Fax, Enhanced Voice Mail, Find Me/Follow Me, Holiday/Custom Scheduling, Intercom, Music, Remote Access, Speed Dial, Virtual Extensions, Web Portal

Having firsthand experience with both of these companies, we can say for sure that these are powerful platforms, and, knowing these companies the way we do, we can also say for sure that both companies have set their sights on the cloud. It’s entirely possible that in a year’s time, both companies will have even more features, and most likely stay at a competitive price.

Let’s start with the absolute basics: the price. Given that 8×8 will match most competitor quotes, it’s something of an automatic draw. 8×8 will charge you a pretty penny if you have only a few phones, but Fonality won’t even let you into the game with under five phones. Both 8×8 and Fonality have yearly contracts and prepaid options.

8×8 has an exclusive partnership with Polycom, so you can only use certain phones. Fonality, though, is even more restrictive, as they will only allow you to use a small range of phones. Fonality must provision specific phone models to work with HUD, and 8×8 takes a more open approach, even if slightly. Have to give 8×8 a nod in that department. Both Fonality HUD mobile and Virtual Office 4 work on a wide variety of tablets and smartphones.

8×8 includes up to 35 hours (1GB) of recording as part of their basic plan, but Fonality holds that feature back unless you are a Fonality Connect + subscriber.

8×8 has both paper and paperless fax support. Even 8×8 themselves will admit that their fax solutions aren’t perfect, and they even say that if you want to keep an analog phone line for faxing, they won’t discourage it. There’s nothing cheap about their paper fax plans. Their paperless fax is available free with Virtual Office Pro. Fonality offers only paperless faxes, but at a very reasonable rate. Inbound faxes get sent to your email directly. The biggest cost is the optional number porting fee. Otherwise, you can use your regular phone number or get a new DID for $10.

For ring groups, aka blast groups, 8×8 will include one group of up to nine numbers. Fonality is a little more stingy, I’m afraid, and won’t include any blast groups with basic plans. Point goes to 8×8.

8×8 offers support for third party overhead paging equipment. It isn’t easy to set up, but it can be done. Fonality offers no support, but if you look through their forums, you’ll see some success stories. Fonality doesn’t expressly forbid overhead paging, but it doesn’t go out of its way to support it. Another point for 8×8.

Both Fonality and 8×8 offer access to their respective production studios for customized prompts, greetings, etc., but neither company will give a freebee. That round is a draw.

8×8 offers the premium add-on of Switchboard software to better route live calls. While it remains to be seen what new features the future will bring, but Fonality HUD, which is included in every Fonality solution, more than covers what Switchboard does. This one goes to Fonality.

For phone tech support, Fonality will let you have after hours support at a hefty price tag, and 8×8 has a large number of hours, but not 24/7. 8×8 has 40 hours per week of live chat support. Fonality has email support but no live chat.  I’d call that one a draw.

Finally, Fonality has Voicemail transcription as part of their “Fonality Five,” for, coincidentally, $5/mo, and 8×8 doesn’t offer transcription at all as of this writing. That’s another big win for Fonality.

The Final Bell – Price matching aside, I give this one to Fonality for how powerful the Fonality Heads up Display is. 8×8, Inc. offers a number of backwards-compatible features, but Fonality is willing to put their money where their future is, so to speak. However…having had a sneak peek at what both 8×8 and Fonality have in store for the future at ITEXPO, I think that 8×8 just may have the brighter future, and I look forward to a rematch.

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Fonality Reviews
8×8, Inc. Reviews
8×8 vs Nextiva
8×8 vs GoTo Connect
Fonality vs RingCentral