Vonage has a long history in cloud communications. While early endeavors largely served residential VoIP users, the company has been increasingly focused on serving business customers with its unique combination of unified communications as well as contact center and communications APIs via Nexmo. Along with many other VoIP service providers, industry players are trending in the direction of providing UC platforms given the appeal for companies to have an all-in-one communication portal that runs on any device and integrates with third-party platforms.
Considering the number of companies moving forward with team collaboration products, it can be difficult to determine the differences between phone services. As we did with our Dialpad pricing coverage, we asked Vonage to help explain the strong points of “Vonage Business Cloud,” which is a name the company uses for its most popular business VoIP plan as well as the client software that is included in that package, which provides access to everything from text messaging to video meetings.
- Vonage Business Cloud App
- Vonage Business Cloud Settings and Features
- Nexmo APIs and Integrations
- Vonage App Center
- Vonage Integration Suite
- Vonage CX Cloud Express for Contact Centers
- Vonage Business Cloud Admin Portal
- Vonage Business Cloud Pricing and Features
- Vonage Business Cloud Moves Beyond VoIP
Vonage Business Cloud App
Whether you’re making VoIP calls, reading a customer’s Facebook message, sharing files with your co-workers or launching an Amazon Chime video meeting, it all happens from the same central location: the Vonage Business Cloud application. Again, this software is available as a desktop program, mobile application (iOS & Android) or directly through a web browser.
Vonage recently updated its unified communications client, making significant changes over the last couple of years to the software’s user interface (on both desktop and mobile), as well as rebuilding the service at the cloud level. The company notes that VBC is built on public cloud infrastructure for great reliability.
Vonage is uniquely positioned to excel in the unified communications space, with a background and portfolio that includes:
- 15 years of experience in moving businesses from landlines to Internet telephony.
- VoIP features such as call flip and custom voice receptionists.
- Nexmo-powered integrations and number programmability.
- Newly acquired cloud contact center provider NewVoiceMedia.
- A partnership with Amazon Chime for enhanced video meetings.
- Recently updated VBC apps on desktop, mobile and web browsers.
- A freshly designed admin portal. Report section w/ jitter info etc.
- Heavy emphasis on user experience and user interface design.
- Tight integrations with Facebook, CRMs and many other platforms.
- An integration suite that lets you easily add many integrations.
- An app store for adding individual integrations to your account.
- Dedicated customer success managers to support larger clients.
VBC will look familiar to anyone who has used team collaboration software before and many of the industry staples are here as well. The VBC client provides user status and presence information, allows you to send direct messages, create teams, chat with groups, share files from local and cloud storage (Dropbox, iCloud & Google Drive), as well as make one-on-one video calls (video conferencing is coming later this year).
However, the client also allows you to send and receive SMS texts and Facebook messages courtesy of Nexmo API integrations. This is a big deal for businesses that communicate with customers through Facebook as the feature allows workers to monitor business communications in one location and seamlessly move between mediums from within the same application.
Amazon Chime Pro tier access is included with every VBC account. Chime is used for meetings and will continue to be integrated tighter into VBC. Vonage says you will soon be able to jump straight into a video meeting from within VBC and it will use Vonage’s video solution so you don’t have to switch platforms over to Chime. For now, users can load Chime as an application through the VBC App Center.
The Vonage Business Cloud software ultimately ties all of the company’s assets together in a single pane.
Vonage Business Cloud Settings and Features
This section focuses more on the layout, capabilities, and settings within the Vonage Business Cloud application. We will provide a detailed list of all the VoIP calling features available through Vonage Business toward the end of this article. Likewise, we’ll take a look at the administrator portal where customers can handle all account management.
The VBC client has settings ranging from necessities such as sounds and notifications to more advanced capabilities such as call continuity which lets you roll a call over to a cellular line or backup connection in the event of an issue with your internet connection.
Calls can be made from a softphone dial pad that opens on the desktop or mobile client. After dialing, “call flip” lets you switch between devices during a call. So if you started the call on your laptop and want to switch to your cell phone, this can be done at the tap of a button. The call is moved seamlessly without the caller knowing and this can be done with any endpoint devices.
For every call queue or virtual receptionist on a Vonage account, the company provides a “Business Inbox” so you can have separate inboxes for different parts of your organization. For instance, all sales messages could be filtered and sent to the sales team inbox, while customer care messages could be sent to support staff.
Vonage’s cloud UC app has two sets of contacts: global company contacts & my contacts, the latter of which can be imported to your company contacts. Hovering over a contact gives you icons to quickly message, call, video call or favorite that person.
Voicemails can be played directly from within the VBC client application, as well as downloaded or emailed. The voicemails are accompanied by automatic in-app transcriptions so you can read the message without listening.
The VBC client enables some automation such as emailing and deleting messages and custom greetings such as one for your name that identifies your company, a greeting for when you’re unavailable, busy, or out of the office. You can leave a message with custom call rules such as “Hi I’m out of the office until next week… press 1 to speak with my colleague and if it’s urgent, press 2 to reach my cell phone…” and then you can define all the rules for that through the VBC client voicemail settings.
Vonage’s UC software also provides users with settings for advanced call forwarding and simultaneous ringing. “Follow Me” allows users (or admins) to configure a series of backup numbers so when a call comes in, it’s sent to one device after another, like an office desk phone, cell phone, or home phone until it reaches the one you’re at or is eventually sent to voicemail. The VBC software lets you define how much time each device should ring before the call is forwarded.
You can likewise configure the client to simultaneously call all of your devices at the same time instead of trying numbers in sequence. Is it after hours? All of your devices can be muted with the click of a single checkbox.
Additional features and settings in the Vonage Business Cloud client:
- Call screening can be configured to prompt inbound callers to state their name.
- SMS on toll-free numbers supported so customers can text message you freely.
- Block calls within and outbound rules as well as account-level and personal rules.
- You can also block all inbound calls that have no caller ID with a quick setting.
- A “devices” section where you can provision and configure physical desk phones.
- A “Web Launcher” feature that can be set to open a website when a call is initiated.
Nexmo APIs and Integrations
Introduced earlier this year, number programmability lets you create custom call rules for different numbers. Every VBC number is programmable courtesy of Nexmo APIs. Vonage purchased Nexmo for $230 million in 2016 and the company notes that while many competitors have APIs on their platform, few if any of them have the breadth of developers that Vonage does with Nexmo’s API being used by more than 700,000 developers.
The Nexmo APIs allow any standard web developer to create an application out of the code. For example, you might direct an incoming VBC call to a Nexmo API, and the Nexmo API could run on an application that you built.
Furthermore, Vonage and Nexmo have created a drag and drop interface that lets you build a unique call flow involving multiple APIs. So for instance, you might have a configuration that can answer a call, look up a calendar to see if your busy, then inform the caller whether you’re available and automatically schedule a followup meeting time.
And again, this kind of automation can be set up with a simple interface that lets you drag and drop the APIs where you want them in the call flow. Vonage notes that it won a few deals earlier this year specifically because of this programmability feature.
There is a deep integration between Vonage Business Cloud and Nexmo, with Nexmo being used to power the back-end of VBC’s messaging platform. Vonage says this allows it to scale much faster and better interoperability with third-party messaging products. As Nexmo continues to evolve and integrate with more vendors and third-party messaging platforms, these will automatically get pulled into VBC.
Nexmo-powered number programmability is a strong differentiating feature for Vonage’s unified communications platform because it gives large and small business the power to define a series of complex call rules and automated events without necessarily requiring a dedicated IT department to pull it off. Number programmability offers many benefits to VBC customers:
- Simplifies the process for creating call flows and enables powerful call automation.
- Enables the creation of custom communications apps with standard web technologies.
- Enables customizable voice and messaging layered on top of UCaaS functionality.
- Leverages Nexmo APIs which are familiar to more than 700,000 developers.
- Integrates with third-party platforms such as Google Cloud, AWS, Azure, Watson and more.
- Provides a developer platform for building deeper integrations with customer systems.
Vonage App Center
Vonage Business Cloud customers have access to an App Center with applications that customers can add to VBC. The App Center is available directly through the Vonage Business Cloud client as well as through the admin portal that we’ll be looking at shortly.
This sort of extensibility represents the marriage of UCaaS and CPaaS, and Vonage says this will be a big part of VBC going forward – providing customizable enhancements that you can add to your VBC client or account, whether VoIP phone calling features, third-party integrations or anything else that can be conceivably added to a cloud communications service.
Along with the various add-ons that customers can apply to their accounts, the Vonage Business Cloud client has a strong native integration with platforms such as Facebook. One of the core value propositions here is that it provides companies with a single place to aggregate all communications. By default, the VBC client includes your customer engagement from Facebook in the same message history as your phone calls, internal staff messaging, SMS text messages and so on.
The VBC App Center is broken down into separate categories including All Apps, Featured, All Collections, Recommended For You, Popular, New, Categories, Productivity, Customer Engagement, CRM & Extensions. Recommended add-ons are tailored based on what’s happening on your account, how others are using the product, as well as what Vonage thinks of your industry and the services you’ve already bought.
Many of the add-ons are free and depending on what VBC package you buy some of these integrations may be included. If not, you can add some of the features individually. For instance, Spam Shield will block annoying spam calls and comes with a free trial but costs $2.99 a month per extension afterward.
App Center apps aren’t simply available for download in a clean digital library but Vonage provides a fully-featured product page and demo for each add-on, including image or video previews, feature lists, and descriptions, information about how to use and set up the feature, as well as a button that allows end-users to “Request This App” with their account administrator (admins have access to the same App Center from VBC’s admin portal).
Vonage Integration Suite
Whereas the App Center provides individual add-ons, the Vonage Integration Suite bundles access to multiple integrations from a single application. The Integration Suite is supported across devices and on multiple browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge.
One of the primary goals of Vonage’s Integration Suite is to improve the experience customers have when working with integrations and the company says that its single connector solution is a key differentiator when comparing VBC with rivals.
Many competitors have integrations but Vonage has wrapped many popular business integrations up into one product so instead of having to install multiple different integrations/connectors, you can install the Vonage Integration Suite and it will let you select which integrations you’d like to add.
Examples include Salesforce, Office 365, G Suite, Clio, Bullhorn, Zendesk, and SugarCRM. All you need are credentials for the service you are integrating along with your VBC credentials and Vonage handles the rest. Many integrations are already available and the company says it’s pursuing a lot of opportunities in add-ons and interoperability.
Besides seamlessly connecting Vonage’s unified communications software with many popular business service, the Integration Suite brings improved capabilities. The Integration Suite offers:
- Greater call control and note-taking features
- Enhanced integrated call metrics and reporting for call volume, history, and usage data.
- Customizable integration tools such as click-to-dial, Web Launcher, and Call Noting.
- Identify incoming callers by looking at the contact book and contacts in the CRM.
- Automatic logging of all inbound and outbound calls to your CRM.
- Contact management and scheduling across multiple business apps from one interface.
Companies and workers need access to all of these different platforms together to be the most productive and the Integration Suite contributes here. Additionally, you can view a caller’s profile including their full contact history across all the integrations/third-party products that someone is connected to.
Vonage mentions that this is another differentiator for VBC. While most competitors connect out to Salesforce or Zendesk, they’re not bringing all of that information back into one interface or platform. So when someone calls your company, in real-time the agent can see all the other points of contact their company has had with a customer, such as one on Salesforce for their sales team and Zendesk for their customer support team.
Having a more detailed overview of a customer’s previous calls with your company allows you to tailor your engagement with them. And much of this happens automatically. For instance, when someone calls your company, it’ll link to a Salesforce record and notes or other information can be logged in the CRM.
Agents can also manually record notes on profiles in real-time or after a call, which will be automatically sent to Salesforce etc. and there is a link to the full profile in VBC so you can quickly access all of your CRM’s capabilities.
Vonage CX Cloud Express for Contact Centers
Vonage acquired Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) company NewVoiceMedia for $350 million in 2018 and in March 2019 the company began offering Vonage CX Cloud Express, which bakes some essential contact centers features into Vonage Business Cloud. Perhaps most notably, Vonage’s contact center solution provides a CRM integrated into the VBC client that helps manage customer, agent and employee experiences.
Vonage CX Cloud Express has more sophisticated capabilities for a call center, such as more advanced call routing and IVR, as well as more dashboard analytics and reporting. Vonage also includes call recording in its call center package and while it offers a robust set of features out of the box, these can be extended with further customizations such as those from the App Center.
As a contact center communications platform, Vonage CX Cloud Express offers:
- A complete contact center solution with web admin, IVR, skills-based routing, agent web console, real-time dashboards & call recording.
- A mature integrations suite connects VBC & CX Cloud Express users to their CRM and productivity apps.
- High fault tolerance thanks to being built on a common Public Cloud platform.
- A single integrated communications platform with a 99.999% uptime reliability.
Vonage Business Cloud Admin Portal
In addition to the VBC application, the platform’s admin portal was also revamped last year. The control panel has been designed with a dashboard that lets administrators see whether fax, mobile, voice, features and online accounts are online, as well as the total number of users and extensions. Vonage breaks the admin portal down into the following sections:
- Dashboard – View important details and use shortcuts to access popular features.
- Phone System – Manage all features and settings on your VoIP phone system
- VR/IVR settings
- Users, Extensions and phone number
- Call queue, call groups, paging groups, call recording, shared line appearance, hoteling, call blocking, faxes and more
- Business Apps – Manage applications that enhance your business (Business Inbox, Directory Sync, Receptionist Console, Number Programmability).
- Account – View account details and manage account-wide settings.
- Store – Order additional service, features, and hardware for your account. Store pricing is adjusted per account and reflects any deals you’ve negotiated with Vonage.
- Billing – View invoices and billing information, make a payment, and assign or unassign eligible services from an extension.
- Reports – Run customized reports and view call activity on your account. This includes call quality information.
Vonage provides an automated system for porting phone numbers in the VBC admin portal so if you’re a new VBC customer and you’re looking to bring some of your existing numbers over to Vonage, you just have to enter your information and it will happen automatically within one to five days depending on the carrier and other variables.
VBC has several features geared specifically toward enterprise customers, such as an integrated solution for syncing with Active Directory. Larger companies with say 500+ users likely won’t want to manage users in multiple locations (Active Directory plus VBC) so VBC allows Enterprise-class customers to import their Active Directory database and this can be synced between platforms. When an account is disabled in Active Directory, it is disabled in VBC in real-time and the user is actively logged out of their desktop and mobile app.
The VBC administrator portal supports granular permissions so, for instance, some admins might be able to directly edit a user profile and others might not be able to. Likewise, individual user accounts can be tweaked with specific access settings so certain features are available or not.
For a glimpse at the level of customizability that’s possible in VBC’s admin panel, the “Phone System” section contains all of the following sub-sections: Account Summary, Users, Extensions, Devices, Line Appearance, Phone Numbers, Virtual Receptionist, Conference Bridges, Call Groups, Paging Groups, Call Queues, On-Demand Recordings, Company Recordings, Call Monitoring, Faxes and Call Blocking.
Again, we’ll provide a complete VoIP calling feature list toward the end of this article but settings include call monitoring, which allows an admin to set up a pin that will authorize the ability for someone to silently listen into a call. Hoteling is also supported, so customers who have more users than they do can allow users to log into a phone by punching in their extension and PINs when their shift begins and then log out when it ends.
If the base features on your account aren’t enough, there’s a “Store” in the VBC admin portal where you can purchase apps, features, and hardware. This section is essentially the App Center which is also available directly through the VBC client.
Add-ons are immediately added to your business phone bill without calling anyone or doing anything else, and the prices reflected through this store are adjusted for each account based on whatever a customer has already negotiated with Vonage. Vonage is proud of this improvement not least because it allows customers to largely self-administer VBC and has resulted in fewer support calls.
The company notes that it has spent a lot of time focusing on the Vonage Business Cloud user interface and experience, especially in the admin portal, where all the settings and features are consistent throughout the application and across platforms so that your softphone experience on a mobile device is similar to that of the desktop client.
This enhanced interface is especially noticeable in the “Reports” category of the admin portal. Among other information, this section shows the voice and sound quality of calls using a mean opinion score (MOS). The dashboard analytics show how many calls have been rated as well as what number of the calls have been good, moderate and poor quality, with individual statistics for each user including details such as the duration, packet loss, and jitter, enabling admins to drill down into where issues are and what they might be.
Backing up that transparency and visibility, the main landing page of VBC’s admin portal has a “Send Feedback” section where you can share your thoughts with Vonage, and this goes a long way toward demonstrating that the company is interested in hearing about customer experiences and making improvements where possible.
Likewise, the admin portal is accompanied by various help tools. If a customer has any questions about setting something up, there are videos, how-tos, and guided tours.
Furthermore, Vonage mentioned that one of its differentiating attributes is the availability of dedicated customer success managers. These are assigned to larger customers so they can call with any issues and they are treated with high priority. However, smaller customers can pay for this premium care and nonetheless receive 24/7 support along with all VBC customers.
Vonage Business Cloud Pricing and Features
Vonage Business pricing is laid out in a straightforward tiered structure.
Vonage Business Premium Pricing:
- 1-4 phone lines: $29.99 per month, per line (plus taxes and fees)
- 5-19 phone lines: $27.99 per month, per line (plus taxes and fees)
- 20-99 phone lines: $24.99 per month, per line (plus taxes and fees)
- 100+ phone lines: Tailored to your business with a custom package.
Upgrading to Vonage Business Advanced for $10 more per line/month adds these features:
- 15 hours a month of on-demand call recording
- Call group. Forward calls to multiple extensions at once and have them ring simultaneously.
- Vonage visual voicemail. Transcribe voicemail to text and send it to your email.
- Orange-glove setup. Receive support from Vonage experts for account setup and onboarding.
Features overview for Vonage Business Premium:
- Unlimited calling and SMS Messages in the US and Canada.
- 40+ business cloud phone system features (such as call forwarding – detailed below).
- Mobile app for iOS and Android. Link your business phone number to your mobile device.
- Desktop app. Get the power and control of your business phone system right on your computer.
- VonageFlow. Enables group chat, voice, SMS, video calls, file, and media sharing through the desktop and mobile apps.
- Multi-level auto attendant. A virtual receptionist that allows callers self-select how they reach a person or department.
- Video conferencing, chat & file sharing for up to 100 people.
- CRM integrations including Salesforce, G Suite, Office 365, Bullhorn, ConnectWise, JobDiva, Netsuite, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, and Zoho.
Phone features that come with Vonage Business:
Control your privacy.
Give great customer service.
Personalize your business.
Save time and money.
Work on the go.
Collaborate with colleagues.
Vonage Business Cloud Moves Beyond VoIP
While traditionally recognized as a VoIP provider, Vonage is equipped to serve as the primary means of communication for your business. Between its prior experience in the VoIP space and a portfolio that now includes an App Center, Nexmo’s rich library of APIs and a recently acquired Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) company, Vonage is strongly positioned to compete among a growing number of business cloud communication and unified communication companies.