The start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 resulted in a sudden transition from in-office to remote work — one that left many companies without the time or even insight needed to properly research their remote work software.
Now, a year into the pandemic, working from home is no longer seen as a temporary solution, but rather as a benefit that will likely continue even after the height of the COVID-19 crisis is over.
In fact, over 85% of managers say they expect a remote workforce to become the “new normal” in 2021. It’s estimated that there will be an 87% increase in fully remote teams from the start of the pandemic in May 2020 to 2025.
This means it’s time to find long-term business communication and collaboration software that is genuinely right for your small business, as opposed to making snap decisions based on what other companies have chosen.
One of the most important tools for a fully or partially remote, geographically diverse team?
Conference call services.
Here, we’ll compare the best conference call software options, outline their top features and pricing models, and offer advice about which tool is likely to be the right fit for your team.
Table of Contents
- An Overview of the Top Conference Call Platforms
- The Benefits of Conference Call Services For Small Businesses
- The Best Conference Call Solutions For Small Businesses
- Additional Web Conferencing Tools For Improved Small Business Meetings
- Conference Calling FAQs
Below, we’ve created a comparison table of the best conference calling services.
The table outlines pricing and plans, the top feature of each tool, and the type of small business that each solution is best for.
|Provider||Zoom||Dialpad UberConference||FreeConferenceCall.com||GoToMeeting||Cisco WebEx||RingCentral Office||Microsoft Teams|
|Top Feature||“Listen-only” conference call attendees||Voice Intelligence||Meeting Wall||SmartNotes||AI Meeting Assistant||RingCentral App||Teams Rooms|
|Best For||Current Zoom users who need more advanced audio conferencing features||Small teams that need transcripts, analytics, and key takeaways from meetings||Newer SMBs/startups that need to keep costs down, but that need to communicate internally daily with remote employees||Smaller, mobile-first teams with multiple daily meeting||Blended/hybrid teams that frequently make presentations in meetings and need corresponding equipment||Remote or in-house teams that frequently host large meetings with over 100 participants||Current or future Microsoft 365 users that want to expand their team conferencing capabilities|
|Price Range||Flat-Rate Fee: $100.00-$150.00/user per month
Pay-As-You-Go: based on usage and minutes
Requires a paid Zoom plan
|1 Free Plan, 1 Paid Plan for $15.00/user per months||Free or Pay-What-You-Can Plan with Paid Upgrades ranging in price from $2.00/month to $20.00/month||No Free Plan, 3 Paid Plans from $12.00/user per month to $16.00+/user per month||1 Free Plan, 3 Paid Plans from $13.50/user per month to $26.95+/user per month||No Free Plan, 4 Paid Plans from $19.99/user per month to $49.99/user per month||1 Free Plan,|
Before we dive into the top providers, let’s quickly discuss the benefits that conference call solutions offer to a small business — whether they’re operating with a fully remote or blended team.
While 15% of the workweek is spent on attending meetings, studies show that over ¼ of a 40-hour workweek is spent on preparing and organizing for those meetings. Plus, nearly 70% of team members feel that near-constant meetings get in the way of them being able to do their jobs effectively?
Finding business communication tools that allow your team to have fewer, but more effective, weekly or even daily meetings, is essential to productivity, employee satisfaction, and revenue generation.
That’s where conference call services come in.
First, studies show that choosing to meet virtually as opposed to in-person saves companies nearly $11,000 annually and employees anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 annually, reducing the need for business travel by nearly 50%.
This means not only will small business owners have more money to invest in employee training webinars, business software, and more, but also that team members will have extra hours in the workweek, leading to higher overall levels of productivity.
Conference calls also allow for an increasingly mobile workforce, as participants can dial into a meeting from anywhere and on any device. They’re an effective way to improve communication with employees and clients across time zones, therefore increasing the value and quality of feedback and ideas these meetings generate.
Additional conference call benefits include:
- Ability to offer a more transparent business process to stakeholders, clients, and team members
- Ability to schedule conference call meetings ahead of time, or meet instantly with teams when needed no matter where they are
- Eliminates the need for endless emails or chat messages that make it easy for teams to miss important information or miscommunicate
- Increased team collaboration with advanced VoIP conference calling features
In developing the criteria necessary for the tools to make this list, they needed to have both audio and video conference calling capabilities, offer multiple plans, provide both dial-in and dial-out access, and allow for at least 10 simultaneous conference participants.
In addition, they needed to offer some basic team collaboration features to optimize conference calls, such as file sharing, screen sharing, in-meeting chat messaging, or integrations with top business communication and collaboration tools.
Finally, the providers had to offer the option to purchase toll-free vanity phone numbers, as well as offer international calling in over 30 countries.
Through the above criteria, we found the best conference call services to be:
- Dialpad UberConference
- Cisco WebEx
- RingCentral Office
- Microsoft Teams
Though Zoom is primarily known as a video conferencing platform, it also offers excellent audio conferencing capabilities to meet all your business needs.
Note that basic audio conferencing capabilities are available with a paid Zoom Meetings plan or via Zoom Phone.
Users can join a meeting via dial-in access on a smartphone or traditional telephone, or simply opt not to share their video screens while on a Zoom web conference. Here, users are charged according to their individual phone plans.
However, in order to access more advanced conference call features, Zoom users will need to purchase the Audio Conferencing add-on.
This lets users not only access all standard Zoom web conferencing features like chat messaging, Breakout Rooms, and file sharing), but also offers toll-free call-in options for more than 100 countries and VoIP and toll-based dial-in options for over 55 countries with no additional charge. Hosts can manage the conference call from the web-based Zoom application or over their office telephone using DTMF tones.
Zoom Audio Conferencing includes dedicated dial-in phone numbers that provide each Zoom user with a Personal Audio Conference line. This means that hosts and attendees won’t need to enter a conference ID number when dialing in.
Additional features include:
- Conference ID passwords
- Listen-only participants
- Noise cancellation
- Low latency
- “Call Me” feature to call meeting participants at meeting start time
- Conference call invitations sent via email, chat, copied link, or Google/Outlook Calendars
- Custom Telephone Welcome Message
- Hold music
- Meeting recording
- SIP connected audio
In order to purchase the Audio Conferencing add-on, users will need a Pro ($14.99/user per month), Business Plan ($19.99/user per month), or Zoom for Education (quote-based) account.
The Zoom Audio Conferencing add-on offers two pricing options — a pay-as-you-go plan, which is available only to Business and Education Zoom users, or a monthly commitment plan, which is available with every paid Zoom plan.
The pay-as-you-go plan pricing is calculated based on the number of minutes used per month and rates per minute. The flat-rate monthly fee is $100.00-$150.00/user per month. Dedicated dial-in numbers cost $10.00/month per number.
Advanced pricing breakdowns of Zoom Meetings Dial In/Dial Out coverage are available here.
|Zoom Audio Conferencing Pros||Zoom Audio Conferencing Cons|
|Dedicated dial-in number||Basic audio conferencing features not available on Zoom free plan, only as an add-on plan|
|Benefits of Zoom Meetings features included with Audio Conferencing add-on||Expensive monthly plans|
|Pay-as-you-go plan available||Lower participant capacity (100-300 without Large Meeting add-on or more expensive plan)|
Best For: Zoom Audio Conferencing is best for teams that want to be able to take advantage of Zoom Meetings features like video conferencing, screen sharing, and team chat, but who also need audio-only traditional conference calling capabilities every once in a while.
Dialpad UberConference is a web conference call software with video communication, audio-only calling, and a basic free conference calling version that lets up to 10 participants meet for a maximum of 45 minutes for an unlimited number of times per month.
Users can join or host conference calls via phone or through their web browsers, a Google Chrome extension, or the UberConference Apple or Android for mobile devices.
Its standout feature is Voice Intelligence, which uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to transcribe conferences in real-time, and uses machine learning to improve over time.
UberConference is able to differentiate between speakers with voice recognition, and even creates action items when promoted to automatically create tasks. These tasks are then uploaded to the post-call summary, which can also include Snippets — highlights of the conference that users can continually refer back to as opposed to having to take notes.
UberConference provides users with a free custom local call-in number for attendees in the United States and Canada, allowing local customers to call into a familiar number without having to worry about being charged long-distance fees.
Custom toll-free numbers are also available for an additional monthly fee.
UberConference lets users decide whether or not to require a PIN for conference calls, and lets teams select hold music from pre-fixed options or upload their own music.
Additional features and functionality include:
- Screen sharing for video conferences
- Free call recording and MP3 recording files
- International conference calling capabilities in over 50 countries
- Salesforce, Slack, Outlook, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, Twitter, and Microsoft Teams integrations
- Team Management Portal
- Searchable conference transcripts
- Conference analytics
- Dial out for conference participants
The free version of Dialpad UberConference requires a PIN and offers more basic features (no custom hold music, Voice Intelligence, nor Custom Call-In Number. However, Dialpad UberConference offers a free 14-day trial of its paid plan, which allows up to 100 users to meet for a maximum of 5 hours for $15.00/user per month. Note that toll-free numbers cost $35.00/month, and are not included in the free plan.
|UberConference Pros||UberConference Cons|
|Free audio conferences for up to 45 minutes||Mobile application needs improvement|
|Affordable paid plans||The free version sometimes kicks out participants before the 45-minute time limit|
|PINs optional||Only allows for up to 100 users for a maximum 5-hour meeting time|
Best For: Dialpad by UberConference is best for SMBs that primarily rely on audio-only conference calls for remote meetings and that therefore need a conference calling tool with robust audio features like task automation, call transcripts, and post-call summaries. It’s also ideal for those who need a basic free plan and who tend to have brief conference calls with only essential team members.
FreeConfereceCall.com is a free conference call service that lets up to 1,000 conference call participants meet via an iOS/Android mobile app, Mac and Windows desktop computer applications, and/or landline for an unlimited amount of time.
It’s a teleconferencing network that offers international access in more than 82 countries, records conferences and presentations to make for easy future playback, and includes host controls like attendance management and muting.
One of its best free features is the Meeting Wall, which lets users create a personalized meeting room webpage. The Meeting Wall lets participants join audio-only or audio/video sessions, provides host information, includes a calendar, and even offers information about meeting attendees, future meetings, and uploads of relevant meeting files attendees can access at any time.
In addition to audio conference calls, FreeConfereceCall.com offers video conferencing with features like live chat messaging, attendee lists, recording, active speaker view, and up to 1 GB of cloud recording storage.
Additional free features include:
- Screen sharing
- Screen sharing recording
- Breakout Rooms
- Keypad DTMF phone commands
- Mute individual lines
- Enter lecture mode for longer teleconference recordings
- Searchable recording transcriptions
- Remote desktop control (video conference)
As the name implies, FreeConferenceCall.com is completely free, though they do offer a “Pay What You Can” pricing model from $4.00/month to $15.00/month. You can also choose to pay a custom amount.
However, users can opt to pay for several upgraded features. They include:
- One Number Dial-In: Dedicated conference phone number, text reminders when a participant joins, no access codes required ($3.95/month)
- Toll-Free Phone Number: 800 dial-in number for participants (2 cents/minute per caller)
- Custom Hold Music: Play custom hold music while participants wait for the call to begin($2.00/month)
- Custom Hold Greeting: Record a personalized greeting for inbound conference callers ($2.00/month)
- Extra recording storage: Up to 40GB of recording storage (From $3.00/month)
- Virtual Phone Number: Unlimited inbound/outbound local calling, call forwarding, in-app voicemail ($9.00/month for the US Unlimited Plan, $20.00/month for the International Plan)
|FreeConfereceCall.com Pros||FreeConfereceCall.com Cons|
|Up to 1,000 call participants for free||Some essential features (Dial-In, Hold Music, Custom Greetings) require paid upgrades|
|Meeting Wall eliminates the need to download and email large files||Outdated interface|
|Breakout Rooms feature||Limited customer support|
Best For: FreeConferenceCall.com is best for startups or newer small businesses that need to keep operating costs low and have a largely remote workforce that requires daily meetings. These businesses primarily use the conference calls tool to communicate internally. It’s also ideal for companies that want to host larger teleconferences for free.
GoToMeeting is an online meeting and conference calling solution offering HD video and audio-only communication and team collaboration.
It offers unlimited monthly conference calling for up to 250 simultaneous participants (and up to 3,000 on its Enterprise Plan.) Users can host or join conference calls on desktop or laptop computers with a meeting link, via the Android or Apple smartphone app, or dial in via standard telephone call.
One of its most competitive features is its SmartNotes tool, which automatically transcribes and records meetings, storing those recordings locally or in the cloud. The SmartNotes Meeting Assistant also separates individual speakers for more accurate transcriptions,
Additionally, attendees can join via the toll-free “Call Me” feature in which GoToMeeting dials participants at the start of the meeting, securely bypassing the need for PINs. Users are even able to switch devices during a meeting.
GoToMeeting’s Personal Meeting Rooms allow users to select their own URLs, upload photos and business titles, link to their website, and provide basic bio and location information. Best of all, users can create multiple personal meeting rooms for free.
Additional features include:
- Set recurring conference calls
- Meeting reminders
- Searchable recording transcripts
- One-click conference call initiation
- Toll-free phone numbers in 50+ countries
- Free call recording
- Screen sharing
- DTMF touch-tone meeting controls
- Customized email invitations
- Single Sign-On (SSO)
- Two-way whiteboarding
- InRoom Link for seamless conference call joining in physical conference rooms
- GoToRoom all-in-one system for customized physical conference room hardware and design
- GoToMeeting hub with past and upcoming meetings, attendee information, and basic analytics
- Reservationless web conferencing access
- Meeting lock and PINs
- Annotation tools with Spotlight laser pointer, highlighter, pointer, and pen
GoToMeeting does not offer a free plan but has 3 paid plans from $12.00/user per month to $19.00+/user per month. There is a 14-day free trial available for paid plans. Note that the Call Me feature is an add-on that costs the meeting organizer $.08/minute per attendee.
|GoToMeeting Pros||GoToMeeting Cons|
|Advanced mobile conferencing capabilities||The decline of video and audio quality in meetings with 20+ attendees, it needs high-speed Internet for top quality|
|Enterprise Plan can host up to 3,000 meeting participants||Lack of a free plan|
|Ability to create multiple Personal Meeting Rooms per user||Only displays a maximum of 6 simultaneous video feeds|
Best For: GoToMeeting is best for blended mobile-first teams that need to be able to attend both instant and prescheduled conference calls from any device. It is also ideal for small teams of 5-20 that have multiple brief meetings per day.
Cisco WebEx is an audio and video online meeting and collaboration tool offering unlimited conference calls.
Users can connect to conference call audio through VoIP telephony, toll-based or toll-free dial-in with a dedicated phone number, or through the “Call-Me” feature, which calls participants at their designated number at the start of the conference.
One of WebEx’s top features is its AI-Powered Meeting Assistant, which allows users to create in-meeting, real-time action items from discussions in conference calls.
Hosts can record meetings, then download and share both audio and video recordings with participants. To avoid making team members sift through lengthy meeting footage, hosts can also designate certain moments as “meeting highlights,” which are recorded, saved, and shared with attendees. The AI Assistant includes hands-free voice commands that let users schedule conference rooms, make or join calls, open new files or use whiteboards and drawing tools, share screens, and even set follow-up meetings. The Assistant can also create and send post-meeting recaps.
WebEx users can create personal meeting rooms with dashboards showing past and upcoming meetings, recent meeting analytics, and allow for both scheduled and instant conference calls. These personal rooms have unique URL addresses and let users set alternate meeting hosts when needed.
Team members can seamlessly turn any 1-on-1 VoIP phone conversation into a conference call by selecting additional contacts from the WebEx softphone interface and dialing in, eliminating the need to set up a separate meeting. If during an audio-only conference call, users need to share content or meet face-to-face, the host can transition the call to a video meeting with one click.
WebEx also comes with its own line of compatible meeting hardware, ideal for creating seamless in-person conference rooms for blended or in-office conference calls. Top devices include the WebEx all-in-one Board Series for presentations, whiteboarding, and screen annotation, as well as turnkey WebEx Room Series that have equipment ideal for any type of conference room.
Additional features include:
- Background noise removal and speech enhancement
- DTMF tone control to mute, lock meetings, send email reminders, play the participant count, and more
- On-screen reactions (emojis and gestures) for attendees to react to audio conferences in real-time while muted
- Dedicated local or toll-free business phone number
- Searchable transcripts
- Breakout rooms and two-way whiteboarding
- Individual speaker detection for clear transcripts
- Real-time meeting translation in over 100 languages
- Pre-made meeting templates (brainstorming, catch-ups, etc.) for easier agendas
- Integrations with Microsoft 365, GSuite, Zendesk, Salesforce, Slack, etc.
- Meeting scheduling with Outlook, Google Calendar, or within the WebEx Meetings app
- Screen sharing and up to 25 simultaneous video streams
- Instant chat messaging with file and application sharing
Cisco WebEx offers four paid plans, including one free plan, between $13.50/user per month and $26.95+/user per month.
Note that the WebEx AI Assistant offers a free 15-day trial for paid WebEx users, but is not included in the free plan. If users want to keep the Assistant after the trial, they need to purchase it as a separate add-on for $30.00/user per month. Additionally, international calling is only available with WebEx as a paid add-on for $429.00/year.
|Cisco WebEx Pros||Cisco WebEx Cons|
|High audio quality||Audio-only conference calls can host a maximum of 15 simultaneous callers|
|The recent update includes a higher level of collaboration tools||AI Meeting Assistant is a paid add-on|
|Advanced historical and real-time analytics on call quality, user activity, meeting data, and more||International calling capabilities expensive|
Best For: Cisco WebEx is best for hybrid teams that need an in-office physical conference room to connect with both remote and in-house teams and clients for frequent presentations and near-daily team collaboration.
It offers unlimited audio-only and video conference calling, a single bridge number per company, and each user gets their own host and access code. This means that team members can hold simultaneous conference calls without interfering with other calls.
One of the top features is its newly designed RingCentral App, which combines phone and video conferencing and team chat messaging into a single mobile-friendly platform. Call participants can easily create action items in chat messages during conferences, assassin tasks, create project teams, and even add external guest users.
VoIP phone conference calls can be made over WiFi, with carrier minutes, or using smartphone data. The RingCentral app comes with more than 180 out-of-the-box integrations and lets users build custom APIs.
Each conference call line is always available, eliminating the need to reserve space and time for a call. This also allows for instant, improvised conference calls.
Additional features include:
- iPhone and Android apps
- Host touchtone controls including listen-only participants, conference call recording, mute/unmute, etc.
- Screen and file sharing, chat messaging
- Email or text message conference invitations
- On-demand and automatic meeting recording
- Unlimited recording and file storage
- Instantly join the conference from a text message without a PIN access code
- Ability to switch between devices during a conference
- International toll-free or premium phone numbers in over 80 countries
- Local phone numbers in 50+ countries
- RingCentral Rooms add-ons for physical conference room hardware
- Integrations with GSuite, Microsoft 365, Asana, Salesforce, Zendesk, etc.
RingCentral Office offers 4 paid plans from $19.99/user per month to $59.99/user per month — however, unlimited audio conferencing is not available on the cheapest plan. Additional toll-free numbers can be purchased from $4.99/number per month.
|RingCentral Office Pros||RingCentral Office Cons|
|Hosts up to 1,000 participants per call||The interface has a higher learning curve|
|Anyone outside of the RingCentral network can join a conference call||In-depth reports take over 24 hours to generate|
|Unlimited storage available||Essential features – like unlimited audio conferencing – not available on more affordable plans|
Best For: RingCentral Office is best for teams that have frequent large-scale conferences with internal and external attendees. It’s also ideal for companies that heavily rely on data and analytics to better evaluate their workforce, meeting effectiveness, and target market.
Microsoft Teams is an online conferencing and collaboration platform that offers video and audio-only conferencing services for up to 250 attendees. (Note that current Skype users will automatically be transitioned to Teams in the coming months.)
Attendees can join an active or prescheduled Teams meeting by dialing in from a standard desk phone, smartphone, or desktop/laptop computer. Teams can also dial out participants when the meeting is set to begin.
Users also have personalized Microsoft Teams Rooms for hosting recurring or one-time meetings, and can instantly send meeting notes, recordings, and transcriptions to conference attendees once everyone signs off.
Hosts can also schedule follow-up meetings within the Teams interface or in the Outlook Calendar.
Note that all Teams users are able to join an audio conference, but that only Audio Conferencing from Teams users can host or schedule conferences.
Additional features include:
- Dedicated and shared conference line phone numbers
- Screen sharing and custom backgrounds
- Meeting agenda attachments in invitations
- Invite external guests
- Email invitations with PINs
- In-meeting dial pad commands for user management
- Automatic meeting transcription
- Access previous meeting notes and recordings in the current conference
- Scheduled and instant meetings
- Meeting recording
- Global dial-in numbers
- Searchable chat messaging during audio/video conference calls
- Real-time collaboration in Microsoft Office apps
Though Microsoft Teams itself is free, more advanced communication and collaboration features are available with the purchase of paid Microsoft 365 plans. These paid plans range in price from $5.00/user per month to $20.00/user per month. A one-month free trial is available for all paid plans.
The most important thing to note, however, is that Audio Conferencing with Microsoft Teams is a paid add-on (though as of this writing, it’s available free for a limited time) for $4.00/user per month. Extended dial-out provides teams with unlimited dial-out minutes and the United States and Canada, and is available for an additional unlisted fee.
|Microsoft Teams Pros||Microsoft Teams Cons|
|The free version allows for 100 participants to meet for up to 1 hour||Can be challenging for those unfamiliar with Microsoft 365 to navigate|
|Seamless and simple integration with Microsoft 365 tools (Office, Word, PowerPoint, etc.)||Advanced Audio Conferencing solution is a paid add-on|
|Recent Teams update in March 2021 ensures latest optimized features||More basic audio conferencing features than most plans|
Best For: Microsoft Teams is best for current Microsoft 365 users who need to expand their current audio and video conferencing capabilities. It’s ideal for teams that don’t often communicate via audio conference, but that need to be able to connect with external clients that prefer it.
Though the conference call services mentioned on this list are among the best, that still doesn’t guarantee that they’re a good fit for your small business.
You may find you need solutions that offer greater team collaboration features, additional integrations, improved ease of use, or even a higher level of customer training and support.
For information on additional providers, read our interactive overview of other popular web conferencing software solutions like 8×8 and Vonage, or check out our detailed, head-to-head comparisons of top platforms like Zoom vs GoToMeeting.
Below, we’ve answered some of the FAQs about conference calling.
Frequently asked questions
What’s the ideal time and duration of an effective conference call?
Research has shown that the vast majority of conference call attendees prefer the mornings, and that no call should last longer than one hour when possible.
The ideal meeting length is roughly 30-45 minutes, and, according to research from Regus, Tuesday at 10:00 AM is the conference call sweet spot.
Conference call best practices include:
- Opt for the lowest number of participants possible
- Declare a set time at the end of the meeting for Q&As to avoid interruptions
- Set a meeting agenda
- Send reminder emails/texts
- Dial into the meeting roughly 2 minutes before it starts
- Automatically mute attendees who aren’t speaking
- Use conference room microphones, headsets, and other VoIP equipment to maximize high-quality audio
- Distribute materials in advance
- Quickly summarize a call on the phone at its end, then send summary notes to participants following the call
A conference call PIN is an access code -- a bit like a password -- that verifies your identity and those of other participants on a conference call when they dial in. When you’re scheduled for a call, you’ll receive the meeting ID or phone number, as well as the PIN passcode to get into the meeting.
You can enter the PIN via the keypad on your phone, then enter the meeting.
Even though some of the tools above let users avoid having to enter PINs, we suggest you keep them enabled for a higher level of security.
It depends on the specific software you’re using, your individual privacy settings, and the device you’re calling from.
If you participate in an audio-only call, then only the meeting host will be able to see your phone number. The same goes if you join a conference call by dialing in.
However, if you’re on a video conference call, in most cases, your phone number will be displayed as a part of your overall user profile. You may be able to block it from appearing to others, and some platforms automatically block your number from other participants.
If you want to avoid having others access your personal phone number or private work number, we suggest getting a free local phone number from a service like Google Voice, and only using that number for conference calls.
Especially if you have a high number of participants, finding a time that works for everyone can be tough (which is why it’s best to avoid higher numbers of call participants whenever possible.)
Tools like Doodle, Calendly, Need To Meet, and Google Calendar are all free apps that allow slated attendees to select the times and dates that they have available, to make it much easier to find a time when everyone is free.