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I run a small business. Very small: It's really just me. That means I can get by with my mobile phone and a second-line service like Hushed or Line2.
But for any company with more than one person in the mix, a proper phone system is pretty essential. Also pretty pricey, depending on which one you choose.
Thankfully, there's also a decidedly non-pricey option: Dialpad Free. First announced late last year, it had one fairly major catch: Only G Suite users could sign up for service. Now, Office 365 users are eligible as well, as is pretty much everyone else thanks to Dialpad's new Open Signup system.
ZDNet's Matthew Miller wrote a pretty comprehensive Dialpad Free overview back in December, so start there if you want a full rundown of what the service has to offer. But I'll hit the highlights along with some personal thoughts.
First, the freebie option is for companies with up to five employees. If you're beyond that, you'll need to look to one of the paid plans, which start at $15 per user per month.
Second, Dialpad lets you connect an unlimited number of IP-enabled devices, meaning not only desk and conference phones, but also tablets, Chromebooks and mobile phones. That's the real beauty of it, I think: You get a traditional desk-based phone experience but also a system that works wherever you go.
You get a wealth of features, too, including conference calling (via included UberConference accounts), video calls, voicemail, call-recording, call logs and even basic call analytics.
Third, there are a couple key limitations in the free plan, most notably the number of outbound-calling minutes you get per month: just 100. You get unlimited inbound minutes, but SMS messages are also capped at 100 per month.
For a business like mine, which relies primarily on inbound calls (I'd say 95 percent) and virtually no texts, this isn't a limitation at all -- but I may be in a minority on that front.
Finally, Dialpad Free is currently available for US customers only, and you don't get to choose your number; you enter your area code and Dialpad assigns you one. You can, of course, port in an existing number if you prefer.
The takeaway: For any small business that wants the phone system of a large business, but without the high price, Dialpad Free is definitely worth a look.