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Ooma Office: VoIP Small Office Phone System Review

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Installation and Setup:

It was time to get things setup, and so I turned to the included printed Quick Start Guide. The printed Quick Start Guide is extremely complete and well written, and does a great job through the use of print and diagrams to outline the steps necessary for setting up the Ooma Office. Oddly enough, your first step to setting up the Ooma Office doesn’t involve the hardware, and this is where your interaction with the “cloud” begins. You will have to create an account and activate your Ooma Office base unit on the Ooma office web site. This will require you to select a phone number, register 911 address, enter billing info, and enter basic configuration information. The billing info portion essentially breaks down to how many phone lines you will need. As calls within the US and Canada being unlimited the only recurring cost will be the $19.99 per line monthly fee. Once complete, you will receive an email confirming that your account and base station have been activated. This entire process takes mere minutes, and I was impressed how streamlined and straight-forward Ooma was able to keep it.

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With the “cloud” portion taken care of, it was time to install the physical hardware. This may vary depending on your particular network setup, but for voice clarity purposes Ooma recommends that the base unit be installed directly to the high-speed internet modem first and then any router you may have be installed off the Ooma Office base unit. I suspect by doing so, any routing, Quality of Service settings, or additional router setting influences are avoided by putting the Ooma Office base unit in front of the router. Outside of this consideration, the physical cabling and installation of the base unit is extremely simple and very well documented in the quick start guide. If you have ever installed a wireless router in your home, this is as easy or even simpler, which is pretty surprising. Once powered on, the base unit will connect to the “cloud” and once you see a blue light on the front of the unit, it’s been activated and ready to go.

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With the base unit connected and installed, the only other hardware installation that may need to be done is whether you will need to configure and use the included Linx devices for additional phone connectivity. The initial step for configuring the Linx devices is a quick stop to the “cloud” again, to add an extension and enter the device ID printed on the Linx device you want to use for that extension. With that step complete, all that’s left is to locate a power outlet you wish to use for the Linx device. Once plugged in, using the “Page” button on the base unit will pair the Linx device with the base unit and after you see a blue light on the Linx device, you’re done. Here again Ooma made this entire pairing process extremely straight forward and no more difficult than pairing a Bluetooth device to your smartphone. We tested the range on the Linx device here in our ~2200 sq/ft office which is notoriously brutal on wireless signals due to the number of walls and angles (we have to run Wi-Fi repeaters for our wireless network), and we were pleasantly surprised to find that there were zero connectivity or voice quality issues.

Features and Functionality:

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With the hardware configured, it was time to test out the advertised features and functionality of the Ooma Office. The most appropriate place to start is with Ooma Office Manager, accessible via the “cloud” at myoffice.ooma.com. It is via this web portal, that all configurations will be made to your Ooma Office phone system. I originally expected this to be a local connection to the base unit (similar to administering a wireless router), rather than configuration via the “cloud”. During the setup and my initial playing around with the Ooma Office Manager, there were times that the responsiveness was noticeably slow. This was noted over several separate sessions, and this should be something that Ooma focuses on improving in the future.

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Moving on to what can be specifically performed via the Ooma Office Manager portal, the initial landing page is the Extensions section. It is here you can configure up to five physical phone extensions (that have a physical hardware phone attached to the local Ooma hardware, 1 x base and up to 4 x Linx), and 15 virtual extensions (that can be forwarded to a phone outside of the local phone setup, i.e. cell phone). Additionally from this screen, you can edit settings specific to each extension, such as basic configuration, voicemail, call forwarding, and a couple advanced settings. For the most part all of these settings were obvious and straightforward requiring little to no explanation. One nice feature under the voicemail section, was that an email can be sent when a voicemail is received. The email will contain an .mp3 file of the recorded voicemail that can be played on your PC, tablet, or smartphone. The one slight negative surprise/realization I came too is that call forwarding can only be setup here, and can’t be performed from the physical extension itself. Considering that the Ooma Office Manager web portal only has a single user login, technically an “admin” would have to configure a particular users call forwarding. This could be cumbersome for those users that are in an out of the office and don’t want to have call forwarding enabled at all times. It would be good to see if they could add the ability to toggle this feature on an off in the extension menu available from the physical phone. It was good to see that when a call was forwarded, so was the originating caller ID.

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Under the Phone Numbers section, this is where you can add additional lines (max of 10 lines, 5 of which can be assigned to physical phones), with each costing $19.99 a month. Each line you purchase comes with a free phone number if you choose to use it. The number of lines will be strictly dictated by both the number physical phones and extensions you configure, as well as the number of incoming calls you will be handling at one time.

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Under the Virtual Receptionist section, several settings can be configured from greetings and menu options provided to incoming callers (whether open, closed, or holiday), define business hours, and dial by extension, etc… The virtual receptionist is extremely full featured and is the thread that pulls everything together and makes the entire Ooma Office solution work so well.

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In the Preferences section, there are only a handful of settings. It is here that you can upload your own hold music, which is a very neat feature. I will say that I had some trouble uploading a 1.3MB MP3 file, if there is a size limit; it’s not obvious as to what it is.

Call Quality:

General features aside, at the end of the day no matter what the features are if the call quality is not there, it’s all a moot discussion. During all of our voice testing we never detected any distortion, audio “pixelation”, delay, or echo. The call quality was always consistently crystal clear. Now, call quality can be heavily determined by the type of WAN connection you have and the amount of traffic competing for that WAN connection on your network. However, assuming there isn’t an issue there, you should expect some of the clearest VoIP call quality we have seen here at Techwarelabs.

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2 Comments... What's your say?

  1. I bought Ooma Office a week ago and was very excited when I received my hardware and registered online.

    My first disappointment was the bate and switch tactic of Ooma. The video uses an example with “Claire’s Cupcakes” and says Ooma Office redirect calls, “for Claire, press one” as one would expect from an office phone system. What the video does not say is that “for Claire, press one” is an extra $9.99 a month and “for Jane, press two” is an extra $9.99 a month and “for Jill, press three” is an extra $9.99 a month etc…

    If you do not buy extensions you pretty much paid $250 US for an answering machine.

    Then, the problems started. First, I got a 404 error when trying to access the “virtual receptionist” settings on my account. Then I found out that anyone calling my Ooma Office got cut off after 20 seconds.

    Calling customer support ends up in the Philippines where you are greeted by totally clueless people who only know a few basic things. Beyond that, the only thing they are capable of doing is submit a ticket and tell you not to expect any resolve of your problem before 24 to 48 hours. SAY WHAT?! 24 to 48 hours????

    Well, nothing happens even after 48 hours. When asking to speak to a supervisor you will be redirected to speak with a Filipino supervisor and his crying baby.

    I was so disappointed with the customer support by phone that I tried my luck by e-mailing Ooma, only to receive a useless e-mail telling me I have to call customer support.

    After a week of irritation and useless tickets, phone calls and e-mails, we finally shipped the Ooma Office back to Palo Alto for a refund and decided to pay a bit more and go with Verizon’s Virtual Communication Express. No more calls to the Philippines, no more Ooma.

    The company totally messes up with the worst nightmare support that renders the product useless. I would highly discourage anyone from buying Ooma.

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