Product Review: Ooma Office Phone System

Lawyers need phones. We love phones. We put them every place we can, even if they’ll never get used. We especially love purchasing over-priced systems with fancy buttons, nifty functions like “voice mail”, and most especially, speakerphones — side note, I once worked with an attorney who always answered and talked on the speakerphone, a little too annoying.

That’s why, when the folks at Ooma contacted me to test out their business phone system, I thought, “Cool, a sweet system that’ll never fly with lawyers.”

Ooma Office Phone System

Five reasons you won’t like this Ooma Office phone system

Number 1: The system’s too simple to understand

Lawyers bathe in complexity. From our immensely complicated pleadings, to our elaborated contractual clauses filled with “Whereas,” our intellectual spheres thrive only when we’ve portrayed our superior intellectual mindset. Thus, when a lawyer looks at the Ooma phone system we’re mortified by its simplicity.

“Quite frankly,” we think, “there’s no way something so simple could handle the complex nature of our law firm.”

Ooma Box Contents

We’re convinced that a box which contains a base station and two extensions isn’t sophisticated. Moreover, since the system bypasses the phone company and uses “VOIP” technology, it’ll surely fail to provide a “business quality phone service.”

That’s probably true, especially when you consider that the base station plugs into your office’s router and internet modem (and doubles as an extension), and the two included Ooma Linx adapters expand your system from one line to 3. I could also add other Linx adapters for up to 15 virtual extensions. Edit: I should clarify, Ooma Office supports up to 5 physical phone extensions using the Ooma Linx devices and 15 virtual extensions, which are extensions pathed off-network to cell phones or home offices. No need for a fourth Linx adapter.

As further proof of the system’s simplistic inadequacy, the Ooma Office system only takes about 5 minutes to set up. That’s from start to finish, including registering my new number. And let’s not even talk about the complete lack of wires required for setup.

Of course, “true” phone systems require extensive tinkering, miles of telephone cable, a team of IT consultants, and hours (or days) of downtime.

Yes, Ooma Office is much too simple.

Number 2: You’ll probably save too much money

When we’re not basking in complexity, lawyers love waste. The tremendous number of reams of paper we burn through our printers, fax machines, and the countless copies of copies we produce evidence our wasteful lust. Quite simply, we love to spend needless money instead of saving cash with simple processes.

Ooma predicts that their system will save your firm money.

Ooma Savings Predictor

Anyway, that’s hogwash! We all know that the true way to do anything is to continue on the path we’ve always followed.

In fact, to prove there’s not a cost savings, I ran a quick comparison between my current service, a VOIP provider called Fonality, and Ooma. I discovered that my firm could only save about $50 per month (after about a 6 month “cost recoupment” period). Oops.

Sure, initially I’d have to buy a new phone — such as my exact phone from Amazon — and shell out $249 for the system, to only pay about $50 less for phone service each month. I estimate that after 6 months I’d be “black” again. Certainly, I could just use a $15 phone, and save much more.

But, because I’m afraid to change and don’t want to save money, I’ll keep the status quo — lawyers love the status quo.

Number 3: The system’s too portable

Every first year associate knows that the way to productivity is to be chained to a desk. The true marker of a good attorney is  continuous hours of billing. Ooma Office is too portable, so you’re not going to love not being at the office, or heaven forbid, not having an office at all. For shame!

The Ooma Office base unit connects to your router and modem, and each additional Linx adapter simply plugs into an open power outlet.

Ooma Linx Wall Unit

Thus, the wireless design also means that you place the phone system anywhere in or out of the office.

Also, Ooma features a “My Office” site where you personalize greetings and customize when, where and how you receive phone calls. So, just for the fun of it, I could tell Ooma to forward my office calls to my cell phone on a beach in the Dominican Republic.

Of course, who wants portability?

Ooma Connection

Number 4: There are too many features

Simply put, Ooma Office has too many features. After all, lawyers only really need voicemail and a speakerphone. I know, you rarely use phone features like “find me” forwarding, conference bridges, or digital faxing.

Ooma Office has a virtual receptionist who answers your incoming calls — “Thanks for calling . . .” sort of thing — and every lawyer knows that virtual receptionists dissuade potential clients. Except when I asked Mrs. The Droid Lawyer’s mother about her opinion, as a lay person, she said that wouldn’t discourage her at all, especially when she heard an example. In fact, the virtual receptionist presents callers with the option to dial an extension or press 0 for the operator. Here’s what my test receptionist says for the initial greeting:

Ooma Virtual Receptionist Initial Greeting

And although the voice sounds a bit like a computer, my mother-in-law points out that since we’re so used to these greetings most people don’t think twice.

With all of these features you might actually stop missing calls and engage more clients. That’s not good at all.

Number 5: Your small office will have the big feel

Because you’d never want to be this cool:

The truth is, Ooma’s amazing

All joking aside — or in case you couldn’t tell — Ooma Office offers amazing phone service for a decent price.

Even though there’s an initial equipment cost, which may turn some folks off, Ooma Office is a quality product. VOIP phone service is the future of telephone, so I wouldn’t be surprised if more companies make the switch.

You’ll be able to manage all of your extensions and services through Ooma Office Manager.

Ooma Office Manager

I’m not totally enamored with the Office Manager, since it’s a little confusing to set up, especially when you’re working with the Receptionist — I grasped the system after about 5 minutes of play.

I also prefer the “Head’s Up Display” from my current provider, Fonality. This HUD gives you a desktop view of your system, including who’s available to take a call.

Fonality’s system is probably more feature-rich than most small businesses would ever need.

In comparison, Ooma Office functions much like a traditional landline system. Ooma Office has some basic features and works with any phone.

Ooma Office is more suited for smaller (up to 15 extensions) law firms.

If you’re interested in switching to Ooma, you can buy the system here.

Update (1/16/14): Lawyerist’s, Sam Glover and I were talking on Twitter. Sam was lamenting the fact that Ooma wants a review, but he doesn’t have a landline to operate the Ooma system:

What Sam didn’t understand, and perhaps I didn’t explain well, is that Ooma Office operates over the internet. You only need a conventional phone to the extent that the phone facilitates all of your conversations.

The Lynx adapters plug into an open power outlet and the phone connects to the adapter. The base station can function as an extension, if you want.

Thus, you’re killing one cost (the hard lined phone) and reducing your overall phone bill. Ooma Office also has internet faxing, so you can also cancel the fax line.

19 Responses to Product Review: Ooma Office Phone System

  1. What a fun post to read. Nicely done! Also, we’ve been looking at making some changes and Ooma looks pretty interesting. About 7 years ago we tried to go with a pure VOIP system. It just didn’t work out for us. Despite upgrading and tweaking everything at our end, the quality was poor and calls were randomly dropped. What’s your experience with the modern day VOIPs. Good as traditional lines or still have these issues?

    • We don’t have any issues with quality. Usually the biggest issue is with the HUD system, and that’s not phone related. You want a faster internet connection to handle the increased traffic.

      Call quality isn’t nearly as crisp as a landline, but nowadays most people wouldn’t know the difference.

  2. Great, on point, article. As a small firm (2 lawyers, 1 paralegal, 1 secretary), Ooma has been great for us. Price is unbeatable. I did a lot of shopping around for a phone system, and nothing came even close to Ooma. I did have to upgrade our internet connection, but the price savings were still amazing. You also forgot to mention Jeff, that you get your voice mails via e-mail and can check them anywhere.
    One downside that I have noticed, and maybe you have a solution Jeff, is that transfers from secretary to the 4 extensions we have are sometimes dropped.

  3. Ooma just contacted me to do a review, but I haven’t had a landline in over 8 years. Now polling my contributors to see if any of them have one. So far, the most-common response is “a land what?”

  4. I use Google Voice as my primary office number. I becomes a “land line” with the Obi Talk device. But effective 5/15/14, Google is eliminating that type of service. I really like the way Google Voice integrates for use on my cellphone. And I get voicemails and texts of messages. Plus, when the office phone rings and I’m out of the office, it forwards automatically to my cellphone. It seems that Ooma can do all of this, and they will port my Google Voice number. Am I missing something or does this seem like the way to go?

      • Any follow up to this?? I, somehow, despite considering myself well read, just figured out that my obibox is not going to work starting tomorrow and now I am struggling to keep my fax working. HELP me, Droid Lawyer!

        • You’re probably much too limited on time to make significant adjustments, but I haven’t heard any official announcements.

          My guess (hope) is that Google will delay the cutoff like the Obama administration delayed the ACA.

          • Yeah I don’t really see any reason for them to delay it, since they don’t care that they’re screwing up my free fax machine haha I am just going to have to deal without an incoming fax machine until I figure this out I suppose.

              • Google giveth and Google taketh away. I went out the night of the 14th and bought a just in case ooma telo. I also ordered a GVmate that is supposed to be here next week. I am preparing for the carpet to be ripped out from underneath me.

  5. I am trying to make a switch. Been using Magic Jack with my Panasonic digital phone system. MJ does not work with fax machines and they removed the call hunt feature. Really concerned about missing calls while on the phone with other clients and really want some way for the call to ring another line

  6. Hey, great post!
    Just to make sure, am about to buy 3 Avaya 5410 for my Ooma! This is the same phone you used, right? No adapters needed? I wasn’t sure if the Avaya is a required analog phone or an IP phone, Thanks!

  7. Great article, Jeff! I’m looking at the reverse of this – we currently have Ooma Office and I don’t have any complaints – it’s a good system. But I’m looking at Fonality because our CRM Integrates with it. Any comments re: voice quality differences between the two? We’re only a 3-man shop, so I know it’s probably overkill. Don’t see too many articles about Fonality online though.

  8. Hi. I work for Ooma, we have new and better pricing structure. Also, we have working solution to Google numbers. If anyone is interested in a quote or more info on Ooma Office for your business please email me. Ryan.Wilson@Ooma.com

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.