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8×8 review: Business comms done right

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £10
inc VAT

This unified communications platform is inexpensive to set up, and has plenty of options for growing organisations


  • Competitive pricing
  • Logical unified interface
  • Seemingly no feature overlooked


  • No price reduction for longer entry-level subscriptions

8×8’s offering isn’t merely VoIP, but a rich communications platform encompassing telephony, videoconferencing, presence and chat, for business users and call centres.

Its technology is entirely coded in-house, but that doesn’t mean you’re locked in to only using its tools. You can integrate the telephony component with Microsoft Teams, the chat engine with Slack, and the system as a whole with third-party CRM suites such as Salesforce and ZohoCRM. Some integrations are out-of-the-box, while others are handled using APIs, to produce a flexible product that should play nicely with your existing tools.

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What do you get for the money?

The entry-level Express tier costs £10 per user per month, for which you get access to mobile, desktop and web apps, unlimited UK calling, voicemail, hold music, team messaging, a basic auto attendant and HD audio and videoconferencing. Express is capped at five users, but should offer everything a micro business needs to upgrade its communications using apps or handsets, plus conferencing and chat.

Upgrading to the X2 tier, at £25 per user per month, lets you enrol an unlimited number of users, make unlimited voice calls to 14 countries, including Australia, the US and much of western Europe, and deploy more advanced telephony features, such as call queues. It also supports presence detection, document sharing, internet fax, business essentials such as single sign-on and analytics, and public or private streaming of meetings to YouTube. Beyond this, X4, at £47 per user per month, adds receptionist tools and more advanced analytics.

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Sign up for a year rather than a month, and the X2 and X4 prices drop to £19 and £36 per user per month respectively, although there’s no reduction for doing the same on Express. That said, at £10 per user per month, Express is already excellent value.

How easy is it to set up?

Onboarding is handled well, for both the admin console and users’ own dashboards.

When using the console to set up your first user, the system asks if you’d like some help: click yes and you’ll be walked through the steps involved in claiming your first number or porting existing numbers to the service. Rather neatly, if you want a particular digit sequence in your number, you can restrict what it offers so you’re only shown lines starting or ending with the specified combination.

Once reserved, numbers can be set as a shared Caller ID, which could be useful if you want to share internal lines or make sure missed calls always ring back to one specific number.

Similarly, the first time you log in to 8×8 Work, which is the interface through which you manage your calls, chats and conferences, it walks you through a 21-step familiarisation process – although you can skip this if you’re already au fait. If you need to add VoIP desk phones to your account, you can do this via auto provisioning, which downloads firmware from the 8×8 server and walks you through the setup process on the handset itself.

Onboarding is well handled, with plenty of assistance.

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How do calling and conferencing work?

The telephony interface will be immediately familiar, even if your only experience of VoIP is consumer products such as Skype. You can dial out using an onscreen keypad, or click your contacts to place calls or start video sessions. Incoming calls can ring the 8×8 app or be routed to alternate destinations such as a desk phone, mobile or voicemail. Much of this can be automated, with the dashboard giving options for redirecting calls on the basis of status – for example, redirecting to other team members when your own extension is busy, or to a mobile if your internet connection has gone down. Your status can be set automatically – so, to “busy” when your connected calendar shows that you’re in a meeting, for example – or manually from a drop-down menu in the 8×8 interface.

For many organisations, the simplest solution to handling out-of-reach staff might just be to send a call to voicemail, in which case the recording can optionally be delivered by email, along with a written transcript on the X2 tier and above.

Calls can also be recorded, with admins having control over whether this happens always, on an ad hoc basis, or not at all. There are legal factors to consider when recording calls, so the system can be set to automatically play out a recorded notification before callers are put through.

You can set the system to automatically notify callers if you’re recording the call.

If you do record your calls, files are kept on the 8×8 system for 30 days by default, but this can be increased to as long as ten years if required. If you take this option, only the most recent 30 days of recordings or chat transcripts will be available for immediate access; the rest are archived to cold storage and available on request. Alternatively, you could download your recordings to a local archive, either manually or automatically via an API.

Video conferences can also be recorded, and automated subtitling provides an easy way to generate transcripts. The usual features such as hand raising and polls are all present, and there’s capacity for up to 100 participants in any meeting on an Express licence, and 500 on X2 or X4. Beyond that, video can be live-streamed to YouTube on X2 and X4 for webinars, training, open meetings and so on. The easiest way to take part in a conference will often be through the browser, but 8×8 also offers global dial-in numbers for participants who prefer an audio feed by phone.

All the while, the system gathers metrics, not only on who attended, but who contributed most to the meeting. These feed into a rich set of analytics, which are updated the whole time the system is in use – not only when running a conference.

What’s going on behind the scenes?

Reports allow managers to keep an eye on how staff are using the system, who is picking up most often in call groups, how long incoming callers are waiting before being answered, and even the quality of each connection. This last point will be particularly useful when diagnosing connection issues, as it logs not only the kind of connection, lost packets, jitter and so on, but which software client was being used, all of which can help when remedying problems or reporting them to 8×8 for support.

Reports can be exported in a variety of formats, or sent on a schedule so that even users who don’t have direct access through the underlying console can receive them by email. In many cases, the data can also be exported for further analysis in PowerBI.

Elsewhere, user management is a strong point, with the option to organise records by department or, for multisite operations, by location. If you’re working across more than one site, each can have its own administrator in addition to any company-wide admins, and the company phone book can be filtered on either a department or site basis, too, to strip down the number of possible hits. You can use Active Directory to set up users, hosted calendars on Outlook and Google for automated status setting, and online address books for importing contacts (which can also be done using exported files if more convenient).

If you opt for an X4 licence, managers can listen in on calls and, if necessary, give spoken guidance that the call handler will hear – but the caller won’t. This will be particularly useful for helping with problem callers or during staff training when, if necessary, managers can take over the call should the handler run into problems.

Naturally, not every user will need access to all features, so it’s possible to mix and match licences within an organisation. The bulk of a business’s users might find their needs met by an entry-level licence, which would restrict how much of the control panel they can touch while giving full access to calling, conferencing and what might elsewhere be a bolt-on feature, such as call recording. A limited number of X4 licences, meanwhile, would give administrators access to every feature, including the ability to dictate which optional functions, such as specific parts of the back-end console, lower-grade users can access. The ability to deploy a variety of licences this way should help organisations keep costs under control, and allow them to tailor their users’ abilities on a granular basis.

Account settings are managed through the well-organised Admin Console.

Should you buy it?

If you’re a small business, it’s a yes. The Express tier’s £10 per user per month isn’t much to pay for a flexible, feature-rich platform that unifies the three most important communications tools (voice, video, chat) and bundles free UK calls. The fact you also get 30 days free to test it out means there’s little to be lost in giving it a go.

Opt for a more advanced tier – X2 or X4 – and you’ll need to chat to 8×8 to get set up, but that’s no bad thing, as you can discuss individual requirements, find an appropriate combination of user licences for your organisation, and be sure you’re not paying more than you need to.

The £19 per user per month you’ll pay for an X2 licence compares favourably with, say, the £18 a month you’ll pay on Sipgate’s business L tier. 8×8 offers similar calling features to Sipgate while also rolling in videoconferencing and chat, both of which are becoming increasingly important with the shift to hybrid working and distributed teams.

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