It is no secret that communication is key to survival for small business. The advantage to small busineses of using a VoIP solution is that the market is very competitive. While there are relatively few companies from which to choose for normal phone service, many VoIP providers will gladly offer VoIP phone service at a very competitive rate and with unlimited long distance.
But….you need to do your homework first.
Phone service features indispensable to your business, such as voicemail, conferencing and call waiting, allow business to flow smoothly and efficiently. So….how do you decide if a VoIP solution is best for your business?
One of the first steps when analyzing your current service is to decide what features your business needs. Does it need multiple lines to accommodate the sales force? What about a toll free number for customer service? Make a list of all the features your office uses and think about others you might want to try.
The next step is to make an estimate of all intrastate (in- state), interstate (state-to-state) and international calls. An easy way to estimate these numbers is to view a recent phone bill. You might be surprised at how large or small your call volume actually is. If you rely heavily on fax machines, consider the number of incoming and outgoing faxes. As you review these numbers, remember to consult growth projections for the rest of the year.
Once you’ve done all this…you’re ready to go comparison shopping.
Here’s some resources to help you do that:
VoIPReview does a good job comparing feature sets from each of the providers. Its user reviews seem a bit skewed, but otherwise the site looks good.
ZDNet usually has objective reviews. Read through its commentary on any of the providers you are considering.
Broadband reports has a specific area for review by users…with a regularly updated scoring system. It’s often skewed with a tad bit of emotion….and reviews are mostly residential. But it does give you an idea for business use.* Google
I’m sure most of you already do this, but once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for, perform a search on companies on Google to see what others have said about it.
If you’re willing to do a bit more work, contact various providers and create your own comparison chart. You can begin your research by visiting voipreview.org. The site offers VoIP facts and reviews of various broadband phone service providers. Compare the business plans for different providers and research the various features offered with each plan. Also, make sure your current Internet connection can handle VoIP calls. The Web site testyourvoip.com [http://www.testyourvoip.com] will evaluate and score your Internet connection. You’ll know if it makes sense to run your phone traffic over your broadband connection.
Here is a list and description of the top ten (supposedly) VoIP providers (includes home plans for telecommuter staff).
Axvoice has many plans for you to sign up. Unlimited call to USA/Canada plan costs $ 18.99 per month. Unlimited international & USA/Canada plan costs $29.99. Axvoice also has business plan starting from $ 39.99 per month.
INVIVNI has three plans, Residentials, Small Office, and Business. The Residential plan costs $24.95 per month. The Small Office plan costs $32.95 per month, and the Business plan costs is negotiable.
VCInetwork has three plans, Unlimited Long Distance :Home, Unlimited Long Distance: Business and 500 minutes to USA/Canada and Europe. Unlimited Long Distance : Home plan costs $28.95 per month. Unlimited Long Distance : Business plan costs $49.95 per month and 500 minutes to USA/Canada and Europe plan costs $14.50 per month.
Skype is famous for their slogan, “The Whole World can Talk for Free”. Skype is a free download and users can make free calls via, Skype to Skype. For a fee, you can advance your Skype to Skype Out and make calls to landline phones. Skype In will let your choose your area code and phone number. This way, friends and relatives can call you locally, if you select the same area code. Skype is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Pocket Pc operating systems. Not really a good business solution.
Probably the most well known VoIP providers, you may be surprised to discover that Vonage is also one of the more expensive providers. Vonage offers two plans, residential and small business. Residential users may choose between the Basic 500 plan and Unlimited. The Basic 500 plan offers 500 minutes of talk time for $14.99 a month. The Premium Unlimited residential plan costs $24.99 per month.
The Small Business Basic plan costs $39.99 per month and allows 1500 minutes. The Small Business Unlimited plan costs $49.99 a month and provides unlimited calls throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.
Dialpad and Yahoo have merged services. Currently, Dialpad offers three plans- Dialpad Monthly 300, Dialpad Monthly 500, and Dialpad USA. The cost for Dialpad Monthly 300 is $7.50 per month, Dialpad Monthly 500 costs $9.99 per month, and Dialpad USA costs $11.99 per month.
– Broadvox Direct
Broadvox Direct offers residential and small business services. Their residential services include the Residential Choice Plus plan for $9.95 per month. The Residential Choice Plus plan includes 100 outbound minutes and unlimited incoming minutes. Their Residential Unlimited Plan costs $29.95 a month and includes unlimited calling anywhere in the US and Canada. The SoHo Small Business Regional Plan costs $34.95 per month and includes 1500 monthly minutes in the US and in Canada. The SoHo Small Business Unlimited Plan costs $44.95 per month and includes unlimited calls in the US and Canada and also includes a free fax line and Yellow Page listing.
– Galaxy Voice
Galaxy Voice offers two plans, Residential and Business. Their residential plan costs $19.95 a month and includes unlimited calling, Voicemail, Caller Id, Call Waiting, Call Return, Three Way Calling, and Call Forwarding. Their business plan costs $39.95 per month and includes unlimited calling, Free Voice Mail, Free Call Transfer, Free Call Forwarding, Free Repeat Dialing, and Free Caller ID block.
– Voice Pulse
Voice Pulse has three plans, America Unlimited, Local Unlimited +200, and Business Unlimited. The America Unlimited plan costs $24.99 per month. The Local Unlimited +200 costs $14.99 per month, and the Business Unlimited costs $45.99 per month.- VoIP American
VoIP American has three different plans. These are the VoIP American PBX plan, the VoIP American Voice plan and the VoIP American bVoice plan. The VoIP American PBX plan cost $19.99 a month for a private line and $44.99 a month for unlimited calling. The VoIP Voice Residential Basic plan costs $14.99 per month and the VoIP Voice Residential Unlimited plan costs $29.99 per month. The bVoice Business plan costs $34.99 per month.
– Packet 8
Packet 8 not only offers phone plans, but they also offer videophone plans. Their residential plans are the Freedom International and Freedom Unlimited. Both of these plans cost $19.99 per month. [note: currently they’re running a special for $9.95 per month for your 1st 3 months.] The Videophone plan is the Freedom Unlimited and that too is $19.99 per month. Their business plans consists of three different plans. These are the Virtual Office service plans, the Virtual Attendant Service plans, and the Business Phone Service plans. The Virtual office phone plan costs $39.95 per month, the Virtual Attendant service plan costs $14.95 per month, and the Business Attendant service plan costs $34.95 per month.
– Sun Rocket
Sun Rocket offers their signature service for either $24.95 per month or $199.00 per year.
Speakeasy offers many different plans ranging from Home Office, Small Office I, Small Office II, and Small Business. Their Home Office plan costs 79.90 per month, the Small Office I plan costs $560.00 per month, the Small Office II plan costs 1,039 per month and the Small Business plan costs $2,349 per month.
Analyzing phone service is often a real headache. However, unreliable line quality, which results in poor customer service and huge monthly bills are even worse. In the end, doing your research will pay dividends for your business. Personally, I have no reservations recommending Packet8 for your business VoIP solution right now. However, go through the above steps first for your own peace of mind…..you’ll likely reach the same conclusion.