It would be a stretch to say that VOIP has revolutionized the way we do business – but it has definitely improved it. VOIP, or Voice over IP, is digital telephone. It’s the technology that popular free services, like Skype and Google Phone, are built on. For business applications, which typically require more robust capability and features, there are a number of VOIP service providers available – often at competitive prices. But what sets these different providers apart, and what should you look for?
What VOIP Does
Out of the box, VOIP basically does what regular telephones used to: allow instant communication around the world including conference calls with many participants. However, VOIP technology allows these services much less expensively than traditional phone lines. This is because phone companies have to charge per-call and greatly increase the rates for international or long distance calls. The farther a call has to travel on physical wire, the higher it traditionally costs – especially if it has to make the jump to satellite. In addition, even basic business phone lines are expensive – typically $50-$60 per month, per line.
VOIP calls use the internet instead. Most companies (like most internet users generally) have a plan that pays a fixed fee for service; as long as the bandwidth can handle demand, it’s covered by the service. And there is no need to pay for business phone lines.
Thus, VOIP is a significantly cheaper option for bulk users like most businesses.
What You Need
A good VOIP business service will include:
A flexible plan. You should have unlimited minutes and unlimited long distance for typical business use. Be sure to check each company’s fair use policy. You should also have a set phone number or numbers that are yours for keeps; it makes it easier to set up meetings. Additional services can carry extra charges, but many of them will be worth it for business users.
Simple setup. There should be no hassle in adding VOIP to your office. If you have internet you should be able to add any devices, such as a VOIP conference phone, easily. Your VOIP system should be compatible with and interface with conventional phones so people can call you any way they like.
Features. Many features are possible with VOIP service, but some should come standard. These include conference calling, routing to non-VoIP phones, voicemail for every user, and departmental routing to teams like sales and support. Your VOIP should be compatible with services like caller ID, and may also include its own virtual 911 service.
Good service and support. Don’t just look at price and features, but reviews of customer service and what support is offered. All business tools should come with accessible user support in case there’s ever a snag with the service.
There are many different VOIP service providers focusing on business clients. A careful comparison of what they offer should make the decision easy.
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