Tips for SMBs when Choosing VoIP Providers – Navigating the many VoIP choices on the market can be difficult. Here are some tips to help find the best solution for your company.

1. If you are more than a sole consultant or one person shop, consider a true phone system (either a Key System or a full PBX). Phone systems deliver a huge savings lever called "line leverage," in which one business line can be used to support 2 or 3 phones. This cuts the monthly cost of the phone line per person by 50% or 66%! Phone systems used to only be available to businesses with at least 15 to 20 employees, but new technology makes systems available to businesses with even fewer employees, giving them the opportunity for additional savings.

2. If you need to buy new phones to take advantage of new technology, look for a deal. They're out there. Some providers will give you a discount on the equipment if you are willing to sign up for a 2 or 3 year contract. Others will provide you financing, just like the car companies do to purchase a new car. Small businesses should be able to avoid large upfront equipment charges.

3. Beware of hidden installation fees. Buying a new phone system can come with a truck and an installation technician, who can charge you anywhere from $100 to $1,000 to install your equipment. There are systems available from value-conscious retailers like Costco Wholesale that don’t require this. Don't spend money you don't need to.

4. Take advantage of the new technology. Traditionally, it costs $100 per phone to install wiring in your home or office. Then, if you want to change the location of your phone, you have to pay the fee again! New wireless technology allows you to avoid this charge by buying a simple $35 wireless adapter, so you can put your business phone anywhere you want it.

5. When buying a rate plan, make sure to shop for a good unlimited long distance plan. Paying per minute charges is not something you should be doing in 2009, except for international calls. Even then, shop for competitive rates, as there are alternative providers that charge a fraction of what traditional telephone companies charge.

Doug Johnson is CEO of Telanetix

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