VoIP buying guide for small business

Ready to throw Ma Bell from the train? Allow us to lend you a hand. We discuss the pros and cons of VoIP, and offer a look at options.

By Brad Chacos, PC World |  Unified Communications, voip

If you need only a single line and want cheap calling, but don't require all the bells and whistles associated with a business line, you might be able to get by with a residential VoIP plan, which you can find for as little as $5 per month for unlimited nationwide calling. Be aware, however, that the terms of use for consumer-focused plans typically forbid using the line for commercial activities. Most providers also have stringent fair-use policies, so you might run into trouble if your residential line rings off the hook day in and day out.

VoIP Negatives

VoIP's most significant drawback is that if your Internet service or your power goes out, so does your VoIP service. Hosted services skirt around this issue by bumping incoming calls to voicemail automatically, or by rerouting calls to your mobile phone, in the event of a service disruption; but that doesn't change the fact that you won't be able to make or receive calls from your office phones in such a situation.

Another disadvantage involves emergency calling: Many VoIP providers don't offer 911 service, and the ones that do tend to charge extra for it or impose high base-subscription fees. This problem and the risk of a service disruption are the two main reasons why most providers suggest retaining a basic, traditional phone line to augment your VoIP service.

Most VoIP services offer unlimited calling in the United States and Canada, but connecting to mobile phones or special lines (such as free conference-call services) might incur an extra charge. Reaching foreign locales can be iffy at times, especially if you're calling a less-prominent country. On the plus side, the per-minute rates tend to be very competitive. If you make international calls on a frequent basis, you should read the fine print before subscribing to any service.

Finally, although VoIP voice quality typically rivals that of a landline or a good mobile phone connection, your network quality can seriously affect call quality. If you have a slow, spotty, or crowded network, audio quality can suffer greatly--or even drop out in a worst-case scenario.

Next Page: VoIP Service Comparisons

VoIP Service Comparisons

Let's take a brief look at three of the dozens of VoIP services available, starting with a relatively straightforward offering and ramping up the complexity (and flexibility) from there.

A Basic Service


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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