VoIP is a transparent technology that will allow you too use the Internet instead of phone wires.  This means you are no longer bound by the phone company or specific wires tied to your number.  Anywhere you can get *good* internet access you can plug in your phone (or phone adapter) and get phone service to your phone number.  There are several different kinds of VoIP.  The cheapest being “Magic Jack”.  We do NOT recommend Magic Jack.  This article is focused on professional business service for small business or home use.  If you are looking to get a single line with NO automated voicemail system (Auto Attendant) for home use, then there are some services you can get that are cheep (Like Net Talk) and will work with a “Analog Telephone Adapter”.  Analog Telephone Adapters can be handy because they will convert a VoIP connection to be used with any standard household cordless phone.  They are also available with professional service.

 


Pro & Cons to VoIP

Advantages…

  • You get an Auto-Attendant with a programmable phone tree included.  This makes your company look very professional at a very low cost.  You can have phonemail boxes with address/location, dial by extension directory, Fax Info, Q&A Information.. etc..
  • Different phone-mail auto-attendant trees/options for specified business hours and off-business hours.
  • Each phone line/extension for about $35 ($35 a month) comes with…
    • Unlimited usage
    • local calls to US & Canada
    • Each phone extension gets its own phone number as well as extension number.
    • Web interface to call history, call media, faxes (If you add on that feature), dialer for your phone that can use your google contact list.
    • Call-waiting (or 2 line)
    • Phone extension (with call transfer ect)
    • DND ( Do Not Disturb)
  • Most places you plug your phone into a high speed Internet connection it will work.  When you get calls the phone will ring and you can make outbound calls.  The phones will all act as though they are in the same office.  This works very well for satellite offices or for people who want their office to be very portable.
  • You can create ring groups where multiple line will ring at once.  Who ever picks up the phone first gets the call.  Each ring group gets its own voicemail box for messages
  • For $15 ($35 a month) you can get a Virtual phone extension that will forward to your Cellphone.  Allowing you to add your cellphone into the ring groups.
  • For $15 ($35 a month) you can add on a virtual fax line that has NO page by page fee and can receive  unlimited faxes (Limited storage but it auto purges).  This has eMail notification as well as a fax manager through any flash enabled web browser.
  • If you get a Phone Adapter ($35 a month) you can usually use a standard fax machine to send and receive faxes.
  • You can port your existing phone numbers over and use them as you trunk number, Fax number or a phone extension number.
  • There are actually many more advantages however I only listed the more requested/desired ones.

Disadvantages…

  • If your internet goes off line you will lose your phone service and need to switch to cell phones as a backup.  (The Auto-Attendant and Voice-mail will still and always work)
  • Often when you first get this setup there are lots of little glitches to work through.
  • You need to have a router that supports QoS (Quality of Service) and configure it to give your phones priority over your network/internet.
  • If you start having any kind of Internet connection issues your phone connection will likely suffer.
  • Unless you are using a Phone Adapter you must use an IP (Internet) based phone (See advantages).
  • There are a whole list of issues with faxing….
    • It is possible to get an analog phone adapter working with a fax line but this can be a struggle with some fax machines or weak internet connections.
    • The service we use 8×8 has a nice inbound virtual fax service that eMails you the faxes as a PDF.  However,  sending faxes require you log-in to a web interface and attach the fax by browsing to it.  This becomes a problem if you are sending many faxes or have multiple people faxing through one fax line.
    • Outbound faxes are put into a queue that can take hours or days before they are finally delivered (depends on current usage).
    • There are services that will allow you to print to fax but they charge by the page and 8×8 does not support this feature.
  • IP Phones require you have a thick networking cable run into them.
  • There is a pretty big learning curb setting up the phone mail tree in the Auto-Attendant.  (We help service contract clients with this as long as they purchase the service through our sales representative.
  • The “Soft-phone” is full of bugs and glitches that the company does not fix or takes years to fix.  If you go into this expecting that you will still find as far as “bang for buck” goes you still get to do lots of cool things.
  • As an example of the above you can automatically record your calls and then go back and search, download play them back by phone number later.  The glitch is they charge you when you have more then a set limit of storage.  This would not be a problem if they auto-purged old calls but they do not.  So if you forget to log-in and delete old recordings every few weeks you will get billed for the extra storage space of the media.

 

Costs…

The below costs are approximated.  The actual end costs may be lower.

  • $30 t0 $50 – To purchase each IP Based 2 line phone (Discounts my require time commitment to service).  There are a number of IP based phones that can do lots of cool things depending on your needs.
  • $50 to purchase a phone adapter so you can use an Analog (Household wireless phone) or regular fax machine.
  • $35 a month for each Unlimited Extension to run to your IP Phone.
  • $15 for a Virtual Fax Line (forwarding to cellphones etc)
  • $25 a month for a fax line to run to a fax machine.