Comparing VoIP Providers For Small Business Solutions

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:

* VoIP Comparison Reviews

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 Reviews

ZDNet usually has objective reviews. Read through its commentary on any of the providers you are considering.

* Broadband Reports

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

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

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

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

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.

– Vonage

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

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

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.

Business VoIP – Tips For Evaluating a VoIP Small Business Solution

Is the VoIP System Scalable?
When you are analyzing a new VoIP phone system you need to make sure the solution is scalable. By scalable we mean can you easily add phones and take away phones without incurring extra costs. Hosted VoIP PBX systems are excellent options here because they allow you to do just that. If you purchase a hosted PBX you will be able to cancel and add lines and add and remove VoIP phones easily. While some plans do differ, this is usually a big benefit. This can be more difficult with a premise based system, which may require you to purchases equipment to cope with growth.How is the Systems QOS?
No matter what solution you are evaluating this is a big one. QOS stands for Quality of Service, and all business VoIP solutions need to be put to this test. The main issue here is that not all small business phone systems offer the level of service you want to represent your business. When you are picking a solution, you should test the service first. You can also interview previous customers or look at the company’s testimonials section to make sure they have good reviews. In addition, when you are selecting your service it is important to confirm with the company that they offer a high QOS in your particular area. This is important to keep in mind because some business VoIP providers specialize in certain regions.

Does the Service Provider Have a Sweet Spot?
Many VoIP providers can only support small installations. They may only be able to cope with 20 seats per company. Make sure you know what the provider is capable of. If they usually only sell 5 seats and you have 400 employees they may not be the right business VoIP solution for you.How is the Customer Service?
In this day in age quality customer service is vital, especially in the VoIP world. If your phone system goes down for one reason or another you want to make sure your service provider is there waiting with open arms, ready and willing to help for no additional charge. When picking a business VoIP provider, make sure there customer service is up to your standards. Talk to a past customer or call customer service and see what a normal wait time is. Overall, make sure the company is responsive to your needs.

Small Business Solutions: Virtual PBX Phone Systems (Main Benefits For Using Them With Your Company)

Small business is the lifeblood of any healthy economy. Each day around the world countless small companies and home offices are started as entrepreneurs follow their dreams to create better conditions for themselves and their families. This is nothing new, the same scenario has been playing out for centuries and it won’t stop any time soon.

However, while the scenario may be the same, there is one little addition which makes all the difference. That addition is the Internet or the World Wide Web.
Small businesses starting today have the whole world at their disposal. Unlike in the not so distant past, your customers do not have to be within walking or driving distance, they can be from anywhere on the globe.

Obviously, this addition brings a whole new dynamic to any business or home office, especially when one considers more and more business is done online these days. However, it is just not sales transactions we are talking about here, the Internet also provides many new services and products which the small business man or woman can take full advantage of as they set up shop.One perfect example of these new “in the cloud” services is a virtual PBX phone system. Instead of using a traditional “landline” phone system, many new companies are opting for a web based VOIP phone system. Using a virtual PBX (Private Branch Exchange) for one’s business or home office does have many benefits and these types of online services have been growing swiftly in popularity in recent years.

Here are some of the main benefits of using a PBX phone system:

Almost Instant Installation

For many small companies, virtual PBX offers almost instant installation as everything can be managed through remote servers and your current smartphones. Within seconds, you can have your company phone number(s) setup and running.

Much Cheaper Start-up Costs

Since everything can be managed through the web and your current mobile phones, there is no need for costly installation of landlines and a hard-wired phone system. This can save money, especially at start-up when monies and resources can be tight.

Low Monthly Fee

Usually there is one low monthly fee which will also help keep operating expenses in check. Since this is a web-based phone system, phone calls will be cheaper – especially any long distance calls. These overall savings makes going with a virtual PBX phone system perfect economic sense for small companies and home offices.

Robust Feature Rich Phone System

Virtual systems do offer many extra features which will enhance any office setting. These features include such things as call forwarding, video conferencing, voice mail, online fax, office intercom… and even a virtual secretary. All these extra features will also make doing business much easier since you will be open 24/7 and can be reached from anywhere. All these added features give any business (no matter how small) the professional “feel” of a big company – first impressions do matter.

Total Integration

Perhaps one of the best benefits of using a virtual phone system is the full integration it offers. All your business communications can be fully integrated into your whole computer network or operations. This can make it much easier to file documents, sales transactions, company records… and so on. Take, for example, online fax which is usually a feature of these systems – all your important, timely faxes can be sent to all departments simultaneously so this means everyone will be on the same page. Fully integrating all your phone messages/communications will simply make any company more efficient.Going Fully Mobile

Lastly, in case you haven’t noticed, everything these days have gone “mobile” crazy. We have truly become a totally wireless society, one which is connected around the clock, regardless of where you may be located. Obviously, for anyone running a business, you and your company simply must be plugged into this wireless mobile world if you truly want to compete in today’s dog-eat-dog business climate. Using a web-based PBX phone system is a convenient, low-cost way of plugging your company into this virtual world, but like all business decisions, this is your call?