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VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a service that routes phone calls over a high-speed Internet connection. It is one of the fastest growing Internet-related services for individuals and businesses for the past decades. Small business VoIP plans offer a cheaper option for making multiple phone calls and long distance calls. Another advantage of VoIP for individuals and businesses, is that they can bypass bills from the telephone company. VoIP customers can also have one bill for their phone, fax and Internet needs just by expanding their Internet bandwidth.
Small business VoIP plans can be delivered in three ways from a provider:
1) Through ATA (analog telephone adaptor) - This way works with a physical box that gets connected to your telephone through one side, and your high-speed Internet connection such as a DSL, cable on the other. These adaptors, along with the relevant software, are usually provided for free from the VoIP provider. This method is by far the easiest and most commonly used on the market today.
2) Through IP phone - Similar to ATA, IP phones have a handset, dialer and cradle, but instead are connected to an Ethernet jack (RJ-45) instead of a telephone jack.
3) PC-to-PC - This method requires the provider's software, which is usually free. It also requires a computer with a sound card, microphone, and speakers to use a PC like a telephone. Skype is an example of this type of VoIP.
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Choosing the Right VOIP for Your Small Business
When choosing between small business VoIP plans, consider the price, features and needs of the business. While each criteria is equally important, one may be more crucial than another. For instance, a small business that is just starting out may want the absolutely cheapest plan for phone and Internet as possible.
Price - Most companies have some kind of monthly service charge for their VoIP plan. For plans with limited minutes, there would be a base fee, taxes and service charges in addition to the overage charge for minutes. On the other hand, if the business doesn't utilize long distance or the telephone frequently than limited minute plans are okay. For those looking for the cheapest solution, there are new plans (less known) popping up which offer pay-as-you-go but most of these are currently for individuals.
Features - Companies should look for basic features offered by a traditional phone company such as caller ID, call waiting, 3-way calling, voicemail, speed dial, 311, 911 and international calling. In addition, VoIP plans also offer efaxing (faxes to emails), global calling without typing in more digits, toll-free phone numbers and the ability to keep your own telephone phone number.
Needs - depending on business needs, you should compare and shop around for the pricing and features that you need. For businesses that use the telephone calling heavily, look for unlimited minutes for local and long distance in addition to other useful features like toll-free numbers, efaxing and voicemail.
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Phone Power (started 2005)
Phone Power offer a home/small business package for $14.95/24 month contract and a large business package for $16.95/12-month contract. Both packages feature basic caller ID, call waiting, 3-way calling and voicemail. There are 45 additional features offered for the large business package including speed dial, 60 free international minutes per month to select countries, 311, enhanced 911 and do not disturb messages. The feature page at Phone Power offers a page of each feature in the complete (large business) package that you can click on and get an explanation. They also have a person-to-person help support 7 days a week. There is no setup fee for either business plan but there is a cancellation fee. The company will lease you an ATA adaptor for free in addition to a USB travel adaptor to use their service on your PC.
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ITP (Internet Telephone Provider) - since 2005
There are no contracts with ITP and so you can cancel at anytime with no cancel fee. ITP has three monthly plans - Basic ($9.99), Premium Unlimited ($19.99) - recommended for small businesses and global unlimited ($24.99) - recommended for larger businesses. All plans include the standard call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, 3-way calling and voicemail. The basic plan gives your unlimited incoming calls but 500 minutes of outgoing call. With Premium you get unlimited incoming and outgoing calls with the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. The Global Unlimited gives you unlimited incoming and outgoing calls in the U.S. and 60 countries. Other international calls are charged monthly on a per call rate.
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Vonage Corporation (since 2002)
Vonage does not have contracts so you can terminate anytime with no cancel fees. The company ships a free adapter with software for all plans. There are 3 plans for businesses to consider - Basic 500 ($17.99/month - 500 minutes for incoming and outgoing calls with a rate of 3.9 cents for each additional), Vonage World ($14.99 for first 3 months and $24.99/month afterwards) and Vonage Pro ($34.99/month). The Vonage World plan includes unlimited minutes for incoming and outgoing calls with free international calls to Canada, Puerto Rico. Other international calls cost 5 cents per minute. Vonage Pro has unlimited minutes with free international calls to Canada, Puerto Rico, Italy, France, Spain, UK and Ireland. Other calls cost 1 cent per minute. All plans feature basic features such as caller ID, call waiting and 3-way calling. All plans except for Basic 500 offer voicemail. Vonage Pro offers voicemail transcripts sent by text to your cellphone or to your email. Vonage Pro also offers a free Vonage Companion program which lets you use Vonage on any computer when on the road.
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Pay As You Go VoIP Service and Solutions - http://www.voipvoip.com/pay-as-you-go/
Phone Power - http://www.phonepower.com/services/voip/products.aspx
ITP (Internet Telephone Provider) - http://www.itp4you.com
Vonage - http://www.vonage.com
Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons
All other images courtesy of relevant companies.