If you're a small business owner, now is the time to look at VoIP, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol. The concept is to use the Internet for your business phone needs. You need to have a good, wide broadband Internet connection to use this service, which can save you tons of money, especially if you regularly make international and long-distance calls.
As you review VoIP systems, check out these tips to keep you on the right track:
Educate yourself about VoIP. The more you know, the more you're likely to understand VoIP reviews, which can get very technical. There are many sources of good information online, such as the Federal Communication Commission website at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/voip.pdf
Make a list of your business needs. Examples of common needs are: good sound quality, conference calling and the need to communicate with off-site offices that that could even be overseas. You may put the list on a spreadsheet, so that you don't forget anything and use the columns for VoIP service providers. When they meet a requirement, you can put an 'x' on that column.
Budget your VoIP purchase. You don't need to change all your equipment to VoIP, but you need to have a budget to allow you to review similar services for your small business. Usually your cheapest option is the "hosted" service, where the provider manages and maintains the "heart" of the system. Using this setup can save you in IT costs. Based on a set budget you can review your options and find the right product and service for your business.
Talk to other businesses that currently have VoIP systems. Learn from their experiences. You may ask if they would recommend their current services. Word of mouth from users is your most reliable source of information. Find discussion groups online that you could request recommendations from, but beware that many users work for certain firms, and you may not get objective opinions or suggestions regarding products or services.
Check out VoIP reviews in magazines and online. Be sure that the reviews you're looking at are unbiased and objective, not websites that advertise their own products. You could look at reviews from Information Week, business journals and other sources of information about VoIP online. Use Bing or Google to search for systems you're interested in and then read reviews and other information carefully -- you want to read about problems as well as advantages of the system to get reliable information on them.
Consider well-established firms. Be sure that your VoIP provider is reputable, experienced and is in business for the long run. You don’t want to contract out with a fly-by-night company that won't be able to give you the kind of service you need, when you need it. To make sure this firm has a good reputation, ask for names and phone numbers of current customers, so that you can contact them before making your final decision. You can also get a review report on the VoIP provider from the Better Business Bureau, which you can access online at http://www.bbb.org.
Many small businesses are taking advantage of VoIP to fit their communication needs. VoIP is easy to install, and is an affordable solution for businesses with remote offices. As your business grows, VoIP allows for easy new phone installation and maintenance. VoIP is not just for the big guys - you can take advantage of it too.
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