Small business owners need to make lithe business choices in this recovering economy, and one of the best choices they can make is changing over to VoIP phone service. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is the modern phone technology that allows users to make phone calls over the Internet.
VoIP is an extremely cheap and efficient phone solution for small businesses. All VoIP providers offer many customizable options, like scalable extensions and free calling features, so businesses can choose the best VoIP solution for their business. However, it can be tough to know where to start when looking into this new technology, so here are the top 10 reasons that a small business should choose VoIP service for their business:
1. Monthly Cost
Business VoIP providers offer phone service for half the cost that traditional providers offer. Most VoIP providers offer business plans at an average of $20/month per extension. There areoften three main options when it comes to extensions: metered extensions, virtual extensions, and unlimited extensions.
A metered extensions plan is a business VoIP plan that charges by the minute. This is a good option for employees that make just a few calls a day.
A virtual extensions plan is excellent for businesses with a remote workforce. Remote extensions allow people to use their cell phones or other remote phones as office extensions so they can still be reached through the central office directory.
An unlimited extensions plan lets an employee make unlimited calls for a flat monthly rate. No matter which plan a small business choses, VoIP is guaranteed to cost less per month than old fashioned phone service.
2. Unlimited Nationwide Calling
VoIP providers do not charge long distance fees. Other traditional providers charge all sorts of fees for in-nation calling, like local call fees and out-of-state fees. VoIP technology makes it easy to send calls over the Internet so all of those charges are eliminated from the monthly bill.
3. Cheap International Rates
VoIP providers have some of the best international prices available. VoIP calls to most major countries cost only pennies a minute, and many providers offer 60 free international minutes each month.
Many VoIP providers also offer several different international packages to chose from with different minute allotments or included countries, so companies can choose a plan with the right rates and international calling amounts for their particular business needs.
4. Universal Numbers
Universal Numbers is a feature where a user can pick a number with any area code of their choosing. This means that if you work out of New York, but you have many associates in California, you can get a phone number with a local California area code, so your associates won’t need to make a long distance call to reach you.
A company could also get multiple numbers with remote area codes to establish a better local presence in a wide range of geographic areas. If customers can reach you without having to make a long distance call, they are likely to feel more satisfied with your business.
5. More Savings with a Hosted PBX
A PBX (public branch exchange) is the central part of any business telephone system. A PBX connects all office extensions to each other, and to the external phone lines. A traditional PBX is a complex piece of in-house hardware, a switchboard, that requires a technician’s help any time an extension needs to be added or moved.
A hosted PBX is hosted off-site by the business VoIP provider. A hosted PBX directs phone calls to the correct extension number, but it uses the Internet to transfer those calls. One of the best benefits of a hosted PBX over a legacy PBX is that all calls, both incoming and outgoing calls, become cheap Internet calls, which saves the business money.
A hosted PBX is a great choice for any business with multiple lines or extensions, and no in-house tech team to maintain or repair an on-site PBX.
6. Easy Scalability for Remote Employees
Because hosted PBXs are based on cloud technologies, there are essentially no physical restrictions on the PBX. This means that a single hosted PBX system can provide service for multiple office locations in widespread geographic locations.
And it is easy to add or subtract extensions as you need them. You won’t need a technician to come in and arrange wires for you. All you will need to do is call your provider and set up your phones.
7. Extra Free Features
VoIP comes with lots of free extra features that would come at a cost with a traditional phone provider. For instance, most business VoIP providers offer 3-way calling, call forwarding, call blocking, and music on hold.
A small business can use 3-way calling for conference calls between business partners when thinking of new products to create and sale. Calling forwarding is useful when members of the small business team are out of office but still need to take important phone calls. Call blocking is great when the business owner needs to concrete on a new product or conduct a meeting, and music on hold is a pleasant way for customers to wait on the phone before they receive help.
8. 800 Numbers
Some business VoIP providers offer 800 numbers. These 800 numbers are free for the customer to call, which encourages customers to call the business. Rates vary by provider, but many basic 800 plans start at about $5/month per line.
Many VoIP providers have softphone apps that allow customers to use their VoIP service on their computers, tablets, or smartphones. This means that employees can take their VoIP service with them when they need to step away from their desks for whatever reason.
10. 24/7 Monitoring by IT Professionals
Almost all VoIP providers offer 24/7 support, so your network will always have support in the event of any business emergency. Support teams can also help you if you get stuck during setup, need to add or subtract extensions, or need help managing your features.
As small businesses grow, they need phone service that is reliable, cheap, and chalk full of features. Business VoIP phone service is an excellent business partner for any small business looking for big savings, along with impeccable service.
Jennifer Cuellar is a VoIP and technology writer based out of the San Diego, CA area.
VoIP Spear has been operating since 2008 and the site was starting to lose it's sheen, so we decided to do a refresh. At first, we were planning minor changes only, but one thing led to another and, before we knew it, two months of intense programming had passed.
The biggest change is the main chart page. We replaced the old Flash charts with Google charts. More significantly, we're now showing just one time period on the page. The default view is a six hour time period, and it's easy to change that. Also significant, we've broken the three main data points (MOS, packet loss, latency) out into their own charts.
Another welcome change is the My Account page. It now looks more like a dashboard with recent MOS for each endpoint showin in a gauge.
We've made countless other minor changes and fixes.
What do you think? Do you like the new chart presentation? Are the MOS gauges on the My Account page helpful to you?
On January 20, 2013, between 11:00pm and 1:00am EST, we will be performing maintenance on the VoIP Spear web server. As a result, the web site may be unavailable for a period of up to one hour.
Testing results will be unaffected by this maintenance.
VoIP Spear has always included the ability to calculate MOS using the big three codecs of VoIP: G.711, G.723, and G.729. We've recently added support for GSM, G.722, Speex, and iLBC.
VoIP Spear uses the E-Model of computation for estimating MOS from network statistics like packet loss, latency, and jitter. In order to complete the E-model calculations, we need to know some characteristics about each codec. For example, how much does the codec itself degrade voice quality. Another characteristic would be: how does the codec perform under packet loss conditions.
For G.711, G.723, and G.729, it's very easy to find this information because these codecs have been studied a great deal. This isn't the case for Speex and iLBC. It's hard to find information because they are newer codecs and weren't developed by the ITU. As a result, there haven't been many studies that look at these codecs in the context of the E-Model. Nevertheless, we managed to track down a few papers here and there. We're confident our MOS calculations for Speex and iLBC are accurate.
Calculating MOS from G.722 is a different situation altogether. G.722 is a family of codecs (G.722.1, G.722.2) that is available at several different bit rates. In fact, quality is greatly affected by the bit rate that is used. We didn't want to include all of these bit rates because we want VoIP Spear to be easy to use. Also, some of the other codecs (G.723, iLBC) also provide different options for bit rates so we wanted to be consistent.
In the end, the compromise we arrived at was to assume that G.722 is used at 64kbps. Without any impairments caused by the network, this will provide quality better than even G.711.
We hope you enjoy the new codec choices. If you have any other to suggest, let us know.
It's not news that VoIP is becoming more and more mainstream all the time, but it sometimes amazes me how far it's come. I first started up a VoIP company about 9 years ago and VoIP was so far out on the fringes that we would never use that term when speaking to customers.
Today, I came across a blog posting about potential uses for VoIP in a physician's medical practice. Seven Great Applications for IP-PBXs in the Medical Practice is a quick read and worth a few minutes of your time. For me, the most interesting takeaway from the article is that it confirms how far into the mainstream VoIP is when there's articles discussing its uses for such a narrow vertical.
And as VoIP use increases and becomes more commonplace, there will be an increased need for our VoIP Spear monitoring service.
A while back, I noticed a nice little feature about VoIP Spear at VoIP Resources. It's flattering to see a positive review like this.
We're especially pleased that the author of the article really seems to get VoIP Spear. She starts off by describing VoIP QoS problems at a high level. When VoIP Spear is introduced as a tool, the article mentions that one advantage is that it is "no-client side". This is a subtle point that is easy to overlook -- there's no software to install. You can just enter your IP address into the VoIP Spear web site and it will start its monitoring.
The article also mentions that you can view your VoIP QoS results in a chart or table format, and that there are several options with regards to our account packages. About the only the article gets wrong is when it mentions that VoIP Spear servers run tests to the endpoints every 5 minutes. In fact, our servers monitor the endpoints every 1 minute.
In any case, thanks for the great article, Lauren.
My family and I are on holiday in Croatia right now. We're staying in a bungalow on the Adriatic Sea in a little town called Brodarica and it's been very hot (35°C or 95°F). As I type this, I'm looking onto a peaceful morning on the Mediterranean. There's boats sailing by, children playing in the sea, and I can hear all sorts of sounds from birds and insects in the trees.
This morning, I logged into my VoIP Spear account to check how things have been going. There was a bunch of new signups, and a couple of new paid subscriptions since yesterday. I'm happy. In fact, I'm more than happy. I'm ecstatic. I'm able to keep tabs on my world (email, VoIP Spear) from the comfort of this other world.
Life is good.
Just a quick posting to tell you that we've replaced our "North America: North" server. It's been giving us problems of late so we decided the best solution was to retire it. The new server is on the East Coast and we're pretty happy about that -- we now have servers on the West Coast, East Coast, and in the middle of North America.
It was a performance issue that finally caused us to make this decision. It had degrading to the point where the results from our VoIP testing was compromised. We found ourselves spending time diagnosing the issues and making little changes here and there to work around the problems. In the end, we're happy to rid ourselves of that headache.
We have automatically updated all VoIP tests to use the East server if they were using the North server previously.
We're now offering pricing discounts for customers who pre-pay for multiple months. We've been planing this for a while but it wasn't until recently that we actually had the time to implement it.
Take a look at the discounts below. We wanted to get pretty aggressive with the discount on 1 year plans and I think we've succeeded.
- 3 months: 5% discount
- 6 months: 10% discount
- 12 months: 20% discount
The savings can be quite substantial. For example, if you are on the Bronze plan and you pre-pay for 1 year, your savings will be $60.00!
Let us know what you think. Will these discounts get you excited about pre-paying for 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year at a time?
The VoIP Spear API is ready at last. It's pretty easy to use, though you can judge for yourself after reading the instructions. The API is RESTful meaning that it's lightweight and easy to learn. I'd imagine it's easier to learn a RESTful API rather than one based on SOAP or XML-RPC.
We have a few customers who have been asking for the API already, so it will be interesting to see what they can come up for VoIP Spear mashups and add-ons.
The VoIP Spear API is available to those customers who are signed up on the Bronze plan ($25 per month) or greater. Check our prices to see if you can use the API with your VoIP Spear account.
One last thing: feel free to suggest any changes or additions to the API. We've left some of VoIP Spear's features out of the API because we thought they were unnecessary (in the API). If you think differently, let us know.