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Monday, June 13, 2005

How to Choose VoIP Service Without Losing Your Shirt


By: Jason Stewart

VoIP.

Just mentioning the word to yourself either brings up images of walking in a new city where the grass is greener, or it brings up fear of the unknown. Some will tread carefully around the subject, waiting to hear others opinions about a specific service and some may charge fearlessly into a service that they know little about. Which way is the right way to choose a VoIP service? I say neither.

Is there a safe way to choose a VoIP service? You bet there is, but it does take some work and careful research to make sure that you don't get stuck with something you cannot use or worse yet, be forced into a scenario in which your telephone communications is impaired. (continued...)


There are 3 general steps to choosing Broadband Phone service. They are:

1.Qualify Yourself
2.Qualify a specific Provider, and
3.Research the provider.

1. QUALIFY YOURSELF
Ask yourself “why do I want voip?” Is it because you want to save money? are you attracted to voip by all of the features that it offers? Maybe you're sick of your local telephone company. Whatever the reason, make sure that the benefits are better than what you're already getting now. For instance, you might want to save money on long distance with a voip provider but don't want to give up your old phone number. In this case you would have to ask yourself whether it would be acceptable to lose your old phone number to save a few extra dollars. These days, most providers (but not all) will allow you to keep your old phone number. Do you have a secondary means of communication such as a cell phone?

When your internet connection goes down, so does your voip line. That means that if a large storm knocks out power to your house, then your internet connection will also most likely be down. Another thing to consider when qualifying yourself for voip service is that 911 service is not as robust as a land line service would be. You may have to give the dispatcher your name and address. The good news is that the larger providers are working with the dispatchers to provide 911 service that is just as robust as 911 on a land line.

Last but not least you must make sure that your your internet connection is suitable for voip. Sorry 56k'ers but dialup just isn't gonna cut it for voip. If you do have a broadband connection, head on down to http://www.testyourvoip.com and do a quick test.

2. QUALIFY A SPECIFIC PROVIDER
Your voip provider means everything when it comes to reliability and sound quality. You should choose a provider that has the features that you need (call waiting, 3 way calling, extra lines, distinctive ring, etc.). One thing to definitely look into is the 911 service that's offered and don't be afraid to ask lots of questions to the customer service department of the prospective provider. Number portability (if you need to keep your old number) is something else to be looked into. The rates should be competitive and don't forget to look at international rates if you do any international calling. The most important thing to look for in a voip provider is a money back guarantee. If there is no money back guarantee, then pass on that provider; just about all voip companies have a guarantee.

3. RESEARCH THE PROVIDER
Just because everything looks OK from a customer service angle, the service is cheap , and does what you need it to does not necessarily make it a good service. What does make a service good is if they have happy customers. The best way to do this would be to search the better business bureau for complaints against the company, search google with something like reviews, complaints, opinions, etc. A great place to get real world opinions on voip service is at the forums at http://broadbandreports.com.

Choosing the right voip service can be a bit of work, but it will pay off big time in the end. You'll have service instead of headaches, clear calls instead of garbled gobbledygook.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Stewart is a programmer, Unix Administrator, PBX Administrator and webmaster of http://www.voip-university.com.


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