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VoIP Services for Small Business

The needs of small business are not those of big business. The budgetary issues are different, as are economies of scale. For better or worse, the time frames used for planning are not the long-term horizons of the conglomerate. In turn, technology addresses large corporations before small, but VoIP providers have begun to address small business needs. Indeed, they offer products suitable for micro-business, sole proprietors, and individual consultants.

Business VoIP may be new to many small business owners. But the wise business person needs only to research and seek advice before deciding to transition.

VoIP Services: There Are Advantages

Today, there are many reasons small business owners should consider VoIP services. To begin with, one study notes that on a per-employee basis, very small businesses pay four times more per employee for phone services than larger firms. Besides cost, other advantages of VoIP services include scalability, ease of management, and reliability.

  • Reliability. VoIP phone systems are typically more reliable than analog telephony.
  • Scalability. A business can start with one or two phones and add more as needed. The client doesnt have to wait for a new phone number or a new line installation. As the business grows, the phone system can grow at the same rate.
  • Cost. VoIP providers traditionally offer short term or month-to-month contracts. Sign-up expenses vary, but they can be expected to be reasonable.
  • Big Business Features. VoIP phone systems allow small businesses to access features that used to be proprietary to big companies. Auto attendants offer extensions to the caller, even if theres a single employee. Call queues and the ability to transfer calls or call conference rooms are features that can make the operation sound more established to the caller. Toll-free numbers are obviously useful, and a VoIP phone system can allow the client to receive voice mail and faxes by email.
  • Management. VoIP services can give a detailed set of metrics. The client can track the time of calls, the incoming numbers, receiving extensions, and more on a detailed spreadsheet. This data can be used for more effective management and marketing.
  • IT Resources. Theres usually no dedicated IT staff necessary for these systems. They can be easily integrated with existing software and the firms current experts can handle them.

VoIP Phone Systems: The Concerns

The biggest concern about business VoIP is the possibility of losing the Internet connection. The best way to avoid the problem is to get a hosted PBX ("public branch exchange" used to refer to the box that connected our phone to the carriers line--now it denotes software). Its the norm for small business. With hosted PBX, a caller can always reach voicemail and auto attendant because theyre hosted at the data center, not the office. Moreover, some dial plans allow calls to ring on cell phones. A genuine IP phone is preferred, not a voice adapter, which has less functionality.

VoIP Service: Choosing a Product

One of the great advantages of VoIP phone service is that the user has a choice of provider. Previously, he was limited to using the local phone company, but software providers are creating a competitive marketplace. With such competition, it can be easy to switch from one provider to another.

A proper business VoIP provider is traditionally the best choice for small business owners. A residential provider may be less expensive, but it generally offers fewer features and a lower level of customer service than business VoIP. A business provider can walk the client through installation and provide more personal service.

VoIP providers may make all sorts of promises, such as savings up to 70 percent. However, market research indicates savings for business owners at a conservative 15 percent. Still, by many measures, a transition to VoIP would be a wise choice.

In the end, the small business owner should consider the move in light of his specific needs.


Small Business Trends

U.S. Small Business Administration (PDF)

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