H Media blog

Monday, July 2, 2007

How To Choose The Right VOIP Service Provider

Everybody is talking about VOIP these days. You get VOIP advertisements in your cable bill, in your electric bill, in your credit card statements, and see it advertised on TV all the time.

What is VOIP and is it right for you? First of all, VOIP stands for Voice Over IP or Voice over Internet Protocol, and it is the hardware and software that allows you to make and receive phone calls over your high-speed Internet connection. Many people have VOIP these days and many of them have eliminated the phone they had with their local phone company after determining that VOIP works well for them.

But with all the VOIP service providers out there, how do you know which one is the right one or the best one for you? First you need to take a couple of steps back and remember one of the very core things that is required for a VOIP connection. That core thing is a fast and reliable high-speed Internet connection. Studies have shown that in far more than 95% of situations where a customer has complained about lousy VOIP service, the problem was not with the VOIP service but was their lousy Internet connection instead.

So before you can determine which VOIP provider is going to be your best choice, you need to first look at the company that is providing your high-speed Internet connection and determine realistically if they are providing enough pizzazz to allow VOIP to work for you. Is your connection spotty and slow? Does it slow to a crawl sometimes for no apparent reason whatsoever? Does it disconnect you every so often for no reason? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then chances are that you should get a different high-speed Internet provider before you consider trying to use VOIP, because the likelihood is high that you will not be happy with your VOIP solution from ANY VOIP service provider.

For a residential VOIP connection, that is going to be either DSL or cable Internet service. VOIP will not work well on a dial-up connection, and VOIP will also not work well with a satellite high-speed connection. If you have a T1 line, VOIP will almost certainly work, but a T1 line is typically for business instead of residential since it costs several hundred dollars per month, so you probably don't have a T1 line at home.

Assuming you have a stable and reliable high-speed Internet connection at home, your choices for a VOIP vendor are pretty much wide open. Believe it or not, one of the places NOT to get VOIP service is directly from your cable company. Why? Because from what I have consistently seen, the VOIP service from your cable or DSL company is about twice the price of what VOIP service should cost. That is a pretty steep price to pay just for the convenience of having your DSL or cable on the same bill as your VOIP service, which is the ONLY advantage I can see.

Almost all the VOIP service providers offer a very similar system with very similar features – call waiting, voice mail, call block, unlimited local calling, unlimited long distance calling. More features than that are gravy, and you should take a long hard look at those features to see if they are worth the higher cost. Some companies offer a substantial discount if you pay for a full year up front, which brings the monthly cost of the VOIP service (including unlimited long distance) below $17 per month.

Just a note about the "unlimited long distance" aspect that most of the VOIP providers advertise – it is not true. By definition, the word "unlimited" means "without limits". But in reality, if your long distance minutes are more than about 2500 to 3000 minutes per month, you can expect a short and tactless letter from your VOIP provider asking why you are using that many minutes on a residential phone, and to let you know in no uncertain terms that they expect to see fewer minutes used in the future.

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