Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How VoIP Can Globalize Your Home Business

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services are significantly less expensive than the traditional telephone long distance packages. This is only one advantage of using VoIP. For a home business, this can provide more benefits if you know how to exploit it.

While there are other options, you can choose to use your regular home phone to take advantage of VoIP technology. This can be done by using a VoIP telephone adapter to connect your phone to the internet via a high speed modem. VoIP technology allows internet users with high speed (broadband) access to place telephone calls over the internet.

There are many VoIP service providers with whom one can sign up for a calling plan.

As VoIP rides on the internet technology, there are many features that are now possible as compared to the traditional phone. Many traditional phone features that come at an extra charge are also provided free with the basic calling plan.

1. Cheaper Than Traditional Phones Using VoIP is a cheaper option if you make a lot of long distance and international calls. This is possible as the call uses the same internet facility as you do for your web access and email.

Upon signing up for a calling plan with a service provider, the VoIP telephone adapter will typically be provided free.

All calls between people using the same service provider are free regardless of location. This alone can provide significant savings if your business associates use the same service providers.

There are many features that come free with the calling plan. Some of these features are:

- call waiting
- caller ID
- three-way calling
- call forwarding
- last number redial
- speed dial
- voicemail

2. Allows Mobility When travelling, you can take the VoIP adapter with you and instantly turn a phone anywhere in the world into your local phone. This will require a high speed internet connection.

This is possible as the VoIP adapter is specially coded with your VoIP phone number.

With the VoIP Physical Portability feature, you can still receive your customers' phone calls while travelling on business matters, on holiday or moving home.

3. Establishing Business Offices At Multiple Locations VoIP Virtual Numbers allow multiple inbound telephone access numbers in different cities. With this feature, it is possible to establish your business in multiple locations by creating a "Virtual Presence" using virtual numbers.

These virtual numbers can be routed to any number that you specify. If you lived in Chicago, you can have access numbers in New York, Houston and San Francisco all routing through to your number in Chicago.

With this feature, business addresses can be established in different cities and even countries. You can set up these virtual numbers based on the locations from where you expect to receive many phone calls. This could be your existent customers or your prospects.

Besides enhancing the image of your business, customers get the benefit of calling a local number which is less costly for them.

Most service providers who offer this feature charge about $5 per month for each additional access number. This makes it possible to establish business offices at multiple locations at a low cost.

4. Enhanced Voice Mail Some service providers offer you the ability to receive voice mail messages as an email attachment. You can play them back as a sound file through your computer.

As a home business owner, you can also save these voice mails to your computer's hard drive for future reference. You can also forward this to another person if follow up action is required.

5. Selecting A VoIP Service Provider Your choice of the VoIP service provider and the calling plan depends on your unique needs.

Depending on your business needs, you can select calling plans for local/long distance or international calls. International calls can be made with local/long distance plans but at an additional per minute rate. International plans typically include USA local and long distance coverage.

Do not buy based on the number of features provided by the service provider. Decide on the features you require to manage your home business. Then match these against the features available.

According to independent surveys, most of the established VoIP carriers are about the same in terms of voice quality. Good customer service is also another criteria for selecting the service provider. You can read customer reviews on these aspects to help you choose the service provider.
There are service providers that include a "Money Back Guarantee". Once you have initiated the service, check against your service quality criteria. If you are not happy with the results, then cancel the service and request for your money back. Make sure you do this within the "trial" period allocated.

If you are on a month-to-month plan, your service is automatically renewable each month, until you cancel the service. So, you have the option of canceling. Some annual plans allow you to cancel on a month-to-month basis, but may include other charges. Check out all these details before you sign up.

Understanding Home Broadband Bandwidth

Your home broadband, typically ADSL or cable modem access, usually has a different speed for downloading and uploading respectively. Typically you will have a downlink speed in the range of 512 kbit/s up to 8 Mbit/s and an uplink speed substantially lower than that, often 128 kbit/s to 1 Mbit/s. However, even when downloading things from the Internet, traffic flows in both directions, because the protocol that is used to transfer the data uses acknowledgments to make sure that the data has been transferred properly. Since your download speed is substantially higher than your upload speed, in a lot of cases you will not be able to use your full download speed if you are uploading data at the same time.

Your Internet service provider will often quote the speed of your home broadband as being "up to" a certain speed. There is a reason for that. Let's say you have a home broadband connection of up to 2 Mbit/s in download speed and up to 512 kbit/s in upload speed. Does this mean that you are always guaranteed to get that bandwidth for your transfers?

Definitely not! In fact, all Internet service providers sell much more bandwidth than they can actually deliver. If all the customers of a service provider would try to use their connection to download at the same time, the average bandwidth would be much lower than the maximum value given. In fact, it is not uncommon to sell 50 times more bandwidth than they can actually deliver.

Does this mean that they are tricking you? It certainly sounds so, but this is a practice that has been used a long time, even in telephony networks or cell phone networks. If everyone in the world tried to use their telephone at the same time, it simply would not work. But that just doesn't happen, most people only use the telephone occasionally.

The same thing applies to your home broadband. Most customers in your service providers network only use their home broadband occasionally. Some users fill up their broadband all the time, and there are those that rarely use it at all. But on average, the usage is quite low compared to the maximum possible. For instance, when you're surfing on a web site, you spend most of the time reading the pages. Also, most people only spend a fraction of their day in front of their computer at home.

If the service provider was going to guarantee that you could always get your maximum bandwidth, your home broadband would be much more expensive. The service provider would have to make sure that you had dedicated bandwidth for your usage only. This would be a waste, and cost much more than most people are willing to pay.

Instead, service providers carefully monitor the bandwidth usage in a network, to make sure that connections are not overloaded. Some low quality service providers will overload their connections more, and give you a lower average bandwidth.

Service providers also use the same over provisioning for business customers, but the "over provisioning factor" tends to be much lower. This is not surprising, because a business connection is used by many people so on average these connections will be more utilized than a home broadband connection. Furthermore, a business customer generally pays more for the same bandwidth, so the service provider can afford to give a higher quality to these customers.