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Hosted Business VoIP: What Are You Waiting For?

July 23, 2009
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, Business VoIP

Many small businesses looking for ways to reduce telecommunications costs are finding ways to shave anywhere from 50 to 80 percent off of monthly phone bill by switching to a hosted Voice over Internet Protocol, or "VoIP" service.

Many have already heard of VoIP: The technology, which enables phone signals to be transmitted across the Internet, has been around for more than a decade now, which means it has had plenty of time to prove its reliability. In fact, any company that switches to VoIP at this point is no longer considered an “early adopter” – with more than half of all U.S. businesses now using the technology.


Recent market research shows that VoIP adoption rates continue to grow, despite the recession (in fact, many companies are making the switch because of the recession). As the Internet becomes the new telephone network of the 21st century, we can probably expect to see the public switched telephone network (PSTN) -- that old tangled mess of copper wiring and circuit-based switches -- become a withered appendage that will no longer be used to support the bulk of phone service (instead we will probably find another use for it, such as mobile backhaul, but that’s a topic for another article…). Considering that the major telecommunications companies, such as AT&T, have been using VoIP on their long haul or “core” networks since the 1980s, it only makes sense that the technology would eventually trickle its way down into the access network and be made available to everyone. VoIP is, after all, a more efficient and cost-effective method of delivery for voice signals, so it’s logical that it will one day completely replace traditional telephone service.

The convenience of hosted VoIP is that it doesn’t require a huge commitment in terms of up-front capital. All a company really needs is a computer with a high speed connection and/or the phones (in most cases a traditional analog phone will work just fine). The big advantage is that a company can get a whole slew of features and functionality that traditional phone service doesn’t offer (or which cost extra).

Take, for example, Nextiva’s award-winning business VoIP service. The company’s Connect360 service offers features and functionality found on much more expensive, premises-based enterprise phone systems, such as voicemail, dial-by-name directory, advanced auto attendant, “find me follow me,” call conferencing, and the ability to play customized greetings automatically based on time of day, day of the week or time of year. This Web-based service, which starts at $20 a month for 500 inbound and 500 outbound minutes, can help companies reduce their telecommunications costs by as much as 80 percent compared to traditional phone service. Companies can also opt for Nextiva Connect, a virtual PBX service which adds advanced PBX functionality to an existing phone service.

Perhaps best of all, with a hosted service, a company never has any “surprises” in a phone bill: The cost of the service can be included as a recurring line item in a monthly operating budget, and because Nextiva manages the service, a business (or its “IT department”) will never have to deal with any troubleshooting or maintenance of the system. Nextiva, which has made considerable investment in its network and technology, also gets high marks for reliability and quality of service – key considerations when navigating the sea of hosted VoIP providers which have stormed the market in recent years.

Oh, and another important thing to mention: for a small company with a PBX on premises, there’s no reason to not switch an existing system over to VoIP by way of SIP trunking, which is where the lines external to your offices are VoIP, while the internal lines continue to use traditional, copper-based phone technology. Nextiva, which is a well-established leader in business VoIP, just recently started offering SIP trunking services and plans to expand this offering in the near future.

Nextiva, which sponsors the Business VoIP and Virtual PBX channels on business-voip, made news earlier this month when WhichVoIP.com, a Web site that ranks hosted VoIP services in order to help business owners make an informed decision, selected the company as its “Provider of the Month” for July 2009.
 
"Nextiva has proven to be a leader not only in quality of service, but in price, support and value," said Michael Jones of WhichVoIP in a release. "Nextiva received this award based on an evaluation of the quality of its overall VoIP service offering. This included a rigorous in-house test drive by WhichVoIP. In addition to this, positive feedback from site visitors regarding sound quality, reliability, feature set, value for money, customer service, and ease of setup, contributed to Nextiva receiving this award.”

Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for business-voip. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.


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