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I have been in telecommunications for over 10 years, and with experience I can say that nothing has changed this field more than the internet. Today, voice over internet protocol or VoIP is the most talked about subject among my customers and the salespeople selling telecommunications services. As a consultant I am often asked by business owners, "Should I go voice over IP?" For my customers asking this question let me briefly and in layman's terms answer this here and now. Maybe. There are certain aspects of VoIP that are very attractive depending on the client I am consulting with. Let me give you a few things to ponder about your own business to decide if VoIP might be a savvy strategy for your company or a waste of money. First of all what does the typical VoIP plan look like? Most of the VoIP companies are going to charge you a per phone monthly cost of between $20 and $50 per month. Inside of that cost is usually bundled all your features and long distance. You still need to purchase the VoIP handset which can range from $80 to $700 with the average phone being $250 one time charge. On top of that you need an internet service provider for your phones to work--DSL, Cable, internet T1, etc. Add up all the costs to go VoIP. You will quickly figure out that only in certain cases does VoIP truly make sense. What are those scenarios? Let me share with you a few of the most common questions I ask to determine if VoIP will benefit you: 1. Do you have multiple locations? Many of my larger customers that have multiple locations enjoy VoIP solutions because with VoIP you can connect all your offices as if they are on one network. For example, my company, Telcom National, has offices in different parts of Utah, Arizona, as well as Colorado. In the past we communicated by calling each other's desk phones and paid for long distance charges for those calls. Today, with VoIP, we are all extensions on the same network as if we are all in the same office! I am extension 101 in Arizona, for example, and one of my remote workers is extension 103 in Montana. We can communicate with each other by dialing each other's extensions or even hitting intercom. This gives our company a sense of unity where before we felt separated all on separate systems. 2. Do you make a lot of long distance? Long distance has gotten so cheap. I can get most of my customers long distance plans as low as one cent per minute and sometimes less, but I do have customers that still spend quite a bit on long distance. With these heavy users we may consider going VoIP because with most VoIP plans long distance is absolutely free. I have had customers go from spending thousands of dollars a month to a few hundred just by switching to a good VoIP plan. The truth is, though, most customers do not make enough long distance to warrant going VoIP for long distance alone.

3. Are you in multiple markets or do you want to be? One of the neatest things about VoIP is how you can deliver phone numbers from many markets on one circuit. Let me give you an example. I have a customer who has one location but wants a national presence. Out of this one location with only 12 VoIP phones, they have phone numbers ringing in their office from every country in the United States as well as from many parts of the world. On VoIP this is very simple and costs next to nothing so this can be a huge benefit. You might have many market expansion lines that you pay the phone company for monthly--these cost next to nothing on VoIP so this can be a huge cost savings for you. 4. Do you have many mobile workers? Most of our company's workforce is mobile meaning our employees are rarely in the office. The nice part about VoIP is being able to go mobile from either a laptop client (software built into your laptop that imitates your desk phone at work), or having a VoIP phone at home or your remote office. In any of these situations you are still able to make calls from your desk phone despite not being in the office. For me personally, this is a great benefit. If I am in California visiting my American Red Cross customer, as long as I have an internet connection I can still make and take my calls as if I was on my desk phone at the office. My voice mails go to my emails as well! I absolutely love the flexibility that VoIP provides me. These above reasons are the TOP reasons to consider VoIP today, but I have run into many other reasons to go VoIP that I thought you might find interesting as well as comical: 1. To get away from the phone company. I have actually had customers that wanted to ditch their carrier so badly they went to VoIP despite not needing it, in my professional opinion. 2. To get lines when everyone else told them they couldn't. I can not tell you how many customers have tried to get a pack of 20 lines from the phone company only to be told "there are no facilities". In some cases the phone company has been able to rectify their facilities issues but in other cases my customers can wait months to get a phone. I have earned many VoIP customers "on accident" because of this reason alone. 3. Because VoIP is cool. I have had so many customers order VoIP from me even after I have told them, "I do not think you should go VoIP...there is no reason". The most common response from these customers has been, "Yes, but it is so cool". I think this is a foolish reason to go VoIP but I would never stop a customer from trying to look cool, right? I have to admit, VoIP does some pretty cool stuff, but you still want to treat going to VoIP like any other decision and look at your Return on Investment (ROI). After I wrote such an article you can probably assume I am a big proponent of VoIP and really believe it is the way to go for many businesses. If you believe that you would be completely wrong. Less than 5% of my sales are VoIP, and there are many reasons for this. The biggest reason is most people do not fit the above characteristics to warrant going to VoIP. And even if they do I still do not feel VoIP is always the best choice. I am convinced that the safest and most reliable way to make a call is NOT over the internet, yet with true voice over IP that is what we are relying on...calls being made over the internet. The public internet is a horrible entity to rely on, and most companies can not afford redundant circuits to make VoIP more reliable (in some cases we can have a back up if the internet fails so calls can still be made).

So as a consultant in the telecommunications field I feel it is my job to steer most of my customers away from VoIP because of its unreliability and sometimes because of the cost. If you are looking into going VoIP or wondering what all the hype with VoIP is, I hope that my brief article helped you clarify that a little.

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