When you're considering a new VoIP phone system for your business, it's important to include stakeholders from all of the key parts of your business in the planning and decision making process. Yes, this especially includes the IT staff and the data security folks since your voice communications will now be data. But it also needs to include folks who will be using the system to get work done, especially the work that drives revenue and engages customers. These people have invaluable insights into what's really needed versus what's simply cool and new. Plus, you'll need their input to select a phone system that will actually move your business forward as well as fit into your IT environment.

Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine’s lead analyst for software and Web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine’s coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of Web Services (pretty much the progenitor of Web 2.0) for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine’s Solutions section, which in those days covered programming techniques as well as tips on using popular office software. Most recently he covered Web 2.0 and other software for ExtremeTech.com.
If that all is starting to sound more complex than it's worth, remember that turning your PBX into a software solution means significant opportunity for flexibility and integration that you simply can't get any other way. After all, programmers can now treat your phone like an app. Where that's taken us is to the fast-changing UCaaS paradigm (more on that below). Here, traditional VoIP providers, like the ones we review as part of this review roundup, provide additional software capabilities that are all implemented and managed from a single, unified console.
Multiple Numbers on Demand – Building a multifaceted business phone service with any kind of localized number or vanity number. Whether it’s business VoIP solutions for small business, enterprise, or contact center, communications is only as strong as it is dynamic, with multiple numbers, all having specific assignments to fulfill. Some business Voice Over IP phone providers will offer these additional numbers for free, or an additional small monthly fee. Explore options to find out if a provider supplies key components beyond a local number such as toll-free numbers, virtual faxing, and virtual extensions.
By default, network routers handle traffic on a first-come, first-served basis. Fixed delays cannot be controlled as they are caused by the physical distance the packets travel. They are especially problematic when satellite circuits are involved because of the long distance to a geostationary satellite and back; delays of 400–600 ms are typical. Latency can be minimized by marking voice packets as being delay-sensitive with QoS methods such as DiffServ.[16]
In Oman, it is illegal to provide or use unauthorized VoIP services, to the extent that web sites of unlicensed VoIP providers have been blocked. Violations may be punished with fines of 50,000 Omani Rial (about 130,317 US dollars), a two year prison sentence or both. In 2009, police raided 121 Internet cafes throughout the country and arrested 212 people for using or providing VoIP services.[53]

It gets even better! Calling internationally using VoIP is far less expensive than using a traditional landline phone company. Every region of the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, has its own combination of technological development, geographic obstacles, regulations, and taxes. Cell phone carriers, much like VoIP providers, have their own network, which is why it usually costs more to call international cell phones. If a VoIP provider has a significant presence in a country, it’s likely that landline calls will be unlimited with an international package. For example, if you are using Vonage Word, calling from the U.S. to a landline in Germany is included, but it costs US$.0061 per minute to call a cellular phone. If you are using ViaTalk World, you can call both German cell phones and German Landlines for the same rate – free up to 1200 minutes per month. Don’t forget that with every VoIP provider, if you call within their own network, calls are always free no matter where you are in the world. With the development of SIP, you can easily make and receive free international calls from your home using VoIP.


Like the rest of us, you probably don't like to get hassled with unwanted phone calls when you’re at home. You can also implement “enhanced call forwarding” to reroute and block the numbers that you specify, without the caller having any idea. You also can set up your phone to block international and directory assistance calls, so they don’t bother you at home. 
For instance, while AT&T offers landlines with unlimited phone calls for $33.99/month, with RingCentral you can get the Essentials plan, which includes unlimited phone calls starting at just $19.99 per person per month, and you can also enjoy a more extensive list of features. On Grasshopper, the introductory plan costs as little as $26/month, but that includes 3 extensions. With residential VoIP, you have a bundle of features you couldn't find with traditional landlines. Also, because of technology's continual advancements, the features continue to improve every year without a sharp rise in costs. VoIP for home use makes sense because you derive so much more value than what the traditional phone companies of today are offering.

The ITU-T G.hn standard, which provides a way to create a high-speed (up to 1 gigabit per second) Local area network (LAN) using existing home wiring (power lines, phone lines and coaxial cables). G.hn provides QoS by means of Contention-Free Transmission Opportunities (CFTXOPs) which are allocated to flows (such as a VoIP call) which require QoS and which have negotiated a contract with the network controllers.
To get a better picture of the savings of VoIP for home use, here's a real life example: Long distance calls with a VoIP provider can be as little as $10 per month, if not less. Major telecommunications corporations typically charge more for such packages, even 2 or 3 times as much. If you look at this over the course of a year, that’s no small change.  

A voice call originating in the VoIP environment also faces challenges to reach its destination if the number is routed to a mobile phone number on a traditional mobile carrier. VoIP has been identified in the past as a Least Cost Routing (LCR) system, which is based on checking the destination of each telephone call as it is made, and then sending the call via the network that will cost the customer the least. This rating is subject to some debate given the complexity of call routing created by number portability. With GSM number portability now in place, LCR providers can no longer rely on using the network root prefix to determine how to route a call. Instead, they must now determine the actual network of every number before routing the call.[citation needed]
Cable companies and Internet providers will also provide a bridge device where your phones stay the same and the VoIPing simply happens on the back-end. Just remember that these devices dictate what kinds of features the provider can offer you, so be sure you know what these devices are capable of since there'll likely be more than one model to choose from.
One important advanced feature that's ubiquitous in the world of business VoIP services, and quickly growing in the residential market, is the softphone app. Imagine a piece of software that simply uses the network connection, speakers, and microphone of your computing device to turn that device into a phone. If that softphone is attached to your VoIP account, that software will ring whenever your home phone does and when you place calls on it, those calls will register as coming from your home phone number. Just by installing the software you'' be able to immediately place and receive voice calls over your home phone account on your PC, your Apple iPad, or even your smartphone. That last one is a gotcha, however.
As a consultancy marketing business for small-business owners, part of our business is to help small-business owners set up their VoIP and local phone numbers. We used to have RingCentral, and we advised our clients to use it. RingCentral gives you a local phone number regardless of whether you are in the building or not—or even in the city. You will always have a local phone number that you can redirect to any cell phone, depending on who’s working in the company. RingCentral offers good customer service and has great flexibility, but it’s a bit expensive.

Vonage is probably one of the most well-known PBX providers on the market—and for good reason. Vonage phone service is easily scalable, so it can keep up with your business as it grows while maintaining affordable pricing. Vonage also offers integrations with everything from Salesforce to Slack. So if your business outgrows your current customer relationship management tools, you can switch without having to worry about whether your VoIP communications service offers integration with your new CRM.
We think that’s understandable, though, considering Vonage offers top-notch customer support to match its top-notch phone systems. All Vonage customers enjoy 24/7 customer support and IT solutions. And with Advanced Vonage plans, business owners get Orange-Glove Setup of their phone systems. And in case you’re wondering, Orange-Glove Setup = white-glove setup, but, you know . . . orange to match Vonage’s colors.

One important advanced feature that's ubiquitous in the world of business VoIP services, and quickly growing in the residential market, is the softphone app. Imagine a piece of software that simply uses the network connection, speakers, and microphone of your computing device to turn that device into a phone. If that softphone is attached to your VoIP account, that software will ring whenever your home phone does and when you place calls on it, those calls will register as coming from your home phone number. Just by installing the software you'' be able to immediately place and receive voice calls over your home phone account on your PC, your Apple iPad, or even your smartphone. That last one is a gotcha, however.
Verizon is a household name when it comes to all things calling, and its residential VoIP services don’t disappoint. You can get both unlimited or per-minute calling plans from this communications solution giant. Verizon uses advanced fiber-optic networks to deliver the most crystal-clear sound quality too. So, you’re never struggling to hear and understand what someone on the other line is saying to you.
In the interest of the Access Service Providers and International Long Distance Operators the Internet telephony was permitted to the ISP with restrictions. Internet Telephony is considered to be different service in its scope, nature and kind from real time voice as offered by other Access Service Providers and Long Distance Carriers. Hence the following type of Internet Telephony are permitted in India:[62]
For a VoIP system to work, it needs a means of routing calls between users or to the outside world. In a cloud based system, a virtual PBX does that job. What that means to you is that the provider is running a large PBX operation in a data center somewhere, and slicing off a little of it to dedicate to your organization in exchange for your money. You're essentially sharing a large PBX with that provider's other customers, but because these companies use multi-tenant segmentation, your PBX will appear dedicated to you. This engine will take care of routing calls on your VoIP network.

We recognize that not all our readers’ businesses are based in the US. So we took another pass at our content to provide more information on each provider’s international offerings. And because 8x8’s international rates on calls made from the US are so good, we bumped it up to our number five spot. Finally, we added info about Ooma’s new plan (Ooma Office Pro) to the offerings mentioned below.
Such emergency services are provided by VoIP vendors in the United States by a system called Enhanced 911 (E911), based on the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999. The VoIP E911 emergency-calling system associates a physical address with the calling party's telephone number. All VoIP providers that provide access to the public switched telephone network are required to implement E911,[34] a service for which the subscriber may be charged. "VoIP providers may not allow customers to "opt-out" of 911 service."[34]

Sending faxes over VoIP networks is sometimes referred to as Fax over IP (FoIP). Transmission of fax documents was problematic in early VoIP implementations, as most voice digitization and compression codecs are optimized for the representation of the human voice and the proper timing of the modem signals cannot be guaranteed in a packet-based, connection-less network. A standards-based solution for reliably delivering fax-over-IP is the T.38 protocol.
In the case of a private VoIP system, the primary telephony system itself is located within the private infrastructure of the end user organisation. Usually, the system will be deployed on-premises at a site within the direct control of the organisation. This can provide numerous benefits in terms of QoS control (see below), cost scalability, and ensuring privacy and security of communications traffic. However, the responsibility for ensuring that the VoIP system remains performant and resilient is predominantly vested in the end user organisation. This is not the case with a Hosted VoIP solution.

In addition to making sure your internet service can handle your VoIP traffic, you also need to make sure your local area network (LAN) can handle it. What makes network management tricky with VoIP is that if you simply drop it onto your network, that traffic will get processed the same as any other traffic, meaning your shared accounting application or those 20 gigabytes worth of files your assistant just stored in the cloud.

Using a separate virtual circuit identifier (VCI) for audio over IP has the potential to reduce latency on shared connections. ATM's potential for latency reduction is greatest on slow links, because worst-case latency decreases with increasing link speed. A full-size (1500 byte) Ethernet frame takes 94 ms to transmit at 128 kbit/s but only 8 ms at 1.5 Mbit/s. If this is the bottleneck link, this latency is probably small enough to ensure good VoIP performance without MTU reductions or multiple ATM VCs. The latest generations of DSL, VDSL and VDSL2, carry Ethernet without intermediate ATM/AAL5 layers, and they generally support IEEE 802.1p priority tagging so that VoIP can be queued ahead of less time-critical traffic.[16]


VoIP service simply enables your phone calls to be transmitted and received over your home Internet connection instead of your telephone landline. This is perhaps why some people refer to the service as being an Internet phone service or broadband phone service. This does mean though that you need a high speed Internet service to be able to use VoIP for your phone service.
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