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10 Tips To Select The Best VoIP Provider

Once you have decided to use VoIP services, the next step is to select the VoIP provider who suits your needs the best and offers you hassle-free service at a good price. If you look around in the market, you'll find various providers who offer several calling plans at competitive prices. To select the best VoIP provider from amongst them seems to be a tough decision at times. Here are a few tips that shall help you in choosing a VoIP provider:

1.Compare Call Charges of Various VoIP Providers

Since cost savings is the most important benefit that motivates VoIP usage, therefore the VoIP call rate list must be carefully analyzed to ensure maximum cost advantage. Most VoIP companies offer plans with minute-rate charges while some offer plans for unlimited usage. The rate lists from various vendors may look comparable at times, but you need to balance it with your usage. Suppose 90% of your calls are made to a specific destination, then a provider who offers cheaper rates for that destination would offer better cost savings. If more than 50% of your calls are to a specific number, then a provider who offers a scheme of free calls to a specific number would suit you better and so on.

Another factor you need to consider is the volume of calls that you make, that is, the amount of time (say in number of hours) for which you may use the service in a month. If you are a heavy user and do a lot of calling, you need a package from a provider with cheaper rates for heavy usage but if you are a light user, then the provider who offers a smaller package at lower cost would suit you better.

2.Make a List of Value Added Calling Features Offered by Broadband Telephony Providers

Another thing you must look at while comparing various VoIP providers is the value added features that they offer. Some useful additional features that they offer are caller ID, call waiting, call transfer, repeat dial, return call, 3-way calling, etc. Today VoIP providers also offer advanced call-filtering options that allow you make a choice about how calls from a particular number are handled. Using this feature you could forward the call to a particular number, send the call directly to voicemail, give the caller a busy signal, play a message, etc. But all VoIP services do not offer all of these features. Therefore you need to check the offering and select the one that offers the features that you need the most. Usually VoIP providers offer these features for free but just check that out before deciding.

3.Confirm Availability of Local Area Codes in Your Region

While choosing the service, you need to consider the states where the VoIP provider is providing local area codes. The provider may claim to provide you with a number that you can use from anywhere but if the number isn't local, then most of your calls will be long distance. In this case people in your local area will have to make long distance calls to talk to you. Therefore it is important to confirm the availability of local area code in your region. Also take a look at the country codes available as they too vary across the board. Some providers offer access only to a limited number of country codes.

4.Determine the Equipment Required for VoIP Service

There are two types of VoIP: Hardware-based VoIP and software-based VoIP. Hardware services require a converter box that connects your phone to your broadband modem or router, and your computer does not have to be turned on to make and receive calls. In case of hardware based VoIP, enlist the equipment required to setup the service. Confirm if the equipment is included in the vendor's offerings or it has to be procured additionally. Also find the associated costs for procurement.
Software VoIP works through your computer with a microphone. Your PC must remain on to make or receive calls, and generally VoIP calls can be made to and from people with the same software. For software-based VoIP you may need software and additional items such as sound card, microphone, and speakers. The software may be low cost or free but cost of other things needs to be assessed.

5.Check Call Coverage to Other Providers

Some VoIP providers offer services where calls can be made only to other VoIP users while others offer the facility for both VoIP users and those with regular phones. Many offer free calls to those who use the same service provider. These offerings have to be checked with respect to the associated costs.

6.Check Local Number Portability and Provision of Alternate Numbers

Many VoIP providers allow you to retain your original phone number and this feature is called Local Number Portability although sometimes it is not possible depending upon the local service. Some VoIP providers also provide the facility of alternate numbers where you can choose an area code different from the one you live in. They allow you to have several numbers with different area codes, maybe at an extra charge. You could choose an area code in a state where most of your relatives live or where you make most of your calls. This would help you save money as you can call your friends and relatives just as if they were local; similarly they could also call you on a local number.

7.Confirm Availability of Access to Emergency Services

Some VoIP providers offer access to emergency services like 911.These emergency services should to be able to trace your call to your physical location (rather than your computer) so that they can be of use. If access to these services is important to you confirm which providers are offering this facility before making a choice. It is important to note that electrical power is usually necessary to utilize either the VoIP hardware or VoIP software, so in the event of a total power failure, you may not have access to these emergency services.

8.Find Out How Easy it is to Use the Service

Ease of use is a very important factor that needs to be considered while using a basic service like the telephone. For some VoIP providers, it is essential to have the computer on while making the call while other just need the Internet connection to be up. Even dialing methods need to be considered as some providers offer tedious dialing procedure while other just need the number to be punched into the phone equipment.

9.Ascertain Quality of Service

Though most of the service providers offer fairly good service these days, this needs to be confirmed since it is a big determining factor in selecting a VoIP provider. For something like a phone call, the quality of sound and the interface is extremely important. For this you can take a look at published reviews for various VoIP services or talk to other users of the same service.

10.Determine Ease and Cost of Installation

Lastly, before you choose a service, you need to find out what needs to be done to set up and install the service. Also you need to see if there is any additional cost associated with it.
After you have decided on your VoIP provider, just go-ahead and start using the service. VoIP service will allow you to reach family, friends or co- workers inexpensively, allowing you the opportunity to call more frequently. Surely, the benefits you get from VoIP service will make all the effort worthwhile.

Copyright 2005 Bart Bartolozzi

About the Author: Bart Bartolozzi is a strategic VoIP consultant with Blueskyphone and an expert on VoIP technology with over 15 years experience coordinating the development and marketing of new telecom and IT services and solutions.Mr. Bartolozzi has been dedicated to the development.