Selecting the Right Hosted VoIP Service

If you’re looking to make the switch to VoIP you are going to come across a myriad of different solutions. One of the most popular being hosted VoIP.

What is Hosted VoIP?

Hosted VoIP is a service provided by a third party that gives you all of your phone system features and voice calling capabilities without having an actual VoIP phone system at your office. The only part of the system that you actual see are your VoIP Phones at your desk.

The hosted VoIP service provider, as they are commonly called, hosts your phone system functionality from their data center (or one that they lease from a data center provider). You are able to access your Hosted VoIP service via the internet, where you can configure users, extensions, menu’s, etc. The type of features you can get and the rates you pay, depend on the service provider.

Who Uses Hosted VoIP?

Hosted VoIP service from companies like Nextiva is used by companies of all sizes and industries, but is most popular with the small or micro-enterprise, typically 25 seats and under. Hosted VoIP service is a popular option for these companies because of the low up-front capital investment and predictable monthly billing.

If your company is looking to make the switch to VoIP with a limited budget, hosted VoIP would make great sense. Also, if your company lacks the staff or current knowledge required to manage your own VoIP system, hosted VoIP is probably they best thing for you!

How to Select Hosted VoIP Service?

Going about selecting hosted VoIP service for your company can get a little confusing. Today there are literally hundreds of different hosted VoIP providers who all look, sound and feel the same.

That’s because of a little known secret that most of these hosted VoIP services are running off of the same platform! That’s right, they may have different names, colors, packages and locations, but they are probably running off one of three popular platforms.

What does this mean for you? Well, to start, it means that things like price, features and VoIP phone choices should be pretty much the same across the board.

(Hence the confusing part of choice a provider.)

This makes the customer experience, the sign-up process, support systems, service level agreements and customer reviews the most important aspects of choosing a hosted VoIP provider.

  1. Customer Experience – Before selecting any hosted VoIP provider you should take the time to call into their office. Be prepared with questions about the companies history, expertise, service level agreements and levels of support. Get a feel for how the sales professional answers the questions by listening to his tone of voice, directness of answer and other clues that might expose a weakness in your experience as a customer.
  2. Support Systems – Things do go wrong and when they do, what matters most is quick, transparent assistance from technical support. Before purchasing hosted VoIP services make sure you find out what standard turnaround times are for support, local availability and even TEST OUT THEIR SYSTEM by submitting a ticket.
  3. Service Level Agreements (SLA) – Like support systems, your hosted provider’s service level agreement is a commitment to ensuring you have a great service experience. Every hosted VoIP provider should have an SLA in place, typically something that guarantees the service will be up more than 99% of the time.
  4. Customer Reviews – Most of the major hosted VoIP providers have a number of reviews of their service on various websites. In addition to this or if your provider is not large enough to have online reviews, ask for customer references. Then call them. Seriously, you can very often avoid disasters by speaking with real customers who have real experience with a company.

The Next Steps

After reading this, if you are ready to take the next steps in purchasing hosted VoIP service, you best bet is to write down everything you think you need, then contact up to five providers of hosted VoIP service. Once they contact you back, use the advice above to evaluate the best option for your company and then follow that providers lead.

Nextiva Review

Every now and again I’m afforded the opportunity to spend a lot of time using a service before writing a review.

nextivaFor the past five months I’ve been using the hosted VoIP phone service from Nextiva, one of the fastest growing hosted VoIP providers in the US. What follows is my review of Nextiva’s service based on this usage.
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The BYOD missed opportunity

VoIP hardware sucks.

Well at least for many VoIP providers.

It’s often troublesome to standardize on. It’s costly to purchase in volume and warehouse. Plus there is that whole “logistics” thing (including returns).

As a result many VoIP providers have decided to simply stick with what they do best – sell service – and allow customers to bring their own device (Bring Your Own Device).

For these providers and many an onlooker it seems like a smart move. Focus on what you do best (sell service) while giving customers the “choice” of whatever device they want.

A win-win right?

Well not quite.
[Read more...]

Six VoIP service alternatives for AT&T CallVantage customers

Word hit the streets this week that AT&T will soon be canceling their VoIP offering CallVantage, leaving many customers without a phone service. After spending the last 48 hours helping many CallVantage customers find suitable VoIP service replacements on Twitter, I though it’d be helpful to create a list of my top VoIP service recommendations.

These VoIP service recommendations are made based on my personal experiences using these services as a primary or secondary residential voice line over the last few years. They are listed in no particular order.
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Smith’s Top 10 Residential VoIP Service Providers

Choosing A VoIP Service Provider Is Not Easy

Many often ask me who is the top residential VoIP service provider. Although on the surface this is a simple question, the answer to it is dependant on many variables. Your calling habits, your location, and your budget, all need to be taken into account when you choose a residential VoIP service provider.

While i can’t answer those questions for you, I can offer advice, based on my experience and the experience of 5 friends over the past seven months, as to what companies are the top residential VoIP service providers. We tested each service provider as an average everyday consumer, and have provided a brief summary of each service’s performance, and have tried to rank them as best as possible.

It should be noted that many of the VoIP service providers are very similar and we have only choosen 10 of the most popular providers to review, so the overall customer experience and satisfaction of the reviewer took the most precident. This, unfortunately, is highly personal, so some of the rankings do come with personal reviewer biases.

The ranking of the service providers below, is based on the following factors:

  1. Service Plans
  2. Hardware Selection
  3. Call Quality/Reliability
  4. Customer Service/Support
  5. Overall Customer Experience and Satisfaction

Top 10 Residential VoIP Service Providers

  1.$19.99 per month or $199.99 per year.’s unlimited plan allows for true unlimited monthly calling to the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Your VoIP adaptor is absolutely FREE. Call quality is superb and there was not a moment that their service had failed to connect or dropped a call. The sign-up process was easy, the installation process a breeze, and customer service (called to confirm order/shipping) was definitely friendly and informative.

  2. BroadVoice$19.99 per month.

    RT: Broadvoice’s $19.99 Unlimited World plan offers unlimited calling to the USA and 21 other countries. The pioneers of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), BroadVoice allows customers to choose between bringing their own SIP based device or from one of their three pre-programmed devices, allowing for hardware that meets a users specific needs. Call quality and service reliability was above average, but there were a few momentary outages. Customer service and support, when calling in about momentary outages, was able to effectively communicate the issue.

  3. Vonage$24.99 per month, with one month FREE.

    GS: Vonage, due to it’s size, gets alot of negative publicity, but in over seven months of service there has only been one issue with them. They offer a decent selection of hardware, I chose the cordless V-Tech phone, and their sign-up and account management process is simple and straight forward. There was one day while using Vonage, that I went almost a day without the ability to make a call. I did notice longer wait times when calling during peak hours, but their customer support was quick and concise once i got them on the phone.

  4. iConnectHere$6.99 per month, plus per minute charge.

    DS: iConnectHere is the perfect service for those who are making calls internationally. iConnectHere is unique in that it bills per minute, so you only pay for the minutes you use. Upon sign-up, you get $30 of calling credit, and a free Linksys PAP2 telephone adaptor. Customer service and support was excellent. Definitely in the top three.

  5. Skype$68 per year.

    GS: If there was more VoIP hardware available for Skype, that moved the service away from the desktop, it would be a shoe-in for number one. It is, by far the cheapest service out their. Call quality was excellent, and there has been only a few occassions when their has been connection issues. Customer service and technical support, especially via email is lacking. Price, ease of use, the fact that there is more to Skype than just voice, keeps it in the top 5.

  6. SunRocket$199.95 per year.

    RS: SunRocket is a very inviting service to sign-up for. Their process was simple, even for someone who is not that computer savvy. Their annual plan gave unlimited US, Canada, and Puerto Rico calling. Porting my number took a bit of time, but I do not think it was SunRockets fault. Customer service was friendly and tried to get me a realistic date for my number port. The cordless phone I got with my service was great. I never even noticed a different from my old telephone line.

  7. ViaTalk$199.99 per year, one year free.

    KF:ViaTalk offers a buy one year get one year free deal. Call quality and reliability was excellent. The sign-up process was painless and the VoIP adaptor arrived on-time. You can also bring your own device, which is nice if you are switching service providers, or really want a specific device.

  8. Inphonex$24.99 per month.

    MC:Inphonex is not a well known VoIP service provider, but they are excellent. $24.99 gets you unlimited US and Canada calling, but Inphonex offers 10 different service plans. Inphonex offers over 9 different pre-configure VoIP devices to use with the service. Customer service and support was average. It was tough to find a 800 number on their site, and email support was slow. Excellent service though, call quality was impressive.

  9. Packet8$19.99 per month or $199 per year.

    RF: Packet 8′s $19.99 plan gives users unlimited calling to the US and Canada. Packet 8 service was not bad, but it was not great. Packet 8 does. however, offer a nice selection of VoIP hardware to use in conjunction with their service, so their is a device for everyone. Packet8′s customer service was excellent, especially when closing an account. No horror stories.

  10. Verizon VoiceWing$24.95 per month.

    RF: Verizon VoiceWing service did not meet my expectations. They only had one calling plan and it did not include unlimited calls to Canada. I had frequent problems with static and echo. Their customer support department was responsive, but there was nothing they could do to help. I eventually switched to Verizon DSL service, so the price dropped and made it worth keeping.

A Few Residential VoIP Buying Tips

As you may have been able to tell there is certainly a ton of similarities between each of the residential VoIP service providers above, so we have compiled a list of things to look for when shopping for residential VoIP service.

  • Don’t Pay More Than $24.99 per month.
  • Do Look For a Service With a Free Device.
  • Watch out for Activation Fees.
  • Wait For Special Promotions.
  • Do Some Research On Others Experience With the Service Provider.
  • Don’t be Afraid to Switch. We All Make Mistakes!.