What if you could cut your phone bill by 30 – 75% this year? Would it favorably impact your bottom line? If you’re thinking, “VOIP, right?” you are in good company. In-Stat forecasts that 79% of US businesses will adopt VOIP in the next two years, up from 42% in 2009.
But I’m not talking about Skype, Vonage or other well-known services. Instead, we’re veering off the beaten path to take a look at four of the innovative, but less trumpeted VOIP service options:
Google Voice (US Calls – Free; International Calls – varies by country): To use the service, you set up a new Google Voice number and then hand it out to contacts. Calls that come to your GV number will then be forwarded to your landline, mobile, Gizmo number, etc. One of the beauties of Google Voice is no longer having to use your cell or home number as your business line. Now you can give your personal number to friends and family and your Google Voice number to business contacts. Also, you can set this handy service to screen your calls for you. If there are certain clients or companies you don’t want to talk to immediately, set up GV to send the calls straight to voicemail.
TIP: Want to achieve the holy grail of free mobile calling? If your calling plan includes the preferred numbers feature (a list of three to ten numbers you can always call for free), then setup Google Voice as one of those numbers. Since GV allows you to make calls through them instead of the phone company, you can then call any number for free — no valuable minutes used.
- JaJah(US Calls – 3 cents/minute; International calls – varies, but averages 30 cents/minute): Want to call someone overseas, but don’t want to pay your phone carrier’s prices and don’t have a computer available for Skype service? Try Jajah. The service will allow you assign a local Jajah number to each of your international contacts. Then when you need to call them, simply dial that assigned number, and voila! International calls for up to 75% off of the going rate.
TIP: If you’ve ever been tweeting and wished you could give another Twitter user a quick voice call, Jajah might have a solution for you. Using Jajah@Call allows Twitter users to make two minute phone calls to each other. Yeah, it’s not long, but neither is a tweet. Handy thing about this feature? According to the company, “All contact details will be kept private, so you can use JAJAH@call without giving your phone number away.” (The catch is that the other person must be a fellow Jajah member.)
- Obi110(Price dependent on availability): Google Voice is a nifty product. But if you’re wanting to use a regular phone to make outbound calls, GV isn’t the easiest solution. Well, that all just changed with the introduction of the Obi110 from Obihai. This device is a VOIP adapter that integrates with Google Voice so that you can make and receive calls from your regular phone with a decent amount of ease (though as this tutorial shows, having a certain level of technical know-how is pretty useful). For non-US residents, free calling to the US and Canada is possible by making a phone call to the VoIP/PSTN number from a list of pre-approved callers (identified via caller ID).
TIP: The ObiApp (available for iPhone and Android) allows you to use 3G or WiFi to connect with your Obi110 device and make calls from it for free to other Obi110 endpoints anywhere in the world (as long as you’ve set them in your “Circle of Friends” setting). Here’s a great review of that service from cultofmac.com.
- RingCentral($25/user for 4 users; less for more users): If you’re looking for a VOIP service that replicates the feel of traditional PBX systems, RingCentral might be the perfect solution. While its price tag is quite a bit higher than some of the other services mentioned here, the cost is much lower than that of a traditional office phone system. It’s completely virtual, so no hardware has to be hosted or installed in your office space. Useful for integrating off-site team members, the homebound employee simply has to plug their VOIP handset into an Ethernet port and the phone will register with RingCentral and instantly be a part of your on-site phone system.
TIP: RingCentral provides an “automated receptionist,” which allows callers to dial extensions or go straight to voicemail (very useful when you’re swamped with calls).
What “lesser known” VOIP services have you or are you using? How have you maximized their features in order to save yourself some money? Join in the conversation by commenting below.