This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Telecom 2008, part one: VoIP

Posted by Matt

Are any of our readers telecommuters? I've been able to work at home for several years now, but one limitation was always my reluctance to use my cell phone for teleconferences (or t-cons, as we call them in my company). I carry my cellphone somewhat reluctantly and use it sparingly, so I only have a 450 minute plan; well short of how much time I spend on t-cons in a month (or a busy week).

Luckily, my employer does pay for my Internet access, so when I determined that I would need a land line once again (after being "cell only" for years), I decided to check out what types of VoIP deals were available. If you're not familiar with VoIP, it is essentially a phone connection that uses the Internet instead of traditional phone lines.

I checked out several options including Verizon VoiceWing (because Verizon is my Internet service provider), ClearDigitalVoice and Vonage. I elected not to pursue Skype or MagicJack (even though they may be cheaper options) because I didn't want to be tied to a computer for phone calls. I included fax line options in my research as my wife also works from home occasionally and does a lot of faxing.

I wish I could give a recommendation for a "best plan", but I ended up choosing Vonage because it was the lowest price option that fit for our needs. We chose the unlimited residential option so we wouldn't have to worry about minutes and added on basic fax service (unlimited incoming, 250 minutes outgoing) for a total of about $35/month. I haven't had a traditional land line for many years now, but from what I remember, this sounds like a pretty competitive price. I should also mention that we paid around $40 in activation fees for the phone and fax lines, but we also received a credit for two months of phone service and received the hardware (router) for free.

Don't worry about setup, even if you're not a techie. It was pretty simple, just a few quick connections. I was relieved to find that I could use the Vonage router (that the standard phone and our fax machine plug into) in concert with our existing Verizon modem/router device.

After setting up, we quickly determined the service quality to be adequate, but were glad that Vonage offered a 30 day guarantee, just in case. It's not a bad idea to test your connection here before signing up for service, as VoIP works best over high-capacity connections (we have 15Mbps fiber optic).

One final Vonage money-saver that we haven't invoked yet (but still may) is an option to pre-pay the bill for a full-year in exchange for a 20% discount.

I've been working from home more often since getting the phone line installed, but haven't determined if the savings in fuel costs completely offsets the phone costs yet. Regardless, it still hurts my frugal mind to pay for both land and cellular service, so I came up with some ideas to cut down my cellular phone bill. Be sure to check my next telecom post(s) later this week.

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