In the world of Voice over IP (VoIP), there are many service choices. You can purchase the equipment outright and build your own VoIP system. You can also use a hosted solution, whereby an offsite provider handles everything for you. There are also cheap solutions that businesses might be tempted to use, such as Magic Jack, Skype, and Vonage. But is using one of these products for your business really such a good idea?
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You’ve probably seen the infomercial for Magic Jack on television. The product is hyped as being miraculous. Even better, you can get it for a 100% risk free trial. Seems almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? For a home user, it might work just fine. Do a little research, however, and you quickly find comments from users about the issues they’ve had with the product. Many customers talk about having Magic Jack work for the first month flawlessly, and then experiencing nothing but problems with it afterwards (i.e. inability to make calls, incoming calls aren’t received). Besides that, you need a dedicated PC running 24/7 in order to use this product. If you turn your PC off, you lose your phone service. A good number of customers have expressed displeasure with Magic Jack’s support, which is centered on an online chat system. The phone number you get for Magic Jack can’t be listed in the phone book, a big issue for a business. Probably most important, however, is that multiple lines can’t run off of a single Magic Jack; you’d need one Magic Jack plus one dedicated computer for each user you want to have a phone. The costs add up quickly and the support becomes a nightmare overnight.
Skype requires a computer or a cellphone with a Skype client in order to work. It offers none of the traditional features that even products like Magic Jack and Vonage offer – voice mail, caller ID, call waiting, etc. Calls to landlines and cellphones are not free; you can only make a free call if you’re connecting to another Skype user. While the service is reliable, calls can have bad quality. If you’re looking to do a video connection with another Skype user, it works perfectly for that. If you’re looking to run a business, you’re best spending your phone dollars elsewhere.
Vonage might seem like a good solution, but dig a little deeper and you start to see problems with it for business. The biggest complaint with Vonage is call quality. Users are able to hear the difference between a regular phone and Vonage. A hosted VoIP solution doesn’t have this issue. Similar to Magic Jack, Vonage would also require multiple setups if you wanted to have multiple phone numbers. If you’re running a single line that isn’t critical, Vonage may work for you. If you have multiple users making business critical calls, a hosted VoIP system scales much better and offers more reliability.
Magic Jack, Skype, and Vonage all have their uses. Many individuals use these products every day and are happy with them. However, if you’re running a business, you want to make sure you are running a phone system that is reliable and that you can count on. For most businesses, phone systems are critical. Spend your money wisely and see a better return. Use a hosted VoIP provider who can handle your needs and let you worry about other things than whether your phone is going to work or not today.