How To Break Up With Your Landline
In today’s business world, landlines are becoming almost as obsolete as external hard drives and dial up. According to Associated Press, New York state has seen a 55% drop in landline phones over the past decade. Some estimate that landlines will be completely obsolete by 2025. At my house, iPhones have placed our landline, but cell phone bills add up quickly and don’t always work well for businesses.
If you run a small business, landlines can be surprisingly expensive and cell phones can be impractical (our basement office is cell phone dead zone). So here are some great alternatives to traditional landline phone services to consider:
Voice over Internet Protocol, how it works
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is probably the most widely used landline alternative, especially among businesses. VoIP takes the audio voice signals from speech and turns them into digital data which is transmitted through a broadband internet connection. The biggest advantage to VoIP systems is the cost. International calls using VoIP are usually very inexpensive, and machine to machine calls are usually free (making them great for international businesses). Many believe that VoIP will soon replace landline phones entirely. VoIP can be used through analog telephone adaptors (ATA) or for computer-to-computer communication.
A popular ATA is the MagicJack which costs $40 for the unit plus a $20 annual fee. This technology provides voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, an exclusive phone number, and unlimited free calling within the US and Canada. Most reviews show that the service is shockingly similar to traditional landline phone services for a fraction of the price. In comparison to other VoIP services such as Vonage, MagicJack does not offer a extension service because the feature is only accessible with iOS devices and all callers must have an access and PIN number. If this sounds complicated, don’t be dissuaded – my 82 year old father recommended MagicJack to me. He loves it and set it up himself.
NetTalk Duo is another great VoIP landline alternative that runs slightly more than MagicJack. It is $70 per unit plus a $30 annual fee. This price discrepancy is likely due to the feature that allows the user to plug in the unit to a PC or a router, whereas MagicJack units are only designed to operate with a computer. It is important to note that Magic Jack is compatible with Macs, NetTalk is not, though they say a Mac version is coming soon. Neither system offers extensions.
The process of establishing calls between two regular landline or mobile phones via VoIP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Skype is a VoIP service that uses a hybrid peer-to-peer and client–server system (a.k.a., it uses background processing on computers running Skype software). Skype to Skype “calls” are free, and the company has become a staple for modern families trying to stay connected across the globe. Skype Manager is the business version of the software. It allows business to create employee extensions and allocate different credits and feature levels to each employee. Not only does Skype Manager provide the standard calling features of most VoIP services, but it also accommodates group chatting (video and audio), as well as file sharing. Skype is great for businesses with clients overseas as calls between Skype subscribers are still free.
Google Voice is another alternative that works well for small businesses. At it’s core Google Voice is a call forwarding service. It provides free calls and text messages within the US and Canada and has some of the lowest international calling rates around. Google Voice users in the US can place outbound calls from their cell phone app, from the web-based application, or by dialing their Google Voice number.
Google Voice has been described as a “free digital assistant” because the account can connect to all of your communication lines: your home phone, cell phone, work phone, etc. You can even make custom voicemails based on who is calling, so clients in different countries can get messages in different languages. Perhaps the best perk of using Google Voice is its voicemail message transcription service, which allows you to read messages from your mobile phone in text form.
The main concern customers have with Google Voice is call clarity. Another issue is that because it is tied to the internet, if your connection goes out, you also lose your phone service. Finally, Google Voice does not allow calls to 911, which might be an issue for some customers as well.
Google Voice has not yet provided a standard solution to the extension problem, but there are enough inquiries in product forums that an update seems imminent. Some clever users have found solutions, but the average business would still forward calls to whichever employee contact is requested.
Overall, if you run a small business looking for a low-cost, modern take on landline phones, all of these options hold promise. They are saving businesses thousands of dollars a year and can save you money too!
magicJack PLUS no longer requires a computer to function as its predecessor did. The new version can be plugged directly into an Internet router for access. The magicJack PLUS retails for $69.95, including 1 year of service and costs $29.95 per year after that. Expected later this year is a Wi-Fi enabled version of the magicJack PLUS