Saving money with digital phone service
By Chris Costanzo
IF YOUR SMALL business is like most, you
are spending $200 to $250 every month on
your phone service. Did you know you could
make phone calls over your Internet connection instead? And at far less cost?
A technology called Voice over Internet
Protocol (or VoIP) converts the sounds you
speak into digital information that can be carried over the Internet broadband connection
you already pay for, alleviating the need for a
separate phone bill. VoIP, or digital phone service, is variously called cheap or free, and the
distinction lies in how the system is set up.
VoIP users who communicate from one
speaker-equipped computer to another will
pay nothing more than their existing Internet
bill to converse, even over long distances or
internationally. Most businesses use VoIP with
a telephone handset, which requires a one-time
equipment purchase and/or paid service. These
costs, however, are usually far cheaper than
what traditional phone companies charge. In
fact, the typical small business can expect to
save up to 50 percent through VoIP, compared
to regular phone service.
caller-ID, call-waiting and voice mail, and
will likely charge very low rates for services such as international calling, 800
numbers and access to the information directory.
Larger businesses may prefer
a VoIP system that offers more
features. The latest generation of
digital phone systems combines
low-cost Internet phone calls with
the functionality found in a private branch exchange, or PBX. A
PBX is an internal switch that
cost-effectively supports a
number of benefits essential to
many businesses, such as the
ability to let every employee
have his or her own phone
number, rather than having to
share one throughout the firm.
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How sophisticated are you?
Choosing the best digital phone service
for your business will depend in part on how
many phone lines you use and how sophisticated your calling needs are.
Small businesses with four phone lines or
less may require nothing more than the one-time purchase of a small device from your
VoIP provider to handle the conversion of
voice to digital information. Such a system
should support all the features businesses
expect from regular phone services, such as
Seeking sound compatibility
Whether you are seeking to support one
user or 20 with VoIP, there are a few things to
keep in mind.
First, phone calls should be able to travel
over Internet connections without any static
or gaps in the sound. Some systems address
this by automatically setting aside bandwidth
for phone calls whenever the Internet connection gets especially busy. Another way to handle the quality issue is for the provider to test
a customer’s broadband lines at no charge
before installation to verify their strength.
Daily monitoring of the quality of connections is also desirable.
VoIP users can plug the service into their
existing phones and Internet routers. But
if they want to take advantage of the sophisticated functionality of a PBX, they will have
to make sure their phones are compatible.
Purchasing new phones can be an expensive proposition, so financing is important.
Zero-percent financing over 12 months on
equipment purchases lets users see savings
right away without a big upfront investment.
A final consideration is ease of installation. Getting up and running should require
little more than plugging the system in and
then making phone calls. And that’s easy to do
when the phone calls are practically free! C
Chris Costanzo is a freelance writer based in
Maplewood, New Jersey.
VoIP access through AccessLine
offers Costco members digital
business phone services at
exclusive rates. The company
developed features for its VoIP
phone system that caters to
businesses with two to 15
employees. These features were
developed at the request of
AccessLine customers, many of
whom are Costco members. The
• A PBX phone system that
delivers real cost savings by
allowing a business to purchase
fewer phone lines and still provide
each employee with a desk phone
and a phone number on which
they can be reached directly.
• Named ring groups. Identifies
specific phones for incoming calls.
Good for multiple businesses out
of one location.
• Remote voicemail access.
Available by unique phone number.
• Zero percent financing for all
phone equipment purchased
through AccessLine. Additional
lines are available as needed.
• All page intercom. Locate staff
using your phone.
• Call park and pickup. Place
a call on hold and pick it up on
• Ability to support multiple
businesses with one phone
• Two complimentary business
phone lines for the first year.
• Customizable music message
for on-hold calls. Business
members now have an opportunity to record on-hold sales
and information messages
along with custom music they
To find out more about this
service and applicable terms,
visit Costco.com and type
“Phone4U” in the search box,
or call toll-free, 1-877-757-2609.