Help me get my VOIP on!
March 27, 2009 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Is VOIP (Voice over IP) really mature enough to get rid of the landline, and what would you do with my personal phone/business phone(s) situation?...story to follow.

Currently have Cox Digital Voice and have been very satisfied with the service. Unfortunately, their unlimited local/long distance plan comes out to about $51/mo. once all the taxes are added on.

In our new lovely economy, even though I am employed, the wife and I have two side businesses that we'd like to veer away from having to use our personal cellphone numbers as business numbers.

As a result, we have considered VOIP to potentially get rid of our land line and consolidate three (or more?) phone numbers to our home, hopefully with the ability to distinguish via distinctive ringtones or phone display settings when a call is for the house, her business, or mine.

Without getting too much more complicated (and boring) where should I start? Is what I want to do even feasible?

A search of AskMeFi found a post about 2 years ago about VOIP that was somewhat similar to this topic. A post recommending providers is about a year old. That's a long time in an emerging technology.
posted by teg4rvn to Technology (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One thing I'd do right now is sign up for notification when Google Voice is open for everyone. It sounds like it would help you with the ringtones and/or phone display issues, and current users are very positive about it. Plus, the service is free.
posted by xiaolongbao at 10:18 AM on March 27, 2009

Yeah, I was registered with Grand Central through my Gmail account so I now have Google Voice. It transcribes my messages! And sends them to me as an email. That's actually very useful for our business. It will ring in different ways for different people and all that.

Of course there is no privacy. So that would be a downside.

You can buy a number on eBay for ten dollars, I think.
posted by cda at 10:31 AM on March 27, 2009

Don't forget the with VOIP, you will not have 911 (in the states) emergency service. Also, if the power or internet goes out, no phone!

If you don't think these will be a problem, go for it! Most popular VOIP technology is sufficiently mature to be used full time.

Oh, and +1 on the google voice.
posted by tdreyer at 10:32 AM on March 27, 2009

Between my cell phone and Skype I haven't had any problems living without a landline. The only problem I run into sometimes is if I have to deal with a phone menu. If they say "Press 1 for..." it doesn't understand keyboard number keys.
posted by Caravantea at 11:02 AM on March 27, 2009

Actually, the FCC mandates that VOIP providers do certain things to ensure 911 access for VOIP users. I've used VOIP to access 911. I've got no other answers about VOIP though.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:21 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The only thing I can say with any certainty about VOIP vs. landline is that, as far as sound quality goes, landline is still king. VOIP (and cell, for that matter) can sound...okay. But they pale in comparison to the clarity and tone of a landline connection.

And, of course, there's that part about not losing your landline connection in event of a power outage (provided you keep a non-portable phone handy to jack-in with)
posted by Thorzdad at 12:54 PM on March 27, 2009

Most likely your cox digital voice is voip. your just looking for a cheaper one.
posted by majortom1981 at 1:16 PM on March 27, 2009

From August 2005-June 2006, my roommates and I had a Vonage VOIP line over a TimeWarner Cable connection in upstate NY. The voice quality and signal lag were decent, and service reliable. The only serious problem we encountered was that prior to figuring out QOS on the router, if anyone in the house started a large download, played an online game, etc, call quality would drop to zero.

Not sure if Vonage is even around anymore, but it worked for me then. Granted, college students are somewhat less demanding than business pros, so YMMV.
posted by Alterscape at 1:31 PM on March 27, 2009

I work from home, and don't have a landline. My office phone and fax line are Vonage, and connect to my Comcast cable internet connection along with two computers. I was really nervous at first, especially since I had a prior bad experience using Vonage maybe two years back, but I have been pleasantly surprised. It might be because it's a business package and not a home package, but the quality is amazing, and the two lines only cost me about $61/mo total.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:35 PM on March 27, 2009

Even though the FCC has mandated that VOIP providers ensure 911 access, the documentation I have read did not include any actual requirement for the amount of time it takes to connect. Depending on your area and the VOIP 911 service, the call may be rerouted multiple times before you are actually connected. This can create a delay which may be seconds or minutes, which in an emergency can make all the difference. This is, of course, on top of the power outage issue.

I really wouldn't suggest relying solely on VOIP for disaster prone areas (like here in LA), but perhaps a combo of VOIP and a basic LAN line for emergencies.

Also remember, if the power goes out, cordless phones don't work either! I have learned from earthquake experience, always have an old phone stashed somewhere.
posted by DigDub at 2:36 PM on March 27, 2009

Response by poster: thanks for all the opinions. realized after it was mentioned that I got a Grandcentral number a couple of years back and never used it. Now I have to play catch up and see how I can incorporate this free number into my scheme.
posted by teg4rvn at 3:30 PM on March 27, 2009

I'm a little late to the party but I just want to say how much I love our VOIP service.

Two things to consider. Firstly, you should still be able to use an existing but non-account phoneline to call out to emergency numbers provided you have an older style phone. Check this for your area.

AND secondly, if you have VOIP, you will have a portable number that (for the time being, anyway) is not visible to telemarketers. We've moved twice, kept the same number and haven't received a single unsolicited phone call in more than three years. God bless you, VOIP phone!!
posted by ninazer0 at 3:49 PM on March 27, 2009

We've had Vonage for several years as a home phone replacement. They've been great. We pay ~$30 / month for unlimited calling in the US and Canada.

I've been using Skype as my sole business "landline". I love it. I bought a comfortable microphone and people say that I sound better than on my cell phone. It costs $5 / month. You sign up for a phone number and outgoing calling separately.

Both services offer additional phone numbers in the country of your choice for cheap. Vonage offers transcription of voicemail messages and can email you the sound file as well. You can forward both services to a cell phone or other phone.

If you go w/ a Vonage type service, get a UPS for your network hardware and VOIP box. You can also get one for your cordless phone if that's all you have.

For Skype, you can buy a companion type phone device instead of being tethered to your computer. Skype does not provide 911 location services. Vonage does. It doesn't take any longer than calling 911 from a "regular" phone. You can also send SMS messages (not for free).
posted by reddot at 4:30 PM on March 27, 2009

We're on Shaw business VOIP here in Vancouver, and for the most part it's just like a "real" phone. But much cheaper. One thing I've noticed however is that our Brother fax machine has real trouble successfully transmitting since we've switched. I damn near have to offer a ritual sacrifice to get the fax to go through correctly for some reason.
posted by barc0001 at 4:54 PM on March 27, 2009

I've had Vonage for a long while now, and have very few complaints. None of the are Vonage's problem- I love the service.

1- 911 service is better- you just register your address with them, and they figure it out. I believe all 911 centers have alternate "real" phone numbers, and they just forwad any 911 calls to that.

2- Call quality depends solely on your internet connection. If it's not rock solid stable, it sounds terrible.

3- But if the connection is good, the quality is awesome. Especially if you are talking to another Vonage subscriber.

4- I hooked up my cable modem, router and Vonage box to a UPS. This eliminates the power outage issue.

6- There are delay issues I've noticed with VOIP-->Cellular. I suspect that there are just too many digital to analog to digital to analog translations going on. It's gotten better, but still annoying. (This isn't Vonage's problem, it happens with any VOIP depending on how its hooked up.
posted by gjc at 5:38 PM on March 27, 2009

Yeah, I'd say Voip is primetime. I've used Vonage over Comcast cable for the last 3 years, haven't had a landline in all that time. In the beginning there were a few blips in service but nothing serious, a year ago I added another line w/fax for my wife's business.

I actually found the Vonage customer support to be very useful, which surprised me. When we got the fax installed it wasn't working so hot. The customer support guy helped me with the networking and the fax settings and then helped me optimize my router connections, which I thought was pretty cool.
posted by jeremias at 5:45 PM on March 27, 2009

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