Will Voice over IP work for me?
February 18, 2007 2:16 PM   Subscribe

What are good options for phone service for a home office?

Due to space constraints at the office, I am moving to working totally from home. While I was doing that 2-3 days a week before, I simply used my cell phone when I was at home. Now, with this being a permanent situation, I need to be able to fax, receive calls comfortably every day, etc. so I am looking into getting phone service for my home office.

I looked into getting a standard land line from the local telco (Verizon), but the pricing for two lines, unlimited long distance, calling features, etc. made me choke, I haven't had a land line in years, so I forgot how I had it on my cell phone.

So I started looking at Voice over IP as a possible solution, including possibly Vonage.

I'm curious about two things. One, how well will VoIP actually work on a home office situation (I'm only on the phone maybe 30-45 minutes a day). Two, when I looked at phones in the stores, I was not thrilled with my choices. I would like something kind of 'officey' but with the ability to add a cordless extension if needed, but it should look decent.
posted by benjh to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
As for VOIP I have Comcast Digital Voice, and it's been great for me. It behaves just like a regular phone, and I just plug a regular phone into it.

As for the phone hardware, get a normal wireless phone setup like you'd have at home anyway, and then get a headset for the office. That way you have the nice roaming, but also the handsfree when you need it.
posted by cschneid at 2:33 PM on February 18, 2007

You might also want to look into how much your workplace will pay for this.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:37 PM on February 18, 2007

As a Vonage customer, I would recommend against Vonage for business service. I've had sporadic call quality issues and found their support department to be absolutely useless. I am in Canada though, so maybe it's different in the US.
posted by saraswati at 2:38 PM on February 18, 2007

The company is footing the bill, not me, but it does come out of my budget, which effects my review at the end of the year.
posted by benjh at 2:52 PM on February 18, 2007

We had Vonage for our 888 number and are going back to POTS. The call quality was embarrassing.

You could consider efax or similar plus a mobile and headset. Digital faxes are great, and I don't swear as much when people send me fax spam.
posted by mrbugsentry at 3:00 PM on February 18, 2007

One of the kids had Comcast VoIP, and she spent 2 months trying to get a dial tone, never did make it. YMMV.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:00 PM on February 18, 2007

VOIP at home is not ready for prime time, if you actually care about it working all the time and working well. I'd give it another year or two.

Unlimited long distance? Why? You might see how removing that drops the price. Long distance is cheap, and unless you're spending a dozen hours a day on the phone, it makes more sense to just pay the rate

Also verify that calls from your home to your workplace are considered "local" (no toll, free, unlimited), and if not then spring for the extra $10/month to expland your local calling area. Long distance rates have been driven down by competition, but local rates (i.e. intrastate) not so much.

Finally, note that VOIP doesn't work when the power goes out. But if you already were relying on your cell phone, then that doesn't bother you.
posted by intermod at 4:03 PM on February 18, 2007

My company is paying about $50 to Verizon for my home office line. That included unlimited local and long distance, voice mail, etc etc etc. VoIP is about 1/2 that - but the QOS on a DSL or cable modem can be questionable at times. They key is to not get a business line from Verizon -get the Freedom package for home service. Business service costs more for no apparent reason.

I'd go with Verizon unless $50 a month is going to break your budget.
posted by COD at 4:22 PM on February 18, 2007

If your ISP sells a VOIP package, and you go with a third party VOIP provider, you may experience call quality issues due to your VOIP packets being deprioritized by the ISP. For example: Comcast in Northern California.
posted by Manjusri at 5:01 PM on February 18, 2007

Vonage has worked pretty well for me over the last year and a half, one thing you need to keep in mind though is that a fax line is a separate add-on. Faxing does not work on the standard Vonage line, you need to pay extra.

As far as phones go, if you're going cordless, you should get the 5.8 ghz models so there is no interference with wireless. I've had a Uniden for a while that has proven sturdy . . .
posted by jeremias at 6:56 PM on February 18, 2007

Hrm, I've had Vonage since 2001 and haven't had a service problem in years. The quality is just fine. Beats the pants off of my cell phone, that's for sure.

I have one of the original Cisco ATA 186 units, though. I've heard of people getting Linksys Vonage units that were pretty crappy.

Also since you're working from home, don't let on that you're looking for a "business" line. To Verizon, business = $$$$. They're likely quoting you business rates when a plain old "home" package will work just fine for you.
posted by drstein at 9:59 PM on February 18, 2007

Just to chime in with the VOIP issues: It depends on your area, I would assume, so hit up some people who've used Vonage/local Cable for VOIP and see if they're experiences match up with what you've seen here. Locally, my cable company is spotty with performance, to the degree that I have to regularly call them up for days of credits to my accounts due to lack of service.

On to the home-office issues: If you get a cordless phone, a hands-free headset, a wireless network and a cellphone, don't expect them all to work well in each others' presence 100% of the time. Add in some poorly shielded wiring for your computer (i.e. speaker, mouse and keyboard cabling), and you'll start cursing the airwaves. Believe me, my voice is hoarse.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:43 AM on February 19, 2007

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