It's pretty good, but immature. Has a couple of years to go before it's really threatening to the traditional telco networks. It will happen, however, that's for sure.
If you decide to go for it anyway, I would recommend you go with a provider with an established reputation, and you'll want a QoS (quality of service router). You'll also need a decent internet connection (T1 or low contention SDSL).
Don't be surprised if the odd call gets dropped/choppy on less than a T1. That's the state of play at the moment.
To be honest, I don't think it's yet up to commercial standard. Fine for home/experimental use, but I wouldn't run a business from the end of one, especially on a DSL connection.
The chances are, if you're using a telephone, you've already used VoIP. But the Telco inter-connections that utilise VoIP are heavy-weight. When you throw a standard DSL broadband modem in there, it's a different ballgame.
Other options maybe? How about calling your telco provider and ask if they can supply you with some local rate Canadian and US telephone numbers? Or if you're calling them, go for a low-rate international dial-plan?
Telco's want to keep your business - the threat of VoIP at least gives you some bargaining power, even if you conclude you couldn't actually make the move to VoIP just yet.
Thanks TJ - very informative. I think we are pushed into giving this a whirl. Do you or anybody know if there's much difference between the IP-Phones themselves or it's all down to connections really?
Sure, I have personally tested 12 hardware phones ranging from $50 to $500. In terms of call quality they're almost indistinguishable. There is a difference, but it's so marginal that I would buy on features over and above anything else.
For the PBX, the open-source options are truly fantastic - I recommend you take a look at [asterisk.org...] - an open-source free for commercial use Linux PBX.
You might want to spend a little above average on the FXO/FXS cards for the PBX - they make a difference.
Good bandwidth and QoS (which basically guarantees a certain settable amount of bandwidth for telephony at all times) is paramount and really the only factor that needs major consideration. Buy a router without QoS and you'll be in for a shock when you're on the phone and your colleague starts his 20mb download ;-)
For the phones, like I say, make the call (no pun intended) based on features you need.
I am not a telco expert, but when my partners and I started our latest company in June 04, we went with a Vonage system. We started with one voice and one fax line, runnning through a 4port router and cable broadband.
Since then, we are up to 4 voice lines, one fax, still the same cable modem and 256K upload connection - but we have upgraded to a 16 port router.
We commonly have all four voice lines in use at the same time, and 95% of the time the sound quality is fine. Once in a while the sound can get choppy. I know that this is beyond the capacity of the broadband connnection in theory - but it works.
We are planning on adding a second cable modem and second broadband connection to the system - I just havent gotten around to it yet.
We also have three salespeople that work from home with similar setups - our grand total for all the lines and four 800 numbers is around $400 per month.
1. the voicemail is a little erratic. Sometimes the dial tone indicator does not indicate a voicemail. Our solution was to set the system to email the voicemal as a .WAV file to the appropriate person.
2. Customer service is staffed with people that seem to know little about their own system.
3. Not all areas have a local area code. Our business lines all have an area code from a bigger city a 100 miles away. This "bug" is changing all the time.
Since getting the system, there has been many entries into the market - and I have looked at a lot of them. None so far has persuaded me to switch. Overall I am happy with the system.
As for PBX stuff - we went with a quasi-PBX system from Panasonic, which has four lines, voicemail box for each of 8 extensions and seems to work ok with the Vonage box. Most of the PBX vendors I talked to told me that there products would not work with it. Others told me to buy it and see. One of the vonage forums suggested this panasonic setup and it functions with the VOIP---
They have a referral program that lets the referrer and the referee get one month free. Stickymail me if you want that sent to you.
One more thing - I went on vacation last summer and took my voip box from home with me. Every place I could get access to a broadband connection, I had my home phone number. Pretty neat.
I am pretty sure that a VOIP box from the US would work for you in Europe.
We use both VoicePulse and Vonage with no complaints. We have been extremely happy with the servics.
Thanks guys, appreciate the input. Still waiting to hear back from a couple of companies - you'd think being in communications they'd be a bit quicker ;-)
As an update. Signed up with a company....it was tough finding one that offered what the client wanted, mainly for being in Europe and the IP phone they'd purchased. Have to say that after a day of testing the quality is superb and have yet to receive any reports of choppy conversation, call drops or echo. Fingers crossed.
We've been using Packet 8 for about a year and are quite happy with it. They're slightly cheaper than Vonage, I believe, but are functionally similar as far as I know.
If you Google for "packet8" you'll find lots of special offers and deals to get you started. ;-)
We changed one of our phone lines over to Vonage a couple months ago. We are using it through a basic cable modem for all our outgoing and haven't noticed any quality difference at all from a regular phone line. We were also very happy with their customer service.
Coincidentally, PC Magazine just recently had an article about how VoIP is now "there". You might want to look it up as it had comparisons of different companies.