The most amazing thing to me is how fast technology is changing in the field of communications. Why, my personal method of communication with friends and family has changed far greater that I would ever have imagined just 10 years ago. No, I don’t have a Dick Tracy 2-way watch phone yet, but the technology is getting very close.
I think the one thing that all businesses should now be considering is broadband and wireless business phones. No, I don’t mean cell phones or small wireless home phones - I’m talking about setting up your own company Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) system and operating it not through standard telephone lines, but through your company’s Internet cable connection. It’s a lot easier, it provides more features, and the monthly costs are greatly reduced.
My ExperienceSome time ago, I took the plunge and ordered a high-speed cable connection for my home computer. At about $45 per month that’s pretty pricey for a home connection, but I do a lot of work over the Internet. And at about the same time, I finally decided to get rid of my regular telephone service, because they were unwilling to resolve some billing problems.
So, using my cable modem I switched over to an online telephone service, which provides all the top-of-the-line phone company features for about half the cost of their basic no-frills price. It’s great! And do you know what? They provide a small business telephone service with all the frills (messaging, call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, and more) for less than $50 per month! And what’s more, you may even be allowed to keep your current phone number. And on top of that, all long-distance calls in the U.S. and Canada are FREE!
I’ll admit that I’ve used a cable-operated phone service in the past, but that was provided by my local cable company, and their attitude and pricing is about the same as that of the telephone company. They’ll be gone too some day. However, the phone quality over cable is every bit as good as (if not better than) the regular phone lines.
Wi-Fi?Did I mention Wi-Fi? Yes, that’s the service you’ll find at many airports, most top hotels, and many coffee shops and bookstores. This system allows people with wireless laptops and hand-held computers to access the Internet anywhere in their facilities free of charge. And it’s not that difficult or expensive to set up in your building (your company does have cable, doesn’t it?). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to finally get rid of that jumbled mess of wires that run throughout your building to all the phones and computers?
And yes, they now have telephones that connect directly to Wi-Fi systems without any cords, cables, or the need of a switchboard. These may not only be used in your building, but wherever the service is provided. And other than the small monthly connection charge, all local and long-distance phone calls are FREE throughout the U.S. and Canada, and very inexpensive worldwide!
Other Business FeaturesAlthough I’m no longer in a position where I need such frills, I noted that one online telephone provider allows you to add new local phone numbers in almost any area code throughout North America for about $5 per month. Does your company serve another area code where your customers would appreciate not having to pay a toll to call you? And I noticed that they offer a 1-800 number for just a few dollars more.
The ConnectionWith the provider I used, I paid a small setup fee, they mailed me a broadband router (I guess they own it), and I did my own changeover in about 20 minutes. You have to disconnect the incoming telephone lines so the ringer voltage doesn’t damage the router. Then I connected the router to the cable modem, and I ran a standard telephone-line cord from a house phone jack to the router. Voila! Our home’s three phones were connected to the new telephone system. Then I had to spend an hour on hold with the phone company to get their service turned off.
Where you have multiple phone lines in your building, you must connect hard wires to a multiple-line modem - but they supply it. And Wi-Fi would eliminate that problem.
The DrawbacksOf course, every great new idea comes with drawbacks. If your current phone system still works when there’s a loss of electrical power, losing the power to your modem and router will turn off the cable system. Invest in a backup power supply. And since you’re no longer a telephone company customer, your business may no longer be listed in their phone book. However, I checked with one telephone book provider (Yellow Book), and they said that they would be glad to list your new number free of charge. They have a toll-free number to accept your listing, if they’re available in your area.
If you have any questions, please feel free to write.