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VoIP for Small Business to Home Office -
it’s ready, but are you?

Written by the Tech Edge E-zine staff,
May 1st, 2007

The curious thing about SIP based VoIP is that it has also allowed plenty of small local or regional companies to offer VoIP using an open source version of SIP standard called Asterisk ®. A few smaller companies that have been around a while and picked up some national notice are - BroadVoice®, SiPnumber ®, SIPphone ® and Gizmo Project ®. If their services and security suit your needs, these kinds of providers maybe suitable for individual business people, or home users.

Because SIP with Asterisk is so simple (and free) to implement, too many ill planned companies have gotten into VoIP and they continue to fold like the traveling circus at the end of the week. Do your research before you put down a big investment in their services. Beware of the companies with websites filled with hot babe pictures ... just what are they selling?

The basic Asterisk platform is pretty generic and unfortunately has plenty of nagging bugs that aren’t being fixed by the originators. Some of the small SIP service providers have done great jobs of sanitizing Asterisk on their service and for any hardware that's compatible with SIP. Others apparently just used Asterisk as is and we found lots of those nasty bugs that make using those services a waste of time. We’ll name names as we cover the services and the hardware you can use.

With the burgeoning of the VoIP market, you’d think that those service providers using SIP would have a well-organized standards association or governing body to make everyone work together and foster cooperation. Apparently this isn’t the case, as most of the SIP providers do not allow their customers with basic free accounts to call others from competing SIP services. This would be like your having AT&T telephone service at home and not being able to call your brother in another location because he has Verizon or another PSTN (analog) telephone service. It’s absurd, but this is going on today!

If you have a basic BroadVoice account, you can’t call someone with basic SIPphone service, or someone with a SIPnumber® service, or someone with Tel Tel® service, or Gizmo, etc., unless you pay extra for a local phone number and some call credits, usually about $.02 - $04 per minute domestically. Over-seas call may be at higher per minute fees. Basically, if you have a SIPphone account, you’ll only be able to call other SIPphone account holders, unless you upgrade from your basic free service level.

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There are a few ways around this stumbling block and we’ll explain them in the upcoming article segment on SIP small office / home office service. But we’d hope that all the SIP Asterisk based service would get their act together and, well .. act together to further the interest in SIP. A couple of the company CEO's we've spoken too are frustrated with the situation and are trying to find a community accord.

As VoIP for the smaller customer quickly grows, there are some bumps in the road for the non traditional providers. More and more companies are challenging the traditional phone companies and the big phone boys aren’t going to take it lying down. Many have also jumped into VoIP, the cable companies are doing it too. If you have cable broadband at home or small office and have bought into the cable companies “digital phone” service, you are really getting the same kind of VoIP that you can buy from anyone else. Cox ®, Comcast ®, etc. “digital phone service” is just VoIP and it can be very cheap.... for now.

The dark side of the big boys fighting back is the first of the lawsuits by Verizon® that claims patent infringement against VoIP market leader Vonage®. Vonage lost the first round in court, but has secured a stay of judgment, which if not overturned, could put them out of business. The Verizon patent is vague and too broad, as many analysts have reported; and if Vonage losses ultimately, you can believe that Verizon won’t stop there.
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Let’s talk, and how–

One of the very useful things about VoIP is that in the many services available to the small business user. You can use VoIP via many different forms of communications and not all are hardware. Day to day calls from the office, call transfers, voice messages, voice mails, fax, calls while out of the office on the road, etc., are all part of what everyone needs in a business phone service. It would be nice to have at home too.

Keep in mind that we haven’t tried all the many flavors of VoIP services available; it would take us far too long to do so. But we’ve found that many of the companies have done a very good job of making it easy for you to do your daily communications conveniently from anywhere. With many of the services you can have your familiar desktop telephone - whether a digital IP phone or your original analog phone with a VoIP adapter - and also be able to use a Wi-Fi phone, or a “soft phone” (software) on any desktop computer, or anywhere you take your notebook that has access to a broadband connection.


© 2007 Tech Edge E-zine



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