Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Goodbye Phone Company!

Did you ever want to kick yourself when you found out you paid more for something than you really needed to? We all want a good deal, and I’m no different. Which is why I’m kicking myself for spending way too much on business phone service for way too many years. Thanks to my son Ben for introducing me to something that will save me a ton of money every year.

What is it? Ooma phone service! Ooma is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service (similar to Vonage, which is probably more widely known). Rather than paying a local and/or long distance phone company for monthly phone service, Ooma phone calls are made and received over a high speed cable internet connection.

I had heard of VoIP technology, and I was familiar with Vonage. Yet I was always a bit wary of depending on my internet connection for phone calls. I felt like the internet connection may not always be reliable, and I count on my business phone to be there when I need it. Not to mention that it just seemed “easier” to stick with what I had. I certainly didn’t need another item on the “to-do” list. That is until I found out how much money I would save.

The Ooma service requires that you purchase a unit called the Ooma Telo. This is a small unit that looks like an answering machine and connects to your cable modem. The list price is $250, but is often on sale for $200 if you shop. That’s the price I paid, and it will be my only expense for the entire first year. Once connected, you are ready to unplug your phone from the wall jack, plug it into your Ooma Telo, and CANCEL your costly monthly telephone service. All US calls, both local and long distance are free! After the first year, I will pay $11.75 per YEAR (not per month) to cover certain excise taxes and fees. I have also chosen to pay an additional $9.95 per month (optional) to get some premium level services.

So the initial outlay isn’t chicken feed. That is until I looked at how much I had been paying for my business phone service on average every month…$105!! For a small one-man business with mostly local clients, that was a ridiculous amount of money. It was a no-brainer to follow my own financial planning advice and reduce that $105 per month down to $11 per month. After several months, the cost of the Ooma Telo will be covered, and then the savings really begin.

As part of my $9.95 per month premium service, I was able to port my number over to Ooma at no additional charge (without premium service, they’ll charge you $40 if you want to keep your existing number). In addition to the regular features (most of which were not included in my phone company service) like call waiting and caller ID, there are a couple of premium services that I really like. First, I can still screen my calls as usual, so that when I hear a client leaving a message, I can pick up on the call right then. That is not possible with most voice mail services, and was only possible before because I had an answering machine instead of paying for phone company voicemail.

My favorite premium feature is what really keeps me connected, particularly when I travel. When someone leaves a voicemail message, I immediately get an email telling me who called. Attached to the email is an audio file of the message, which I can play on my phone or laptop, depending on where I received the email. No more calling in to check messages. I’ll know right away if a call came in, enabling me to return calls in a more timely way when I’m on the road.

And what about reliability and call quality? So far, at least as good as my phone company service. I forget I’m making calls over the internet. That is until I remember that all of the calls are free!

Once I switched to Ooma, I had to give up my toll-free 800 number. When I looked into it, I realized only a few people ever used that number, so it's no big loss. I’m impressed enough that we’ve decided to install Ooma for our home phone service as well. So goodbye monthly phone bills! Ooma is my new best friend!

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