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Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can stake genuine claims to being an alternative to traditional telephone systems today. High internet speeds available make internet telephony (internet phone service) an inexpensive, technically mature option, helping subscribers to dramatic cuts in long-distance/ international calling expenses and monthly phone bills.

With the deadline for filing tax returns upon us, many of you must be seeking out VoIP as a novel way to save money. But with many online services and package deals the choices can be overwhelming.

We reveal to you, five best kept secrets to get the best out of your VoIP deals.

  1. Virtual Numbers to save on Long Distance Calls – Most VoIP plans offer excellent savings on long distance calls, especially within USA and Canada. However, with a little reflection subscribers can extend their savings to friends and family who frequently call them. Residential VoIP selections often offer the feature to establish a virtual number at a location where most of your calls originate. The virtual number acts as a legitimate ‘local number’ alias for your phone number, treating all incoming calls as local calls. For example, if you are presently residing in Chicago, but your family and friends are mostly in Michigan, you can set up a local Michigan number as your VoIP contact, saving money every time you get a call from your loved ones in the area.

Pro Tip: This could work just as well for your business VoIP solution. Install a VoIP call-in number for the area with the highest density of your clients and cut down your business communication costs!

  1. Shop for International Calling plan deals – VoIP makes international calls fairly cheap, with some service providers charging as low as 1¢/ minute for many international locations. Vonage, one of the bigger brands, offers unlimited calling to 60 countries (land-line) and 10 countries (mobile) for $25.99/month. Skype and Rebtel are two app-to-app international call options for tech-savvy users; with additional charges for calls outside the app. Phone Power has a basic plan at $4.99/month that includes 60 min of free international calling, and a premium plan with 20 hours of international calling at $14.99/month. Leading the pack among VoIP services with cheap international calling options is MagicJack, with free incoming calls for device-to-device communication internationally. All you need is the ATA device with you anywhere and high-speed internet. Many international plans for business VoIP subscribers offer very low rates for countries like China, India and Brazil, where a majority of ‘off shore’ workforce and call centers exist, allowing business users to save heavily. For example, the unlimited extension plans for 8×8 VoIP service offers unlimited calling to 10 major destinations including Italy, France and Spain. Their global extension plan pushes it up to 40 countries.

Customers with heavy international calling frequency, be it for personal or business reasons, have plenty of freedom today to opt for a plan which best fits their needs.

  1. Free Remote Connection and Mobile Apps – For subscribers who are frequently mobile or need to travel heavily, VoIP is a fantastic service. Free from limitations of traditional telephony, consumers can avail high quality VoIP service pretty much from any place equipped with high-speed Internet connection, including public transport, hotels and restaurants, etc. Most VoIP subscribers have unlimited calls within US and Canada, and free, unlimited incoming calls to numbers here even if it is initiated from outside the country.

The advent of smartphones and mobile computing options (tablets, iPads, Kindle, smart-watches etc.) further leverage the freedom which VoIP delivers. Mobile apps can be used to register and subscribe for VoIP services on-the-go. Mobile VoIP options allow smartphones to be used as IP Phones. The calling rates are significantly lower than regular telephony charges, and are completed using the data plan of the subscriber’s mobile service instead of eating into their minutes. To top it, if you are in the range of free WiFi, the call will be totally free – which effectively lets the consumers use their smartphone to simulate an IP phone without any roaming charges!

Pro tip: For small businesses – remote connections and mobile apps add essential mobility to sales reps, helps run a leaner business model, cutting heavy expenditures on PBX systems and saving on the companies operational budget while maintaining telephone, hardware and managing extensions. VoIP can also work through encrypted virtual private network (VPN) connections, ensuring the safety isn’t compromised.

  1. Save More with Internet and VoIP Package deals – VoIP essentially relies on high quality internet to digitally transmit tits signals over a packet-switched network. Combining an internet service which is pre-approved for VoIP providers not only improves the overall service, it also saves more. Several internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon support VoIP services as part of their bundle, saving more together than individually purchased plans.

Typical networks with a LAN switch to support both data and VoIP for analog phones from a single source AT&T router, shown below:

  1. Vendor Discount on VoIP Hardware – VoIP services need at least one of two pieces of hardware: an analog telephone adaptor (ATA) device for legacy devices, or IP phone for modern computers and smartphones. In isolation, these can retail in upwards of $100. However, most VoIP services sell ATA and/or IP Phones for a significant discount. Vendors frequently offer deals for their subscribers. Many low-cost VoIP service alternatives like MagicJack and NetTalk take a one-time fee for their ATA and installation of services but charge a yearly renewal fee. Others like Obihai take a minimal cost upfront for their IP phone or ATA, but it pays for itself there-after, since it leverages the free calling options of Google Voice. For businesses there are also VoIP Phone Systems which can range from super cheap to very expensive depending on the size of business involved and if they need a basic phone system or PBX phone system.

Start shopping around for a VoIP service vendor who provides free hardware and installation, and passes on even more savings to you.

Whether you are a residential subscriber or a business consumer, if you have already made the smart decision to switch to VoIP, maximize your savings further by using the nifty options above.