There are all sorts of VoIP features, price plans, and services to choose from. In general, you’ll want to take these five factors into consideration: What is the service plan? The range of services offered does, of course, determine how much you’ll pay for a monthly plan. Look for plans with unlimited calling minutes, including connections to desired international locations. Do you want to keep your existing phone number, and is there a charge to do so? What other options do you need? Most providers can offer toll-free numbers, fax service, and the ability to add lines. The question becomes: which has the package that offers everything you need at the most affordable price—and without cancellation fees? What calling features are available? You should be able to acquire everything you can get on a regular phone: call hold, voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, etc. Also, check out which 911 and directory assistance services are offered. What kind of special features do you want? Multiple voicemail boxes, visual voicemail (your voice messages converted into text messages or email), mobile apps, music on hold? Don’t assume if you’re a small business that some features are luxuries. These features not only enhance productivity, but they equal the playing field. The beauty of VoIP is that small businesses can now afford the features/functionalities once only attainable by large companies. Is the system easy to use and install? It should be. But make sure that the company has a reputation for ease of installation, as well as readily understandable operating instructions. There are multiple consumer rating sites online; check out the evaluations for multiple VoIP providers. Ask about training videos; you can find videos on YouTube that will teach you in minutes how to do amazing things with your VoIP system! Will your VoIP provider help you? Most VoIP systems are easy to manage through computer dashboards. But no type of technology is flawless. Does the VoIP provider offer customer support via email or telephone? And is there a fee for using customer support? Maybe if you have a good IT staff, support isn’t going to matter much. But if you don’t, you probably won’t want to spend a lot of time reading the documentation to figure things out for yourself. Many phone systems host active forums where other users post answers to questions and provide solutions to common problems. Hosted or self-hosted? In most cases, you’ll want the VoIP provider to host the software. For hosted systems, you access the software that controls your phones through the Internet. But if you’ve got a savvy IT team and a VoIP provider with a strong reputation for providing technical support, a self-hosted option could save considerable money over the long run. But it requires some upfront expenses, including a private branch exchange (PBX), and a gateway to convert from analog signals to digital distribution.