Similar to its popular small business VoIP solution, Ooma Office, the company touts its on-premises VoIP appliance to power its residential service. You'll find three versions of this device to choose from: the Ooma Telo, Ooma Telo Air or Ooma Telo 4G, but they all sit between your Internet router and your phones, making installation of this low-cost service plug-and-play.
While there are still a few other legacy protocols around, and a few non-SIP standards, such as H.232, SIP is what's used for the vast majority of modern VoIP phone systems. The most common use I've seen for H.232 has been in dedicated video conferencing systems. SIP, meanwhile, handles phone service, video conferencing, and several other tasks just fine, which is why its use is so widespread. Where it has trouble is with data security, but more on that in a bit.
Choose the service that is appropriate for your calling needs. Residential VoIP plans are cheaper than business VoIP plans because: (1) they have fewer features and (2) residential phones are used less frequently than business phones. Don’t use a residential VoIP service for a home-based business unless you’re willing to pay overage fees or to have your VoIP service canceled. VoIP providers are serious about enforcing their Fair Use guidelines.
The products and services in this review roundup are focused on business use and because of this either provide some PBX features or serve as full-on virtual PBXes. This may mean, among other things, that they provide service to telephone sets on your employees' desks. Most also support electronic faxing in some fashion, either directly (which can be a significant challenge for some VoIP services) or by simply integrating an incoming fax with your email system. Other popular features are video conferencing and shared meeting software (so meeting attendees not only hear each other but can present presentations or documents in a shared work space).
Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine’s lead analyst for software and Web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine’s coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of Web Services (pretty much the progenitor of Web 2.0) for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine’s Solutions section, which in those days covered programming techniques as well as tips on using popular office software. Most recently he covered Web 2.0 and other software for ExtremeTech.com.
The majority of plans are loaded with a great selection of features that can come in handy when you are making or receiving calls. Many providers offer over 30 features included in the low monthly fees. These include basic call management features such as call waiting, call forwarding, call blocking, caller ID name, do not disturb, and voicemail. More advanced features such as the voicemail to email feature let's you access your messages at anytime, even when you are away from your home, simply by checking your email inbox. Distinctive ringing, additional virtual numbers, and Smartphone Calling App's are other examples of more advanced features that can be useful.