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.
PhonePower is one of a handful of VoIP providers that actually specialize in residential VoIP rather than business VoIP. Although PhonePower has many plans, it’s best for calling within the US (including Puerto Rico) and Canada. That’s because it has possibly the cheapest prices in residential VoIP, providing you’re calling solely on local numbers. PhonePower also enables calls abroad, although there are cheaper options such as Vonage if you’re planning on making more than an hour’s worth of calls internationally each month.
By moving to internet phone technologies, companies are not only able to save a lot of money but also improve their communication infrastructure. Small home-based businesses that could never have a fully-equipped telephone system installed in their premises can now enjoy all the benefits at a fraction of the cost. Some VoIP services offer value for money business call plans that are specifically targeted at small home based businesses.
Fortunately, most of the providers reviewed here have engineering staff that will contact you as part of your setup process to help your IT staffers test and optimize your network prior to deploying their solutions. That's definitely something we recommend, but there are steps you can take now to prep your LAN for VoIP and make the deployment process that much easier.
Fortunately, there are several dedicated residential VoIP providers who offer nationwide service, usually with worldwide calling plans. With one of these you should be offered at least four core features. Those include caller ID, voicemail hosted by the provider (meaning you don't need an answering machine), call waiting (essentially a one-line hold), 911 support (sometimes called "E911"), and three-way calling allowing you to reach out to a third participant in any phone conversation. There will likely be a slew of other features available, but they'll differ across quality providers while these four should always be available. Most of these will work in a two-step process:
These include features like voicemail-to-email (and/or fax to email) which will automatically take your voicemail messages and send them as audio files to your email, making you much less likely to miss important messages. Many companies can also provide you with voicemail transcription to text, which will automatically convert the messages to text in an email, saving you even more time. 
From an end user point of view, the actual phone service works in the same way, you pick up the phone to answer a call or to dial a number just like with a landline service. Number porting means you can keep your existing phone number and simply switch it over to your new service provider. The residential VoIP providers take care of the call routing and you can call any destination and receive calls from anyone, just like with regular home phone service.
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