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Conventional phone lines cost $35-to-$70 a month.
If your staff work from home, or work part time, this is an unnecessary expense, especially considering most office communication is now handled via e-mail.

When I moved offices recently, I replaced my 15-year-old phones with an online VOIP-based (voiceover IP) system. Hardware installation was free (it would have cost hundreds to reinstall a hard-wired system) and in my office of three people and a fax machine, I’m saving about $80 per month.

I considered two services: RingCentral.ca’s Mobility and Line2 Pro. Here are the features they share:

Seamless call transfer:

You can transfer calls from a central office number to external phone lines without the caller knowing. These external lines can be landlines, home numbers, or cellphones.

In my office, two phone extensions go to cellphones, and two more go to Skype lines. You can obtain a Skype Online Number and a Skype Subscription to get unlimited calling to North America for about $8 per month.

RingCentral and Line2 offer similar services for about $10 per month.

Flexible auto attendants:

You can automatically direct certain numbers to certain extensions. You can also route calls differently based on the time of day. These services can be modified in the office or remotely via the web.

Customized voicemail:

Each extension can have its own custom voicemail. That way, clients never get a busy signal; nor are they ever directed to a general voice mailbox. You can also program voicemails to go to recipients’ e-mail boxes in addition to being stored as audio files.

Smartphone bonus:

You can use both systems through smartphone apps.

What did I choose?

I went with Line2Pro because it was easier to back out of. For offices with between three and eight staff, either service is fine. Any larger and Ringcentral.ca becomes your best option; it also offers some additional online phone management features.

As backup, I still have one conventional line, which I forward to the VOIP system.

My savings

For an office of three advisors, two support staff and a fax line, your monthly costs could be:

Main line (doubles as fax) $35.00
Fax to e-mail service $15.00
RingCentral/Line2 $15.00
Three advisor lines none (each directed to existing mobiles)
Two office lines $20.00 (set up on existing handsets using VOIP adapters, which cost between $40 and $70 each)
Virtual voicemail included
Conference calls included
Total monthly bill $85.00

That amounts to just a little more than the cost of one conventional business line.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge