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Q: I have a small company and I’m looking for an inexpensive (not cheap) way to handle my telephone system. I know that there are companies that let you use the Web for phone services, but I remember that the quality of the calls weren’t always that great. Have there been any improvements? What should I look for?
–C. Martin, Via the Internet
A: Internet telephony (also known as VoIP, or voice over IP) has come a long way from the early days of poor transmission quality, echoes, and dropped connections. Today, you can find a plethora of companies that provide services to businesses and consumers at relatively reasonable rates (sometimes free), allowing you to make, receive, and manage calls and faxes via the Internet.
As a small business, you have several options from companies such as Net 2 Phone (www.net2phone.com), Packet8 (www.packet8.net), Dialpad (www.dialpad.com), and Go2Call (www.go2call.com). There is also the free VoIP service Skype (www.skype.com), from the company that developed Kazaa. One of the important things to keep in mind when choosing a service is your call volume (how many calls you make and how many you receive) in relation to the cost of the plan that you choose. As with any plan, whether landline-based, wireless, or Web-based, going over could cost you.