To B Or Not To B …

…Used to be that when you got a phone in your home, that was about it. You got one phone number, and maybe an extension or two. But, as the song goes, “the times they are a changin’.”

These days the “home” phone, especially a VoIP line such as Phone.com’s Home Phone Plus, comes with a raft of what used to be business-only features. Expensive business-only features. But as any late night TV infomercial says … “Wait, there’s more.”

It’s no longer unreasonable for a home user to opt for plan B, as in B for a ‘B’usiness phone system – with a raft of additional features – thanks to the capabilities of VoIP. To be fair, the cost is somewhat higher (how much higher depends on the exact services you choose), but really not much considering the added capabilities. Indeed , in cases where Plan B does make sense, the cost may actually be no more than buying multiple residential phones, and in any case it is still a fraction of what old-fashioned non-VoIP costs. And for telecommuters, the little extra cost is far outweighed by the business benefits.

That being said I tried it out, upgrading from my Home Phone Plus to Phone.com’s Virtual Office. What I wanted Plan B for was two U.S. phone numbers, one of which was going to be installed overseas in my son’s house, plus – the frosting on the cake – an overseas number so family and friends could call me as a local call for them. That number costs a grand total of $60 PER YEAR. Used to be you were lucky if you could get away with $60 per month for such a service. While for businesses operating internationally the attraction is obvious, for those of us with many friends and children overseas, the attraction should be just as obvious.

The upgrade to Virtual Office, as it turns out, took less than a minute. In fact way less than a minute. It took just one or two clicks of the mouse. A bit more troublesome was provisioning an already-used ATA (voip phone adapter) that I had for the second line – a situation few users will find themselves in. For reasons known only to the phone gods, the ATA had lost its settings – but Phone.com’s tech support people wouldn’t give up until they found the problem and fixed it. I could, of course, have just ordered a new ATA, but that would have been wasteful and in any case I didn’t want to wait.

As I write this blog post the overseas line has been set up – it worked instantly when plugged into the wall and the Internet, no Geeks, Nerds or other tech gurus needed – and a newly bought cordless phone attached to the ATA is sitting there charging. In a month or so I’ll report on how well installing a U.S. VoIP number overseas is working.

Stuart Zipper is the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break and a contributing editor to Communications Technology.