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What Can VoIP Do?

Plus, how to find the best broadband service

What Can VoIP Do?
Many businesses make the jump to VoIP for the savings, then fail to take full advantage of the enhanced functions these increasingly versatile platforms offer. Here's a look at four VoIP features that can help boost productivity and make a small company boom.

Unified Messaging Unified messaging means one-stop access to voice mail and e-mail: E-mails can be translated to voice messages, and voice messages can be turned into e-mails. It also allows users to set
receipt priorities-so messages from your investors automatically go to the top of the pile.

Conferencing VoIP systems can take the traditional audio conference to the next level, injecting collaboration capabilities so participants can exchange files, sync calendars and (given the right broadband connection) communicate via video.

Find Me/Follow Me This is the "anywhere, anytime" part of VoIP: a single-number forwarding function that lets callers find your employees whether they're at their desks, in a hotel, working from home or on a job site.

Auto Attendant This feature answers incoming calls, lets you play music or prerecorded messages to callers on hold and supports a voice-mail tree that can route calls by employee. In other words, it can make your small shop appear much bigger to your customers or clients. --J.M.

Buying Better Broadband
Deciding on the best broadband connection for your business involves a lot more than just comparing costs. Here are some factors to weigh--and some things to watch out for.

Speed Make sure you read the fine print on both download and upload speeds, particularly if your business exports large files to clients. Look for symmetrical or bidirectional broadband offerings.

Expandability Does the package you're considering support the expected growth of your business? Consider support for functions like WAN and WLAN--not to mention the OS you may be using.

Security Nearly every business broadband package on the market will offer enhanced levels of security, such as anti-virus and spyware protection. Also look for extras like firewall and online backup.

Support If the network--or your connection to it--goes down for whatever reason, you'll want immediate support. Check for a priority 24-hour helpline, guaranteed repairs within a set period of time and service-level guarantees.

Price As with any service, what you pay is critical. Also consider the length of any contract you ink, and beware of introductory rates that skyrocket after an initial honeymoon period.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the July 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What Can VoIP Do?.

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