When you’re on your cell phone all day and surfing the Web wirelessly, a landline telephone can seem a relic that just doesn’t have a place in your 21st century office. An estimated 25 percent of businesses are starting to phase out landlines and are using cell phones and Voice over Internet Protocol technology instead. And in today’s current economic climate, any move that will save money is worth considering.
You have a few choices when it comes to getting rid of your landline: Use cell phones only; use VoIP; or combine the services. All options could save you money, but if you eat up a lot of minutes each month or need a landline for other purposes, it may not be time to ditch the landline.
To decide if your landline still makes sense for your business, first assess your needs as well as the pros and cons of cell phones and VoIP. To get started, answer these questions:
- Do you have any dead spots in your office? Is your cell phone signal always clear and strong?
- Are you constantly on the move? Is your landline there only to take random voice mail from people who don’t know your cell number?
- If you have employees, do they use a business landline or do they each have a business cell phone? If they don’t have cell phones, how much will it cost to provide them and what type of plan will you need to cover everyone?
- How do you receive your Internet? Many companies require a landline for DSL service.
- Do you have a fax machine, an alarm system, or a door buzzer that requires a landline?
Assess all of your communication bills: landline, data, and cell. Will going cell only require you to add more minutes to your plan? How does that compare monetarily to having both a landline and a cell bill? You never want to go over on your mobile minutes because overages can add enormous costs to your bill.
Also, determine which features you have on each line and if you have landline-only features how much it would cost to add those to your cell. And if you still have dial-up or DSL, add in the cost of converting to another broadband service.
VoIP is an option that allows you to make telephone calls using your broadband service. There are several methods of making the calls. You can use a headset, a microphone, and your computer with free services such as Google Talk and Skype, or you can sign up for a paid service such as Vonage. With monthly services you can use your normal phone with a VoIP adapter or a VoIP-enabled telephone. Some even work when your computer is turned off.
The big pro with VoIP is that long-distance charges are a thing of the past, even international charges. Data over broadband is just data, so to many VoIP providers it doesn’t matter if you’re calling Tucson or Timbuktu. However, you need to choose your service very carefully.
With some of the free services, you can only make free VoIP calls if your recipient also has the software; and sound clarity can be spotty, a big no-no for customer calls. You also have to be tethered to your computer. With paid services, sound quality can be better; you’ll have access to customer service. And you can use a telephone instead of a headset and microphone. You also want to make sure your VoIP service covers all the nations you need to call.
One big question that comes up when removing a landline is emergency service, whether you’ll have 911 or uninterrupted service during a natural disaster. A telephone line may not experience the overload cell service does during a large emergency. If your electricity is out for two days, you’ll be out of luck charging your cell unless you invest in a wind-up charger or a solar charger. VoIP can suffer from a double-whammy in a natural disaster because it’s dependent on both electricity and an Internet connection.
With a landline, even if you’re unable to articulate your location, 911 operators know exactly where the call is coming from. On a cell phone, the signal is triangulated based on where you are and nearby cell towers, a method that can be fairly accurate in cities but less so in rural areas. With VoIP, you must register your location with the service so that in the case of a 911 call, emergency services don’t travel to the location of your IP address instead of where you actually are. So before giving up that landline, make sure emergency services will be readily available.
Most people cut the cord on their landline because of costs and perceived lack of use of their normal phone. If you really no longer have a need for a landline and can make all telephone calls through VoIP or your cell without any additional costs or sound clarity loss, it may be time to join the future, in which landlines go the way of the Betamax and cassette tape.