One of my new productivity tools for 2007 is a VOIP business phone. This post will interest readers in small offices or in their personal capacity more than those working in large organizations. 

[To learn more about VOIP, click the more link below.]

I recently converted my business phone line from a traditional copper phone line to Sunrocket brand VOIP. The two big benefits are easier management of voice communication and lower cost.

Sunrocket offers a very simple web interface to manage the phone. Examples:

  • Forward with one mouse click. (With my local phone service, forwarding is very clunky.)
  • Receive a text message and/or e-mail alert of new voice mail messages.
  • Listen to voice mail on my PC, in a web interface. This is easier than listening by phone because all the controls (pause, replay, save, delete) are obvious – no arbitrary numbers to remember. Separately, I recently traveled to Europe where listening on the web was much easier than finding an easy and inexpensive way to call my business line.
  • Review call logs (missed, incoming, and outgoing).
  • Control the number of rings before callers get voice mail.
  • Pick up messages by phone from a pre-determined phone number (in my case, my mobile) without having to punch in codes.

These and other great features are typically unavailable on traditional phones. Plus, Sunrocket costs a fraction of what I had been paying. (I pay about $200/year, including domestic and Canada long distance. Overseas calls are less than one-half the cost I had been paying.)

As a legal technology consultant, I work in a small office but serve big organizations. So I see consumer, small business, and enterprise systems. The typical large LED display on an enterprise VOIP handset does not, in my opinion, effectively inform users how to use the phone. Granted I’ve not had training on these systems. Learning Sunrocket took about five minutes – no training required. It seems clear to me that the future of managing the phone is on the computer screen, not the handset.

Update 7/19/07: Sunrocket as ceased operation. See my latest Sunrocket blog post of 7/19/07. I’m still a fan of VOIP and have signed up for Packet8 service.

What is VOIP?

VOIP means voice over internet protocol. Phones as invented by Alexander Graham Bell work over copper wires. The typical home phone connects to a nearby central phone office via the copper wires strung from neighborhood poles. Your call is the only one that traverses that wire. The voice is converted to an analog signal (variations in electrical current).

It turns out, however, that voice is like any other data, meaning it can be digitized, or represented as ones and zeros. In VOIP, your phone connects to the internet and your voice is transmitted over the internet connection as digitized data (a series of ones and zeroes). That data is intermixed with all the other data going back and forth. Because your phone now is, in essence, a computer, it is very easy to integrate voice communications with other computer applications.