Whether you’ve been in business for a good long while or you’ve only recently launched your startup, you’ve no doubt come to the conclusion that managing a small business is vastly different from corporate jobs you’ve held in the past. The major rift lies largely in the type of numbers you’re dealing with, which is to say, you’re working with a lot less capital and cash flow than a multi-national corporation. And this changes the scope of your business model at every level. You have to work with a truncated staff, for example, many of whom wear multiple hats. And if you don’t get paid by your clients you may not be able to pay your suppliers in order to keep the wheels of commerce rolling. In short, you’re on a very tight budget and you’re probably interested in finding ways to cut costs wherever possible. So if you have yet to discover what VoIP can do for you, here is a starter course that could have you dumping your phone service in favor or something new.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is phone service over the internet, at its most basic level. This may sound a bit confusing, but it’s actually pretty simple. Using a VoIP service provider, you can use your regular phone, smartphone, tablet, or computer to place and receive “calls”. In the case of your average telephone, the analog signal will be converted to digital. Depending on the service provider you elect to use, these calls could be free, whether you’re calling local, domestic, or international. Of course, you will have to pay for your internet service, but many VoIP platforms are offered for little or no cost, and they can certainly be less than you might pay the phone company for the same calls. If you can jack into WiFi you won’t even have to use up minutes on your data plan (although WiFi really isn’t very secure, so you might not want to discuss sensitive information).

If you’re doubtful, consider a service like Skype, which you’ve probably used in your personal life. You can call or video chat with your contacts for free over the internet, and if you want to make international calls via this cloud-based service, you could do so for as little as one cent per minute (although rates vary by country and plan), provided you have access to an internet connection. And there is no shortage of VoIP services out there to try. All you have to do is determine what kind of service you want, what you’re willing to pay, and whether or not you want extras like multiple lines, voice mail, and so on.

Of course, there are a few reasons you might want to retain basic phone service, as well. For example, VoIP may not allow you access to services that the phone company offers, such as 911, 411, caller ID, and so on. But if you’re looking for ways to slash expenses when it comes to your business’s communication systems management, VoIP is definitely a service that should be on your radar, especially if you make long-distance calls or travel frequently. With so many services offering inexpensive and even free VoIP, it’s definitely something that every small business owner can benefit from using.

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