Making the switch to VoIP is easier than ever. Residential VoIP subscribers can now use features at home that were previously only used at big businesses. And, of course, the phone companies can’t come close to the prices. Cell phones are useful, but impractical as your only phone. Here are five questions you should ask yourself when you are deciding which VoIP provider to bring home:

How Will I Plug In My Phones?
One of the biggest changes to get used to is that your phone service no longer comes from the telephone jack. Unless you program your own IP phone (in which case you already know about this section), your phone service comes from a box. You then have to figure out how best to get phone service throughout your house. If you like wireless phones, we recommend that you get an expandable DECT phone system. You can buy telephone packages with up to 10 handsets. If you prefer to have a wired connection, then we recommend hiring an electrician to wire your telephone jacks so that your ATA connects to every phone jack in the house.

Similarly, you’ll want to disconnect or disable your answering machine/voicemail. VoIP voicemail is much better because you can check it from any phone or any computer, or even from your email. You can also save your voicemail for later, and delete multiple saved voicemails from your web portal in much the same way you’d clean out your inbox.

Metered or Unlimited?
VoIP minutes are cheap. Depending on how you prefer to pay your bill, you may opt for metered minutes, unlimited incoming OR outgoing minutes, or unlimited incoming AND outgoing minutes. A 500 minute plan will do for many users, because the average household uses only 400 minutes per month. For other users, it’s worth the extra money to never have to look at the clock, and get unlimited minutes. Whether you’re on the phone all day or just make a few calls, you’ll enjoy many of the same benefits of VoIP that you’ll never have to pay extra for, including caller ID, call waiting, use of a web portal, and other great Residential VoIP features.

How Many Calls Do We Make At Once?
The number of concurrent calls you can make on a VoIP phone is measured in “channels.” If you have two channels, you can be making one call, and receive another call on call waiting, or have a second phone in the house pick up the phone and start dialing. If you have three channels, you can have two calls going at once and both callers will hear a third call on call waiting. In some cases, you can buy more channels and receive more calls at once. Unlike having a two-line phone system, your friends and family only have to know one number. Generally, the limit for residential plans is four channels, and then you may have to move to a small business plan.

Should We Change Our Cell Phones?
Cell phones are an invaluable tool for keeping in touch on the go. Many residential VoIP providers have their own apps which use up plan minutes (or don’t, if the plan is unlimited) over Wi-Fi and 3G/4G. It’s a good idea to research the mobile app as well as the service itself. Also, take it a step further, and look into getting a smartphone, or even an iPod Touch or unlocked Android phone along with a MiFi, or FreedomPoP case, that will allow you to connect to data networks without connecting to cellular towers. That way, you can replace your old phone in favor of a new device, and still manage to save money by downgrading your cell phone minutes.

Do I Make International Calls?
For outgoing international calls, no other carrier comes close to VoIP. Prices vary, but you can get outgoing calls to most of the developed world for about 3 cents a minute. In addition, you can buy international premium plans that give unlimited calls to certain geographic areas, sometimes including cell phones. On top of that, some residential providers give you an hour of international minutes included, with no premium. But there’s one thing you can only get with Voice over Internet Protocol: An international virtual number. When you purchase an international virtual number, calls to that number automatically get forwarded to your home. If you have family in another country, the price they pay for a local call is the price they pay to talk to you. You do have to subscribe to the virtual number, but it costs you nothing extra on a per-minute basis. VoIP is the perfect solution for international calling.

Now that you’ve asked yourself these important questions, it’s time to go shopping! has great reviews, head to head comparisons, and in-depth looks at top residential VoIP providers.

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