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Podiatrists May Save Money Switching to VoIP

Vonage In Print News

November 17, 2005

By Liz Lipton

Podiatrists, like all businesspeople, are always looking for ways to reduce their overhead. One suggestion is to consider Voice Over Internet Protocol or VoIP, which allows you to use the Internet as a telephone service, and avoid paying fees to a local and/or long distance telephone company.

Two podiatrists in New York State decreased their phone bills by more than 50 percent each by switching to Voip phone service. Martin G. Miller, DPM, was paying $3,600 annually for conventional phone service. Since he switched to VoIP, his annual phone expenses were reduced to $838.80. Walter Perez, DPM, was paying about $7,200 annually for traditional analog phone service. His annual phone expenses were reduced to $3,000 after he started using VoIP.

What is VoIP?

To explain VoIP, Podiatry Online turned to Vonage, one of the most well-known Voip providers. “With Vonage, people can make and receive calls via a broadband connection such as cable or DSL,” explained Vonage spokeperson Mitchell Slepian. “They do not need to have a computer, just a broadband Internet connection. To use Vonage, they simply connect a touchtone telephone (or a fax machine or computer) to a broadband connection using a Vonage phone adapter. When they pick up the phone, the Vonage phone adapter converts their voice into data and sends it through the Internet like an e-mail.” Vonage customers also can use a computer to make and receive calls and pick up their voice mails. This is done via Vonage SoftPhone, a screen-based interface that works just like a telephone keypad.

Podiatrist Miller purchased his Voip service from Optimum Lightpath, a division of Cablevision Systems Corporation. With Cablevision, data packets carrying the voice traffic are carried through a dedicated broadband high-speed cable line to Cablevision Systems Corp.'s core fiber optic network (up to this point, it is considered VoIP), where it is then converted to an analog signal so it can be sent over a traditional phone network to the call's recipient, the final destination.

Both Vonage and Cablevision offer Voip business packages with a wide range of features including 911 service, free installation, free transferring of existing phone numbers to the new service, excellent phone call quality and 24/7 customer service.

An Easy Transition

At Miller's private practice in Freeport, New York, there are two Voip phone numbers, five phones, and broadband Internet service. In addition to practicing podiatry, Miller is a computer expert who built his office's computers and frequently answers technology questions posted on listservs. He uses the call-forwarding feature to forward missed calls to his real-person phone service. And faxing is done via one of his Voip phone numbers.

Recently, Miller switched from his original Voip plan to a $34.95-a-month plan featuring unlimited calling to anywhere in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Even with the expanded plan, Miller is saving money. Instead of paying $300 monthly/$3,600 annually for conventional phone service, Miller now pays $34.95 for each of the two lines, which is $69.90 monthly/$838.80 annually. His annual savings is $2,761.20—a 77 percent decrease.

Miller noted that if his broadband service were to fail, he would lose his phone service and have to rely on his cell phone; however, this has not happened, and Miller said he is very satisfied with his decision to switch to VoIP. “There was no downside whatsoever,” he said. “One day I was using my regular phone service, and the next day I was using VoIP. You use the same phone, and when you pick up the phone you get a dial tone, and you dial, that's it. I didn't lose any time. Everything worked immediately and correctly from day one. And the calls are just as clear [as my traditional phone system].”

Voice Quality Issues

Perez has two offices in Brooklyn, New York. Before he began using Vonage's Voip service, his main office had four analog phone lines, and his satellite office had one analog line.

In spring of 2003, Perez read marketing information about Vonage's $49.99 Small Business Unlimited Plan, which includes unlimited calling to anywhere in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and one free dedicated fax number. Perez purchased three Small Business Unlimited Plans, (and thus, three phone numbers), for his main office.

It took Perez about 45 minutes to set up everything. “At first, I had some difficulty setting it up, but I called customer service, and they walked me through it,” he said.

Initially, Perez was not pleased with the voice quality, so he called Vonage's customer service. They instructed him to log onto his account and regulate the voice quality by changing the bandwidth. Since he changed that, the voice quality has been excellent, he said. In fact, Perez has been so pleased with Voip that after several months after using Vonage at his main office, Perez cancelled the analog phone service at his satellite office and installed one Vonage phone number there.

Now, the main office has

  • Three Vonage (VoIP) phone numbers
  • Three dedicated fax numbers
  • One analog phone line with his main phone number
  • One broadband connection

The satellite office has

  • One Vonage (VoIP) number
  • One dedicated fax number
  • One broadband connection

Voip Advantages

One feature that Perez said he likes about Vonage is that he can view account information online. “Let's face it,” he said. “I have five employees here, and I don't know who they are calling. By looking at the phone numbers, I get a feeling for who they are calling and how long they are on the phone. I see here that one of the employees called their home phone number, and they were on the phone for 45 minutes. And I would be interested in knowing how that personal call is related to work they are supposed to be doing.”

Another advantage is that Vonage's phone adapter is small and fully portable, allowing customers to take it with them anywhere in the world. They simply plug it into a broadband Internet connection, connect a phone, and the phone registers as their phone number. In other words, if Perez were to travel to Alaska and use the adapter with a telephone in Alaska, when someone calls his office number, it would ring in Alaska, and the patient would think Perez is in his Brooklyn office. Conversely, Perez could call anyone from Alaska and the call would register as coming from his Brooklyn office. He added, “The best part is that I would not have to pay extra for the calls made from Alaska because I am paying a flat rate.”

While Perez is pleased with Voip overall, he admitted that, “Once a month, I may lose dial tone. And what I have to do is turn the devices (the phone adapter and the modem) off, wait a few minutes, and then turn it back on and the dial tone works.” Because of this occasional problem, Perez said that he has maintained regular phone service for his main commercial phone number.

Slepian said that this problem probably occurred because the office lost its broadband connection. And if this happens, Slepian noted, phone calls are automatically forwarded to another phone such as a cell phone.

The main reason Perez switched to Vonage was, of course, to save money. He paid $280 to activate all four Vonage phone numbers. On the other hand, he had paid about $450 to install one business analog phone line. When he had analog phone service, his monthly phone bill was $600: $200 for the main line, and $100 for the remaining four lines, which included a line for the fax machine. Now Perez pays $49.99 for each of the four Vonage phone lines, and about $50 for his analog line, thereby reducing his monthly bill to $250, or $3,000 annually. His annual savings is $4,200—a 58 percent reduction.

“I am very pleased with the service and would strongly recommend it to other podiatrists,” he said.

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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See for details.

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