Just like nearly every business on earth, we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to save money during this economic depression. Recently I’ve been reading about a new device called Ooma. It carries no monthly fee (though you do pay extra for features such as second line, conferencing, enhanced voicemail and screening). In my office I use Vonage unlimited VOIP (voice over IP) to make unlimited outgoing calls for $65 per month. Voice over IP is a technology that allows for making regular voice calls via your landline phone using an Internet connection. Last week I installed Ooma so I can test whether the service could replace my outgoing Vonage voice line.
I’m not your typical VOIP (voice over IP) user. In my office I don’t accept any incoming calls on my Vonage line. Instead I use it strictly for making outgoing calls. This comes in handy because frequently conference calls are made via long distance numbers and having an unlimited voice line cuts down on phone bills.
My plan is to remove Vonage from my office (and their $65 per month bill) and replace that outgoing phone line with Ooma whose claim is to offer free unlimited phone calls after you’ve purchased their device (currently $199 at Amazon).
Ooma does provide me with a phone number to receiving incoming calls on the device. If I wanted I could use the service as my primary phone however out of an abundance of caution I continue to use AT&T as my provider for all incoming phone calls in the believe that I need to have a “guaranteed” incoming line that always works (or can be repaired locally when it does not).
Truthfully this all sounds a little too good to be true. For an initial investment of $199 over Amazon – you get a kit with the Ooma Hub and Scout (second line).
Prior to activating you’ll have to log onto the Ooma web site and enter in some codes from the bottom of the device. This turns on your service. You do NOT have to supply the company with any credit card or billing information (unless of course you want to subscribe to a premium feature).
It took me about 30 minutes to connect up my Ooma to the office broadband. This is not a project for someone afraid of technology. To install the device I had to plug my cable modem Ethernet directly into the Ooma box. From the Ooma box I ran a patch cord to my Linksys Router.
The connectors on the back are all clearly labeled. There’s an instruction guide with a number of different steps that you complete in order to connect the device. After a little plugging and unplugging I was finally in business!
Here’s a quick breakout of what’s included and what’s extra with the Ooma service:
ooma Core (no monthly fee required)
* Free US calling: Call anyone, anytime, anywhere in the U.S.
* Phone number flexibility: Choose a new number anywhere in the U.S. or transfer an existing number for a one-time charge
* Caller-ID: See the name and number of who is calling (caller-ID compatible phone required)
* Call-waiting: Switch to a new incoming call when you are already on the line
* Call-waiting caller-ID: See the name and number of a new incoming call before you switch over
* Voicemail: Access your messages remotely from any phone or web browser
* Voicemail notifications: Receive notifications via email or text when incoming messages arrive
* Broadband Answering Machine: Listen to messages hands-free with the built-in speaker
* ooma Lounge: Hear messages and control your preferences online
* Call logs: Check your calling history online; filter and sort to find the call you are looking for
* Enhanced 911: Emergency personnel are automatically given your registered address when you dial 911 (subject to availability)
* Free in-network calling: Call another ooma customer anywhere in the world for free
* Outbound caller name: Have your name show up when you call out (other party must have caller-ID with name feature)
* Caller-ID blocking: Use *67/*82 to block or display your caller-ID/name for outgoing calls
* Anonymous call blocking: Automatically block anonymous calls from ringing your phone
* Call return: Return the last incoming call by dialing *69
* Landline backup: Automatic fallback during power/Internet outages or 911 calls (requires basic landline to be plugged-in)
* Prepaid international calling: Make low-cost international calls starting at only a penny per minute
* Directory assistance: Make 411 calls at $0.99 per call
* Warranty: One-year limited warranty
ooma Premier (optional: $12.99/month or $99.99/year)
* Free number porting: Transfer an existing number for free with an annual subscription to ooma Premier
* Personal blacklist: Blacklist unwanted callers to prevent them from being able to reach you
* Community blacklist: Harness the power of the ooma community to block unwanted callers before they’ve tried to call you
* Call forwarding: Forward your calls to your mobile phone when you are away from home
* Multi-Ring: Simultaneously ring your ooma number and your mobile phone, or any number you choose
* Message screening: Screen your calls by listening in as a caller is leaving their message
* Voicemail forwarding: Have your voicemail automatically forwarded to email
* Instant Second Line: Make a second call even when someone else is on the phone (requires ooma Scout)
* Enhanced call-waiting: Answer an incoming call even when someone else is on the phone (requires ooma Scout)
* Three-way conferencing: Conference two lines together at a push of a button
* Send to Voicemail: Transfer a call to voicemail at a touch of a button
* Do Not Disturb: Transfer all incoming calls directly to voicemail at a touch of a button
* Personal numbers: Select additional phone numbers in any calling area in the US
* Directed ringing: Configure your personal number to only ring on your private extension (requires ooma Scout)
* Private voicemail: Create private voicemail and Lounge accounts dedicated to a personal number (requires ooma Scout)
* Distinctive ringing: Control the ring pattern based on a personal number
First Impressions of Ooma
I’ve only been using Ooma a little more than three days. During this time I made two extended (over an hour) phone calls using the service. The call quality seemed to me to be on par with Vonage. There were no drop outs or “underwater” conversations.
One thing I’ve noticed immediately is that Ooma replaces the traditional dial tone with a short “Ooma jingle” followed by a dial tone.
Making outgoing calls is no different than on a “regular” phone. Simply dial the number. There’s no special code or dialing sequence that you need use.
I’ve used enough phone services (both VOIP and cellular) to realize that the real proof isn’t in how well you can make one or two test calls but in how the service performs over a number of months.
So I’ll be reporting back after I’ve had Ooma working for a solid month in the office. Until then I’m keeping Vonage for a backup because the prospect of free unlimited calling still seems a little too good to be true.