Is Vonage Right for You?

About a month ago, I decided to dump my traditional landline to test out the new Vonage service. Thus far, I have been relatively pleased with the service, but I cannot call it an unqualified success.

Customer Service – There are tons of user feedback sites on the web (just Google “vonage” and you will find more than a handful of them) chocked full of anecdotal feedback on the Vonage service. One of the more consistent complaints that I saw mentioned was a real lack of good customer service. Thus far, my experiences with the Vonage customer service has been great. Response time has been less than a day on average, regardless of the complexity of my request. For those of you who gripe that your ISP or other technology service providers are not technically savvy enough to help you configure your gear, I found the Vonage folks to be very helpful and technically savvy. They were able to give me good instructions about port forwarding for my router even though it was not on the supported products list.

Installation – Installation was painless. I didn’t even read the book from cover to cover as installing the Motorola unit was as easy as installing your average home router.

Reliability vs POTS – Ah, and here my concerns begin. On average, I find myself having to reboot my Vonage terminal 1-2 times per day on average. Even worse, the unit does not give me any direct indication that it needs to be rebooted — the only clue that I usually get is that all of my web-based services shut down if my Vonage box needs to be rebooted. I find the prospect of having to reboot my phone once per day to be a bit annoying and probably intolerable for anyone who doesn’t consider himself/herself an early adopter.

On a related note, installing Vonage has made this whole idea of network complexity very clear to me. Now that I have two devices sitting between my Internet connection and my PC, I find that diagnosing the cause of any network downtime to be infintely more complex. Consequently, I find that any network downtime, be it due to my ISP, router, or Vonage terminal, takes significantly longer to identify and diagnose.

Voice Quality – The voice quality on Vonage is very good. The one caveat that I must admit is that I am using Vonage on a very very fast Internet connection. I have heard direct feedback from other Vonage users that voice quality is very dependent not just on the speed of your connection but on the consistency/reliability of that speed. If you have access to a stable, high-speed connection, the voice quality is very good. Most people don’t even know that I am using a VoIP phone unless I tell them.

The all-important “grandma test” – I would not suggest that you get Vonage for a non-technical family member. This product is still in the stage where successful management requires some familiarity with the basics of networking and some comfort in doing a bit of your own troubleshooting.

But for $34.99, this is a tough deal to pass up if you are not absolutely reliant on your landline.