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Data: Choosing The Best Cell Phone Plan For Your Business

By Paul Fitzgerald for America's Backbone Weekly

If you're a small business leader you know that cell phones are essential for your mobile workforce. But are you getting the most out of your cell phone plan? These days there are all kinds of devices, carriers and plans for you to choose from. Picking one that's right is essential for your business. You need to make sure your mobile plan has all the features you need to help your business thrive. On the other hand, no one wants to pay for features or data they aren't using, and you need to stay within your budget. With these points in mind, here are some things you should consider when choosing a cellular plan.

Knowing Exactly What your Business Needs

Before doing a Google search or making a comparison of vendors, it's a good idea to sit down and determine exactly what your wireless needs are. First off: how many of your employees really need cell phones? If you've got sales people on the road or other staff working remotely, they're obviously going to need a phone. But employees who are working at a central location with a landline might not need mobile devices.

The next thing you need to determine are the kind of phones you'll need. If talking and texting are all you'll need, then basic 'dumb' phones may be all you need. On the other hand, if your people need to do research or run apps in the cloud, you'll need to have smart phones. Once you have an idea of the hardware and services you're going to need, it's time to think about plans.

Choosing a Plan

The world of communications technology is constantly evolving, and cell phone plans are no exception. There are all kinds of factors to consider.

Call and Data Use Patterns - If you've had a plan in the past and are looking for a new one, you should look at your old bills and scan for usage patterns. How many minutes are your employees using for calls? How many of those minutes are long distance? What about data use? If you can determine these things from past records, then you will have a good idea what kind of packages you want in your new plan. On the other hand, if your business is new, your entry into the mobile world will be somewhat experimental. If this is the case, you may want to look for flexible plans, or plans that charge reasonable amounts for exceeded calling minutes or data usage.

Time of Day Patterns - For calls, the time of day may be important. If you and your staff are likely to be working during the day only, you'll want a plan that offers a bulk of daytime minutes. If your sales team is making a lot of evening calls, you'll want to look for a plan that offers discounted evening calls.

Call Distance - Likewise, calling distance should be considered in your search. If you're making a lot of long distance calls, you'll obviously want to find a plan with good long distance options.

Security - Don't forget about security. If your businesses' phones have valuable data on them, including texts, emails and access to cloud software, you'll want to make sure that the provider you choose has good security options, including the ability to wipe data from any phones that are lost or stolen, or when people leave the company.

Bundles - Yet another option to think about is the bundling of services. Some mobile providers also provide internet and phone service for offices or retail outlets, if so, it may be cheaper to get all of your services bundled together.

Examine Contracts and Fees

Many of us have experienced hidden fees with our personal cellular plans. These unexpected costs can be multiplied over a number of users in a business plan, so when you're making a comparison between carriers, taking the time to read complete contracts (including small print) is vital. Specific things to look for include early termination fees, activation fees and the charges you may face if you or your employees exceed your data limits.

The most important thing is to analyze your needs before browsing through carrier websites and individual plans. Knowing what you need first will save you a lot of time. It can also help you form a list of questions you can ask when it's time to speak to a wireless carrier. It's also a good idea to find out what your options are for getting out of any given plan. Is the carrier flexible when it comes to making changes? If your business is new and you're not sure what your real usage numbers will be, choosing a flexible carrier could be one of your best decisions.

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