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Virtual PBX Adds VoIP Phones and New Flat-Rate Plans!
February 25th, 2011

Polycom SoundPoint IP 335

Virtual PBX Adds Hardware VoIP Phone Support

The time has come — Virtual PBX, provider of the no-compromise business phone system, announced support for hardware VoIP Phones along with new flat-rate plans, fortifying their lineup of industry-leading plans and services. With this, Virtual PBX now controls the phone call from the inbound phone number ALL the way down to the phone on the desktop. You can now have a truly complete phone system integrating phone numbers, free long distance and IP phones into one cost-effective solution.

We now offer two award winning plans from which you, the customer, can choose: the new flat-rate plans and the original usage-based plans. Even better, you don’t have to be on the flat-rate plans to use the VoIP phones – we’ve set up the system to support the phones on either plan. So feel free to pick the plan that works best for you and your business, and also decide how you would like the system to reach you. You can be contacted through the VoIP phone(s) and/or contact phone numbers via a landline or cell phone. The freedom to choose is in your hands.

We also offer you the freedom to save! With Virtual PBX you can simplify your life and your budget by cutting the ties with your landline carrier. There is really no need for a landline anymore seeing as how you can make and receive phone calls using a VoIP phone and your Virtual PBX service. So go on ahead and save that money each month with Virtual PBX Complete. With our phone service you can enjoy a savings of anywhere from 40-80% in traditional phone system and landline costs – that is a huge savings! Given that telecom costs are a major expense in everyday business, Virtual PBX provides business communication that is affordable, easy and accessible from wherever you need to be with a low monthly fee and no contracts or setup costs!

Please see the plan details below and save money with the plan suited for you:

Flat-Rate Plans:

These are your traditional “unlimited” plans that so many companies try to market. However, Virtual PBX does it right as there is a fair-use policy in place (much like every other VoIP phone service out there) that allows 5,000 minutes of inbound minutes per extension, aggregated at the account level. So a 5-user system would include upwards of 25,000 inbound local minutes. That’s amazing. Most companies won’t touch that. Yet, they can have this system for around $150 per month, and that already includes the e911 fees, Federal and FCC taxes. The flat-rate plans are as follows:

  • 1-User: $39.99/mo
  • 4-User: $23.99/mo/ext
  • 10-User: $21.99/mo/ext
  • 20-User: $19.99/mo/ext
  • 50-User: $19.99/mo/ext
  • Extra Extensions: $24.99/mo

Usage-Based Plans:

These plans are what Virtual PBX used to pioneer the hosted phone service market. On these original plans you only pay for the minutes used each month. As the plans go up, you receive a larger block of free minutes and the price for additional minutes becomes cheaper. These plans come with unlimited users and all the same features as the flat-rate plans. Virtual PBX has the following usage-based plans:

  • VPBX-5: $9.99/mo (300 minutes, extra minutes are 6.5 cents/min)
  • VPBX-10: $24.99/mo (600 minutes, extra minutes are 5.8 cents/min)
  • VPBX-20: $44.99/mo (1,000 minutes, extra minutes are 4.7 cents/min)
  • VPBX-50: $94.99/mo (2,500 minutes, extra minutes are 4.4 cents/min

VoIP Phones

Virtual PBX now supports hardware VoIP phones connected to the service. This is a superb addition as now you can make phone calls and show your Virtual PBX caller ID on every outbound call. And you don’t have to use a cellphone or landline to make that outbound call. All you need is an Internet connection. Virtual PBX sells the following phones that arrive pre-configured and ready for use:

  • Polycom SoundPoint IP 321: $99.99 (single ethernet port)
  • Polycom SoundPoint IP 335: $139.99 (ethernet pass-through port; backlit display)
  • Polycom SoundStation IP 5000: $599.99 (conference phone)

With Virtual PBX there is no need to get phones from one provider, calling plans from another, and features from somewhere else. Get it all in one place. If you are looking for a complete, no-compromise business VoIP solution for your business, Virtual PBX is the answer.

Show Your Company Phone Number from Any Phone!
August 18th, 2010

If you’ve called a customer using your home phone or cell phone, then you’ve probably had them call you back on that same phone number — they just redial the caller ID left on their phone.  Suddenly your personal phone is your new “business” number.  It’s like having people visit your home when they should be going to your office or store.  What a pain.  But all is not lost.  By using Virtual PBX, you have a way to show your company phone number on outbound calls without having to reveal the number from which you’re calling.  Convenience and privacy all in the same call!

This feature is called “Virtual Calling Card”.  It’s perfect for calling from a cell phone, a friend’s house, a hotel, or even a pay phone…if you can still find one that works!  And you don’t need to keep track of special code numbers and dialing strings – you just dial yourself.  This feature is accessed by logging into the phone system over the phone.  Some of our customers are unfamiliar with this feature or think it’s harder to use than it really is. Truthfully, it does take a few steps — call into your Virtual PBX phone number, press #, enter your extension number followed by #, then enter your phone password follow by #.  Realistically, all of that can be accomplished via a speed dial on your phone.  There is an alternate way to log into your phone system by pressing the CallBack button on the Call Routing tab.

Once you are logged into the system over the phone, you press 3 to make an outbound call.  The system will ask you to enter the phone number you wish to dial.  That’s all there is to it.  Once you enter the phone number, the system will dial, showing your Virtual PBX phone number as the caller ID to your call recipient. So not only is this convenient, but it’s also secure as you’re not showing your personal phone number when you call your customers, vendors, or contacts.

You do need to make sure that your system is set to show your Virtual PBX phone number on outbound calls.  This is the default setting, so unless you changed it, it should be fine.  That setting is edited under the Advanced Configuration settings of the Auto-Attendant.

Also, if you have multiple Virtual PBX phone numbers, you can show any one of those on your outbound calls.  A beautiful thing!  Just make sure to dial into the system using the number that you want to show on your caller ID.  So this feature is not just convenient and secure, but also flexible!

So now you and your personnel use your Virtual PBX to make a bunch of outbound calls.  How do you know who called whom?  You can track all of your outbound calls using the Extension Outbound Call Report.  This report shows the date, time, extension numbers, extension owner caller ID, duration of the call, and the phone number of the party dialed.  This is a great report if extension owners use the Virtual Calling Card feature to make customer call backs to customers or vendors.  It’s great detail, but it’s also great for accountability.

With the Virtual Calling Card feature from Virtual PBX, not only can you show whichever Virtual PBX company phone number you wish in the caller ID when you make your outbound calls, but you also get the satisfaction of NOT having your personal contact phone number show up on caller ID displays of your customers, vendors, and business contacts.  It’s convenience, flexibility, and personal protection at the same time.

Get Your 855 Numbers Here!
August 6th, 2010

If you haven’t already heard about it, the FCC is releasing the 855 prefix for toll-free numbers on October 2, 2010.  Since none of those numbers are currently taken, numbers like 855-Call-Now or 855-855-8558 should be available.  All of the 855 numbers — all 7+ million of them — will be available for reservation on October 2nd, all at once. When that happens, every company that has access to the nationwide toll-free number database will reserve as many numbers as they can, as fast as they can.

Since Virtual PBX has direct access to the nationwide toll-free database, you can get in line to have us make a grab for your numbers of choice on your behalf. And unlike many other toll-free number ordering services, we charge nothing to place orders for up to 25 numbers, and only $25/each for the numbers successfully reserved for you. Now’s the time to try for a special toll-free number that’s always been unavailable in the past. An opportunity like this doesn’t come around very often.

To place an order, click here and enter your request. Again, the first 25 attempts are free, just $2 each after that, and only $25 for each number successfully reserved. Other companies are marking up these numbers to make a huge profit.  VirtualPBX is just trying to give our customers what they want.

For more information about why you might need a toll-free number, please continue reading…

Why Use Toll-Free Numbers

There could be a very long list of reasons why a business or person would use a toll-free number.  However, one could narrow it down three general reasons::

Visibility: If you want to show a local presence, then market your local number so your callers know that you’re local to them.  Small to medium sized businesses typically fall into this category.  However, if you are marketing your services to customers that are not within your local area, then a toll-free number is the best way to go.

Protect Your Branding:  get your company name or the toll-free version of your local number.  In the case of this post, get the 855- version of your current toll-free numbers

Polite to Consumer:  it essentially rolls out the red carpet to the caller, letting them know that they can call you from where ever they are for no cost to them.

Convenience: With no cost to the caller, it’s very convenient for the caller to dial a toll-free number.  Sometimes people with kids in college or family members living outside the immediate area will get a low-cost toll-free number strictly for the convenience of communication.  With toll-free, it reduces the excuses for not calling!

With that information in mind, now’s the time to get your 855 number.  Remember, in order to place an order, click here and enter your request.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let us know at 888-825-0800, option 1 for Sales.

Telecom Disaster Recovery with PBX Parachute
July 21st, 2010

In previous blogs we covered the importance of telecom disaster recovery and what to look for in a telecom disaster recovery service provider.   The industry has published many studies and surveys about how crippling a telecom disaster can be as well as how unprepared most companies really are when it comes to recovering from a phone system outage of any sort.  Like the 2009 study from the Business Research Institute which revealed that of all the recovery points necessary in the event of a disaster (data loss, employee management, notifications, etc.), 65 percent of businesses surveyed said telecommunications was the weakest link.

The planning behind a telecom disaster recovery service should not just take national or natural disasters into account.  What about the mundane and non-disasters such as planned downtime?  What about simple things like a false fire alarm?  There are multiple reasons why a company’s employees may not be able to answer their own phones in their own office.  Why not be prepared?  This is not a hard process, but it is an important one.

Virtual PBX has made the process very simple with our telecom disaster recovery service PBX Parachute.   Here’s what you get:

Hot-standby PBX with Automatic Failover
PBX Parachute waits in the background until it is needed. When called upon, there is no hardware to boot, no software to run, and no data to move. As a hot standby PBX it is ready to go. Failover can be automatic and almost instantaneous, or you can bypass automatic failover and manage the transition on your own. Calls can be routed to alternate phones in any location, such as cellular phones, phones in branch offices, or home phones.

Scale to Any Level
PBX Parachute is so complete, with so many important features, that it can usually directly mirror your primary PBX. Any size company can use the service, and it can provide phone system business continuity for all workers, or just for the most critical business functions.

Employee Emergency Hotline
Even if your business is prepared for an emergency, that’s not always true of your employees. An emergency hotline that is ready to provide instructions for how they should handle any given situation is a lot easier to remember than how the system is wired to deliver calls outside in the event of a fire in the building.

Complete Architectural Assistance
While the way in which you want calls handled is up to you, building and maintaining your disaster recovery should not cut into your time. When you create a PBX Parachute account, you just let us know how the calls need to get handled and we carry it from there. Need to update your plans or messages? Just send us an email, we’ll get any recordings or routing taken care of for you.

Knowledge research firms like Basex, Inc., have estimated that a standard 500-person company would lose over $90,000/day from loss of phone service.  Says Cheryl Arscott of Reservation Services International, “Had I not completed and signed up for the Virtual PBX Parachute program we would have been out of business for 10 days.  With the PBX Parachute, our company was able to stay in contact with our customers by phone when our normal phone system was down during hurricane Wilma”.

Given the amount at stake and the ease of creating and maintaining an automatic fail-over phone service through Virtual PBX’s PBX Parachute service, we strongly urge any company who has not already prepared for disaster to give us a call. 1-888-825-0800, option 1, and you can acquire phone system readiness for whatever storms may come your way.  As we say here at Virtual PBX — don’t get caught with your phones down!

5 Things to Look for in a Telecom Disaster Recovery Provider
June 24th, 2010

A 2009 study from the Business Research Institute revealed that of all the recovery points necessary in the event of a disaster (data loss, employee management, notifications, etc.), 65 percent of businesses surveyed said telecommunications was the weakest link. Given the importance of phones to a business, this is a surprising statistic. In the event of catastrophic system failure, or because a fire alarm went off and your employees have to exit the building, you’re going to need a backup plan for handling phone calls. This is not a hard process, but it is an important one. For that reason, you need to make sure that the company you’re working with to handle your telecommunications failover can connect all your employees and all your callers as effectively as possible.

In the event of a disaster, a company’s local and toll-free provider can re-route, or forward, the inbound calls to a different location. But where? To another phone system at some dark site? That is an immense amount of capital being spent on something that may never be used. The better way is to have the calls forwarded to a virtual phone system – a phone system in the cloud, if you will. A virtual phone system can have the Fortune 500 sound, features and reliability without any hardware on site. But while there are many virtual phone system providers in the market, not all of them make good telecom disaster recovery providers. Here are four things to look for in a telecom disaster recovery provider:

1.  Highly Reliable

There are a lot of virtual phone system providers that have built their networks on open source software running on standard computers. This is fine for simple call control, but when it comes down to it, having specialized, reliable hardware built specifically for high call traffic is key to reliability. Also, the vendor should be located in a data center that is on the national backbone so it stays up and running even in the event of a natural or national disaster. Also, competent support staff with strong technical expertise is crucial. This cannot be accomplished with an outsourced support center but rather with their own employees who have an in-depth knowledge of their network and capabilities.

2.  Highly Redundant

As a telecom disaster recovery provider faces the same problems as you – fire, hacking, power loss, etc. – they need to have a disaster recovery plan of their own, with redundancies and failovers in place for electrical, inbound, and outbound local and toll-free carriers, as well as network and hardware component redundancies. A reputable telecom DR provider has no planned downtime of their own. They should be able to switch between multiple carriers for your call (in case entire networks of phones go down) and repair and replace components without you ever knowing or needing to know.

3. Full Customization

Whether you want to appear as though nothing’s interrupted your business, or if you need emergency messages and directions only, or just an employee emergency hotline, a reputable telecom disaster recovery provider’s virtual phone system should have the features and customization capabilities as well as the support staff willing to work with you to put a system in place that meets your telecom DR needs. As an example, the service should allow you to create a bank of recorded messages that can be fluidly managed, as well as multiple fallback contact numbers for each of your employees based on what kind of communication is still available to you at the time of the disaster.

4.  Full Control

When disaster strikes, it’s going to be unexpected, it’s going to be complicated, and you’re going to need to respond directly to the type of problem that has occurred. A single generic response or scripted recovery plan may not account for the number of variables in a disaster situation. At times you may not have access to computers. At other times you may not have access to phones. You’ll need a telecom DR system that can be accessed and managed several different ways, such as through a self-managed Web port as well as through the phone. But beyond that, you’ll need to have a system that can provide several options for routing calls to employees, depending on what resources are available to them during the disaster. Ideally, each employee has a phone and Web login to the telecom DR system, with access dependent on the rights given to them by the system administrator.

5. Always On

A common process in the disaster recovery world is when a disaster occurs you need to “declare a disaster” with your DR vendors so they can start working with you during that disaster. However, in the telecom world, there’s no time for that. Calls are going to keep coming in and you need a place to send them. A telecom DR provider should always be on, in hot standby, waiting for calls to come to it. You may need to declare a disaster with your local and toll-free providers so they know to reroute calls to your telecom DR provider. But you can work with them ahead of time to make sure those routes are saved in their switches, ready for when needed.

Virtual PBX is one of the only telecom disaster recovery and business continuity service providers with our PBX Parachute service.  This customizable service can completely mirror your phone system, only cover your inbound call center, act as your employee emergency hotline, and provide a conference bridge for your disaster recovery team — all in the same system, all at the same time.  Give us a call at 888-825-0800, option 1, and ask any of our Sales personnel about this very important service.

Don’t be a part of the 65 percent of companies whose disaster recovery plan does not include your phones. Phone calls mean money, and finding a reputable telecom disaster recovery service provider that uses a hosted phone service is key to making sure you continue to make money with those inbound phone calls, even in the event of a disaster.

5 Reasons Why You Need Telephone Disaster Recovery
June 15th, 2010

When disasters occur, a company has a lot to deal with. Protecting your employees and assets is important, but can still leave you paralyzed. It’s one thing to protect your data and network, but what about ongoing customer interaction? It may seem old-school, but a company’s telephone number is a primary customer-interaction channel. During a disaster, without some method of continuing to carry on customer interaction, you’ll be dead in the water and hemorrhaging clients. A lot of companies have disaster recovery plans in place. But unfortunately, a lot of those same companies don’t include telecom in the DR plan. Here are five reasons to not put off your telecom disaster recovery plan.

1.  There’s Too Much at Stake

People insure their health, their cars, and sometimes even their mail. But many overlook the need to protect their company’s primary customer interaction channel – their phones. They might think it’s expensive, or they might think they don’t have the time. But if your phone lines fail, or your people cannot get to those lines, then what’s at risk isn’t just current business being lost – it’s a permanent blow to the reputation and credibility of the company. Busy lines, emergency signals, hold time, disorganization, and lack of status updates will severely damage your corporate image. Even if you’re willing to risk the days or weeks it takes to repair the damage, it can be months or years before your image is restored.

2.  43 Percent of Companies Have Had a Major Disaster

Power loss, office loss, or even damaged power or phone lines can and do occur. There’s no reason to not protect your business against disaster. Almost half of all businesses suffer extreme loss of data and communications. Considering how much each client is worth to your company – how much is at stake on every call – how many calls are you willing to risk on a flip of the coin?

3.  Even a Minor Disaster Can Cost Major Amounts

Total loss means losing every client until your phone system can be repaired, which could take days or weeks. This will ruin a business. But even minor problems like equipment malfunction, temporary electrical outages, or roads going out mean that you put a lot of stress on the rest of your business to try to make up for it. Having a fall-back plan isn’t just for hurricanes, fires and terrorism: It’s for anything else that may arise, even if it’s seemingly mundane. A good plan can and will keep you from losing your clients and your reputation.

4.  65 Percent of Businesses Have Weak Telecommunication Continuity Plans

A 2009 study from the Business Research Institute revealed that of all the recovery points necessary in the event of a disaster (data loss, employee management, notifications, etc.), 65 percent of businesses surveyed said telecommunications was the weakest link. Given the importance of the phones to a business, this is a surprising statistic. That’s a significant majority of businesses that lose big whenever any kind of disaster occurs. Even a small investment of time and money to establish some sort of telecom disaster recovery plan will go a long way toward protecting your company.

5.  It Doesn’t Cost Much Money or Take Much Time to Protect Your Company

A good telecommunications disaster recovery plan can be put together in a matter of hours, not days, and the costs are trivial compared to the risks. This isn’t the business of comparing the price to the value of what’s being protected. Figuring ROI on disaster recovery investments is extremely hard to determine. The better question: What is a client worth to the company? Typically, the cost of a telecommunications disaster recovery service is a mere fraction of the cost of a lost client. That alone should be a major decision-making factor in putting together a proper telecommunications disaster recovery plan.

Why is Virtual PBX talking about this?  Because a by-product of using our service is automatic telecom disaster recovery — your phone calls are being handled by an off-site service.  With Follow Me Calling, you don’t have to be in the office to take your calls.  Even if you have a hardware phone system that you’re not intending to do away with, protect it and those inbound calls using our PBX Parachute service — a virtual phone service for disaster recovery purposes.

Bottom line is that too many companies leave their main asset – their phones – unprotected. A disaster or even a small phone line outage could cost a company significantly, both in customer revenue as well as a hard-earned reputation. With a bit of effort, some good research, and a simple telecom disaster recovery plan, a company can weather the storms of small mundane outages as well as the large natural disasters. And best of all, their customers may not even know it.

Virtual PBX Goes Straight to SIP
June 2nd, 2010

SIP?  What’s that?!  VirtualPBX announced that we can send calls directly to a SIP-based VoIP service.  But what does that really mean to you?  While the official press release hits most of the big points, let’s quickly discuss the different options for receiving calls from your Virtual PBX service, as we don’t have to send calls directly to a phone number anymore.

Let’s start at the top.  By default, VirtualPBX will take the inbound call to your local or toll-free VPBX number, puts the caller on hold, then dials out to find the extension owner at whatever phone number they want — home phone, cell phone, essentially anything with a phone number.  However, you now have options.

There are VoIP services out there — CallCentric, Ekiga, and Truphone, just to name a few — that are very cost-effective and could actually take the place of your land line.  Some of them will allow you to register a hardware VoIP phone to their service so you have a phone on your desk.  A lot of these VoIP services are based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is the standard protocol for sending calls over the internet.  And through our VoIP Peering feature, Virtual PBX can send the call directly to your VoIP phone service, not by dialing a phone number, but rather through the internet back door using a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) which looks like an email address:  user@voipservicedomain.com.  Not all VoIP phone services provide a URI, so please check with your VoIP phone service provider.

Now all you have to do is put that SIP URI in the Call Routing page of your extension.  For How-To information, please check out this training video.

Why is this so cool?  Firstly, a VoIP phone service could save you money each month by taking the place of your land line.  Secondly, it makes our iVPBX plan even more flexible now that we can send a call to any SIP-based VoIP phone service provider.  The iVPBX plan can potentially save you big money since you get a local phone number, five extensions, and upwards of 20,000 minutes built into the system as long as we send the call to a SIP-based VoIP phone service — all for $49.99/month!

With this new feature, Virtual PBX is now the most flexible — and most cost effective — virtual phone service in the market delivering calls to not just whatever phone number you want, but now to whatever SIP-based VoIP phone service you wish to use.  That’s why Virtual PBX is so cool.

From The Desk Of The CEO – Vacationing With Virtual PBX
July 13th, 2009

We interrupt our normally scheduled postings for a word from our CEO, Paul Hammond.

So, I’m finally going to be taking my first vacation in four years. I’m heading out to Italy for a while, and am researching the ways to stay in touch with work and family without paying an arm and leg to my US iphone cell phone carrier that shall remain nameless.

After a conversation with a very nice rep with said carrier, I was still in shock to know that I will have to pay $2.00 a minute to send and receive calls whilst in Italy. It’s a good thing I don’t plan on talking that much, but the high costs got me thinking about how I can stay in touch and still have my legs to walk around Florence and my arms to hold the camera.

I’d been hearing about how we at VirtualPBX.com have almost got our international phone service up and running. The idea is that we can provision a local number in a foreign country and have it ring directly in the VirtualPBX system. So I went to ask about how that was going and after three minutes on the computer, the team allocated me a local number in Florence, Italy. It rings directly into the VirtualPBX, and I can now have access to all our employees, voicemail, and dial tone to make outbound calls.

I’m also going to need a phone to use when I get there so that I can call my new number at local rates so I’m bringing my old RAZR and when I get into Italy, I’ll just drop into a local phone store and switch out the Cingular SIM chip for a local SIM chip.  Quick, easy, buy a big pack of minutes for local calls there, save a whole bunch of money.

With my new local Italian SIM chip in my phone I will simply call the Florence number at the cost of a local phone call, reach my messages and business services as needed, and use the outbound dialing feature to connect me to anyone I want to talk to at home – mostly my kids, but I can keep track of anyone I want to without having to pay international rates.

That’s way cheaper than the $2.00 a minute that the major phone companies would be charging me. And if I meet anyone in Florence that wants to call me, I just give them my VirtualPBX Florence phone number, they will reach the main auto attendant, they can dial my extension and the VirtualPBX will call out to my cell phone – the new Italian one of course!

If anyone else wants to test the Italian VirtualPBX number, it is 39-055-398-0579, and it’ll take you straight to our main system.  I’m really excited about seeing how the total price compares when I get back from my trip.  I’ll keep track of the number of minutes of phone time I use and let you all know how it goes.  If you’d like your own international number in one of over 40 countries, send an email to beta-testers@virtualpbx.com and ask to be part of our international beta program.  Meanwhile, ciao, and Italy here we come.

Paul Hammond

The Unsung Hero – Part 2 – The Origins Of Your Hosted PBX
July 6th, 2009

In this second part of our multi-part series on the importance of your phone system, we take a look back at history and see how it’s evolved to become an important cog in your business machine.

To fully appreciate how and why a hosted, virtual, or IP PBX provides benefits to your business we need to take a little trip back in time to the days of the switchboard. You’ve probably seen old pictures, movies or cartoons depicting a group of operators hurriedly connecting calls by manually swapping wires from one place to the next as calls arrive.  Back then, switchboard rooms might be filled, floor-to-ceiling, with the equipment required to patch every call while “runners” were hired to climb the ladders that were attached to those switchboards, simply to connect calls. The equipment was incredibly monolithic; the process was very labor-intensive; and there was no chance a small business owner could conceive of having their own switchboard. It’s hard to even believe that we actually managed to communicate that way.

As time passed, advances in basic telephony, switching enhancements, improvements in signaling, the advent of the PBX (private branch exchange), and the eventual intersection of computing technologies contributed to the rapid disappearance of manual switchboards during the latter half of the 20th century. Phone systems became smaller and more automated, required less space to  install, less people to make them run, and provided much more functionality at the touch of a button. One or two operators could do the job of what had taken dozens just decades before. By the late 20th century, a well-heeled entrepreneur could conceivably purchase and install a PBX with the aid of a consultant and such a PBX system could, quite literally, fit inside of a closet.

For the small business owner, unfortunately, the overhead cost of a phone system living in a telecommunications “closet” still presented a huge cost concern. Adding together the price of the PBX hardware, switching systems, phone lines, configuration and ongoing maintenance costs, as well as the dedicated phone hardware made such a purchase cost-prohibitive. The risks involved with maintaining the hardware on-site also might cause a business owner some nightmares. What happens if there’s a power failure or a major catastrophe? What if the business needed to move? What if local construction “accidentally” cuts the incoming lines?  Enter the Internet Age.

With computing and mass storage centralized to data centers  and even larger dedicated “closets” where power, environmental conditions, and even backup could by maintained by third parties, the ability to take the traditional PBX “out of the closet”, so to speak, became a plainly obvious endeavor. If websites and other business-critical applications could be “hosted” outside the walls of corporate headquarters, so could a phone system. And if a phone system can be hosted, then everyone (including the burgeoning ranks of micro and home-based businesses) could leverage the cost advantages and power of a…wait for it…hosted pbxVirtual PBX was the first to deliver such as system in 1998 and we coined the term ‘virtual pbx‘ to more adequately describe the technology. You’ll also find such systems under the moniker of ‘hosted phone system’, ‘hosted IP pbx’ (we’ll be exploring that one in the future), and most recently,’ VoIP pbx’. These days many of the terms are used interchangeably to describe a phone system that incorporate the following functionality:

  • Have an auto-attendant that acts as a virtual operator or virtual receptionist – Every caller is greeted with a message and options that are unique to the business.
  • Employees have an extension and every extension has voicemail – Just like an enterprise PBX.
  • Forward calls to any phone number – Standard PBXs lock employees down to the phone at their desk. With a hosted pbx, the employee defines what phone is used and multiple numbers can be stored.
  • Have the ability to handle multiple phone numbers – Toll-free numbers for a national presence; local numbers for your local presence.
  • Send any phone number to almost any part of the hosted pbx.
  • Be able to take the entire Caller ID or portions of the Caller ID and automatically route calls as they arrive.
  • Be able to route calls based on caller input.
  • Follow-me calling – A hosted PBX can call each phone number that an employee stores allowing them to take calls wherever they are; this function is also readily enabled or disabled.
  • Provide information about each call including the ability to screen – Also known in the industry as call whisper.
  • Be able to transfer calls – An obvious and critical function.
  • Decipher between normal calls and fax calls and be able to handle those messages accordingly.
  • Convert messages to attachments that can be forwarded in email.
  • Include a call queueing system – An intelligent and automated delivery method that allows small businesses to create virtual “departments” that are able to handle a caller’s needs more specifically.
  • Built-in conferencing.
  • Include a web-based interface – A hosted pbx can be readily configured and maintained through a web browser
  • Include some form of reporting and logging – Allows even the smallest businesses to learn about their phone traffic and how to maximize how the phones get used
  • Include redundancies in the back-end hardware – Technology is useless if it fails. This goes double for your phone system. Building in a high-level of fault tolerance and backup system allows hosted pbx to perform mission-critical tasks.

For small business owners, especially ones that utilize the phone as a critical link in their operations, the advantages of a hosted pbx are hard to ignore:

  • Low cost to implement, low cost to maintain.
  • No hardware-lock in – if you have a phone (land line, cell phone, VoIP line, Sat Phone, etc.) you can make use of a hosted phone system.
  • No pbx hardware to buy, no software to learn and upgrade because you’ll have…
  • Off-site hosting and maintenance – This is especially valuable if you run your business in areas that are routinely impacted by weather or conditions that can affect your phone system.
  • Provide an enterprise-level presence even if the company is run by a single proprietor.
  • For the diversified entrepreneur, a hosted pbx allows multiple businesses to be run under one phone system.
  • Be able to provide actual departments to callers. Businesses look even larger and the customers are handled more appropriately.
  • Instantly discern between your business calls, personal calls, and calls from your VIPs.

With all the capabilites available from hosted pbx technology and the value-add that is inherent to the technology, the most important aspect of the hosted phone system is that it becomes a transperent and intergral part of your day-to-day operations. In fact, your phone system becomes a key enabler of your business; a vital cornerstone that, along with a set of tools, allows you to do business anywhere. By simply adding a customer relationship management solution; dedicated billing software; and any combination of  freely available communications and office productivity tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Docs, and a multi-IM client such as Trillian or Digsby, you’re ready to work wherever you, your laptop, and your phone are most comfortable.

And what will the future hold for such a key member of your business? That’s what we intend to look at in our final installment. We hope you’ll be back for that one.