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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.

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.

Follow Me Calling with Virtual PBX
June 11th, 2010

Desk phone. Home phone. SIP phone. Personal cell phone. Company cell phone. In today’s world, we have a lot of options on how and where we take our calls — and when running a business, phone calls are money. If you can’t get the call, no matter where you are, you lose business, which means you lose money! Therefore, it was a BIG surprise to learn that one of the major players in the virtual phone system market no longer offers “Follow Me Calling”. Isn’t “Follow Me Calling” one of the main reasons people choose a virtual phone system?

Not only is “Follow Me Calling” extremely important to your business, it’s extremely easy to setup and manage with Virtual PBX. With “Follow Me Calling”, your virtual phone system will find you at whatever phone numbers you have selected. It’s like “telestalking”, but different. For example, you can configure your extension to try your desk phone for 20 seconds, then if no answer, try your cell phone for 20 seconds. This appears seamless to your callers. All they need to do is dial your extension — let Virtual PBX handle the rest. Don’t worry, we’ll find you.

With Virtual PBX, there are no complex “call rules”. Setting up “Follow Me Calling” is as easy as 1-2-3. Just login to your system and click on the Call Routing tab:

1. Enter your contact numbers in the Contact Phone Numbers section.
2. Click the checkbox next to Use Follow-Me Calling in the lower right section.
3. Click the UPDATE button to save your changes.

That’s all there is to it. However, we don’t stop there — we also allow you to set the Ring Duration for each contact phone number, so you can control just how long your Virtual PBX will try each number. This setting is found on the Advanced Configuration page of the CALL ROUTING tab.

If you don’t see what is shown in the graphic above, please talk to your Virtual PBX System Administrator and have them allow extension owners to override the system Ring Duration setting.

So the lesson here is that not only is “Follow Me Calling” extremely important to your business, but with Virtual PBX its as easy as 1-2-3 to setup and manage. With Virtual PBX handling your calls properly, you get to spend more time on what matters — your business!

*NOTE: Approximately 98% of this post, including images, was written on an Apple iPad using the WordPress and Photogene apps.
Send Calls Where They Belong
May 4th, 2010

Sometimes you’ve got to get your calls to always jump into the right place without any involvement. Maybe you’ve got that guy who just won’t quit calling about problems you had nothing to do with. Or there’s a special client you want to make sure always gets handled by you personally. Or this one: with your new marketing campaign, you need all calls from Western United States to go to your Western Region sales rep at x805.

With AutoRoute from Virtual PBX, you can handle all the scenarios above and more. Virtual PBX monitors the caller ID of incoming calls and automatically routes the calls based on area code, area code + prefix, or the entire phone number. Consider AutoRoute to be the very first filter the calls go through before they even hear your welcome message.

You can have an unlimited set of entries in your AutoRoute list. Just log onto your account, jump over to the admin tab, and select AutoRoute from the left menu. You then create an entry with the caller ID that you want to look for. Here’s a few standard formats:

  • No Caller ID: Obviously, calls without a caller ID. Like telemarketers. Just saying.
  • 4 digits: 1 + 3-digit area code. Example: ‘1408’ nixes calls from the San Jose, CA area.
  • 7 digits: 1 + 3-digit area code + a complete prefix. Example: ‘1408567’ for north San Jose.
  • 11 digits: The whole thing. Get individual callers. Example: ‘14085556789’

Once a call comes in that matches one of your filters, the calls can be routed in one of six ways:

  • Blocked: The caller will hear “This number is blocked”, then the system disconnects the call
  • System Operator: Calls are sent directly to the system operator extension
  • Extension: Calls are sent directly to the specified extension
  • Extension Voicemail: Calls sent directly to specified extension’s voicemail box
  • Extension Faxmail: Calls are sent directly to specified extension’s faxmail box; really effective if you receive a lot of faxes from the same sending fax machine
  • ACD Queue: Calls are sent directly to the specified ACD Queue

The applications and uses for the AutoRoute feature are vast and many. It’s automatic routing without the caller having to press any buttons. Like we mentioned about, things like routing VIP customers directly to their account manager; routing inbound sales calls from across the country directly to the proper sales rep’s extension, blocking unwanted callers or telemarketers, or making sure your grandma always reaches you when she calls the business number instead of bothering the billing department.

With Virtual PBX’s AutoRoute feature, the routing of your inbound phone calls could be completely automated. And the best point of all is that it is free – it’s built into every Virtual PBX system. Free is good. Can’t beat free.

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.