Preparing your phone system for a storm
November 1st, 2012
As an assist to clients affected by hurricane Sandy this week, we posted information about how to prepare for a big storm and keep communication flowing during the storm. We’re posting it here for reference, since winter is nearly upon us. We hope it will be helpful to any of you that may experience storms in the coming months.
There are some important things you can do to make sure your Virtual PBX phone system keeps your business connected during a storm. Virtual PBX systems are in a hardened co-location facility that is part of the national infrastructure. It has multiple sources of power and connection, coming in through different feeds, and is unlikely to be affected by any storm, no matter how severe. We’ll take your calls as long as the phone companies are still delivering them. The issue is making sure you have some place for us to send them.Whether you’re using our standard Virtual PBX Service or our disaster recovery product, PBX Parachute, we recommend that you do the following:
- Figure out which extensions in your system are the most important for uninterrupted phone calls. This may be all of your extensions.
- Talk with the extension owners for those extensions and get alternative phone numbers where they can be reached during the storm. Suggestions include cellular phones (many cell phones will work even if power is down), home phones if they are staying in town, or phone numbers of relatives they will visit if they are leaving the storm area.
- Change the Call Routing for each of these extensions to include the alternate phone numbers. If there is a specific number they want to be tried first, make that the “Default” number. You can exclude office phone numbers if you are sure the employees won’t be at their office phones.
- Be sure that employees know how to update their Call Routing list as things change. This can be done through any browser or from your smartphone via one of our free apps. Just download the Virtual PBX app from the iPhone App Store or Google Play. If your employees need to learn how to do this, they should run our short Extension Owner QuickStart training.
- Let all of your employees make sure they know how to reach someone in charge if things go wrong, whether it’s related to the phone system, or not. Most companies could benefit from an emergency contact list, that can be used to let people know what’s going on, status of the office, and information about other workers. The best way to do this is to decide which Virtual PBX extensions people should call.
Most important of all, please be safe. We sincerely hope that all goes well with your people, as well as your business. Our thoughts are with you.
The VirtualPBX Team
Ensure Business Continuity with PBX Parachute
February 17th, 2012
In the event of a disaster, what is your business phone system disaster recovery plan? If your customers, partners and employees can’t reach you, how much business will you lose?
At VirtualPBX, we understand your office phone system is vital to your business. Many companies have business continuity in place for their data and network systems, but business continuation for phones is usually much more immediately important, but unfortunately often not included in the overall disaster recovery plan. Not being available to take calls can mean lost revenue, your customers losing confidence in your company, and in some cases, going out of business.
Don’t be unprepared in the event of a phone system outage. VirtualPBX has made it quick and easy for anyone to set up a disaster recovery system for their phones and ensure business continuity around-the-clock. No matter what type of phone system you have, including inbound and outbound call centers, PBX Parachute by Virtual PBX can protect your company.
Acting as a hot standby phone system, PBX Parachute can mirror your primary phone system and take over if your on-site PBX fails or if your place of business is not accessible because of fire, flood, or electrical outage. There is no hardware to boot, no software to run, and no data to move. PBX Parachute simply waits in the background until needed, making it automatic and practically instantaneous. In addition, you have the option to route calls to alternate phones in any location, such as cellular phones, home phones, alternate branch office phones, or other hardware VoIP phones or softphones. Callers may not even know there has been an outage.
PBX Parachute can act as a backup phone system as part of an overall business continuity plan, or it can simply act as an employee emergency hotline so employees have a place to call and check in during a disaster. For more information, please visit our phone system business continuation and phone system disaster recovery pages.
With plans starting as low as $400 per year, PBX Parachute by VirtualPBX will allow you to deliver uninterrupted business communication anytime, anywhere, allowing you to continue to take inbound phone calls no matter what the situation. Recover your business voice with PBX Parachute by Virtual PBX.
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.
Hosted PBX Versatility – A Phone System For Any Business
July 16th, 2009
Part 2 of today’s double-header, the versatility of a hosted PBX
A not-so obvious benefit of a hosted PBX solution such as Virtual PBX is the versatility of the system and the ability to modify, configure, and use the system for almost any business or purpose. The reliability of the system allows it to act as remote backup phone system that provides instant, automatic failover. With the ability to point multiple phone numbers to different locations along with comprehensive reporting and logging services a business can implement remote call tracking solutions for marketing, advertising or other needs. And if you’re attempting to offer “virtual” customer service to your clients, there’s no more valuable a feature that you can have in a phone system than automatic call distribution – an intelligent call routing mechanism that sends callers to virtual departments and their representatives. One particular market where customer service is critical is franchising.
Our COO Greg Brashier (@gbrashier on Twitter) recently penned an article in Franchise Update magazine detailing how a hosted PBX provides a cost-effective solution for franchising organizations that are keyed in on customer service.
Who’s on Hold?: Hosted PBX Offers A Cost-Effective Fix For Customer Service
With the downturn in the economy, good old-fashioned customer service can be a major differentiator for businesses trying to keep their existing customers and attract new ones.
Businesses that interact with and sell to customers over the telephone must be particularly vigilant that their phone technologies don’t inadvertently alienate their customers. Positive perceptions can quickly erode if customers encounter too much on-hold time, unclear directions on how to reach appropriate service personnel, or (the most dreaded of outcomes) a busy signal.
Many companies are finding that hosted private branch exchange (PBX) phone service technology can be a cost-effective tool that also helps them improve their phone presence and customer responsiveness.
A hosted PBX service provides customers with advanced phone answering and call-routing features–without the expense of purchasing their own PBX hardware or the added costs of installation, ongoing maintenance, and support. It’s ideal for small and mid-sized firms, companies with a distributed workforce, and those that want toll-free number services.
Vicorp Restaurants, which owns Village Inn and Bakers Square restaurants, is widely known for its award-winning freshly baked pies. However, its archaic phone system had started to become a liability during the company’s busiest time of the year, Thanksgiving through Christmas. A large number of customers seeking to order pies received busy signals or were put on hold for long periods before reaching a live person who could help them. Vicorp decided it was time to establish a more efficient way to handle the holiday rush and provide great service for its pie-loving customers…
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