Posted on December 2, 2010 by Paul Hammond
In our last post we explained the basics of VoIP, how SIP became the default standard in the VoIP industry, and the fact that even though most VoIP providers have adopted the SIP protocol, they use a proprietary implementation to keep calls within their own network. In this post, we will expand our discussion on SIP, explain SIP URI, why Virtual PBX chose to adopt the open SIP URI standard for VoIP communication, and finally why this gives you the freedom to choose the VoIP solution that works best for you and your business.
In 2009, Virtual PBX broke the mold by expanding our feature set to allow calls to go through the Virtual PBX virtual phone service, but rather than dial out to find the extension owner at a phone number, they could instead have the Virtual PBX service send the call via SIP to their VoIP service of choice that accepts inbound calls via SIP URI.
In our last blog we described SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) as the default protocol on which the VoIP industry has standardized. A SIP URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) is basically an internet “address” for a VoIP service allowing one VoIP user to call another VoIP user by using the SIP URI. A SIP URI resembles an e-mail address and follows the format of firstname.lastname@example.org or user@Ipaddress (e.g. User@192.168.1.7). The “user” portion of the URI could be a user name or resemble a 10- or 11-digit phone number. The “domain” portion is the domain of the VoIP provider and can be a name or an IP address. For instance, CallCentric uses the following format: email@example.com.
There are many VoIP services available which fit this mold and are very cost-effective, including CallCentric, Ekiga, Truphone, and Gizmo5, although after being purchased by Google in 2009, Gizmo5 does not accept any new sign ups. With most of these VoIP services, you download a softphone to your computer, which is a software application that has a dialpad and is used to make and receive phone calls, typically using a USB headset or USB phone. However, some of the above services go a step further and allow the user to purchase a hardware VoIP phone and register it to the service, thus allowing the user to have a phone on their desk. This configuration could allow the user to replace their land line if so desired. With most of these services, users can call each other for free. But users can also get a phone number, or DID, and attach it to their VoIP service allowing users outside their VoIP network to call them as well. This feature will usually add a monthly or per minute cost to the service.
Now that we’ve explained SIP URI and some of the VoIP services that have implemented it, let’s circle back around to why Virtual PBX chose to support it. Through our VoIP Peering feature, for which we have won the Internet Telephony Excellence Award 2 years in a row, users can choose to have the Virtual PBX service reach them on not only their cell phones and land lines, but also send calls via SIP URI directly to the VoIP service of their choice. You can find information on how to do this in our training video.
So why is this so cool? Let’s put the parts together. Not only can a VoIP phone service save you a lot of money over a traditional land line with long distance, but if it’s truly an open SIP solution, then it can work with other VoIP services on the market. All this allows users to choose best of breed VoIP services that truly meet their telecom needs and the needs of their business rather than being tied down by proprietary VoIP solutions. With Open VoIP Peering, Virtual PBX is now the lowest-priced and most flexible hosted PBX solution on the market, allowing users to mix and match their Virtual PBX virtual phone system with the SIP-based VoIP softphone (and/or hardware phone) service of their choice, or with one they were already using. This creates amazing opportunities for businesses to best meet all of their feature, cost and reliability needs. And that’s what happens when vendors like Virtual PBX put the customer first.
Posted on August 18, 2010 by Paul Hammond
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.
Posted on August 6, 2010 by Paul Hammond
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.
Posted on June 30, 2009 by Paul Hammond
Your phone system. It’s something that you probably don’t think about very much. In fact it’s probably something that you take for granted. A lot. As an entrepreneur, small business owner, or a corporate fugitive just starting out, you’re (almost always) more preoccupied with issues that you’ve deemed more important. You’re accustomed to using your cell phone as your primary business line; and while you’ve put in a dedicated phone line or two in your home office it’s not exactly one of those things that you put that much thought into. Moreover, if you’ve always worked for someone else that phone (and all the related hardware behind it) has been an item that has “always been there”.
Until it’s not.
After a while, having just a cell phone is no longer the most convenient aspect of your business because being at the instant beck and call of all of your customers isn’t especially conducive to your sanity. That second phone line you put in is now intermittently picked up by your kids, which doesn’t send the greatest image of professionalism. And the idea of rushing to a phone every time it rings simply causes too many interruptions. If you’ve experienced any or all of the above, perhaps even in one day, you might arrive at the conclusion that you really do need to be responsible for your own phone system. Unfortunately, the task of implementing the right solution is just plain daunting and, at best, supremely frustrating.
And why is that? Because telephony is filled with a plethora of acronyms and terminology that can be confounding – even the choice of what kind of phone to purchase is migraine-inducing. POTS, SIP or VoIP? Single-line, multi-line, wireless, or soft phone? Hosted PBX, virtual pbx, or IP PBX? Integrated conferencing or a conferencing service? DID? Queues? Hunt groups? Huh? “… I need a virtual receptionist? Really? I don’t even have a budget for one of those!?!…” “Wait…I thought an asterisk was a punctuation mark?…”
So what if you could allay all of those issues? What if that “industrial strength” phone system that’s a part of almost every major enterprise could be a part of every small business? What if the phone system that you decided to implement for your little empire could actually be a useful part of your business? Oh…and what if it was also relatively inexpensive to implement? That’s not a half-bad idea is it?
Well, it can. It’s called a hosted pbx. And it’s what our next blog entry will hope to set straight, once and for all.
We hope you’ll join us for that little talk.