Posted on October 27, 2011 by Paul Hammond
I am sure you have heard the term softphone recently with the huge growth of everything VoIP, but have you ever asked yourself; what is a softphone? Common sense will tell you that it is a phone but what kind of phone and how could it affect your business?
You’re not the only person who has asked us what is a softphone, which is why we’ve put together this guide. Basically, a softphone is a phone that lets you make calls over the internet from a computer or other smart device. As the name would imply, it is a piece of software that acts as a phone interface, allowing you to dial phone numbers and carry out other phone related functions via a screen (PDA or Computer) using your mouse, keypad or keyboard. Conversations usually take place through a headset or a microphone and computer speakers.
The softphone software or application can be downloaded from a variety of providers such as Counterpath or SNOM. These are sometimes also referred to as ‘clients’. Many of these applications are free although some have a modest cost. Softphone clients are available for Macintosh, Windows and Linux computers, and many smartphones, such Androids and iPhones.
In most cases you will find a softphone used in conjunction with VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol. This form of computer telephony uses an internet connection to deliver voice information over the internet. For more information regarding VoIP, please check out this blog. VoIP calls can go over a standard internet connection on your local network, wireless networking (WIFI) or even a cellular data network, such as 3G or 4G.
So, we have a softphone client and an internet connection. There is one more component needed to use a softphone and that is a provider. Although anyone can download and use the free softphone software, a VoIP service provider must provide the underlying VoIP phone service over which the calls are carried. A softphone is registered with the service provider, and often a phone number is assigned. Calls to and from the softphone are routed over the service provider’s network. The features and functionality of each softphone will vary somewhat from one softphone provider to another.
So who can benefit from using a softphone? Telecommuters and anyone who travels frequently for starters. For users on the go, especially those who travel overseas, softphone service allows them to conveniently make calls from their smartphones and laptops, saving them the hassle and expense of using a hotel phone or roaming on a cell phone. Also, softphones are well suited for small and medium size businesses that save money by cutting their ties with expensive traditional phone companies. Furthermore, softphones do not require expensive hardware which needs to be maintained. Softphones are inexpensive and easy to upgrade.
Thinking about trying out a softphone yet? If so, VirtualPBX would be happy to help you set up you softphone to best fit your needs. Every Virtual PBX system includes VoIP Anywhere technology, which can turn your cellular phone or computer into a Virtual PBX VoIP phone. With VoIP Anywhere and our award-winning open-systems approach, you can use any standard SIP softphone, from almost any vendor, to make and receive calls over your data connection. We’ve reduced the bandwidth requirement so that high quality calls can be made over 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connections. You simply register your softphone as a VoIP device in our service, and open the softphone application to make calls.
Benefits of a Virtual PBX Softphone
Tons of Included Features
All standard Virtual PBX features that are available to a VoIP extension are available to all calls to and from a softphone, like call recording, or choosing your caller ID. And softphone calls are included in your Virtual PBX business reports so you’ll always have records of every call. You can make outbound calls from your cellular phone without giving up your personal phone number. And call-backs go to your company number, not to your personal phone. You protect yourself while looking more professional.
Little to No Cost
Our flat-rate plans include the ability to add softphones at no charge. And any extension in a usage-based plan can be enabled to use VoIP, for both VoIP phones and softphones, for just $5 per month per extension. Minutes used on a soft phone are part of your plan. Flat-rate plans have no per-minute fees for calls to a softphone or to a destination in the continental U.S. or Canada (within our fair-use policy), and calls through usage-based plans simply use plan minutes.
To put a softphone on your Virtual PBX account, you should first download a softphone from a good provider. Then, you add the softphone to your account starting from the VoIP Phones page of our vConsole web portal. For more information visit our VoIP support pages.
Posted on August 5, 2011 by Paul Hammond
VirtualPBX Complete Honored for Exceptional Innovation with the 2011 TMC Labs Innovation Award
Virtual PBX has always watched out for every one of their customers, from the smaller businesses to the larger corporations, making sure to deliver products and services everyone finds useful for their business.
Virtual PBX’s latest solution is no exception, supporting a complete blending of analog and IP telephony, while also incorporating open SIP peering. In doing so, Virtual PBX Complete ultimately meets the needs of all Virtual PBX customers from traditional landline clients to VoIP telephony customers. Setting new standards for flexibility, features, price, and ease of installation, Virtual PBX Complete forged ahead, establishing new technology and employing out-of-the-box thinking.
This is what innovation is all about. And this is why Virtual PBX Complete was named the 2011 TMC Labs Innovation Award winner. The award, presented by TMC’s publication, INTERNET TELEPHONY, honors products that display innovation, unique features, and significant contributions toward improving communications technology. The TMC Labs Innovation Awards are granted to those companies demonstrating groundbreaking contributions to the industry.
“The Innovation Award exemplifies the best and the most unique products and services that this industry has to offer. Virtual PBX has proven its commitment to quality and the further development of the IP communications industry through its Virtual PBX Complete solution,” stated Tom Keating, CTO and TMC Labs Founder.
“Congratulations to the entire team at Virtual PBX for earning this great honor. I look forward to seeing more innovative solutions from them as the company continues to contribute to the future of IP communications,” Keating added.
In order to be seen as valuable innovations, new products and services must be strong enough to progress into the marketplace. In addition, fast changing technologies and lifestyles cause people to have greater expectations. Customers are used to products that constantly improve and make their life easier.
“This recognition demonstrates the significant impact Virtual PBX Complete innovation has had on our market,” said Greg Brashier, COO of Virtual PBX. “This award, coupled with the enthusiastic responses from our customers, is a testament to Virtual PBX’s hard work and commitment to provide services that meet the wide range of customer needs.”
“Virtual PBX has demonstrated to the staff of TMC Labs that Virtual PBX Complete is truly innovative in the IP Communications industry. Virtual PBX Complete has made contributions which have resulted in significant advancement to the industry,” said Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC. “We’re proud to reward Virtual PBX’s hard work with a TMC Labs Innovation Award this year.”
The 2011 TMC Labs Innovation Award highlights will be published in the July and August 2011 issues of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.
Posted on July 15, 2011 by Paul Hammond
Sauna Works Heats Up and Increases Outbound Calls with Virtual PBX Complete
Great customer service is the lifeline of every business. It is an essential part of maintaining your existing customers as well as winning new ones. The foundation of great customer service is forming a relationship with customers. But how do you go about forming such a relationship? One of the best ways is to make sure you are always available and in touch with your customers.
Customer satisfaction is the No. 1 priority for the employees of Sauna Works, a company specializing in infrared saunas. Sauna Works has been in the business of manufacturing and selling infrared saunas for over 14 years and have learned quite a bit about customer service and ensuring customer satisfaction. Their motivation and dedication to provide excellent customer service drove the company’s move to VirtualPBX five years ago to allow employees to stay in constant touch with customers through landline, mobile, and VoIP phones.
In 2006, the company was managing a showroom in San Francisco and many of their employees were working remotely. Vice President Andy Kaps knew using a feature-rich PBX solution was the only way to monitor and keep on top of sales and service calls. When providing great customer service, it is so important to be able to communicate with customers from any location. You need to be reachable no matter where you are.
Kaps explains, “As a former executive at a company within in the telecommunications field, I knew we needed a solution that would provide us with ACD queuing features which allowed us to stay connected with users no matter where we are. I was initially attracted to Virtual PBX because of its deep feature set and the web-based flexibility the company provides.”
In addition to keeping people connected around the world, Virtual PBX’s TrueACD™ Queues allows callers to contact anyone in the company without having to know their direct extension. Furthermore, managers need not waste time entering or changing phone numbers as employee shifts change since TrueACD queues include presence management and employees log themselves in and out as needed. Best of all, customer service is improved by reducing customer wait times and increasing customer satisfaction.
Sauna Works was able to increase customer satisfaction even further by switching to VoIP. 70 percent of Sauna Works’ employees using Virtual PBX made the transition to VoIP after the release of Virtual PBX’s new VoIP system, Virtual PBX Complete. Since the transition, employees have not only significantly reduced overall phone costs, but also doubled the number of outbound calls made to clients.
Blending traditional analog telephony with VoIP technology, Virtual PBX’s Virtual PBX Complete solution allows clients to mix and match as needed as well as work from any location. Virtual PBX Complete also embraces open standards, which spares customers from being locked into proprietary technologies.
“A majority of our customers are looking for a flexible solution,” said Greg Brashier, COO of Virtual PBX. “With our commitment to both VoIP and analog technologies, we give customers like Sauna Works the ability to have low upfront costs, eliminate expensive analog phones lines when VoIP is appropriate, and improve service to their clients.”
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 VoIP peering 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 peering 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 November 24, 2010 by Paul Hammond
Virtual PBX proudly announced on November 16, 2010 that Technology Marketing Corporation’s (TMC) INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine (http://www.itmag.com/) has named Virtual PBX as a recipient of the 2010 INTERNET TELEPHONY Excellence Award for its Open VoIP Peering.
This is the second time Virtual PBX has had the honor of receiving this award. But why is this so cool and what does it mean to you? We will take the next two blog posts to discuss the genesis of VoIP, how it has evolved, and what this means for you and your business.
Communication has come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell invented the first practical telephone in 1875. Communication technologies are now clearer, faster and cheaper than ever, in large part thanks to a revolutionary service known as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). But what exactly is VoIP? VoIP is the routing of Voice conversations through the internet or other such IP-based networks.
Although VoIP was first used commercially in 1995, it was not mass-marketed until much later, using existing broadband Internet access. Today, even telecom carriers use IP technology to send calls to one another. It is through the use of VoIP that subscribers are able to place and receive telephone calls through the internet in much the same way as they would via their regular telephone line or PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
VoIP is implemented in numerous ways using both proprietary and open protocols and standards. A popular VoIP service using proprietary protocols is Skype. The issue with proprietary standards is subscribers are unable to reach people using a different network. Proprietary VoIP Service only works if everyone is on the exact same network, using the same software, which is owned and operated by one company.
SIP or Session Initiation Protocol, is the default open protocol that the VoIP industry has standardized on, and has become a strong force influencing today’s telecom industry. What’s so great about SIP is it allows a number of different telephone services and systems to communicate with each other. Subscribers no longer need to be tied to one network.
However, even with the acceptance of SIP by the telecom industry, there was still the issue of people being forced to use one network. Even though they use SIP internally, many VoIP services do not allow communication to or from an outside service. They do this to protect and control their investment and their customer base.
Virtual PBX wanted to push the open standard as we believe customers should not be held hostage to a proprietary platform and should have the freedom to choose the VoIP services that best suits their needs. Hence, we created a service with the ability to send calls from our own network out to any SIP-compliant service that uses a SIP URI.
We’ll discuss exactly what this means, how cool this is and how it can be used with your Virtual PBX service on our next blog entry.