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Archives: July 2010

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 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.
Video TechTip: Enhanced SIP Addressing
June 2nd, 2010

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRP2vzYNU0k&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

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.

TechTip: Password Protecting Your Conference Call
May 21st, 2010

VirtualPBX’s conferencing feature makes it quick and easy for you to host a conference, and now with more free conference minutes, we make it more affordable! You also won’t need any special conference call-in numbers, or long complicated PIN’s. Your participants just call your virtual PBX phone number, select the conferencing option from the auto-attendant, and enter the extension hosting the conference. That’s it!

However, some of you may want a little more security to your conference call. Not to worry, we give you that option as well. To password protect your conference and require your participants to enter a numeric password, simply do the following:

1. Log in to your virtual PBX extension here
2. Click on the “Conference” tab for your extension

3. Click on the “Yes” option for “Entry Password Enabled”

4. Enter your custom 4-10 digit numeric password in the text box

5. Click the “Update” button to save the changes

That’s all there is to it. Your conference room is now password protected.
For more information and FAQ’s, be sure to visit our Support page.
Using Multiple Virtual Numbers to Make AND Save Money
May 19th, 2010

Lots of information flows through your business’s phone lines. Potential customers who don’t leave contact information could still be reached if you had access to their caller ID. Marketing spending results could be tracked precisely if you could find out exactly how your call volume has been affected. Managers could confirm the movement of calls, showing that they’re processing leads and their staff is working properly.

But just having a plethora of raw call information is difficult to manage and hard to decipher. So here at Virtual PBX, we give your organization the ability to host an unlimited amount of phone numbers and forward those to all kinds of different destinations, while still tracking all the information and processing it into a set of easily manageable reports. Each phone number can further be specialized by having its own greeting as well as directing callers to specific destinations within the Virtual PBX.

Basically, any company trying to track caller response to advertisements, promotions, campaigns, find out about missed sales or prove proper call management needs to be able to get the records that show those pieces of information organized based on the phone numbers dialed. And anyone trying to direct calls to dedicated sales teams, handle multiple businesses, provide access to multiple retail locations, or give VIP access to special clients would benefit from being able to have individual numbers for each of those possible purposes.

So there are many reasons to use extra phone numbers — and every reason is very specialized. Using extra numbers to support a franchise is going to be completely different from tracking marketing information from inbound callers.  The Marketing group is going to want one or more phone numbers for each advertisement, promotion, or campaign.  By doing this, they can measure their advertisement effectiveness, and thus optimize their advertisement costs. This is accomplished by tracking all call detail such as caller ID, date and time of the call, call duration, and destination of the call – even on missed calls and, in most cases, callers who have blocked their caller ID.  Franchisors, on the other hand, may want to track similar information, but at the same time they need to get the calls directed down to their franchisees and regional offices as fast as possible.

Regardless of the needs of your business — from individuals, to home offices and small businesses, to large enterprises — you only pay for what you need, with no wasted resources or dollars. With the ability to track and route a company’s inbound calls like no other call forwarding, call tracking, or virtual phone system in this market, the Virtual PBX service is the best choice for companies serious about measuring and optimizing the flow of information and budgets.

Talk Up a Storm
May 11th, 2010

It’s time to start connecting. Conference calls let you hold meetings, make presentations, perform training, coordinate staff, handle investors, and more. And since conferencing is so useful to businesses as they grow in size or need a more personal touch, Virtual PBX is stepping up to the plate. We’re not just cutting costs, but swinging included conferencing into every account we provide.

If you’re new to conferencing, now’s the time to start finding ways to use it.  You can have your people call in, join the conference, and hold whatever kind of seminar you need. If you’re already using our conferencing, expect a nice reduction off your bills from now on. That’s it. Nothing to sign up for, no need to change plans, just lower costs.

So, brainstorm freely. Talk it up.  The conference bridge is already enabled and configured on your system by default.  But just in case you’re not sure where to get started, here’s everything that you need from top to bottom. Most people only need the first item here.

To enter a conference if conferencing is already set up as an option in your auto-attendant menu (default key is ‘9’):

Conference Moderator:
1. Call into your Virtual PBX number.
2. Press ‘9’ during the auto-attendant to access the conferencing options.
3. Enter ‘#’ followed by your extension.
4. Enter your phone password followed by ‘#’.

Conference Participants:
1. Call into your Virtual PBX number.
2. Press ‘9’ to access conferencing.
3. Enter the extension number of the conference.

If you don’t have conferencing set up in your system, or aren’t sure, here’s how to make it all work:

To setup conferencing on your system:
• Login to vConsole
• Go to the “Admin” tab
• Click “Conferencing” in the left-hand navigation box
• Select “Yes” for Conference Bridge Enabled
• Select the menu number you’d like to use (9 by default)
• Click on “Update” to save your changes
• To enable conferencing for individual extensions, click on “Edit” next to “Set Extensions Conference Privileges, enable as needed, and click “Update”

If conferencing is not enabled on your system or you have more questions, please email support@virtualpbx.com or call 888-825-0800, option 2 for Support, and we’ll help you get your conference bridge configured.  Happy conferencing!

Go Green. Go Virtual PBX
April 27th, 2010

With Earth Day just behind us (Thursday, April 22, for those who never got to it) it’s a good time as any to think on what we can do to keep our planet in good shape.  There are plenty of things we have been doing already, for home and business, such as recycling excess paper, or even go paperless where possible, and use more efficient lighting.  But what can you do about your old phone system that you need to upgrade?  Why buy a piece of hardware that takes up energy, space, and will eventually end up being thrown away for what few parts can be recycled?

With a virtual phone system from Virtual PBX, you don’t have to worry about any of that.  Without having to go out of your way, you can do your part to reduce the amount of resources wasted.  It’s easy to have a Fortune 500 sound and functionality without having any extra telecom hardware at your office.  Without the hardware phone system in your office, you save room, electricity, and you won’t contribute to any trash heaps when you get rid of it many years from now.  Instead, you put those responsibilities in the hands of a more specialized, more efficient processing center that uses only a fraction of the resources because it can provide service to many customers at once.

But there’s another “green” that is important as well.  With Virtual PBX, you’re not just helping to save the environment – it’s also a money saver!  You don’t need any up-front capital to purchase a hardware phone system.  You also don’t need the annual maintenance costs that most hardware phone systems need (but sometimes not told about when you purchase them).  You can save money by limiting the amount of inbound phone lines coming into your place of business to handle multiple calls.  In fact, with Virtual PBX follow me calling, you might not even need as big an office space.  All employees could be unified under one phone number no matter where they are located…and your callers will never know.

So while Earth Day can be a good reminder for taking care of the environment, you can take advantage of the money-saving and environment-saving features of Virtual PBX every day.  Not only are you helping take care of our planet, but it gives you more time and money to concentrate on what is important to you.