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Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Virtual PBX
Ever since phones became commonplace in the US, businesses have used PBXs for their office phone systems. A PBX, or private branch exchange, is the hardware or software that connects extensions to external phone lines. In the past, an office would’ve used an analog PBX, which looked like a large switchboard that needed to be housed in a cabinet and operated by an attendant. While analog PBXs do get the job done, they are also bulky, require expensive installation and maintenance, and they only service a single office location.
Today, many businesses have traded in their analog PBXs for IP PBXs. An IP PBX is a PBX that uses VoIP instead of analog technology. VoIP is the technology behind Internet telephone service, so with an IP PBX, an office can get all of their phones setup on an Internet relay system, which is much cheaper and more efficient than an analog system.
There are a couple of types of IP PBX available, namely an on-premise IP PBX with a SIP trunk, and a virtual PBX (also called a hosted or cloud PBX). On-premise IP PBXs are basically the digital corollary of the older analog PBXs: they are located on-site and need to be stored and maintained, but they are much simpler and much less expensive than analog PBXS.
A hosted VoIP PBX, on the other hand, is completely remote, very cheap, and perfect for businesses with no in-house IT support, or no desire to pay for technician visits.
Why are Businesses Choosing Virtual PBXs?
Business owners everywhere are discovering the great benefits of a virtual PBX system. Between the low monthly prices and easy implementation, there has never been a better time to switch to VoIP. But for those business owners still on the fence, here are a few reasons business VoIP customers love their virtual PBXs.
Support from the Provider
With a virtual PBX, the VoIP provider is responsible for the storage and maintenance of any PBX hardware. The provider will also troubleshoot any problems as they arise, and they will regularly upgrade the PBX. So, if the business wants to add new features, all they need to do is call their provider.
In this regard, a virtual PBX is perfect for a business that wants a hands-off phone system. The business won’t need to think about maintenance, and setting up a new employee is as simple as connecting an IP phone to the Internet and adding another extension to your monthly plan.
An integral feature of a virtual PBX is the auto attendant. The auto attendant feature greets and routes incoming calls to the correct extension. In essence, the auto attendant functions like a receptionist.
Auto attendants basically do what an operator does, but as an automatic pre-programmed system. Additionally, an auto attendant feature gives the business’s customers a professional experience. They will see the business as well organized, and will be able to reach their desired extension easily.
Virtual PBXs Service Multiple Locations
Unlike an analog PBX, a virtual PBX can support multiple office locations. In the past, a business would need to purchase an analog PBX for each of its locations. And even then, extensions in those multiple locations were not connected.
A virtual PBX, on the other hand, connects every extension in a business. It doesn’t matter if the business has a single office, or several spread out across the country. That means an employee in Michigan can dial another employee’s extension in Florida without making a long distance call. And for the business owner, that means all of her employees will be able to communicate freely without a high resulting phone bill.
Support for Remote Employee
In addition to support for multiple locations, a virtual PBX also accommodates remote employees. It doesn’t matter if the employee is working from home or travelling for business, they can stay connected to the PBX system, which means other employees or customers can still reach them.
For a small business, being able to support telecommuting employees helps cut costs on office space. Any or all of the employees can work from home, while retaining all the functionality of the virtual PBX.
In addition to the auto attendant, a virtual PBX solution typically includes some other useful business VoIP phone system features. Some will make the day-to-day business a little easier, while others will improve the calling experience for the business’s customers. For example, free features may include:
- Music on Hold: This feature will play music or give some brief information while the caller is on hold.
- Caller ID Blocking: You can make calls without your business’s phone number showing up on the called party’s caller ID. That way the business is not giving out their phone number every time they make a call.
- Find Me Follow Me: If an employee will be out of the office, they can program their phone to forward their calls to one or several other phones, which can ring in sequence or simultaneously. For example, an employee could send the call to their home and cell number so they can answer whichever is more convenient at the time.
- Mobile Apps: VoIP software for your computer or smartphone that allows employees to use any compatible device for their VoIP calling.
- Advanced Voicemail: An employee can access their voicemail from a computer and customize their settings so they can check and manage their voicemail through their email while out of the office.
Rachel Greenberg is site editor for MyVoIPProvider.com. She works out of the San Diego area.