Is a Hybrid PBX Solution Right for Your Business?

Many businesses that want to cut telecommunications costs, to enhance collaboration among teams, and to stay current in their industry make the decision to switch to a hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) solution from a legacy PBX system. Hosted PBX options have effectively allowed many enterprises to achieve more efficiency and more productivity in the workplace. But despite the many proven benefits of a hosted PBX, some companies hesitate to make the switch – especially if they’ve recently made upgrades to their current PBX.

The good news is you can still enjoy the features and benefits of hosted PBX without completely replacing your current PBX system. And it can easily be done by taking a hybrid approach.

What is a hybrid PBX?

A hybrid PBX system is the perfect solution for companies that aren’t ready to undergo a complete transition yet but are interested in what a hosted PBX has to offer. It combines existing legacy PBX equipment with the cloud technology aspects of a hosted service. This, in turn, allows businesses to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Benefits of a hybrid PBX system

Although a hybrid PBX may not possess all of the features available with a hosted service, it can still deliver many of the basic functionalities of a hosted PBX that are highly beneficial to businesses. Below are some of the reasons why you might want to start with a hybrid PBX model for your business:

  • Get an added layer of reliability with your communications system. If your Internet service or hosted PBX solution isn’t working, you can automatically switch your calls over to a line that is connected to your on-premise PBX (or vice versa). This means you can avoid any potential downtime, missed opportunities, or lost revenue.
  • Save on costs. A hybrid solution doesn’t require businesses to throw away their existing equipment and buy new IP phones. Some suppliers of traditional PBX hardware now offer add-on boards or gateways that make it possible to transform traditional PBX systems into a hybrid PBX, helping users transition with ease. Specifically, an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) can be used to connect one’s existing phones to the IP network. This device translates analog voice signals into digital data so that calls can be transmitted over the internet, and is often used in BYOD circumstances.
  • Maintain control. Businesses that want to maintain control over various aspects of their communication solution, such as call security, connectivity options, and automatic default failovers can benefit from maintaining a hybrid PBX system. This is because businesses will still house their PBX hardware on-site while leaving tasks such as configuration backups and software updates to their service provider. One company that offers a unique hybrid PBX approach is Fonality. Fonality caters to businesses that want to make a gradual transition to hosted PBX.

So, should you choose a hybrid solution?

In the end, it all boils down to the unique needs and preferences of your business. If you want to reap the full benefits of a hosted PBX system, then it’s time to make the complete switch. However, if you aren’t ready to let go of your on-premise PBX system but also want access to the innovative features of a hosted PBX solution, then choosing a hybrid PBX system is an ideal solution.

Protecting Your Network from DDoS Attacks

On Friday, October 21, 2016, major websites across the East Coast were brought down due to a massive cyberattack on the servers of Dyn, a major Domain Name System (DNS) provider. According to Dyn, the attackers had used a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack where servers are made unavailable by flooding it with high levels of unwanted traffic from multiple sources.

As a DNS provider, Dyn essentially acts similarly to the Yellow Pages, ensuring web addresses make it to the correct website. And once a DNS provider goes down, it also takes down various online services along with it, as computers will no longer be able to receive directions to a website. This is the reason why hundreds of popular websites – from Twitter to Spotify to Airbnb and even The New York Times – were unreachable for hours on Friday.

What businesses can learn from the incident

Because of the incident, many businesses are now worried: if a major infrastructure such as Dyn can be brought down by cybercriminals, how much more ordinary enterprises can just as easily be hacked? Truth be told, even small businesses can be crippled by DDoS attack if it is aimed directly at their Hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) network. A DDoS attack could render a business’ VoIP network useless by targeting the routers with a flood of traffic or bombarding the network with unnecessary call signaling messages. This can prevent a business from making or receiving a call via their VoIP system.

So what can you do to protect your network? Follow these steps to ensure you are informed and ready:

  • Identify a DDoS attack early

While DDoS attacks are difficult to deal with as they occur, recognizing a DDoS attack early on will help you mitigate and block it before it causes too much trouble. However, it may not always be easy to tell if you’re experiencing normal spikes in your network or if you’re already being attacked. So it’s important that you understand what your typical traffic pattern looks like.

  • Over-provisioning

Another way to prepare for a DDoS attack is through over-provisioning or buying more bandwidth than you need. This is especially important as the holiday season approaches, where you may experience a sudden surge of holiday phone orders or customer service calls. Over-provisioning lets you accommodate an increasing number of phone calls and lets you adjust your resources in the event of a DDoS attack.

  • Choose a reliable business phone provider

Make sure you are prepared to weather the storm from the start by choosing a reliable business phone provider that puts a premium on the security of your business communications. Virtual PBX, for instance, offers 24/7 performance monitoring of your network to ensure your network is clean and secure. It also helps you stay updated with all the relevant security patches to keep your business protected.

  • Turn off remote access to IoT devices

Although there is still an ongoing criminal investigation on the attack, Dyn has confirmed that a significant volume of attack traffic was from Mirai-infected devices. Mirai is a malware that targets Internet of Things (IoT) devices (such as digital cameras, printers, and routers) and turns them into bots to use in cyber attacks. To avoid being victimized by insecure IoT devices, be sure to turn off remote access to your IoT devices in the workplace. If possible, restrict access to these devices to your local network only.

DDoS attacks are not only highly inconvenient; they can also be detrimental to companies especially if they target a business’ lifeline: your phone system. This is why it’s important to stay vigilant about cyber crime and adopt safety measures to keep your business communications secure.

Boost Your Business with Advanced Call Forwarding

Regardless of the size of your business or the type of product or service you offer, you want your customers to be able to reach you whenever they need to. But as much as you’d like to take every call, you and your employees will not always be in the office 24/7. This is exactly when advanced call forwarding comes into play.

One of the most useful features available in hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems, advanced call forwarding lets you forward incoming calls to an alternate phone or mobile number when you’re out of the office. This enables you and your employees to stay connected and ensure that you never miss out on business opportunities.

Let’s take a look at some of the techniques to use call forwarding to boost your business:

  • Route calls based on time or day

One of the most commonly used call forwarding techniques is routing calls to a specific number or location depending on the time of the day or day of the week. And the best part is that the call is routed without the caller knowing he or she is reaching a different number. For example, your business can create a rule that forwards all after-hours incoming calls to a mobile phone. Or you can also route these calls to an outsourced support service in a different location (especially for technical support or customer services issues). This ensures that no call goes unanswered, which spares customers the frustration of having to call back again the next day.

  • Set up find me/follow me calling for remote workers

Employing remote workers brings several perks and a few downsides to companies. And perhaps one of the biggest downsides is that it is not often easy to track remote workers as they may not always be at their desk available to take calls or may be in transit. An excellent solution to this is activating the find me/follow me calling feature.

Find me/follow me is a staggered call forwarding option that lets employees receive calls at multiple numbers, ringing simultaneously or in sequence. For instance, if an employee activates this feature the incoming calls that go unanswered at the default number (desk phone) will be forwarded to other numbers on the list (such as a home phone and mobile phone), in an attempt to “find” the employee. The final step of the call is that the caller is sent to a voicemail in case there is still no answer.

  • Prioritize top customers

Most hosted PBX solutions also give businesses the option to prioritize top customers and clients. Based on the caller ID you can choose to take an important call wherever you are or choose another associate to take these VIP calls. VoIP provider RingCentral, for instance, allows users to configure answering rules so that specific inbound phone numbers are automatically directed to a specific number or extension. Users also have the option to only allow specific contacts to reach their number during off-hours, holidays, and certain times of the day. This lets you provide premium service to your most valuable clients regardless of the time or your location.

Advanced call forwarding gives businesses a huge competitive edge by helping them manage calls with ease. No more missed calls, frustrated customers, or lost opportunities. 

3 Ways Your Virtual PBX System Helps You Beat the Competition

Competition is prevalent in every industry. Whether you have pioneered a unique business concept or have developed a groundbreaking product or service in your industry, the time will come when your business or service will be challenged by competition.

But competition shouldn’t be feared. To borrow the words of the Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, “If you want to be successful in business, you need to welcome your competitions with open arms – just don’t let them walk all over you.”

So what do you need to make your business stand out from the competition? Aside from having superior quality products or services, it takes hard work, good relationships with customers, clients, and colleagues, and (believe it or not) a reliable and feature-rich communication system. Specifically, a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system.

Here are three ways investing in a hosted PBX solution can help your business leave your competitors in the dust:

  • Control costs

Hosted PBX systems are clearly more affordable than legacy PBX systems. There are no large, clunky, physical devices to purchase or maintain, calling rates are lower, and users can easily scale their service up or down as needed. This promises businesses big savings, which can then be reinvested to further the growth of the company.

  • Serve customers better

Every phone conversation with customers is an opportunity for businesses to impress them with a respectful attitude and skillful assistance in addressing their specific issue or concern. It is not an easy task; but fortunately, your business phone can assist you.

Today’s hosted PBX systems come with a wealth of features that go beyond voicemail, call waiting, and caller ID. Most PBX systems include an array of features that help businesses provide better customer service. These include auto attendant, find me/follow me, simultaneous ringing, call recording, and information or music on hold. Reporting tools such as call history and call analytics also provide businesses the insights and information they need to measure (and thus improve) their employees’ performance.

  • Connect team members

Teamwork and collaboration are two vital ingredients that contribute to the success of any business. With a hosted PBX, it becomes easier for teams to connect and collaborate better regardless of location. Some of the most useful features that help foster collaboration and teamwork include integration with business applications, internet fax, company phone directory, mobile apps, presence indicator, free on-network calls, and more.

Competition can be intimidating, as it can either build you up or tear you down. A reliable hosted PBX system can be just the tool you need to make sure your business stamps out the competition and achieves success.

How to Overcome Common Hosted PBX Problems

Switching to a hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) solution from a legacy PBX is one of the best ways for businesses to cut costs, enhance customer service, and streamline communications. Because most of the responsibility is shouldered by the service provider (including maintenance and upgrades to the equipment and platform), a hosted PBX enables you to focus your attention on more important matters like managing operations and improving your bottom line.

However, it’s still possible to encounter some issues as you make the transition towards hosted PBX. But fortunately, these issues can easily be resolved thorugh careful planning and foresight. Below are a number of common issues you might face with a hosted PBX and some tips on how to overcome them.

Connectivity and call issues

Problem: Are you experiencing dropped calls or are hearing echoes on the phone? Does the audio quality vary between different times of day? Are you unable to complete a call? These are some minor problems that customers may face.

But truth be told, there are various factors that can affect call quality. However, most call quality and connectivity issues are often due to your existing internet connection. With a hosted PBX, all call data is transferred over the internet in packets. So it’s vital that you ensure you are subscribed to the right internet plan with the proper level of bandwidth to handle your call volume.

Solution: To correct the issue, conduct an internet speed test to see how efficient your internet connection is. If the results are satisfactory, talk to your hosted PBX service provider to help you investigate the issue. If the results are poor, however, then contact your internet service provider as the issue is likely with them. They might be able to suggest the best plan that meets your current usage. You should also ensure that your router is up to date and that there are no loose wires between your connections.

Old hardware and phones

Problem: Another headache businesses face when moving to hosted PBX is the stock of old routers, legacy phones, and other hardware they now have to dispose of. Using outdated and incompatible equipment can make the transition more painful as compatibility issues may arise. Plus, upgrading to new equipment may not be an option due to the costs involved.

Solution: The great thing about hosted PBX solutions is that they do not require users to invest in new phone equipment or other hardware. It helps businesses save on IT costs since they can use their desktop, laptop, or any mobile device (through mobile apps) to access their new phone system instead of buying new IP phones. And most providers also offer BYOD options to help subsidize costs.

Tech-averse staff

Problem: Is your staff not as excited as you are about your transition to a hosted PBX? It is natural for employees to resist change, especially if they have been using and are accustomed to a traditional phone system. They may fear that the new PBX is difficult to operate and that it may affect them and their work. But while it may take some time for them to adjust to the new system, there’s nothing to fear.

Solution: You can quickly overcome resistance from employees by keeping your staff on board from the beginning. Talk to them about the upcoming changes and make sure their concerns are addressed. Most hosted PBX providers also offer training and helpful online resources. This will help your team familiarize themselves with your new hosted PBX solution and be more confident in using the system. You can also implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to keep the learning curve low and to help your employees be more comfortable.

Be sure to keep these tips in mind if you are thinking about or are in the process of making the change over to a hosted PBX solution!

Debunking 4 Myths about Hosted PBX

Business phone technology has evolved much faster than most people realize. Not too long ago, companies that need a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system for office communications had to deal with complicated wiring systems, costly maintenance, and frequent upgrades. But now, companies can simply subscribe to a hosted PBX service, connect their hardware or mobile device to the internet, and start making and receiving calls in no time. But despite the advantages of using a hosted PBX over an on-premise solution, some companies remain reluctant to make the switch due to the various myths and misconceptions surrounding hosted PBX.

So let us set the record straight and debunk four of the most persistent myths about hosted PBX solutions:

Myth 1: Hosted PBX solutions costs more

Businesses that use on-premise PBX systems oftentimes choose to stay with their current system because they wrongfully assume that switching to a hosted PBX solution would be too expensive. Or they believe that they would have to completely overhaul their equipment. On the contrary, moving to a hosted PBX service actually helps businesses save.

You can save more with a hosted PBX solution because there is no need to upgrade or maintain costly phone equipment and other hardware. You can use your current IP-phones or BYOD with the help of an ATA adapter. You can also access your phone system using a computer, laptop, or any internet-connected device through mobile apps and desktop integration or softphones. Plus, hosted PBX systems mean companies no longer have to keep a dedicated space for their phone hardware and thus occupy lesser office space. This, in turn, helps to lower rent.

Myth 2: Call quality is poor

Hosted PBX solutions use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies to deliver high-quality calls. When VoIP was still in its infancy (over 20 years ago), call quality wasn’t as good due to unstable internet and low grade technologies. But all that has changed.

VoIP and the Internet have come a long way since then, which means call quality has vastly improved. With the right hosted PBX provider and the right internet plan, you’re sure to enjoy crystal-clear calls.

Myth 3: You’ll lose control

Another common misconception businesses have about hosted PBX solutions is that choosing one means relinquishing control of your PBX system. But the truth is quite the opposite. Your service provider hosts and handles your call platform, features, and necessary equipment, but the control is still in your hands. Hosted PBX services often come with an online admin portal that lets users manage the features and functionalities of the phone system and make it easier to use and customize to a business’ liking.

Myth 4: It’s not secure

Because hosted PBX uses the internet to transmit calls, most businesses are worried about being vulnerable to security threats. Such security threats, however, can be minimized by following best practices and, of course, by choosing the right provider. A good hosted PBX provider will have security protocols and multiple redundancies built into their network to block any potential threats and avoid any downtime.

Final Thoughts

Although hosted PBX solutions are embraced by many businesses today, some companies still fail to adopt the technology because of the many myths surrounding it. By putting these myths to rest, organizations should consider switching to a hosted PBX for the huge potential and many benefits a hosted PBX brings.

Things to Consider when Looking for a Hosted PBX Provider

To save time and money, as well as to enjoy more flexibility, many businesses these days are abandoning their in-house office PBX system and choosing to use a virtual or hosted PBX service instead. A hosted PBX solution is a telephone system that offers PBX functionalities but doesn’t require organizations to purchase or maintain any equipment onsite. The call platform, its features, and all the necessary equipment are hosted or handled by the service provider. Shifting to a hosted PBX service from a traditional PBX system has proven to deliver numerous benefits to businesses, which is why many companies are (literally) cutting ties with their old PBX systems.

But while making the decision to move to hosted PBX is an easy one, finding the right hosted PBX provider to partner with isn’t. With so many providers to choose from, all claiming to offer the best, most secure, and most competitive service, it can be tough to select the right provider.

To help you on your search, below are a few things to keep in mind when picking the right hosted PBX provider for your business.

  • Check the track record

Whether you’re a startup or a large enterprise, your PBX system is a crucial tool not only for streamlining internal communications, but also for communicating with customers. Any service disruption, no matter how minor, can lead to catastrophic consequences such as lost revenue. That’s why it’s vital that you find a reliable provider with a proven track record.

Ideally, a good hosted PBX service must have multiple redundancies built into their network to avoid any downtime during maintenance or repairs. They also must not have any history of outage, similar to what happened to Skype last year where the service went down for hours in several countries. But if they had such experience, be sure to inquire about what has been done to rectify the problem and keep it from happening again.

  • Check the level of support offered

You don’t want to partner with a provider who only gets in touch with customers during the installation and setup phase, and appears again during billing. As much as possible, choose a provider that maintains a customer support line, preferably available 24/7 through various channels. This will give you peace of mind knowing you can always ask help if you ever experience difficulty with your service.

  • Examine the features

Next to the cost savings, most businesses make the move to hosted PBX because of the vast array of features offered that are simply not available with a traditional PBX. Find a provider that offers not just a wide selection of features, but offers functionalities that are truly useful for your business. Basic features such as auto attendant, call forwarding, music on hold, voicemail, call forwarding and transfer are a given. But if you need more robust features, go for providers that include sophisticated tracking and reporting, mobile apps, and integration with other software, among others, in their service.

  • Take a look at the fees

Whether you prefer to sign up for an annual contract or a pay as you go service, it’s important that you study the fees and charges included in the service. Term details must be clearly defined and explained to avoid hidden charges.

Final Thoughts

Hosted PBX solutions are an excellent alternative to expensive, complicated, and space-consuming traditional PBX systems. However, not all hosted PBX providers deliver the same excellent service. That’s why it’s important that you make your decision carefully. Shop around, ask other users, read reviews, and consider the above tips in mind to help you find the right provider that meets your needs.

Can Hosted PBX Save You Money?

The short answer is: yes. Moving to a hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system from a legacy-based PBX system can help your business save money. We’ve already discussed in a previous article about how hosted PBX system can help cut your IT expenses. But there are even more ways it can promise you big savings. Here are some of them:

  • It grows with your company

A hosted PBX system is an attractive solution for businesses that value scalability and flexibility. Unlike on-premise systems, hosted PBX lets you easily upgrade or downgrade your services as your business needs change.

That means, for example, when the holiday rush kicks in, you can conveniently add more lines and users to accommodate the increasing demand without having to worry about investing in more phone equipment. And when the seasonal sales subside, you can also scale your hosted PBX service back to cut down on expenses.

  • Enjoy lower call rates

If you deal with clients and customers abroad, you’re likely aware that the cost of placing an international call from a traditional phone service is painfully high. These costs can pile up over time and can take a huge chunk of your budget. Fortunately, calls via hosted PBX systems (which use the internet to transmit calls) are relatively cheaper than those made over traditional phone services.

Also, most hosted PBX service providers let you have a local area code and number in another area or country. This means means you can place calls and also be reached by people using the same area code, while only paying the cost of a local call.

  • No equipment upgrades or upkeep to think about

Because the hardware or equipment for a hosted PBX service is housed by the provider, you no longer have worry about upgrades or maintenance as your provider will be the one to shoulder it. All you need to spend on are the handsets for your staff (but even that can be eliminated if you use softphones or already have existing handsets) and your monthly phone bill.

  • Avoid the financial consequences of security breaches or emergencies

On-premise PBX systems may lend some peace of mind to businesses, given that it’s the organization that has complete control over it. However, this is exactly the type of environment that makes your PBX system more vulnerable to security breaches or emergencies.

With a hosted PBX, you don’t have to spend more on security or suffer the financial consequences of a security breach or natural disaster because most providers have established measures to ensure business continuity during emergencies or disruptions. Leading providers (such as RingCentral, Vonage, and Mitel) for instance, have established multiple layers of redundancy and failover technology in their data centers to ensure users are protected in times of crisis.

Final Thoughts

Cutting costs isn’t always a good reason to make a change. This is because some services may appear to cost less but, in truth, do not always deliver the best results for a business. With a hosted PBX solution, this isn’t the case. A hosted PBX system delivers big savings to businesses while offering better and more advanced functionalities, flexibility, and convenience.

PBX Showdown: Choosing Between Hosted and On Premise IP PBX Systems

Business communication tools have come and gone, but the one that has endured the changing times is the telephone system. In larger organizations, phone systems (specifically the PBX or private branch exchange) play a crucial role in ensuring smooth and efficient business communications. But as phone technologies evolve, companies must also adapt in order to stay competitive.

One key decision companies face today is whether or not to upgrade their traditional PBX system to a hosted or an on-premise IP PBX system. Moving to an IP PBX system offers numerous benefits (regardless of which type is chosen). But in order to tap the full potential of the phone system and ensure the complete satisfaction of users, it pays to learn more about each type, as well as examine its strengths and weaknesses.

Hosted IP PBX
Hosted IP PBX refers to the service where the call platform (as well as the PBX features and capabilities) are hosted and delivered by a third-party service provider. A hosted PBX system frees companies from the hassle and expenses of investing in and maintaining onsite equipment. The service provider maintains the equipment, hosts the software, and makes the upgrades. A company and its employees simply use the phone system as usual, and can see their changes in real-time.

On Premise IP PBX
As the name implies, with an on-premise IP PBX system, all components of the system are located on site. The business shoulders the cost of the equipment as well as the maintenance and upkeep. This type of PBX is a common choice for larger enterprises who have robust PBX needs and employed IT personnel responsible for the monitoring, maintenance, and upgrades of the system.

There are various factors that will drive a company to choose between a hosted and on-premise IP PBX system. These factors include:

  • Cost

Hosted PBX offers lower upfront costs, which is highly attractive for new businesses or those that are strapped for cash. You only need to pay a flat subscription rate, which covers the equipment, IT support, and maintenance costs.

An on-premise PBX system requires a higher startup cost since you’ll have to purchase the phone equipment yourself. And while you won’t have to deal with monthly service fees, there are hardware expenses and ongoing operational and maintenance fees that you have to take into account.

  • Scalability

Another thing to consider is scalability, or the ability to scale up (or down) depending on your business’ demands. With a hosted PBX, it’s easy to add or remove lines and features without experiencing disruption in one’s service; however, do be aware that adding users will increase your monthly costs. Adding and subtracting users can usually be done through a self-service web portal, which is offered by the provider. With a hosted PBX, it does not require an on-site visit by a technician. As long as you aren’t locked into a contract that limits or penalizes you adding or subtracting users, then you’re all set.

On the other hand, with on-premise PBX businesses must buy the equipment based on the projected or estimated number of users. If the number of users or employees grows beyond the scale of your phone system, you will have to invest in more capacity (or if it decreases, you may have no choice but to eat the cost).

  • Mobility

For companies that employ remote workers or road warriors, a hosted PBX solution is a great option because you can access your business phone system and all its features from any device as long as you have an internet connection.

But an on-premise system can be limiting because it only supports wired phones in a physical office.

  • Control

Also consider the level of management and control you desire. Businesses that opt for a hosted PBX solution often choose the system because they want to focus on their core business–and they can’t do this if they spend significant time and resources on making sure their phone system is up and running. By outsourcing tech and upkeep responsibilities (such as managing their phone system), organizations can better attend to profit-boosting activities.

Meanwhile, an on-premise PBX solution enables businesses to control every technical and operational detail of their phone system. Because they have a clear understanding of their business’ requirements and capacities, they are able to develop a phone system that perfectly suits their needs. The catch is you need to have skilled and qualified staff to exercise that control.

The Bottom Line
Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, so ultimately the choice boils down to the priorities and preferences of your business. A hosted PBX is a suitable choice for organizations that value mobility and cost-efficiency. An on-premise system, meanwhile, is more ideal for companies that have the capacity to update and maintain the system, and seek greater control over it.