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.

Top Tips to Streamline Internal Communications

Quick and effective communications between a company and its employees is one of the keys to achieving success in your business. But the benefits go beyond pure profit. When information is easily accessible, managers can direct and lead more effectively, and employees can become more engaged, which helps to build stronger teams.

So how do you make it happen? In fact, it takes more than just sending employees a flood of emails or passing around buzzword-filled documents. To develop a thriving corporate culture where information flows freely, follow these helpful tips below:

  • Allow hot desking

Hot desking, or the practice of giving employees the flexibility to work from any space or desk depending on the task at hand, is embraced by many organizations today. By allowing employees to move around in and share spaces, they are more likely to interact with fellow workers. This encourages the spread of ideas, thoughts, and feedback which may not be otherwise heard or shared when one is resigned to a single cubicle the entire day.

In order to reap the benefits of hot desking, you will need the proper tools. A good internet connection is a must. Then consider laptops, tablets and mobile devices. Of course, you can’t go wrong with an IP PBX solution, either. Unlike traditional PBX systems, an IP PBX lets users take their phone to their desk without having to re-patch their extensions.

  • Store and share files in one place

It also helps if your employees can store, share, and easily access their files in one place. In an age where office filing cabinets are nearly extinct, the “cloud” is the one place you can count on.  You can choose from services such as Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Google Drive, among others, for your cloud storage needs.

The great thing about these cloud services is that they give employees access to documents from any device and location securely. Plus, most PBX systems offer seamless integration with these cloud services, so you can automatically backup your voicemails, faxes, and recorded calls with ease.

  • Talk instead of email

While it’s easy to discuss work matters via email, constant back-and-forth can waste your time and energy. A better way to communicate would be in person or via a phone call or video conference. Talking in person or over the phone is better for building relationships because voice, tone, and personality shine through. It’s also easier to explain complex ideas in person or through calls than an impersonal email.

  • Use the right tools

A company’s values play a crucial role in ensuring effective communications, but so do the tools they use. For example, to avoid miscommunication about customer accounts, customer support platforms and CRM plugins like Zendesk or Salesforce will help. Or to streamline team collaboration, apps like Trello and Slack are also good choices for office communication.

Good internal communications do not happen by chance — it’s something that can be improved and achieved by implementing a solid strategy. So make sure to follow the tips above and see as your company reaps its benefits.

How to Set Up Your Auto Attendant

 

Common with many PBX systems, the auto attendant feature automates the incoming call procedure and eliminates the need for a full-time receptionist. This feature provides callers with a greeting and a list of menu options to route their calls to the appropriate person or department. Because an auto attendant is often the first interaction potential prospects and customers have with a company, it’s important to ensure that it is properly set up in order to make the right impression to callers.

Below we identify four best practices in setting up your auto attendant so you can create a good impression and offer a pleasant experience to your customers:

Be brief and professional

Begin your message with a welcome greeting. It should be pleasant and professional as if you were shaking hands with a potential client for the first time. After your quick intro, get down to business immediately by offering the most important information customers need. Consider offering information about your business such as location, directions, office hours, and website.

Before introducing options to callers, make sure to inform them that they can dial their party’s extension at any time, in case they already know who to reach (and thus don’t have to listen through the auto attention options).

Avoid offering too many options

When designing your auto attendant, keep in mind that less is often more. Offering an endless list of options can confuse callers, leading them to hang up the phone or end up with the wrong extension. Limit your menu to five or six options, including only the most important departments such as customer service, sales, and billing. Also make sure to use clear extension names (“Press 1 for Sales, Press 2 For Customer Service, etc…) or call-to-actions (“To talk to a customer support representative, press 1, To hear your account balance, press 2, etc).

Include short sales information or slogan

While it’s important to keep your auto attendant message short and sweet, it won’t hurt to include sales information or a slogan to boost your brand and catch your caller’s attention. For example, a curtain supplier could begin their greeting with, “Thank you for calling Curtains Unlimited, your best source for custom curtains and draperies.” It’s a simple one-liner that already introduces callers to your brand.

You can also mention a sale or special promo and discount to entice customers. But make sure to direct callers to a specific extension where they can obtain additional information. You can say, “Would you like to enjoy a 20% discount on orders worth $100 and up? Press 3 to learn more.”

Customize greetings for specific times of day

Unless you operate your business 24/7, you’ll want your phone system to act differently during after business hours or holidays. It’s a good idea to tailor your message depending on the time of day so that customers who call you after hours will know when you will be available. Also, you should consider offering a voicemail option to ensure you don’t miss important calls.

Final Thoughts

An auto attendant is an excellent PBX feature that helps you not only to effectively manage and route calls, but also to convey a more professional and customer-friendly appearance. So make sure to set it up correctly by following these helpful tips.

5 Best Practices to Keep Your Virtual PBX System Secure

The telecommunication requirements for startups and large enterprises vary due to size, features, equipment, etc. But there’s one thing both types of business share in common: the need for a reliable and secure communication system. With the popularity of virtual PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems, businesses now more than ever need to take measures to ensure their system is safe to avoid being vulnerable to various security threats inherent to web-based technologies.

Virtual PBX security threats are diverse and varied, but one of the most common include PBX hacking. This is where criminals penetrate your PBX system to make unauthorized calls. This can result in substantial call charges being incurred on your account.

So how can you protect yourself from PBX hacking and other more damaging security threats? Take note of the following security measures to keep you and your business safe:

  1. Use strong passwords

One of the easiest yet often overlooked security measures is setting strong passwords. Using weak passwords (such as birthdays, names, and default passwords) is like opening the door for hackers since it requires almost no effort to hack into the system.

To make sure you’re not making it easy for cyber-criminals, use strong passwords in your PBX phones and accounts for both users and administrators. This means using a password that contains a minimum of 16 characters that include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Also remember to change default admin passwords regularly, especially if you’re using modern IP PBX servers that can be configured through a web portal.

  1. Use a VPN for remote workers

If your PBX system supports a large number of mobile devices (especially if you have remote employees or staff who are constantly on-the-go), then encrypting traffic through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a wise move. With a VPN, users can access a private network securely and send and receive data remotely across shared or public networks.

  1. Monitor usage

In order to avoid fraud and to detect network-based attacks on your IP PBX system, it’s important that you monitor usage and actively track call logs and history.  Attacks on a PBX system are usually known to create an unusually large amount of network traffic, so blocking international call access to countries you don’t usually dial is a good idea.

  1. Keep your software up to date

Another way to safeguard your PBX system and your business is by keeping your PBX software updated. Typically, the most recent version of a software is often the most secure (bugs and other potential exploits are found and fixed).

When updating your PBX, remember to do a complete backup of your system (although performing regular backups of your entire system is also recommended). Also notify end users of the update, in case it will lead to some downtime.

  1. Talk to your service provider

Finally, talk to your PBX service provider. Be sure to ask about security issues such as how data is stored and transmitted, and the measures they have established in case of a network attack. This is something you would want to do even before you choose a provider.

Final Thoughts

Virtual PBX systems offer a host of benefits to startups and growing businesses, but when not managed properly, cyber-criminals can use your phone system as an opportunity to commit fraud and gain access to your confidential company data. That is why security should always remain a priority for organizations.

 

Hosted PBX VS SIP Trunking: Which is Right for Your Business?

For companies that are hoping to save money and streamline business communications, the decision to choose a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system is a smart move. When compared to traditional telephone services, VoIP is far more customizable and feature-rich. Plus, the ability to scale at will on top of the system’s increased reliability make VoIP highly attractive.

It’s important to emphasize, though, that VoIP is not a single solution. Rather, it’s an umbrella term that covers any form of voice communication that is carried out over Internet Protocol (IP) networks. When implementing a VoIP solution, there are various options businesses can choose from. Two of the most common solutions are Hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) and SIP Trunking. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at each service to help you decide which option is most suitable for your business.

What is a Hosted PBX?

Also referred to as an IP PBX or virtual PBX, a hosted PBX solution is a telephone system that provides PBX functionalities (such as call conferencing, automatic call distributions, call forwarding, do not disturb, etc.) to businesses but without the need to own or maintain any onsite equipment. With hosted PBX, the call platform and its features are hosted or handled by the VoIP service provider in the cloud. It is no longer the business’ responsibility to own, operate, secure, maintain or upgrade the necessary hardware. This allows companies to focus on their core competency, as well as enjoy significant cost savings through limited required equipment.

What is SIP Trunking?

With Session Initiation Protocol (or SIP trunking), users are able to continue using their existing telephone system or PBX equipment, but without the exorbitant costs of connecting to the PSTN. SIP trunking replaces traditional phone trunks with the internet; which means your phone calls will be routed through the internet instead of traditional phone lines. This solution requires an IP-enabled on-premise PBX and a VoIP gateway that connects your PBX to the cloud.

So Which Solution Should You Choose?

As with any business technology, the decision depends on the needs of your business. You need to consider various factors first before making the switch. The following are only some of the things you should weigh in order to make an informed purchasing decision:

    • The size of your business – For startups and smaller businesses (with anywhere from 5 to 20 employees), hosted PBX is usually the better choice as it provides all of the standard and advanced VoIP features at a lesser cost. SIP trunking, on the other hand, is ideal for larger enterprises that already have an existing PBX in place and simply want more affordable calling.
    • Scalability – As a business expands, so do their communication requirements. Both options are highly scalable, but with SIP trunking you would need to purchase additional on-premise servers (and thus spend more money) to be able to add new phones and users to your phone system.  A hosted PBX service, on the other hand, would only require a notification to the provider or a few changes in your account’s web portal, which can be completed in a few simple steps.
    • Maintenance – If you’re choosing SIP Trunking solutions, maintenance issues must be handled by your IT staff. They are responsible for the upkeep and must ensure that your software is up-to-date. This can prove extremely challenging for some businesses, especially if they don’t have highly skilled and knowledgeable IT personnel. With hosted PBX, on the other hand, all of the necessary upgrades and maintenance will be taken care of your VoIP service provider.

Assess your business’ wants and needs and choose the most appropriate VoIP service solution today!

 

 

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.

Telltale Signs it’s Time to Upgrade Your PBX System

To upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question business owners ask when it comes to their office phones.

Despite the popularity and cost savings of advanced phone solutions such as IP PBXs, some organizations continue to stick to their traditional phone systems, thinking that there’s no need to get a new one if their phone system still functions. However, subscribing to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy could seriously impair a business’ ability from competing in a fast evolving marketplace. Refusing to improve your communications not only hinders your growth, but also leaves you trailing the competition.

So when it comes to your business phone, when is the best time to get an upgrade? Take note of these telltale signs:

  • Your current phone is technically outdated

If you’ve had your PBX system for five years or more, it might be time for a replacement. Older PBX systems can become more of a liability than an asset to businesses because older phones can be more difficult to repair and maintain. The system may no longer be supported by the manufacturer, and parts may not be readily available.

Plus, if your PBX system can only make and receive calls, then it’s clearly become a typewriter in a world of computers–meaning, it’s headed towards technical obscurity. Today’s business PBX solutions facilitate more than just phone calls, with capabilities like video and voice conferencing, CRM integration, instant messaging, and visual voicemail, among many others.

  • Your current phone system is costing you more than ever

Do you need to pay every time you add an extension? Do you have separate bills for landline and mobile use? Do you avoid making long distance or international calls for fear of excessively high call charges?

If your traditional PBX system is busting your budget, then it’s time that you tap the cost-saving benefits of network-based PBX solutions.  Aside from lower installation costs and reduced call rates, IP PBX services are offered in a range of plans and pricing options so you can choose one that matches your needs and budget.

  • Your business is rapidly growing

As your business expands, you can expect an increase in the volume of incoming and outgoing calls as well as employees within your phone system. The question is: can your current phone handle this growth?

The problem with traditional PBX systems is that they usually have an absolute maximum number of phone numbers and users they can support. While you can increase the number of ports and phone lines, it will be costly to do so. And in a few years or so, you’ll  end up with overpriced and outdated equipment that offers limited features and is difficult to maintain. This is why it makes more sense to upgrade to a VoIP solution than to expand your current system. With VoIP, you can add more users in just a few clicks. No need to call your provider, wait for weeks to set up new lines, or purchase expensive hardware. You can see all of your changes in real-time. VoIP scales with ease, which means it grows as you grow.

  • Your team members don’t have real-time access to calls and other information when on the road or out of the office

Does your phone system allow your remote and traveling employees access to phone calls even when they step out of the office? Or do they miss important calls when they are on the road?

These days, it’s necessary for workers to be reachable regardless of location. For example, if your staff isn’t available when customers call, this can result in missed sales opportunities. If your executive can’t be reached while on a business trip, important deals may not push through.

If your business phone doesn’t keep all your team members connected from wherever they are in the world, then it’s wise to consider another system that offers such capability. A VoIP phone solution that offers call rerouting features (which turn your mobile phone into a business phone by forwarding calls when you are out of the office) gives you a competitive advantage as it ensures you never miss a call (and the opportunities that come along with it). Features like mobile apps, call forwarding, find me/follow me, and others are all important in bringing mobility to your team members.

So Is it Time for a Change?

If any of the above applies to you, then it’s wise to consider an upgrade to an IP PBX. The additional features and benefits offered by newer and more advanced IP PBX systems can certainly help businesses keep up with the times and remain competitive while still saving money.

 

Advantages of IP PBX over Traditional PBX

For decades, many enterprises relied on a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system to manage and control their business communications. Companies that use a PBX system share a certain number of outside lines to make external calls. Sharing a line instead of using numerous dedicated phone lines allows companies one main number, and then extensions for each employee. This, in turn, saves on monthly phone bills for the company.

Today, however, most businesses have started making the transition from traditional PBX systems towards better and more improved network-based IP PBX solutions. An IP PBX is a PBX phone system that uses Internet Protocol (IP) data networks instead of the conventional analog technology to deliver telephone services. Deploying IP PBX solutions in place of a traditional PBX delivers numerous benefits to companies.

The following are some of the top advantages of using an IP PBX over a traditional PBX system.

  1. Cheaper and easier to install and to configure

Because IP PBX systems run as software and don’t require expensive PBX equipment, enterprises can save on installation costs. Typically, the only thing businesses need to invest in upfront is the phones themselves, but even this can be eliminated with the use of softphones. For reference, a softphone is a software program that enables users to make VoIP telephone calls (or calls made through the internet) using a computer or smartphone.

  1. Lower communication costs

Perhaps the biggest advantage offered by IP PBX solutions is the reduction of communication costs. Calls made through IP-based systems (both local and international) are far cheaper than those made through a traditional business phone system.

Most IP PBX service providers offer free unlimited local and long-distance calls within the United States and Canada. International calls with an IP PBX can cost between $0.01 to $0.10/minute; whereas international calls through traditional PBX carriers can often cost as much as $3.00/per minute. The significant cost savings from IP PBX solutions are especially beneficial for companies with multiple branch offices or companies that have employees working remotely.

  1. Easier management

Unlike traditional PBX systems that require the assistance of skilled phone technicians to maintain the system, IP PBX solutions are relatively simple to manage. Most IP-based phone systems come with an easy to use web-based configuration interface that makes it easy for users to manage, configure, or fine tune the phone system. An IP PBX can also be accessed remotely, which means authorized users can easily monitor and make changes from anywhere.

  1. It’s scalable

Traditional PBX systems are not suitable for growing businesses because adding phone lines or extensions often means purchasing additional hardware or upgrading to an entirely new phone system, which is definitely not cheap. IP PBX solutions, on the other hand, are designed with scalability in mind. It allows enterprises to easily add or remove any number of users or extensions at little to no cost.

Jive, for example, allows companies to utilize an unlimited number of extensions at no extra cost. Setting up company extensions is also easy with RingCentral, where administrators can simply log in to the Admin Panel to add or delete extensions with ease.

  1. More advanced features

In addition to standard PBX features, companies using an IP PBX system can take advantage of an array of advanced features such as Find Me/Follow Me, Auto Attendant, Unified Messaging, Video and Audio Conferences, Instant Messaging, Contact Center functionalities, Mobile Accessibility, and so much more. These sophisticated features support the needs of an increasingly mobile and collaborative business environment and help to promote efficiency and productivity in the workplace.

Make the switch today!

From cost savings in installation and calling rates, scalability, to easier phone management, IP PBX systems offer plenty of advantages to businesses. So if you haven’t switched to an IP PBX yet, then it’s time to consider making the move.