Intro to Virtual PBX

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: February 08, 2011

Offices have traditionally used a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) to manage their phone traffic. This is a physical telephone system that transfers phone calls to intended recipients, plays music while people are on hold, gives users a menu they can access to find an extension, and so forth.

A Virtual PBX does all of this through a hosted service. The telephone system is outsourced to a private company that owns the hardware and provides phone services and call routing over the internet. Everything is automated and the system is set up to handle internal and external calls at the same time.

Advantages of Virtual PBX

The first is the overall amount of money saved by the company. You don’t need to purchase as much expensive phone hardware that has to be set up by a team of technicians. A Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) normally costs several thousand dollars, and doesn’t include the substantial wiring and other required infrastructure.

Maintenance costs are largely nonexistent since the phone equipment is located off premises. The hosting company is the one who makes sure that everything is in proper working condition and performs repairs on the hardware as needed. All the company has to do is pay a monthly fee that varies depending on the service plan that has been chosen.

Virtual PBX can also help smaller companies project a professional image to the public. The phone system is often the first point of contact between the business and the outside world, and the customer may hang up if they are kept waiting for too long or can’t get to where they need to go. The hosted system deals with these technical issues and helps to provide a good first impression.

Another great benefit of Virtual PBX’s are the advanced features they have available. Your company can have access to conference calls, videoconferencing, voicemail transcription, and an answering service. If you’d like statistical tracking of your phone calls, the hosting company can often provide that as well. These features tend to be offered à la carte, so you can pick and choose between the ones that you need.

Scalability is another advantage when adopting a Virtual PBX. You can quickly add phone lines to the office as new employees are hired, remove the phone line if it is no longer needed, and move the phone number to a different location if a person switches offices. This can help save the company money as it changes in size, and free up your technical staff since the process is usually quite simple.

Virtual PBX’s are also flexible about the type of phones that can be used by your employees. The desktop phone or softphone has to be SIP-compliant, but that is the only requirement and an extremely common feature in modern phones. You can thus choose from a wider variety of phone models than might otherwise be available to your company.

You can also get virtual phone numbers for the business in multiple cities. This allows customers to call “local” numbers that are routed through the internet and connected to your phone system. The company can thus maintain a phone number for New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, or wherever is needed.

Virtual PBX’s are quickly growing in popularity and number. They provide a cost-effective means for small and mid-sized businesses to provide high quality phone service, and a better chance to compete with larger businesses who generally have more money and hardware at their disposal.

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