The most common VoIP based phone service used by small and medium sized businesses is a Virtual PBX system. You will also hear this being referred to as Hosted VoIP, Hosted PBX or a more general term - Business VoIP.
First of all a quick re-cap on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) since this is the technology behind it. You still use a telephone but the call is passed over the Internet rather than the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). It may still end up in the PSTN but it travels over the Internet for as long as it can which is why the service is low cost - the Internet is not heavily regulated and taxed like the PSTN. What are the requirements for VoIP - all you need is a decent Broadband Internet connection and yes it can share the same pipes as your current Internet access.
Now we have addressed what VoIP is, let's now focus on service and what it actually is. What is the PBX part - well PBX just means Private Branch eXchange (PBX). Larger Corporations often have PBX equipment residing on-premise. This equipment handles call routing to extensions and connecting calls to the PSTN. The on-premise PBX is not required for a Virtual PBX system as this functionality is located at a remote data center, owned and maintained by the service provider. This is where the word "Virtual" comes from - it is called Virtual in the sense that no hardware is required on-premise other than the phones. The "smarts" are performed in a virtual manner, in the "cloud".
Before Virtual PBX systems became available, the only option for telecommunications entailed buying, managing and maintaining costly PBX switching hardware which included the equipment, wiring, phones, installation and maintenance. One PBX switch can cost between $500 and $2,000 per user, which is an expensive proposition.
Now that you hopefully understand what this is, why should you choose it for your business phone service and what are all the benefits it brings:
There are of course some disadvantages to this service, with the main ones listed as follows:
The low cost of the Virtual PBX system does not translate into cheap, low-grade or third-rate service. The Virtual PBX system is highly efficient, feature-rich and is highly suitable for small businesses. It is a business phone service at an amazingly low price. The system is streamlined and totally effective.
Here are a few of the benefits which come with using Virtual PBX systems:
Myriad of features plus high functionality;
Simple, user-friendly browser-based management;
Monitoring and real-time reporting;
Customer service and 24/7 support; and
Quality and reliability.
In summary the advantages of this type of phone service far outweigh the disadvantages. To help with comparison of different providers you can read Virtual PBX reviews submitted by real users. Refer to the comparison table opposite to access user reviews for popular providers.
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Author: Andy Forgrieve