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Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than an actual) version of something. I know, your teacher said never to use the same word in the definition of that word – but when exploring the terms used in dealing with the new brand of office phone systems, its like navigating a jungle. You can read an article about VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and feel you just read the same thing in an article on virtual phone systems. How can we make it simple?
Any component of a business phone system that uses the Internet to facilitate voice communications is considered to be virtual. Virtual components can be incorporated into an existing premise-based phone system such as a traditional PBX Office Phone Systems, or systems can be entirely virtual and cloud-based. A fully virtual system grants all of the features of a fully-featured PBX, for example, but without any onsite components other than the user handset devices. Five to ten years ago, virtual phones were unknown by most Information Technology professionals. Today, they are a sensible solution for expanding businesses large and small. Virtual phone systems are here to stay: they perform well and are cost-effective.
Another thing you have to understand about the term “Virtual Phone System” is that it is both generic and specific! Generic, in that any and all telephony companies or information technology firms can provide virtual phone systems, but it is “specific” in that certain companies like to be classified specifically as “Virtual Phone System” companies, like Ring Central, Virtual PBX, Phone.com, Grasshopper and Nextiva – all brand names in themselves.
The two general types of virtual phone systems are SIP (session initiation protocol) and POTS (plain old telephone service), but there is a great deal of overlap between the two. SIP is a protocol designed to support a wide range of features for business handsets. Virtual phone systems that use existing POTS handsets such mobile devices must provide all their features via star codes and voice-prompts. Virtual phone systems are ideal for small businesses looking for the features of an enterprise phone system without the cost of installing and maintaining an on-premise phone system. This allows small businesses to benefit from many of the same specialized phone features as larger ones. These systems may also offer premium features such as mobile integration, auto attendant and CRM (customer relation management) integration. The latter (CRM) is handled by a software package that manages all aspects of an organization’s interactions with its customers, clients and prospects.
Virtual, also called hosted or cloud-based, phone systems are a great alternative to on-premise systems, which require dedicated, access-controlled, and climate-controlled office space with network access and uninterruptible power. On-premise systems are usually private branch exchanges (PBX) with proprietary operating systems and bus structures. Configuration changes are made by adding boards to the controller. Service requests may require an outside technician. Calls made within such a network may be higher quality than calls that traverse the public Internet, but virtual phone systems address this issue by offering private trunks between their networks and business systems, creating a virtual private network that includes a business to the systems that connect it with the telephone company.
With a virtual phone system, maintenance is the guaranteed responsibility of the provider. There is no hardware beyond the phones themselves and maybe a router switch. Signing up with a virtual phone service grants a dedicated local phone number customers will use. When customers and vendors call this main number, they are connected to the virtual phone provider’s cloud servers where they can interact with an auto attendant. Calls to specific extensions initiate a call to either a desk phone or a mobile phone.
All companies offering Virtual Phone Systems are not created equal, so the informed customer is best served by carefully determining whether the equipment and service offered is the best fit for the present and future needs of the company. There is no excuse for not checking customer ratings and testimonials on websites offering equipment and system comparisons as a service.
A virtual PBX is in essence, an advanced phone system that is affordable, easy to use and accessible from anywhere. This type of phone system is “virtual” for a reason; while it works with existing phones and existing lines for businesses, it uses an internet connection to keep your telecommunications line connected. You can forward calls, set up conference calls, create greetings and more.
Whether you are new to the world of entrepreneurship or you are a seasoned business owner looking to lower your operational costs, consider the benefits of switching from a traditional system to a virtual PBX.
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