Business owners and IT managers sometimes feel bombarded by information about new and exciting “must have” technologies guaranteed to make the company more competitive. As exciting as all these offers are, smart companies take a look at whether adopting the technology actually makes sense, or is merely the “cool” thing to do.
One technology that’s promoted a lot these days is “hosted PBX (News - Alert)” or “hosted VoIP
.” This type of service is essentially a “virtual” phone system that offers a variety of different features (like voicemail and call forwarding), all typically managed using a Web browser-based administration panel.
Especially for small businesses, hosted VoIP
may be a smart technology to adopt because it is relatively inexpensive compared with traditional PBXs (which are hardware-based rather than software-based). The savings associated with hosted VoIP in most cases is both immediate (no need for big capital investments since functionality is bought as a service rather than equipment investment) and long-term (no need to maintain complex equipment on-site, which might require specialized staff and eventually will become obsolete).
In asking the question whether going with a hosted VoIP solution makes sense, the discerning business will consider what features are available with each plan, and whether it truly is flexible enough to fit into the environment at the company. Services added to the shortlist should offer a variety of features and packages to choose from, designed to help even small companies project a professional image and boost productivity.
One feature you’ll definitely want to make sure is included in any hosted VoIP service you consider is an 800 (toll-free) number. This is something few companies can afford to do without anymore, since most business is conducted on a nationwide or worldwide basis rather than locally; it’s important to provide customers with a free way of contacting your company. Even if the company does business only on a local basis, having an 800-number presents a more professional image.
Another feature to look for is multiple voicemail boxes, allowing each employee to be assigned his or her own box. Each mailbox has its own extension, outgoing message and call forwarding settings. This makes it easy for customers to reach their sales rep or the appropriate support department. Because the system is “virtual,” employees can use the it from any location—answering calls and checking voicemail from home, say, or while on a business trip.
In fact, the “virtual” nature of hosted VoIP makes it ideal for any company with home-based employees or workers who often do their jobs away from the office for whatever reason. That’s because the system is accessible anywhere there is an Internet connection; you can check voicemail and fax messages online and forward them to your e-mail inbox.
Finally, one of the key features to look for in a hosted VoIP service is what’s called “follow me” or “call forwarding.” This allows you to route incoming calls to any other phone number (office, home, cell, etc.). You can also usually set up a “hunt group” that calls several numbers one after the other until someone picks up, or simultaneous forward so that the call rings at several different numbers.
To learn more about virtual phone systems, please visit the Hosted VoIP channel on TMCnet.com, brought to you by Junction Networks (News - Alert).
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Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.