Is a Virtual Phone System for You?
Want the telephony capabilities of a giant corporation for a fraction of the price? Consider installing a virtual phone system.
A virtual phone system delivers traditional business features (such as handling multiple calls from different lines in varying ways) without requiring any additional hardware. You can even operate the system, which connects calls via internet, from your mobile handset anywhere in the world.
Here are a few advantages to using a virtual phone system:
No hardware purchase is required — Virtual phone services make use of your current telephone lines and equipment (although some require a pre-configured phone), so you generally don’t need to buy additional hardware.
You may request new or retain existing phone numbers, too. If you change from one virtual phone system to another, in most cases you may take your numbers with you.
Inbound calls find you at any phone — Virtual phone systems typically offer find me/follow me or simultaneous ring features. This means your inbound phone calls can ring multiple phone numbers — including cell and land lines — allowing you to answer calls wherever you happen to be.
Some find me/follow me functions are programmable, too, so you can set them not to ring your home phone while you’re sleeping or your cell phone when you’re engrossed in deadlines at the office.
This technology bests conventional call-forwarding because once it’s set up, you don’t ever have to switch it on or off. It also allows all of your phone lines to ring, so whenever you are, you can conduct business as usual.
Multiple extensions can make small operations seem huge — Virtual phone systems can provide you with all of the local and toll-free telephone numbers your business needs. With lots of virtual telephone numbers, and/or extensions, you can easily and accurately identify the individual advertisement or promotional text that generated each phone call you receive.
You can also make your small business look as big and monolithic as you wish by creating separate extensions on your line for shipping, receiving, inventory, billing, and returns — even though one person handles them all.
Voice mail and faxes arrive via email — Virtual phone systems allow you to receive voice mail and faxes via email in the form of digitized images. You can also obtain voice mail as text messages on your mobile phone. Although the conversion from voice to text isn’t always perfect, it’s darn good. It also may be convenient (for replying and record-keeping purposes) to have voice messages spelled out for you.
Virtual phone systems typically pack additional features helpful to businesses, including call screening, blocking, and history; music on “hold”; conference and video calling; and text messaging and file transfers when mobile phone users call. You can even set up one virtual system to call your number on another virtual system, effectively “piggybacking” the two, so you obtain the best features of both.
For more information and specific pricing, check out any of these popular services: eVoice, FreedomVoice, Google Voice, Grasshopper, Kall8, MightyCall, Onebox, Phone.com, RingCentral, Skype, and Virtual PBX.
Robert Moskowitz is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.