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Likely if you’re reading this blog post, you’re exploring virtual phone system options for your company and you’re trying to wade through the range of options, services and various packages. To help you make an informed choice, we’ll do our best to explain how virtual phones systems “work”.
To start off, we’ll explain some basic terminology – is there a difference between virtual phone systems and cloud-based phone systems.
Cloud computing is Internet-based and allows for shared resources that means that software and information are provided to computers and other devices on an as-needed basis. The cloud essentially represents the Internet space and the devices/services therein. Another way to explain this is to think of email services such as Gmail and Yahoo!, these are cloud-based email services – a datacenter somewhere manages your email for you as opposed to having a dedicated email server in your basement.
So a cloud-based phone system, uses the Internet to handle your phone requirements – be this receiving calls, forwarding calls, acting as an auto-attendant, etc. The exact same thing that a virtual phone system does. The terminology is one-in-the-same and really speaks to the technology behind the scenes that allows you to have virtual local and toll-free numbers that your clients and customers can use.
So how does this type of phone system work? Well, luckily for you, all you have to do is provide your customers, clients, and contacts with the phone number provided to you by your virtual phone system provider. When you set up your phone package you will most likely have the option to choose a local or toll-free number and some software behind the scenes will generate a number for you that you can then use.
When a customer calls this number, the call is routed to an actual existing phone line such as a cell phone, landline, a voicemail box, or a home phone. To the user, there is no difference between a virtual phone number and system and a traditional phone system such as one offered by AT&T. The bonus of such a system is that you do not need to purchase additional hardware to provide a new phone number to customers and clients.
In the end, it is pretty simple really. And thanks to the virtual phone systems, you can for the most part use a simple and intuitive interface to configure your virtual phone number/system and within minutes you’ll be part of the cloud-based phone system revolution. Phone.com is one such service.
To help you further understand the virtual phone system market, we’ve compiled a list of the most common terminology specific to this industry.
This is the first voice your callers will here when your phone line is answered and is typically a voice message you have recorded. Use the auto attendant to provide information about your business such as office hours and a guide to the company directory.
Use call blocking to prevent callers from specified number from contacting you. You can typically control how such calls are handled – i.e. Sending the caller to a configured voicemail box, playing a specific message or even simply hanging up on the caller.
This really is the essence of the virtual phone system. Using call forwarding you can have employees all over the world but your callers and customers are not aware of this. You can set up the virtual phone system so that each line or extension rings at a specific number, such as a cell phone, an employee’s home phone number and a configured voicemail box. Call forwarding gives you the versatility to work anywhere and still maintain a local presence.
Dedicated Toll Free
This means that you have your own 1-800 number –it is not shared with other companies.
Use this feature to route calls to present numbers – this way you won’t miss any calls. You can set this up to route calls to a sequence of numbers, this way ensuring the caller will eventually get an answer.
The majority of virtual phone system plans will allow you to have a toll free and local number. Use a local number in an area in which you have an established presence or use it an area in which you don’t have a local presence but want to run an advertising campaign. Callers will dial the number and be routed to you – wherever you are.
Some virtual phone system providers will charge you a fee to activate and set-up your account.
Vanity Phone Number
A vanity number allows you to have a number that spells out a word that is applicable to you and your company. This number can be used in advertising and promotional campaigns as a way to get customers to remember you. For example, 1-800-NEWCARS. Typically there is a one-time fee for a vanity number.
Voicemail to Email
Allows you to have your voicemail messages converted/translate to email and sent to you as an email message. This allows you to manage all of your messages from one application. eVoice is one such service.
A quick scan of our review of the leading virtual phone companies really is enough to leave you scratching your head. There are so many options, a variety of packages and pricing schemes that at times it can be hard to understand what it is each company really is offering.
Use this blog post as a reference guide to enable you to better understand the features offered. In the end this should help you determine what you want from your virtual phone system and find the company that is offering what you want at the best price.
Included minutes: the number of minutes included in the plan – this applies to incoming and outgoing calls. Some plans will include 300 minutes, which applies to both incoming and outgoing calls or a plan may specify 100 incoming and 200 outgoing minutes.
Extensions: the number of phone lines or extensions included in the plan. Some plans will offer unlimited extensions while more basic plans will charge you for additional lines or extensions.
Voicemail by Email: allows you to receive voicemail messages to your email client. The voicemail can be saved in a digital format or some companies might offer a voice-to-text option that provides the voicemail message in text format.
Call Handling Rules: such rules allow you to control how your phone number is answered or handled at various times of the day. For example, after 5 p.m., calls are automatically routed to a voicemail box with a configured greeting.
Overage Minutes: the fee for each minute of calls that you receive or send that exceeds the number prescribed by your plan. Depending on your plan, the overage charges can be quite steep.
Web Management: each virtual phone system attempts to differentiate itself with its user interface or web management tool. The quality of your experience with a virtual phone system can vary greatly based on the ease-of-use of the interface. This web-based software allows you to control each and every option associated with your package including recording greetings, setting office hours, and specifying call routing options.
Internet Fax: depending on the scope of your business, you may require fax capabilities. If this is the case, it is worth investigating virtual phone system companies that support Internet fax – both sending and receiving.
This is an overview of the most common features and standards that the leading virtual phone system companies will offer you, keep this information in mind when researching the best option for your needs. Be sure to consider the free trial options as well as the customer support provided. RingCentral is a service you need.
If you’re like most people learning about the options that come with virtual phone systems, you’ve quickly discovered that it is a steep learning curve. Each and every web site and comparison chart highlights a different feature of the phone systems as being a “must-have”.
One such “must-have” are phone number options. That is the choice to choose between local and toll free/1-800 numbers. And along with these number options often comes a different number of minutes for each choice. So the big question is: what exactly are the differences between these numbers?
We’ll do our best here to explain the differences between these numbers and hopefully this will equip with you some extra knowledge that will help you make the best decision for your business and its virtual phone system requirements.
A virtual local number is really a product or by-product of the virtual phone system industry. The main purpose of a local number is to provide a simple number with a local area code that you can easily remember and can be used to forward to a virtual phone system. One of the most typical uses of a local number for a business is during an advertising campaign – it allows you to demonstrate a local presence and also track the number of calls you receive as a result of the advertising campaign.
One of the biggest pluses of a virtual local number is its cost – because the overhead is reduced, so too is the cost. Making it an excellent option for your virtual phone system set-up. Typically your virtual phone system company will host this local number for you so it is completely maintenance free from your perspective. Working with your virtual phone system you configure your calls to go to this local number – giving you flexibility and freedom to really work from wherever you want. For example, you might have an office in Oregon but are exploring the option of expanding into Rhode Island, well with the help of your virtual phone system provider, a local number with the 401 area code will be created which can then be used in advertising and promotional campaigns – all while you continue to operate your business in Oregon.
So a local phone number allows you to have a presence in areas in which you don’t currently operate, provides an easy-to-remember number, and gives you some flexibility with advertising and promotional campaigns. Now what about the toll-free/1-800 number option?
First off, lets explain the terminology – 800 telephone numbers and toll free numbers are the same thing. The difference in the terminology simply stems from the actual number used: 1-800 compared to 1-866, 877 or 888. The 866, 877 and 888 extensions were created because we simply ran out of 1-800 extension options.
Such telephone numbers allow your customers, clients, business partners, and employees to call you at no charge. Instead you and your virtual phone system company incur the charges. This is why you will often see an extra charge to enable a toll free number service.
The toll free number is set-up by your virtual phone system company to forward incoming calls to your existing local line. There are three groups who are interested in using toll free numbers and depending on your business, this may impact your choice to use a toll free number or local number.
Your own use – for a customer support line. Having a toll free number makes you more accessible to your clients and it allows customers to call technical support for free.
Small businesses – such companies use toll free numbers to give the appearance of being larger then they are. If you’re a small business looking to establish a nation-wide presence, a toll free number could be the right choice.
Individual customers – depending on your business, it might be more appealing and feasible for your customers to use a toll free number to contact you regarding your products and services.
So these are your standard number options with virtual phone systems. The choice really comes down to: what do you want the virtual phone numbers for and how are they going to be used? Once you can answer this, you can determine if you need a local virtual number, a toll free number, or maybe even both. FreedomVoice is one service you might need.