Ben Pate

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Ben Pate has written 144 articles for NASACoLab.

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Ben Pate

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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.
Auto Attendant
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.
Call Blocking
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.
Call Forwarding
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.
Find Me
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.
Local Number
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.
Setup Fee
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.

Moving to a virtual phone system from a traditional landline or PBX system brings with it many questions. This list of frequently asked questions will help you find the answers to the most common questions asked of virtual phone system providers.
What is Unified Messaging?
Unified messaging integrates all of your communication tools including cell phones, desk phones, laptops, PDAs, fax machines and voicemail into one system. One phone number is used for all of these telecommunication options, making it simpler to manage your communications system. Typically a virtual phone system provider will give you the option of a local or toll-free number. Unified messaging eliminates the needs for multiple numbers, passwords, accounts, and the integrated costs of all these options.
Will I still have voicemail?
Yes, you will still have voicemail. Voicemail is a standard option with all virtual phone system providers. Using your provider’s web-based intuitive tool you can create a custom recording and set-up voicemail properties. You can even add music for callers to listen to while on hold.
Can I still use my current phone number?
Yes, most virtual phone system providers will let you transfer your existing number for free. This includes all number options such as a local and toll-free number. During the initial set-up you’ll be prompted to enter your number or choose a new number. Really the choice is up to you.
Do I need a phone line?
You do not need a phone line to work with most virtual phone system providers but you do need a phone number.
Can I send and receive faxes?
This really depends on your virtual phone system provider. Some providers including Internet fax options in their packages while others simply do not. If your service provider does provide fax support, ensure you find out how receiving and sending faxes impacts your monthly minute allotment.
Do I need any special equipment?
No, you do not need any special equipment. Because this is a virtual phone system, all hosting and behind-the-scenes management is done off-site at a datacenter managed by your phone system provider. You manage your virtual phone system using a web-based interface from your computer. Nextiva is a service you should look in to.

There are lots of phone options out there for you: virtual phone systems, traditional landlines, and the use of only cell phones. With each option there is a list of pros and cons. In this blog post we’ll discuss the pros of using a virtual phone system.
Cost: the costs of a virtual phone system are relatively low. For as little as $30 a month, you can have a phone system in place that supports multiple lines, call forwarding, voicemail, includes an auto-attendant and includes a toll-free number. There are no costs associated with new hardware, maintenance or training – typically the most expensive aspects of integrating a new phone system into a business. To top it off, you can use the phones you currently own – so essentially the only cost associated with your new virtual phone system is the monthly rate.
Activation Speed; remember when you got your landline installed in your office? You had to schedule an appointment with a technician weeks or even months ahead, the installation of the phones took all day and then there was the time it took to get your employees up-to-speed with the new phone system. With a virtual phone system, you get a completely different experience. With a few clicks on your chosen phone system provider’s web site and with some basic set-up using a web-based interface and you’ve got a virtual phone system.
Ease of Maintenance; maybe this should be changed to no maintenance. Because there isn’t a server in you office that supports and runs your phone system, you don’t need to worry about any of the maintenance associated with a traditional PBX phone system. Your virtual phone system service provider takes care of the maintenance for you – including updating the system and performing general maintenance.
Simple Management: the majority of the virtual phone system providers have developed intuitive web-based interfaces that allow you to self-manage your phone system. Using such an interface, you can add phone lines, change your greeting, set-up office hours, change call forwarding options, etc. You do not need to contact the phone company to make changes to your phone system – you do this all yourself.
Advanced Tracking: depending on the type of business you have, it may be critical to manage and track the number of incoming and outgoing calls that happen. With a virtual phone system, you can easily track and manage your phone statistics with your online management account. Everything that happens with your virtual phone system is tracked, so you can see how many minutes you have remaining, your busiest days, track faxes, etc.
Five reasons why the move to a virtual phone system makes sense – save money, fast activation, simple management, advanced tracking options and little-to-no maintenance all weigh in favor of choosing a virtual phone system. My1Voice is something you should look in to.

Much of the time, you might not be able to tell if your computer has a virus or is infected by some other form of malware. After all, these programs need to be running undetected in order for them to work. However, there are some tell-tale signs to look for if you are worried that you might have a virus or some other form of malware on your computer.
First of all, if you have internet security software, run it. Make sure to do as thorough a scan as possible. This is the best way to determine if you have a virus. However, for those who don’t have this software, there are some other ways to tell.
The most common way to tell if you are faced with a virus is if your computer is running abnormally slow. While this is a common symptom, it doesn’t definitely mean that you have a virus. You could simply be low on RAM, or you could need to defrag your computer. Although other issues may cause this problem, a slow computer still warrants some suspicion.
General strange behavior is another way to diagnose a virus. For example, is your computer freezing up more than usual? Are programs starting and opening all by themselves? Are your programs crashing when you open them? These are common signs, but you could also experience strange error messages, inability to print or access your drives, or warped message or menu screens.
Are There Dormant Viruses?
As far as “dormant” viruses go, they are definitely real. If unactivated, a virus can sit in your system for an indefinite amount of time. However, even when activated, you might not even know if a virus is running. That’s where Norton security software comes in. It runs in the background, searching out nearly invisible viruses and other malware to make sure nothing can infiltrate your computer.
It’s important to be able to catch a virus because the sooner you act, the better. Waiting for a virus and then scanning for one might work, but daily scans can ensure that your computer has the maximum amount of protection possible. Otherwise, every minute online is a gamble, and that’s not how browsing the internet should be.

While viruses and other forms of malware are certainly a threat, there is more than just harmful software on the internet – there are people who are looking to do the same thing. Phishing, scams, and hacking are all threats when browsing the internet, and they are just as dangerous or even more dangerous than malware. So what are these dangers, and what can you do to prevent them?
Phishing is a problem that only continues to grow. Put simply, phishing is when someone tries to coerce and convince someone on the internet into providing their personally sensitive information so that he or she can use it for fraud or identity theft. Phishing attempts usually occur in the form of an email, but examples can be found all over the internet. Usually, it will be an email or IM requesting passwords, bank information, or other personal information. This request will come in a usually carefully considered guise of something trustworthy. You might get an email claiming to be Wells Fargo or some other bank, or even customer support from a website that you might frequent. It’s important to recognize what is and what isn’t legitimate.
You are probably more than familiar with internet scams. Between the pop-ups telling you you won a new iPod and emails claiming you’ve been chosen for a cruise, the average internet user is no stranger to scams. These work similarly to phishing, in that someone is usually trying to steal your personal information. However, scams are also great ways for viruses to infiltrate your computer.
Hacking is a huge part of credit card fraud, identity theft, and many more internet-based crimes. A hacker is someone who is able to access someone else’s computer, steal information, or modify programs. These hackers are able to access your computer without even having to be sitting down in front of it, and once this person has access to your computer, he or she can wreak havoc on your computer and even your bank account.
The best way to prevent all this from happening is by installing internet security software such as Kaspersky. This software can immediately recognize a threat and help to neutralize it. While being smart about your choices on the internet is a great way to help keep risk to a minimum, sometimes it’s just not enough, and internet security software provides a solid safety net should something happen.

There is definitely no shortage of viruses, Trojan horses, and scams on the internet. All of these terms can be lumped under the heading of “malware,” something you simply just do not want on your computer. Malware can be separated into four categories based on their purpose, and each of these categories have specific qualities that make them dangerous. Eset can help protect you.
The first category features viruses and worms that can spread. When a virus gets on to your computer and starts to run, it can infect other files on your computer and make things even worse. A worm works by spreading itself to other computers, whether its by emailing itself to everyone in your contact list or by using a network. Both of these are very dangerous, as they can cause huge amounts of damage, both to your computer and others’.
Another type of malware is the kind that hides itself in your computer and runs without you knowing. These are referred to as Trojan Horses, rootkits, and backdoors. A Trojan works by saying it is something else, as opposed to harmful computer software. Once you install it and open it, a virus or worm can be activated and can start harming your computer and other computers in the network area. Rootkits make this possible by keeping the dangerous download hidden from view by modifying the operating system, allowing it to keep running and spreading. Backdoors make it easier to access the same computer again by essentially making away to skip through the normal authentication requirements that are generally required.
The next type of malware can cause serious damage, not only to your computer, but to your life as well. There are certain types of malware that are used in order to steal your information and earn a profit. There are several different varieties of this sort of malware, including keystroke loggers, botnets, spyware, dialers, and more. This is the malware you have to be very wary of. Similar to this sort of malware is data-stealing malware. This type comes in similar means to the previous malware: keystroke loggers, spyware, backdoors, and more.
As you can see, there is no shortage of innovation and adaptation in the world of malware. All sorts of bad things can happen to your computer, and there are so many ways it can happen. Start protecting yourself by getting some internet security software. With this software on your side, you won’t have to worry about malware, since it will by actively working in the background to keep you protected.