So you have a small business or you’re in the process of creating one – which type of phone system do you want? The traditional landline or a virtual phone system, which is often referred to as a virtual PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system. There are advantages and disadvantages to using each one, so here is a detailed look at your options.
First, perhaps an exact description of these relatively new virtual phones is needed in order to make a sound business decision, especially when it comes to your business office communications – the heart of any company. Virtual means everything is handled online or over the Internet. These are VOIP or voice over IP systems, such as the popular Skype program which now has roughly 300 million users according to Microsoft which acquired Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011.
Many skeptics still balk at using the web for phone communications but these technologies are becoming much improved and may be the norm in the not too distant future. In the same light, many households are now dishing the traditional phone landline and going with a completely mobile option. Increasingly, most of our daily communications are going wireless/mobile, and many are connected via the Internet. Like it or not, most of today’s business communications are done through computers, cell phones and the web.
It is in this current framework which any business owner has to at least consider the “virtual option” when it comes to setting up their communication system. So here are 5 reasons to use a virtual phone system, followed by some reasons why you shouldn’t use it.
1. Cost – It is definitely cheaper to run a virtual phone system not only because the operating costs will be lower, but the initial startup or setup expenses will be much less than going with a traditional system. Actually, if you’re using your current cell phones, the costs will be very minimal compared to installing and maintaining a landline system.
2. Setup Time – One of the best advantages of going with a virtual web-based system, setup is almost instant. If you’re ordering virtual phones, these will take a week or a few days to arrive, but for the most part your phone system can be up and running within minutes. You can even “port” your current business phone number over to this online service or provider.
3. Mobility – Using a virtual system can give your employees and your business complete mobility. They and your company can be reached 24/7 from anywhere on the planet. If your operation has an active traveling salesforce, having your data and communications in the “cloud” may prove very beneficial.
4. Efficiency – Having all your business communications readily accessible by all parties can make for a very efficient operation. All faxes, sales stats, memos… can be easily send/received by all your workers. The use of voice mail, message forwarding, Internet faxing… even a virtual 24/7 receptionist can make for a smoothly run business.
5. Interconnectability – Needless to say, computers run most modern day businesses and having all your company’s phone and office communications neatly connected with the web and your computers will synchronize /digitize your whole operation. Files, calls, sales orders… can all be in digital form where they can be easily accessed by all your workers. Having all your office communications directly plugged in to your email, fax and phone calls via a virtual PBX system does connect the whole show.
Now, these are all valid reasons to use a virtual phone system but there are a few drawbacks. Mainly, the issue of privacy and security has to be considered when it comes to the Internet. We have all heard horror stories of private data being stolen or hacked and any information stored on a computer connected to the web can be compromised. While we are slowly improving security and many in the general public now use the web for such things as banking, shopping, faxing and phone communications – the general overall distrust is still there and has to be considered.
While encryption and increased security measures do make most communications secure, small businesses should still make sure any sensitive data stored online is completely secure. The same goes for your business phone communications, check with the provider to see exactly what security measures are in place and how your private data is stored online. In a similar vein, you should thoroughly check out the “quality” of the provider and make sure they have a reliable service with good support.
Another issue simply has to do with your customer or client base, if you have a traditional client list who prefer using landlines (especially when it comes to sensitive data or information) you might want to stick with a traditional system. However, if your client base is completely comfortable with virtual phones and communicating via the web, then a virtual PBX system may be a more suitable option for your business. Even though most of your customers won’t notice the difference, the old adage, the customer is always right does come into play here and should be followed.
Lastly, maybe it’s a little redundant to say, but all your business communications are vital to the success of your company or operation. Just keep in mind, in this era of cell phones, VOIP services and cloud providers of all sorts – going with a cheaper and more efficient virtual phone system is a definite option, but like always it’s your call.