Understanding hosted PBX phone systems
The search for a hosted PBX phone system can raise all sorts of unexpected and technical questions. Like - What is a hosted PBX? Is it the same as a Virtual PBX? How does it work? And where do I start?
This handy guide will set you on the path to understanding hosted phone systems, and help you to compare and choose the right cloud communications service for your business.
Before hosted phone systems (the bad old days)
Not so long ago, if a business wanted to operate multiple phone lines in their office, they needed a special piece of equipment called a PBX (short for private branch exchange). A PBX phone system provides the technical 'smarts' to deliver multiple calls at the same time. It also allows those calls to be handled through manual features (like call transfer) or automated features (such as a mobile diversion or hunt group).
But, traditionally, this powerful technology has come with significant challenges.
Challenge #1 - Equipment costs
Traditionally, PBX phone systems have been an expensive investment. An office PBX can cost thousands of dollars by itself, not to mention compatible handsets, configuration and setup costs, office cabling and networking. Furthermore, a traditional PBX has a limited number of device ports. (Each port is one handset/user). So company growth requires the purchase of a new (larger capacity) PBX, and further costs for setup and configuration.
Challenge #2 - Line rental and call costs
Not only are users stuck with a significant upfront cost, but they're subject to hefty ongoing costs too. Traditional PBXs use the old-fashioned (PSTN / ISDN) landline network. This means that every single user requires a separate phone line with a seperate phone number, compounding monthly line rental costs.
Furthermore, the legacy phone networks can often have high call rates and flagfall charges. If you use the phone alot, this will quickly compound your monthly charges.
Challenge #3 - Technical limitations
Traditional PBXs are notoriously complicated systems. And, when housed and managed in-office, require a specialist technician or IT consultant to make system changes. Sometimes, the cost and complexity mean that the phone system is almost unusable. At MyNetFone, we often hear from customers that have a traditional PBX, but find it too complex to use it's features - like Hunt Groups or Call Transfer.
For years, PBX phone systems were a complicated, costly but necessary evil. That is, until the introduction of hosted phone systems using IP communications technology.
What is Virtual PBX?
Virtual PBX the hosted phone system available from MyNetFone. (The term 'Virtual PBX' is a product name and 'Hosted PBX' is the product category name. But we use the terms interchangably).
When compared to a traditional phone system, the Virtual PBX phone system is different because it is hosted in the cloud instead of being on-premise. And that eliminates many of the challenges outlined above.
So what is a Virtual PBX? It's a phone system securely stored on the MyNetFone server, accessible and configurable via a user-friendly customer web portal. For day-to-day use, you can purchase preconfigured 'plug-and-play' handsets, or computer-based softphones that allow you to make and manage calls. And most importanltly, calls and calling features are delivered via the internet, using the MyNetFone IP communciations network.
IP communications, VoIP and Virtual PBX
IP communications is the technology that enables internet-based communications - making phone calls using internet data rather than the traditional copper network. IP communciations is sometimes called 'VoIP'(Voice over Internet Protocol) when sold in the consumer market. It is important to understand that VoIP and IP communications are essentially the same, however the call quality and service reliability is much higher for business-grade services like Virtual PBX.
IP communications is usually much more cost effective than the traditional copper network. Virtual PBX harnesses that technology to provide your office with multiple phone lines, extra call features and (through IP communications) lower phone bills.
Who should use Virtual PBX?
The Virtual PBX phone system is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses requiring 2-30 phone lines. Virtual PBX is perfect for start-ups or expanding businesses as they are easy to set up, affordable, offer impressive business-grade features and are designed to grow with your business.
Because Virtual PBX is not tied to a central PBX system, phone lines in the same network can be operated from different sites anywhere in the world – perfect for today’s global business. Virtual PBX phone systems are managed and operated completely online, so you can operate your business out of office by routing calls to a different location or mobile.
How does Virtual PBX work?
The Virtual PBX phone system uses IP communications, allowing businesses to make calls over the internet - rather than old-fashioned phone lines. The difference is mostly invisble. The only change you'll see is that instead of plugging your phone handset into the wall socket, your plug your IP phone directly into your VoIP enabled modem.
Virtual PBX phone systems are flexible and portable enabling individuals to receive calls from almost anywhere. All you need is broadband access, a router and compatible handsets.
Unlike traditional PBX systems that require on-premises hardware, the Virtual PBX system is hosted securely in the server of your VoIP provider. Maintenance and software updates are all managed externally leaving you to focus on your business. Because Virtual PBX phone systems use VoIP to send phone calls over the internet as data, instead of the copper legacy network, VoIP providers can offer very competitive call rates.
Benefits of Virtual PBX
Hosted phone systems like Virtual PBX help you escape from the traditional landline network. (And all it's associated costs). Not only will you save on your monthly bill but you will avoid the initial cost of a legacy PBX system. Setting up is easy and affordable - make the switch without investing in any expensive hardware or paying for the call-out cost of a technician. MyNetFone Virtual PBX customers have saved huge dollars by making the switch to a hosted BPX phone system.
Virtual PBX offers a completely scalable system, allowing you to add lines as you need them, so you only pay for what you use. (Some analogue services like ISDN require you to purchase 10, 20 or 30 channels at a time. Not good value if you only need 4 lines).
It’s important to choose a scalable phone service that can grow with the needs of your business. Whether you’re starting up or growing your team – hosted PBX caters for any organisation big or small and can be adjusted easily online. Hire a new employee and have an extra line added to you hosted PBX system in minutes.
Virtual PBX uses preconfigured, plug-and-play handsets - so all you need to do is plug in your IP phone and you can start making calls wherever you are. This means your business isn’t restricted to your office either.
Furthermore, a hosted PBX is managed and operated completely online you can access your PBX network from anywhere with internet access. If disaster strikes, you can reroute your calls to a safe destination or mobile. Virtual PBX is a fluid technology that will adapt to the requirements of your business.
Finally, you can transition to Virtual PBX smoothly by keeping your current phone number so you don’t lose any ongoing business.
Business grade features
Your business might only be starting up, but Virtual PBX phone systems gives you the capability to present professionally. And it won't cost you any extra - lots of essential PBX features are included for free.
Popular features include: Voicemail-to-Email, Hunt groups, Auto attendant, Divert calls to a mobile and one-touch features like Call Hold, Park and Pickup. (These features are included with MyNetFone Virtual PBX phone plans, not all VoIP providers offer these inclusions).
All of the Virtual PBX call features can be managed from the user friendly online portal. MyNetFone’s streamlined call management portal lets you manage features, add or remove users, check your account and adjust any settings. Changes take effect almost immediately, so you have the flexibility to adapt your phone system to your changing business needs.
Broadband has improved dramatically over the last decade and as the internet improves so has VoIP and hosted PBX technology. In the NBN era, more businesses are recognising the benefits of switching to, or starting with, Virtual PBX - with the hosted PBX market expected to reach $328 million by 2021.
The traditional legacy landline network (copper) is being systematically replaced by fibre-optics (NBN) to deliver digital information instead of analogue. This is the building block for leaner, smarter and more modern business communications. So why not gain an edge on your competitors by implementing tomorrow’s technology today?
Improve customer service
Configure your Virtual PBX phone network so enquiries never goes unanswered. Give inbound calls an alternate route if unanswered, either to a different work station or an external landline or mobile.
Use an auto-assistant to manage incoming calls (for example - press 1 for sales, 2 for HR etc) so enquiries are transferred automatically to the right department, freeing up your staff’s time for more important business.
Business-grade call quality
Virtual phone systems offer competitive call rates, without compromising call quality. When combined with a MyNetFone internet service, customers enjoy premium voice calling through Quality of Service (QoS) optimisation. QoS automatically prioritises IP communications traffic (calls via Virtual PBX) to ensure the best possible call quality.
Geographically independent numbers
Because Virtual PBX phone systems transfer data over the internet rather than the traditional copper lines, your office numbers are no longer anchored to your office. You can operate your business phone system from anywhere in the world which makes working on-the-go or moving offices a simple process.
Moving to a hosted phone system
1. Choose number of lines
First, work out how many phone lines your business requires. Typically, this will be decided by the number calls you make at the same time. Most SMBs will start with either a 2-line or 4-line Virtual PBX service.
2. Upgrade internet
Remember, IP communications requires internet. The speed and bandwidth of your connection will determine how many calls you can make / receive at the same time. So, if you've worked out that you require 8 lines, but can only support 4 calls at the same time, you may need to upgrade your internet.
These guidelines are a useful starting point:
- Broadband: Shared between your office phones and general browsing, this connection is suitable for up to 4 lines / concurrent calls.
- Broadband Voice Access: A dedicated internet connection for your IP communications traffic. This can support up to 8 lines / concurrent calls.
- NBN: Typically, NBN can support up to 20 lines / concurrent calls. For additional capacity, MyNetFone can provide a dedicated NBN service (NBN Voice Access) to exend deployments up to 30, 40 and 50 lines / concurrent calls.
- Ethernet: Available in metro areas, Ethernet is a high-performance connection for large deployments (30+ lines / concurrent calls).
3. Choose provider
Obviously, we'd love you to join MyNetFone. But you are free to compare prices and features between hosted PBX providers.
How are we different? We not only operate Australia's largest IP voice network, we are trusted by thousands of customers. You'll find our Virtual PBX in organisations across the country: from small businesses through to government departments. And unlike other providers, we include most PBX features for free - and provide Australian-based technical support.
The choice is yours.
For further questions or enquiries please contact our expert team
Or call 1300 733 995