Virtual PBX’s Greg Brashier: Vonage and more

Virtual phone systems, such as Virtual PBX are for those businesses who are not ready (or don’t want) to replace their phone systems, nor buy additional hardware. They look to virtual phone systems to add more features to their in-bound and out-bound calling.
Greg Brashier, VP of Marketing, Virtual PBX gives us more insight into this market and others things.
Are many small businesses using the telephone system’s provided by their phone company. Centrexx – I believe it is called.
Yes, many small businesses still use Centrex services. Virtual PBX is often a replacement for that type of service as our solution does so much more, but if only rudimentary “roll-over” from one line to another is needed, Centrex can fill that need.
Other than Centrex, what other options are there for phone systems?
Outsourced (primarily VOIP based), options like Virtual PBX, “self install systems” like Bizfon, in house PBX’s like Altigen….

There are a lot of options depending on what the small business is trying to accomplish. If company employees all work together from one location, there is always the option of a small hardware PBX. If the company is a little larger and needs more features, a higher-end hardware PBX can be used.
In the hosting arena there are two main options now – PSTN-based Hosted PBX products, like the Virtual PBX Service, and Hosted IP-PBX, which does some of the same things but uses VoIP. The big differences between these two options are usually quality, features, flexibility, and cost.
PSTN-based solutions have been around longer and have more features and typically better quality and reliability. In addition, these products send calls to any type of phone, not just VoIP phones, so employees can work from anywhere and change locations whenever needed. Hosted IP_PBX users need to have a specialized phone or adapter, which would be difficult to move from place to place, and must have broadband access.
The cost difference between the two systems is based on usage. If the business is going to do a very large volume of phone calls, Hosted IP-PBX will usually be cheaper. For typical call volume for most companies, PSTN is either cheaper or equal.
If the business is not looking for a hosted solution, but wants to “build their own”, there are a number of different products available.
We don’t run into these players much because most small businesses don’t want to deal with the learning curve and support for making their own solution, they just want something that works so they can focus on their own businesses.
Amongst these systems how does one decide what phone system is best for their own business.
It will be a mix of different items, and some will be important to one firm and others to a different company. Here are some of the variables, with solutions listed in order from best to worst:
Low up-front cost: Hosted PBX (PSTN) and Centrex, Hosted IP-PBX, “build your own”, hardware PBX
Lowest ongoing costs for most businesses: Hardware PBX, Hosted PBX
(PSTN) and Centrex, Hosted IP-PBX (the “build your own” option depends on the system).
Most features: Hosted PBX (PSTN), typical Hardware PBX, Hosted IP-PBX, “build your own”
Highest call quality: Hardware PBX and Hosted PBX (PSTN), “build your own” solutions based on PSTN, anything using VoIP for the “last mile”.
Highest reliability: Depends on the vendor.
Vonage – what are some steps small businesses should take, if they are relying on it’s phone service?
Vonage is a residential product with typical residential rates and not really a business phone system, even for small businesses. If Vonage is allowed by the courts to continue business, Vonage business clients should really look into getting a hosted PBX to provide a business “front-end” for the phone system. This will make the businesses look more professional, and give a lot of services that will improve productivity, image, and business management.
If Vonage is ordered to stop doing business or is crippled in some way, the fastest interim solution for business clients would be to use a PSTN-based Hosted PBX going to any type of phone (cell phones, home phones, etc.) and port the Vonage numbers to the hosted service provider. The companies can then look for other options without having to worry about losing business. The hardest part of this, however, might be porting the Vonage numbers. If the company is not able to function normally, porting may be very difficult. Vonage clients need to be prepared and start thinking about porting or establishing new phone numbers for their clients to call.