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Conferencing

Tips for an Effective Business Meeting and the Benefits
July 23rd, 2014

Tips and Benefits for Meetings

Meetings are a necessity in almost every industry and they provide a myriad of benefits for the participants. Some benefits are more obvious than others – the evident goal being to ensure alignment and clarify meaning through voice interaction, as opposed to spending numerous hours reading through email chains. When you need innovative concepts to come to a solution, a brainstorming meeting might be the key to success. One final obvious benefit is education. Meetings are often the best solution to educate individuals; questions can be asked and a more personal approach can be taken. Teleconferencing is a great option due to its ease of use and convenience for all parties involved, and flexibility in terms of location, timing, and the number of potential participants.

In addition, there are some less obvious benefits for meetings:

  • Socialization – The brief socializing before and after the meeting can be an important factor for employee engagement and team building – especially when those involved work remotely and may not get the chance to speak to each other often.
  • Awareness – As opposed to written communications, issues or risks associated with a plan or solution are more likely to be brought up during a verbal dialogue.
  • Development – Professional development occurs as individuals are challenged to speak up amongst their peers. This is where character, quick thinking, and communication skills are often developed.

Four tips to follow for a great meeting:

  1. Keep it short, simple, and to-the-point.
    Consider how long the meeting will take and schedule that amount of time to stay on track. Keep everything short and to-the-point to ensure unnecessary banter and off-topic conversations.
  2. Create an agenda prior to the meeting.
    This will help keep the meeting on track, as well as allow others to prepare and set expectations. A brief list of topics goes long way.
  3. Ensure accountability.
    Ensure expectations and accountability by clarifying what’s expected of everyone before and after the meeting, particularly if this is a team effort. One easy way to do this is by taking meeting notes and capturing action items in bold along with the designated person for the task.
  4. Go virtual.
    To increase convenience, more and more business are going virtual with VoIP conferencing. Phone conferencing is easy to use and is perfect for meetings between those in the company or outside customers, vendors, and more. Conferencing via telephone offers flexibility and convenience for all parties involved.

Learn more about the benefits of conferencing from VirtualPBX and how it can aid in an effective business meeting

Which VirtualPBX Plan
is Better for Me?

April 30th, 2014

With VirtualPBX, you’re not forced into a payment plan that doesn’t match your business. Most companies will find our flat rate plans will provide the most savings, and give the peace of mind that comes from knowing how much your bill will be each month, regardless of usage. Other businesses, usually those that don’t use the phone a lot, will benefit more from our usage based plans – why pay for unlimited use when your needs are low?

FLAT-RATE PLANS

This is what most companies market as “unlimited”.  There is never any such thing as “unlimited” in the telecom industry.  Let’s just get this straight right up front.  Carriers charge each other on a price per minute basis when they hand calls off to one another, so at some point in time that cost makes it down to the consumer.  However, VirtualPBX doesn’t really push the “unlimited” as much as they push flat-rate.  It’s a flat rate under normal business usage.  Here’s what the flat-rate plan comes with:

Plan Overview

  • Anywhere from $39.99/mo down to $19.99/mo per user, depending on how many extensions are needed
  • Unlimited free minutes for typical business use
  • No charge for long distance any where in the continental US or Canada
  • 1,000 minutes of toll-free included in every plan

Best for:

  • Most companies with typical phone use
  • Employees who work in offices or home offices with broadband internet

USAGE-BASED PLANS

Usage-based plans basically means you pay for only the minutes you use.  This can be extremely useful if you don’t have that many inbound calls or make many outbound calls.  You don’t need to pay a higher flat rate per extension because your overall usage is low compared to the average office.

Plan Overview

  • Prices start at just $9.99 per month
  • Pay only for minutes used
  • Unlimited users
  • Same system features as the flat-rate plans because it’s the same system
  • Toll-free is built into the plan minutes

Best for:

  • Companies with low phone use
  • Employees on cell phones or land lines

PLAN CALCULATOR

Still not sure which plan is best for you?  Not a problem.  To help make it a little easier, we’ve put together a little calculator where you input the number of users that need an extension and the rough amount of minutes that they use each month for inbound and outbound calls.

Please click to learn more about the plan calculator.

So, bottom line is that VirtualPBX has the right plan for you.  And even better is no matter which plan you choose, you can use the hardware VoIP phones with them, allowing you to cut all ties with your land line and traditional carriers.  This could save you a lot of money.  And that’s why VirtualPBX is doing what they’re doing.

Is Your Business Changing? Virtual PBX Can Change With You
June 28th, 2011

Virtual PBX’s hosted phone service is flexible and quickly adapts to the changing needs of your growing business.  Easily scalable and constantly updated with new features, Virtual PBX will keep up with your business no matter how fast you change.

With traditional PBX’s, everything must be installed and maintained by on-site IT staff and for a growing business this can get very expensive, both in terms of dollars and time.

With Virtual PBX you can easily add or remove extensions and ACD Queues, switch plans, add Voip phones and make many other changes whenever you need to – and for a fraction of the price!  Everything is in your control.

Virtual PBX also makes it easy for customers to configure the system to meet their changing needs with a simple user interface.  Add a new phone number for that new ad you’re placing in the new magazine, update your main greeting with your new business hours, or route calls to a new employee, all with the click of a button.

Monitor and train new employees with Virtual PBX’s real-time web monitors and call recording.  Keep an eye on when they are logged in and out of ACD queues, when they are receiving calls, as well as when they are marked unavailable.  Also, ensure they are giving the best phone customer service by using free call recording.  You can also use the call recording feature to train new employees.

Use free conference minutes to communicate with employees and customers virtually anywhere in the world.  For ultimate flexibility, each extension owner can have a conference call going on at the same time.

With Virtual PBX you will always have multiple ways to connect with employees, customers, and vendors whenever and wherever your business takes you.

Virtual PBX Adds VoIP Phones and New Flat-Rate Plans!
February 25th, 2011

Polycom SoundPoint IP 335

Virtual PBX Adds Hardware VoIP Phone Support

The time has come — Virtual PBX, provider of the no-compromise business phone system, announced support for hardware VoIP Phones along with new flat-rate plans, fortifying their lineup of industry-leading plans and services. With this, Virtual PBX now controls the phone call from the inbound phone number ALL the way down to the phone on the desktop. You can now have a truly complete phone system integrating phone numbers, free long distance and IP phones into one cost-effective solution.

We now offer two award winning plans from which you, the customer, can choose: the new flat-rate plans and the original usage-based plans. Even better, you don’t have to be on the flat-rate plans to use the VoIP phones – we’ve set up the system to support the phones on either plan. So feel free to pick the plan that works best for you and your business, and also decide how you would like the system to reach you. You can be contacted through the VoIP phone(s) and/or contact phone numbers via a landline or cell phone. The freedom to choose is in your hands.

We also offer you the freedom to save! With Virtual PBX you can simplify your life and your budget by cutting the ties with your landline carrier. There is really no need for a landline anymore seeing as how you can make and receive phone calls using a VoIP phone and your Virtual PBX service. So go on ahead and save that money each month with Virtual PBX Complete. With our phone service you can enjoy a savings of anywhere from 40-80% in traditional phone system and landline costs – that is a huge savings! Given that telecom costs are a major expense in everyday business, Virtual PBX provides business communication that is affordable, easy and accessible from wherever you need to be with a low monthly fee and no contracts or setup costs!

Please see the plan details below and save money with the plan suited for you:

Flat-Rate Plans:

These are your traditional “unlimited” plans that so many companies try to market. However, Virtual PBX does it right as there is a fair-use policy in place (much like every other VoIP phone service out there) that allows 5,000 minutes of inbound minutes per extension, aggregated at the account level. So a 5-user system would include upwards of 25,000 inbound local minutes. That’s amazing. Most companies won’t touch that. Yet, they can have this system for around $150 per month, and that already includes the e911 fees, Federal and FCC taxes. The flat-rate plans are as follows:

  • 1-User: $39.99/mo
  • 4-User: $23.99/mo/ext
  • 10-User: $21.99/mo/ext
  • 20-User: $19.99/mo/ext
  • 50-User: $19.99/mo/ext
  • Extra Extensions: $24.99/mo

Usage-Based Plans:

These plans are what Virtual PBX used to pioneer the hosted phone service market. On these original plans you only pay for the minutes used each month. As the plans go up, you receive a larger block of free minutes and the price for additional minutes becomes cheaper. These plans come with unlimited users and all the same features as the flat-rate plans. Virtual PBX has the following usage-based plans:

  • VPBX-5: $9.99/mo (300 minutes, extra minutes are 6.5 cents/min)
  • VPBX-10: $24.99/mo (600 minutes, extra minutes are 5.8 cents/min)
  • VPBX-20: $44.99/mo (1,000 minutes, extra minutes are 4.7 cents/min)
  • VPBX-50: $94.99/mo (2,500 minutes, extra minutes are 4.4 cents/min

VoIP Phones

Virtual PBX now supports hardware VoIP phones connected to the service. This is a superb addition as now you can make phone calls and show your Virtual PBX caller ID on every outbound call. And you don’t have to use a cellphone or landline to make that outbound call. All you need is an Internet connection. Virtual PBX sells the following phones that arrive pre-configured and ready for use:

  • Polycom SoundPoint IP 321: $99.99 (single ethernet port)
  • Polycom SoundPoint IP 335: $139.99 (ethernet pass-through port; backlit display)
  • Polycom SoundStation IP 5000: $599.99 (conference phone)

With Virtual PBX there is no need to get phones from one provider, calling plans from another, and features from somewhere else. Get it all in one place. If you are looking for a complete, no-compromise business VoIP solution for your business, Virtual PBX is the answer.

Virtual PBX Adds Call Recording – For Free!
September 24th, 2010

We are excited to announce every VirtualPBX system now includes call recording in all standard plans at no added cost for customers.

“This is the latest in a series of enhancements that VirtualPBX has rolled out this year,” said Greg Brashier, COO of Virtual PBX. “We’ve had requests for call recording from our client base and felt it was something a majority of our SMB clients could use. Since we innovated the entire hosted PBX space, we feel it is necessary to lead by example and continue to enhance the service.”

With the newest Virtual PBX call recording feature, any or all calls can be recorded, saved, and played back later. There are infinite ways companies of all sizes can utilize this tool to enhance their business such as capturing calls for later review, assisting in employee training, monitoring customer service agents, as well as meeting legal requirements.  Greg adds, “we’ve found that many call centers love this feature since it’s a free and effective tool that allows them to improve company performance.”

In addition, the call recording feature is greatly customizable and easy to use. Every user with a Virtual PBX extension can record all calls automatically or select calls to record manually by simply pushing #9 during a call.  Furthermore, the built-in selective recording architecture allows calls to be recorded for pre-selected extensions and/or departments.

The recordings can be sorted by date/time, length, caller ID, user name, or extension number so they are easy to locate when needed. Recordings can be played back or deleted at the convenience of the extension owner, or downloaded them to a computer for future playback.

Administrators can also decide to control call recording for all users or give each user the ability to manage his or her recordings.

“With the addition of call recording, VirtualPBX extends our leadership in providing clients with the most diverse set of features at the lowest cost,” continues Brashier.  “This announcement gives users the ability to improve their own customer satisfaction and ensure that high priority calls are properly managed.”

This announcement adds to a long list of service enhancements that have been provided by Virtual PBX during 2010. Previous upgrades have included unlimited extensions and more free usage, open VoIP peering, free conferencing, and international numbers. The company promises more to come.

Telecom Disaster Recovery with PBX Parachute
July 21st, 2010

In previous blogs we covered the importance of telecom disaster recovery and what to look for in a telecom disaster recovery service provider.   The industry has published many studies and surveys about how crippling a telecom disaster can be as well as how unprepared most companies really are when it comes to recovering from a phone system outage of any sort.  Like the 2009 study from the Business Research Institute which revealed that of all the recovery points necessary in the event of a disaster (data loss, employee management, notifications, etc.), 65 percent of businesses surveyed said telecommunications was the weakest link.

The planning behind a telecom disaster recovery service should not just take national or natural disasters into account.  What about the mundane and non-disasters such as planned downtime?  What about simple things like a false fire alarm?  There are multiple reasons why a company’s employees may not be able to answer their own phones in their own office.  Why not be prepared?  This is not a hard process, but it is an important one.

Virtual PBX has made the process very simple with our telecom disaster recovery service PBX Parachute.   Here’s what you get:

Hot-standby PBX with Automatic Failover
PBX Parachute waits in the background until it is needed. When called upon, there is no hardware to boot, no software to run, and no data to move. As a hot standby PBX it is ready to go. Failover can be automatic and almost instantaneous, or you can bypass automatic failover and manage the transition on your own. Calls can be routed to alternate phones in any location, such as cellular phones, phones in branch offices, or home phones.

Scale to Any Level
PBX Parachute is so complete, with so many important features, that it can usually directly mirror your primary PBX. Any size company can use the service, and it can provide phone system business continuity for all workers, or just for the most critical business functions.

Employee Emergency Hotline
Even if your business is prepared for an emergency, that’s not always true of your employees. An emergency hotline that is ready to provide instructions for how they should handle any given situation is a lot easier to remember than how the system is wired to deliver calls outside in the event of a fire in the building.

Complete Architectural Assistance
While the way in which you want calls handled is up to you, building and maintaining your disaster recovery should not cut into your time. When you create a PBX Parachute account, you just let us know how the calls need to get handled and we carry it from there. Need to update your plans or messages? Just send us an email, we’ll get any recordings or routing taken care of for you.

Knowledge research firms like Basex, Inc., have estimated that a standard 500-person company would lose over $90,000/day from loss of phone service.  Says Cheryl Arscott of Reservation Services International, “Had I not completed and signed up for the Virtual PBX Parachute program we would have been out of business for 10 days.  With the PBX Parachute, our company was able to stay in contact with our customers by phone when our normal phone system was down during hurricane Wilma”.

Given the amount at stake and the ease of creating and maintaining an automatic fail-over phone service through Virtual PBX’s PBX Parachute service, we strongly urge any company who has not already prepared for disaster to give us a call. 1-888-825-0800, option 1, and you can acquire phone system readiness for whatever storms may come your way.  As we say here at Virtual PBX — don’t get caught with your phones down!

5 Things to Look for in a Telecom Disaster Recovery Provider
June 24th, 2010

A 2009 study from the Business Research Institute revealed that of all the recovery points necessary in the event of a disaster (data loss, employee management, notifications, etc.), 65 percent of businesses surveyed said telecommunications was the weakest link. Given the importance of phones to a business, this is a surprising statistic. In the event of catastrophic system failure, or because a fire alarm went off and your employees have to exit the building, you’re going to need a backup plan for handling phone calls. This is not a hard process, but it is an important one. For that reason, you need to make sure that the company you’re working with to handle your telecommunications failover can connect all your employees and all your callers as effectively as possible.

In the event of a disaster, a company’s local and toll-free provider can re-route, or forward, the inbound calls to a different location. But where? To another phone system at some dark site? That is an immense amount of capital being spent on something that may never be used. The better way is to have the calls forwarded to a virtual phone system – a phone system in the cloud, if you will. A virtual phone system can have the Fortune 500 sound, features and reliability without any hardware on site. But while there are many virtual phone system providers in the market, not all of them make good telecom disaster recovery providers. Here are four things to look for in a telecom disaster recovery provider:

1.  Highly Reliable

There are a lot of virtual phone system providers that have built their networks on open source software running on standard computers. This is fine for simple call control, but when it comes down to it, having specialized, reliable hardware built specifically for high call traffic is key to reliability. Also, the vendor should be located in a data center that is on the national backbone so it stays up and running even in the event of a natural or national disaster. Also, competent support staff with strong technical expertise is crucial. This cannot be accomplished with an outsourced support center but rather with their own employees who have an in-depth knowledge of their network and capabilities.

2.  Highly Redundant

As a telecom disaster recovery provider faces the same problems as you – fire, hacking, power loss, etc. – they need to have a disaster recovery plan of their own, with redundancies and failovers in place for electrical, inbound, and outbound local and toll-free carriers, as well as network and hardware component redundancies. A reputable telecom DR provider has no planned downtime of their own. They should be able to switch between multiple carriers for your call (in case entire networks of phones go down) and repair and replace components without you ever knowing or needing to know.

3. Full Customization

Whether you want to appear as though nothing’s interrupted your business, or if you need emergency messages and directions only, or just an employee emergency hotline, a reputable telecom disaster recovery provider’s virtual phone system should have the features and customization capabilities as well as the support staff willing to work with you to put a system in place that meets your telecom DR needs. As an example, the service should allow you to create a bank of recorded messages that can be fluidly managed, as well as multiple fallback contact numbers for each of your employees based on what kind of communication is still available to you at the time of the disaster.

4.  Full Control

When disaster strikes, it’s going to be unexpected, it’s going to be complicated, and you’re going to need to respond directly to the type of problem that has occurred. A single generic response or scripted recovery plan may not account for the number of variables in a disaster situation. At times you may not have access to computers. At other times you may not have access to phones. You’ll need a telecom DR system that can be accessed and managed several different ways, such as through a self-managed Web port as well as through the phone. But beyond that, you’ll need to have a system that can provide several options for routing calls to employees, depending on what resources are available to them during the disaster. Ideally, each employee has a phone and Web login to the telecom DR system, with access dependent on the rights given to them by the system administrator.

5. Always On

A common process in the disaster recovery world is when a disaster occurs you need to “declare a disaster” with your DR vendors so they can start working with you during that disaster. However, in the telecom world, there’s no time for that. Calls are going to keep coming in and you need a place to send them. A telecom DR provider should always be on, in hot standby, waiting for calls to come to it. You may need to declare a disaster with your local and toll-free providers so they know to reroute calls to your telecom DR provider. But you can work with them ahead of time to make sure those routes are saved in their switches, ready for when needed.

Virtual PBX is one of the only telecom disaster recovery and business continuity service providers with our PBX Parachute service.  This customizable service can completely mirror your phone system, only cover your inbound call center, act as your employee emergency hotline, and provide a conference bridge for your disaster recovery team — all in the same system, all at the same time.  Give us a call at 888-825-0800, option 1, and ask any of our Sales personnel about this very important service.

Don’t be a part of the 65 percent of companies whose disaster recovery plan does not include your phones. Phone calls mean money, and finding a reputable telecom disaster recovery service provider that uses a hosted phone service is key to making sure you continue to make money with those inbound phone calls, even in the event of a disaster.

5 Reasons Why You Need Telephone Disaster Recovery
June 15th, 2010

When disasters occur, a company has a lot to deal with. Protecting your employees and assets is important, but can still leave you paralyzed. It’s one thing to protect your data and network, but what about ongoing customer interaction? It may seem old-school, but a company’s telephone number is a primary customer-interaction channel. During a disaster, without some method of continuing to carry on customer interaction, you’ll be dead in the water and hemorrhaging clients. A lot of companies have disaster recovery plans in place. But unfortunately, a lot of those same companies don’t include telecom in the DR plan. Here are five reasons to not put off your telecom disaster recovery plan.

1.  There’s Too Much at Stake

People insure their health, their cars, and sometimes even their mail. But many overlook the need to protect their company’s primary customer interaction channel – their phones. They might think it’s expensive, or they might think they don’t have the time. But if your phone lines fail, or your people cannot get to those lines, then what’s at risk isn’t just current business being lost – it’s a permanent blow to the reputation and credibility of the company. Busy lines, emergency signals, hold time, disorganization, and lack of status updates will severely damage your corporate image. Even if you’re willing to risk the days or weeks it takes to repair the damage, it can be months or years before your image is restored.

2.  43 Percent of Companies Have Had a Major Disaster

Power loss, office loss, or even damaged power or phone lines can and do occur. There’s no reason to not protect your business against disaster. Almost half of all businesses suffer extreme loss of data and communications. Considering how much each client is worth to your company – how much is at stake on every call – how many calls are you willing to risk on a flip of the coin?

3.  Even a Minor Disaster Can Cost Major Amounts

Total loss means losing every client until your phone system can be repaired, which could take days or weeks. This will ruin a business. But even minor problems like equipment malfunction, temporary electrical outages, or roads going out mean that you put a lot of stress on the rest of your business to try to make up for it. Having a fall-back plan isn’t just for hurricanes, fires and terrorism: It’s for anything else that may arise, even if it’s seemingly mundane. A good plan can and will keep you from losing your clients and your reputation.

4.  65 Percent of Businesses Have Weak Telecommunication Continuity Plans

A 2009 study from the Business Research Institute revealed that of all the recovery points necessary in the event of a disaster (data loss, employee management, notifications, etc.), 65 percent of businesses surveyed said telecommunications was the weakest link. Given the importance of the phones to a business, this is a surprising statistic. That’s a significant majority of businesses that lose big whenever any kind of disaster occurs. Even a small investment of time and money to establish some sort of telecom disaster recovery plan will go a long way toward protecting your company.

5.  It Doesn’t Cost Much Money or Take Much Time to Protect Your Company

A good telecommunications disaster recovery plan can be put together in a matter of hours, not days, and the costs are trivial compared to the risks. This isn’t the business of comparing the price to the value of what’s being protected. Figuring ROI on disaster recovery investments is extremely hard to determine. The better question: What is a client worth to the company? Typically, the cost of a telecommunications disaster recovery service is a mere fraction of the cost of a lost client. That alone should be a major decision-making factor in putting together a proper telecommunications disaster recovery plan.

Why is Virtual PBX talking about this?  Because a by-product of using our service is automatic telecom disaster recovery — your phone calls are being handled by an off-site service.  With Follow Me Calling, you don’t have to be in the office to take your calls.  Even if you have a hardware phone system that you’re not intending to do away with, protect it and those inbound calls using our PBX Parachute service — a virtual phone service for disaster recovery purposes.

Bottom line is that too many companies leave their main asset – their phones – unprotected. A disaster or even a small phone line outage could cost a company significantly, both in customer revenue as well as a hard-earned reputation. With a bit of effort, some good research, and a simple telecom disaster recovery plan, a company can weather the storms of small mundane outages as well as the large natural disasters. And best of all, their customers may not even know it.

TechTip: Password Protecting Your Conference Call
May 21st, 2010

VirtualPBX’s conferencing feature makes it quick and easy for you to host a conference, and now with more free conference minutes, we make it more affordable! You also won’t need any special conference call-in numbers, or long complicated PIN’s. Your participants just call your virtual PBX phone number, select the conferencing option from the auto-attendant, and enter the extension hosting the conference. That’s it!

However, some of you may want a little more security to your conference call. Not to worry, we give you that option as well. To password protect your conference and require your participants to enter a numeric password, simply do the following:

1. Log in to your virtual PBX extension here
2. Click on the “Conference” tab for your extension

3. Click on the “Yes” option for “Entry Password Enabled”

4. Enter your custom 4-10 digit numeric password in the text box

5. Click the “Update” button to save the changes

That’s all there is to it. Your conference room is now password protected.
For more information and FAQ’s, be sure to visit our Support page.
Talk Up a Storm
May 11th, 2010

It’s time to start connecting. Conference calls let you hold meetings, make presentations, perform training, coordinate staff, handle investors, and more. And since conferencing is so useful to businesses as they grow in size or need a more personal touch, Virtual PBX is stepping up to the plate. We’re not just cutting costs, but swinging included conferencing into every account we provide.

If you’re new to conferencing, now’s the time to start finding ways to use it.  You can have your people call in, join the conference, and hold whatever kind of seminar you need. If you’re already using our conferencing, expect a nice reduction off your bills from now on. That’s it. Nothing to sign up for, no need to change plans, just lower costs.

So, brainstorm freely. Talk it up.  The conference bridge is already enabled and configured on your system by default.  But just in case you’re not sure where to get started, here’s everything that you need from top to bottom. Most people only need the first item here.

To enter a conference if conferencing is already set up as an option in your auto-attendant menu (default key is ‘9’):

Conference Moderator:
1. Call into your Virtual PBX number.
2. Press ’9′ during the auto-attendant to access the conferencing options.
3. Enter ‘#’ followed by your extension.
4. Enter your phone password followed by ‘#’.

Conference Participants:
1. Call into your Virtual PBX number.
2. Press ‘9’ to access conferencing.
3. Enter the extension number of the conference.

If you don’t have conferencing set up in your system, or aren’t sure, here’s how to make it all work:

To setup conferencing on your system:
• Login to vConsole
• Go to the “Admin” tab
• Click “Conferencing” in the left-hand navigation box
• Select “Yes” for Conference Bridge Enabled
• Select the menu number you’d like to use (9 by default)
• Click on “Update” to save your changes
• To enable conferencing for individual extensions, click on “Edit” next to “Set Extensions Conference Privileges, enable as needed, and click “Update”

If conferencing is not enabled on your system or you have more questions, please email support@virtualpbx.com or call 888-825-0800, option 2 for Support, and we’ll help you get your conference bridge configured.  Happy conferencing!