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Dash Business Phone System Interface

Blog Blogs

The VirtualPBX Blog showcases topics that matter most to your business. Whether we discuss a trending Top 5 or dig deep into telephony, these features offer something for every business.

VirtualPBX 2020 Year in Review, We’re Setting VoIP Trends

VirtualPBX 2020 Year in Review Banner -- We Are Setting VoIP TrendsIt has been a big year at VirtualPBX, and we’d like to share our 2020 Year in Review with you. See how we’re listening to customers and setting VoIP trends that will push the communications industry forward.

Our release of major phone plan features like Video Conferencing and Business SMS have been a long time coming. All our departments have worked hard in 2020 to help business make the most out of their evolving work situations — including the common switch to remote work. Moreover, you can see in all our feature releases this year that we have followed the advice of our customers by making it easier than ever to use VirtualPBX Phone Plans for all business communications.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur just getting started or a multinational enterprise, our developments this year have kept you in mind. Don’t forget to take advantage of our year-end Snap Recordings promotion for 20% off your next audio recordings, and look below for a brief overview of our 2020 collection of feature releases.

Video Conferencing is arguably our most substantial feature release of 2020. The use of video adds another dimension to our phone plans by giving customers the option to complete video calls with their co-workers and stakeholders. Video callers can pair with other video callers, or they can speak to audio-only callers, all by way of select desktop phones and through the VirtualPBX Softphone on desktop and mobile.

Business SMS also adds an important facet to our service, and of all the VoIP trends represented here, it may be the most popular of this holiday season. Now you can use mobile and desktop devices on your VirtualPBX Plans to send and receive texts to your team and to your customers. It’s a great option for remote workers who want to stay connected throughout the work day. It also makes one-to-one customer outreach efforts easier by meeting customers where they spend much of their time: on their mobile devices.

Multiple Auto Attendants is the long-waited extension to our popular Auto Attendants feature. Now your business can assign an automated attendant to any one of its phone numbers. Our Essentials, Advanced, and Enterprise Plans give you five, 10, and 15 phone numbers, respectively, to use with no additional cost. All those numbers can be used as a primary business number, a DID number for individual employees, or a number directed toward a specific group of employees. Multiple Auto Attendants gives all those individuals and groups the opportunity for a custom inbound greeting and custom call routing.

Speaking of upgrades, our ACD Queues Pro feature expands on the ACD Queues system we have long offered with many of our plans. The upgrade to Pro gives businesses more control over their inbound calls. It provides administrators with capabilities like Whisper and Barge, and it allows you to create custom Hold Treatments that present information like position and wait time announcements. We have also expanded the capability of reporting in ACD Queues Pro, allowing you to view reports live and download them for later review.

Dynamic Caller ID helps businesses cater their Caller ID to the phone numbers they call. You can match any outbound dialed number to an area code or local code and present your business phone number that matches the location. Employees can also use their own feature codes to present a related phone number. VoIP trends are driven by features that allow business to better connect with their customers; Dynamic Caller ID helps you establish a local presence to establish a rapport with anyone you call.

DISA (Direct Inward System Access) makes sure you have direct access to your phone system from any phone. You may find yourself in a situation where you can’t make a business call from a VirtualPBX device. With DISA, you simply call your main business number, dial your DISA extension, and enter the customer phone number you want to call. Your call will route through your business phone system and out to the caller. It preserves your caller ID so you can keep your business identity intact.

Our Zapier Integration was released this year to give you better automation capability. We have retained the ability for you to use webhooks to transfer call data from one location to another, but with our Zapier App, it’s even easier to select options like Inbound Call or Voicemail to track those events in other web apps. You can log all your inbound calls to a Google Sheet or notify your team in Slack when a voicemail reaches a company inbox.

Often overlooked as an important feature, the VoIP trend of referral programs can play an integral part in building a community. Our Referral Program was created to help business communications professionals outside our organization help their own followers find a reliable service provider. Now we provide even more incentive to partner with us, starting with a $25 bonus for any referral to our Unlimited Minutes Plans. The monetary bonus increases with the size of the plan purchase, all the way up to $600.

We’ll See You in 2021!

Keep an eye on these VoIP trends and everything else listed on our Product Roadmap that will guide our efforts in the coming year.

We hope to make 2021 as successful as this year. We also hope your business can succeed in the months ahead and conquer any roadblocks in your way.

5 Last-Minute Phone System Updates: Holiday Business Hours and More

Gift Box - Last-Minute Phone System Updates Like Holiday Business HoursPreparing for holidays at your business doesn’t have to be a chore. With a few quick updates, you can change your holiday business hours and other essential phone system settings before your team takes a well-deserved break.

These 5 last-minute phone system updates are essential for any business. Let your customers know about abbreviated hours, changes in staffing, and any promotions you may be running.

1. Update Holiday Business Hours

Business Hours Settings - VirtualPBXSet your Holiday Hours in the VirtualPBX Phone System with a quick login and a couple number entries. This takes only five minutes but informs how the rest of your phone system acts.

Business hours let other tools like your Auto Attendant know when to route callers to individual employees, phones that ring whole departments, and individual or group voicemail boxes if necessary. Setting these hours is an essential first step for keeping your phone system synchronized with your ongoing business activities. Make sure these are up to date whether you’re on holiday or back to a normal operating schedule.

2. Adjust Auto Attendant(s)

Auto Attendant Routing - VirtualPBXYour Auto Attendant benefits most from the proper setting of holiday hours. Every Auto Attendant at your company works as an inbound call filter that makes sure employees and departments are sent calls they should take.

Our Holiday Hours feature lets you select when calls are routed; Auto Attendant chooses how and to whom they are routed.

Within the Auto Attendant, you may want to update your greeting to announce your seasonal hours. You should also make sure that your routing settings – pressing one for sales and two for customer support, for instance – are correct for the season. You might want to include or omit a specific department from your routing selections to match your team’s availability.

Make sure to adjust your Multiple Auto Attendants for any of the phone numbers on your account that might be affected by any end-of-year changes.

3. Brighten Voicemail Greetings

Both your auto attendants and your Voicemail boxes may need a refresh.

As a business owner, you may want to update your attendants yourself. You can urge employees to update their voicemail greetings with some holiday cheer and help them make quick work with a tutorial about creating greetings from our blog.

Holiday greetings wording doesn’t have to be difficult. Keep things simple by announcing your expected work hours and when you will be out of the office. Follow our tutorials to keep your greetings short, positive, and informative.

4. Change On-Hold Greetings

ACD Queues Pro Hold Treatment ExampleWhen using the VirtualPBX ACD Queues Pro feature, you can create unique hold treatments for customers that are waiting in a queue. It’s easy to insert audio clips into those settings so customers can hear about your latest holiday deals.

You can take advantage of our Snap Recordings Promotion and download several free, professional recordings to use as hold messages and voicemail messages. Then take 20% off your next order from Snap to prepare for the coming year.

On-hold greetings follow the same type of format your auto attendant and voicemail greetings should follow. Keep your messages brief so you can hold your customers’ attention.

5. Forward Your Calls

Our Call Forwarding feature also works well with changing holiday hours.

Your system users can set their own forwarding preferences by entering their user portal. They simply enter their phone number where they wish to receive calls.

Call Forwarding Settings - VirtualPBXAll calls directed to their VirtualPBX system extension will ring their chosen number. Most often, we find that our customers use personal mobile phone numbers when choosing to forward calls.

It isn’t always easy during the holidays to be near an office phone. With Call Forwarding and a personal smartphone, employees on-call can be reached no matter their location, and their personal voicemail boxes will always work as a backup in case they don’t pick up.

Preparing for the Holidays

Preparing for the holidays, even if you’re doing it at the last minute, usually only takes a few quick system updates.

Still, your customers will gain an improved experience with your company when they know at which hours you will be working. They will also appreciate the consistency of experience you provide by routing them to the appropriate contacts and being forthright with your holiday messages.

Take a quick audit of your holiday status today, and take a few minutes to adjust your holiday business hours and messages.

5 Productivity Hacks For Remote Teams

Toddler Typing on Home Laptop - 5 Productivity Hacks For Remote TeamsToday’s guest post was submitted by Stevie Nicks at Just Another Magazine, an online magazine that covers lifestyle topics.

As of December 2020, many of us are now nine months into working remotely.

Despite this, only a few of us have really mastered the art. Sure we enjoy the extra half hour in bed, we’ve had time to conquer the coffee machine and we can finally make those healthy lunches we craved after five supermarket sandwiches in a row, but the question still remains — are we as productive?

It’s hard to be productive in a global pandemic, and pushing yourself beyond your means is absolutely not the answer. However, whether this is going to continue well into 2021, or your business is considering remote working as a permanent option, it’s important to find ways to make you and your team remain as productive as possible.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of five productivity hacks perfect for remote teams.

Managing Your Time Properly

“Time is money” might sound like a cliche, but in 2020 more and more companies are finding time is their only saleable commodity.

That’s why time management is so important, especially in an environment where it’s easy to get distracted.

You might not like your office and its beige walls, but at least it doesn’t have all your home comforts, a stocked kitchen and roommates/a partner just waiting to distract you from your work.

Being more cautious of your time is an essential component of working from home. That’s why so many businesses have switched to time tracking tools. Without managers to monitor productivity it is difficult to know how much time is being put into projects. Tools such as HourStack and RescueTime have become essential, giving companies genuine, real-time data that helps them highlight which tasks are holding up their staff and wasting precious time.

Efforts to tackle this issue also need to come from within.

Lesson one: take proper breaks. Give your eyes a rest from the screen and your back the chance to realign from your desk chair. Short, frequent breaks (not on your phone!) help you recharge and produce better work.

Lesson two: ensure you aren’t working overtime. Many people have reported they feel pressure to check emails and work later as they’re already at home. Ignore that feeling!

Good time management is about being sensible and working within your personal limits much more than it is about pushing yourself to make every second count.

VirtualPBX Softphone on Desktop and Mobile

Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Outside of the workers themselves, digital tools have been the true MVPs of 2020.

Think where we’d be if we couldn’t chat over Zoom or track website performance with Google Analytics. It doesn’t bear thinking about really!

We’ve already touched on time tracking tools, but there are so many other tools you should invest in to really hack your productivity when working remotely. The best thing about digital tools is they don’t just help out the individual, but your whole team.

A great project management tool is a must. A central hub that collects all your projects into one ensures everyone is aware of what needs doing and when. They make it easier for everyone in the business (and freelancers) to understand what’s required of them and helps managers to notice potential problems before they become too big to control. A great project management tool doesn’t just streamline existing work but prepares you for future assignments.

Communication tools are equally important. Zoom and its contemporaries are an obvious choice but think about how your business is going to answer the phone while everyone is out of the office. Ensuring the right people can be patched through doesn’t just save time, it helps win new business.

Finally, you need to consider the creative and specific tools that keep the heart of your business going. Is social media the lifeblood of what you do? Get tools that make scheduling posts one bulk task. The variety of digital tools available is vast. Don’t just hoover up all the leading tools on the market and weigh yourself down with subscriptions. Find what works for your team and what they do. P.S: Free trials are your friend.

Simpletivity Youtube Channel Screenshot

Dedicate Time to Learning and Training

A remote lifestyle doesn’t need to be an endless grind of work work work.

Smart businesses know one of the keys to true productivity is giving teams the opportunity to gain new skills through training and improve their industry knowledge. They might not be able to attend conferences or discuss ideas with their colleagues, but there are plenty of ways employees can grow and develop in their role from the comfort of their home.

There are, of course, plenty of virtual conferences happening every day around the world. As keynote speakers and thought leaders become more comfortable with video chat and organizations look to recoup lost incomes, events have become commonplace on everything from digital marketing to how to work with charities. These are great sources of knowledge and networking opportunities for remote teams.

Alternatively, teams can access the bountiful collection of online courses, blogs and videos available from a number of providers across the web. Larger course collections such as Lynda are a brilliant place for companies looking to develop specific skills such as Photoshop editing, while industry blogs (or vlogs like Simpletivity) provide little nuggets of knowledge from leading professionals that can be digested in your own time.

You don’t even need to convince your team to commit to hours and hours of formal lessons to get something out of remote training. A productivity podcast might be the best ways for them to absorb key skills and a productive mindset by osmosis. Consider encouraging teams to listen to a productivity podcast like Get Yourself Optimized to broaden their perception of what productivity means in a real-world environment.

Training isn’t just an opportunity to improve your team’s capabilities, but a way for them to recharge and break up their day. They’ll appreciate the investment in them as a business asset and the time they can spend away from demanding projects.

Outline a Clear Workflow

This is where having the right project management tool really pays off.

A clear workflow can be the difference between a project that gets done in time and one that weighs down the business well beyond the deadline.

Before you can start to re-think your workflow you need to take a step back and analyze where it is now. How are people working? Are people’s roles well defined? Could this team benefit from an additional member? Once you have answers to these questions, you can start to hack your workflow.

Organize efficiently and ensure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. This can be assigned through the use of a digital tool or by frequent meetings. While spending all day in a Zoom call might sound unproductive, it can be a useful session for employees less sure of their next step. Optimized communication (think comments on tasks) is essential to a great workflow.

To future-proof for better workflow on other projects, you should ensure you are documenting every step of your process. Keep records of every checklist, minutes of every meeting and notes on every task to help further streamline what you do. There is no catch-all answer, you have to build on feedback and obvious roadblocks unique to your processes.

Set Achievable Goals and Objectives

It can feel like a cheap psychology lesson, but there is huge value in setting clear goals for your team. An achievable objective gives teams something to work towards.

Working from home (especially in these circumstances) can be disparaging and lonely. A light at the end of the productivity tunnel can make all those days working from a bedroom desk seem worth it. Even if they’re not personal goals or objectives, completing them can give the whole company a little boost.

It even helps with training. If team members can see value in the training they are doing and how it relates to their position (and the possibility of a promotion) it can be easier to get them to buy into it. Objectives take something hypothetical and transform it into a tangible endpoint everyone can celebrate.

By laying out clear objectives you’re ensuring the body of the business is working in tandem. If one part of that body breaks down because it isn’t sure of its purpose, it can have a significant impact on the whole process.

When you’re sitting at home for the third month in a row missing your colleagues it can be hard to push yourself to engage with a project 100%. Being productive isn’t easy, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for not working to our best every day. But these tips will help ensure everyone on your team is getting as close as possible as frequently as possible, and improving every day.

Password Strength: Debunking Common Password Misconceptions

Login Screen - Password Strength and MisconceptionsToday’s guest post was written by TechWarn, a digital safety advocate and news site.

We use passwords every day. In fact, the average Internet user has 90 online accounts which likely means they’re using nearly a hundred passwords as well. But even though passwords are the main security measure in the digital world, most people know very little about password strength and how to maximize their protection. Even more surprising, a lot of people hold completely false misconceptions about passwords.

Let’s dive in and debunk some of the most common ones.

Misconception 1: Password Protection Is Enough

Passwords might be the most common way to secure your accounts, but they’re by no means foolproof. Password cracking software is widely available on the dark web, allowing even amateur hackers to break through security. No matter your password strength, you can also fall victim to phishing or other social engineering attacks in which hackers trick you to voluntarily reveal your credentials.

Let’s face it: on their own, passwords never offer a sufficient level of protection for your sensitive data.

It’s a good idea to add two-factor authentication for extra protection. Two-factor authentication is a combination of something you know (password) and something you have (ex. your phone). Even if the hacker cracks your password, they will still need the other half of the key to get into your account. Most of the time, this should be sufficient to keep them away.

Note that not all two-factor authentication methods are equally secure. There is a consensus among cybersecurity experts that SMS messages are the weakest second authentication step. Through social engineering, the attacker can redirect the victim’s texts to his own SIM card and intercept the messages. That’s why the recommended method is either using an authenticator app on your phone (ex. Google Authenticator) or a physical security key.

Misconception 2: Passwords Should Be Memorable

At face value, this password misconception makes perfect sense. You’re not supposed to write passwords down so, of course, they must be memorable enough to simply remember them. Right?

Not quite. No matter how memorable your passwords are, it’s still not possible to remember dozens of them (as I mentioned before, you likely have around 90 accounts to secure).

The best way to handle your passwords is to get a password manager. A password manager is a program that securely stores all your login credentials and other sensitive information. It’s also an incredibly handy tool for teams as you can organize your passwords and give other team members access.

If you have a password manager, there’s no need to remember any passwords except your master key to access the manager. That password should definitely be memorable, but none of the others need to be.

Misconception 3: Passwords Can’t Contain Dictionary Words

There’s an ongoing debate among cybersecurity experts about this one. Some claim that passwords consisting of a random string of letters, digits, and characters are the most secure. Others argue that a cluster of dictionary words, such as “correcthorsebatterystaple” can be just as strong while being a lot easier to remember.

So which one is it?

Let’s conduct an experiment. Using a password security tool, I checked a four-word passphrase “raviolijakartacrabhamlet” against a random 20-character password generated by my password manager “0zut07IcAT8D65n28Ys4”. The result for the former was 7 quadrillion years, while the latter would take 558 quadrillion years to crack. When I shortened my random password to 15 characters, however, the time to crack it decreased to 609 million years.

Password Entropy Graph

This discrepancy depends on the entropy (or complexity) of the password, which includes length and character sets as factors. If you’re willing to work with extremely long, 20-character passwords then, indeed, those are more secure than passphrases. The shorter ones, however, seem to lose when compared to random word clusters.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter too much anyway because we’re talking millions of years to crack the password. It’s worth pointing out, though, that as the technology develops, the time to crack complex passwords will decrease. What might take millions of years today, might take just weeks in a few years and maybe mere seconds a decade from now.

Misconception 4: Some Characters Are Disallowed

Passwords can, in fact, include any characters. Emojis can also be part of your password and the password manager company Myki has even released an emoji-only password generator.

However, some people learned the hard way why emojis in passwords are not a good idea when they tried logging in with a keyboard that doesn’t support emojis. With little evidence as to whether emoji passwords are more secure or easier to remember, it’s probably better to steer away from them for now.

Your VirtualPBX Account

VirtualPBX emphasizes data security in all aspects of its phone system. Its users play a strong role in the security of their own accounts, so it’s suggested that strong passwords be used for all admins and users on its phone plans. For assistance with creating new passwords or to inquire about account security, reach out in a live chat.

Use Dynamic Caller ID to Promote Your Business Locally

Use VirtualPBX Dynamic Caller ID to Promote Your Business LocallyBusiness promotion begins in the opening seconds of a cold sales call. It starts when the customer picks up their phone (before they decide to answer the call), and if you promote your business locally in that moment, you can increase your chances of having a productive conversation with your lead.

Our Dynamic Caller ID feature offers an excellent way for your business to promote itself locally whenever your team members make outbound calls. It works by using one of your Business Phone Plan phone numbers whenever your dialed number meets a specific criteria.

You display a number for your business that matches a city or region of the lead you’re calling – and in that moment, you make a small connection that says, “I’m familiar because I’m local.”

Three Parts to Dynamic Caller ID

There are three ways that Dynamic Caller ID can identify and match your dialed number:

  • A personal Feature Code you assign to a system User
  • The area code included in your number
  • A regular expression that matches exactly or partially the number you have dialed

You can set any one of the above options to present one of your phone numbers as the Caller ID. The following brief sections will demonstrate ways in which you can use each method to promote your business locally.

VirtualPBX Dynamic Caller ID Settings

Match Your Personal Feature Code

VirtualPBX Dynamic Caller ID - Feature Code OptionWhen using the feature code option, you set a unique code inside the Dynamic Caller ID settings.

The code used here must be unique from all the included Feature Codes in your plan that allow you to access system features like Voicemail and Call Queues. It must also be unique from all other Dynamic Caller ID codes you have created. Each code will be able to display a single caller ID you have assigned.

The example pictured in this screenshot shows a code of *333. If this were live in your phone plan, any user could dial “*333” before they dial an outbound number. The phone system would then show the person they’re calling a phone number you had chosen.

This is a great way to give a single user a way to personalize their outbound calls during a sales or marketing campaign. For example, if they were calling people in the 408 area code in California, they could all use *333 to make sure the number those recipients see is the 408 number included in your phone plan.

Your team member may also be the only one who receives calls at the phone number assigned to *333. The presentation of that individualized phone number, regardless of how your phone system would default to displaying its caller ID, can help this user receive return calls on their own device without impacting generalized calls for the business.

Match Your Area Code

VirtualPBX Dynamic Caller ID - Area Code OptionFor teams trying to promote your business locally over a larger area, you could set up several Dynamic Caller ID rules for a variety of area codes.

As with feature codes, you can match only one area code dialed to a single caller ID number you will display. Filling out “408” in the area code option could therefore match to your 408 business phone number. You would, however, need to create a second rule to present your 669 business phone number to other call recipients in that same geographical area.

Rules can be changed by system admins at any time. You can set up new rules for new campaigns to have the presentation of your business always match the locations in which you’re calling.

Get Specific With Regular Expressions

Using regular expression in Dynamic Caller ID is a bit more advanced than the previous two options. The screenshot here is just one example of how you could use a regular expression to match the area code of an outbound dial.

VirtualPBX Dynamic Caller ID - Regular Expression Option

Briefly, the “^408\d{7}$” does four distinct things when it tries to match a phone number.

  • The carat “^” starts the match at the beginning of the number you have dialed
  • The “408” looks for the exact digits four, zero, and eight – in that order
  • The “\d” looks for any digit, and the ”{7}” says to match seven digits
  • The “$” ends the match at the close of those seven digits

With these rules in place, “4085551234” phone number in the screenshot will match because it meets all of those criteria set in the regular expression.

A dialed “14085551234” would not match, though, because it doesn’t start with “408” and doesn’t have a total of 10 digits.

Regular expressions help you be more exacting with your outbound dialing rules. The example above achieves largely what you could do with the area code setting described earlier.

However, you could use regular expressions to match the hypothetical local code “555” that begins any number you have dialed. A regular expression of “^408555\d{4}$” would match both the area code and the local code of any number dialed in that location.

You could be this specific if your campaign tries to target neighborhoods for campaigns that are highly localized, such as for a political campaign or a promotion that’s taking place with a select few individuals.

How Do You Promote Your Business Locally?

Setting up Dynamic Caller ID to promote your business locally can be simple. In most cases, you can pick a specific area code or assign a new feature code to one of your users. Then you’re off to the races.

That said, structuring a campaign, organizing sets of multiple rules, purchasing additional phone numbers, or using complex regular expressions can require outside help. Which we’re always happy to provide! Start a quick web chat with us today to discuss how you can use Dynamic Caller ID to your advantage.