VirtualPBX.com, Inc., headquartered in San Jose, California, is a privately held company, founded in 1997, that claims to be the inventor of the hosted PBX.
When the firm opened for business, its services were targeted at startups and small office/home office (SOHO) subscribers who wanted to keep communications costs low without skimping on the broader PBX functionality offered to larger enterprises.
As their service model matured, they began adding features such as VoIP functionality and international calling, and thereby extending their reach into the corporate enterprise market. Today, VirtualPBX’s offerings make use of traditional public switched telephone network technology as well as VoIP technology; and also provide a service called PBX Parachute, which gives companies that own an on-site PBX a disaster recovery backup capability, to keep their phone service running in case a power failure disrupts local service.
VirtualPBX’s mission is to be the leading provider of virtual PBX switching services, starting with the North American market, and then expanding to serve customers in Europe and South America as well. Their service is targeted at a broad spectrum of customers, including startups, SOHO users, small and medium-size businesses (SMBs), larger enterprises, franchises, virtual offices, and virtual call centers. Their largest segment is the small business market, and within that segment, companies with fewer than 50 employees.
The VirtualPBX service is available to anyone who has a phone connected to the PSTN or an approved SIP phone. The service supports any traditional phones that have calls sent directly to landlines or cell phones over the PSTN, as well as any VoIP phones with gateways to the PSTN. In addition, all service plans can send calls to any SIP-compliant phone that uses North American Number Plan (NANP) phone numbering for destination identification.
The system includes a number of complementary features that are included with every service plan without any additional charge. These include: a central business number, custom greetings; an auto-attendant; day/night modes; ACD queuing (press 1 for operator, press 2 for sales, press 3 for support, etc.); follow-me call forwarding; phone, e-mail, Web and pager notifications; voicemail interrupt (listen to voicemails in real-time and interrupt them in real-time); and inbound faxes that can be forwarded to e-mail, or viewable on the Web as PDF files.
VirtualPBX claims that prospective users can connect the hosted PBX service to their phone number in a matter of minutes using their online configuration tool, called the Configuration Wizard, establishing extension assignments, hosted PBX functions, and voicemail options with ease. The system also provides a full range of real-time online management tools, reports, and monitors, with details such as extensions currently in use, callers currently on hold in ACD queues, and complete call logs. A variety of reports help administrators manage their businesses, as well as their phone system.
Somewhat unusual in the VirtualPBX offering is a strong emphasis on network and phone security—likely because of the company’s decade-old experience in this business. The company prides itself in providing not just a telecommunication network, but a secure telecommunications network (an issue that is not even mentioned by some of those firms that are relative newcomers to this arena).
VirtualPBX approaches this challenge from three angles. First, they are invested in Datacenter Security, which routes calls through the company’s co-located facility that includes multiple power and telecom sources, plus physical access that is limited to individuals that can pass both a key entry and handprint identification test. Second, the company stresses Network Security, which includes extensive firewalls, and a track record that boasts of a network that has never been successfully hacked since 1997—including two major denial of service (DoS) attacks that were foiled by these security measures. Third, the company includes Phone Call Security in their preventative measures, routing calls to the PSTN or their own secured VoIP backbone, rather than to the Internet.
Cost for the VirtualPBX service is based on the number of extensions, and differs for the standard hosted PBX plan, iVPBX (VoIP) plan, International Calling, and PBX Parachute (disaster recovery plan). Pricing for the Hosted PBX plans range from $9.99/month to $94.99/month, depending on the number of extensions; the iVPBX VoIP plan begins at $49.99/month; PBX Parachute pricing starts at $400/year; and for most countries, the International Calling Plan is $20.00 per month, plus a one-time set-up fee of $20.00.
Further information on the VirtualPBX solutions can be found at www.virtualpbx.com. Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.