With thousands of other online startups on the market, it’s important to get your business out there and fast. However, as with many great projects, the first steps are the hardest.
A good place to start is selecting the right business telephone system for your business. It might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the right phone system will benefit your online startup right out of the gate.
When we say phone system, we aren’t talking about an analog phone system, one that uses cumbersome phone cords and the outdated analog phone network known as the PSTN, but rather a phone system that uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP is the technology that turns your voice signal into digital data, and sends it over an Internet connection. In layman’s terms: VoIP is Internet phone service.
For businesses, VoIP can be a helpful tool because:
- VoIP saves you money on monthly phone bills. VoIP service plans can be less than $10/month.
- There are no long distance charges with VoIP. Most providers offer extension with completely unlimited calling in the US.
- If you have international customers, VoIP is great because most providers offer low rates on international calls. Calls to major business hubs like London, Tokyo, and Hong Kong can be less than $0.03/minute.
- Hardware costs are minimal, especially if you choose a hosted IP PBX.
Keep VoIP Service Within Reach with Softphones
VoIP isn’t just a cheap alternative to traditional phone service: it can also be a very useful tool. For example, many VoIP providers offer softphone applications for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Those providers that don’t have a dedicated softphone application, will let you access their service with a third party softphone.
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A softphone is basically an on-screen dialpad by which you can make calls through your VoIP service. If you’ve ever made a call using a mobile app, you’ve used a softphone.
Softphones allow you to be mobile, meaning you can keep your VoIP service with you at all times. If you are constantly on business trips trying to help build up your brand, or if you do not yet have a centralized office location, then a softphone will be an invaluable tool. You can still take and receive calls as if you were in the office, and your customers will be none the wiser.
Virtual Numbers Increase Your Reach
Many VoIP providers offer the option to purchase virtual numbers for an added monthly fee. Unlike purchasing a traditional phone number, a virtual number can have any area code you choose. Your home office might be located in New York, for example, but your VoIP provider will let you purchase a virtual number with a California area code if you want.
Virtual numbers are particularly valuable for young companies for a couple of reasons:
- Virtual numbers will save your customers money as customers located in different area codes won’t have to pay out-of-state or long distance fees to call you.
- You can use virtual numbers to establish the appearance of a local presence in many areas.
Low-Maintenance Hosted PBXs for New Businesses
Most business VoIP providers offer two major service options in business: hosted PBXs and SIP trunk services. SIP trunk services are very cheap, but are designed for businesses that can buy and maintain their own PBX hardware or software as an in-house system.
Hosted PBX services are the perfect option for the young business that doesn’t have any hardware or the ability to buy and maintain their own hardware. A PBX (public branch exchange) is the hardware or software system by which office extensions are connected to each other and to external lines. You may be familiar with the image of a phone operator seated at a switchboard in a large cabinet. That would have been a legacy PBX.
A hosted PBX, also often called a virtual or cloud PBX, is based entirely on an Internet cloud platform. This means that all of the functionality of the PBX is hosted over the Internet, which means you don’t need any in-house hardware to support it. All you need is a computer, tablet, or phone to access the control panel of your hosted PBX, and your IP-ready phones.
Hosted PBXs are:
- Cheap: Around $20/extension each month for totally unlimited calling.
- Scalable: It is easy to add and subtract extensions as you need them. And the more extensions you add, the cheaper the individual extensions will usually be.<
- Easy to Own: Because the PBX is totally hosted, all of the maintenance and upkeep is the responsibility of your provider, leaving you free from the responsibility of upkeep.
- Reliable: Lots of time and effort goes into ensuring that a provider’s services are secure, which means you will have minimal phone down time.