A virtual PBX (public branch exchange) is a type of hosted PBX. Virtual PBXs may refer to traditional hosted PBXs or it may refer to cloud PBXs. Lots of businesses are turning to virtual PBXs because they are a cheap and easy to use business VoIP solution, and they don’t require any extra hardware.
The term “PBX” refers to the system that a business uses to route calls and manage office phone extensions. PBXs can be hardware systems, software systems, or systems composed of both hardware and software.
There are lots of different kinds of PBXs. Aside from hosted PBXs or virtual PBXs, there are also IP PBXs and traditional PBXs. Traditional PBXs are large pieces of machinery that may require lots of office space and manual operation. Some people still use traditional PBXs but we won’t cover them here because they aren’t really VoIP solutions.
Our chart below will help you start looking into virtual PBXs to see if a virtual VoIP PBX phone system is right for your office.
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What is a virtual PBX?
As we said above, a virtual PBX is another term for a type of hosted PBX. The term “hosted PBX” means that your PBX is hosted by a VoIP service provider.
Many virtual PBXs require a full PBX hardware and software system, but you don’t have to own or operate any of the PBX components. Instead, your VoIP service provider owns and manages the full PBX hardware system and provides you with PBX service from a remote location. You never have to buy, own, or operate any hardware yourself.
However, the term virtual PBX may also refer to a cloud PBX which exists almost entirely on the Internet. Cloud PBXs eliminate much of the traditional hardware of a PBX and they have no physical location. Rather, all of your data is stored online through cloud technology. This means that a virtual PBX can be easily connected with any computer, tablet, mobile phone, or VoIP phone from any location without any kind of physical plugging in.
Cloud PBXs are hosted by a service provider in that the service provider designs and implements the cloud PBX, and the cloud technology is hosted by their server.
How is it different from an IP PBX?
With an IP or digital PBX you own and operate the PBX system in your own office. Your digital IP PBX may be composed of some hardware and some software components, or it may be an entirely software system.
For a virtual PBXs, by contrast, you only need IP phones and a computer with Internet access.
With a virtual PBX, you can have an almost unlimited number of phone extensions for your office. However, many virtual PBX service providers will only include a certain number of extensions in each plan. For example, the Pro plan with RingCentral includes 10 extensions, while the Office 300 plan with Phone.com includes unlimited extensions.
You can also use your virtual PBX VoIP system to provide extensions for employees working in different locations all over the world. Because a virtual PBX is hosted online, you aren’t limited to phone lines at a single specific geographical location for your service.
Virtual PBXs are the most basic type of PBX VoIP system. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can get more advanced virtual PBXs with more features, or cheaper virtual PBXs with fewer features.
Advantages of a Virtual PBX
Installation is easy with virtual PBX because you don’t have to buy any hardware for the system.
And virtual PBXs are frequently very cheap. In some cases, they may be your cheapest option for PBX service. With RingCentral, one of the more expensive cloud PBXs, a virtual PBX phone system costs $24.99/month. For a Jive hosted PBX, you have to pay $29.95/user per month.
However, you should note that pricing for virtual PBXs doesn’t always include phone service. With many VoIP service providers, you will also have to be sure to get a business VoIP phone solution as well.
Virtual PBX VoIP systems may also include lots of useful features like
- Music on hold
- Auto Receptionist
- Unlimited extensions
- Caller directory
- Customized greetings
Disadvantages of a Virtual PBX
Virtual PBXs may be less secure than other PBXs. For example, a downed Internet server could completely disrupt your office PBX system for a few hours.
And virtual PBXs may be very minimal. You should shop around before settling on a virtual PBX to see how various companies stack up based on features and cost. Some of the more full-featured virtual PBXs are likely to cost more, but the less expensive virtual PBXs may not be able to provide all of the service that you need.