Tips for Bootstrapping a Business

Virtual Phone Services

Written by Steve Adams for Gaebler Ventures

Buying a phone system for a small business? You may want to think twice. Virtual phone services allow you to have a great phone system with minimal investment.

Mobile phones and PDAs are rapidly displacing the old land line phones among consumers.

Virtual Phone Service

In fact, the latest figures show that roughly 20 percent of all American households are wireless-only.

Creating a Business Phone System Using Mobile Phones

Now the technology exists to move business phones in the same direction.

Virtual phone services for small business allow you to overlay an entire business phone system on top of any working phone number -- including a mobile number.

Here's how they work: when you sign up for a virtual phone service you are assigned a phone number (which will become your "business" number). Usually you can choose between a toll-free or local phone number, although "local" is a loose term since you can choose the area code you want.

The service provides business-oriented features such as an auto-attendant to greet callers and direct them to the right people, the ability to assign extensions to different people in the company (even if those people don't work at the main office), voicemail, call forwarding and more.

Calls to the business phone service number go to the service provider, and then are routed to the phones you identify as being part of your phone system. Here's where it really gets good.

Each of the extensions can be forwarded to your employees' own mobile and/or home phones, saving on the cost of phone equipment. Users can receive notifications that they have a voicemail message in their email, or even receive a file with voicemail message in their email so they don't have to call in to retrieve it.

Anyone on the system can initiate a conference call, and in some cases bring in as many people as they want whenever they want. All of this functionality (and more) comes for a monthly fee that's often less than the price of one land line -- and with no added cost for equipment or technicians to run it.

As for your personal mobile phone becoming your business phone, not to worry. Your old mobile number will still work too, so it's easy to distinguish between business and personal calls.

Steve Adams is Vice President of Marketing for Protus, provider of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) communication tools for small-to-medium businesses (SMB) and enterprise organizations.

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