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Virtual PBX Adds VoIP To Hosted Service

Provider's platform for SMBs includes VoIP lines rather than simply overlaying existing systems, though it can still deliver Virtual PBX Complete without adding phone service.

Virtual PBX on Tuesday rolled out a hosted telephony system geared for small and midsize business (SMB) callers.

The 15-year-old company lays claim to the title of first hosted private branch exchange (PBX) provider, according to chief operating officer Greg Brashier, delivering service over copper wires rather than with on-site hardware. Until now, Virtual PBX overlaid existing phone systems -- including VoIP lines from other providers -- but didn't offer its own service. Its new "Complete" product marks the vendor's first Voice-over-IP offering, though customers with existing phone lines or reliability concerns can still deploy the system without VoIP.

"An awful lot of the industry doesn't know that [hosted PBX] exists because it's not VoIP, and the only thing that people have been paying attention to lately is VoIP," Brashier said in an interview. Previously, Virtual PBX's customers had to get their basic phone service elsewhere. "We've been hearing from our customer base for the last couple of years an increasing need."

The COO said that need was three-fold: SMB customers wanted a complete phone system from a single source, cost savings compared with traditional telecom providers, and flat rate plans. Adding VoIP to its PBX platform, Brashier said, answers the call.

Among other features, Virtual PBX includes dial-tone service, optional VoIP phones, conferencing, machine-less faxing, voicemail with phone, online, and email retrieval, call recording, and an auto-receptionist function with customizable greetings. Pricing on its unlimited plans start at $19.99 per user, per month.

Smaller companies have comprised the core of Virtual PBX's customer base since its early days, largely because of potential cost savings from cloud-based telephony options.

"In the past, the SMB market has been our target because that's where this kind of product, that was based on minutes, felt good," Brashier said. "We became a small company product because that's what part of the market found the economic benefits the strongest."

To date, Virtual PBX has found the most traction with very small companies, typically fewer than 20 employees, according to Brashier. He added that Virtual PBX also has a number of larger customers who operate entirely virtual offices, with between 250 and 300 people who all work remotely.

Brashier said that Virtual PBX Complete -- and especially the addition of VoIP capability to its hosted PBX platform -- will allow the company to upsize its SMB footprint. "We believe it opens up a huge market on the upper end for us," Brashier said. "We'll still be an SMB play because that's who we understand the best, that's where we think the product fits the best, but now we can go much higher into the 'M' of SMB."

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