How to Choose a Virtual Phone System

This guide will help you determine the virtual phone system that meets your business needs. Follow these five simple steps to make sure you've thoroughly researched virtual phone systems before you making a buying decision:

1. Analyze Your Business Phone System Needs

Evaluate how many phone minutes you use per month and how many phone extensions you need. Virtual phone systems are priced according to number of minutes and extensions, so evalute your size and usage before you buy. Also, refer to our Market Standard for price and features of a virtual phone system.

2. Compare Virtual Phone Systems

Use our virtual phone system comparison chart to see side-by-side comparisons of virtual phone systems on price, included minutes, included extensions, overage fees and other key features. To see more details about a phone system, click on the vendor's name and read a full review with a chart of expanded features.

3. Read Virtual Phone System Reviews

Read our virtual phone systems reviews to fully understand how virtual phone systems bill minutes and overage fees. While some services charge for only the minutes spent routing calls to extensions, many will charge for every minute you are on the phone in the system.  We list the number of included monthly minutes as well as the price per minute in our reviews.  If you are still unsure about how to choose a virtual phone system, there are many resources on this website that should give you a more complete picture of everything virtual phone systems have to offer.

4. Sign Up for a Virtual Phone System or Free Trial

Take advantage of the free trials many virtual phone systems offer.  Free trials are great tools for new users to check out all of the features of selected virtual phone system without wasting money or making any commitments. Once you've found a phone system that you like, sign up for a monthly contract.

5. Test Your Virtual Phone Service

After you've signed up for a virtual phone system, test your phone system. Be sure to check call quality, as well as your auto attendant and call fowarding fuctions. Log into your online account and familiarize yourself with your account interface. Also, call customer service with any questions you may have and make sure they are responsive. If a specific system does not meet your needs, you can always sign up for a new free trial with a different service.

>>View our Virtual Phone System Comparison Chart

 What is a Virtual Phone System?

Virtual phone systems (also called hosted or virtual PBX services) permit their users to receive and manage calls through one main number without needing to purchase any additional hardware. Virtual phone systems are useful for setting up single-location, professional phone systems, and they also allow users to set up lines and extensions in multiple office locations or on mobile and home phones, no matter how geographically spread out they are.

An important part of a virtual phone system is the online interface that lets users easily manage extensions, route calls, and complete administrative tasks related to billing and usage.  The online interface also lets you set up a menu for callers to hear when reaching your system:  for example, “Dial 1 for Sales; Dial 2 for Support; Dial 3 for Billing.” You can even create a dial-by-name directory that allows callers to search for departments or specific people in the directory.  

Some important features included in most virtual phone systems are listed below:

  • Call routing from your office line to mobile phones, other office phones, home phones and even fax machines
  • Call screening and call hold capabilities
  • Online voicemail retrieval
  • Online call logs
  • Conference call hosting
  • Online fax (a.k.a. fax to email, email to fax)

Overall, virtual phone systems create an opportunity for small businesses to become more organized, gain extensive control over their call flow and exhibit a more professional image to customers while cutting costs at the same time.

 

 Who Uses a Virtual Phone System?

Basic Users:

Basic users primarily use call forwarding and voicemail services and obtain a virtual phone system to get their own designated business phone number.  This gives them the power to control how their calls are handled and gives their business a larger, more professional appearance at an affordable price.  Basic virtual phone system users, such as owners of startups or small businesses, tend to focus on a few key features when choosing a virtual phone system:

  • Price:  All virtual phone system plans provide the most basic features, such as call forwarding and voicemail, which are usually enough to meet many people’s needs.  But if you want advanced features, such as voicemail-to-text transcription, you’ll have to pay extra fees in addition to your monthly service fee.  Make sure that you do not waste money on more expensive plans that have advanced features that you do not need.
  • Number of Minutes and Overage Fees:  You can easily figure out how many minutes you need each month by looking at your existing phone bill.  If you are just starting out, you can record your average daily or weekly phone usage.  Many of the basic virtual phone system plans include many minutes, so you should also check the price of the overage minutes to avoid extra charges.

Advanced Users:

Advanced users tend to utilize more robust features than basic users do.

  • Advanced Features:  Auto attendants, multiple extensions, call conferencing, dial-by-name directories, call transferring and voicemail-to-email features. 
  • Click-to-Call:  Virtual phone system industry leaders are constantly adding new features that improve the way you connect with your clientele, such as click-to-call.  Many companies now offer this feature which allows you to place a widget on your website that lets users input their phone number to be contacted later.  The PBX system will ring both the business administrator and the customer, making it easier for customers to reach you.

Mobile Users:

Mobile users can utilize virtual phone systems on their smartphones and softphones to capitalize on savings on their monthly phone bill.

  • International Calling:  Many virtual phone systems will let you access your PBX system through softphone programs on PCs, laptops or smartphones.  Softphones work on any Internet connection worldwide. Utilizing an Internet connection, you can use your PBX minutes to make local calls within the U.S. while you’re out of the country without racking up international roaming charges or wasting expensive cell phone minutes. By connecting your smartphone or computer to a Wi-Fi hotspot or data network, you can bypass long distance charges by making and receiving phone calls straight from the web.
  • Saving Cell Phone Minutes:  Some people use virtual phone systems domestically through softphone applications on their smartphones as a way to regularly save cell phone minutes.  Calling through your virtual system on your cell phone means you won’t waste your regular cell phone minutes and will use virtual minutes at a much cheaper rate.

*It is important to note that not all virtual phone system providers support softphones, and there may be a small fee (usually under $5) to initially connect the softphone to the PBX service. The four services we’ve reviewed that support softphones are

>>Compare Virtual Phone Systems