Review of Two Hosted Phone Systems for Small BusinessA hosted phone system is an automated attendant that is managed by a vendor on their server. They in turn sell service on a subscription basis.
This is in contrast to purchasing your own equipment that has to be installed on your site. Purchasing and using your own phone system also requires paying for phone lines to support all your callers.
Hosted services only have low monthly fees and usage fees, but no costs for equipment and no cost for additional phone lines.
With your own in-house phone system, if you don't want any of your callers to get busy signals, you need to have enough phone lines coming to your premises to handle all the calls.
The expense of phone lines can get pretty expensive, although you never have any usage fees as you do with hosted phone systems.
On the other hand, if your call volume is very high, a hosted service can run up a huge bill. So you have to weigh one against the other based on the service options and features in each case.
I'll review two types of hosted phone systems that can be customized as needed:
- If you already have at least one phone line, then you can subscribe to a hosted phone system service
that simply provides a customizable automated attendant and voice mail. This usually comes with a phone number
that you can select and use as your own. Or you can transfer your existing number to the service. But you still need an active
phone line at your office to receive calls.
You can configure a menu of options that your caller can select -- to hear information or to connect you or your personnel. This is done by transferring the call to your office phone or cell phone.
- Another type of hosted phone system is one that uses voice over the Internet (VoIP).
These services provide special phones that you can place at each office location. These phones connect to your Broadband Internet modem.
Next I'll describe two such services. One is iTeleCenter that works by transferring calls to your existing phone lines. Another is Phone Power, which requires broadband Internet at each office location and requires no other phone service.
iTeleCenter Business Phone ServiceiTeleCenter handles all the calls for you from their location. You can create an automated attendant menu with the menu options that you want to provide to your callers.
Any menu option that is meant to connect the caller to you or to your personnel will transfer the caller to the phone number that you specify. You have full control over this and you can change it anytime you need to, via a web-based portal.
iTeleCenter is easy to configure. You can make your own changes on the fly.
How iTeleCenter WorksThe service includes a toll-free phone number that you use as your own company number. It includes over 30 features such as Caller ID and Call Waiting, providing all the power and flexibility you need for a business phone system.
Your existing office number is not what people would dial. You would include your office number in the programming of the auto attendant menu when you create an option for the caller to contact you.
If you want to continue to use your office number, you can forward it to the toll-free number that you have with iTeleCenter. The only thing to keep in mind is that you can't also route a caller back to your office, since this will create an endless loop.
So if you do want to keep using your office number as your main number, you would need another phone line to route calls to your office from your iTeleCenter Auto Attendant. Or route callers to your cell phone. They never know the actual number they are being routed to.
iTeleCenter 14-day Free Trial with 120 Free MinutesThe monthly fee is as low as $19.95. They have various higher-priced options that include more minutes at cheaper per-minute rates but higher monthly fees. Full pricing details are available on their site. The link is in the resource section below.
When you sign up for service, you can pick a phone number immediately from a list. Or you can also transfer an existing number.
You can even try it for free for two weeks just to find out how well it works and how well it satisfies your needs.
Phone Power Broadband Hosted Phone System PBXPhone Power's business phone system offers the same features as iTeleCenter. Such as Voicemail, Caller ID, Call Waiting and over 30 additional features!
The difference is that it supports multiple-locations via the Internet. This is a VoIP service.
It uses your broadband (Cable or DSL) Internet at each location. No other phone service is required.
Each phone extension is actually a VoIP phone line connected via a broadband modem. The advantage of using a broadband Internet based hosted phone system is that each extension phone can be anywhere in the world. And they are all tied together under your local phone number.
Cost of Phone PowerThe basic monthly fee is only $14.95 and that includes unlimited free long distance calls.
There are no contracts with either plan and you can cancel at any time.
Multi-Line Business plans include an automated attendant that you can program to your required specifications.
The first extension on a hosted auto attendant is $54.95 per month and each additional extension is $14.95.
You get a Phone Adapter (Grandstream HandyTone 502) for each extension with unlimited inbound minutes and 5000 outbound minutes. Additional outbound minutes are 2¢ per minute.
If you need a direct dial number for any extension, they can be added for $5 each.
There is a one time activation fee of $25 per extension. If you want to save on the activation, you can select a 12 month contract and reduce the fee to $10 each. Otherwise there is no contract and you can cancel at any time.
If an Internet based phone system serves your needs, you should look further into Phone Power hosted service.
ResourcesYou can find more information at both of these vendor's websites...
Go to iTeleCenter's website
Go to Phone Power's website
Stok Software, Inc. (STOK.COM) designs and supports automated phone systems for home-based and small businesses. Our products and services improve company image and customer interactions. See our Quick Reference Guide for a list of cost-saving products.