Virtual Phone System Gives Entrepreneurs a Professional Face - Page 2

By Thor Olavsrud | Posted June 16, 2011
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Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

A Virtual PBX for Small Business Entrepreneurs

Enter the virtual phone system. The idea is simple: You come to Grasshopper with a local or toll free phone number or buy one from Grasshopper. It can connect to a VoIP number, cell phone, landline or a combination of the three. You can have an unlimited number of extensions. If you and a partner both have cell phones connected to the virtual phone system, you can simply dial '#' and your partner's extension to call him or forward a call to him, even if your cell phones use different carriers.

The Grasshopper Virtual Phone System becomes an intermediary layer between your carrier and you. When a call passes through the carrier to the designated phone number, the virtual phone system intercepts it and then acts upon it in a manner you predetermine.

It could then forward the call to your Skype phone, cell phone or landline -- or all three, completing the connection at whichever line you pick up. If you prefer, the call can be routed directly to a professional automated greeting that you can record (or you can use voice talent from Grasshopper's Voice Studio), complete with a company directory of extensions. The virtual phone system remains connected in the background to allow for live transfers.

Your caller ID can show you the number the incoming call dialed (which could tell you whether the incoming call is a sales call or a support call, for instance) and the incoming caller's number as well. You also have the option of sending an incoming call directly to voicemail. Meanwhile, callers see your business phone number in their Caller ID.

You can even get your voicemail and faxes via email if you choose.

Grasshopper offers four different plans with no long-term contracts. However, each plan -- from the entry-level Pay As You Grow plan to the power user MAX plan -- comes with all features included.

"What we really didn't want to do was charge per user, per extension or per voicemail box because, frankly, that doesn't cost us any money," Kay said. "What does cost us money are the actual minutes. Every minute you talk on the phone, we pay the phone company."

Kay said most entrepreneurs with very early-stage startups go with the Pay As You Grow plan. It costs $9.95 a month and 6 cents a minute.

"This is great for early-stage startups that aren't getting a lot of phone calls," Kay said. "We wanted to have a price point that was very reasonable to have that grace period before you ramp up and start jumping full-on into marketing."

The Ramp plan costs $24 a month for 500 minutes and overage fees of 6 cents a minute. The Grow plan costs $49 a month for 2,000 minutes and overage fees of 6 cents a minute. The MAX plan costs $199 a month for 10,000 minutes and overage fees of 6 cents a minute.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to SmallBusinessComputing.com and a former senior editor at InternetNews.com. He covers operating systems, standards and security, among other technologies.

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