In the Briefing Room: Virtual PBX iVPBX

1947 Stromberg Carlson PBX

1947 Stromberg Carlson PBX

IP-based telephony for smaller organizations is starting to get interesting again.  Last week, Skype introduced Skype For SIP and now, Virtual PBX is launching the iVPBX, a fully featured hosted PBX offering that supports Voice-over-IP (VoIP) softphones and SIP-compliant desk phones. [SIP is the prevalent open standard for business telephony networks and supports “sessions” in an IP network.] Built on the open systems platform that Virtual PBX introduced in November of last year, the iVPBX routes calls over the Internet to extensions using Gizmo5 VoIP phones as an alternative to using more expensive landline technology for the call.

Hosted PBX systems are the twenty-first century equivalent of Centrex, a PBX-like service developed in the mid-1960s where the switching took place in the telephone company’s central office; this contrasts with a PBX system, where the equipment is on site.  While Centrex was ideal for larger organizations that occupied multiple buildings or a campus, hosted or virtualized PBX services are ideal for small businesses, especially those where employees are found in many different locations.

The new iVPBX separates itself from more traditional hosted PBX systems in several ways, including pricing.  Traditional systems are generally priced based on a monthly allowance of free minutes, with a per-minute charge that kicks in when the free minutes are exhausted.  The iVPBX differs in that it allows unlimited inbound calling and does not have a per-minute fee; instead it relies on a per-seat pricing plan, around ten dollars per extension.

The iVPBX is being launched as a joint offering with Gizmo5, a VoIP provider, although it will work with any solution that is fully SIP compliant and uses North America Numbering Plan (NANP) phone numbering for destination identification.

The offering is good news for existing Gizmo5 users as well as Virtual PBX customers.  For the former, the iVPBX offering adds PBX functionality such as call transfer, ACD queues, and automated attendant.  For the latter, new functionality will include call recording, instant messaging, and file sharing.

Both companies will be cross-marketing and selling the combined services, although, according to Greg Brashier, COO of Virtual PBX, the company will be looking to work with other VoIP providers who are also fully SIP compliant.

For Virtual PBX, similar to the quandary faced by Skype, the challenge will be how to communicate benefits to customers without the requisite flurry of acronyms.  For many, the low price point will suffice, but the enhanced functionality that users get from the iVPBX makes it worthy of consideration even for those who are not terribly budget conscious.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex. Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

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