Virtual phone systems are rife with emerging and sometimes bizarre terms. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that some virtual phone companies use the same terms for different things. Don’t worry, though – our handy guide can help you navigate the labyrinth of technical terms. Below you will find some of the most commonly used virtual phone system terms.
PBX (Private Branch Exchange): A telephone system just for your business. The system will allot a certain number of extensions – as many as needed – for the private use of your business. Non-internet PBX systems are run by equipment kept by the business itself.
ACD (Automatic Call Distribution): A system that allows representatives to speak to callers in the order that they call. If you’ve ever called somewhere and had an automated teller announce that “your call will be answered in the order in which it was received,” you have experienced ACD.
SMB (Small and Medium Businesses): Enough said.
Hosted PBX: A PBX system made available through the internet. Unlike a normal PBX system, your office won’t be required to host telephone equipment – the company does if for you. This lowers costs significantly while providing the opportunity for easy expansion.
Virtual PBX Phone: A phone with advanced features specifically designed for use with PBX systems. This can include intercom, caller ID, conferencing, call forwarding, and other capabilities.
Answering Rules: Settings directing how to handle calls. Can include different types of callers (VIP and blocked, for example) or times of day (open hours vs. closed hours/holidays).
Auto-Attendant: The virtual secretary who guides your customers to the appropriate party.
Dial-By-Name Directory: A database that allows callers to use their phone keypads to dial the name of the person they want to reach (e.g. 76484 for SMITH).
Extensions: Telephones that are connected to the same line. In some virtual PBX situations, the term can refer to individual phone lines depending on the provider.
Find Me/Follow Me: This is an advanced virtual PBX system meant to minimize missed calls. Both rely on forwarding callers to different numbers for the person who is being contacted (e.g. office and cell numbers). Some “Follow Me” systems go a step further by determining your location from your internet and phone activity and forwarding the call to the appropriate phone.
Internet Fax: The ability to send and receive faxes over the internet. Usually includes receiving faxes via email. Very useful for receiving documents while out of the office.
Porting: The process of moving a phone number to a new telephone service. Can be free or cost money depending on the provider and the type of phone number.
Virtual Number: A number that does not connect to a phone number. It might connect to a voice mailbox or automated messages instead. Calls from a virtual number can also be forwarded to actual phones.
Toll-Free Number: A number that is free for customers to call. Can include different prefixes, such at 800 and 877.
True 800 Number: A toll-free number that starts with the number 800.
Vanity Number: A phone number that spells a word or a phrase corresponding to letters on a telephone keypad. The most famous example is probably 1-800-FLOWERS.