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When disasters strike your clients, they can feel like castaways on a desert island if they can’t reach you immediately–whether it’s due to miscommunication in the office or a phone message buried among not-so-urgent messages. A cost-effective solution is now available through virtual phone services for small businesses, which combine the benefits of equipment-based PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems and VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) systems.

A virtual phone service follows the principles of cloud computing systems, with virtualized services provided over the Internet. All the equipment and software required to operate it is kept at the service supplier’s site. Users sign up for the service and are given a new local or toll-free number, depending on their preference. They’re also given an Internet login they can use to manage functions such as assigning extensions from that phone number to employees, scheduling which phone to ring at what time, and setting up the auto-attendant message. Calls come in and go out over existing phone lines, using phone equipment the agency already owns, delivering enhanced phone capabilities with minimal investment: the only cost is for the service itself, which is generally well under $100 per month.

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