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Anatomy of a Virtual Phone System: What’s in it, and why you need it?

So the question is no longer ‘am I getting a phone system?’ but ‘which system should I get?’

When buying a car, you know that there are certain things that are pretty much indispensible, like wheels or an engine—the car simply won’t function without them. Then there are extras. It’s the same here.

So let’s take a peek under the hood to see which features you absolutely MUST have, which are a nice upgrade, and which are knick-knacks:

Virtual IVR

If we mentioned a car, this would be the engine. IVR, or Interactive Voice Response, is the automated system that answers and routes incoming calls according to your preferences. Not all are made equal, and some would have more features than others, but you won’t find a system that doesn’t have one (if you do, run the other way!)

At the very minimum, a Virtual IVR should let you build custom phone trees and define your own call routing rules. Some, like Synclio, provide an extra layer of customization like recording your own voice greetings, which helps promote brand recognition.

Learn all about IVR in our 'IVR - Interactive Voice Response Demystified' article.


This is another staple that may come in different flavours, but should definitely be there.

At the very least, you should have the ability to access your stored messages by phone or email. An audio copy delivered to your inbox is pretty standard too. A cut above will let you access them online.

Web Management

This is a no brainer. After all, we are talking about a virtual service. Web management let’s you control all aspects of your virtual phone system online via a convenient web portal. You should not even consider a provider that doesn’t offer this—it’ll be like buying a hovercraft that doesn’t hover...

Call Handling Tools

Again, the specific features may vary between systems and providers, but it’s pretty standard to find call forwarding and at least some level of call screening and transferring. In short, the first lets you forward calls automatically (without a live operator), while the others let’s you control how a call should be handled once routed to your phone (answered, blocked, transfer to Voicemail or to a different number/s). This is usually controlled via your routing rules. For instance, if you leave the office at 6pm but like to remain available till 8pm, you can set it so that calls will be redirected to your cellphone for those two hours and straight to your voicemail thereafter.

Find Me/Follow Me

This is a convenient feature that lets your employees enter multiple phone numbers, so that whenever a call is routed the system will dial every number in succession until the employee is reached. It’s especially helpful if your team is mobile.

Dial by Name Directory

A classic feature we all know and love from the hours we’ve spent calling big conglomerates. (Ah...found memories!) It lets you use the alphanumeric touch-tone keypad to spell the name of a person you’re trying to reach.

Internet Fax

Offered by some, this service lets you send and receive faxes using your email account—even if you’ve never had, don’t have, and never plan to have a fax machine. Though a nice option to have, in today's era of smartphones, emails and snapshots are fast replacing the fax machine as an efficient, environmentally friendly, and cost effective solution.

Unless your business strictly depends on the use of fax, this is by no means a must-have.

Message Alert

Again, offered by some, this little gimmick sends you a text notification whenever a fax or voicemail has been received. A bit redundant at an age most anybody owns a Smartphone with instant email updates—but hey, some people still wear watches that have both digital and analog dials... so you never know.

1-800, Local, and Vanity Numbers

Any service worth considering should offer a local or 1-800 number with your account. Vanity numbers are usually available for an additional fee.

Call Records + Stats

This is a great way to keep track of your call traffic and to make sure that all are followed up upon. Records should be available online and stored for as long as your account remains active. Some providers, like Synclio, offer various statistics as well—great to pick up patterns or as a measure of your own performance. Learning and improving are keys to success.


Services usually come with at least 5 extensions (for the base plan), and more as you go up. Some offer unlimited extensions. This is especially useful as it can accommodate business growth.

*Live Answer

This is not a common feature in virtual phone systems, as the primary purpose of is to provide an automated solution. But in Synclio’s case, with a parent company like ‘Answer Connect’—a major player in the live answering market that caters to many Fortune 500 companies—it’s a simple logical extension. Synclio intends to roll out a low cost, add-on service that will allow virtual IVR customers to take full advantage of this resource, bridging the gap between Automated and Live.

One last thing to keep in mind is that most companies would offer some form of free trial for their service, often 30 days. Make sure you review the billing cycle and any provisions (such as being charged if you’ve passed a set amount of minutes, etc), and only go with a provider whose service truly caters to what you need.

Remember, the real benefit of going virtual is freedom. The service should fit your image, not the other way around.

Happy shopping!

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posted by Maty Grosman @ 7:30 AM