Vonage and VirtualPBX are two of the pioneers of VoIP telephony having been in business since 1999. Vonage has built up a huge business and reputation within the residential VoIP market place, especially with their cheap international call rates and they are still probably one of the best-known VoIP brands. In recent years, Vonage has spread its wings to encompass the small to medium business market with their Vonage Business Service product. This move into the highly competitive SMB market place has required some shift of business focus especially when moving from VoIP to hosted IP PBX. However, Vonage is building upon a sound foundation based on their established residential and international VoIP network. The step up to providing IP PBX services for small and medium companies was a logical progression but the markets are fundamentally different.
On the other hand, VirtualPBX were pioneers in providing hosted IP PBX services for the small to medium business way back in the late nineties. As such, they were able to establish almost the blueprint for how the IP/PBX hosted service should be delivered for SMBs and were extremely successful.
VirtualPBX based their early business model on providing the functions and features of a full PBX system – which is normally out with the financial reach of SMBs – to small and medium business. This was possible by utilizing the emerging technology of VoIP and the growth of the internet. By hosting an IP PBX as a service over the internet, VirtualPBX were able to provide IP PBX services that would not have been affordable to small and medium businesses. The reason for this was that for a company to have their own PBX was extremely expensive and there were additional maintenance and operational costs that proved prohibitive to the small or medium business. By providing a hosted internet service – long before cloud computing was heard of – VirtualPBX could remove many of those capital and operational costs, thereby making an IP PBX an affordable telephony solution.
Recently, the hosted (cloud based) IP PBX market has become far more competitive with new entrants coming into the market and taking large swathes of market share. However, VirtualPBX despite not really scaling their product to cater for large or enterprise companies have remained very competitive especially within the small to medium business sector.
Vonage, with their vast experience in residential VoIP have also decided to expand into the SMB IP PBX market leveraging their VoIP experience and international VoIP network to their advantage, though still remaining focused on the residential and SMB marketplace. This puts Vonage and VirtualPBX as direct competitors. So who comes out on top?
How do the services compare?
The most interesting service is Vonage as it is spreading its wings from a successful residential and international calling service into the new ground of the IP PBX marketplace. After all Vonage has vast experience and an established international network for their VoIP services offering some of the cheapest long distance call rates available. However, the features and functionality, required by residential customers are not similar to those required by small to medium business. Therefore, the first thing we have to consider is just how much has Vonage changed with regards its technology.
Vonage has adopted the same IP PBX model as VirtualPBX in so much as they host a cloud based IP PBX accessible by the SMB customer over standard broadband internet connections. The cost savings for both parties comes from sharing the resources and costs with other customers, in a multi-tenant model. Vonage’s PBX solution is to provide their SMB customers with a virtual cloud hosted PBX with over forty built in features that provide all the functions of a professional PBX.
The forty plus features that Vonage supports are focused on the requirements of SMBs, they do not have many of the enterprise class features required by say a large-scale contact center but they are more than sufficient for a medium sized business. For example, the feature set includes amongst others, the following features as standard; Advanced call handling, call transfer, call waiting, call park, call conferencing, call screening and blocking.
Furthermore, apart from just the call handling features there are additional integration components such as click to call, mobile phone integration, click to dial with Outlook integration. There is also a virtual receptionist and auto attendant, that enables find me/follow me mobility, voicemail, voicemail to email, and a unified inbox that contains fax, voicemail and email. There are many more features, such as a mobile app, paperless fax and the ability to set the caller ID on outgoing calls. This is very handy when using a mobile or home landline. In short, Vonage’s package of features will meet the needs of most SMB.
However, if these don’t suffice then there are also some premium features that can be ordered, these are, toll free numbers, virtual mailbox, conference bridge and call recording.
Vonage have not just revamped their service but have also taken a more strategic approach to their pricing model and now offer free quotations rather than fixed prices. However at a rough guide Vonage do suggest that pricing will start at $39.99 for 1-5 lines, and $26.99 for 6 to 9 lines, $24.99 for 10 to 20 lines and $19.99 for 21+ lines though these are only guidelines as price is given on a free quotation.
As a comparison between the VirtualPBX products Dash basic is $10.99 a month in advance comes with 1,000 minutes and two toll free or local numbers, a metered line for VoIP devices is available at $4.99 extra per month. Dash Unlimited is priced at $27.99 comes with unlimited minutes and 1 included metered line. Office is $24.99 for 2-19 lines has 1,000 talk and conference minutes as well as 1,000 outgoing fax pages. The metered line is extra as is the e911 service.
However, what features do you get with VirtualPBX and is it worth the savings over Vonage?
VirtualPBX have refurbished their service offerings over the last few years by up grading their entry level virtual telephone system and rebranding it as Dash. It is an important step for VirtualPBX as they now have two products Dash and Office the former aimed at the small business virtual telephone system market and the latter at the SMB IP/PBX business. The problem is of course being able to keep sufficient differentiation between the products to justify both their presence. Dash replaces Anywhere as the virtual telephone system and initially came with the full battery of VirtualPBX features though that seems to have been trimmed back now as it must have been effecting the flagship Office IP/PBX sales. Instead VirtualPBX have provided 40+ features many of which are typically found in the IP PBX portfolios of their competitors in Dash making it one of the most feature rich and capable virtual telephone services. On the other hand they have maintained the differentiation between Dash and Office by ensuring that the premier feature set remains available only to Office subscribers. However, there is still some cross-over at the top of the Dash range and Office which makes Dash Unlimited VirtualPBX’s top performer with regards sales. Dash Unlimited comes with 3 local or toll-free numbers, unlimited talk minutes, conference and fax usage as well as one included metered line for a softphone or mobile app which normally costs $4.99 a month on the other plans including Office. Strangely, Dash Unlimited comes with CRM integration included whereas it is an extra with Office, which is where you would expect such a feature to be standard.
Vonage has an extensive technical support network that can be contacted via phone or through their online ticket system. They have a service center portal where you can find how to documents and technical troubleshooting tips. VirtualPBX on the other hand has a more self-help philosophy with the focus on supplying access to a comprehensive set of online tools and documentation, which allows you to troubleshoot and fix most common problems. In most cases this will be the quickest and most efficient method, however, if you cannot resolve the problem their telephone support is only available during office hours Monday to Friday pacific time, and this could be a problem to some customers.
Both Vonage and VirtualPBX provide excellent IP PBX services for the SMB. They both have feature rich services and reputations for reliability and availability based on years of VoIP technology expertise and customer service experience. Vonage has the advantage of being able to customize your system by mixing and matching metered and unlimited extensions in order to get the most cost effective solution. Unfortunately, that can also come with an administrative overhead when reconciling billing. VirtualPBX on the other hand comes with a fixed price per extension – with unlimited calls – and is considerable cheaper per extension. With regards technical support, Vonage has the more comprehensive and available service, though VirtualPBX supplies customers with great online tools and documentation.
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