Hosted PBX features explained (Part 1)

Hosted PBX is a telecom term becoming ubiquitous to more and more businesses that either implemented this business phone system or planning to in the very near future. From the few features of traditional landlines that we all knew we are now bombarded with dozens of new terms praised and named in various ways by the VoIP Providers, that you don’t even know if they would be useful or not for your business.

An educated decision is always the best decision, so we have concluded that it’s time to bring all these Hosted PBX features together in two comprehensive articles that will clarify all these VoIP terms once and for all.

What is a Hosted PBX?

It’s only natural that we start with an explanation of the service itself before going into more detail.

Also known as: Virtual PBX, Cloud PBX, Hosted phone system, Hosted IP PBX

PBX is an acronym for Private Branch Exchange, a centralized private telephone network comprised of all of the company’s phone numbers and users, who can have individual phone numbers or extensions. The PBX software can be installed on dedicated hardware equipment – an on-site PBX, or on a remote server – making it a Hosted PBX, so the difference between a hardware-PBX and a Hosted PBX is the location where the software is hosted.

Answering Rules

Also known as: Business Hour Rules, Day / Night Modes, Time-of-Day Call Routing, Night service

This Hosted PBX feature gives the user various options to handle incoming calls using pre-established patterns. For example during business hours the calls can be sent to the employees, while outside business hours they can be sent to the company’s voicemail or to cell phones. The options may include the possibility to handle calls differently during weekends, on certain days (such as statutory holidays), between certain hours or depending on the caller’s phone number.

Tip: Besides just sending the calls to Voicemail outside business hours you can record various company details or useful information for your callers.

Black List

Also known as: Call Screening, Block Unknown Numbers, Call Filtering, Selective Call Block List, Call Screen, Selective Call Rejection, Anonymous Call Rejection, Call Blocking

The Black List feature allows the blocking of incoming calls from numbers the users don’t wish to receive calls from. For example, it can be used to reject anonymous calls, or calls from certain telemarketers.

Tip: This is a great tool especially for companies using a Toll Free number, avoiding additional incoming call charges.

Call Forwarding

Also known as: Call Forward, Call Divert

Call Forwarding redirects incoming calls to another destination, whether that is another phone number (within the Hosted PBX or an external one), another extension or various call groups (Hunt Groups or Call Queues – please see below). Options usually include settings for when the user is busy, when there is no answer, or always (unconditional).

Tip: Forwarding a call to an external number will result in additional charges or calling plan minutes being used, as the phone system makes a call to the forwarding number.

Caller ID

Also known as: Caller identification, CID, called calling line identification (CLID), calling number delivery (CND), calling number identification (CNID), calling line identification presentation (CLIP)

The Caller ID sends the caller’s identity (phone number) to the number of destination.

Tip: Caller ID is not the same with Caller Name ID (known as CNAM) which shows the number and name of a caller during an incoming call.

Call Identifiers

Also known as: Call Labels

If a user is part of multiple call groups (Hunt Groups / Queues) Call Identifiers is an easy way to determine on which line a call is coming. For example, if the user is part of the Sales Queue and also has a direct number, he will see a text indicating if the call is coming to the Sales Queue together with the Caller ID.

Tip: Some business VoIP providers also provide the Confirmation option, which prompts the user to accept or reject a call. This is very useful in case you have your office line forwarded to your personal mobile number and it will give you the opportunity to answer with the company’s name instead of treating the call as personal.

Call Logs

Also known as: Call History, Call log reports, Call logging, Call Detail Reports (CDR)

The Call Logs are list of calls made, received and missed on a phone line, or on the entire PBX. These are usually available online in a customer portal and also indicate the time of a call, duration (or start / end of call) and the status (if the call was answered, the caller got a busy tone, or the receiver was unavailable), as well as offer an option to be downloaded into an .xls/.xlsx/.csv file.

Call Park / Call Pickup

Also known as: Directed Call Pickup, Call Intercept

A parked call is an incoming call that is sent to a “virtual call parking lot” from where it can be picked up by anyone else. This is a very useful feature for receptionists for example, who need to find out who should handle a certain call, while ensuring the line is free for other calls to come in, or a user who answers a call from another station and needs to continue it from another. During this time the caller is put on hold.

Tip: This feature can also be used to retrieve (intercept) a call that is in progress on another line without having to use Call Transfer (for example if a caller reached Billing instead of Technical Support)

Call Queuing

Also known as: Call Queue, Call Queues, Virtual Queue

This Virtual PBX feature provides various call routing capabilities, especially for businesses with a high volume of incoming calls, and is one of the must-have Call Center features. The callers are put on hold while waiting for the next available agent, while listening to music or personalized periodic announcements. The settings include the maximum number of calls to be queued, a queue timeout (time to keep the caller in the queue), destinations on queue timeout, intervals to play the announcements, wrap-up time for agents (time to wait before getting a new call), call patterns (ring all agents / fewest calls received / most recent available, etc.).

Call Recording

Also known as: Automatic call recording

Most business phone systems have the capability of recording the conversations and store them on the server. It usually allows the administrator to select the users, conferences or queues to be recorded.

Tip: If you don’t want your recordings to be stored by your VoIP provider you can ask for them to be automatically emailed once the call is completed.

Call Transfer

Also known as: Live Call Transfer, Call Transferring, Transfer

Call Transfer re-sends an answered call from the hosted phone system to another internal or external destination (extension or number).

Call Waiting

Also known as: Call Hold, Hold

This well-known service plays a sound when a second call comes in during an already established call.

Tip: Some providers offer this option separately from Call Swap, which allows the user to put the first call on hold and pick up the new one.

Company Directory

Also known as: Network Directory

The Company Directory is a list of all the users (extensions) that are part of the same Hosted PBX system. Instead of remembering a colleague’s extension number (which in large businesses can be quite difficult) the user just dials a part of the party’s name, and the system makes a direct call. Once new users are added or existing ones are changed the list is automatically updated, eliminating the need for a person to maintain the accuracy of the information.

Tip: It can also be used as Dial-by-Name option in the company’s Auto Attendant, so that callers who know the employees’ names could call directly even without knowing the extension.

Conduit

The Conduit feature is less known but of great value for businesses with multiple office locations. Without it users from different locations would first have to dial the other office’s main number and then enter the extension they want to reach, while using the Conduit the caller only needs to dial the office’s code (2 digits) plus the other party’s extension.

Conference Room

Also known as: Conference Bridge, Audio conferencing

A Conference Room involves more than 3 users being in the same call at a certain time. The callers dial an extension / one or more dedicated numbers, enter the conference number and a PIN code and participate in the same phone conversation. The administrator of a conference usually has the possibility to invite, eliminate or mute attendees.

Tip: A Conference Room can be an option in your company Auto Attendant, so that callers can easily reach it. It can use various local numbers, Toll Free or International numbers.

Direct Inward System Access (DISA)

Also known as: Voice Portal Calling, Mobile Access

DISA stands for Direct Inward System Access and enables a user to call from the business VoIP line by calling his / her extension and entering a PIN number. This way the minutes used are taken from the business calling plan and the user dials out using the company’s Caller ID.

Want to know more about the Hosted PBX features list? Check the continued article here.

Part 2

Distinctive Ring

Also known as: Ident-A-Call, Smart Ring

A Hosted PBX user can receive calls from internal sources, external sources, transferred calls or calls coming to the company or department queue. All these calls can be identified easily by setting a different ringtone for each type of incoming calls.

Do Not Disturb

When active, the Do Not Disturb service determines the PBX system to treat the incoming call just like the user is on another call.

Emergency Redirect

Also known as: Call Forwarding Unavailable, Call Forwarding Out of Reach

This Virtual PBX feature provides the capability to automatically redirect your incoming calls to another destination (another phone number or extension) when your extension/ number is offline. This feature is crucial to ensure that no calls are missed even in the event of an Internet or power outage.

Find me / Follow me

Also known as: Single Number Reach, Sequential Ring / Simultaneous Ring

This business phone service allows you to define a phone number which is alerted sequentially or simultaneously with your main AstraQom number upon receiving an incoming call. If you do not answer, the call is released and the service moves on to calling the next number.

Hide My Number

Also known as: Call Block, Caller ID Block

Allows a Hosted PBX user to restrict his number from showing while making a call; the calls are thus sent as anonymous.

Hunt Group

Also known as: Ring Group, Call Hunting, Distribution Groups, Line Hunting

The Hunt Group distributes a call coming on one number to multiple devices, ringing all idle users, until the call is picked up. The office phone system can be configured to ring simultaneously (all users at the same time), sequentially (if the first user is not available, ring the next available agent) or in a cycle (in a loop).

The feature also allows the user to choose whether to accept a call or reject it, using the Call Prompt option. Once a call comes in, the user is prompted to enter 1 to accept the call or 2 to reject it; this option is available for the Cycle and Sequence modes.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Also known as: Auto Attendant, Virtual Interactive Voice Response, Automated Attendant

An IVR provides the caller with a list of choices designed to connect to the desired extension much faster. As such, the Auto Attendant decreases pressure on the company’s receptionist by eliminating the need to filter and distribute calls. Multiple IVR trees are available at no additional charge.

Intercom

Also known as: Paging, Push to Talk

AstraQom can set up a paging extension that will send intercom calls over the speaker system integrated in your IP Phones. If you want to relay a message to some or all employees in your company, you only need to dial the paging extension and the other parties will hear your voice on their speakerphones without the need to pick up a call. You may choose between two-way audio, so that the other party can respond, and one-way audio, when your voice is sent to the devices without the possibility of receiving an answer.

IP Restriction

IP restriction is a feature that allows you to restrict the access to the hosted phone service to only one IP address. This option is crucial if you wish to increase the security of your lines and ensure that they are not used by anyone outside your network.

Manager Call Monitoring

Also known as: Barge-in, Call Mentoring, Call Monitoring

The Manager Call Monitoring feature allows you to listen to an ongoing conversation taking place between one of your company’s lines and an outside line or between two internal lines. You may access the call with two-way audio (call participants can hear you), use the Whisper option to communicate with one of the parties or the Spy option, without those persons being aware they are being listened to.

Ringout

Also known as: Click to Call, Click-to-Talk, Request-a-Call, Call-me-Now

This feature is a website script which can be used by customers on their websites. Your website will ask the user to enter his call-back number and will connect to your Hosted PBX in order to make an outgoing call to the specified number.

Selective Outbound Destinations

Also known as: Authorization codes

This feature allows you to restrict an extension from placing calls permanently or to certain destinations. You can choose between having all destinations allowed, all restricted, allowed if matching certain prefix criteria or restricted if matching prefix criteria.

Speed Dial

Also known as: Abbreviated Dialing, Speed Call

This feature allows you to set up short numbers to call your favourite numbers easier.

3-Way Call (Three-Way Calling

Also known as: Conference Calling, N-Way Calling, Teleconference, Group Call

This service enables you to connect with two other parties in the same call through your Hosted PBX system.

Voicemail-to-email

Also known as: Enhanced Voicemail

This service enables your callers to record messages in case you are not answering, are busy or not reachable, as well as press a key to reach an emergency number of your choice. A copy of the message is sent by email to the address(es) of your choice in audio format (wav) and with a text header showing source of the call and is also available for download on the AstraQom WebCare portal. This unique feature allows you to retrieve, listen, read and store your messages at any time and in any place.