What is Virtual PBX?

When researching business phone systems, chances are you’ll come across the term “virtual PBX” a time or two. It’s important to know how a virtual PBX works, and how it differs from virtualization, when choosing a solution that will fit your business’s needs.

Generally speaking, a virtual PBX is a phone system where the components that actually power the system live someplace other than the location where it is being used. Virtual PBXs are commonly referred to when talking about hosted PBXs, as the two are essentially the same. In fact, the terms “virtual” and “hosted” are often used interchangeably, but they generally refer to the same type of phone system.

PBX surrounded by office phones

What is a PBX?

The term PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange, which is a business telephone system that allows calls to be “exchanged” (or switched) between different “branches” (or lines) within a business.

The term PBX originated with call switchboards of the past, where operators would manually switch calls to the correct line or extension by unplugging and plugging cords. 

As technology evolved, machines took over the actual switching of phone lines, but the same general concept remains.

What is a Virtual PBX?

If a PBX is a phone system that receives, routes, and/or switches calls to the correct extension, then a virtual PBX simply completes these functions in a virtualized environment. It’s important to remember that virtual PBX is often used to refer to a hosted PBX, and that both of these terms describe phone systems where the hardware is stored somewhere other than your actual place of business (typically at a data center or cloud center).

In the traditional sense, a PBX is a system by which incoming calls are exchanged between several branches, which allows multiple users to share phone lines within a business. A virtual PBX abides by the same concept, but rather than utilizing physical hardware, the components exist virtually.

A virtual PBX, or hosted PBX, can include all of the features of a VoIP phone system. They typically include Interactive Voice Response (IVR) or an auto-attendant to answer calls and route them to the correct extension, as well as call forwarding features such as Find Me, Follow Me.

So, while the terms virtual PBX and hosted PBX are often used in various scenarios, they both generally refer to the same type of phone system.

To learn more about our virtual PBX and hosted PBX solution, check out our Switchvox Cloud page.

What is Virtualization?

Another term that often gets confused with virtual PBX and hosted PBX is “virtualization”. Virtualization refers to the method by which software is used to enable one single, on-site server to run multiple applications and systems at the same time. Without virtualization, each technology used within a business might have its own dedicated server.

For example, you might have one server for voicemail, one for file storage, one for call control, one for email, etc. To eliminate the need for all these individual servers, virtualization software basically puts them all on one single “virtualized” server, saving your business money, resources, and complexity. So, virtualization also refers to the process of consolidating technology and IT resources, while virtual PBX simply refers to the virtual phone system that answers and routes calls.

The dual uses of the term “virtual” can get confusing, but the main thing to remember is that a “virtual PBX” refers to a component of a hosted phone system, while “virtualization” is a process that allows on-premise phone systems to consolidate resources to a single server.

To learn more about virtualization and how it saves businesses money, time, and resources, take a look at our virtualization page.

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