Behind the Technology Behind the Advancement of Virtual offices – Voice over IP (VoIP) Telephony


By providing access to network files, email and groupware, VPN has for a few years now been the engine for getting work done outside the main office, but what has recently made all the difference for creating the virtual office network is voice over IP (VoIP) or internet telephony.


Working from a remote virtual office location and just using a separate fixed line (the home phone, for instance) or a mobile phone is of course a workable option, but it is hardly a professional solution for someone permanently based at a remote office. It is also very expensive over the long term.

Having a VoIP phone and connecting to the phone system (PBX) at the main office creates a phone extension that is as integrated to the virtual office phone system as an extension on a desk in the main office. In this way, intra-office calls (that is, calls to any other extension, no matter where it is physically located) are free of charge and calls can be made to and received from external agencies in the same way as they would within the main office.

Implementing VoIP for remote virtual office workers can be done in a couple of different ways. The most comprehensive solution is to replace the main office PBX with a computer-based VoIP system, putting all staff wherever they are based onto VoIP phones. The initial investment in such a system can be substantial as VoIP handsets are as expensive as their traditional counterparts, though the overall cost can be mitigated by using an open source VoIP software solution like the much-acclaimed Asterisk system.

The cost of implementing such a VoIP system is also offest by the advantages it can bring. Even the smallest of organisations could offer such features as unlimited voicemail boxes, auto-attendants with different menu levels and functions, advanced call routing, and so on. The phone system can also be integrated with other applications such as a customer database or groupware like Microsoft Outlook, offering users screen alerts and information for incoming calls or one-click dialling. These are the kinds of virtual office features that have always separated ‘blue chip’ operations from small organisations.


  • For smaller organisations, rather than investing in an onsite VoIP server, a ‘hosted’ solution may be more appropriate. In this scenario, the PBX actually resides with the VoIP provider and the VoIP service is paid for on a subscription basis. Many of the same advanced voicemail, auto-attendant and call routing features are available. Avec Solutions, for instance, offers a hosted VoIP service for £10 a month per phone number, with each number including two simultaneous phone calls and up to 10 internal extensions. VoIP-to-VoIP phone calls are free, including to other VoIP providers, and calls to normal phones are charged at low rates starting at 1p per minute. Such a hosted solution would also be appropriate if a main office wanted to retain its traditional PBX, but simply add connectivity from the main office to outlying virtual offices.


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