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Found Your Calling?

This budget-friendly VOIP system beckons.

It's called preservation of capital--a fancy name for not spending money any sooner than you have to. That's what a virtual PBX like Vocalocity does for entrepreneurial businesses. You get the same fancy phoning features you would if you plunked down six to seven grand for an on-the-premises phone system but with VoIP calling services added in for one monthly rate. Your only out-of-pocket expense is $150 for each advanced three-line deskset you need to connect to the internet.

Vocalocity's all-you-can-call-in-North America Unlimited Extension plan is $39.99 per user per month. A phone company's servers, not local hardware, deliver caller ID, call forwarding, three-way calling and most other advanced features. To install the Vocalocity PBX, you just plug each Vocalocity phone into your wireless router/broadband connection, plug in its AC adapter and step back while it configures itself. I wish I owned a Windows PC with half the smarts of the Polycom SoundPoint IP 501 deskset I tried out. It's actually a small computer with a big, 4-by-2-inch LCD display that shows three lines, each with a distinct phone number. One could go to an auto-attendant for your company's main number while another is a customer service line.

How's call quality? Clear as a Baby Bell. Navigation of the phone menus is easy and logical, and users configure their personal phone preferences on a web page where your company administrator can download call logs and expense reports by station.

It isn't for everyone, but it isn't a bad interim solution until your company grows into something like an Avaya or Cisco LAN/PBX combo.

This story appears in the April 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »