So you are starting a small business or own one already – which type of phone system should you choose? There is the traditional landline, and there is a virtual phone system, also called a virtual Private Branch Exchange (PB) system. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. We will be taking a close look at these two options in this article.

First of all, an exact description of the fairly recent virtual phones may be necessary so that you can make an informed business decision regarding your business office communications – which is the very heart of all companies. Virtual refers to anything that is handled over the Internet or online. There is voice over IP systems or VOIP, like the very popular program Skype, which has approximately 300 million users now, as reported by Microsoft which purchased Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion.

Some sceptics still resist using the internet for their phone communications. However, those technologies are becoming increasingly improve and soon may become the norm. Many households are also getting rid of their traditional landline phones and going mobile instead. A majority of our daily communications are increasingly going mobile or wireless, and many are connected with the Internet. Most of our business communication done these days, whether you like it or not, is done through the web, cell phones, and computers.

In the current environment, all business need to at least take the “virtual option” into consideration when getting their communication system set up. So, the following are 5 reasons why a virtual phone system should be used, along with reasons why you should not use one.

1. Cost – Running a virtual phone system is definitely cheaper. Not only are operating cost lower, but the initial setup or startup expenses will be a lot less compared to a traditional system. If you are using your cell phones right now, the costs will be quite minimal compared to having a landline system installed and maintained.

2. Setup Time – Setup time with a virtual web-based system is almost instant, which is one of its best advantages. If you are going to be ordering virtual phones, it will take a few days or week for them to arrive. However, most of your phone system will only take a few minutes to get up and running. Your current business phone numbers can even be ported over to your online provider or service.

3. Mobility – When a virtual system is used it can provide your business and employees with total mobility. Your company and staff can be reached 24/ from any place in the world. If you have an active travelling salesforce, then it can be very beneficial to have your communications and data in the “cloud.”

4. Efficiency – When all of your business communications are easy to access for everyone it can make your operation very efficient. Your employees can easily send and receive all memos, sales stats, faces, and more. Using Internet faxing, message forwarding, voice and perhaps a 24/7 virtual receptionist can help your business run smoothly.

5. Interconnectability – Computers run most modern businesses and have all of your companies office communications and phones connected neatly to your computers and the web will help to digitize and synchronize your entire operation. Sales orders, calls, fills, all can be in digital format where all of your employees can easily access them. Having your office communications plugged in directly to your phone calls, fax, and email through the use of a virtual PBX system connects the entire show.

Those all are valid reasons for using a virtual phone. However, there are a couple of drawbacks as well. The issues of security and privacy need to be considered any time the Internet is involved. All of us have heard horror stories when it comes to private data being hacked or stolen and any information that is stored on a computer that is connected to the Internet can be potentially compromised. Although security is slowly improved and many people today use the web for things like phone communications, faxing, shopping, and banking, there is still general overall distrust that has to be taken into consideration.

Although increased security measures and encryption make a majority of communications secure, it is still important for small businesses to ensure that any sensitive data that is stored online is totally secure. That is also true for business phone communications, so check with your provider to find exactly what security measures they have in place and how they store your private data online. You should also thoroughly research your provider to ensure they offer good support and reliable service.

Another issue has to do with your client or customer base, particularly if you have a list of traditional clients who prefer to use landlines (especially when sensitive information or data is involved). You might want to stick with using a traditional system if that is the case. However, if your customers are totally comfortable communicating using the web and virtual hones, then a better option might be a virtual PBX system for your business. Although a majority of your customers will not be able to tell the difference, the saying of the customer is always right should be followed and is a factor here.

Finally, it might be a bit redundant to state, but your business communications are all critical to your operation or business success. Just remember, that in this day of all sorts of cloud providers, VOIP services, and cell phones – going with a more efficient and cheaper virtual phone system definitely is an option that is available to you, but the choice is always yours to make.