You’re a small business owner, consultant, or real estate agent, and your business has grown to the point where your mobile phone is not enough — you need a real phone system — capable of taking multiple incoming calls and forwarding them to you (and/or any of your employees), taking a message if you’re busy, etc.

(Skip this review and sign up for a FREE 30-Day Trial of RingCentral).

Companies like RingCentral can provide small business owners and entrepreneurs with a Virtual PBX.

A Virtual PBX is, in layman’s terms, “An Invisible Phone System”. It works just like a business-grade phone system you’ve used at your previous employer – but you can’t see the equipment (it’s kept off-site). And it works just like – or even better – than that old phone system: people call your company by dialing one main phone number, and dial an extension to reach your employee(s). What’s different? There’s no installation, no complicated set-up, no box, no lines to install. And RingCentral uses your and your staff’s existing cell phones, home phones, or Voip phones. You pay one low monthly fee (starting at $ 12.99 for 300 minutes of incoming local, long distance or toll-free calls per month). That’s it.

RingCentral Professional - Get a toll free number starting at $9.99/month

I purchased the RingCentral service (which included a Toll Free Number) for one of my companies. Want to know the big improvements it made to my business? Compare “Then” and “Now”:

Then: I had a cell phone, and a separate cell phone for work calls

Now: I have one phone (my cell phone) for all my incoming calls, but two phone numbers: one for work (provided from RingCentral); one for personal calls (my existing cell phone number).

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Then: I had to guess who was calling me during the weekends

Now: From Friday at 5:30PM through Monday at 7:45AM, any customer who calls my RingCentral Number is automatically routed directly into a company voice mailbox.

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Then: I had to use your precious cell phone minutes to check my voicemail

Now: My voicemail is sent directly and instantly to my email address. I can click, open, and play my message from any computer.

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Then: All my staffpeople had to give customers their cell phone numbers, which are all different from my number. Customers would always ask, “Are you guys a real company”?

Now: All my customers call one phone number (plus a 3-digit extension) to reach any of my staffmembers. Their call is forwarded to my staffperson’s own cell phone, seamlessly. My customers think they’re calling a “real” company.

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Then: I had to rely on speaking in person to customers, or referring them to my website, to advertise specials and quote prices, or give them directions to my office.

Now: Customers hear, after my main greeting, “Press 4 for Rates; Press 5 for Specials and Promotions; Press 6 for directions”, etc.

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Then: My outsourced accountant had his own phone number.

Now: My customers can reach my accountant by dialing your RingCentral, and then by pressing (say) 2 for “Jim Smith”. Oh, Jim keeps his old phone number. He gets incoming calls from my own customers – nothing else changes.

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I talk to a lot of other small business owners and entrepreneurs who never heard of RingCentral, and want to know more. Typical questions are:

How does it work, in plain English? Companies like RingCentral own a “Mega” phone system that holds not just your company’s phone system, but hundreds or thousands more. I call it the “Big PBX in the Sky”. RingCentral programs the Big PBX to manage tens of thousands of incoming phone calls at a time, all to different phone numbers. Rest assured, your company’s number and calls are not inadvertently connected to any other companies within the Big PBX.

How do I program it? RingCentral has an easy-to-use web page that lets you add mailboxes/extensions, play and record your greetings, etc. Or you can set it up by using your own phone. I admit, programming RingCentral (which is arguably the easiest to use of all) can be overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out where you “are” in the set-up menu. Don’t want to bother at all? Just pay RingCentral $50 to record your greetings and voice prompts.

Can I make outbound calls? Technically, yes – you make those calls just as you always have. Services like RingCentral don’t ‘touch’ your outbound calls – it’s for inbound calls only. Note that those inbound minutes probably will impact your/your staff’s cell phone plans, as they will be receiving calls.

Is my RingCentral number a local one? Local numbers are available in most major markets.

My business already has a phone number. Can I transfer it over to RingCentral? Yes (in most cases) – RingCentral will transfer it over for you after you sign up for the service.

Can I get a Toll Free Number or Vanity number? You bet! There’s a promotion now from RingCentral: Get a 1-8xx number for FREE.

So when your company’s growth curve starts to accelerate, consider a phone system like RingCentral. I can’t recommend it enough that you get their free trial. (and check out their FAQ for more ‘plain english’ descriptions of what it can do.)

To sign up for RingCentral’s FREE trial, click here.