Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) hosted switchboards enable small and
medium-sized marketing and advertising firms to pack as much professional
clout as the established heavy-hitters.

Hosted switchboards mean the one person operation just starting out can
compete on an equal footing with the larger players in the image stakes.
"Multiple incoming and outgoing extensions, studio-recorded on-hold messages
or music and the ability for calls to be seamlessly forwarded to employees'
cellphones without the caller being aware all combine into an affordable
telecoms solution that will grow with you as your business expands," says
Gregory Massel, MD of Switch Telecom.
A hosted switchboard can disguise the fact that you recently left your cushy
corporate job and you don't even have a pot plant, never mind a personal
assistant. "As unfortunate as it is, you can't build a reputation as a
credible marketer if industry talk is that you are working out of your
garage," said Mr Massel.
Establishing a corporate identity doesn't end with the printing of business
cards. Hosted switchboards offer the kind of telecommunications features
that were once the preserve of blue chip companies. Today, technology has
advanced to the point where one can create the image of the large
multinational while operating from a garden cottage.
Based in Johannesburg, Switch Telecom's array of telecoms products and
services is built on VoIP technology which means that the Internet is used
to connect calls to local and overseas telecoms operators. All that
potential clients require is a fixed or wireless Internet connection.
While hosted switchboard extensions run best off ADSL, a wireless broadband
connection means immunity to cable theft and the ability to be up and
running within 24 hours. "The recent five-day strike by 2 501 Telkom workers
perfectly illustrated the advantages of using alternative telecoms solutions
that never down tools. Any fault reported during August's industrial action
would no doubt have taken some time to resolve," says Massel.
Switch Telecom is able to tailor hosted switchboards to the specific needs
of clients by building unique functionality into the systems. A company in
Durban requested a service where callers telephoning their hosted
switchboard hear a recorded message. The system then records the caller's
number and emails the company requesting that they get in touch with the
The system is also able to email clients voice recordings of callers'
messages, automatically switch between different office hours and after
hours voice messages and call logs can be imported into spreadsheets for
analysis which ensures accountability and the limiting of excessive personal
use of work phones.
"The great thing about hosted switchboards is that there is no cost to
transfer calls between extensions in different locations so a Johannesburg
branch could communicate with a Cape Town branch at absolutely no cost. One
of Switch Telecom's call centre clients has chosen a hosted switchboard
solution for its ability to place incoming calls in a queue and then route
them to the first available agent, irrespective of the city the agent works
in," concludes Massel.
National, cellular and international calls are significantly cheaper than
applicable Telkom rates. Calls to the UK, USA and many European cities range
from as low as 30 cents per minute.