Got My Head In The Cloud

I’m in the middle of putting together an article about a startup company that’s developed a cloud-based “virtual” video server for both cable and telephone companies to use to deliver movies, TV shows, and other videos directly to homes over the Internet.

What struck me is just how similar the concept is to the virtual PBX that Phone.com offers to even the smallest business, even small ones with no more need than for home office phone service. Indeed the similarity extends to advanced residential phone users, who may have discovered that that the VoIP phone service offered to SOHO and small to medium businesses is also appropriate for some home users. Indeed I use Phone.com’s Virtual Office for both my home-based business and for my family’s personal needs.

Now here’s the key similarity between the virtual PBX and the new virtual video. In both the video distribution, and Phone.com service, the end user doesn’t have to pay for the hardware and software to run a switchboard. Given the state of modern VoIP technology it has, of course, been possible for nearly a decade now to buy a computer (preferably a server) and install VoIP switch software. The cost is a few thousand dollars or more – plus of course the never ending expense of technical support.

But with a Virtual PBX, the up-front equipment cost goes to zero (okay, the phone adapter may cost a few bucks, and the phone isn’t free, but we’re talking a few dozen dollars, not thousands). And the ongoing tech support expense likewise drops to nearly zero. There is, obviously, a server somewhere and technicians to care for it, but that’s Phone.com’s job, not the concern of the end user, who thus is free to concentrate on whatever his business is.

Which, of course, is a big part of the allure of so-called “cloud” based services such as a virtual PBX.

Oh, and did I mention the sexy virtual attendant I have that answers my family number and sends calls to the phones of family members located thousands of miles apart? But that’s for another day ….

Stuart Zipper is the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break and a contributing editor to Communications Technology.