IP phone service provider GoBeam is taking the guesswork out of how many calling minutes to buy with a new flat-fee pricing model that's based on how many phone sets customers have.IP phone service provider\u00a0GoBeam\u00a0is taking the guesswork out of how many calling minutes to buy with a new flat-fee pricing model that's based on how many phone sets customers have.With the new pricing for its virtual PBX (vPBX) service, customers pay $49.95 per phone, per month, for 25 to 49 phones, and pay $39.95 for 50 phones or more. That is a change from the old model that charged 3 to 5 cents per minute depending on the number of minutes customers bought."The all-you-can eat approach is a good one," says Naseem Choudhary, IT manager for start-up Ironport Systems, maker of messaging gateway appliances and a GoBeam customer.Currently, the company buys packages of calling minutes for each user, guessing how many each will need, but often buying too many or too few. "Typically my sales people and executives will be over their limits. Buying buckets of minutes is a worse thing to do than doing a flat rate," Choudhary says.VPBX includes phone service with call features like those found on standard PBXs, but these features are supplied from equipment within GoBeam's network. And because the service is IP-based, it can blend voice and data to deliver features not available with traditional PBXs.For instance, vPBX includes a feature called visual voice mail, in which customers can call up a Web page that lists by caller or phone number the phone calls they have received. The list includes audio attachments that can play back the message and a place where users can click to return the call.The GoBeam service also supports automatic call distribution so incoming calls are directed to any free phone grouped with the phone being called. Customers get audio conferencing and call-logging data to track how phones are being used. Broadband Internet access is also part of the vPBX offering.GoBeam says its services are directed at small and midsize businesses that want PBX functionality but not the expense or commitment of staff required to buy their own. In the case of Ironport, the company was growing beyond its four-line analog phone switch, but as a start-up, was uncertain just how big it would get.So it was difficult to decide whether to buy a PBX for 50 users that might hit capacity right away or buy one for 100 users that might sit with ports empty, Choudhary says. The price range was $30,000 to $50,000.Ironport considered a Centrex service and an IP PBX service. Choudhary was wary of Centrex because of past unsatisfactory experiences with local carriers, and GoBeam cost about 10% less.GoBeam's service lets the company use its existing phones that connect to GoBeam's router via an IP adapter and add IP phones one at a time as the company grows, Choudhary says. As Ironport expands into new office space, it saves money by not having to wire separately for phone and data networks, he says.He says he overcame being wary of a start-up provider."We're a start-up ourselves, so we're willing to give a new company a try," he says. "It might have been a different decision if I was making it for a 1,000-person company."In addition to direct service in California, GoBeam also provides the IP phone service that Verizon sells in Chicago and Ohio as Verizon's first out-of-region IP phone offering.