Business phone system - where to start?

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Was wondering if someone could point me in the right direction.  Work
for a company that has about 30 employees.  We currently have a
digital phone system (not sure which one) with voicemail and a single
T1 line.  We have an 800 number and get calls constantly throughout
the day (sometimes all the lines are used up).  I'm a network engineer
(new to the company) but have no experience in phone systems and have
been told "go find a new one".  Apparently we've had all sorts
problems with the system crashing, lost voicemails..etc...so they want
to start over.  So where do I even start to look for a new system?
How do I know which ones are good and which are junk?  Buy or lease?
Any advice would be appreciated.


Re: Business phone system - where to start?




The Other Mike wrote:

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Look in your local yellow pages directory for PBX vendors.  Establish
a relationship with one of them and be prepared to spend some real
money.  30 employees, say 40 extensions, I'd put the ballpark anywhere
from $8k to $50k, depending on what level of reliability and features
you are looking for.   You may be able to upgrade your existing PBX,
preserving your investment in desk sets and line cards.

    --Dale




Re: Business phone system - where to start?


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Even if you never buy from them <www.ablecomm.com> is a great site to
learn about phone systems in general and Panasonic and NEC in
particular. I've setup 5 or so system from them.

But if you want a T1 interface, study then really really really consider
bringing in a firm to at least handle that aspect of things, if not all
of it.



Re: Business phone system - where to start?


wrote:

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The first place to start is identifying your present system :-)

Once you know what you have, you can start identifying the problems it
has.  A T-1 can have 24 incoming voice lines and with 30 employees, it
isn't likely that you have 24 working lines, unless you're into
bookmaking.   It may be that you just need to work with your present
or a new vendor and repair the present system, or, keep the phones and
replace the cabinet.  

Of course, the crash may be so bad and the system/vendor may be such
that you really want to replace the system.  In that case, sit down
and analyze what you have and what you are trying to accomplish.  Are
you growing?  Do you anticipate more lines or employees in the next 3
years, will they telecommute, etc. etc.  Then create a proposal
request, or call a telephone system vendor, and get a few quotes.

A good vendor might be able to identify issues that you haven't even
thought of when it comes time to replace the system.

Of course, you could always post your system and thoughts here and get
a few opinions :-)


Carl Navarro



Re: Business phone system - where to start?


Hello,

The Other Mike wrote:
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Have you looked into Asterisk software?  It is a PBX application running
  under Linux on an x86 system.  It is freeware developed mainly by a
company called Digium.  Digium sells PC boards such as one to terminate
a T-1, for example.  It might be a very worthwhile, and much cheaper,
alternative to other PBX systems mentioned in earlier replies.

Links:

   http://www.asterisk.org/

   http://www.digium.com

You might be pleasantly surprised.

- greg
   gknopf@indy.nonotmorespam.rr.com
   (remove "nonotmorespam" in the above, of course)


Re: Business phone system - where to start?



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It would be interesting to hear success/horror stories for real
companies that are running asterisk.  I run it at home and it is
certainly fun tinkering with all the pbx features.  The one ability
I've wanted for years was to be able to route all calls with caller-id
is blocked *or* unavailable to voicemail.  That was nice but the
feature that I ended up liking the most once I had it was email
notification of voicemail.  When someone leaves a message I get the
caller-id-name and caller-id-number along with the time, date,
duration of the message emailed to me.  I can then call in and pick up
the voicemail.  In theory I can even have the voicemail mailed to me,
but I don't do that.  That's the good stuff.

The bad stuff is that asterisk is still very failure prone.  There
have been a few times where my asterisk has been stuck, spinning its
wheels using up 100% of the cpu due to lame select/poll type code.
Asterisk also isn't fully open source in the way that GNU programs
are.  While the asterisk sources are available under GPL it is really
dual licensed under GPL and a proprietary one.  Because of the
proprietary license, asterisk doesn't use any GPL-ed libraries.
Everything is either home grown or uses older versions of code that
has looser licenses.  For tricky code like SIP, rtp, databases
etc. that really hurts it.

-wolfgang
--
Wolfgang S. Rupprecht                http://www.wsrcc.com/wolfgang /
Direct SIP URL Dialing: http://www.wsrcc.com/wolfgang/phonedirectory.html


Re: Business phone system - where to start?



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I browsed around the links a while, and the main think I can't
figure out is what desk sets are people using?

All the interface boards seem to support are standard analog
POTS line DTMF phones. No way is anybody going to be happy with
a $7 phone from Target sitting on their desk, even if it does
have a clear housing and a pink neon light that flashes when it
rings. ;)

Since running a POTS line to each desk just ain't going to cut
it, do people running asterisk usually use VOIP/Ethernet sets?
Does anybody really use those PC-based "soft" phones?

--
Grant Edwards                   grante             Yow!  .. I have a
                                  at               VISION! It's a RANCID
                               visi.com            double-FISHWICH on an
                                                   ENRICHED BUN!!


Re: Business phone system - where to start?



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I have a Grandstream Budgetone, Sipura SPA-841, and a Sipura SPA-3000
hooked to my asterisk.  All three are 10base-t SIP phones with some
PBX-like features built in (hold, music-on-hold support and transfer).
The Budgetone looks a bit like a kid's toy phone, but the voice
quality is better than the higher priced SPA-841 multiline phone.
Voipsupply seems to have a pretty comprehensive listing if you want to
get a feel for what is available.  (I haven't bought anything from
them, but their listing is pretty handy.)

  http://www.voipsupply.com/index.php?cPath=95_105

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Cheap analog phones also tend to cause echo problems for the remote
end.  It is best to avoid analog phones attached to an analog
telephone adaptor.

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The soft phones seem to have many more voice dropouts.  (My guess is
that whenever the PC momentarily uses the cpu for something else the
voice suffers.)

-wolfgang
--
Wolfgang S. Rupprecht                http://www.wsrcc.com/wolfgang /
Direct SIP URL Dialing: http://www.wsrcc.com/wolfgang/phonedirectory.html


Re: Business phone system - where to start?


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We cut over from a stone age Toshiba system to an asterisk based one a
couple of months ago.

We settled on the snom 360 http://snom.com/snom360_voip_phone.html on
all the desks.

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When out of the office.

We use Idefisk http://www.asteriskguru.com/tools/idefisk_beta.php
together with a Plantronics DSP 400 foldable headset
http://www.plantronics.com/north_america/en_US/products/cat640035/cat640035/prod440042

--
                    -- Rod --
rodd(at)polylogics(dot)com


Re: Business phone system - where to start?



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A more general question: Do people complain about the VOIP
latency, or is that only a problem when you're routing VOIP
over the internet?  For a while I used a "calling-card"
long-distance service which I'm pretty sure was using VOIP for
the long hauls, and it was completely unusable.  The actual
sound fidility was great, but the 500+ ms latencies made
carrying on a normal conversation impossible.

[I think most of the digtial cellular systems have too much
latency for comfortable use as well.]

--
Grant Edwards                   grante             Yow!  Now that we're
                                  at               in LOVE, you can BUY
                               visi.com            this GOLDFISH for a 48%
                                                   DISCOUNT.


Re: Business phone system - where to start?


On Thu, 12 Jan 2006, Grant Edwards wrote:
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There are three issues with VOIP, in ascending order of annoyance:
  . audio quality
  . latency
  . dropouts

I have discovered with Skype that it can be quite good, or quite painful.
A lot depends upon your IP connectivity and your equipment.

For example:

I noticed a definite improvement in Skype quality when I upgraded my DSL
to 1.5M/896K from 640K/256K.  Supposedly, even a dialup is usable, and any
broadband should be OK.  I suspect that it isn't just a matter of
bandwidth to accomodate the Skype packets, but also what else may be
flowing on the pipe, and that the more margin you have the better.

The other thing that I noticed is that a headset on my desktop Mac,
connected directly to the network which has the DSL modem (I have a static
/29, so there's no NAT on my DSL service), performs noticably better than
a wireless phone going to a Windows laptop (with a faster CPU than the
Mac!) which goes by 802.11/g to a Linksys WAP/NAT/router and then on to
the network which has the DSL modem.

In *theory*, the DSL line should be the bottleneck in either case, because
everything else is faster than the DSL's maximum bandwidth.  In
*practice*, the more hops things take, the less well it will work.

Another factor is that a laptop is frantically trying to conserve power
while it's sitting idle.  Laptops really not a good platform to run a lot
of network I/O without someone interacting at it.  If it's in its screen
saver, don't expect it to be high-bandwidth I/O.

Unfortunately, the cordless phone doesn't have a Mac driver yet, so I
can't try it on the Mac desktop and see how much the cordless aspect of
the phone cuts into performance.  I hope that will change soon.

What this all means is that you have to do some engineering and empirical
testing before you get something that you will find satisfactory.  The
first thing that you try probably will not be what you want to use.  What
looks good on paper may not be the best solution.

There is also the general engineering rule: simpler is better.

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I've experienced that too.

-- Mark --

http://panda.com/mrc
Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for lunch.
Liberty is a well-armed sheep contesting the vote.


Re: Business phone system - where to start?


Hey Mike,

Try here: http://www.pbxinfo.com/index.php?module=bkbCompare

This site is a really good resource for new PBX systems.

Also you can request a quote for voip systems there as well. Just put
in your requirements and vendors will contact you back with thier
solutions.
http://www.pbxinfo.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=RFQ&file=index


Good Luck!


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