Re: Planning a modern telephone key system? [telecom]

I'm trying to get up to speed on modern systems.

> For discussion purposes, let's suppose a new office is being > established. At first, there will be four people, two partners and > two employees. The partners want four trunk lines and an intercom > between each telephone set. They want five telephone sets-one for > each employee, plus another phone for guests in the reception area.

Please answer these questions:

  1. What's the budget?

a. Is the building wired for "home run" connections? b. Are the users willing to learn how to use and maintain a PBX?

  1. Will they have in-house voice mail, or will they use a LEC service?
  2. Are they willing to have common intercom, or do they want a PBX?
  3. Do they want work-at-home capability?
  4. Do they require emergency power?
What features beyond what the old key systems offered are available on > modern systems that might benefit this small office?

A. Local caller ID, distinctive call waiting, and local conferencing.

B. The ability to do call-forwarding when a station is busy or doesn't answer (to be fair, this is also an option many LECs offer).

C. Local VOice Mail.

D. Selective alerting and routing of incoming calls, based on CID, Trunk, and/or Time of Day.

E. Flexible outgoing call routing and restrictions, including fax compatibility.

F. Selective public address, which allows users to announce a call when the need arises.

G. Automatic translation and digit insertion/removal for dial-around services.


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Bill Horne
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Thanks for your response.

Figure the low side. A basic system that is reliable.

Could you explain what that means?

Probably not. It would seem such a small office (four people) would not want nor need a PBX when a key system could do everything needed.

Which is cheaper, and which is better?

A single intercom channel would be adequate.

Could you elaborate how that impacts the office telephone system?

Yes. The telephones should work at all times, even if there is a commercial failure.

Are call routing and restrictions really necessary today when unlimited domestic calling is so cheap?*

Could you explain "dial-around" services? That's not the old prefix, e.g.

10222, to get an alternate long distance carrier?

Thanks again. Learning a lot just from your questions.

  • In the old days of city limits and message units, many businesses had multiple lines--a city number and a suburban number--to save on message units in both directions. But today, many of the old zones have been expanded so that message unit calls are now free, and most people have calling plans with wide area calling so that the units don't come in play. While message units are certainly still out on the low-use plans, I dare say most people these days never heard of the concept. Heck, I think a lot of people out there use phones (such as their cell phone) that offer free national calling, and they don't think of "toll charges" at all.
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You're welcome.

We need a number. There's no point being coy: everything starts with a budget amount.

Does each desk have a separate wire that goes back to a utility closet, so that each phone can be connected to a pbx or voice mail/intercom system, or are they setting up the business in a house or older building with "daisy chain" wiring?

They might want to change their minds: a PBX, especially used, may cost less than a new key system, and the definition of what a "key system" is has gotten so blurry that they're probably going to be considering a "PBX" no matter what.

The LEC is cheaper in the short term, but it's an operating expense that can't be amortized. A PBX/Voice Mail system won't be at the tipover point for a couple of years, and that's assuming that nothing breaks, but a PBX can provide features that make the investment worthwhile.


It's a new set of software features which combines call-forward- no-answer/busy, follow-me capabilities, and sometimes try-until- found/answered (a.k.a. "find me" service) options that will ring a home phone, a cell phone, and the voice mail system in sequence. Google Voice offers it for free.

Then the budget will need to have room for a UPS.

Domestic calling might be inexpensive if a business uses VoIP lines, but businesses still pay a lot for old-fashioned virtual-circuit toll calls.

Domestic calling is "cheap" for personal users, but not necessarily for a business, so it's usually a good idea to have some screening in place.

A PBX can route all fax calls to a LEC-provided trunk, and recognize incoming fax calls before alerting a human, thus sparing the company the need to pay for a dedicated fax line.

Same idea; some services such as Google Voice require users to dial outgoing calls by first dialing a ten-digit "local" call.


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