Phone Systems For Business
Voice Over IP (VOIP)? Key Systems?
There are many options when it comes to phone systems. Which way you go depends on your budget and the features that you require. Things like being able to transfer a call, intercom, voicemail and music on hold are all popular options.
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PHONE NETWORK CABLING
A key system, gives you features like music on hold, being able to transfer a call and intercom through the phone. At ADI, we recommend running a 4 pair phone cable from each phone location to the phone room (home run). You should run at least a Category 3 (CAT 3) cable for each location to the central location. This cable is rated for voice or data up to 10 Million bits per second (10Mbits/sec) and gives you a lot of flexibility. Since Cat 5 or 6 cable is now very close to the price of Cat 3, we just run Cat 6 for voice.
There are a variety of solutions from companies like Panasonic, Lucent, Avaya and Vodavi. All of the Cat 6 cables terminate at the phone switch, and this gives you the capability to transfer calls, music on hold, intercom, paging and other functions. The low-end systems will use your normal phones, but have limited functionality. Most will use proprietary phones (Panasonic phones will typically only work with a Panasonic system). This will give you all of the functions discussed above. Typically you will buy the basic phone system in a configuration like 3x6 (3 incoming lines and 6 stations or phones). Then you will expand it as you need. If you need more phone lines, you add a line card that adds 3 more lines. If you need more phones, you can add a 6 phone expansion card. If you need Voicemail, you can add a Voicemail expansion card. Typically they have an input that allows you to connect a tuner or CD player for music or advertisements on hold. The phones themselves will have options also. At the bottom end, it will just be a basic phone with no features. At the high-end, the phone will have an LCD screen that will display things like the time and date, caller ID info, speed dial names and so on.
VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL (VOIP)
VOIP is a popular choice today and is basically just digitized voice transported over your computer network. There are two places you might use VOIP:
Within your Business--With this option, the phones around your business are connected to the Ethernet Network and talk to a VOIP gateway that converts the VOIP stream to the Analog phone world outside. You will usually get all of the features above (Call transfer, music on hold, ETC.). But since each phone is on the network, you can get other features that are network related on your phone. Want to be able to check your stocks? Do a quick Google search? Look up the latest company directory? These are all possible from your phone with VOIP.
Outside your Business--Companies like Vonage have made VOIP outside your business a popular option. In this case, you could be using VOIP, normal Analog phones, or a phone system within your business. All will work. The difference is that instead of using AT&T or Sprint as your provider to the phone network, you would use a VOIP provider (like Vonage) instead. Why would you do that? Well, it is usually cheaper, has many more features, and they will bundle in free long distance calls. VOIP will REQUIRE that you have a high-speed Internet connection in to your business. Other than that, all you need is a Router that supports VOIP. So the Router will connect to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and provide you with an Ethernet connection for your Computer Network and a Phone Line connection for your phones or phone system.