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Voicemail Systems...

ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
So, my office's 15ish-year-old Vangard digital voicemail system may have just kicked it. We have a digital phone system (not VOIP), about 25 phones on it. I've never purchased a voicemail system before; what should I be looking for? Should I be taking this opportunity to swap out the whole phone system? About what price am I looking at (the tech said $5,000-$6,000 probably; I have no reason to doubt him, just verifying). I'm kind of nervous about popping over to a VOIP system, because our internet is down more often than our phones, and if one is down, it's nice to have the other to use for communication.

Any advice more experienced people can offer would be appreciated.

Thanatos on

Posts

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Avoid VoIP, oh god avoid them man!

    I have no advice other than that broskies.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    Avoid VoIP, oh god avoid them man!

    I have no advice other than that broskies.
    That is good advice, if for no other reason than it confirms my instincts.

  • ghost_master2000ghost_master2000 Registered User regular
    What's wrong with VoIP?

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Lag, internet going down causes phones to go down, echoing are the biggest ones I've noticed in our remote office with VoIP. Most ISPs require you to get a VoIP account because they have packet shaping set up to make VoIP unbearable too (not as noticeable in skype, but when you have 5-6 people using it...).

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    We're saving a fair bit monthly by hosting our own VoIP PBX and paying for SIP trunk service, but good god the learning curve was steep (or maybe shallow, I don't know, whatever means that I had to teach myself a lot and do a lot of trial and error issue resolution). Also we do a significant amount of conferencing; it was not uncommon for our meetingbridge bill to exceed our phone bill). We had some echo issues initially but resolved that by paying for better codecs.

    In addition to new handsets I had to upgrade our switches. You need to have solid internet, like there are metrics like jitter which don't matter shit for data, but will kill call quality.

    There are managed solutions as a middle ground, but their per line expense is not much better than traditional phone lines (you should see better long distance rates though), and you could still be seeing up front cap expenditure unless they have some kind of lease to own program.

  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    We're an office of, like, 20 people. We talk on the phone a lot, but we can bill most of our long distance to clients, and I am the entire IT department; trial-and-erroring through a new phone system isn't really an option.

  • SiliconStewSiliconStew Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Well you're in one office, so if your LAN is decent you shouldn't have to worry about call quality. You'd probably be using analog, T1, or PRI phone circuit(s) so inbound/outbound calls would be normal phone quality (phone company's responsibility). Our IP phones have passthrough ports on the back so as long as you already have a network drop for the computer, you can use both without needing to recable. If your network switches support POE, you can avoid installing all the extra power bricks.

    Our first Shoretel system, 25 line PRI circuit with switch for up to 120 IP/SIP phones, plus voicemail/control server, 50 phones, network assessment, user training, installation, and 5-year support was $50k+. Subsequent satellite locations, which we do deploy with an analog trunk switch in case the WAN drops, with typically 5-10 phones and 1-2 inbound analog phone lines, are usually $5k-$8k. Those small switches have capacity for 20-25 phones if needed. But the phones are ~$400 each with license. Some of the cost on the satellite locations is offset from being able to drop 2-3 analog lines per site from the phone bill. Plus all interoffice calls get routed over the WAN so there are no charges there. Long distance calls from all sites get routed out the PRI at the main site if the WAN is up, and any call that can be completed as a local call gets routed out the lines at the proper site, so you save money on long distance calls too.

    From a price list I've seen, for 25 phones and a T1, you'd be into it at least $10k, probably closer to $15k and that's without any support, which most resellers will basically force on you. But as a 1-man staff, you'll probably want it. But if you're willing to pay, they do everything for you.

    Of course, a decent VOIP system like that will give you all sorts of call control options, presence info, conferencing, auto-attendants, call queues, voicemail control and escalation, computer app for full phone and voicemail control, cell phone integration, outlook integration, 3rd party app integration (CRM,etc), softphone application, etc. I think they're also doing IM and video in their more expensive app.

    SiliconStew on
    Just remember that half the people you meet are below average intelligence.
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    I wouldn't use 80% of that additional functionality available to me. I'd rather spend less on a system similar to our current one.

    So, as far as non-VOIP options... what can we get? Can we just buy a box and plug it into our current system (that would be ideal)?

  • FremFrem Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    Lag, internet going down causes phones to go down, echoing are the biggest ones I've noticed in our remote office with VoIP. Most ISPs require you to get a VoIP account because they have packet shaping set up to make VoIP unbearable too (not as noticeable in skype, but when you have 5-6 people using it...).

    Don't forget the mysterious issues that pop up when using Asterisk/FreePBX, like the "welcome to our phone menu" message playing randomly during calls, or customers pressing random, barely documented buttons on their phone to make their messages get marked as urgent (which, due to a freak bug, don't appear in the voicemail system!). Let's not forget the minor version upgrades that silently uninstall modules, mysteriously removing functionality.

    My standard troubleshooting method (refined with months of practice!) for fixing any issue with our phone system is to upgrade all the FreePBX modules and hope it goes away.

    But hey! It's free! And the people in #asterisk shun you as soon as they learn you use FreePBX. There's probably a lesson in that somewhere.

  • punkpunk Professional Network Nerd Phoenix, AZRegistered User regular
    edited April 2012
    What exactly is your current Internet connection? Cable, DSL, T1, etc.?

    If you're looking at the possibility of a complete voice system overhaul (which is likely, if the new voice mail system doesn't interface with the old PBX), have you considered hosted VoIP?

    The basic premise is that the service provider drops a T1 or two on-site, provides the network equipment, IP phones, etc. and you pay a monthly fee - usually base cost plus $10-20 per handset. All of the PBX and voicemail functionality is handled by a softswitch (i.e. software-based VoIP telephone switch) back at the provider's premises. For a small business, it's usually more cost-effective in the long run when compared to spending $10-20K on a new system.

    Full disclosure: in another life, I was an engineer at a hosted VoIP provider. That shit is slick, son.

    punk on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    punk wrote: »
    What exactly is your current Internet connection? Cable, DSL, T1, etc.?

    If you're looking at the possibility of a complete voice system overhaul (which is likely, if the new voice mail system doesn't interface with the old PBX), have you considered hosted VoIP?

    The basic premise is that the service provider drops a T1 or two on-site, provides the network equipment, IP phones, etc. and you pay a monthly fee - usually base cost plus $10-20 per handset. All of the PBX and voicemail functionality is handled by a softswitch (i.e. software-based VoIP telephone switch) back at the provider's premises. For a small business, it's usually more cost-effective in the long run when compared to spending $10-20K on a new system.

    Full disclosure: in another life, I was an engineer at a hosted VoIP provider. That shit is slick, son.
    Recently switched our internet to Comcast Business Class, because it saved us a shitload of money (on the order of $500 a month). I didn't even realize this was an issue.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    Frem wrote: »
    bowen wrote: »
    Lag, internet going down causes phones to go down, echoing are the biggest ones I've noticed in our remote office with VoIP. Most ISPs require you to get a VoIP account because they have packet shaping set up to make VoIP unbearable too (not as noticeable in skype, but when you have 5-6 people using it...).

    Don't forget the mysterious issues that pop up when using Asterisk/FreePBX, like the "welcome to our phone menu" message playing randomly during calls, or customers pressing random, barely documented buttons on their phone to make their messages get marked as urgent (which, due to a freak bug, don't appear in the voicemail system!). Let's not forget the minor version upgrades that silently uninstall modules, mysteriously removing functionality.

    My standard troubleshooting method (refined with months of practice!) for fixing any issue with our phone system is to upgrade all the FreePBX modules and hope it goes away.

    But hey! It's free! And the people in #asterisk shun you as soon as they learn you use FreePBX. There's probably a lesson in that somewhere.

    My parents general practice is using Asterisk which has lately been managed by myself running a box with Ubuntu Minimal installed (largely because I know Ubuntu). The newer versions of Asterisk work pretty well, and you can generally turn off all the stuff you don't want to use or don't understand. Line that up with a Digium card, and you have a very cheap way to handle 90% of whatever you want to do telephony without going to a VOIP trunked solution. Speaking of, avoid Voicetronix cards - the newer ones might be better, but my experience with the old one was pretty bad (terrible driver support).

    If Thanatos's office is already using SIP phones and he didn't mine handling the config files, it's a pretty cheap way to do things and plenty of people use it.

    But yeah, I also tend to shy away from blackbox distro solutions for things, since they can break in unpredictable ways - but it also doesn't sound like he'd really need web-based configuration, which is largely the benefit of FreePBX.

  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    Our phones are digital, but not SIP, I don't think.

  • SiliconStewSiliconStew Registered User regular
    edited May 2012
    Sounds like you really just want a replacement digital system. See if the phone company has used equipment for sale. They occationally buy back good used equipment from companies switching over to VOIP.

    SiliconStew on
    Just remember that half the people you meet are below average intelligence.
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