It used to be that having a phone system in your office that consisted of multiple extensions, phone numbers, and digital receptionists was a massively complex and expensive project. In fact, most offices still operate on those types of analog systems which quickly become a nightmare to maintain. With an analog phone system, every phone extension requires its own separate phone line run to its destination. This is probably in addition to a data line and maybe another phone port or two; it adds up in a hurry.
If you’ve worked in IT at a small to medium company, you’ve likely seen patch panels with a whole bunch of wires everywhere.
Our company recently moved out of an office where we were running a hosted VOIP solution attached to a slow DSL that was our only option for data. The system was set up by a full service voip operation who managed everything. The system was cumbersome and at around $500/month, expensive, but it worked. We’ve since moved to a new office, and this time I had full control over what services went into it and how the network was structured.
The space came pre-wired for a full analog phone system, which made it tempting to just use it, but knowing the potential cost savings with an in-house voip system I decided to venture in that direction. It also didn’t hurt that we had plenty of Mitel 5224 VOIP phones left over from the old office, which saved us a significant amount of money out of the gate. The first step was to figure out what exactly I needed to make this work on my own. I knew some of the basics, but being new to this I was unsure of which components were mandatory for the set of features we require.
The features that we need:
- N number of extensions
- A Digital Receptionist / IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system
- Direct dialing to extensions
- Voice mail
- Dial Groups
- Multiple phone numbers
- Inbound call routing
- Caller ID Manipulation
- Call Waiting
- Call Transfers
Pretty standard stuff for an office.
In Part 2 of this series I’ll detail the network components, the network layout, the software chosen, and the initial set up of the system. Until then, have a look at the website http://www.voip-info.org which has a wealth of knowledge about PBX and VOIP.