New User - Impresses but confused & needing a shopping l

#1
I have taken my very first steps into VOIP today and am impressed with what features are available, but I'm confused what hardware I would need to achieve my needs.

I need a system that will allow "Automatic Attendant" facilities whereby if a call isn't answered a "Welcome, Press 1 for Fred, 2 for Jim etc." message plays and have those calls routed to the extention.

I need to be able to pass calls from extension to extension (even at different locations) but I'm unclear how this would work. I'm currently using a LinkSys SPA3102 which has a phone plugged into it, but I would need each phone to be on my Lan and am not sure how this is handled with just 1 Voipfone account.

I also need various fax modems to be able to send faxes via the system. In fact I would like ALL faxes in & out to be handled by the system

For now I need to buy 1 "BaseUnit" or "Interface" or whatever they are called and 4 decent quality, fairly robust phones. If possible I'd like to stick to the Linksys family as I've had reasonable success in configuring so far.

Any recommendation on kit that will fill my criteria?

Many thanks,

Mark.

#2
Hi Mark. Welcome!

All good questions - and asking good questions is a great start.

What you call "Auto Attendant" is what Voipfone calls IVR (Interactive Voice Response). It's not been launched yet, but has been under development for some time, and is likely to be released "Real Soon Now" (apologies to Jerry Pournelle).

If you need multiple extensions, the easiest way to set this up and manage it is with the VirtualPBX. You can transfer calls from extension to extension (and indeed, to any phone anywhere!). You can always do unannounced or "blind" transfers, and depending on the phone you use, can sometimes do announced or "attended" transfers. All this works fine, no matter where the phones are physically located - they don't even need to be on the same LAN.

Fax over IP (ie attaching a regular fax machine to a VoIP network) is highly desirable, but also highly variable. Some folks claim to have it working great, others not at all, and some only with a high failure rate. Voipfone gives you inbound fax-to-email (very useful), and may at some point introduce an outbound email-to-fax service. It's been asked for many times, but not promised as yet.

Hardware-wise, you'll need a VoIP phone (ie a complete phone but with a network port instead of a phone line) or ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter, which connects a regular old-fashioned phone to the network) for each extension. ATAs and VoIP phones cost upwards of about £50 a time. There's no such thing as a multi-port VoIP base station for multiple phones as you seem to be describing.

The alternative is to use a "Softphone" - this is a program that runs on your PC but mimics a phone. Advantages are that it's free - but the disadvantage is that it's dependent on a huge number of variables in terms of your PC's performance. Your results might not be as good as you'd get with a VoIP phone or ATA.

#3
Thank you for the quick reply,
davidgu wrote:What you call "Auto Attendant" is what Voipfone calls IVR (Interactive Voice Response). It's not been launched yet, but has been under development for some time, and is likely to be released "Real Soon Now" (apologies to Jerry Pournelle).
I've done a little more research and this that the Linksys SPA9000 may provide the features I'm looking for. How compatible would a system like this be with you service and your "Virtual PBX"? I really like the idea of Virtual PBX, but I really need the ability for customers to choose who they talk to. Your "Real soon" time frame is good to know, but I need to get this up & running pre-Christmas.
If you need multiple extensions, the easiest way to set this up and manage it is with the VirtualPBX. You can transfer calls from extension to extension (and indeed, to any phone anywhere!). You can always do unannounced or "blind" transfers, and depending on the phone you use, can sometimes do announced or "attended" transfers. All this works fine, no matter where the phones are physically located - they don't even need to be on the same LAN.
All very good to know, I'm going to order 3 or 4 phones today. I'm checking out the following to work out which would be most suitable for my needs.

Phones I'm considering
Linksys 921, 922, 941, 942 & 962, all of which are here

Once they arrive I'll buy some more lines on my Virtual PBX and try to work out how it all works together. I'll not buy the SPA9000 IP-PBX system just yet.
Fax over IP (ie attaching a regular fax machine to a VoIP network) is highly desirable, but also highly variable. Some folks claim to have it working great, others not at all, and some only with a high failure rate. Voipfone gives you inbound fax-to-email (very useful), and may at some point introduce an outbound email-to-fax service. It's been asked for many times, but not promised as yet.
I need to be able to send faxes (via faxmodem) from a number of different PCs in the office, life would be a lot easier if they could simply plug into the Voipfone system, I need to research alternative solutions here I guess.
Hardware-wise, you'll need a VoIP phone (ie a complete phone but with a network port instead of a phone line) ....There's no such thing as a multi-port VoIP base station for multiple phones as you seem to be describing.
I'd just assumed extra equipment would be needed to decide which phone rings under various circumstances. I could see how I could connect more than 1 IP phone, but once I get a few and buy some extra lines I'm sure it will all be as easy as everything else has been so far :).
The alternative is to use a "Softphone" - this is a program that runs on your PC but mimics a phone. Advantages are that it's free - but the disadvantage is that it's dependent on a huge number of variables in terms of your PC's performance. Your results might not be as good as you'd get with a VoIP phone or ATA.
I'd like to use this as well as actual IP phones, particularly if Video conferencing between our offices is possible via this method?

Thank you so much for taking the time to make this as simple as possible,

Mark.

#4
You can get the Linksys 941 from Voipfone, preconfigured - check out their "Plug & Go" shop at http://www.voipfone.co.uk/shop.php?meth ... gory&pid=1

The 921 is listed, but shown as out-of-stock.

As an aside, I'd tried the 941 myself about a year ago under it's previous Sipura branding ... not impressed. Audio quality (in terms of what I heard on its handset) was poor, with a lot of background noise. And the speakerphone was just simply unusable.

I'm a big Snom fan ... the Snom 300 is a terrific entry-level phone and is priced the same as the 921. I'd urge you to consider them.

I'd also suggest you buy just one first, and check it out and make sure you're comfortable with its setup, and that it all works well (inbound and outbound) with your broadband router. VoIP is not yet "plug and play" and will take some setting up.

Honestly, if you're looking at VoIP phones I'd steer clear of softphones. They were nothing but trouble by comparison when we used them.

As for video, if you're thinking of going this route, buy lots of bandwidth! And remember that if you're using ADSL or cable, it's the upstream bandwidth that will limit you ...

By the way, I don't work for Voipfone - I'm just a happy user!

#5
By the way, I don't work for Voipfone - I'm just a happy user!
Wow, I hadn't realised...An even bigger thanks for your help!
davidgu wrote:You can get the Linksys 941 from Voipfone, preconfigured -... I'd tried the 941 myself a.. not impressed.
OK, maybe I'll look for other products... I chose these models because they will integrate very easily with the SPA9000 should I decide to go that route.
I'm a big Snom fan ... the Snom 300 is a terrific entry-level phone and is priced the same as the 921. I'd urge you to consider them.
I'll take a look at Snom, I would however try & make the right choice of model for my needs first time, I hate rebuying stuff. I'll google around to find out about the various models.
I'd also suggest you buy just one first, and check it out and make sure you're comfortable with its setup, and that it all works well (inbound and outbound) with your broadband router. VoIP is not yet "plug and play" and will take some setting up.
Well at least I know somebody on Voipfone who's succesfully set up a Snom, so I know that's possible! ;) I'll need to buy at least 2 to start with, transferring calls between handsets is an important part of deciding what equipment is right for us.

This will start as a backup phone system for my business, we've had the ISDN30 go down a couple of times recently and we needed to find a workable backup system. Having looked into the features available on voipfone I'm now thinking it could replace my existing phone system (complete with it's £800PS maintenance contract). The online configuration & line allocation means that should our Broadband go down a simple reconfiguration from another of our locations or dialup internet call could temporarily re-route adequately.
Honestly, if you're looking at VoIP phones I'd steer clear of softphones. They were nothing but trouble by comparison when we used them.
Well, it's not so much "Soft Phones" that appeals, but the ability to see those of us at other locations (when home working etc) that appeals. I guess just using MSN messenger for that would be sufficient:) I think I may have misunderstood what "softphone" means, I took it to mean software alternative to a phone, eg. Mic, Speakers (or headset) & software.
As for video, if you're thinking of going this route, buy lots of bandwidth! And remember that if you're using ADSL or cable, it's the upstream bandwidth that will limit you ...
We currently have 8MB Down & 512kb Up. We don't have a lot of upload traffic at all. I haven't ruled out putting in a 2nd Broadband connection on another BT line with a different ISP to allow dedicated VOIP, We'll be saving over £2K a year on ISDN line rental not to mention cheaper calls & forwarding so budgets are more than adequate to cover a 2nd ISP (or a speed upgrade to our existing account).

Off to check out the Snom range right now :)

Thanks again,

Mark.

#6
Having had a look at the Snoms & the Sipura/Linksys phones online I'm wondering how they handle large phonebooks? Can we share a large phone list (say 1000+ entries) between all the phones? Numbers change quite often for us and it would be a pain having to change individual phonebooks for each handset.

Can the phones be made to dial by software phone lists?

Just about every day there will be some point where I have more than 2 calls on different line on the go at the same time, I notice the phones seem to be software "Upgradable" to more lines. Is this simply a different firmware layout? or do they want more money if I have more than 2 lines?

I'm most likely to have around 6 I reckon.

Thanks,

Mark.

#7
There is the capability in the latest Snom firmware to set up access to an LDAP phone book directory.

We've not tried this as we have a lot of older Snom's that can't run that firmware version.

We have 16 extensions in our main office, and 6 remote ones. We have an ADSL line for email and internet, and a dedicated 1Mb/s SDSL line just for VoIP. Never regretted the decision to split the two types of traffic over two links.

If you're using the g.711 (u or a) codec, it will take about 100Kb/s per concurrent call.

If you use the GSM codec, it will take about 35Kb/s per concurrent call. And because of the audio bandwidth limitations of the PSTN, you're unlikely to notice the difference in audio quality.

#8
You might also wish to look at using the TAPI so you can dial directly from Outlook.

http://www.voipfoneuserforum.com/viewto ... =2921#2921
Regards,

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#10
davidgu wrote:I'm a big Snom fan ... the Snom 300 is a terrific entry-level phone and is priced the same as the 921. I'd urge you to consider them.
I wrote:I'll take a look at Snom, I would however try & make the right choice of model for my needs first time, I hate rebuying stuff. I'll google around to find out about the various models.
Voipfone wrote:You might also wish to look at using the TAPI so you can dial directly from Outlook.

http://www.voipfoneuserforum.com/viewtop ic.php?p=2921#2921
With Outlook integration the lower down models of the Snom range may actually be fine for our needs. Is there an easy way to compare the extra features for each model?

I really do need the ability to talk to 2 calls with another on hold and simple announced (& un-announced) call transfer. We will also start off with 6 lines, but beyond that the other major handset concern I hand was addressbook based.

Would these Snom phones (300 or 320) work with the SPA9000 if I have to go that route for "Auto-Attendant" (or Interactive Voice Response as it's called here :)).

Thanks,

Mark.

#11
Wardy wrote:Is there an easy way to compare the extra features for each model?
I just found the data sheets, I think most I need there. Are there any features that you find very useful that are not on the 300?

Also, are there any DECT VOIP phones that would work? I'm thinking for home use, but still connected to the same account.

Thanks,

Mark.

#12
Apart from only having two lines, the other main diff with the 300 is that there are fewer buttons for phone actions.

For example, there's no "hold" button on the 300 - you put a call on hold by pressing the lit button for the call you're on. You can do this with the 320 too, but there's also a specific "hold" button on the 320. Also, there's no DND button on the 300 (though you can map another button to do this) whereas there is on the 320.

I'd use 320's (or 360's) for extensions where you need to handle higher call volumes, and 300's for those who are the "endpoints" of a call.

As for the Snoms working with the SPA 9000, I've no idea ... they *should* in theory (as it's all standard SIP) but I doubt that either Snom or Linksys specifically test against each other's hardware.

#13
davidgu wrote:There is the capability in the latest Snom firmware to set up access to an LDAP phone book directory.

We've not tried this as we have a lot of older Snom's that can't run that firmware version.
A bigger phonebook would be a BIG help and in the advanced mene I found this:-
Image
However there is no mention of LDAP in the 116 page manual what so ever (I searched the PDF version of it).

Does anyhave any idea how to configure an LDAP phone book for use with the Snom360's?

Also, I'm not having any luck trying to setup function keys to transfer calls to a specific extension (eg. 201). Could some tell me precisely what to set the key to please? I'd like to be able to forward the call to that extension without having to wait for them to pick it up before hanging up. At the moment the LED lights up permenantly and the calls don't go though.

Many thanks,

Mark.

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