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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 6:50 am    Post subject: Implementing a "switchboard" Reply with quote Back to top

Before I start, I'm in the UK, but I don't think this makes any difference to my questions. I've now signed up with Vonage and over the last 24 hours I've been trying to implement a company switchboard number (explained more fully below). So far all I've succeeded in doing is ruling out things that don't work. I'm wondering if anyone has been here before me and can offer any comments and advice.

I am setting up a small business with a colleague and we will both be working out of our homes. Originally I had planned to get 2 physical Vonage lines, one for each of our homes, and then a third virtual number that would be the "switchboard" number and would be set to simultaneously ring both our physical lines, the first one of us that picks up gets the call. This way we look a bit bigger than we are because we each have a direct dial extension (our physical numbers) and also a general info/support number.

The only problem with the scheme above is, if someone calls the virtual number and neither of us take the call, then what voicemail does it go to? Our only choice is to choose one of our personal voicemails and then that voicemail box is no longer personal because the other person needs to access it and listen to messages now and then to make sure there are none from callers to the virtual number.

So my next plan was, instead of getting the virtual number, we get a softphone number instead. I set it up to have the Softphone set permanently on call divert to simultaneously ring our physical Vonage lines and, if noone picks up, then have it set so that it is the SoftPhone voicemail that catches the call. This way we both keep the voicemail on our physical lines as private mailboxes just for our callers and we both have the password to the Softphone voicemail that will catch messages to the "switchboard". The only downside is the very slight increase in price of softphone vs a virtual number but that's no biggie.

I tried the solution above and it works, so long as the SoftPhone software is actually running. If SoftPhone isn't running then inbound calls immediately go to the SoftPhone voicemail. If I am on holiday or travelling then my computer will be shut down so the switchbard won't work (my business partner isn't as computer literate as me so I don't trust him to keep it running while I am away).

My next solution was to get a virtual number and use SimulBlast to redirect it to the physical Vonage lines plus the SoftPhone. There seem to be 2 problems with this. First, I am getting the same behaviour as above, i.e. if the SoftPhone isn't running then it goes straight to voicemail. Now, this could be because all the phones in the call list are off because I don't have my adapter yet so the physical Vonage line will also be seen as unavailable. Maybe it is only going to voicemail because it sees none of the numbers in the call list as available and, as long as at least one is there, then it would work. (If only I wasn't so impatient, I should have waited until the adapter arrived before doing these experiments.)

Unfortunately though, there is a second problem that I hadn't spotted in the help files and I only saw when I set up the call list for the virtual number. If there is more than one number in the call list then the features of the target numbers are disabled. I had hoped that it could go to both my and my business partner's Vonage line and that our lines would each be set to SimulRing with our mobiles so that both our mobiles get called as well. It seems clear that this is impossible using SimulBlast from a virtual number.

After my experiments I am left with the following conclusions.

1) Maybe when I get the Vonage adapter for my physical line then The SimulBlast from the virtual number will ring the physical lines and divert to the Softphone voicemail after 30 seconds if noone answers, and maybe this will still work OK even if SoftPhone isn't running, but I won't know for sure until either I get the adapter and try it, or unless someone here has tried this and it works.

2) If I also want to divert to our mobiles as well as the physical lines then I think I'm left with just biting the bullet and getting a third physical Vonage line for the switchboard number.

Have I missed anything? Has anyone found a clever way of doing what I want that is more cost effective than getting a third physical line?

- Julian
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

If your SoftPhone is in the list of SimulRing numbers and is not turned on your call is going to go to SoftPhone voicemail no matter what else is configured in the SimulRing list because SoftPhone voicemail will pick up the call immediately.

So your option is to have a computer that just runs a copy of SoftPhone all the time (even if it is in a closet somewhere). The problem with this is that when you look at the cost of running the computer you might as well just get a third physical line.

I suggest you get a third physical line that has its voicemail pick up a few seconds before you or your partners physical lines. Add it as a second line on either of your adapters and don't bother hooking a phone to it. Set it up to simulring itself and all of your other lines. I believe this is your option 2.

Also, if you have a company email server have the voicemails from that line sent to an email address that forwards the mails to both of you. That way you are not worrying about whether your partner got the voicemail messages.

Stephen P. Cerruti (ISP: TWC)
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Thank you Stephen. The info about how a non-running SoftPhone will force the virtual number to voicemail, even if there are other live phones in the SimulRing, is really helpful and saves me waiting 5 days for the adapter to discover this for myself.

You are correct, your suggestion is exactly what I was thinking of with my option 2 and I was thinking of putting the switchboard line as the other line on my phone adapter. I realise I don't have to do this but I probably will plug in a cheap RadioShack phone I have anyway for the switchboard number, not because I would ever answer it, but it's ringing would alert me to the fact that the call on my other phone was actually forwarded from the switchboard. I did also plan to do the trick of emailing the voice messages.

I agree with your assessment re the cost of electricity vs the cost of an extra line but also if I am away for more than a few days I don't like leaving stuff like computers running at home just because of the un-necessary fire hazard.

Thanks for helping me get my thoughts straight. Now I know what to do.

- Julian
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Well, just to close out this thread, I should compliment Vonage customer service. I called them up and asked if I could get a refund on my SoftPhone and virtual number since I'd only had them for about 24 hours. They credited the money back, including the activation fees, right then and there with no hassle whatsoever. The customer services guy even ended the call appologizing for the inconvenience; frankly it was probably me that should have appologized to them. So it's a big thank you from me for excellent customer service so far.

- Julian
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