Recurrent technical questions about telephone systems - Telephone Systems

1. How do you describe the size of a telephone system?

The most common way of indicating predominantly smaller sized systems is through the combination of both lines and extensions. For example, what is described as a 6 x 16 system accommodates up to 6 lines and 16 extensions.

Alternatively most digital hybrid or PABX systems are define in size in terms of “ports,” where a “port” refers to the maximum number of connections that can be made to the system. Ports include outside lines and inside extensions, as well as other phone system accessories such as Voicemailor automated attendants.

2. What is the difference between trunks and extensions?

Lines or Trunks refer to outside or external phone lines that are used by the company.

Extensions refer to every device within the company that needs to connect to the phone system. Most of the extensions will be for telephones. This may also include Any other machines such as fax machines, credit card terminals, modems, and any other equipment that reauire a phone connection must also be connected through the phone system .

3. What will happen to the programming on my phone system in the occurrence of a major power outage?

You can rest fairly assured that most telephone systems will be OK in the event of a major power outage. Phone systems are in a way like mini PCs, as they have small hard-drives which will store all the data you have programmed in.

However, if you are seriously concerned about ensuring the safety of your programming data, it is possible to purchase an uninterrupted power supply for your system. While a little more expensive, at least this way if your area is prone to power outages you can rest assured that your system will never go down and your data will not be lost.

4. What is the difference between analogue and digital lines?

While analogue telephone lines transfer sound in the form of electromagnetic waves, digital lines sample sound waves and translate them into bits (zeros and ones) to approximate the original wave shape. Data in digital form can be processed and stored more efficiently, giving you direct dial facilities, call diversion or transfer to external destinations and direct transfer of customer database details to your PC. Using a digital line can also allow a large network of users to share a ‘pool’ of lines, potentially reducing wastage and costs.

5. What’s the difference between 1300 and 1800 numbers?

The key difference between 1300 and 1800 numbers is who pays for the call. With a 1800 number, the receiver or the business/organisation will pay for the call, making it entirely free for the caller. You can see why this is quite an attractive proposition to users and is hence very popular in the advertising and marketing industry. On the other hand, 1300 numbers are set up so that the caller (or the customer) will pay a local rate for the first 5 minutes, and any time after that is paid for by the receiver (business.) Both numbers are used extensively for advertising and marketing purposes.

6. What are the different cabling types?

Over the past 20 years, we have gone from CAT 3 to CAT 4 to CAT 5, CAT 5e to CAT 6, CAT 6a to CAT 6 shielded UTP and now we are at CAT 7 and work is being done to develop an even better cable! Forget about anything before CAT 5e, you will only deal with and it’s only worth dealing with cable from there-on forward.

With each advance in technology, cables become faster and more efficient at doing they are job. Their job of course is to deliver a data packet (any download or upload) at a high speed and efficiency. So an Ethernet cable is just like your own courier service, except it relies on bandwidth and data rates to deliver its packages. Bandwidth is just like the road that the courier drives on. The more lanes there are, or the higher the bandwidth is, the more traffic that can occupy that road at any given time. The higher speed limit (data rate), the faster our package can travel on each lane. So, in order to have a fast moving, efficient courier you need high bandwidth, coupled with a speedy data-rate.

A Category 5e cable can send up to 1gb/s of data across a cable of up to 90 metres of length. A Category 6 cable can send a maximum of 10gb/s, up to 55 metres of length. For runs longer than that, you will start to lose speed, quality and clarity of all data transfers, downloads and uploads.

7. Glossary

a) What is Conferencing?

Conferencing holds obvious benefits for many businesses, can minimise travel times for meetings and are invaluable to international businesses. Features do vary widely, and it’s important to consider how often your staff need to make conference calls, as well as how many different people need to call in. If the conferencing features you need aren’t readily available in a system, there are other options for conducting teleconferences that you can purchase separately. Ask your dealer.

b) What is Direct InDial?

The majority of business calls a company will take are from people it deal with regularly. InDial uses transmission of voice and data over ord inary telephone copper wires, resulting in better quality and higher speeds than available with analog systems. More broadly, ISDN is a set of protocols for establishing and breaking circuit switched connections, and for advanced call features for the user.

c) What is Least Cost Routing?

This feature automatically selects the most cost effective outside line for any number dialed from your office. For instance to minimize your phone bill, you may have all your long distance calls with Optus, all calls to mobiles with Primus and international calls with another network provider. LCR will automatically pick the correct (lowest cost) carrier for each call type.

d) What is Auto-attendant?

An auto-attendant is the recorded message that answers your phones and instructs callers how to reach the person or department they are looking for. If you have a high volume of calls or provide after hours support, this may be important – or you may value having a real person answer every call. If auto-attendant is relevant to your business, look closely at your needs as functionality varies significantly between products.

e) What are Ring Groups?

Many organisations have a single number for groups such as accounts, sales or service. This feature allows calls to these organisational groups to be set up with different ring options for the phones within a group. For instance, all phones could ring or one phone could ring 3 times and if it is not answered the next nominated phone in the group could ring and so on.

f) What is Tracking Calls?

SMDR or Station Message Detail Recorder can provide details of all telephone calls, both internally and externally, made from every phone connected to the system. When used with Call Accounting software, It provides a tool to analyse the calling patterns within your company to identify operational inefficiencies and to reduce overall call costs.

g) What is Toll Barring/ Class of Service

With this feature it is possible to limit access to international, long distance or mobile calls to staff who require such access as part of their jobs. If class of service is important, have a good understanding of what your requirements are as some products provide more sophisticated implementations than others.

h) What is a Speed Dial Directory

All systems have the capability to store hundreds of frequently used numbers. Most products allow you to associate an alphanumeric name with the number so you can easily find using dial by name directory service. With caller ID, some telephone systems can display the name of the calling party if their number is in the speed dial directory. A feature to look for is whether the phone system allows you to import your phone directory from applications like Excel as this can save a lot of time in both set up and management of your speed dial numbers.

i) What is ACD?

ACD stands for Automatic Call Distribution. It offers any working environment the capability to both optimise their service for incoming callers while adjacently maximising staff productivity. ACD distributes calls within a group so that the first available agent takes the call. Additionally, if no agents are available the call can be held in a queue with a comfort message that their call will be attended to shortly. A group supervisor can also ac cess real time information on how the group is operating including number of calls in queue, average queuing time and total incoming calls received.

ACD functionality is ideal for business departments that operate as an incoming call centre such as accounts, telephone sales or a technical help desk. Many telephone systems provide this functionality as standard. There are also more sophisticated call centre applications that integrate with the telephone system and are designed for specific needs of larger call centres. These applications include functionality like more sophisticated reporting, remote agent working and call routing to agents based on their skill levels.

j) What is CTI?

CTI stands for Computer Telephony Integration and refers to any industry standard that allows non proprietary computer software applications to interface with the telephone system. The Microsoft TAPI standard is a commonly used CTI standard. The applications range from windows based system administration tools that enable intuitive management of your telephone system features without the need to call a service technician to sophisticated call centre applications. The key thing here for the user is the value the CTI application brings to your business.

k) What is an Operator Console?

The Operator Console is the terminal designed for the receptionist or operator of your company. Key features of Operator Consoles is the capability for easy answering and transferring of calls. This can be done by providing add-ons to handsets that provide multiple dedicated line and extension positions keys an effective solution for officers with up to 50 employees. In larger environments, or where the switchboard is very busy, dedicated operator consoles are the best option to deliver the professional and efficient service to create the right image for your company. Today, most dedicated Operator Consoles are PC based with a headset and use the standard point and click operation to deliver incoming and internal calls to the correct person. They include features that:

  • Show the status of each extension on the system including if they are on a call or if diversions are set
  • Provide visibility of all calls on hold with notes
  • Transfer direct to mail box
  • Various more sophisticated hold and transfer functions to assist the efficiency of the busy operator

l) What is VoiceMail?

VoiceMail refers to a system that acts as a corporate answering machine, recording messages from people both inside and outside a company.

Voice mail systems use centralized recording equipment to record, store, and play back messages. Each user can have access to an individual mailbox, which they can customize greetings for and keep private any messages left. Some voice mail products allow you to save fax messages as well.

These systems are sized according to the number of ports, or connections, that are established between the phone system and the voice mail system. Having more ports on a voice mail system means more people can simultaneously leave or pick up messages.

Compared to written notes, voice recording allows longer and more complex messages to be accurately relayed. The ability to leave detailed, private messages frequently means that callers can relay information without the need for a return call. This is especially useful when you consider that approximately one half of all calls are for one-way transfers of information.

Messages can also be accessed from outside the office and you can even have voice mail SMS your mobile of a voice mail message on your extension if you are out of the office.

Voice mail systems also guarantee a common messaging platform within a company. Features such as broadcasting allow employees to send messages to multiple people at once, allowing a voice mail system to serve as a central messaging center for a work-group or the entire company.

Automated Attendant is also provided as part of most voice mail solutions.

Voice mail can also be integrated with your computer network so that your voice messages and fax messages appear on and can be accessed from your Outlook Inbox sometimes referred to as Unified Messaging.

Most voice mail solutions are now telephone system integral as the cost of proprietary voice mail has plummeted in the last few years.

In a videoconference, IS DN provides simultaneous voice, video, and text transmission between individual desktop videoconferencing systems and group (room) videoconferencing systems.

IS DN technology to allow individual staff to have their own dedicated number so that these calls can be made direct to their extension without having to go via reception – saving valuable time as well as energy. In conjunction with voice mail, in dial provides significant benefits to many businesses.

Do you need help with your telephone systems?

Whether you require a new phone system or an upgrade, we are willing to help you make the best choice.