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Mar 28

Making use of your phone…

Like many of us I have a home phone line and a mobile.  I also run a business from home. The question is how do you distinguish between business and personal calls, particularly if you’ve got this line being used by the whole family. You could just give out your mobile number, this then identifies that;

1. your are a one man band – (nothing wrong with that! Except I did once get a call left on my phone stating ‘if you’re not big enough to answer the phone – you’re not big enough for me!)
and
2. some may consider that the call could cost them more than a local call, or even a divert to abroad!

So how can you present your business separate from your home?

The first choice is to go for a second line from BT, however that’s not always an option. Lines in the local villages are not always available, then there’s the addttional cost of installation and line rental. So I went another route to make use of Internet technology, and here’s the first key point. You don’t have to be on the Internet to use it! Although you, or someone else,  needs to set it up using it. What I’m going to describe to you is my experiences so far with Voice Over Internet Protocol – VOIP for short. The very basic set-up has a multitude of features and will make your business independent of your home phone at very little cost.

The very basic set-up makes use of your home phone and or mobile in various combinations. In my testing to get to use all the potential capabilities I used a business line ( a second line in my home which has Broadband) two special VOIP phones; both mobile handsets and a base station connected to the broadband.

Next I went online and chose a specific supplier for what are known as VOIP numbers. And here’s the thing; you can get a ‘local’ number with your own area code. I chose one for my area which is 01435 – so this is what I did – my experience…..

I set up my VOIP number with local area code; 01435 898181 which was active within 2-3 minutes of payment over the Internet. Then I ordered a Cordless Portable Siemens A580 DECT IP Phone with Base station which will accept up to 6 extension handsets. I also ordered one  extra hand set. This was at 4:00pm on a Tuesday afternoon.
Delivery was next working day and at 1:00pm Wednesday the products had arrived. In the meantime I’d set up my VOIP number to call forward to my Mobile phone, and if not answered would take the call back to voice mail and send me an email message with audio file of any recorded message.

I didn’t get to play with the new phones till midnight, I plugged in the base station to my router, powered up the phones and on the main phone entered my username/password for my VOIP service provider – that was all I had to do.

To get the second phone working I merely had to hold a button down on the base station and on the second phone press OK in the pairing menu and it paired up as my second extension. This could then be used as extension to extension within 50 metres indoor and 300 metres outdoors ( I haven’t tested this fully for range but I can say the clarity of the audio is outstanding!). What is more important is that I could use this as another line either on the landline the router is plugged into or another VOIP line. Giving me effectively 3 independent lines for my business. This took me about 20 mins to do…

The next morning (Thursday) I’ve gone in to my web based switchboard and re-routed calls, with a plethora of features! Any calls on my VOIP number go to the 2 Cordless phones, whilst calling the caller gets music, no not some awful distorted sound loop, but randomly selected peaceful music, that gives an air of professionalism. If the call is not answered, ( I set 10 seconds) then it seamlessly transfers to ring my Mobile for 10 seconds ( I set the same period), if that is not answered it takes the call back to voice mail, allowing the caller to leave a message. You don’t have to just have music, if you wish you can record your own messages, promotions, notices etc and save them in the system to play whilst the call is being delivered. It also assures the caller that they’ve got the right number.

The system then sends me an email with an audio attachment to be played on my laptop, computer or probably my mobile (but I haven’t tried that step yet. My mobile displayed the caller if the number was in my contacts and if not I presume it will display the number if not withheld.

Also I’d set up, in my web based switchboard, ‘call assurance’  which means the call will not be delivered unless a real person answers – had the system detected an answer machine as the end point of the call, it would take the call back to my voice mail, so I could pick up via my mobile phone, email or when I got back home off my VOIP phones.

So, I think this is absolutely brilliant. For the mobile worker or for small business SOHO Office that want’s a lot more features than an ordinary telephone line offers. Oh and the cost? Well the main phone was just over £47 and the extra hand set about £20. But in the first instance you just need to set up the VOIP number which is about £3.50 per month and calls cost 1p for 01,02,03 and landline Free numbers are Free and divert to mobiles 8p and peak 10p per minute. I see this as little cost for the vast range of capabilities of this very powerful system……

I’ve only just touched on what this phone system can do, the scenarios are endless.. I will explain more once I get to test it out further…

But just to finish off for now, and coming back to my original point – you can use this system without Internet or Broad Band. You need someone to register a number for you – get them to set up routing to your mobile or another number, i.e. a ‘call plan’ – for various times of day as well as routing, and then give out that number! That leaves your home phone for the family and personal calls.

If you want any help in setting up or want to know more then please contact me.

Update Sunday 27/3/2011

Although the clock on the phone is not linked to a time keeping source, it did update the hour change… Marvellous!

2 comments


  1. Hi Graeme,
    I went through the same dilema not so long ago starting my own small business trying to save costs, looking for a way to keep everyone in my team in touch 24/7 and have everything that they needed at their fingertips. I opted to equip my team all with smartphones and found a great relatively unknown network provider that offers free same network calls for 3 months every time we topped up with £10. They even offered truly unlimited mobile internet included as well as texts for the £10 a month package, and they ran off the O2 network.

    That was several months ago now, and I reckon I’ve saved a packet, and the yearly bill for each employee is a fraction of what it might’ve been had I not found them. They don’t advertise much at all, but I found them via word of mouth when a new employee told pointed me to http://www.giffgaff-sims.co.uk. They’re owned by Telefonica, who own O2, but operate independently using the same infrastructure.

    I guess we’re all trying to find ways of getting the most out of our mobiles and I’m forever keeping my eye out trying to find for something better.

    All the best

    Emma

    1. graemehird

      Emma,
      very sorry for delay in getting back to you… I don’t often visit this Forum ( Well obviously! I hear you say…) and not normally a forum user so please forgive me.

      I like your article and it looks ideal for a mobile work force of 2,3 or more working away from a central point, which could even be a warehouse without a normal phone line, adjoining a site office.