About Hiring a Telephone System Service Provider

It all used to be so simple. One phone. Black. If you weren’t around it just rang. If you were on a call, it droned busy. Now, telephone systems appear as high-tech as the Space Shuttle program. It’s not really rocket science, though, if you know the basics and hire a great service provider.

Local telephone companies now offer a wide array of services: voice mail, call forwarding, three-way calling and caller ID (with or without ID block). This wealth of options, along with the rise of the Internet and the home office, has changed the playing field for these home service providers. But for systems that integrate multiple lines, intercoms and door buzzers to a networked and net-savvy home office, these are still the people to call.

Plan Ahead and Allow for Expansion

The key is to do it right the first time. Know what you want and where. If you’re putting in a home office, know how many lines you need, where the fax is located, which computers are networked and online and where you’re going to sit. If you like to rearrange the furniture from time to time, consider putting phone jacks on both sides of the room. And always run more cable and reserve more lines than you need. Today’s bedroom is tomorrow’s office. Remember that running empty conduit gives you enormous flexibility to change with the times down the road. When you run phone, cable and other lines, the wires are usually buried in the walls or hidden behind moldings. This involves messy, disruptive and expensive construction, not to mention the need to repair your decorating touches. Avoid these problems by planning ahead and allowing for expansion. Also, don’t overlook unusual spaces in your planning. You can hide that ugly fax machine in a closet, just don’t forget to install the phone jack.

Check the Brand

Most telephone system service providers have licensing agreements with certain system manufacturers and will only deal in those systems. If you’re keen on a particular system it’s always a good idea to contact the manufacturer for preferred service providers in your area. On the whole, they all perform the same functions (automated directories, voice mail boxes, multiple lines/extensions, on-hold music, interoffice paging, caller ID) and offer the same accessories (headsets, holsters). It’s the brand of the system, sophistication, the complexity of integration with other systems and convenience of use that affects the cost. Systems can be purchased outright, leased or financed.

It’s All About Service

What really sets telephone system service providers apart is the quality of their follow-up service and support. If you’re running a business from home, you can’t afford to be stranded on the dark side of the moon, cut off from the rest of the planet for hours or even days. Even if you’re just trying to live your life, it’s still a supreme annoyance. Find service providers with guaranteed response times and emergency service. Know that you’ll be able to reach them in a phone-meltdown emergency. A good service provider will suggest and make additions and modifications to your system as times and technologies change. Warranties typically last six months to one year after installation.

Surf the Internet at Top Speed

These service providers should also be familiar with what type of Internet connection is best for you. A second line for data is becoming a necessity for anyone who spends time online at home. The speed of this connection is determined by both the type of cable in your walls and the type of modem in your computer. Typically, homes are strung in Category 3 (CAT 3) cable. While that is fine for voice, Category 5 (CAT 5) is the way to go for your data lines, and is only a modest increase in price per foot. Modems are a bit more complicated. Plugging a standard telephone or data line into the modem that comes built in your computer gives you about 56K of speed. If you don’t have the time or inclination to watch your computer struggle to pull up a web page, you can add modem hardware to add speed. ISDN gives about double the standard, with 128K. DSL, which is threatening to render ISDN obsolete, starts at 128K and can, if you’re willing to pay for it, bring you up to the high-speed commercial level of a T-1. A mid-level DSL connection rides in at roughly $50 a month, and can handle streaming audio and video.

Telephone System Tips
  • An installer is only as good as his service.
  • Plan and pre-wire for the future.
  • Explore the new variety of telephone ring options—your life may change with a serene, low-key incoming call sound.
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