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Rich Tehrani

[May 4, 2004]

Adding VoIP To The SMB



Somewhere north of 50 percent of all small firms do not have a telephone system, meaning no voice mail, call transferring and all the other features we take for granted in a PBX. It is cost that prohibits many of these companies from purchasing a PBX, but this shouldn�t be an issue any more. There are companies out there that sell inexpensive phone systems that have many of the bells and whistles of the bigger systems at a fraction of the price. One such example is Centrepoint Technologies (news), a company making affordable small office PBXs for a decade. I have known the company and founder for that many years myself, and the fact that he and his company have lasted so long in a field where so many of their competitors are gone must say something about his company and product(s).

An interesting statistic from the Yankee Group says that 80 percent of small businesses with one to 20 employees have broadband. That statistic is from 2003, so I assume it is even higher now. Naturally, VoIP makes sense for many of these small companies and the combination of an inexpensive PBX and VoIP means they can save money on long-distance by purchasing VoIP equipment.

The starting price for their TalkSwitch system is $695, while a system with VoIP starts at $1,795 (available June 2004). The TalkSwitch platform gives you voice mail, auto-attendant, expandability to 32 local extensions and easy setup and configuration. You also get find me/follow me, remote extension transfer, remote message notification and remote extension call screening. You can also network certain models together as you grow. You receive a minimum of 30 minutes of voice mail per box. Voice mail memory is expandable as well through solid-state memory cards costing $85 for 30 minutes, $135 for one hour and $235 for two hours. A total of nine hours of voice mail can be stored in a box.

The devices support international callback, meaning you can record an announcement on the device and tell it to call you back at the number you called from and then deliver the announcement. If you are in a hotel in Europe , you can tell the phone to call the hotel and the announcement can ask for your room number. When the hotel operator picks up, they hear that your room is asked for and they transfer the call. Once you answer, you can check voice mail and make calls through the device. You can also call in with a cell phone to make international IP telephony calls.

A continuing concern of mine is what happens to the dealer channel as equipment costs plummet. Centrepoint tells me that VARs can still make money installing, servicing and by doing user training, but they will obviously need to sell in volume.

Small businesses don�t have to fear phone system costs anymore. The prices are low enough and the features and functions are great enough that they can jump on the PBX bandwagon and even enjoy IP PBX functionality and long-distance savings for a few hundred dollars more. Check out http://www.talkswitch.com for more information.

Please talk back to me in our forums

Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments. Participate in our forums.

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