Small Phone System
What are small phone systems?
Despite what many people may think, small phone systems are not made of specialized phones for children or little people! The term is in fact used as a blanket descriptor for any phone system that is small enough to be used in a home office or a small business. There is no exact meaning for small phone systems, but in general, a small phone system is considered to be any system in which there are fewer than 100 phone numbers and extensions. While 100 phone numbers may sound like a lot, when combined with extensions, voicemail and other features, even a moderately sized business may need many more than 100 separate phone numbers.
What separates small phone systems from simply the usage of multiple phones with multiple lines is the presence of a “phone server” or “central phone router” or even just a “central phone system.” All of these devices perform a similar function in that they turn one phone number into many through the use of extensions, or in fact offer multiple phone numbers from a single connection. Traditionally, this was done through the operation of a switchboard. Originally switchboards were operated manually, with an operator plugging and unplugging phone connections as necessary. In the 1980s this was replaced by mechanical and then electronic switchboards, which re-route calls automatically once extensions have been entered. The invention of voice mail and phone trees further complicated and enhanced the usefulness of these systems, since it allowed for a computer to do most of the routing and answer some of the calls. This not only eliminated the needs of the operator, it meant that some phone functions, such as customer service or accounts retrieval, could be done entirely electronically.
But most small businesses don’t need a complicated phone tree. Instead they simply need the ability to ensure every person in the business has their own phone which they can answer. The sort of small phone systems in use in most small businesses is thus relegated to one server, which serves as both an extension system and a voicemail system. This method has been in use since the early 90s and has proven extremely popular since it is easy to learn and is very similar to the way that home phones are set up, making them easier for new users to take up. The advent of digital phone lines has made this system very affordable, since a single connection to the Internet permits an almost infinite number of extensions and connections to be routed through a single server. Home or small businesses should consult with their Internet service provider about digital phone service, since this is often included either free or at a reduced rate when purchasing high speed Internet packages.
The popularity of this sort of phone system has also created a vibrant used goods market when it comes to the hardware. Phone systems are slow to upgrade since they are designed to be simple so that anyone can quickly learn how to use them, even if they aren’t very technologically savvy. This means that whenever a company goes bankrupt, their phone system is offered for sale at a very low cost, and odds are the phones and phone server are perfectly useable and modern even if they are slightly out of date. Small businesses in need of such a system should find out of there are any for sale in their area, and ask any companies installing their system if there are used systems available at a lower cost. Companies that install small phone systems often purchase systems at auction when a business goes under so that they have a low-cost option for budget-conscious customers. Anyone making such a purchase should check in with their phone provider first, because some systems are not compatible with some digital or analog phone services.
Some small businesses, especially those who make a lot of long-distance and international phone calls, should look into the potential advantages of voice over internet protocol or “VOIP” systems. These phone systems use the Internet entirely in order to conduct and receive calls, thus offering a significant savings over traditional phone connections when calling overseas or over long distances. Such small phone systems require a certain degree of technological know-how to operate, but may not even require special equipment, as they can be configured to work through existing computers and phone terminals.
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