Small Telephone Systems Verses Multi-line Business Phones

Choosing the right telephone system from start is always the best path, but not always the most economical. Before you head down to your local electronic store and pick up the cheapest multi-line business phone you can find, here are few pointers you should keep in mind.

Many multi-line business phones have a pretty decent feature set such as voicemail, caller ID, call waiting ID, 3 way calling and intercom (in multi phone setups). These phones integrate the Key System Unit (or KSU) into the phone itself, which means each individual telephone functions as its own “mini phone system.” The term KSU, (Key System Unit, Key Signaling Unit or Key Service Unit) dates back to the early day’s phone systems, it’s basically “the Brain” of the phone system. All call processing data and telephone line interfacing is carried out by the KSU. For many small offices with less than 4 phones (extensions) and 4 telephone lines, these multi-line phones are adequate and economical. However, as a business grows, the many disadvantages of these phones begin to show their merits.

By comparison, multi-line business phones are sold with the marketing term, “KSU-less design,” which translates (in buyers minds) to lower overall costs. Small telephone systems on the other hand include a separate KSU unit or “Brain” in addition to each telephone. A major disadvantage comes to play when you are interfacing your phones with the telephone company lines. The KSU acts as the “line interface,” for a phone system, all major system connections terminate at the KSU. Now with each multi-line phone acting as its own “mini phone system,” each phone now needs direct connections to each telephone line.

A single telephone line consists of 1 pair of wires. Almost all multi-line phones support up to 4 lines, meaning each multi-line phone needs up to 4 pairs of wires or the equivalent of a standard Cat5e cable. As you begin to add more KSU-less phones to your office you must factor in the cost to install another drop of cat5e (or cat5) cable. You must also account for the additional termination blocks in your telephone closet where all these phones must be “Bridged” (or shared) to the 4 phone lines. As you can imagine, for installations with more than say 4 or 5 phones the wiring aspect can get pretty complex. Anything over 6 or 7 phones will be a wiring mess, if done unprofessionally, which adds to the cost of these low budget systems. However, this bridged connection is how multi-line phones “intercom” one another. By sending a signal over each bridged line, each extension can communicate without actually tying up any of the 4 phone lines. As long as every multi-line phone is connected to all 4 lines (or matching number of lines if less than 4), each phone can intercom each other internally while keeping the phone lines free for external calls.

Small Telephones Systems on the other hand, which come equipped with a separate, dedicated KSU unit, are at a distinct advantage in both areas. Having a single KSU unit means a single interface point for the telephone line connections. Many small telephone systems need only a single pair of wire to connect each extension telephone. What this means is if you are deploying a number of phones in one particular area, you can save dramatically on cabling costs by having your contractor “split” the single Cat5e cable into, at most, 4 single telephone jacks! – This becomes very cost effective as you deploy additional phones. (However, many pros will only split single Cat5 cable once for 2 telephone jacks leaving the remaining wires as spare pairs). Cable management becomes much easier (and neater) as you need not worry about bridging 10 phones to 4 telephone lines. One single pair of wires (to connect to a telephone) of the 3 or 4 pairs in a standard telephone cable is enough for as many lines as the small telephone system can handle since the actual line connections are at the dedicated KSU unit and not at the individual telephone.

Another plus for the small telephone system is the ease of transitioning to a larger phone system. The wiring scheme for the most part will remain the same albeit installing more cable drops to new areas. Not so much the same for the multi-line business phones. Depending on how each phone was “bridged” to interface to those 4 telephone lines, this entire wiring scheme may need to be undone as most small (and large) telephone systems require individual (not bridged or shared) connections to the KSU.

Programming wise there is one disadvantage when comparing small business telephone systems to multi-line business phones, which can be viewed as multiple disadvantages. Since each individual telephone functions as its own KSU it also functions as its own Voicemail unit (if equipped). Which means if you want to enable an Auto Attendant feature (where your callers are greeted by a company recording instructing them to press 1 for Joe Boss, 2 for Sales Manager etc…) you will have to record this greeting for as many times as you have voicemail enabled phones (up to 4). Here’s why, with most multi-line business phones, the voicemail feature includes a personal voicemail box for the extension and an optional auto attendant feature. The auto attendant feature can only handle one call at a time; ergo if you want the system to answer up to 4 incoming calls simultaneously you need at least 4 auto attendant enabled phones. So technically speaking you must record the same auto attendant greeting 4 times, 1 on each phone. You must also enable the system mailbox for each of the 4 phones to accept general messages. You now have 4 different phones/voicemail boxes in your office where you must check for general messages. This is known as a general mailbox, which is a default destination for callers who do not press a menu option or dial an extension. This scenario is not efficient for larger setups but may work for smaller ones.

With a small business telephone system, there is just one central voicemail unit which can handle multiple calls at once. Storage times are much greater and there is just one mailbox for general messages. You can also take advantage of advanced features (if equipped) such as voicemail to email (where the system sends the voicemail in a standard wav format to your email address), which in this fast paced world can be a BIG time saver and added convenience.

One last point on this topic to cover quickly; with the advent of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) continually proving its cost effective existence, many businesses find themselves wanting to take advantage of these savings. Many small business telephone systems on the market today are equipped to handle VoIP telephone lines through either a simple hardware or software upgrade. An upgrade may include adding an Ethernet (or media) port to the system or if already equipped, simply enabling this port through software activation. Simply plugging this unit into your company LAN and perhaps minor firewall configuration you can now start saving on land line costs by calling out over less expensive VoIP lines.

Multi-line business telephone can benefit as well but through a 3rd party VoIP gateway. This gateway converts a VoIP line (sometimes called a “Trunk”) to a standard telephone port. You will need as many gateways as you want lines, (or opt for a multi-port unit). However you may have to plan on spending some time configuring and adjusting the settings of the unit to obtain the proper volume levels while minimizing echo and other artifacts that may be induced when converting the signal from a standard Analog telephone line to SIP or other VoIP protocol. Many high end units come with built in (hardware or software) echo cancellers and noise suppressors which minimize these adjustments (and work very well) but increase the cost of the gateway dramatically.

To conclude, although it may seem like great savings early in your start up phase, for needs of 4 or less external lines and extension phones, the multi-line business phone can actually prove to be a cost effective solution. In my humble opinion these multi-line phones are better suited for a home office (or SOHO) situation. If you have big plans to expand exponentially (and don’t we all!) I recommend you at least consider a small business telephone system. Although a bit more initial investment is required, the benefits far out way the cost disadvantage if not cancel it out completely.

Copyright © 2009 Damian Parkins for PBX Interactive, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Your Business Advisory Board

Every business owner benefits from the wise counsel of a select group of experts, who offer a differential diagnosis that brings fresh air and information into the room and drags us out of the echo chamber of our auto-pilot habits and ingrained perspectives.

Fortunately, life equips us with an advisory board, whether or not we recognize it as such. Unfortunately, most of the advice we receive is bad, starting with what know-it-all cousin Howie and meddlesome Aunt Sheila have to say (those two will have you broke in six months!).

No, our real advisory board must be carefully curated. One must know whose advice in general should be heeded and whose should be ignored. The advisory board that we create can be informal. It is not necessary to charter a formal board unless the business demands it. We should consult our advisory board regularly, to find out what is new on the horizon, figure out how to solve problems faster, brainstorm intriguing new ideas and overall learn how to work not just hard, but smart.

Clients

As numerous experts repeatedly recommend, listen to your clients and receive a wealth of information. Customers give the outside-in, other side of the desk view and what they value most is sometimes surprising. You cannot always fathom what customer priorities will be and you won’t know until you let them tell you.

Customers are vital members of our advisory board. They represent the marketplace and when the market speaks, business owners must listen. Ask for customer feedback in the form of evaluations, surveys, or plain old Q & A over coffee. Ask what they like about your products and services; ask what would enhance the experience of doing business with you; ask business clients about upcoming trends and challenges in their organizations and figure out what you can monetize.

Employees

If you have employees, seek out their insights and advice on how your business protocols might be improved. Employees are in the trenches and often know better than the owner about how the business is perceived by customers. Employees are uniquely positioned to give very valuable feedback. Owners and managers should be smart enough to listen.

Likewise our accountant, attorney and other professional service providers, through the unique prism of their specialty, may offer useful advice that can have a positive impact on the business. A wise business owner creates an environment where employees and customers know that their opinions and advice are welcomed, respected and at least occasionally implemented.

Competitors

Do speak with experienced people within your industry, including competitors. Many will be happy to share a few pearls of wisdom with you, especially if they operate in another geographic locale. Marketing tips and other promotional strategies can be good topics to discuss, as could the types of services that resonate most with clients these days.

Roundtables

Additionally, you may find it useful to have also a structured advisory board experience and for this I recommend membership in a peer group, also known as a CEO forum or roundtable. Groups consist of perhaps a dozen business owners in non-competing industries. They are often segmented by number of employees and annual revenues and usually meet monthly for about 2 hours. The idea is to assemble a group of business owners who share a similar profile and who therefore have the perspective to offer relevant advice and support to fellow members.

When properly facilitated, group members function as each other’s board of directors. There is guidance and support on decision-making. Members celebrate successes. New ways to view and resolve business challenges are put forth. Opportunities may be discovered, goal setting is encouraged and members hold one another accountable for progress and achievements. Peer roundtables can provide a welcome source of support and inspiration and do much to overcome the isolation that many business owners experience.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Launch Your Wholesale Video Games Business Store – Insider’s Secrets!

Wholesale video games businesses along side eBay, they aren’t supposed to sound like strangers to you. Unless you’re totally cut off from the world, you won’t need to be introduced to eBay, regarded as the largest auction website in the world. eBay has a presence in nearly every country. But did you know that it was supposed to be called “Echo Bay”?

However, the Echo eBay dot com domain was already taken, so “Echo Bay” was shorted to just “eBay.” There’s a trivia for you. The creator originally intended for it to be an online venue for people to auction off their personal and unusual items. However, as we can all see, eBay has become more than a place where you can have a virtual garage sale.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to break into the world of wholesale video games business are still using it to jumpstart their wholesale business. And why wouldn’t they? eBay is easy to use and it’s still very affordable no matter if you sell new or used items that are popular and in demand!

Instead of discussing how eBay works (you can find this information on eBay anyway), below are a few tips on how you can use eBay to your advantage:

o Regard it as your launch pad, the starting line for all your online marketing efforts. Be prepared to grow and move beyond once you have built customers and contact.

o Always follow eBay rules. Don’t try to go around the rules or worse, break them. You’ll have yourself banned and your reputation ruined even before you could establish yourself.

o Pay attention to the expenses you incur. These include listing fees, fixed price sales, shipping costs and other extra fees to make your auctions stand out. Make sure that you’re actually making a profit listing and selling your items on eBay.

o Take advantage of the social networking features. These include blogs, groups and discussion boards. Participate in these areas because it can help expand your knowledge and give you opportunity to connect with other marketers.

o Never be satisfied with your e-commerce structuring. Make minor tweaks or changes and test them. Sometimes, a small change can bring you higher wholesale video games tangible profits.

o You can accept online payments using Paypal. When you do, though, apply for a Premier or Business account with Paypal. This will give you credibility and allow you to easily accept payments from buyers around the world.

o eBay has a vibrant and active international market. In fact, there is an eBay in nearly every country. Visit these country versions because you may just find an untapped market outside the US. You may even be able to list your products in these places without paying any listing fees.

o Regularly visit eBay’s Help and Tutorials sections. These are great places to find information on how you can maximize your use of eBay.

o Use eBay’s PULSE, a great source for the hot search terms and items that are hot sellers.

o Don’t be afraid to use eBay’s tools and statistical analysis products because they can give you information that will help increase your profits and minimize your workload.

The success of your business depends on your imagination, vision and determination. eBay can be a great starting point for you to start and grow your own business.

Of course, if you’re new in the wholesale business on the Internet, you’re likely to become overwhelmed by the things you’ll have to learn and become familiar with. You’ll definitely experience “information overload” but remember that this is natural, and everyone who’s starting an online business will feel the same way you do. Realize that eBay has a system in place that makes it easy for anyone to start. You simply need to concentrate, learn things in a step-by-step manner and apply yourself to the task.

When you have made a secure place for yourself in the marketplace, your next step is to start thinking of ways you can expand your business beyond eBay. Look into how you can set up and host your own wholesale video games business shop online, buy a domain name, build your contacts and customers and such if you can afford to invest, for a better tomorrow. eBay is definitely the place where you can start making a profit, but you can grow your business beyond eBay.