Skip to comments.Asking FReeper Advice Re: Office Phone/Fax Issue
Posted on 08/07/2011 5:58:06 PM PDT by truthkeeper
I know there are smart people here. May I pick your brains to get an answer for a very simple office set-up issue? Unfortunately it is not simple for ME so I am tearing my hair out.
I'm a technology-challenged paralegal opening an office in a few weeks with an attorney who is equally inept at this stuff. We will have a lot of initial start-up costs and want a dirt-cheap phone system for a very small office. (Mostly just me as the attorney will only come around every week or so.) All we we want is an old-fashioned landline (telephones with hold buttons, like in the old days) and a dedicated fax line. We would like to use three numbers, the fax, an 800 number, and the 3rd number.
(We aren't interested in any weird "fax through the internet or email" schemes, just want to use the free-standing fax machine. Sorry, we're dinosaurs.)
The key points are that we don't want to spend a fortune for the phone services and we want to minimize calls going to voicemail or an answering service. It's very important that I pick up that call the first time or we lose the client.
The two suggestions I've had so far are:
1. Set up the cheapest landline and fax available and use one of the lines. Set up the the other line on a cheap unlimited-use cell phone. I really don't know what this would cost, but taxes through the phone provider, Verizon, are usually ridiculous.
2. Get a Vonage system with a dedicated fax line and two phone lines. I was told this system won't work with an old-fashioned hold-button type phone but would work by using "flash" hold when another call comes in on the second line. Supposedly costs about $70 a month.
Is there anything else I can do? Suggestions? Keywords here: CHEAP and SIMPLE.
ANY helpful suggestion is appreciated. Thank you!
It may have changed but I used to have Vonage. When you call someone the caller ID says Vonage and not your business name. They wouldn’t change it.
I’ve tried several of the VOIP providers and have had problems with them all. Verizon is supposedly cutting the numbers back to their system tomorrow.
One phone line with call waiting might work for you.
Get someone to help you. Your constant excuses about your ineptness should be a warning sign to you. If you don’t know how to do something and you aren’t willing to learn, bring in a professional.
I use OOMA. Love it. Bought it for $250, discounted to $200 at costco.com, but also can get at many outlets. I have two separate phone numbers, (the premium offer) one could easily be setup for fax. I have basically no phone bill, as it covers all calls US and Canada. I have great low rates for international, since I call South American a bit and it’s pennies.
It is a VOIP like Vonage, Skype, etc. but in trying those others the quality is second to none and the savings are great!! Check it out at OOMA.com ... they did have a $50 off promo, or recommend program, would have to check if they still do ... maybe I can get a candybar by referring you!! ;-) good luck.
If you only have one line for incoming calls, what if the attorney is talking on one line to a client and someone else calls, are they going to get a busy signal or go into voicemail? What if it’s the court calling or you’re on hold with the court clerk for 10 minutes? You will lose all the calls that might be coming in because you’re tying up the line. Are you sure you want only one incoming line for voice? I suggest three, really, it’s the minimum for a one attorney office.
Also, I’d suggest calling a phone person to set you up. I do not recommend skimping on phone lines. Is the money this is going to cost going to come out of your own pocket? If not, why are you making the cost your problem?
Just for comparison sake, in our office we have four lines and one is for the fax which we can use for outgoing calls if all the other lines are busy. And all the other lines are sometimes busy and we’re only a two person firm. We use AT&T and the cost is about $150/mo.
And for goodness sake, make sure you get with a reputable phone company because you have NO IDEA what a disaster it can be and always is, when you switch phone companies. They tell you it’s going to be a simple switch, so easy, and it turns into a nightmare, EVERY TIME.
Hope this helps.
The 800 number has to terminate at a regular local telephone number, so technically speaking, you could get away with the FAX line and just one other telephone number...
Husband and I have an office at home, and have pretty much the set-up you describe.
We did set up an answering machine on the office phone on which I recorded a simple message. We’re out a lot, on the road, and I didn’t want to sit by the phone for hours each day either. We haven’t missed a call that I know of. Husband returns the calls in the afternoon after we get back in. - The fax is hooked up to the phone line, and that has worked quite well, too. I use the word processor on my computer in my office; and the internet is on a non-dedicated line which has little traffic anyway. Husband corresponds on e-mail now. I used to have a lot of formal letter typing on letterhead to do, but no more. - We do have a fairly small copier, which is a necessity.
We used to use a small paper shredder which we bought at a yard sale. (Don’t give up the word processor in favor of the carbon sets. That is yesterday. Time and frustration saved is hard to describe!) Penny wise and pound foolish is foolish.
I agree. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
If you want cheap and simple then one must look at VOIP. They have gotten better and the VOIp offers more flexiblity than a typical land line.
We use VOIP at work and I am happy 90% of the time.
Cheap - Good - Fast. Choose any two.
This is probably only the first of many tech issues your boss will have to face in her new business. If she’s smart she’s going to get a tech adviser to help her with these issues. Such will cost money - no way around that. Where to find a good one in your area? Answering that question is going to be something the two of you will have to figure out. Good luck.
for an unlimited cell phone, check the coverage maps and see who is best covearage.
Ditto to all that!
Also I would not recommend Vonage or other phone-via-internet providers because of quality of service issues. For secondary lines, fine, but for the main two or three work lines which in this case include the fax, use a land-line provider.
I like Verizon and have had very good experience with them. One lost client or job due to dropped or “fuzzy” calls will make up the difference in costs if you go with the poor-man’s grade of service. Nothing wrong with the poor-man’s grade of service for the poor and the frugal — they are a workable grade of service. But they aren’t high quality enough for most business with clients.
If you’re committed to a small budget with only one phone line, I’d suggest using something like eFax, which gives you your own fax number. Incoming faxes then come to you as an email attachment. And if you know how to attach a file to an email, then you can send faxes. It’s pretty simple, and doesn’t tie up a phone line. Plus, you can send or receive faxes easily while traveling. I believe the cost is somewhere around $16 per month.
I have a HP fax/scan/printer. It’s maavelous and the ink is cheap. I’ve got just a regular AT&T two line plan costs about $57/mo., my U-verse wireless internet connection is $29 and they even threw in my U-verse tv plain package for $20. I have one line for the fax, one for my office line. I’ve got an 800# pointed at my regular line, so I only need two lines. As for phones, since it’s just me all I’ve got is two cradle wireless phone system. I office at home, so I have regular analog lines. If you’re in an office space, you need to find out what kind of phones lines are in there. If it’s just regular analog lines and not hooked up to some elaborate building phone panel with digital service, then just two standard two-line phones you can get for about $100.00.
Spot on. Not knowing, mucking things up and trying to fix it will cost you more in the long run in $$ and frustration and other intangibles than the upfront of getting done right from the start.
HP & Dell make some GOOD cheap all in one printers. you don’t need a separate fax machine or copier.
I have one with a flat top like a copier and it’s 10 years old!
That can save a bunch.
Get one line one a good system, look at Staples.
One with good voice mail.
Get an email to fax number program for your computer.
Use a computer that can scan legal sized documents using a great HP laser scanner printer.
Have the busines buy two cellphones for each of you to use as outgoing lines. You do your outgoing calls on the cells and take the incoming calls on the land line. The landline also gets you Yellow pages ads and those get picked up and posted all over the net.
That is what I do.
A phone line with call-forwarding to a cell-phone and voicemail, and an all-in-one printer.
I must not understand your question. That’s too easy and obvious...
I understand and agree that the low-tech approach should be fine for you.
However, don’t be “penny-wise and pound-foolish”, as they say. One client lost more than makes up for overly economizing on the phones.
As others suggested, I would recommend that you get a minimum of 2 phone lines and one dedicated fax line. You can get an 800 number at pretty minimum cost from the phone company, that will be associated with your local phone line. Do get voice mail, just in case you don’t quite get to the phone right away or when both you and the attorney are on the phone. These days people are used to get voicemail and as long as you call them back ASAP, it should be OK.
Call your local large reputable phone company business services unit, they will be very helpful with the decisions also. (AT&T, Verizon, whatever is in your area)
As others also remarked, don’t go with the “cheap” phone companies, they are more trouble, and you’ll probably end up paying as much or more by the time you are done.
You can also get “multi-function” fax/scanner/printers to use as your fax line. Though if you print a lot, you might want to get a good laser printer.
Our company recently changed to 8x8 (8x8.com). We do have a dedicated (landline) for the fax machine but everything else is VoIP. They are reasonably priced and very stable. We even have a hold button. Their tech support is excellent.
If you root around your grandma’s attic, you’d probably find one of those old rotary phones.
I don’t think you can get more cheap than free.
Cheapest set up is to get cable for phone and internet and one of the fax services that send to email. I use to use efax but switched to ringcentral. If you have one line you must have call waiting.
We run a business from our home. We use a VOIP solution which we like. We’ve learned that voice quality is directly related to bandwidth so keep that in mind. We both have cellphones also. You can forward to the cell phone so the phone is always answered. Good voicemail options including text voicemail to both cell phone and e-mail.
You can get simple two line phone at a Best Buy Of office store. Some looked pretty simple to use. I would suggest at least one land line. My internet phone required a working computer. You don’t want all your phones down if you have a network or computer problem.
Your simplest and cheapest option is to pay for a second number (not line) on your land line and have the telephone company program the second number with a different ring tone than the first number. Buy a fax machine that has the ability to program it to selectively answer only the second ring tone. Qwest/Century Link charges only about an extra $5.00 per month for the extra number in Colorado.
You’ll have to make sure the fax has a set of ring tones such that at least one of them is available from the land line company.
I personally recommend a laser-based fax because it’s very cheap to run, good quality, and fast. I’ve bought and installed a lot of the Brother MFC multi-function printer/copier/faxes, and they’ve worked well for my clients.
“I suggest three, really, its the minimum for a one attorney office.”
Yes, I second that. I work for a law firm too, and I really think you need 3 lines just for the phone. I assume that 800 number is for clients/adv. etc. We don’t have one of those.
OK, maybe most of the times the second 2 lines won’t be in use, but I agree with Auntie Mame. One line for the atty to talk on, one for you to talk on and one to get that next call that comes in.
I didn't know this was an option. I will look into it.
Thanks to all for your suggestions. I would love to pass this off on someone else but unfortunately I have been stuck with the assignment...not my choice. Your input will help greatly.
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