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Hello everyone!

 

I am a new discoverer of the IVM Answering Attendant software and just generally new to the telephony world. Perhaps you guys can give me a bit of help.

 

Honestly, I do not know if this software is exactly what I need, so I will start off by stating my needs. I would like to implement some sort of answering service for my church that allows for multiple voice mail inboxes. Please see the following example call.

 

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Caller: *Dials phone number*

 

Answering Attendant: Thank you for calling xxxx church. To reach the pastor, please press 1. For information about the next mobile food pantry give-away, please press 2. For information about our weekly food pantry, please press 3. For food pantry delivery service, please press 4. For daycare inquiries, please press 5. For all other questions or comments, please press 6.

 

Caller: *Presses 4*

 

Answering Attendant: Thank you for calling about your food delivery. Under normal circumstances, your food will be delivered by 5 PM every other Saturday. Please feel free to leave a message about food deliveries after the tone, or press 1 now to return to the main menu... Beep.

 

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So, is this situation possible with IVM Answering Attendant? If so, what specific equipment will I need to purchase? My church (located in the United States) currently has a traditional Land Line and receives internet service via satellite. If we implement this software, I assume I will need to switch to a VOIP service. If this is indeed the case, would the Vonage service be sufficient?

 

Also, in general, how does this service work?

 

I truly appreciate any and all information that you can provide. As I have already stated, I am rather new to this whole area of technology.

 

Thank you in advance for replying.

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It sound's like IVM is the perfect solution for your needs. It's main purpose is to act as an IVR system where people call in and select various menu options for information, bookings, order taking, voice mails, or to be transferred to a live person.

 

In terms of equipment, there are 3 different ways of connecting IVM up to a phone line:

 

A) Voice Modem

Advantages: Quite cheap (around $35)

Disadvantages: Audio quality varies and is generally ok, but not fantastic. Cannot transfer call to a live person on an internal extension.

Other: Uses existing phone line from your normal Telecom (e.g. at&t, bell, bt, telstra etc.)

Info: All you require is a TAPI compliant voice modem and you're ready to start taking calls. Simply install the modem on the computer running IVM, and connect it to an existing phone line. IVM should then be able to answer calls and detect user input for menus.

 

B) Telephony Board

Advantages: The more professional option, higher audio quality, can handle more than one phone line simultaneously, can transfer to live agent extensions

Disadvantages: High cost (upwards of $200)

Other: Uses existing phone line from your normal Telecom (e.g. at&t, bell, bt, telstra, etc.)

Info: Much like the Voice Modem option, once the board is installed and connected to a phone line it's ready for use with IVM.

 

C) VoIP

Advantages: Quite cheap (some services even offer free private incoming phone numbers and you don't pay a dime to use the service), Can handle several simultaneous calls at a time (depending on provider), Does not require purchase of additional equipment, or the purchase of phone lines from your existing Telecom

Disadvantages: Requires a high-speed Internet connection, and is not recommended for Satellite connections (like a satellite phone, there may be delays in transmission. If the line is solely being used for an automated menu IVR system, this delay may be acceptable and go by unnoticed). Audio quality can vary significantly based on conditions of the network/Internet connection or even your geographic location in relation to the provider.

Other: Generally works well for most users and organizations who have a high-speed connection and a basic understanding of computer networking

Info: Unlike the other methods, this one requires no purchase of additional hardware or equipment. IVM can connect directly to a VoIP service to answer phone calls. Many VoIP services offer very cheap rates in comparison to the major Telecoms and some even offer free incoming phone numbers.

 

Note that although Vonage is technically a VoIP service, it is atypical in comparison to others. Vonage locks their hardware so it can't be used with other equipment or software like IVM. In essence, Vonage can be treated as a normal analog line similar to the one you may have from your current Telecom provider. Thus in order to connect a Vonage line to IVM you would have to use either method A or B. P.S. Vonage is also one of the more expensive VoIP services (it is also the most well known).

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It sound's like IVM is the perfect solution for your needs. It's main purpose is to act as an IVR system where people call in and select various menu options for information, bookings, order taking, voice mails, or to be transferred to a live person.

 

In terms of equipment, there are 3 different ways of connecting IVM up to a phone line:

 

A) Voice Modem

Advantages: Quite cheap (around $35)

Disadvantages: Audio quality varies and is generally ok, but not fantastic. Cannot transfer call to a live person on an internal extension.

Other: Uses existing phone line from your normal Telecom (e.g. at&t, bell, bt, telstra etc.)

Info: All you require is a TAPI compliant voice modem and you're ready to start taking calls. Simply install the modem on the computer running IVM, and connect it to an existing phone line. IVM should then be able to answer calls and detect user input for menus.

 

B) Telephony Board

Advantages: The more professional option, higher audio quality, can handle more than one phone line simultaneously, can transfer to live agent extensions

Disadvantages: High cost (upwards of $200)

Other: Uses existing phone line from your normal Telecom (e.g. at&t, bell, bt, telstra, etc.)

Info: Much like the Voice Modem option, once the board is installed and connected to a phone line it's ready for use with IVM.

 

C) VoIP

Advantages: Quite cheap (some services even offer free private incoming phone numbers and you don't pay a dime to use the service), Can handle several simultaneous calls at a time (depending on provider), Does not require purchase of additional equipment, or the purchase of phone lines from your existing Telecom

Disadvantages: Requires a high-speed Internet connection, and is not recommended for Satellite connections (like a satellite phone, there may be delays in transmission. If the line is solely being used for an automated menu IVR system, this delay may be acceptable and go by unnoticed). Audio quality can vary significantly based on conditions of the network/Internet connection or even your geographic location in relation to the provider.

Other: Generally works well for most users and organizations who have a high-speed connection and a basic understanding of computer networking

Info: Unlike the other methods, this one requires no purchase of additional hardware or equipment. IVM can connect directly to a VoIP service to answer phone calls. Many VoIP services offer very cheap rates in comparison to the major Telecoms and some even offer free incoming phone numbers.

 

Note that although Vonage is technically a VoIP service, it is atypical in comparison to others. Vonage locks their hardware so it can't be used with other equipment or software like IVM. In essence, Vonage can be treated as a normal analog line similar to the one you may have from your current Telecom provider. Thus in order to connect a Vonage line to IVM you would have to use either method A or B. P.S. Vonage is also one of the more expensive VoIP services (it is also the most well known).

 

 

Thank you very much for the fast reply! I am very happy to hear that IVM would suit my needs. From your information, I have already given up the idea of VoIP, as it does not seem feasible with our current internet connection. So, we will most likely go with the telephony board. Would it be possible for you to suggest an entry level product? Also, some general information such as what exactly it is, how it works, and how it is installed would be greatly appreciated.

 

Once I have this telephony board, how is it that I set everything up? I am not able to make the connection between the phone system and the computer system. Would I need a dedicated computer just for the phones? If so, how powerful?

 

Thanks again. Your help is greatly appreciated!!

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These are some of the boards NCH recommends: http://www.nch.com.au/hardware/telephony.html

 

If I were you, I would look around and maybe ask some users on this forum what kind of experiences they've had with different Telephony boards. I can't personally recommend a particular model since I don't use telephony boards, or rather I don't use them with IVM, so I have no experience in the matter. I know that some users report mixed results with some boards, while others seem to work flawlessly.

 

Basically the board acts just like a modem, you install it in one of the available PCI slots on the PC with IVM on it (or hook it up via USB if it is a USB version). IVM should then detect the Telephony Board when you go to add a Telephony device in the settings window. You will likely have to install the driver that comes with the board/modem first for Windows to detect it although some boards/modems may be detected automatically under generic chipsets. Even if your board is automatically detected by Windows, you should always install the latest driver from the manufacturer to help ensure full compatibility.

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pythonpoole -

 

Thanks again for the reply. I will open a new thread and see if I can get some input on Telephony Boards for use with IVM.

 

Since this card plugs directly into the PC, does this mean you run a phone line (cord) to the computer, then plug your phone directly into the computer? I am still having a hard time connecting the ideas of the computer and the phones.

 

Thanks so much!

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The boards connect just like old dialup modems. A phone line runs between the phone jack and the phone port on the board (which is installed inside the computer running IVM). It's pretty much the same as connecting a normal telephone, except that the board is in place of the phone.

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I wrote up a huge answer & explanation on my iPhone, but it didn't submit :( Oh well here I go again.

 

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Ah, I see. So you would like to set-up an internal phone network with different phone extensions?

 

To do that, you will need both NCH Carousel (free) and Axon. The purpose of Axon is to handle, manage and route calls on an internal phone network such as those found in businesses or hotels. Carousel is used to bridge analog calls from your Telephony board to the digital call type Axon works with.

 

You can then create internal extensions in Axon as needed that can access the phone network, call other extensions or make/take external calls.

 

Each Axon extension can either be in the form of an IP phone (which connects directly via ethernet to your network router or switch), a USB phone which integrates with softphone software on an existing computer on your network, or an ATA adaptor which allows you to connect normal analog phones to Axon.

 

Axon was also built to work with IVM, so it is easy to configure it for voice mail etc.

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Basically there are two methods to go about doing this.

 

1) Using digital IP Phones

IP Phones are a new generation in technology. Instead of transferring your voice in an analog wave form to your Telecom, digital IP phones convert your voice to a digital transmission and send it over your network or Internet connection to the receiving computer. They also tend to support additional features like call transfer, hold, conference and sometimes intercom buttons. Typically most IP phones also support more than 1 'virtual line' which lets them take or make more than 1 call at a time and easily switch between the lines as necessary (obviously you would not be able to make or take any more external calls at a time than you actually have phone lines for)

 

**Technically IP phones can also be called VoIP phones since they transfer voice transmissions over your network. In this case however, all transmissions would be 'in-house', so the type or speed of your Internet connection would have no effect on the performance of the system.

 

IP Phones can range in cost between $50 and $500 (the high-end phones tend to have things like colour-touch screens, built-in 'smartphone' type software and webcams)

A full-featured, solid quality IP phone usually costs about $100 or more, although the GXP-2000 is a great phone with lots of functionality and can be obtained for about $85

 

IP Phones connect directly to a free Ethernet port on your network router or switch.

 

2) Using Analog (your existing) Phones/Handsets

For this method, you need what they call an ATA adaptor. ATA adaptors basically allow you to connect traditional analog phones (the type you already have) to a digital IP phone network (like the type Axon supports).

 

ATA adaptors generally cost between $35-$75

The higher-cost ATAs usually support more than 1 phone extension, so you could have 2 independent phone extensions plugged into the same adaptor.

 

ATA adaptors also connect directly to a free Ethernet port on your network router or switch and then allow you to attach and run a normal (RJ11) phone line from the adaptor to wherever you want that phone extension. You can also use a splitter to have more than 1 phone share the same extension.

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Ok, I think I am starting to put everything together. I like the idea of the digitial IP phones. Let's say I went with those. My connections would look like:

 

Router (LAN) < Individual handsets

^

PC

^

Telephony Board

^

Telephone Service

 

So, the computer would connect to the router like a normal PC and the software auto detects the available handsets?

 

If this is the case, how will the rest of my network react to the implementation of this system? (We currently have two network printers, a NAS, 3 desktops, and many notebooks).

 

Thanks so much, pythonpoole. Your help is working!!

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You're correct, both the PC and the individual IP phones would connect directly to the router via ethernet.

 

When a call is made on an IP phone, it is then sent through the router to the PC with the telephony board, and vice versa, when a call comes in it gets sent from the telephony board to Axon running on the PC and then through the router to the appropriate IP phones.

 

It's not quite 'automatic' though. Each IP phone will have its own extension. In Axon you will create those extensions and assign them a username and password. Each IP phone can be configured with a username and password to 'log-in'/authenticate itself to the PBX (Axon in this case) to make calls.

 

The rest of the network would remain unaffected. However if you don't have enough ethernet ports available on your router, you would need to purchase a network switch to add more ports. Another note for the network side of things, if your router supports QoS (quality of service) it may be a good idea to turn this feature on as it may help prioritize IP phone traffic to ensure the sound doesn't start breaking up for example if the network becomes busy with other data traffic.

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I'm starting to catch on! :D

 

So, to sum everything up, I will need the following items:

 

1 Computer to run the phone system (recommended specs?)

1 Axon license

1 IVM license

1 Copy of Carousel

IP Phone (3 in my case)

Telephony Board

Switch (my router and current switch are indeed full)

 

Is this everything?

 

How easy is the installation and configuration of Axon, IVM, and Carousel?

 

Also, I don't need an IP Phone for every mailbox do I?

 

Thanks so much!

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*Before I forget, there is also other way to connect your analog phone line to Axon. There are devices called FXO adaptors (e.g. the linksys 3102) that basically link analog phone lines to digital phone systems like Axon. Carousel is refered to as a virtual FXO adaptor because it takes the analog audio from the telephony board and links it to Axon in a digital form, but other people chose to simply purchase an FXO adaptor that completely eliminates the need for a Telephony Board.

 

FXO adaptors are generally cheaper than telephony boards, and also provide very similar functionality and do not require the conversion software to constantly run on the PC. Unlike a telephony board however, they are not installed in the PC, but rather connect to your network through ethernet much like an ATA adaptor does.

 

So it's up to you what you would rather do.

 

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Recommended specs really depend, and I don't have a definitive answer for you, sorry. I know that I run a phone server that has a 2.5 GHZ pentium 4 (single core) processor and 1 GB ram and it handles several simultaneous calls with a fair amount of resources to spare.

I would recommend these minimums:

On 2000/2003/XP: 2 GHz single core or better processor, with at least 512 MB of ram

On Vista: 1.7 GHz dual core or better processor, with at least 1 GB of ram

 

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As for your list, that pretty much sums it up quite well.

 

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Axon is very straightforward when it comes to installing and setting it up. It has a Web based interface and adding extensions, modifying dial plans and configuring dial groups are just a couple of clicks away. Compared to many other PBX call routing systems, Axon is very much 'dumbed down' and user-friendly so you've probably made the right choice.

 

IVM connects quite well with Axon, in fact when you install Axon I believe it automatically sets-up IVM with an extension and voice-mail accounts. If not, it could be the other way around where if you install IVM second it auto sets up. Either way it's not that difficult, and even if you need to set it up manually, it's practically a piece of cake.

 

Carousel is a bit tricky to set-up in comparison to other software however. Even I (as an 'Einstein' according to the forum) would have to spend some time looking through the manual/documentation. It's not so much that it's very complex or has too many settings to configure, it's more a case of understanding what the settings need to be configured to. Either way though I would say FXOs (virtual or otherwise) are a little difficult to set-up for the average user and you may need to seek advice/help later on for this part.

 

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Note that some IP phones have built-in router & bridging modes so you can actually connect the phone to the switch, and then a PC to the phone so you don't need to run another line and take up extra ethernet ports.

 

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Lastly, the mailboxes run independently to the number of lines, extensions or IP phones you have. You can have as many or little as you need (*limited by your IVM license), but realize that only 1 mailbox can be connected to each IP phone (i.e. so when that IP phone's extension is called and not answered, it goes to its connected mailbox).

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Great!

 

I have a couple more questions.

 

We are thinking of purchasing the Small Interactive System license of IVM (70 OGMs, 8 mailboxes), but we will only have three or four phones. How do you go about accessing the mailboxes while on the system. Example: Phones 1 - 3 are assigned mailboxes, but I want to check the messages on mailbox 7 using phone 1. I assume on the external side of things, you simply call the main phone number and enter a code to access a mailbox, correct?

 

Also, how does faxing work using IVM and the IP Phones? We have a very, very basic (read old) fax machine that we use about once a week for sending faxes. This machine is not network enabled. For receiving faxes, we use a GoDaddy service that accepts the fax, turns it into an email, then forwards that email to a specified email address (quite similar to eFax). Would we still be able to send faxes using our current machine, and would anything need to be changed in order to do so?

 

Thanks again for the help and information.

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You will still have access to the other mailboxes. This can be done either through

a) Calling an internal extension set-up for retrieving voice mails

B) Calling in from outside and at your IVR menu, select an option (e.g. *) to access voice mail

c) Using the built-in web interface in IVM to access voice mail with a web browser

 

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As for faxes, you shouldn't have any problem sending them out. Simply connect the fax to another phone jack on the same line, or to the same phone jack as the PC by using a splitter (The Fax machine needs to be connected directly to the phone line from your Telecom, and not to the Telephony Board or Axon).

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Ok. Thank you for all the help. We are definitely going to get the system that you and I have discussed above. Now it is just a matter of raising the funds throughout the church.

 

If I have any more questions, I will post them in this thread or create a new thread if need be.

 

Thanks again!

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