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Todd Terry
Phone system
on Nov 15, 2010 at 4:45:57 pm

I think our phone system at our production company is about to give up the ghost... and was wondering what you guys use?

We have an AT&T Spirit system... one which hasn't been made in a long long time.

I has a main box and an expansion module... It can take six incoming lines (although we only have three) and feeds extensions in the studio, GM's office, audio booth, lobby, two in each of the three edit suites, conference, makeup, greenroom, etc. etc. I think there are 14 extensions. The system will handle a few more, but we don't need them at present.

A lightning strike fried the main box a few years ago, and we replaced it with one bought on eBay.. which worked fine until recently... calls are dropped, and phones suddenly go haywire, and the phones light up like a Christmas tree.

I probably could find another main box (again, eBay), as the expansion module is likely fine and I know all the individual phones are in good shape... but think it may be time to bite the bullet and replace the whole shootin' match.

I had done a little research a while back, and the choices out there are pretty complicated and wildly varying. There's PBX systems, Hybrid-PBX, KSU-less systems... and on and on.

Anyone have any practical real-world experiences or advice?

Much thanks,

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bill Davis
Re: Phone system
on Nov 15, 2010 at 6:32:50 pm

Todd,

God I wish I could help you. I think this is an area where there's been a HUGE devolution in products and services over time. Once upon a time, a small business system was easy to find, solid and dependable, and didn't require a specialist to install or maintain. (remembering fondly the old AT&T Merlin systems of my early career!)

Today, I hate to say it, but you might have to talk to a small business telephone expert and pay for the expertise that, once upon a time, you could manage yourself.

Personally, we use an AT&T 954 system - but there's no "central box" anymore - all the intelligence is built into chips in the phone units. Each phone is so complex that other than picking up the damn thing and occasionally using the HOLD button, I don't mess with any of the other 400 things it's SUPPOSED to do. (As an example, there are 17 "special purpose" buttons on the dial plate that have NOTHING to do with making a simple call or selecting a line. Things like "timer/delete" and "set/review" that are probably useful for someone - but not for me.

Today's telephone systems are largely propriatary "programmable" computerized gadgets that have 10 times the features that the vast majority of their customers NEED and are built to the cheapest standards possible. Like everything else today, they know that the current tech will likely be tossed in the dustbin in a few years, in favor of a replacement - so there's no real profit in building quality that lasts.

3 to 5 years on a phone system would likely be twice what you should expect - and that's a damn shame coming from an era where a telephone could be expected to work for a decade or more.

Good luck and let us know if you find the holy grail.

Rant mode off.



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Todd Terry
Re: Phone system
on Nov 15, 2010 at 9:19:52 pm

Hi Bill...

Thanks for the advice. Sounds like you have a "KSU-less" system, where all of the smarts are built into each individual phone. And yes, usually with a lot more features than are usually ever needed.

I think my search for that "Holy Grail" is going to, for now, lead to the "temporary Grail." I just bought another one of the master boxes... they were quite a few on eBay for around 25 bucks each. Maybe it will work, maybe not... but it's a cheap gamble. The phones here seem to have recovered a bit now, maybe they'll hold on until the new box arrives, and maybe it will fix the problem for the short run.

I think it's still a long-term problem though... this will be either the third or forth master box we've gone through. Fortunately a LOT of people seemed to have had these systems "back in the day" and they are fairly readily available used from systems that have been removed. The phones themselves are a little harder to get, so I think that's why a lot of these Spirit systems have been abandoned. Fortunately we bought a lot of a couple dozen of the phones (all working) a few years ago, so at least that part is not a problem.

I'm still open to finding a long-term solution, if anyone else has advice...

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mick Haensler
Re: Phone system
on Nov 15, 2010 at 11:18:20 pm

OK, here's what ya do. Sell the building, equipment, employees, everything to Walter so he can expand his empire even deeper south. With the profits, spend a year fixin up yer boat and go freakin sailing dude. I.....have an iPhone....

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media


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Todd Terry
Re: Phone system
on Nov 15, 2010 at 11:45:06 pm

Oh, Mick... I'd be ashamed to tell you the last time my sailboat was out.

I did go put on the heater on the engine block last weekend in anticipation of cold weather to come... but that's about as close as I come these days.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Rich Rubasch
Re: Phone system
on Nov 16, 2010 at 1:20:01 am

How many lines do you need? We have a four line 8 handset plus base unit in our facility and it works great-Panasonic. Most clients are on their cell phones and internet so phone demand at the office is reduced. We distribute the handsets around the shop and it's all we need.

About $700 complete.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production and Post
Owner/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com


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walter biscardi
Re: Phone system
on Nov 16, 2010 at 1:29:11 am

[Rich Rubasch] "How many lines do you need? We have a four line 8 handset plus base unit in our facility and it works great-Panasonic. Most clients are on their cell phones and internet so phone demand at the office is reduced. We distribute the handsets around the shop and it's all we need."

That's actually what we're doing. We're only going to have 3 phone lines with 12 wireless phones. We find the wireless is really the way to go to make it easy to walk around.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" Winner, Best Documentary, LA Reel Film Festival...

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Todd Terry
Re: Phone system
on Nov 16, 2010 at 3:57:19 am

Thanks, Rich...

The four incoming lines is more than enough (we only use three), but we need at least 14 extensions.

And... call me old fashioned, but (at least in an office setting) I hate wireless handsets with an absolute passion. Yes, I said you could call me old fashioned. Go ahead. Plus I have enough trouble keeping up with remotes.

Anecdote: Before our company grew enough to need all the square footage in our building, we used to lease out a couple of our upstairs offices to an advertising agency... they had wireless handsets. One of their ad guys used to wander into my office and plop down while yammering on his phone to someone completely unrelated to me. Rude, and very annoying. What's worse was when he would get up, WHILE STILL ON THE PHONE, and disappear into the men's room. CLASSY!.

"Fantastic Plastic — We believe in the rotary phone" ®

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Herb Sevush
Re: Phone system
on Nov 16, 2010 at 5:50:41 pm

Todd -

You might want to look at Talkswitch by Centrepoint technologies.

http://www.talkswitch.com/us/en/

They specialize in very small office PBX systems: from 2 - 8 phone lines, up to 14 extensions if I remember right. Cost around $1500. I used their smallest system for a few years, closed that office so I don't use it anymore.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions


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Mike Cohen
Re: Phone system
on Nov 16, 2010 at 6:23:17 pm

We use a system with about 15 extensions - we have several incoming lines, so each one has its own flashy button when it rings. Typical voicemail settings and recorded messages, dial by name, extension, ability to access your mailbox from off site, etc

I think we have a service provider for maintenance and adding of extensions.

We tried tomato soup cans and string, but had trouble with echo.

Mike Cohen


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Todd Terry
Re: Phone system
on Nov 16, 2010 at 7:03:49 pm

[Mike Cohen] "We tried tomato soup cans and string, but had trouble with echo."

Common problem, Mike... you weren't stretching it tight enough.

Thanks for the link, Herb... I'll give them a look.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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