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Make a big impression

Apr 07, 20033 mins
Small and Medium BusinessVoIP

SOHO phone services provide corporate PBX features without the cost or headaches

When Chuck Wilsker and John Edwards launched the Telework Coalition in 2001, they faced a dilemma. They wanted to run the telework consultancy from their respective home offices, but needed the sophisticated calling features to project a professional image.    

They weighed their options. Wilsker and Edwards could break down and lease office space, or invest in a small office PBX system that could be difficult to manage. A third option made more sense: to try a hosted communications service from e-cerv called Aptela. Today, they work the phones like they’re in the same building.

“We’re two guys whose operation appears much bigger than it is,” says Wilsker, whose Rockville, Md., office is a 45-minute drive from Edwards’ office in Potomac Falls, Va.

SOHO phone services from Aptela — as well as others such as AccessLine CommunicationsInteractive IntelligenceLinx Communications and Verb Exchange — offer an affordable way to gain all the features and functionality of traditional PBX systems. Users have individual extensions and personalized voicemail greetings. With Aptela specifically, users can fetch messages remotely. If Wilsker needs to transfer a call to Edwards, he just punches “# #” and Edwards’ extension, and the call rings in Edwards’ office, on his cell phone, or to whatever number he chooses. The automated attendant answers inbound calls with a company-specific greeting: “Thank you for calling the Telework Coalition…”

The Aptela network is a combination of local and long-distance telephony and IP services. The application includes the call tree (the Web-based tool subscribers use to route their calls), message management and directory creation tools hosted at the company’s Washington, D.C. office. 

Aptela was designed to scale with the growing home or small business or telework organization – or dispersed sales team – with a realistic maximum of 200 users, says Howard Freidman, CEO of the McLean, Va., company.

Though Web-based, this is not voice over IP. VoIP will be an available option before year-end, Freidman says. Once programmed by an e-cerv technician (one-time set-up cost: $100), the system uses your existing phone numbers and hardware. Accessible from any Web-enabled computer, users access the site, then program successive numbers for the system to dial in order to track them down.

When he’s traveling, Wilsker logs on and switches the primary number to his cell. The system even asks the caller’s name, so Wilsker can decide whether to take a call or send it to voicemail. When the call goes to voice mail, a text message is sent to his cell phone notifying him that there is a voice mail.

The system has an inbound call log to track all callers and duration of calls. Those numbers can be added to an address book and contact manager. There’s also a calendar.

A call distribution system provides call center features. Calls can be routed to the next available rep or employee, or the system can ring all available reps at the same time, connecting the first to answer.

The system costs $79 per month for three users, and $10 for each additional user.