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.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0They 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\u2019re in the same building.\u201cWe\u2019re two guys whose operation appears much bigger than it is,\u201d says Wilsker, whose Rockville, Md., office is a 45-minute drive from Edwards\u2019 office in Potomac Falls, Va.SOHO phone services from\u00a0Aptela \u2014 as well as others such as\u00a0AccessLine Communications,\u00a0Interactive Intelligence,\u00a0Linx Communications and\u00a0Verb Exchange \u2014 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 \u201c# #\u201d and Edwards\u2019 extension, and the call rings in Edwards\u2019 office, on his cell phone, or to whatever number he chooses. The automated attendant answers inbound calls with a company-specific greeting: \u201cThank you for calling the Telework Coalition\u2026\u201dThe 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\u2019s Washington, D.C. office.\u00a0Aptela was designed to scale with the growing home or small business or telework organization \u2013 or dispersed sales team \u2013 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\u2019s traveling, Wilsker logs on and switches the primary number to his cell. The system even asks the caller\u2019s 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\u2019s 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.