by Bill King
In November of 2019 one of our long time clients, Hutton Broadcasting made the decision to switch from their old analog PBX phone system to a VOIP phone system. Hutton Broadcasting is a Santa Fe company that operates 5 New Mexico radio stations as well as providing a full range of digital advertising services. They had just expanded into a new space in the lower floor and were moving many of their employees into the new space. Previously several of their employees were sharing a single phone,and now they needed a separate phone for each. VOIP, which stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, is a service that provides the full range of telephone services; but uses the Internet to provide a connection instead of traditional copper analog wires. Internally, the VOIP phones use the same ethernet connection as a computer, and most phones have a pass-through connection that allows a computer to share the same connection as the phone. There are several advantages to VOIP, including being able to easily move phones around the building, easily add and remove lines, they can be configured for a central phone to answer or all of the phones, as well as others.
Once the order was complete, I began preparing the phones. We had a bach of internal phone numbers, and I obtained a current list of employees and their existing extensions.
I assigned a phone to one of the phone numbers and then assigned that to an employee and extension. Once all of the phones had been assigned, I was able to go around and place one on each employee’s desk. In most cases I would take the ethernet cable from their computer and connect it to the phone and then connect a second ethernet from the phone to the computer; allowing both devices to share a single connection to their main switch. These phones were already live and able to make calls. At this same time was placed the order with the phone company to port over their existing main number and fax phone numbers. This process typically takes 1-2 weeks to complete.
I had already created a temporary Main number for their company so I used the existing connection to use the standard *72 command on their analog phone to forward all incoming calls to our temporary number. AT this point they were using our VOIP system exclusively. I proceeded to remove all of the old phones and discarded them. Once the number porting was complete, I simply assigned their previous numbers, which were now under our control, to the main auto-attendant and fax lines.
Faxes are an interesting item in the VOIP world. Faxes operate by scanning a document and then converting the image into an audible signal that is transmitted over a phone line to another fax that then reverses the process. This audible signal is what we have all heard when we accidentally receive a fax call to our voice line. Being that the fax is strictly an audible signal, it needs to have that audible signal transmitted as is. For that we use something called an ATA. An ATA, or Analog Telephone Adapter, is a device that takes the incoming data from the VOIP system and translates it back into an audible signal, and has a standard RJ-11 phone jack which can easily connect to a standard fax machine.
As it happens, we found another use for the ATA’s at hutton.
As mentioned, they have several radio stations which often have call in shows. The studio equipment has connections for phone lines, but not VOIP. You can connect a standard hand phone to an ATA and make and receive phone calls, although we typically use a VOIP phone; having one device instead of two. In this case we used one or more ATA’s in each studio to allow the phone calls to be forwarded into the studio system for broadcast. This was accomplished by creating a Hunt Group for each station. A Hunt Group is simply a group of phones that all have a master phone number. The main station phone number was then ported over and assigned to the Hunt Group. I configured the Hunt Group to ring all of the phones at the same time. Then the DJ could answer on a standard VOIP handset and if he decides to broadcast the conversation he simply forwards the call to the extension for the ATA which then feeds the call directly into the studio system. There were some additional tweaks to the setup. They decided that they did not want to hear the call waiting beep on the over the air lines, so it was disabled. A couple of the ATA’s had two connections, so we configured them to roll over from the first connection to the second automatically. Later it was decided that they wanted to be able to record the calls for some of the stations, on the computer. For that we installed the Softphone utility and discontinued usage of the ATA for those stations. The Softphone is simply an application installed on a computer that is associated with a phone number. It allows for calls to be made and received without an actual handset. From there they could easily route the call to the recording software also installed on the computer.
During this entire project it was found that the client had multiple different accounts with the phone company, each with multiple phone lines associated with them. Many of these were not in use and had not been for some time. The client was able to close many of these accounts.