Your Phone System And What You Can Do Going Forward

Dave Hodgdon and Steve Ripper from Portsmouth Computer Group (PCGIT) discuss phone systems for businesses, an essential business function that goes unnoticed until employees begin working remotely during pandemics like COVID-19.

Mike: It is Tech Tuesday. The WTSN Morning Information Center all powered by Portsmouth Computer Group, PCGIT. For world class IT service and customer support, go to and you can check them out. They’ve got convenient locations in Portsmouth, Dover, Manchester, and Portland, Maine. Dave Hodgdon and Steve Ripper join us remotely today once again to talk a little bit about some computer ideas and tech ideas. Today, I guess we’re going to talk a little bit about the phone system. Steve, when we’re talking about the phone system, what are we talking about here?

Phone Systems and Flexibility

Steve: Yes, let’s talk about your phone system. Particularly, how did it do during all of this? I know this all isn’t over yet, but at this point companies have had a month, two, or longer of the remote access as a different reality. Now’s a great time to think about, how did your phone system stack up? Did it do everything you wanted it to do from a company perspective? Did it make it easier on your people who had to work remotely? Did it make it harder? Were people just using their cellphones instead of your business phones? That’s not a great look for you. We want to talk about your phone system. What can you do going forward? This is a great time to look at, what new ideas can you use to make this new reality a little bit easier, remote access, having phones at everybody’s house, softphones, things like that. Right, Dave?

Dave: Correct. Having that flexibility, Mike, of knowing if your receptionist is at home, she can answer all calls, your group knows who’s answering the phones, after hours support if the auto attendant is on, and just finding people depending where they’re working. During the first few days, we made the changes. Our phone system was able to adapt. We made the changes to have remote extensions because I still have my phone extension at work, but I have my phone extension home, so you need to know where to call me. It was interesting to work it out, but overall for us it’s working out great.

Phone Systems Technology

Mike: Are we talking, Dave, about some of the hardware, the headsets, the actual technology, the hardware stuff that comes with putting together a good phone system besides the inner workings of how the networks are devised?

Dave: Absolutely, Mike. Besides the headsets, a lot of headsets you think of a Polycom or a Cisco phone that you use, your standard set that’d be at your office, can that work at home? The softphones, a lot of people might not have the respective headsets or the capabilities [inaudible] from their computer or cabling. It does incorporate all that, plus knowing that your home has a decent internet connection to have a good phone call. I think there was a good learning period there for most people. Overall, PCG was very successful. I think the majority of our clients were.

Mike: Steve, let me ask you this. Companies now, they’ve gotten some time to look at these systems, they’ve seen what works and doesn’t work, so what should companies be looking for in a phone system right now?

Steve: First thing’s first, if you’re using still one of the analog phone systems, you really need to rethink that. Voice is really the way to go, voiceover IT or if you want to think about it in simpler terms, you’re talking about using your phone system over the internet connections that your company or your home already have. If you’re still using that analog copper line type phone system, it’s really probably not performing the way you want it to in terms of remote access. Those are hard landlines to different locations. They’re not traveling around with your workers, with your users. You want to start thinking about a voice system. Voice systems very simply are going to allow you to … I could just grab my desk phone off of my desk, bring it home with me, just plug it into my network, and it works exactly the same as it did on my desk at the office.

If I want to have clear, normal, what I’m used to talking to my clients, I can just bring the phone home with me. I didn’t because I also have a softphone installed right on my cell phone, so I can use the soft phone and still be calling customers, when they see a call coming from me, it’s coming from PCG, it’s not coming from my cell phone. I have those options. You really need to start thinking about those types of technologies to get away from those phone lines and really start thinking about some of the newer, modern, over internet type phone systems.

What are Softphones and How Do They Work?

Dave: A lot of the old phone systems, Mike, don’t have the capabilities as Steve was talking about. The old copper lines, the lines that go directly to your building don’t have the flexibility to just plug a phone anywhere and have it work, to find your phone. They call it the find me, follow me feature. The ability to have an email go to voicemail, so it’s great flexibility.

Mike: Dave and Steve, I wanted to ask you guys. Steve, you mentioned softphones. I’m not quite sure I understand what soft phones are.

Steve: A soft phone is very simple if I just use my cellphone and I call a company, a client, they’re going to see my cellphone number and they don’t know who that’s from. Maybe they don’t answer it because they don’t know who it’s from. A soft phone is going to be an application that is associated with our phone system. All the major voice manufacturers pretty much make a soft phone for their system and that should be a bullet item on your list if you’re shopping, to make sure that you have this capability. A soft phone very simply, Mike, I downloaded the app, then I connected it through the app’s configuration to our phone system. What I do is on my cell phone instead of just making a direct call on my cell phone, I open the soft phone first, then I dial. What happens is the client that I’m calling sees the number is from PCG. They probably already have that allowed or they see it and they’ll take my call as opposed to not taking it because it came from my cell phone.

Mike: Don’t know the numbers, I get that. That’s a good point.

Dave: I found soft phones are great, Mike, especially for my technical staff. They’re not doing outbound calls, so they keep their headset on so they can use their keyboard, their hands, and they’re able to do what they need to do. It gives them flexibility to still do the tech work on the screen and answer the phones with the application. It’s pretty cool.

When to Look for New Phone Systems

Mike: Is now a good time to be looking at new phone systems? Should it be at a different time of the year, different time of the month? What do you think?

Dave: I think there’s many factors coming there, Mike. A lot of times if you’re in an agreement or contract, there’s not much you can do unless they’re not meeting the standards of what you thought you were going to get. When the current system’s up for renewal, when the contract’s up, great time to look. Another good time is when you’re moving your office. Right now, a lot of things are changing. Maybe people are looking for less office space, working more from home remotely. That’d be a good option. A lot of your systems could be aging, which means there is no contract in place, you just strictly are probably paying a person like Comcast or Firstlight a fee, but you can convert that over to voice. I think a lot of people are also adjusting now with the recent events that went on with COVID. Another good reason. You can save money, you get more features, it’s flexible with your remote office workers, and we’ve been speaking a lot about Teams recently and I’d like Steve to highlight why 365 on Teams is a great phone option.

Steve: That’s a new out of the box way of thinking about your phone system. A lot of companies out there including us, we’re exploring it ourselves, they have their phone system, then they’re also using Teams to do the video, the meetings, and things like that. You can actually combine them. You can do licensing through Microsoft, put your phone numbers, and your phone system through Teams for true seamless phone calling whether you’re doing the call directly over Teams to do a video call or you’re using your phone system to make the call through Teams. In effect, Mike, everything I just described to you about the soft phone, it really makes the team’s app that’s on your cell phone, the soft phone. You’re opening Teams and you’re just choosing whether to make a phone call, a video call, or a Teams call. It really seamlessly integrates it. We’re seeing a lot of the companies out there have gotten very used to Teams. Whether they wanted to, had to, or both, they really started embracing and using Teams. Now, you can really start to think about whether you want to put your phones directly through it. It’s absolutely an option, it can be done. We can help.

Dave: Mike, one of the bigger things I saw in the Teams which I liked, you’re always looking at your expenses or your costs. With the Teams phone, you pay for what you need. A lot of phone systems you would have to pay for an agreement. One, two, three, five years you’re stuck with it. With Teams, you pay for what you use. If you go up in staff or down in staff, you’re basically adding 20 dollars per user for the license to use the Teams for your dialing. If you have 10 employees, it’s 200 bucks. Plus, all your taxes. If you get 15, it’s there if you go down. I really like knowing you’re paying for what you’re using. It’ll work with your existing, like your Polycoms, as Steve said of your softphones. It’s a great option. If it is time with what’s going on with your phone solution and we talked about the reasons why, this is a good option to look at.

Mike: All right. To learn more about what phone system is right for you, you can call the guys here at Portsmouth Computer Group. 431-4121, that’s 431-4121 or visit their new website at Sounds good. Talking about phone systems and obviously the high quality that people need to get to continue to move on with their business. It’s a whole new way of doing business. Steve Ripper, thank you so much. Good to see you and talk to you again. Dave Hodgdon, always nice to talk to you as well. The voice from Tech Tuesday, Portsmouth Computer Group,

Dave: Thanks, Mike.

Mike: Thank you guys. Have a great Tuesday.

Steve: Thanks, Mike.