will work with the voice modems youchoose. Look for a list of supported modemson the software vendor’s Web site. With more than two modems—or even if you’re adding a second modem in a sys-tem that uses a serial mouse—you’ll have to worry about hardware conflicts. PCs offerfour serial ports, but com 3 normally uses thesame IR Qas com 1, and com 2 normally usesthe same IRQ as com 4. With these standardsettings, you can’t have an active connectionon both com 1 and com 3 or on both com2 and com 4 at the same time. Any voice mail program that supportsmore than two modems will also offer a way to sidestep this conflict. This is typically accomplished by way of a multi-modemcard, which includes multiple modems us-ing one IRQ, or by way of a multi-portcard,which offers four, eight or more serialport connections for external modems. Makesure you know what the solution is for thesof t w are you’ve chosen and that you get
hardware to fit that solution. The software vendor may even sell the appropriate mo-dem or multi-port card. If so, life may be eas-ier if you get both the hard w are and software
from the same source.If you’re mixing programs—one for faxand one for voice mail—you may need amo re creative solution. One possibility isto get USB modems from a company suchas Zoom Telephonics. This assumes thatthe system you’re using is new enough to of-fer USB support, the operating system(preferably Windows 98) offers USB support
and that the voice mail and fax software will work with USB modems.
A WORD ABOUT SWITCHES
Most of these issues also apply if you havea phone switch because each modem plugsinto one of the switch’s phone lines, just asit would plug into a phone jack coming di-rectly from your phone company. The key difference is that with a switch you don’tneed a separate modem for each line fromthe phone company. And conversely, youdon’t need a separate outside line for eachmodem.If you have more than two voice lines, you should seriously consider getting aphone switch. For this discussion, we’ll as-sume you have a programmable switch thatcan accept standard phones and modems— a description that applies, for example, toPanasonic’s Digital Super Hybrid systems( w w w .panasonic.com/consumer_electron-
i c s / c o m m u n i c a t i o n _ s y s t e m s / i n d e x . h t m ) .Note that if you have an all-digital switch, you will not be able to use modems with itunless the switch can support analogueports as well.Phone switches are based on the propo-sition that you’ll rarely, if ever, need to makeas many simultaneous connections to theoutside world as you have phones in youroffice. As long as that assumption is true, youcan conveniently share a small number of external lines from the phone company’scentral office (CO) among some larger num-ber of internal extensions. Incoming callsf rom any of the CO lines can connect toany of the internal extensions and outgoingcalls can connect to any of the CO lines. Asa bonus, you can dial from any of the internalextensions to any other without having topay for a phone call. A typical switch for a small office will al-low from 2 to 8 CO lines and 8 to 32 inter-nal extensions. (If your phone system needsare much greater than this, your voice mailneeds will probably outstrip the capabilitiesof voice mail software and standard voicemodems.) Most switches also provide somelevel of programmability, often by way of aproprietary digital phone using the keypadand LCD. Typically, you can designate whichinternal line should get the incoming callsfrom each CO line, which extension a callshould bounce to if there is no answer ona given internal line and whether calls shouldbe treated diff erently depending on the day of the week or the time of day.
VOICE MAIL SCENARIOS
Consider what you can do with just thesecommands programmed into the switch, areceptionist to direct calls and a voice mailprogram that handles just one line and of-fers nothing beyond answering machinefeatures with multiple mailboxes.The modem controlled by the voice mailprogram gets plugged into one of the in-ternal lines. You can set each CO line tosend all incoming calls to the receptionist’sextension from 9 to 5 on weekdays but sendthem to the voice modem at all other times.f your voice mail pro g r a mincludes an auto-attendantf e a t u re and your switchincludes the ability to trans-fer calls, you can put together a moresophisticated messaging system. First,make sure that the software and theswitch support the same feature fortransferring calls. A common choice,for example, is a flashhook com-mand, which is the equivalent of tap-ping the hang-up button on a stan-d a rd phone. An auto-attendant feature will notonly give the caller a way to find theright extension but will dial the exten-sion using the switch’s call transferf e a t u re. Most auto-attendants will alsomonitor the call to see whether it ispicked up. If not, they tell the switchto hang up the line, re t u rn the callerto the voice mail program and givethe caller an opportunity to leave amessage in the appropriate mailbox.
THE AUTO-ATTENDAN T