Networking

Wait while I put on my phone guy hat

Being the computer guy for a small to medium business has a lot of perks.  One of them is the sense of community and the low-pressure atmosphere.  It's easy to get to know everybody in the company as I work on their computers.  For the most part, life in an SMB is laid-back without a lot of rush or urgency to get things done. Oh, don't get me wrong. There are days when I am overwhelmed with too many demands on my time but for the most part, it's an easy gig.

One of the things that has always bugged me about small business is the tendency of the owners to dump responsibility for anything with a power plug onto the computer guy.  I draw the line when it comes to copy machines but yes, I support FAX machines, cell phones, PDAs, voice mail and also the phone system.  I even buy the toner. My philosophy on FAX machines is to just replace them when they break.  It's not going to be that easy when the phone system breaks.

The first thing that will probably go is the voice mail system.  If you can believe it, we are still running an old Active Voice Replay Plus running on an early Pentium from 1997.  If that machine fails it will be a bit traumatic but for the most part, it will be an easy fix.  Just replace the computer, reinstall the software and have the original phone vendor that sold it to us come out and re-program everything to talk nice.  That's what phone vendors are for, right?

But when the phone system itself goes out, there is going to be some serious stuff hitting the fan.  No business can work without a phone system.  If you think people get upset when the Internet goes down, you just wait until they can't get calls.  Oh sure, cell phones will do in a pinch but that 800 number is the lifeline of the business.  I have tried several times to get management to upgrade to something more current, but the attitude is, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

So I have tried to be prepared with some contingency plans, like transferring the 800 number to an outside service or to another location, but eventually it's going to come down to "how quick can you get a new phone system in here?"  That's not a position I want to be in.  I have obtained quotes on new equipment and looked into off-site hosting.  It will be great to get a system that can support VoIP and Unified Messaging but can we afford to wait until it breaks to do that?

Do you have any advice for me?  I've played the fear card and the 'let's budget for this now' card with management.  Neither has worked.  Have you been in a similar situation and had success in getting management to spring for a $50,000 phone system when the current system works just fine?  If so, how did you do it?

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