Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Call Me Maybe: A simple solution to a temporary phone outage

Often IT folks are expected to fix more than computers. If it plugs in, the computer geek is supposed to fix it, right? That can be good when you get paid by the hour, but it requires quite a bit of versatility, not to mention quick thinking.

If customers can’t reach you, they won’t stay your customers

A few months ago, a small company I work with lost phone service. So naturally they called their IT support person! Apparently the phone system was set up by a contractor several years ago, and  no one knows how to reach him now. I have some telecom experience, but not much.  Fortunately it was pretty easy to determine that the problem was their provider. The company’s internal phone system worked, but somehow service to the office was cut off.  The good news was that the provider was called and started working the issue immediately.  The bad news was that the estimated time to repair (ETR) was about 24 hours.

For this client, 24 hours without a phone was completely unacceptable, but there’s not much a small company can do to hurry up repairs by a Big Provider, is there?

How many phones line do you need?

It seemed like a much bigger problem that it was.  The 20 or so employees had no way for customers to reach them, but it occurerd to me that really only one phone number needed to be restored. The company has a main number with call routing to each employee’s phone.

Years ago a company was just out of luck when their local phone service was down. It didn’t matter if it was one number or 100.  There was only one provider, and if something happened to the lines, well, you just had to wait until the phone company fixed it. Now we have options. Obviously every employee could make their outgoing calls on their own cell phones.  They could send and receive email, as Internet access was still working. But customers could not call in.

Thinking outside the telecomm box

Since Internet access was working, the obvious answer was to switch them to VOIP. However, number transfers can take days. Forwarding call, though, takes minutes. Here’s how I solved the problem: I gave them permission to forward their main number to my personal home number, which is on Vonage.

The Vonage box is portable. It will work on any Internet connection anywhere. The best part, though, was that the Vonage box could also be connected to the company’s call routing system. The only flaw in the plan was that I was out a home phone, and anyone who called me got a recording thanking them for calling and telling them what numbers to press to reach certain people. Frankly, it was no great loss. Let’s face it–the only people who call my home phone any more are spammers and parents. I just warned the parents.

The entire fix took 20 minutes, only because I live 15 minutes away. OK maybe it was 25 minutes. The firewall had to be tweaked. As promised, the local service provider had the problem fixed the next day. I took my Vonage box home and phone spammers could, once again, reach me. Everyone was happy.

Join the discussion
What do you think of this tip for restoring temporary phone service using VOIP? Please post your comments or questions for Pat below.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply