When Shopping for a CT Server

Features to consider when shopping for a computer telephony (CT) server.

3 Min Read
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If you are planning to buy a computer telephony (CT) server, hereare some features to consider:

*Server OS: Windows NT is best for LAN, database, and messagingconnectivity. Vendors also use Novell NetWare, OS/2, UNIX, Windows 95, andMS-DOS.

*Trunk-line support: What types of incoming lines does the serversupport? All servers handle analog lines. Some servers support DID lines (whichlet you route calls directly to an extension), Integrated Services DigitalNetwork (ISDN) Basic Rate Interface (BRI) lines (which provide back-end supportfor BRI phones), and T-1 and ISDN Primary Rate Interface (PRI) lines (whichprovide the most cost-effective support in 24-line increments).

*Station phone support: All servers handle standard touch-tonephone sets. Some servers support ISDN-BRI phones. A few vendors sell proprietaryphones.

*Trunk and station-port capacity per CT server: How many incomingphone lines can a single CT server box accept? How many station phones does asingle box support? What are the extra hardware and software costs if you wantto expand?

*CT server capacity per LAN: How many CT servers can you add to asingle LAN or WAN? Can you administer them as one logical unit or as separatesystems?

*Voicemail or auto-attendant option: Is voicemail or auto-attendanta standard feature or an add-on? How many mailboxes are supported? Is messagenotification support adequate for your needs? Can users easily change theirmailbox profiles from their desktop computers?

*Unified-messaging support: Can the mailboxes integrate withstandard messaging platforms such as Microsoft Exchange and Outlook? If you arenot using Exchange or another email server, is a GUI provided?

*ACD option: Is Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) a standard featureor an add-on? What ability is available to create multiple call queues? Can youdefine a skills profile for employees and route calls based on that profile? Canyou route calls to employees who are off site?

*Screen-pop support: Can you read caller-ID orautomatic-number-identification information? Can incoming calls initiate aScreen pop at the destination station via dynamic data exchange (DDE) or ObjectLinking and Embedding (OLE) integration? Can the system integrate with OpenDatabase Connectivity (ODBC) databases?

*IVR or scripting option: Is interactive voice response (IVR) astandard feature or an add-on? Can you use Visual Basic or some other scriptlanguage to create an IVR application?

* Call-control support: Can you perform call-control functions froma desktop computer? Is it compliant with the Telephone API (TAPI) or TelephonyServices API (TSAPI) standard?

In the past, PBX-enabled CT server solutions claimed to be less expensivethan buying separate PBX and voicemail systems. Unfortunately, this statement isnot true today. Although CT servers are more expensive, they can dosignificantly more than a separate PBX and voicemail system solution.

CT servers, however, cost less than separate PBX, voicemail, and ACDsystems. Thus, if you need more than just a voicemail and phone system, CTservers can be a great value. Enabling a workgroup with intelligent ACDcapabilities in addition to the standard phone and voicemail services is thesweet spot for this product arena.

One caveat applies when you're shopping for a CT server: Some vendors arepricing their solutions with seemingly little regard to the prices theircompetitors are charging. In some cases, prices can be double those of similarsystems from other vendors, so be wary and shop around. Make sure you know aheadof time what features are important to you and compare pricing on the basis ofyour needs.

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