Building voicemail system - need hardware advice

I'm looking to build a voicmail system for a small business. Currently we have 2 analog phone lines, but will expand to 4 in the next few weeks. I'm looking for a simple "automated attendant" type setup that will answer calls, forward message alerts via email, etc. This will be running on a standard Windows box (XP Pro or Server 2003, whichever will work best). I need suggestions for the best telephony boards to consider, as well as suggestions for suggestions for software.
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Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE )Infotrakker SoftwareAsked:
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Take a look at the software from NCH they have a pretty powerful package that can handle voicemail and autoattendent.  It also includes quite a few other features including voicemessage to email.  You can download the demo and the price is quite reasonable for windows software of this type.  The 'unlimited' 64 line version is under $200.

They provide a freeware windows based IP PBX which will integrate with the voicemail package,

If you go this route a voip gateway may be the best route.  You would probably want to look at a 4 port FXO unit to handle 4 regular phone lines.  Though if you use a IP PBX it would allow you to mix in voip lines for future expansion without the need for hardware (as long as you have good bandwidth).

Lots of voip hardware,  here are the 4 port units

The other thing I might suggest would be to look into Asterisk based systems,  for something easy to use take a look at trixbox,  its fairly user friendly

Other versions of Asterisk are quite capable but have a steep learning curve if you are not linux friendly at the start.  Though these are full featured PBX setups they can easily be used for voicemail alone.

One nice thing about SIP hardware is that is will work with most anything out there.  The same is not true of internal PCI telephoney boards which can be quite expensive.

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Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE )Infotrakker SoftwareAuthor Commented:
Thanks very much for your input. I have looked into the NCH software and found it pretty easy to deal with and userfriendly.

So if I use a 4 port FXO board, I can connect my analog lines to that and use my LAN to transport calls? How would my current standard deskphones integrate with this, or would I need to buy VoIP-compatible phones? I saw this DLink unit at the link you provided: Have you ever dealt with this unit?

Again, thanks much ... I'm a newbie at this, and don't want to waste money buying something that's outdated or not scalable, so your input is very much appreciated.

Yes a gateway unit is more or less a analog to digital converter to get the phone traffic onto the network.  

The FXO port units are for phone lines and FXS ports are for connecting analog phones.  So you could use existing old style phones with FXS port units.  A analog phone would just require you to use touch tone sequences to control features.  A IP phone may allow you to have more direct access to features.  Alot depends on the features of the IP phones and the PBX you are using them with.

If you have analog phone lines keeping at least some analog phones around is not bad as you can still direct connect to the lines as a backup.

Some combination FXS/FXO gateways also have a direct connect feature so that if the IP side malfunctions it will direct connect the FXS port to the phone line on the FXO port.  Often called phone line failover.  These might be a good starting point for a small setup.


I cannot speak with any experience with that D-Link unit.  I am not sure that it is still in production as I cannot find any current info on it from D-Link and many sources seem to be out of stock.  So that may be a concern.  I would suggest reading a manual on any unit before buying,  some units are not very user friendly.  I tend more toward internal cards with Asterisk and not so much for external gateways.

I might also just mention this small PBX system called Talkswitch,

A number of thier units are upgradable, handle both IP and analog phone lines/sets and they do provide a voicemail->email feature.  Prices start around $695-$1000.  When compared to setting up a computer and buying software etc.  it might be a lot less work for similar money.  I have heard some good things about them.
Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE )Infotrakker SoftwareAuthor Commented:
Thanks very much ...
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