Saturday, 3 October 2015

Multi-Line ATA's and IP-Phones - What's The Point?

Most VoIP ATA's come with two analog telephone lines.  Assuming your VSP (VoIP Service Provider) provides you with two (or more) VoIP lines (or extensions, or sub-accounts), what would you do with that 2nd available line?

Have A Dedicated FAX Line?

Before email became the de facto method of sending documents electronically over the Internet, the  most common method to do so was typically to use a Fax machine connected to an analog telephone line connected to their POTS telecom provider (Plain Old Telephone Service).

Now, however, if your ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) and VSP support compatible CODECs (Coder-Decoders) like G.711 or T.38, then you can just as easily send FAX over your VoIP line.  Thus, if you have a two-line ATA like the Cisco SPA112 or SPA122, then you will have one line to use as your primary telephone line, and one line for a dedicated FAX line.

FAX isn't as common as it used to be.  More and more people are just scanning their documents to PDF format and file sharing, or sending it via email attachment.

So, now what do you do with that 2nd ATA phone line if not to FAX?  Here are some options for that 2nd line:

Have A 2nd Dedicated Telephone Line And Number?

Some people purchase a second telephone number (DID - Direct Inbound Dialing phone number) on their VoIP account and then have it dedicated to connect to the Line-2 port on the ATA.  This is actually a good way to have a dedicated phone line for family and friends, etc and another phone line dedicated for personal business purposes, etc.  Of course, this also means having a 2nd analog telephone to plug into the ATA Line-2.  Now you can know the type of phone call coming in just by which phone line is ringing.

Connect To An Alternate VoIP Service Provider?

For those who use BYOD DIY VoIP, I always strongly advise to have a 2nd backup VoIP provider.  With this 2nd line dedicated to a 2nd VSP you will always have a backup option for making low-cost calls in the event your primary VSP service becomes disrupted.  And, this can and does happen sooner or later.

You can also use this 2nd VSP line to either have an alternate DID phone number.  Again, this 2nd number could be just for backup purposes, or perhaps for dedicated business purposes, etc.

You could also use this 2nd VSP line for dedicated outbound calling at lower rates than your primary VSP provides.  Some no-frills VSPs offer very low rates on their outbound calling (also referred to as "termination" service).  In this case, your 2nd line becomes an alternate low-cost "long distance calling" line.

Multi-Line IP Desktop Phones

Because I spend so much of my time working at my home office computer desk, my primary VoIP phone is the Cisco SPA508G desktop IP Phone.  About 3 years ago, I graduated up from my Cisco SPA504G IP Phone to the the SPA508G.  The only difference between these two phones is that the number of available lines.  The SPA504G supports 4-Line service and the SPA508G supports 8-Line service.  These are great phones because of the ease by which to select between phone lines - either for incoming calls, or a choice of outbound routes.

With milti-line IP desktop phones, it is so easy to configure each line to be tied to a different DID phone number as well as with different VoIP service providers.  At one time or another, I've had each of the 8 lines on the SPA508G configured with different VoIP providers, either for testing, or fail-over backup lines.  It's great to have choices, and backups.