Home Office Tech: The Phone

The telephone is one of the most important pieces of your home office. Today, there are many options beyond the traditional local phone company.

The telephone. Once upon a time this was a pretty simple solution — just using your local phone company to provide you with a land-line. Today, while this may still ultimately be your choice, you have many, many other options to sort through. There are so many options that you can now tailor-fit a solution that takes into account the needs of your job and the limits of your budget.

Types of phone lines

A land-line is of course your first option here. Still considered to be the highest quality option for phone service, the traditional land-line may very well fit your needs. Less affected by weather conditions, electrical issues or other problems that can wreak havoc on VOIP or digital lines, a land-line may in fact be required for your job. With a home office, you needn’t get a full-fledged business phone unless you have a need to be listed in the yellow pages, perhaps for a home based business. A simple residential 2nd line will work fine.

If a land-line isn’t required for your job, you might want to consider a VOIP line. VOIP lines use your high-speed internet connection to provide you with phone service for less then traditional phone company lines. VOIP services line Vonage work pretty seamlessly, allowing you to use all your regular phone equipment. You have a standard phone number, and often you can even transfer your existing number if you choose. Unlimited long distance, lots of user features and internet access to your voicemail are all great reasons to choose a VOIP line.

Another option may be a digital phone line through your cable company. These tend to be more expensive then the VOIP lines, but offer similar features. Plus, you can often get a great discounted rate on a cable digital line for the first 6-months or even a year. Just keep an eye out for promotions.

Features you need

These days there are lots of features that come with phone lines, some are trivial while others are essential for a successful home office. Here’s a few top features you will want to look for:

Voicemail. This can be important to your home office, and there are a few different systems. A lot of services have website access to your voicemail, so you can choose to listen to messages either over your phone or on your computer. Website access may also allow you to email a voicemail message to someone, or download and save it to your computer.

Forwarding. There are various forwarding options that can be helpful, including allowing you to forward calls to a mobile phone, set do-not-disturb hours, or route calls to a variety of phones in order or randomly. You may also be able to setup special answering rules based on caller id, allowing you to provide priority service to important clients.

Call Waiting. This is another pretty standard feature that’s been around for a long time. The simple ability to place a current conversation on hold to answer another incoming call is pretty much a must-have. However, new and enhanced systems now let you conference 2 or more calls together, forward calls to other phones, or even play hold-music while a call is on hold. Some of these new features may not be necessary for your situation, so don’t be over-sold on a system simply because it has countless features.

Quality equipment

Finally, you’ll need a quality phone for your home office. The type of phone you need will depend on your needs and your working environment. You may find a cordless phone allows you the freedom to move your work to the kitchen table or back patio, providing you with freedom to move around. Don’t skimp though, if you decide to go cordless make sure to purchase a quality phone. Cheaper phones tend to have interference or short battery-life.

A 2-line phone is handy too. You can use one line for your home phone line and the other for your business line. Make sure you can adjust the ringer volume for each line so you can turn your home-line off during business hours.

Its also important to make sure your phone can use a headset. If you need to be on the phone and typing on your computer simultaneously, a headset is a must-have. This is another piece of equipment that you don’t need to break the bank to purchase, but be careful not to settle for low-end merchandise either. Take some time to look at the options available.

Of course more and more people are switching to using a cell phone exclusively for their home office. While the cost still remains higher, unlimited plans have made this a more viable solution. However, if you are working for a company doing customer service or call-center work, you likely will not be able to use a cell phone to take calls.