Can headquarters be reached via VoIP?

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jeffphil-p40
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Can headquarters be reached via VoIP?

Postby jeffphil-p40 » Fri Mar 16, 2007 5:58 am

Does anyone know if we can send calls to headquarters phone extensions, or perhaps the MTC referral center hotlines via VoIP? Not a big deal, but if it isn't difficult it would be kinda cool for a little project we're tinkering with here.

-Jeff

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lincles-p40
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Postby lincles-p40 » Fri Mar 16, 2007 8:35 am

I don't know if Headquarters or the MTC have a publically accessible VoIP proxy. I do know that BYU does have a sip proxy (I set it up) and has peered with sipphone.com so that from a sipphone.com account you can call BYU numbers for free. A lot of the MTC is on BYU's phone system, but the referral lines are not.

Regardless of whether the Church or the MTC have proxies, you can always make a VoIP call to a normal PSTN number - it just won't be free. There are a lot of VoIP providers that terminate all over the world and offer very reasonable rates (most less the 2 cents a minute). So if you were to subscribe to one of these providers could call most anywhere - including the church and the MTC - from a VoIP device or software.

Just curious - what is the project that you are working on?

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Postby jeffphil-p40 » Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:02 am

lincles wrote:Just curious - what is the project that you are working on?


We have one phone line in our building which is shared by the BP & clerks offices, the FHC, the hall phone, and any other purposes. We don't receive that many calls as to warrent additional phone lines. But the answering machine locked away in the bishop's office just isn't cutting it. Those messages typically don't get checked until Sunday, often long after we would have wanted to follow up. We don't want to move the machine as sometimes people leave confidential messages for the BP on there.

We used to have full time missionaries, so we had the additional phone number belonging to their apartment which was handy to give out to investigators that might want to setup an appointment. Now that the ward mission leader and a couple of us members are doing all of the missionary work here ourselves, we lack the convinence of having a dedicated phone number for the local mission effort. I don't want to wait until Sunday to find out that someone called last Tuesday and invited us to stop by earlier in the week. Likewise we don't really find it that adequate to give out our home phone numbers, as we get messages from family members on the order of this. "Oh yeah, someone called and wanted to learn more about the church..." "Who? Did you get their number?" "No, they said you had already stopped by once, I figured you knew them or something..." (Oh great... how many people did we stop by to see?)

We had an extra computer, so we're tinkering with the idea of setting up Asterisk to replace the branch answering machine. We thought we could have it prompt to leave messages in various mail boxes and then e-mail them as attachments to the appropriate leader (the BP, FHC director, mission leader, etc.)

Since we already had this in mind, I just happened to think that perhaps we could use it to contact headquarters extensions so our building line is still free to receive calls when someone is talking to a help desk or some office or what not. Or, we could give a sub-menu for those new to the church, such as "If you would like to contact Brother ___ or Brother ___ or arrange a local visit, press 1. If you have general questions about our beliefs and would like to speak to church representatives right now, press 2". (We could have this transfer to one of the MTC referral hotlines perhaps).

I don't know, it's just a thought. Actually in theory we could schedule it to behave differently depending upon our respective work schedules.. and actually deliver calls from investigators to our homes (to whichever branch missionary happens to be home at that time) via VoIP... Hmm... I'll have to think more about that, while trying to not think too much about it.)

-Jeff

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Postby jeffphil-p40 » Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:17 am

lincles wrote:Regardless of whether the Church or the MTC have proxies, you can always make a VoIP call to a normal PSTN number - it just won't be free.


True, and I'm sure the rates are quite reasonable. I just don't like the idea of generating yet another bill that we would have to receive, pay, and keep tabs on. If it were somehow combined with one of our existing phone bills that probably wouldn't be so bad.

I suppose I could just use one of the free proxies that allows calls to US toll-free numbers. But, I just thought if the church had a VoIP proxy of their own that would make more sense as the call could be carried end-to-end over IP and not incur the church any toll charges.

-Jeff

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Postby BlackRG » Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:21 am

Well, along with lincles comment, some of these voip providers don't require monthly fees or even a real number, they're just an outbound, pay-as-you-go sort of deal. You could look at setting things up so that ALL outbound calls are VoIP and the inbound line is always answered by asterisk, and optionally transferred to another extension if necessary. That way you keep your one number free the majority of the time.

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Postby JamesAnderson » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:52 am

The people who work at the FamilySearch/FH suport call cente in Orem take calls over landlines, then when they need to communicate with others at CHQ they also use Skype to communicate via PC with some of them.

That was mentioned on Renee Zamora's family history blog, she paid a visit to them, that was soon after the call went out for the many FH Church Service missionaries they now have. Probably July or August of last year was when she posted the story about her visit there..

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Postby lincles-p40 » Fri Mar 16, 2007 1:15 pm

jeffphil wrote:We had an extra computer, so we're tinkering with the idea of setting up Asterisk to replace the branch answering machine. We thought we could have it prompt to leave messages in various mail boxes and then e-mail them as attachments to the appropriate leader (the BP, FHC director, mission leader, etc.)


Sounds like a fun project. I have been doing a lot with asterisk lately and the more I use it, the more i am impressed with what it can do. I'm not sure how much looking you've done, but just in case you haven't run across these yet, here are two things that made "tinkering" with asterisk much easier:

Trixbox - this a complete install package - it is an install disk that will set up your linux os (Cent OS - based on red hat) asterisk, all your zaptel drivers and devices (these are hardware cards to interface with traditional phone systems) and ton of support packages for configuring and maintaining asterisk.

voip-info.org - this is a very very useful wiki for anything voip - but especially asterisk.

Also the company that makes asterisk (digium) sells the zaptel devices i mentioned earlier - they are good quality, but somewhat expesive for "tinkering". there are some "clone" cards out there that are not quite as good of quality, but start around $30 for a single FXO (what you would plug your incoming phone line into). I got mine at x100p.com but there are others.


Just some thoughts about your project:

The MTC referal numbers are 1-800 numbers - i believe that most VoIP providers offer free 1800 termination so you could take an incoming call and give them the option to transfer the MTC. Along that same thought, if your current phone provider has 1800 calling card number you could use that to call headquarters while the keeping the phonel line open.

Asterisk can do a lot for you but with only a single phone line in, you will run into a lot of restrictions - for example, if you want to transfer a call to a ward missionary, you would need a second way out of the system as the phone line is already in use. I'm sure you understand this since you were asking for a VoIP connection in the first place. Some kind of voip provider is really the best solution for this.

Good luck - i would be happy to help if i can with any questions as you set up asterisk

-Lincoln

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Postby jeffphil-p40 » Fri Mar 16, 2007 3:34 pm

lincles wrote:I got mine at x100p.com but there are others.


I just recently ordered an X100P device off e-bay and am waiting for it to arrive.

Asterisk can do a lot for you but with only a single phone line in, you will run into a lot of restrictions - for example, if you want to transfer a call to a ward missionary, you would need a second way out of the system as the phone line is already in use.
True, but I do have an extra ATA device somewhere around here. We could transfer the calls to the mission leader at his office where there is a broadband connection during his normal hours of being there, and take a message the rest of the time. That wouldn't require any 3rd party VoIP services or additional lines.

I'm sure you understand this since you were asking for a VoIP connection in the first place. Some kind of voip provider is really the best solution for this.
You're probably right. It would be more convinient to be able to receive calls on our regular phone without any extra gadgets at home. Or better yet, on our cell phone. If we were to get FTMs back for a while having a VoIP service provider would let me transfer the calls that are received at the branch building over to their number, whatever it is, for the duration of their stay here. And, they could continue giving out our building number instead of their own so that when they leave again we won't be left with a bunch of investigators having been given a disconnected number (which has happened twice now).

-Jeff

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Postby jeffphil-p40 » Wed Mar 21, 2007 9:53 am

If we have Asterisk transfer certain inbound calls received at the church building over to the missionaries or us or what not via VoIP (which is actually a really neat idea) then on infrequent occasions someone might pick up the phone to make an outbound call only to unexpectedly break into a conversation already received on the POTS line. This happens now between the office phone and the foyer phone, but it's usually not a big deal as you can hear/recognize who's talking and just say "Oh sorry, didn't realize you were on the phone" and hang up. If they breaking into a conversation between two parties not in their immediate presence that would be a lot more confusing to people and we'd probably get told to pull the plug on this contraption.

Before we got DSL we had a line exclusionary device to make the foyer phone go dead when we picked up the office phone. That was instigated by previous leadership, and when we discovered we'd have to replace the gadget with a new one because the old one interferred with the DSL signal, the current leadership didn't seem the point. Either way it is a mild hassle, as even with the exclusion switch when the foyer phone was unknowingly in use picking up the office phone nabbed the call and yanked it away from the person speaking.

I could put an ATA between the phones and the POTS line, so that we could route outbound local calls via POTS but long distance via a VoIP service, which would be a cost savings. That would take care of the problem as when someone picks up the church phone to place an outbound call if someone else is already in an inbound call that was redirected by asterisk, they could get a seperate dial tone and still call out via VoIP transparently.

However my concern is what happens when:

* The power goes out
* The asterisk box crashes
* The ATA goes haywire
* Someone dials 911

What's the best solution to fall back to the normal POTS line and ensure that if the technology goes haywire the line can be freed up for a 911 call even if it were up until that point 'off hook' on the Asterisk box?

-Jeff

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Message forward

Postby The_Earl » Wed Mar 21, 2007 2:01 pm

You could simply have the person record a voicemail to the appropriate party. Then when they hang up, you could call the party on the PSTN and replay the message or a message for them to call back and retrieve the message.

Asterisk would then only function like a smart answering machine, would only need a single ATA device, no VOIP at all. This would also not break your foyer phone, since you would only be placing voice calls.


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