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Author Topic: How to set up a 3 or 4 line system?  (Read 37995 times)
JeffDB
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« on: January 05, 2013, 09:07:30 am »

Hello,

I'm a little one man insurance agency working out of my home and currently use Vonage for 2 phones and a dedicated fax line. They have gone up on their rates a few times and I would like to try moving them all over to the Obi system.

In looking at the products page it looks like Obi Plus Lite Basic would be my preference, but I'm not sure what hardware etc. would be needed.

It looks like it could go up to four lines, but the hardware with the most lines available appears to be the OBi202 with two lines. Can the unit be expanded to handle additional phone lines? Or would I need to buy two of them?

I actually only have two lines with Vonage. A fax line and an old number we had years ago in an adjacent county that AT&T wanted to charge me an arm and a leg to keep when I moved, and to charge me long distance rates for every incoming call in addition to the exhorbitant fees to keep it, which is why I originally switched to Vonage.

AT&T was the only one that could give me a new number for my new location, but when their rip-off contract finally ended (long story) I switched it to Vonage. But I eventually ported it to my Sprint cell phone, made it my Google Voice number as well and dropped that line using "simulring" or whatever they call it to ring the still existing Vonage line along with my cell phone.

It works pretty well, but it would be nice to have two separate lines again along with the fax line. It would also be nice to have a line for the family. We dropped the landline when I finally talked my wife into getting cell phones for us instead some years ago. I disconnected the incoming AT&T line and used a Y connector to connect the main business line to the house wiring so all the phones in the house will work.

Unfortunately, I'm the only one that will answer them, because my wife and the kids don't want to answer the business line inadvertently.

So 2 business lines a family line and a fax line would be sweet. Actually adding 2 family lines so my wife could answer he cell phone on any line would be even better, but I guess I shouldn't get too greedy.

So back to the original question, (sorry for the ramble), what hardware would I need? Should I get 1 OBi202 to try it out and then expand it with additional options if I want to go with additional lines? Or would I go ahead and get a couple of them to set up 4 lines, and then purchase a 3rd if I wanted to get to 5 or more lines?

I'd like to go ahead and order ASAP so I could port the numbers and cancel Vonage before my next bill comes due.

Thank you for any help or advice you might be able to provide.

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QBZappy
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2013, 09:30:34 am »

JeffDB

In looking at the products page it looks like Obi Plus Lite Basic would be my preference, but I'm not sure what hardware etc. would be needed.

Welcome,

If you are thinking about setting up the Obi Plus Lite Basic, then you need to know that it only works with the OBi202. I think it narrows it down considerably. For your fax needs you should look at fax friendly voip services like Call Centric, or Anveo. Note that you will not be able to connect a fax machine to the OBi202, you would need an OBi101 for that. You might consider using your computer to send faxes.
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Owner of the 1st OBi110/100 units in service in Canada & South America. 1st OBi202 on my street. 1st OBi1032 in Montreal.
Ostracus
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2013, 09:37:40 am »

Dock-and-Talk could be used to bring the cell phones into the picture.
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JeffDB
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« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2013, 09:48:00 am »

JeffDB

In looking at the products page it looks like Obi Plus Lite Basic would be my preference, but I'm not sure what hardware etc. would be needed.

Welcome,

If you are thinking about setting up the Obi Plus Lite Basic, then you need to know that it only works with the OBi202. I think it narrows it down considerably. For your fax needs you should look at fax friendly voip services like Call Centric, or Anveo. Note that you will not be able to connect a fax machine to the OBi202, you would need an OBi101 for that. You might consider using your computer to send faxes.

Thanks for the welcome and the reply, QBZappy.

Why can't I hook up the fax line to the OBi202? I just hook the multifunction fax/printer/scanner up to my Vonage ATA. It doesn't have a special port or line for it. I do have tow Vonage ATAs, though. But I think that is because I used to have two landlines with them and they had to send another for the fax and they were both daisy chained together.

I just checked the products page (http://www.obihai.com/product-primer.html) which seems to indicate that it should work with a fax.

"The OBi202 also supports T.38 fax for reliable facsimile calls over the Internet as well as a 1-port router with VoIP application prioritization (QoS)."

If it does work, I'm guessing it uses one of the 2 available phone ports?

I'm also still wondering if the OBi202 can be expanded to allow additional lines, or if I would need to buy 2 (or 3) and daisy chain them together ... or something different.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2013, 10:29:40 am by JeffDB » Logged
QBZappy
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2013, 09:56:48 am »

I stand corrected. The fax machine can indeed be connected on the phone port.
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Owner of the 1st OBi110/100 units in service in Canada & South America. 1st OBi202 on my street. 1st OBi1032 in Montreal.
JeffDB
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« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2013, 10:28:48 am »

Dock-and-Talk could be used to bring the cell phones into the picture.

Thanks for the reply, Ostracus. Actually that is a fairly important topic for me. I remembered reading about a product like that a few years or so ago and thought it was an awesome idea. My wife insists on keeping her cell phone in her purse and drops it off near the door when she comes in. It drives me nuts to hear it ringing when she's upstairs or in another room and the kids or I go into scramble mode to try and get to it before it quits ringing. Having it hooked up to a landline system via Obi would be great in that regard.

Another option David Gewirtz used in his article, Google Voice: configuring a complex home office, (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/government/google-voice-configuring-a-complex-home-office/10521 ) was a Panasonic cordless phone system with built in blue tooth (http://shop.panasonic.com/shop/model/KX-TG6582T).

But I'm thinking that any old phone, cordless or otherwise should work without the bluetooth capability in conjunction with GoogleVoice and Obi. I would think you could have Obi convert the Google Voice number to a ringable landline and GVoice should be able to simultaneously ring both the landline and cellphone allowing you to answer whichever you prefer.

But it sounded to me like Mr. Gerwitz liked his system because whenever he or his wife left the house with their cellphones the landline associated with it no longer rang, making for a more peaceful household. So maybe that would still be a nice option.

The Dock and Talk would also allow me to use my current system without having to buy new phones.

I'm still trying to figure out what I might want to do in that regard. I currently have a 4 line wireless Panasonic desk phone, but only have one line hooked up to it. I used to have an extension for it back at my old office but someone broke in and stole it. Bummer.

I was thinking of having an Obi setup for my two business lines and buying a new cheaper 2 line panasonic cordless system so I could answer either line upstairs or elsewhere in the house. I could obviously just wire the fax line directly to the fax and not have to have it on any cordless setup. I could similarly route a family line to the wired system that came with the house and people could just answer a typical hard wired landline in many rooms in the house. They would be able to do so without worrying they were going to be answering a business call that way and I could still answer business calls without having to run to get to my office in time. I kinda do that now by having both lines ring my cell phone (Vonage has simulring too), but it would be nice be able to use a landline upstairs or wherever.

If I could get my wife to get Google Voice I could perhaps have, in addition to the fax, 4 main lines... two for my business, one for the kids and one for my wife's cell. I guess that setup would require 3 OBi202  units and either a full 4 line cordless setup or two 2 line cordless systems, one for the business, and one for the family.

Actually, I believe there's a way to buy corded two line phones and hook them up to the standard phone wiring, which supposedly has a couple of spare wires therein, but I don't know how to do that and don't know if it would save any money anyhow vs buying 2 line cordless phones.

In any event, thanks again for the input and the link. If I end up keeping my older 4 line cordless Panasonic I might end up implementing it, or maybe it will be useful to someone else reading this thread.





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Ostracus
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2013, 11:11:28 am »

Don't forget that IP phones can be part of this picture and have the advantage they can fit into the ObiPlus ecosystem as well as register directly with your service provider. There are even dual SIP/PTSN phones.

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CoalMinerRetired
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« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2013, 11:15:19 am »

I have to raise a caution flag on the dock and talk approach.  

I don't see what that gets you above and beyond what an Obi BlueTooth adapter used with an Obi202 will provide.  Looking at the dock and talk specs for phone compatibility, there's a fraction of the phone models that take a wired connection vs what takes BlueTooth. So if you use BlueTooth with the D&T gateway, why not just eliminate the D&T device and use a BlueTooth connection directly into the Obi.  
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giqcass
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« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2013, 06:45:56 pm »

I was going to say the same thing.  If you want to take a call on a Bluetooth phone from a cordless phone the obi BT adapter is only $25 to add to any OBi202.  I have one myself.  I also have a cellfusion cordless phone which does basically the same thing.  The one advantage cellfusion has over the Obi is battery backup for power outages.  

For ObiPlus the requirement is one Master Obi202 with special software.  You could have one Obi 202 connected to a 100, 110, a 202, or a combination for the additional lines.

Quote
The Master OBi device is an OBi202 running special OBiPLUS software. A Client OBi can be an OBi100, OBi110 or OBi202 device running generic software.

http://www.obihai.com/FAQ.html#What-is-OBiPLUS
« Last Edit: January 05, 2013, 06:51:09 pm by giqcass » Logged

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JeffDB
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2013, 08:25:05 am »

Don't forget that IP phones can be part of this picture and have the advantage they can fit into the ObiPlus ecosystem as well as register directly with your service provider. There are even dual SIP/PTSN phones.

Thanks for the reply and info. I'm a newbie at this, however, and don't quite understand the advantages/disadvantages of IP phones.

For instance, what advantages accrue to being able to "fit into the ObiPlus ecosystem"?

Couldn't I just plug any old phone into one of the ports and get all of the features provided by Obi &/or Google Voice or whatever VoIP provider I was using?

Are they more expensive than plain old telephones (PSTN?) with similar features?

What does the ability to "register directly with your service provider" mean and what are the advantages?

Thanks again for the info/feedback.
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JeffDB
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« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2013, 08:30:12 am »

I have to raise a caution flag on the dock and talk approach.  

I don't see what that gets you above and beyond what an Obi BlueTooth adapter used with an Obi202 will provide.  Looking at the dock and talk specs for phone compatibility, there's a fraction of the phone models that take a wired connection vs what takes BlueTooth. So if you use BlueTooth with the D&T gateway, why not just eliminate the D&T device and use a BlueTooth connection directly into the Obi.

Thanks for the input. Can you connect multiple blue tooth cell phones to a single Obi Blue tooth adapter?
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JeffDB
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« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2013, 08:43:33 am »

I was going to say the same thing.  If you want to take a call on a Bluetooth phone from a cordless phone the obi BT adapter is only $25 to add to any OBi202.  I have one myself.  I also have a cellfusion cordless phone which does basically the same thing.  The one advantage cellfusion has over the Obi is battery backup for power outages.

I wonder if there's a relatively inexpensive way to set up a battery backup system for the obi & phones. I saw a portable battery thing at Best Buy when I was shopping for a laptop and was wondering about that as an alternative option to a portable printer with battery. It looked like it could be taken along with a regular (& cheaper) printer to use when visiting clients and that printer would be better for dual duty back at the home/office. Maybe that portable battery system could also be used as a backup for the phone system, at least for short duty. Of course it wouldn't preclude losing a call in the middle of a conversation if the electric went out. But at least you could call back. But then again I could use my cell phone, assuming it's charged.

Quote
For ObiPlus the requirement is one Master Obi202 with special software.  You could have one Obi 202 connected to a 100, 110, a 202, or a combination for the additional lines.

The Master OBi device is an OBi202 running special OBiPLUS software. A Client OBi can be an OBi100, OBi110 or OBi202 device running generic software.

Uh oh. I hope any old OBi202 can accept that special software. I ordered two of them from Amazon yesterday. I didn't see any Master OBi202s listed for sale, but it's possible I didn't scroll down far enough.


http://www.obihai.com/FAQ.html#What-is-OBiPLUS
[/quote]
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RFord
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« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2013, 09:55:28 am »

JeffDB:

The OBi202 are all the same.  Once you get your OBi202s, you would designate one of them to be your Master OBI and the appropriate software would be downloaded to the device (my understanding).  There are few active participant on this forum that is using the OBiPLUS, so your best bet is to send a support ticket to OBi, outlining your requirements and soliciting their input as to the best way to structure your OBiPLUS setup to meet your needs.

The OBiPLUS Premium subscription cost is $300 per year. A special introductory price is available now for only $120 per year. The premium offers more options for small business and might be the way to go, at least for the first year given the support options available for Premium subscription.

http://www.obitalk.com/forum/index.php?topic=4071.0

http://blog.obihai.com/
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JeffDB
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« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2013, 10:20:03 am »

JeffDB:

The OBi202 are all the same.  Once you get your OBi202s, you would designate one of them to be your Master OBI and the appropriate software would be downloaded to the device (my understanding).  There are few active participant on this forum that is using the OBiPLUS, so your best bet is to send a support ticket to OBi, outlining your requirements and soliciting their input as to the best way to structure your OBiPLUS setup to meet your needs.

The OBiPLUS Premium subscription cost is $300 per year. A special introductory price is available now for only $120 per year. The premium offers more options for small business and might be the way to go, at least for the first year given the support options available for Premium subscription.

http://www.obitalk.com/forum/index.php?topic=4071.0

http://blog.obihai.com/

Thanks for the info. I'm very glad the units I bought should work. I'm sure the Premium support would be very nice, but I'll probably pass on it for now. I'm on a tight budget and my wife will probably already be upset about the two Obi units I already purchased, even though they should more than pay for themselves within a few months assuming the Google Voice works and the voice quality is acceptable.

My setup may also be relatively simple since I'm just a one man office. Simple voicemail should suffice and I wouldn't need hunt groups etc.

I wonder if I would even need the Obi Plus Lite Basic, unless that is needed to daisy chain two units together. It sounds like I could use my son's currently unused Google Voice account for a family land line, which we don't currently have, and use the second line for a dedicated fax. The second OBi202 could be used for my two business lines.

All four lines wouldn't need to be integrated, but both OBi202 units would need to be attached to the same router/switch. Maybe they could both be attached as completely stand alone units... or maybe it would need the special Master Unit software I guess.

port my second business line to Google Voice
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Felix
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« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2013, 12:35:32 pm »

I will try to simplify things a little. Let's not worry about OBiPLUS for a moment. You may decide you need it; or you may not. You currently have 2 lines with Vonage. You use 1 for phone and 1 for fax, correct? Then you need to decide where to port those numbers to. You can port it to Sprint / Google Voice, or you can port it to some other provider, like Voipo or CallCentric.

For fax, my wife ported her business fax number to ExtremeFax and couldn't be happier. No fax machine, no separate line, and 10 times less paper. I am sure there are similar services - start here.

Now that you have service provider(s) for your phone lines, you can set up your OBi202 with four of them - Google Voice and/or SIP providers. OBi202 allows very flexible configuration of two phones and four providers. Until you are sure that it's not good enough, I wouldn't complicate the picture with OBiPLUS.

Last, ringing home phones when cell phone rings. OBi BT adapter is one solution. I have Panasonic cordless phone that has the same functionality. When cell phone rings, all handsets ring as well. Very convenient.
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giqcass
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« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2013, 08:31:27 pm »

The easiest way to do battery backup is buy an UPS(uninterruptible power supply).  

I couldn't see why you wanted to do the ObiPlus service myself based on your description of what you wanted.  The Obi devices do so much already it's ridiculous. You can connect them to each other without ObiPlus.

You can connect multiple cell phones to the Obi with the BT adapter. I don't know how many but I did two. So far as incoming calls it just works as described.  In my tests of outgoing calls it gets a little confusing. In that case the last phone to be paired or used(IE receives a call) will be used as the phone to dial out. There may be a fix for that but I don't know.  

I just re-checked there was a problem when I connected two phones via bluetooth.  One seemed to get knocked off.  You have two Obi202 so you can at least do two by using two BT dongles on the separate Obi devices.  Both could be directed to one Obi if you like by using some of the advanced routing features.

Like Felix said you should look into using a fax service instead of a fax machine.  Its a good option to explore. I use them on rare occasions.  The biggest advantage is they send a PDF to your email which you can save or print. It gives you access to both send and receive when you aren't at home.  I assume you will want proper 911 service.  The company that supply's that for you may also supply the fax service as one package.

Here is how I would personally set this up.  One Obi 202 to run one or two home phone lines for the family.  This would also be connected to some service for 911 that would cost $12-$24 per year for the 911.  One Obi 202 would run the business phone systems.  One virtual fax line that would allow you to send and receive faxes directly from your computer.  
« Last Edit: January 06, 2013, 08:38:55 pm by giqcass » Logged

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JeffDB
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« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2013, 09:34:52 pm »

Hi, and thanks for the feedback and info, Felix.

I will try to simplify things a little. Let's not worry about OBiPLUS for a moment. You may decide you need it; or you may not. You currently have 2 lines with Vonage. You use 1 for phone and 1 for fax, correct? Then you need to decide where to port those numbers to. You can port it to Sprint / Google Voice, or you can port it to some other provider, like Voipo or CallCentric.

Yes, I currently have two lines with Vonage, one of which is a fax line. I used to have another voice line with Vonage, though, but ported it to my Sprint cell phone and then made it also my Google Voice #. It is actually my main voice line. I have GVoice simulring the other Vonage line and usually answer it on that landline. It doesn't use any minutes and I can use my headset with that deskphone.

It looks like the OBi202 might allow me to make my current GVoice/Sprint main line a separate landline in its own right, and perhaps conference calls or be able to see who's calling on the other line if I'm talking to a spammer or getting ready to hang up anyway. I have a 4 line base unit that's currently using just one line.

I also currently have the Vonage landline connected to the house wiring, allowing me to answer calls upstairs, in the basement or kitchen or wherever in case I laid my cell phone down or the battery's low etc. and am away from my desk momentarily.

My wife and kids occasionally use the line to call out on, but that, of course, would then tie up my business line.

I was hoping to also use the OBi202 to set up a new landline for the family and connect it to the house wiring for the kids to use. If I used a Google Voice number it sounds like I could do so without an additional phone bill.

But then I'd need to set up a cordless phone system for my own backup system for around the house, or just be more consistent about carrying a charged cellphone around with me.

For fax, my wife ported her business fax number to ExtremeFax and couldn't be happier. No fax machine, no separate line, and 10 times less paper. I am sure there are similar services - start here.

Thanks. That's certainly an option I'll need to consider. At first glance, however, it looks like I might get by a little cheaper with the OBi202 and a VoIP provider even if Google Voice can't/won't handle it. Call Centric lists $1.95/mo. +$3.95 setup fee for an incoming fax number. Outgoing faxes would run $.0198 / min but I don't send many outgoing faxes anymore as more and more companies and customers use email.

On the other hand, ExtremeFax does offer a toll free number which is a slight bonus, and it would be nice to be able to just read some of the faxes without printing them. But I don't give out my fax number freely and almost never get junk mail faxes anymore. It varies a lot, but I'd guess I probably don't send or receive more than 20 to 30 pages of faxes per month on average.

It does seem more convenient to send some faxes by just lifting the lid and placing it on the platen, or putting it into the feeder, punching in the phone number and letting it go, rather than scanning it, saving it to a hard drive and then faxing it from the software. My current fax machine does allow me to fax directly from my laptop, though, which can also be handy at times.

My wife and kids also like the convenience of using the local fax machine to send occasional faxes. They don't seem to like messing with the scanning of documents yet.

For now I'm leaning towards keeping a dedicated line for my fax machine, but that may change if there are a lot of line charges and taxes and garbage that make those fees go up a lot, or the VoIP providers can't consistently send or receive the faxes.

Now that you have service provider(s) for your phone lines, you can set up your OBi202 with four of them - Google Voice and/or SIP providers. OBi202 allows very flexible configuration of two phones and four providers. Until you are sure that it's not good enough, I wouldn't complicate the picture with OBiPLUS

Could I then hook up 2 Google Voice lines to one landline for my office, and for the other phone port pair another Google Voice for the family along with a CallCentric line for the fax all on one OBi202?

If not, or if I would like to separate the family and fax line even if I could pair them on one line, could I hook up the second OBi202 without having to set up OBiPLUS?

Last, ringing home phones when cell phone rings. OBi BT adapter is one solution. I have Panasonic cordless phone that has the same functionality. When cell phone rings, all handsets ring as well. Very convenient.

Thanks much for that link. I was looking for something like that earlier today but had started with the 2 & 4 line models which seemed rather pricey, and hadn't found a good 1 line model. If I can combine the two business lines into one, that would be perfect for me, and I could let the family use the hard wired phones for their new line. Or alternatively, I could use the hard wired ones and let them use the cordless lines. That might be even better, especially if it could be set up so that the kids had their own number, and my wife's number could be brought into the picture only when she's home. Then no one would pick up her calls unless she was home and left her cell phone in her purse by the front door. ;-)

Thanks again for the reply. Hopefully I'll be able to sort everything out and be ready to try and set up a decent system by the time the OBi202s arrive.
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JeffDB
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« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2013, 10:03:07 pm »

The easiest way to do battery backup is buy an UPS(uninterruptible power supply).  

I couldn't see why you wanted to do the ObiPlus service myself based on your description of what you wanted.  The Obi devices do so much already it's ridiculous. You can connect them to each other without ObiPlus.

Thanks for that info, giqcass. I didn't see your reply before my earlier post. Glad to hear I could probably hook them up together without too much fuss.

I just re-checked there was a problem when I connected two phones via bluetooth.  One seemed to get knocked off.  You have two Obi202 so you can at least do two by using two BT dongles on the separate Obi devices.  Both could be directed to one Obi if you like by using some of the advanced routing features.

That may not be an issue for us. My main line is also my cell number, so I don't mind if it rings all the time. I'm usually home all the time anyway, or when I leave the family is with me most of the time. If it rings no one else will answer my phones anyway.

Where the BT would seem to come in handy would be for my wife who leaves her cell phone in her purse. If I could get her to finally get a Google Voice number she could have it simulring the family number, but that could get annoying as she works out of the house, and is off shopping and running around a bit. If it could ring the family line only when she's home that would be ideal.

Like Felix said you should look into using a fax service instead of a fax machine.  Its a good option to explore. I use them on rare occasions.  The biggest advantage is they send a PDF to your email which you can save or print. It gives you access to both send and receive when you aren't at home.

I had tried JFax or eFax I believe some years ago and they sent them as Tiff attachments which tended to take up a bit of disk space. PDF would be an improvement. So far I've basically been at my home/office almost all the time, but I am planning on trying to go out into the field more to some businesses. Being able to send & receive faxes while away from the office could indeed be a benefit at those times. I suppose a USB fax modem might be an option for those times, at least when I might have access to a phone line, but that wouldn't be as ideal as the online fax service, of course.

 I assume you will want proper 911 service.  The company that supply's that for you may also supply the fax service as one package.

Although we do have cell phones, which would probably suffice in most instances, it would certainly be good to have 911 service on a landline as well. If I had the dedicated fax line with a VoIP provider that might be one way to get it. Or maybe I'd be better off having the second business line with a VoIP provider that offered that option. I'll have to think about it some more.

Here is how I would personally set this up.  One Obi 202 to run one or two home phone lines for the family.  This would also be connected to some service for 911 that would cost $12-$24 per year for the 911.  One Obi 202 would run the business phone systems.  One virtual fax line that would allow you to send and receive faxes directly from your computer.

Yes, that certainly sounds reasonable. If it isn't the exact final set up, it will certainly be very close to that.

Thanks again for your help giqcass and everyone else.
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Ostracus
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« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2013, 06:40:07 am »

Well my reference to "ecosystem" as well as IP phones, is contained in the ObiPLUS Tutorial.

Also something useful to consider is that a lot of VoIP providers offer more than just a connection to the POTS (Plain Old Telephone  System), or other VoIP users. From Ring Groups to flexible IVRs. A business can get bang for the buck.
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