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Voice Mail Ports Explained What, When and How Many | Print |

Please see this guide for more information about Voice Mail Ports Explained: What, When & How Many.

  • What:
    A voice mail port is the point of access to the voice mail system. The port is the connection point required to connect an outside caller or internal user to the voice mail system.

    Voice mail systems come in different sizes. Many current systems seem to have an infinite amount of mail boxes available, as it's all based on programming. The primary two finite resources are storage capacity (the overall amount of recorded information the system can store), and number of ports (the amount of simultaneous interactions the system can process).


  • When:
    When the voice processing system is engaged in handling a call for any reason, a voice mail port is in use. For example:


    • A voice mail port is in use whenever a caller is directed to the voice mail system or an individual mail box. If a user dials in remotely or accesses their voice mail box from within the office, this also accesses a port. In either scenario, the port is in use until the inbound caller or user terminates their connection.


    • Additionally, if the system is used as an automated attendant, every inbound call accesses a port when the automated attendant answers the phone. In many cases, the phone system releases the voice mail port once a route for the call has been selected. If the automated attendant is required to intervene again or the call ultimately is delivered to the voice mail system, then a port is accessed again to complete that transaction.


    • A newer application that seizes a voice mail port is live recording. Many telephone systems now offer live recording features that enable users to record live conversations that can be played back at a later time, stored for legal reasons, or forwarded to other users for convenience. Depending on the system, it may seize a port through the entire recording process, or if a separate module records the call, the port may only be used for a short time when delivering the message to a user's mail box.

  • How Many:
    Many small businesses have 2 or 4 port systems, as they don't require many simultaneous interactions. However, larger organizations may have dozens or even hundreds of ports allocated to voice processing applications.

    Determining how many ports of voice mail to allocate for a group of users or for an entire system requires careful consideration. Whether you are a small organization with less than a dozen phone lines, or a large enterprise with thousands of employees, there are several factors that should go into the decision making process. For example:


    • Current System: Do you currently use voice mail? If so, is it used solely for mail boxes, or is it also used as an automated attendant? Do current callers get blocked from the system because of not enough ports, or do you even have a way to accurately determine that?


    • Addition of Automated Attendant: Whether connected to an existing system or part of a completely new solution, the addition of an automated attendant to answer all incoming calls greatly affects how many ports to include.

      In addition to callers leaving messages and users checking messages, a system with auto attend needs to have available ports to answer calls or they will go unanswered and either fall into the black-hole or get diverted to an overflow voice mail provided by the phone company, which will not provide the same functionality as an in-house system. This could negatively impact the company image and cause serious disruptions to the business, as well as its employees and customers.


    • Number of telephone lines: The number of telephone lines connected to the phone system should be taken into consideration. Since every business is different, there is not a completely accurate ratio for lines to voice mail ports. However, the number of lines may indicate the amount of telephone traffic experienced or planned by the client, and thus be a good indicator.


    • Number of employees: It is also good to understand how many employees are in the company, but more specifically, how many employees work within the specific location. Additionally, it is important to understand how many remote employees may require dial-in access to check messages, as well as how many high-volume office employees are served by the system.


    • Growth: It is recommended to forecast how long you intend to use the system, and compare that with any forecasted changes, such as growth, for the above factors. If you intend to use the system for 5 years or more, where will your organization be in 3 to 5 years? How many employees and telephone lines do you anticipate? Will you add, or continue to use, automated attendant features?

      Make sure that the system you buy will meet future needs in its current form, or at least be able to easily scale to meet demand for minimal cost. Proper planning will reduce long-term expenses.

These and other factors help determine how many voice mail ports to recommend for a system. It is a good idea to consider these variables and obtain feedback from a consultant to understand your options.

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