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C0deM0nkey
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Looking for a better voicemail / answerphone solution

Situation:

We have a Virgin landline number on a Talk Unlimited deal (as part of the Big Kahuna package) and pay for Caller Display.

Our landline phone is a Panasonic kx-prw130w and the answer phone is enabled.

As is the norm nowadays both my partner and I work full time during the week and take most of our calls on mobiles.

We are registered with TPS and Silent Call Guard.

We are in billing area 24 which still has no SMS support after all this time. 

We have to keep the phone line in place because it's used by our alarm system for alerts (via OpenTap sms) - in addition removing the phone package from our overall VM package will not reduce the overall package cost.

 

Problem:

The majority of calls that are made to our landline are the typical PPI etc. spam, made either from faked geographic numbers (using a SIP package I presume) or international / unlisted; these callers either leave no message (so the phone just lists it as a missed call) or leave a silent message.

We do however have a few genuine callers who leave messages on the answerphone which I inevitably arrive home too late to deal with that day.

 

The ideal solution:

What I'm trying to achieve is a better way of handling calls to our landline.

In an ideal world we would have an answering solution that:

1. Screens calls using an in call routing process (i.e. "press 1 for ... 2 for... etc") so that auto dialled & non responding spam calls are dropped into a "no route" option and played a message requesting removal from the callers database and threatening legal action if the calls persist.

2. Offers the ability to leave a message for each occupant based on the call route selected (i.e. "Press 2 for C0deM0nkey" etc.), with a separate mailbox for each occupant.

3. Routes messages left in each mailbox to separate email addresses as a sound file attachment (wav / mp3 / etc.).

 

What I've considered:

One possible approach I've looked at is placing a permanent call divert on the inbound line to a VoIP provider who meets our solution needs - this works out at around £70 p.a cost (monthly fee for a basic VoIP account and the call divert).

The other solution would be to purchase a small fanless Windows PC with old-school dial up modem and some call handling software, using the PC as the answerphone. This works out at about £180 one-off but would involve some of my time to setup, configure, debug and maintain (plus ongoing electricity costs etc.).

 

What surprises me is that Virgin don't have an offering similar to BT Business Voicemail which offers forwarding of messages to email - I would think that this would be an easy service to plumb into their VoicemailPlus offering.

 

 

What I'm after:

To my question:

Has anyone here worked their way through a similar problem and come up with a solution that I've overlooked?

 

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RobJD
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Re: Looking for a better voicemail / answerphone solution

I don't have an answer, but I'd be interested to see is anyone does so that I too can adopt the solution.
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C0deM0nkey
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Re: Looking for a better voicemail / answerphone solution

Just a brief update.

I've been investigating options as part of a massive home network overhaul.

Last weekend was spent implementing a new SMB router with more extensive firewall and routing capabilities than my Asus RT-N66U, a new WiFi access point (Netgear WAC120) and organising 20 static clients into manageable groups.

This weekend I'll be looking to implement a Fritz!Box 7390 as a guest WiFi access point on an already created DMZ; this particular model comes with a range of telephony features that may provide a better call handling experience than we have now (call routing, unidentified number handling, answer phone to email, etc).

I'll post a further update with the results of this once I have them.

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C0deM0nkey
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Re: Looking for a better voicemail / answerphone solution

Ok, so I've put the Fritz!Box 7390 in place this afternoon - this is marketed as an ADSL router  but I'm using it purely as a WiFi access point and to handle phone calls with it's built in PBX. The manufacturers do however produce a number of cable compatible routers in their range, some with the telephony functionality.

A quick overview of the FitzBox telephony features:

  • Will handle multiple devices (telephones, physical answer phones etc) via multiple protocols DECT, SIP, ISDN - essentially a PBX.
  • Offers good call handling customisation (routing, diversions, multiple answerphones that are customisable).  The FitzBox has the ability to sync to a 'Phone Book' maintained on an external service (Google, etc) and can use this to implement more complex call handling rules (diverts, blocks, etc). Answerphones can be configured for very long wait times and long message recording if required with an option to connect additional USB storage to the FitzBox for use when storing messages.
  • Offers good connectivity (messages via email, optional remote access, indicator lights on box, via web interface, mobile app and direct from a linked phone).
  • High level of customisation for reporting and notification 

 

Initial Configuration

For now I've gone for a fairly basic configuration, routing our single landline through the FitzBox and using its answer phone facility in place of the phone's own answerphone.

I've configured the box as follows:

- Unanswered calls from an available number (i.e. not withheld or unavailable) are routed to answer phone #1 if not answered within 45 seconds. Recorded messages (up to 120 seconds long) are emailed as WAV files to both my partner and I (multiple email addresses supported) immediately. Messages are retained until manually removed - I'll probably put in automated removal once I've let the configuration run for a few weeks. I've connected an 8GB USB stick to make sure we have plenty of voice message storage.

- Unanswered calls from an unavailable / withheld number are diverted immediately to a second answerphone (the FitzBox supports up to 5 separate answerphones). A custom message warns the caller that we pursue spam callers and requests removal from their database before recording messages (up to 60 seconds long) which are then emailed as WAV files to me only. Messages are retained until manually removed - I'll probably put in automated removal once I've let the configuration run for a few weeks. I've connected an 8GB USB stick to make sure we have plenty of voice message storage.

- Missed call details are pushed via email interface to Pushover to me  

- Daily call usage summaries emailed to me.

I'm sure that I can probably tweak this further, but I thought I'd go with a straightforward setup initially and tweak it from there.

Overall I'm rather happy with the FritzBox at the price I paid (this was a reconditioned unit from a UK distributor on eBay and arrived with all required cables etc.). I wouldn't have purchased it just as a telephony solution, but as I needed a Guest WiFi access point as well the cost was reasonable. (The FritzBox 7390 does a reasonable job with Dual Band 'N' WiFI and I've benchmarked it as 157.08 MB / 12.01 MB today).

Hopefully this may give someone else looking to handle home phone calls in a more modern way than VM currently offer a few ideas.

 

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C0deM0nkey
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Re: Looking for a better voicemail / answerphone solution

A small update.

I had to restrict the "spam" divert to filtered numbers as legitimate businesses were being diverted there as they don't declare their number through caller id. Luckily the FritzBox supports wildcard diverting, so as well as some specific persistent callers declaring a (fake) number I've been able to divert based on prefix (a popular fake one is 0203 which is a VoIP number often used with the intent that the person receiving the call believes that it originates from London (0200, 0201).

Two months in now and I'm pleased to say we haven't had a spam caller in weeks - I'm rather pleased with the end result.
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