VoiceGate’S VIP4000
by Lyle Deixler

VoiceGate Technologies' (Ontario, Canada -- 800-668-2387/905-747-2209) VIP4000 is an auto attendant/voice-mail system that starts at two ports and grows to support a total of 24 ports and 68 hours of voice storage. It ships on a 486 PC with 4 megs of RAM and 850 MB hard drive. While the VIP4000 packs plenty of standard features, what really impressed us is how easy it is to install, program and run the system.

For the test drive, we set up a four-port system and connected it, via analog ports, to a Avaya Technologies Partner key system (the VIP4000 supports dozens of different phone systems). The documentation you get with the VIP4000 is great. Their Integration Notes for specific phone systems detail how to, among other things, program your switch to create a voicemail hunt group (assigning extensions and defining hunt groups). They also include a Basic Start-Up Checklist to help get you up and running quickly.

VoiceGate's VIP4000 is a powerful, easy to program auto attendant/voicemail system. You get, among other things, excellent multi-tenant features, fax detection, the ability to record conversations, support for several different languages and optional fax-on-demand.

The VIP4000 runs on DOS and uses pull-down menus to guide you through setting up and running its features and capabilities. We found it very user-friendly and a lot easier to program than other voicemail systems we've seen.

Besides the excellent integration and start-up notes, the system's manual is also easy to understand and shows detailed pictures of programming screens. Getting started and basic things like adding new users (entering their names, extensions, classes of service, etc) is a no-brainer.

You can create up to 30 different classes of service for users on the system. The pull-down menus provide fields for setting up and enabling various things like Message Notification (it has a cascading notification feature to call you at home, on your cell phone, etc.--up to five numbers--when you get a message); Message Age (when to automatically purge messages if not erased by the user) and Record Conversation (system administrators can enable or disable this feature here).

Two neat things we liked about the class of service choices were the Extension Change and the Prompt Before/Prompt After features. Let's say someone in your office changes workspaces, moves to another floor, etc., and gets assigned a new extension. The Extension Change feature plays a message to callers, for up to 90 days, saying this person is now at extension XXX and then the VIP4000 automatically sends the caller to the new extension. When telcos do this, it's called "permissive dialing".

With the Prompt Before and Prompt After features, you can decide whether or not to play various prompts (Press Zero for the operator at anytime, Press 5 to transfer to another extension, etc.) before and after people leave messages in a mailbox. This could be a real customer-pleasing thing, especially for repeat callers who are familiar with your system or for those folks (impatient New Yorkers like me!) who just want to quickly get in and out of mailboxes.

For office suites and other situations where different companies or users (maybe different doctors in the same office) share the voicemail system, the VIP4000 offers some excellent multi-tenanting capabilities.

You can define different tenants (users) various ways, including by port, time of day, day of week and day of year. Maybe Dr. A's secretary covers for Dr. B's secretary during lunch. Calls to Dr. B can be automatically sent to Dr. A based on the predefined time entered into the VIP4000.

The VIP4000's multi-tenanting goes beyond just playing different company greetings and then using the same call routing tree. You can define day and night operators and send calls to their extensions based on the time of day, day of week, etc.

Setting up the auto attendant features are also quite easy. When the caller presses say digit one, they're sent to predefined "levels" or menus. Tables guide you through setting up the levels, extensions and hunt groups used to route calls.

A Time Out feature lets you send the caller to maybe a receptionist or specific extension if the caller hasn't pressed any digits after a certain amount of time.

A neat feature shows you various user statistics like how many messages someone received, the number of calls sent to a mailbox and the total length of messages.

If faxing is your thing, the VIP4000 can detect a fax tone and send it to an extension with a fax machine, saving you dedicated lines. People also don't have to call into a mailbox, listen to prompts and messages and wait for the "To send a fax, Press 1" prompt, since the VIP4000 automatically grabs the fax tone and transfers it.

An optional Fax-on-Demand capability lets you copy ASCII, PCX and DCX files onto the VIP4000. Callers can then request, and have faxed to them, specific documents. A Fax Statistics screen shows you what documents were requested, a description of the document, the fax number that called and the time and date the document was requested. You can store up to 30 documents of any length, up to hard drive capacity.

VoiceGate will build tailored, customized systems that, among other things, use IVR. A two-port, 60 hour system starts at about $2,500.


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