Now that I was going back to the analog trunks, I had a voicemail problem. With only two trunks, taking an incoming call and forwarding it to cloud-based voicemail would use up all the trunks. I could have AT&T do the forwarding the way I had it set up on the old PBX, but I didn’t like that because the number of rings before no-answer forwarding took effect was unpredictable. All that led me in the direction of using PBX-based voicemail.
NEC has two voicemail packages; I chose the UM 8000, which has a web interface and will deliver voicemail messages via e-mail. It doesn’t have iPhone or Android clients like eVoice, but I wouldn’t want to punch holes in the firewall for such a client anyway. It does have a set of web pages optimized for phone-based (small screen) browsers; I passed on that. You can have it attach a WAV file of the voicemail message to the email, or just send a link to the voicemail system’s web interface. I chose the former, avoiding another firewall hole.
You can also subscribe to RSS feeds from the NEC voicemail system, and it will send you a message every time someone leaves a voicemail message for you. I haven’t tried that.
There is supposed to be an Outlook plug in that turns off the message waiting light on your phone when the last message in your email inbox is read. If you use Exchange and leave Outlook running at home, this should work for messages read on your iPhone or Android: the phone email client marks the message read, then synchs with the Exchange server, which then synchs with the Outlook client running at home, which then turns off the message waiting light via the NEC Outlook plugin.
I wanted two mailboxes that a caller could select by pressing “1” or “2” after the voicemail greeting. I also wanted a general delivery mailbox that people would fall into if they didn’t press any digit. The UM 8000 offered that combination of features, and eVoice didn’t. The NEC voicemail system went one step further and allowed access to the general delivery mailbox from any phone on the PBX.
The NEC voicemail system offers a feature that was part of all the old standalone phone answering machines, but, sadly, disappeared with the advent of modern computer-controlled voicemail systems: the ability to listen to a message as it’s being recorded, and pick up the phone and talk to the caller if the mood strikes you. You can turn this off if you’re worried about privacy.