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Good Calls

Your success is on the line when you choose an office phone

Today's office phones are more than just a means of communicating with the outside world. Features such as cordless mobility and programmable memory banks have turned phones into productivity tools that allow businesspeople to keep in touch with their customers without being tied to a desk or searching frantically through piles of paper for that all-important phone number.

Choosing the right multiline phone for your office is simply a matter of balancing your needs against your budget. If your business requires that you roam freely through the office, consider a cordless multiline phone. While many early-model cordless phones suffered from static and limited range, the 900 MHz radio frequency used by newer models minimizes these problems.

An automatic channel search feature ensures other cordless phones in your area don't interfere with yours--if one channel is being used, the phone simply hops over to a clear one. Some phones equipped with digital technology contain a microchip that encrypts your conversation to prevent eavesdropping.

If you're still concerned about security (or how long the battery charge will last), you should stick to traditional corded models. Plenty of these boast features that turn your telephone into a receptionist, sans the long lunch hours. Caller ID will tell you who is calling before you pick up the receiver; it works even if you're already on the phone with someone else. (Before buying a phone with this feature, make sure your local telephone company can handle Caller ID.)

Most newer speakerphones--which are great for conference calls--feature full-duplex speakers that won't cut you off if others interrupt. Some of the more expensive models even include a digital (tapeless) answering machine to handle after-hours calls.

Here's a look at a variety of office phones to suit small-business needs.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Good Calls.

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