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Have you ever missed an important call while you were away from your desk? Or been forced to wade through a huge number of voice-mail messages after a trip? Don't you wish you could have your calls routed to your cell phone or that you could find out who had called before you listen to all your messages?
If you're like most entrepreneurs, the answer to all these questions is a resounding "yes." Although the costs of buying such a sophisticated phone system are beyond the budget of many entrepreneurs--as high as six figures--new software is providing many of these services for just a fraction of the price.
TeleVantage, an "intelligent phone system" from Artisoft Inc., serves as the software equivalent of the phone-switching systems found at Fortune 500 firms. "The system allows users to stay in touch whether they're in the office, at home or on the road," says Artisoft's Steve Manson. Entrepreneurs using the software, which is installed on a dedicated Windows NT server and linked to a phone line, can forward calls anywhere and view a log of voice-mail messages via their PC screens. For the entrepreneur on the go, TeleVantage may be what you need to make sure your most important client doesn't become the one that got away.
Gene Koprowski has covered the tech industry for 10 years and writes a monthly computing column for The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Calls In Space
With satellite phones, the sky's the limit.
Late last year, Vice President Al Gore placed the world's first call on a satellite phone handset. From the White House, Gore dialed up Dr. Robert Ballard, the research scientist and deep-sea explorer who discovered the sunken Titanic in 1983. After nearly a decade of hype, and plenty of failed experiments, satellite telephones have finally arrived.
Just what are satellite phones? In look, feel and operability, they're nearly identical to conventional cellular phones. But as any heavy cell phone user can attest, conventional cellular phones and even sophisticated digital wireless phones have limited capabilities. You can use them only in prescribed areas, and if your cellular phone carrier doesn't offer service in that area, you're out of luck.
Satellite phones provide service anywhere, any time to any user. They send their telephone signals to satellites orbiting the earth, which then transmit them to other satellites that beam them down to their final destination. They allow you to make a call from a mountaintop, your car, or even from the Oval Office, if you have that kind of access.
Costs are about 10 percent more than conventional cellular service--but for entrepreneurs who always have to be in touch, the expense may be worth it. Currently, American Mobile Satellite Corp. and Motorola are among the companies that offer satellite services.
Get It Together
Making conference calls just got easier.
Conference calls are an annoyance to entrepreneurs whose firms don't have advanced telephone systems that enable them to speak with multiple parties at once.
But with AT&T's new Click2Dial Conferencing (http://www.click2dial.att.com), you use the Web to make these calls, entering the names and numbers of the people you want to call and when you want to call them. Click2Dial costs 15 cents per minute, per person.
At the scheduled time, AT&T automatically dials the listed parties. "All you need is one phone line and Internet access," says Janet Stone, a media relations director for AT&T. "The other people on the conference call don't even know you're using the Internet to call them."
Artisoft Inc., (617) 354-0600, http://www.artisoft.com