Do It Yourself: Installing A Small Business Phone System

Learn about the types of phone systems available for small business. Instructions and list of supplies needed to install them yourself included.

A good small business phone system will vary in price depending upon the versatility of the system and its expandability features. Each system is designed specifically for a company's needs.

Computer systems and software have greatly improved the ability for small businesses to have phone systems like large corporations. So, can I really install my own small business phone system? The answer is most likely yes! If you've ever hooked up wires to a stereo system or installed a phone jack, you will probably be able to install a phone system. Patience and the ability to follow instructions are essential tools.

There are three types of work involved and you can do it all or hire part of it out. The three stages are:

* Installing wire

* Making the wire connections

* Programming the system

Installing the wire requires no electrical experience, just some common sense, a helper if possible, a few tools, and the ability to use them. If it is possible, locate a blueprint of the building and contact utility companies to have them find water pipes and other wiring for you. Also, contact your local building authority to make sure you meet all city codes. The last thing you want to do is cut through or drill through a pipe or wire. You may also find existing phone wires from a previous system, which will save you a lot of time and money.

Now, you will want to determine the main location for the phone system because all lines will need a direct path back to the control unit or hub. You do not want the lines running one from another in a looping fashion. Each one needs to run directly back to the main unit. If any of the wiring will be near a heat source, you will want heat resistant wiring and make sure the wire you purchase is actually PHONE WIRE! Do not just buy multi-colored wire. It should be 24-guage, "╦ťtwisted-pair,' level 3, 5, or 6 wire. The level 5 or 6 wire is more difficult to use though. If you have pre-existing green, red, black, yellow wire, it is probably still okay to use it. Check each installation for conductivity before going on to the next one.

Make sure all the phones and jacks you purchase match up the same and have the same specifications. There are flush jacks, wall jacks, and surface jacks. If you purchase from a company specializing in phone systems they will generally provide you with a jack for each phone.



Digital phones are not the same as analog phones so be sure you know the differences.

If you have existing wire from a previous installation, contact your phone system provider to see if they have phones that will simply install to that existing wire. Then all you need to do is plug in the phones. Generally some one from the company will come out and look at the central box to see if it is all useable. They are just as happy to sell you the phones and a service contract, as they are to do the total installation. They will also let you know if you can just cut of old connectors and put on new ones.

The second stage is to connect the wires to the devices. You will need a wire stripper, needle-nose pliers, screwdriver, punch down tool, and good eye hand coordination. On the 24-guage wire it is often easier to use your needle-nose pliers to simply crush the plastic insulation and it will then just slip right off.

Often the industry color-code does not match the color code of most phone jacks so there is a method to follow:

The individual wires within the outer jacket are color-coded with an industry-standard pattern. However, this wire pattern does not match the color code used in most phone jacks, so follow this guide:

Wire in the Jack Wire in the Wall

Green White with blue stripes

Red Blue with white stripes

Black White with orange stripes

Yellow Orange with white stripes

There are color code guide charts you can purchase also. Make sure the wires are looped securely around each screw and washer and do not remove any more insulation than necessary. Be cautious not to allow a wire to touch two screws. This will cause a short circuit. One end of the wire goes to the jacks the other end to the control unit.

Make sure your control unit is firmly mounted on the wall at eye-level with an electrical outlet close-by. If you do not have a specific phone system outlet make sure no other components use that outlet source.

A punch down tool is used on some control units to punch the wires securely in the control unit. Other units use modular jacks. Punch downs are more versatile. Modular jacks require no extra tools or knowledge to use.

The last stage is programming the system. Generally, if you can read and dial a phone number you can program a phone system. Always follow closely the instructions given with your phone system. There is no short cut worth the extra expense of a new phone system because you cut corners or thought you didn't need to use the instructions. Phone system programming is a two-step process - customizing ring patterns, options, and calling restrictions, and inputting the phone numbers for speed dialing, caller ID, date, and time, etc.

Also make sure you are fully aware of the phone system warranty and service plan. Some companies will require you to pay extra for a service contract when you install the system yourself.

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