Operator, oh could you help me place this call?
May 9, 2005 10:48 AM   Subscribe

What exactly is this device, and can I/how do I/what do I need to get it to work as the voicemail/multiple phone line server I think it is?

I have a small business and I desperately need to install multiple lines with separate voicemail--I believe the previous tenants had such a system since this phone box is mounted near the standard phone jack.

The device in question:


Previous related question here.
posted by fandango_matt to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
 
It's a older model Mitel SX-200.

This guy might be willing to answer a few questions about it, if he thinks you're interested in buying his. ;)
posted by TonyRobots at 10:58 AM on May 9, 2005


try and get a manual -- PBXes are crazy complicated. Also, depending on what kind of interface cards the previous tenant had left in there, you might need to have special lines running into your office (think ISDN/BRI, etc). In fact, i'd say it's fairly *likely* that this is the case, but hey, who knows? Good luck. (i don't know a lot about PBXes, but we had a few at my previous job that I had to tinker with every once in awhile).
posted by fishfucker at 11:38 AM on May 9, 2005


A picture of the connectors on the back would help some. Also, I see a fiber leading out... is there another piece by chance? I don't think the SX200 Peripheral Node has onboard voicemail. Depending on your needs though, it could probably even use a normal answering machine for voicemail.

Have you tried hooking up to the serial port to see if you can get any communications going? I think there might be password protection on any administrative activity. I work with some Mitel equipment, I'll see what I can turn up.
posted by joelr at 12:24 PM on May 9, 2005


What and where is the serial port, and what do I plug into it? What else do I need, how do I hook it up, and how do I make it all work?

Here's a picture of the back of the unit:


posted by fandango_matt at 12:41 PM on May 9, 2005


Disclaimer: I'm not a PBX tech.

Still, the earlier posters are right -- it's a Mitel SX-200 Light PBX (which is indeed a server that manages multiple phone lines). The problem is that I don't think it has enough hardware there to do what you want, unless you're not looking to take incoming calls.

The ONS and Digital Line Cards, I believe, are intended exclusively for internal extensions. You'd also need a trunk card to connect with the outside world -- either an LS/GS loop card for standard "plain old telephone service," or T1 or B/PRI trunk card(s) for digital lines from the phone company. To make matters worse, I think that you'd need Mitel phone sets as well for your extensions with this setup. And if the system supported voice mail, I'd expect to see a card labeled as such. Chances are the last business left it because it honestly isn't worth much in its current configuration. (Here's one on eBay for $180 "Buy it Now") As another example, this site sells refurbed SX-200 Lights in different configurations, to give you an idea of what kind of cards would be necessary for what functions.

And then there's the question of whether or not it would even work. And then there's the question of getting it to work, and old PBXs aren't that user-friendly.

Most companies with only 1-5 lines don't use a PBX like the SX-200, because they're expensive to buy (new) and maintain (usually through an outside vendor), and only are really useful when you have a large number of lines. Smaller companies like yours usually get what are called CENTREX lines, which mimic the features of a PBX (including voice mail, hunt groups, etc.), but otherwise work like a standard phone line. Just call any traditional phone company and ask for CENTREX with voicemail, and they'll know exactly what you need. Or you could always go with a next-generation VoIP provider like Packet8 (who are based in your neighborhood) and offer the features that Mitel would provide over a broadband connection without all the hassle.
posted by eschatfische at 12:47 PM on May 9, 2005


The serial port is the 9pin dsub connector very close to the fiber connectors inside the chassis. You'll just need a normal 9pin serial cable to connect it to your computer, hopefully. You may end up needing a null modem connector also, but I doubt it.

You'll need something like this to connect to the back of the SX200, other end will connect to your punchdown block on the wall (but as wires, probably not the same connector). The punchdown block is the interface to the system phone handsets and telephone lines from the outside.

This might quickly become a question of how much your time is worth, and whether you're really interested in learning all of this. There are VOIP solutions for small businesses, the telephone company can provide Centrex service which might work ok for you, or you could even buy a really small PBX. On preview, exactly what eschatfische said.
posted by joelr at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2005


Wow, you folks rock.

A bit of background: I found the unit through Craigslist--a rental car agency was being demolished, and they were giving away all their office equipment--chairs, desks, you name it. When I looked in the closet, I saw and took the Mitel unit and three phones--but now that I think of it, theirs may have been a system where customers call an 800 number and are transferred to the regional offices, of which this office was one (though I find it odd they wouldn't be able to take direct incoming calls).

I'm on a new Mac with USB and Firewire ports, so I have no idea how or where to connect the serial port and such, and it's beginning to sound indeed like a question of how much my time is worth. Is this worth pursuing? Do you think it will work, or is it like finding a free Peterbilt semi and thinking you've scored a great pickup truck?

I got it for free, so I won't be heartbroken if I can't get it to work. For my team at a previous job, I built a server from discarded computers, so I'm not adverse to figuring this out unless it's neither relatively easy nor cheap.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:41 PM on May 9, 2005


I manage our phone system here at work (it's not a true PBX...) and I don't think this is worth one more minute of your time and certainly not anything in dollars. The previous caller had it right, get some Centrex lines if you have 10 or fewer people or if your folks are spread out geographically. *IF* you have more than 10 people all in one building making a lot of calls, you may want to start looking for a phone system, but you'll want to find a service vendor first. You will spend more in service than the cost of the system, so spend your efforts there.

Good luck!
posted by kc0dxh at 1:59 PM on May 9, 2005


though I find it odd they wouldn't be able to take direct incoming calls

I suspect that the fiber coming out of the bottom of the unit you have is to connect it to another unit which manages incoming trunks.

To be honest, I don't think this one will be easy or cheap to make functional unless you happen to find someone nearby with Mitel experience and spare parts. It's one thing to refurb PCs, since they tend to use commodity equipment and familiar interface standards, but older PBX gear is based on more specialized proprietary equipment that can't be quite as easily repurposed.
posted by eschatfische at 2:53 PM on May 9, 2005


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