The Geek Report: How do I set up my business phone system?

Adam Darack

Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He will be writing regularly about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to with the subject line “Dear Geek.”

Dear Geek,

The other day my business phones were down due to the Comcast outage. What can I do to avoid that in the future? Besides Comcast and Verizon, are there any phone providers I should consider?


ET who couldn’t phone home

Dear ET,

Great questions. Probably doesn’t help, but you had a lot of company in the same shoes.

Comcast has something called “Call Forwarding Not Reachable,” which, if power goes out or the network goes down, automatically forwards your phone calls to a predetermined number you specify beforehand. To set this up (if you have Comcast phone service), pick up the phone and dial *58, then follow the instructions. If your phone is working but you want to forward calls for a specific time period, pick up the phone, dial *72, and follow the instructions. To stop forwarding the calls, pick up the phone and dial *73. Verizon uses the same *72 and *73 solution.

With regards to other providers, some phone solutions utilize voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology, which uses the Internet to make and receive calls on your computer, tablet or smartphone (depending on the provider). Google Voice and Ooma are two examples of this. Google Voice is mostly a forwarding service that also handles voicemails and incoming text messages. That said, it’s possible to make phone calls from your computer with it, and/or buy a third-party device from a company called Obihai for $50 that will allow you to use phones with this service. Ooma provides a device (for $100) to connect to phones to use their calling services (no third party needed), and provides a very solid host of services that are easier to set up than Google Voice. It’s more of an overall solution, as it includes its own adapter to manage your phones. In my opinion, Google Voice is more for the do-it-yourself phone tinkerers, whereas Ooma gives an easier out-of-the-box solution with more features geared to the everyday user.

My advice is to do your research while everything works, and set a plan for what to do in case the phones are not functioning. This includes where to forward calls, for example. Many more details on providers’ websites than in my 300-plus word article.

This geek felt your pain that day, and was dealing with issues related to the same outage. These problems do affect us as well. Geeks can be stung by tech issues, usually leading to funny stories I’ll share in a future article.