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CCI Mini-PBX Phone System


A common dilemma found in smaller offices is that they want the features of a digital PBX—such as auto-attendant, call transfer, and intercom—but the benefits don't outweigh the price tag. As a result, most continue on with individual phone lines.

Well some new products, such as the Command Communications Mini-PBX Phone System on the market now offer a solution. Able to work with standard phones, faxes, or modems, this device connects to standard analog phone lines. Meanwhile, it offers the previously mentioned features along with voice mail, call forwarding, 4 mailboxes, and much more. For smaller offices, this product provides a lot of features for a reasonable price.

The physical system setup is very basic and intuitive. On the back of the day-planner-sized unit are 7 ports: 2 for incoming analog phone lines, and 5 for your individual extensions. Otherwise, the only other inputs are for a power cord and for an audio cord if you would like to add music-on-hold.

Configuring the specific features requires a run-through of the manual, but most of them are just one-time settings. For instance, if you have a fax machine, you'll need to set one of your lines for dedicated or occasional use. Most of the features are customized through the phone connected to the first extension (extension 20). This is also the only extension that will work during a power outage.

Auto-attendant and voice mail
The most useful feature of this mini-PBX is its own voice mail system. Up to 60 minutes of recordings can be stored (including outgoing messages) across 4 mailboxes. Each mailbox has its own password as well as its own greeting, so callers won't mistakenly drop messages in the wrong place. An outgoing message can also be recorded for after-hours operation.

During regular hours, when a call comes in, the caller will hear the system greeting. From here they can either dial an extension number (20-24) or 0 for the operator. Dialing an extension number will transfer the call to the extension and, if unanswered, the caller will be dropped into the extension's voice mailbox. Each extension user can set the number of rings before the call rolls over; or if an extension is busy, the caller is given the option to hang up, leave a message, or dial 0 for the operator.

Various other configurations are also available for the system. You can have incoming calls immediately answered by voice mail, or you can specify different extensions for different phone lines (i.e., so line 1 rings extensions 20, 21, 22, and 24, but line 2 rings only extension 23). You can also switch the phone to be used as the operator extension. This is especially good for when the receptionist is at lunch or out of the office.

Voice mail notification and call forwarding
One outstanding feature of this system is that you can set the mini-PBX to notify you when a message has been left. When this feature is active and a call comes in, the system phones your number (that you have previously entered) and says, "You have a message. Please press 2 to play the recorded message." This same feature can be used for pagers except, instead of hearing a message, your pager display will indicate on which extension the message has been left.

Calls can also be directly forwarded to a pre-assigned number. But in order to keep the lines open for your co-workers (both lines are required for this feature), these calls are limited to 3 minutes in length. If you need to talk longer, call them back.

Standard features
In addition to the above features, the mini-PBX also provides more standard features such as internal intercom, call transfer, speed-dialing*, and conference calling. Each of these features is easy to access, requiring minimal button pushes. You can also pick up an incoming call on any extension or transfer calls to another's voice mail. Unfortunately, one flaw of this system is that it does not support Caller ID.

Remote use
As with any answering service, voice mail can be retrieved remotely. To do so, call your phone number, dial * and then your extension and password. At this point prompts will guide you through the various choices.

Final thoughts
Given the size and price ($399.99) of Command Communications' mini-PBX, this system delivers a surprising amount of features. Those who have a small office and don't wish to convert to a very expensive digital system will find that this unit is an excellent buy. Plus, it's easy to install, easy to use, and can give a small office a very professional appearance.

*All extensions can access 90 speed-dial locations, while each extension has its own 10 locations as well.

What I Liked Best   What I Didn't Like
  • Easy setup
  • Uses analog phone lines and standard phones
  • Auto-attendant
  • Large voice mail capacity and 4 mailboxes
  • Voice mail notification
  • Remote retrieval with voice prompts
  • Doesn't support Caller ID
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