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My boss wants me to find out who is costing us so much on our phone bills. On our phone bill, we can only see the numbers that are dialed, obviously we can't see what extension dialed them. We've spoken to our phone company but they're no use really.

How do I connect my PC to our PBX? And what do I use to download the data? We have a PBX system (Panasonic KX TA 308) -- I've read that I can connect via a COM port and download call data using software. I have offered to code this myself, but my boss is worried it won't be worth the time it would take, so he would rather go with specialized software ready to use that doesn't require too much work to set up.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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migrated from superuser.com Jan 17 '10 at 12:58

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You really need to discuss this with whoever maintains your PBX. The solution will be specific to the make and model of PBX, as there is no standard interface. –  John Gardeniers Jan 17 '10 at 22:38
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I think John's advice is aimed toward people that don't like getting their hands dirty. If you don't mind the DIY approach, there are resources on the net if you know where to look (just remember terms like CDR and SMDR). This is a niche field though, so information like this isn't widespread. There's a company in the UK who take all the hard work out of the equation called Tri-Line - but you'd better be prepared to part with some serious cash. –  nbolton Jan 17 '10 at 23:29

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Just to follow on from tcv (get the manual from his answer). With the KX-TD and newer KX-TA Series (this includes the 308) you'll need to...

  1. Go to the main console (extension 101) and put it to programming mode by moving the switch on the phone to programming position.
  2. Press *#xxxx (where xxxx is the password for programming). This is usually 1234 (default), 0000, or 9999. If you don't know the password, ask the company who installed the PBX.
  3. [800] - RS-232C Communication Parameters: CR+LF, 9600, 8 bits, mark parity, 1 stop bit.
  4. [801] - Choose 0 (skip perforation) - unless you want holes in your PC ;-)
  5. [802] - Incoming on and outgoing on
  6. [803] - Choose to print the speed dialing
  7. [805] - Choose account code report to be code or index.
  8. [806] - Choose English language reporting
  9. Move the programming switch to the original position

Now all you have to do is hook it up to your PC using a serial cable, and then the PBX can send SMDR (as bogdan mentioned). Remember that for other PBX models this process will be different, but you'll be aiming for basically the same goal. The manual will usually tell you how to set up SMDR.

Here's some SMDR data from the same model as the OP (Panasonic KX-TA308):

  Date      Time  Ext. CO      Dial number                      Duration  Code  
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 4/16/03   5:24PM 101  02 2110024                               00:02'19" ....  
 4/16/03   5:26PM 101  01 2423942                               00:00'00" ....  
 4/16/03   5:27PM 101  02 2105483                               00:00'13" ....  

From Jon's comment...

You just need a serial cable, you might need a 25(?) pin to 9 pin converter though. 308 & 624 are designed to be programed through the first handset - typically 201 as mentioned. Newer systems do have USB programming In the UK at least these ones are called TEA 308 & TES824s)

Like Jon said, the newer ones can be programmed from a PC via USB (specifically, the KX-TDA series: KX-TDA30, KX-TDA50, KX-TDA100, KX-TDA200). In some cases we can also use the USB connection to receive SMDR data, but you'll need a 3rd party driver to do that. For the KX-TDA's, the program to use is the KX-TDA Maintenance Console (but for the OP's PBX, we must use the handset method as described at the start of this question).

As for the software to view the data, the term you're looking for is called "call accounting" or "call logging". Something like PhoneJournal* should do the trick. Remember that call accounting/logging not to be confused with "call recording", which is something completely different.

*Disclaimer: I work for a company that sells this product, so you should of course review other products.

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My boss likes the idea of having free support and not having to develop the application. He doesn't mind buying software if in the end it means saving on future costs. Also, since the solution is not specific to any kind of PBX, it will still work if we ever upgrade, since we should have new employees coming in soon. I'll give PhoneJournal a try tomorrow. It isn't that expensive compared to other software that does the same job. –  Wolf Jan 18 '10 at 18:36
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PhoneJournal works really well. The GUI looks a bit old, but it is easy to use and simple to setup. Add on top of that the free customer service (I don't know if it's good or fast, but hey, it's free), and my boss is happy. We found our culprit in no time. It's also interesting to see that my boss also uses up a lot of the company's funds on calls. ;P Awesome, thanks! –  Wolf Jan 19 '10 at 15:55

Providing SMDR is turned on on the PBX... the PBX will dump each call record out of the com port - something along the lines of (and not necessarily in this order):

`OUT 12:01:23 07/01/2010 12:02:24 07/01/2010 201 01273555555 2`

It's pretty self explanatory - Outgoing call that lasted about a minute from extension 205 to 01273... on line 2.

This was originally designed to go straight into a dot-matrix printer that spewed page after page on linefeed paper.

For very basic analysis you can capture the records using Hyper terminal or Putty and copy and paste into Excel. You can easily sort and sum each extension's usage and find your culprit.

If you have the chops you could easily knock up a program that does it for you or purchase a commercial call logging program such as Comms Office Oak or for a fraction of the price there is always @Nick Bolton's plug above.

All of this is for nothing unless your PBX is sending out the SMDR - it's a trivial programming step to turn it on if you know how a search for KX-TA programming manuals on google might help you out, if your PBX isn't password protected... Or your friendly local Pana dealer could do it for a modest fee ;)

My disclaimer I used to work for a company that resold Comms Office and whilst it is a fine product it's hugely over the top for a 3x8 system just to find out who is racking up large bills (plus it costs upwards of £1,000 installed)

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Hmm, pretty simple output format. It's extension 201, not 205, but I get the format. I will try that if I can find cables to connect to it and see what I can get. However, I doubt paying £1,000 would be reasonable to find out who is costing us money, because the answer would become me. ;P –  Wolf Jan 18 '10 at 15:17
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I've looked at Comms Office and Oak, but they seem, as you say, pretty expensive. Whenever a company asks me to fill out info before I can even have a trial version or a price, it usually means $$$. Our system actually has been upgraded to 6x24 instead of the default 3x8. I'd like to program it myself, but I read that an electronic device held near the cable could cause errors, so you need to implement error checking in the application, which would make it overly complicated. I'll give a try at Nick's plug. +1 for the detailed post. –  Wolf Jan 18 '10 at 18:53
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You just need a serial cable, you might need a 25(?) pin to 9 pin converter though. 308 & 624 are designed to be programed through the first handset - typically 201 as mentioned. Newer systems do have USB programming In the UK at least these ones are called TEA 308 & TES824s) –  Jon Rhoades Jan 18 '10 at 20:13

Take look at this question on SF

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Interesting. However, I was unable to find most software mentioned there other than AtsLog, PhoneJournal, and WinTariff. Reading the comment about WinTariff, I'll scratch it out. AtsLog seems to be open source and that usually means no support, and support is everything to a businessman like my boss. However, it does look really nice, the final decision is not mine, even if I can assure my boss I can get it working without needing any support. However, +1 for the link. –  Wolf Jan 18 '10 at 18:46

Using a Call Accounting Software it the right approach in this case. Look for one software that supports your model. Include "SMDR" or "CDR" keyboard in your search, these are the common names for call accounting logs you want to capture and parse.

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Wouldn't it be easier to ask the employees who's been calling the number or calling the number yourself and asking them who's been calling them? Every problem doesn't require a technical solution. Also, as others have said, contact a local vendor that services that brand PBX and ask them for assistance. They'll have the correct software and hardware and can help you set things up.

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Why was this downvoted? Was my answer not relevant? Was it foolish of me to think that the OP could simply ask the employees or the called party? That's certainly a course of action I would consider. –  joeqwerty Jan 17 '10 at 18:52
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I agree it would be really nice if it could work like that. The thing is, I'm just the IT guy. I don't have much respect from the employees, and the boss, well, he's the boss, people don't want to make him mad, even if that implies lying to him. This is why I'm trying to find an IT solution. –  Wolf Jan 18 '10 at 2:34
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I would rather not call our clients and ask them which one in our company called them. It would be like calling any random company and asking them who is the person who called them before you. I don't think it would be good for client relationship and I doubt my boss would agree. Also, on our bill we only have the dialed number, but not the extension number, if any. It's like finding a needle in a haystack: possible but highly improbable, unless you do like the Mythbusters and build a neat machine to do it for you. Speaking of machine, that's why I would like to be able to get it from the PBX. –  Wolf Jan 18 '10 at 14:31
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Well good luck with it. Hopefully you're able to get at the information you need from the PBX. –  joeqwerty Jan 18 '10 at 15:16
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I did actually. =D I really wish the human approach would work all the time. At least, machines don't lie... well, they're not programmed to lie... mine at least. ;) –  Wolf Jan 19 '10 at 16:23

I feel your pain. I have been wrestling with a PBX system recently and they can be a pain to figure out if you've not been there for the installation.

I think your best shot to find a company in your area that services this particular PBX and see if they can get you the installation, user, and programming manuals.

You can find the User Manual online and it does seem to indicate that logs can be taken by the unit and retrieved later by an "operator." It doesn't go into great detail as to how to do that, however.

There's also some information about a software interface to the unit called the Programmator. (GROAN!) I'd post the link, but I don't have enough reputation points. I found it by Googling "panasonic kx ta308 programming manual". Perhaps that will help.

HTH

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you can always post extra links as comments on your answer. even if you don't have the rep to add comments on other users' posts, you can always add comments on your own. then later, when you've gained some rep, you can come back and edit your answer to include the missing links. :) –  quack quixote Jan 17 '10 at 5:47
    
Thanks!! I will do that. –  tcv Jan 17 '10 at 13:19
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Thanks, it's always useful to have an electronic version of the manual. "Find" is such a nice feature missing in books. ;) –  Wolf Jan 18 '10 at 18:54

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