Until now, the small office/home office (SOHO) VoIP PBX/IP-PBX has been to a great degree ignored. The SOHO and Small and Medium Business (SMB) space is a huge market for VoIP. In fact, TMC’s VoIP Forum (http://voip-forum.tmcnet.com/voip-forum/forum/) currently has many threads from users requesting purchasing assistance in finding the right SOHO VoIP solution. Well, TMC Labs has found a very good SOHO VoIP solution from Avaya called Avaya IP Office–Small Office Edition. Avaya IP Office–Small Office Edition is an all-in-one converged communications solution for small office, home office, and branch office communications. One sample application is that an executive working remotely can connect all home telephones through the IP Office–Small Office Edition and host an IP Office Web conference call while monitoring incoming calls through a “soft phone” connection on a laptop, and direct personal and business calls to the right phone in the right room.
Loaded with Features
Tremendous functionality in one easy-to-use box
Support for many endpoints
Lacks Power over Ethernet capabilities
No evident SIP support
Depending on the configuration and options that are purchased, it supports from two to 28 users with a plethora of features, flexible data connectivity, secure VPN networking, built-in voicemail/auto attendant, WiFi, and more in a compact and virtually plug-and-play, easy-to-install desktop unit. IP Office–Small Office Edition supports all the applications and functionality of the IP Office product range along with some unique features. For instance, the IP Office–Small Office Edition is available in four variants which provide a different mix of analog trunks, analog extensions, digital extensions, and Voice over IP capacity. Depending on the model chosen, up to a maximum of 28 extensions can be supported (four analog, eight digital and 16 IP). All of the models have a four-port Ethernet Switch (Layer 2) and a dedicated switched Ethernet WAN port (Layer 3) making the system ideal for connection to broadband services such as DSL and Cable. With Voice over IP as standard and the optional IPSec security, the system can be quickly configured to provide secure voice and data networking back to a head office over the broadband connection.
It also supports an additional WAN slot to support other network connections such as V35, X21, and BRI leased lines that may be encountered in frame relay applications. The back of the unit provides a twin PCMCIA socket for a memory card when using embedded voicemail and a Wireless LAN card when using the system as an Access Point. Yep, you read that correctly. Not only is this product a full-featured SOHO VoIP-enabled PBX, with integrated voicemail and auto-attendant, it’s also a WiFi Access Point! This converged solution with so much integrated functionality certainly “wowed” TMC Labs.
All four variants support G.721.1/G.771 and G.729a codecs. They also have an audio port for external Music on hold source as well as relay ports for door entry systems. The WAN Expansion card provides a single WAN connection. Line speeds up to and including 2Mbps are supported on the interface, though typically it’s 1.544Mbps.
Embedded voicemail and auto-attendant are provided on a pre-loaded 64M PCMCIA Memory card. Up to four independent auto-attendants can be configured on the platform. The choice of which auto-attendant is to answer a call can be made based on called number, calling numbers, and time of day. Like high-end voicemail systems, the greeting for the menu is controlled by time profiles to allow three alternative messages to be played, i.e., morning, afternoon, and after hours (typically evening and weekends). The embedded voicemail supports up to 15 hours of storage and also supports hunt group messages.
It also features built-in three-party conferencing capabilities, as well as two optional softphone applications. The first is called SoftConsole, which provides a software-based console giving an attendant a more efficient method of handling calls. The second is Phone Manager (Figure 5), your typical desktop call control application. It also features H.323 IP trunking, though we didn’t see support for SIP.
Installation was pretty straightforward. To configure IP Office, you simply insert the Administrator CD, which autoruns. If not already installed on your PC, you are then given the option to install the Microsoft Net 1.1 Framework application, which of course, Murphy’s Law, every PC in the lab EXCEPT the one we were using has .NET 1.1 Framework installed. .NET is needed if you wish to use the IP Office Installation Wizard application. After installing .NET and rebooting, we installed the rest of IP Office. We selected the components we wanted (Manager and Voice Mail are default minimums) and clicked Next. On completing the installation, we restarted once more and proceeded to configure Avaya IP Office.
Once the product was installed, we had two options of configuring the system. The first option was to use the IP Office Installation Wizard. This application is recommended for first time installers and helps guide you through the configuration process. The second option is using the IP Office Manager Application, which is recommended for experienced installers. We started with the Wizard and it was a breeze to use. Later on, we used the IP Office Manager Application (Figure 6) to perform further customization and configuration.
Room For Improvement
We’d like to see support for 802.3af for plugging in any power-over-Ethernet capable phone. Also, we would like to see support for SIP in a future version.
Important in the SOHO space is offering an “all-in-one” solution that combines several important features/functions into one easy-to-use box. Well, IP Office certainly has that covered with a built-in LAN switch, voicemail, IVR, secure VPN capability, built-in dynamic (RIP-2) router, firewall, Internet access, DHCP server, and more. Amazingly, for a SOHO product, it supports just about any telephone endpoint you can think of — PCs, laptops, IP appliances (hardphones, softphones, Wi-Fi handsets), digital phones, traditional phones and wireless phones. Without a doubt, the Avaya IP Office–Small Office Edition will surely make some waves in the SOHO and SMB VoIP marketplace and we highly recommend it.
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