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January 08, 2009

Home Networks Made Easy, Including VoIP

The home technology space is growing at least as quickly as business communications, and today, in addition to PCs, laptops, and printers, you can also find in most homes a number of other communications and entertainment technology — broadband routers, VoIP phones, streaming media players, storage devices, even video components. Home users are truly creating a converged media environment.

One their own, none of these components are all that difficult to set up or use — even with all of them attached to the same PC.  But, when you factor in the potential for several different users in the home today — between Mom and Dad doing work and also having home PCs/laptops, and children with their own dedicated devices, it’s not hard to imagine four, five, six, or more computers that somehow need access to the same peripherals.
That need has given rise to home networking solutions, which allow home users to attach all their devices to one static PC, which then effectively acts as the network server, able to be accessed via wired or wireless connections throughout the home.
For many people, that presents a challenge, as they are not experienced with networking solutions, and will find it difficult to connect the network appropriately — especially when it comes to security measures, which are paramount.  For them, connecting a home network requires a specialized degree — or at least it seems that way.
Gigaset Communications, looking to help alleviate the stress for home users looking to create home networks, has introduced its NetGuru software to help manage the various devices found in home networks. Easily installed on a Windows-based PC, NetGuru takes away any complexity — real of perceived — from the process, simplifying the set-up, management, and troubleshooting of home networks from a single intuitive dashboard. The solution handles network set-up through a user-friendly wizard that makes wireless connectivity a breeze, including appropriate security.
The software provides real-time snapshots of the status of all elements on the network, and monitors security applications and firewalls in the process. Even after the initial set-up, new network elements can be easily added, since they are automatically detected and appear on the icon-based UI, effectively creating a plug-and-play home network that even the least tech-savvy users can deploy and manage.
Because many network issues are a result of connectivity problems, which add an additional level of complexity in troubleshooting for users — and often result in calls to service providers — NetGuru has also been designed to identify and resolve any conflicts, and then re-establish connectivity. In addition, it provides concise reporting that can help service providers identify trouble spots and reduce downtime, enhancing the user experience.
Naturally, NetGuru has been designed for easy integration with Gigaset IP phones, and provide helpful features that make installation and use of the handsets as easy as using a PSTN handset, including copying address books from one Gigaset handset to another, and backing-up or restoring from a PC. Of course, in today’s multi-vendor environment, which extends into the home, NetGuru supports network devices from most other manufacturers as well.
Until now, the Gigaset IP phones have only been available in Europe, but the introduction of NetGuru coincides with the release of the DECT (News - Alert) 6.0 handsets in the United States, including new versions of the Gigaset A580 and S675 IP, as well as the Gigaset SL785.
“While the overall cordless voice segment has been under considerable pressure, retail, cordless phones based on DECT 6.0 technology have enjoyed an acceptance rate, as exhibited by the growth in market share,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for The NPD Group (News - Alert). “Cordless communication devices based on the DECT 6.0 technology are likely to emerge as the standard here in the United States as it is in the rest of the world.”
The Gigaset A580 IP phone is an entry-level device that offers up to 25 hours of talk time and includes an illuminated display and keys.
The Gigaset S675 IP is a cordless phone with an integrated answering machine that enables IP as well as fixed-line calling. It also includes High Definition Sound Performance (HDSP) technology for enhanced voice clarity, similar to the technology offered by other vendors, including Polycom, AudioCodes, and snom.
The A580 and S675 also include Gigaset’s NextG Communications capability, which allows users to access data services, including directory look-up and RSS feeds.
The Gigaset SL785 (pictured) incorporates design and technology to match many high-end IP handsets on the market today, including an ergonomic keypad, large color display, innovative frame and charging cradle, and eco-friendly technology for reduced power consumption.
With NetGuru, Gigaset brings home users an easy way to consolidate their components onto an easy-to-use home network, simplifying its set-up while significantly increasing the value of the investment in hardware. 
With the roll-out if its cordless IP phones, the company also provides easy integration of VoIP solutions into those same network environments, allowing users to not only get the most out of their networks, but gain the benefits of VoIP, not the least of which, especially in today’s economy, is cost savings. 
The NetGuru software will be included with Gigaset purchases, but will also be available for online purchase in March. Users looking to try out the software can download a free 30-day trial version, also beginning in March.

For the most comprehensive program in the industry covering IP Communications and next-generation wireless technologies, don’t miss INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO, along with 4G Wireless Evolution, in Miami, Florida, February 2-4.

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Managing Editor of TMCnet, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to nearly 3,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erik Linask

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