Sizing up VoIP servers
3Com, Avaya, Siemens, and Zultys offer rich telephony features, excellent voice quality, and more or less scalabilityFollow @infoworld
Click for larger view.
Management is straightforward. You can configure phones and most other SIP devices from the PBX, and the whole shebang will work over a shared Ethernet network as long as it supports QoS. You even get a secure instant messenger and secure voice connections. The MX250 supports 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption internally (unlike the Avaya PBX, the Zultys allows you to control whether it's used), and you can encrypt external traffic across the PSTN or your private network if you're going to link another MX250. The product also includes its own internal firewall and it supports IPSec VPNs.
We were impressed by Zultys' interface for end-users. This tool is designed to let users manage their own phones and calling rules to the extent allowed by the IT manager. In addition to giving users more flexibility in how they make and receive calls, this offloads some of the work otherwise done by the IT department.
While you won't be able to run a medium-sized city or a massive enterprise with the MX250, you'll be able to support most organizations. The standards support and security features work together to make the Zultys MX250 a great option for small and midsize businesses.
All four of these platforms are good choices for businesses. You'll notice that we didn't find any losers here. What we did find is that, despite their common purpose, these are very different products. They're suited for enterprises of varying sizes and differing needs. It's likely that for any given company, only one, perhaps two, of the products reviewed here is even relevant. After all, if you have 150 people in your company, you're probably not shopping for the Avaya S8700. And if you have 20,000 people, the Zultys isn't going to meet your needs.
In addition, a great deal depends on how important some characteristics and features are to your organization. Is your company a stickler for standards support? Do you need extremely high availability? Is your enterprise in one location or spread across the globe? All of these will influence your choice of a telephone system.
Interestingly, price is not one of the differentiating factors. User for user, feature for feature, these products are in the same ballpark. Yes, there are some differences in pricing, but probably not enough to make the critical difference in such a capital expenditure. What matters more is that the PBX meets your needs and whether it will fit into your organization with an acceptable level of disruption. All of these products can do that, but whether they will depends on your staff, organization, and infrastructure, at least as much as on the product itself.
In this review, we originally erred in describing a few features of the Siemens HiPath 4000. The HiPath's operating system is UnixWare8. It supports a maximum of 100,000 stations per network, and it can encrypt voice communications. Siemens does not support the use of X-10 or 3Com softphones with the HiPath system. The review has been corrected.
Read more about networking in InfoWorld's Networking Channel.