If you’re currently trapped behind a stubborn, 20th-century phone system, you’d be surprised at what a modern, IP-based phone system can do -- and how affordable they can be. For an office with a handful of users, an IP PBX appliance and five phones could cost you less than $3,000, and you could typically set everything up yourself in less than an hour.
These are just a few of the top-level findings of the Test Center’s comparative evaluation of five IP PBX appliances for small offices and SMBs, products that support anywhere from a few up to a few hundred users. The Allworx, Critical Links, and Fonality solutions are the most expandable. Microsoft Response Point and Sutus Business Central shine for small offices. The top scorer was Fonality’s PBXtra, thanks to a sterling combination of rich telephony features, ease of administration and use, and low cost.
Three of the solutions -- Allworx, Critical Links, and Sutus -- provide more than just a phone system, bundling networking and collaboration goodies such as firewall/VPN, router, Wi-Fi, Web server, and file server. Allworx and Critical Links include WAN capabilities, allowing users to make phone calls between sites without incurring phone service charges.
In all the solutions, the telephony features are remarkably sophisticated. In every case, users can have voice mail messages (in audio file format) forwarded to their e-mail in-boxes, create rules for routing incoming calls to voice mail or a cell phone at different times of day, and host three-party conferences from their phone. In some cases, integration with Outlook can support caller ID functions and click-to-dial. Other solutions make good use of presencing and drag-and-drop call management, or let you place and receive calls through your office line when you’re away. In Microsoft Response Point, you can make internal or external calls by pushing a button and speaking a person’s name.
Below are the test scores (on a 10-point scale) for each product and a brief recap of each review. For full details, see the entire package by the Test Center’s Mike Heck, “Lab test: VoIP phone systems walk the talk.“
Allworx 24x v.6.8
Score: Very Good 8.6
Bottom Line: A true all-in-one system, each Allworx appliance combines full PBX and VoIP duties with networking functions, including automated backup, e-mail and Web server, security, and LAN management. Rich communications features include unified messaging and presence awareness, along with options such as call queuing, a conference center, and group calendaring. Another important differentiator is site-to-site access, with 100 sites supported. See complete review.