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Review: SMB IP PBXs


If you just read our cover story, you're probably salivating over wide-area wireless options. But many small and midsize businesses spend too much time worrying about mobile voice/data access and too little time contemplating mundane wired telecom. That's a mistake: They may not be glamorous, but fixed and landline services consume $8 of every $10 spent reconfiguring end user voice and data systems, according to a Forrester survey of executives at companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. If you want telephony features that provide a professional appearance for your business as well as more cash to spend on mobility--or security, or applications--consider an IP PBX.

Face it: When customers call, they judge you by what happens on the other end of the line. NWC Inc., our fictional widget manufacturer, is looking to compete with widget titans. We have a T1 leased line servicing a digital PBX and digital phones picked up for a song at a bankruptcy sale after Y2K. This gear is fully depreciated, and we're more than ready for a change. In January we reviewed hosted IP PBXs that offer the benefits of VoIP without the expense of buying and maintaining gear (see "Cheap Talk" and read our discussion of Centrex options.

For this installment, we tested IP PBXs that would reside on NWC Inc.'s premises and provide tight control over our telephony infrastructure. Fonality, ShoreTel, Vonexus and Zultys Technologies sent gear to our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®. These systems are suitable for sites with a couple hundred employees, in the case of Fonality, to well into the thousands for the other vendors. We asked for a specific feature set and price quote based on 100 users at our NWC Inc. widget maker's Green Bay headquarters (see "NWC Reports" ).

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