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Rollout: Avaya Distributed Office

The Upshot

Avaya's Distributed Office is aimed at reducing the cost and complexity of managing a distributed VoIP network for businesses, such as retail or financial institutions, with lots of remote branches. This should translate into a lower total cost of ownership for VoIP based on "right-fit" hardware and ease of management.
Cisco, Nortel, ShoreTel and AdTran offer competing VoIP systems, but we liked Avaya's price and preconfigured distribution method. However, Distributed Office is voice-only. Integrated services, such as routing and firewalling, are not available, and this system is not a gateway to unified communications.
Distributed Office is an excellent option if you're looking to dodge the complexities and costs of a large-scale VoIP rollout. It provides good voice quality and all the phone features required for daily business activities. Strong management capabilities and preconfigured devices make deployment a snap.

Avaya Distributed Office

We all know that voice over IP offers significant advantages over traditional PBXes. Using the data network for voice saves on toll charges, and adds, moves and changes are simplified. But rolling VoIP out to remote offices has been a significant obstacle to widespread deployment, particularly when you're talking small branches or retail outlets that lack dedicated IT staffs.

Avaya's Distributed Office, a SIP-based, distributed VoIP system, aims to simplify remote deployment and management. Avaya will preconfigure its IP gateways, the i40 and i120, to fit your remote branches, and the company's VoIP phones are included with gateways, which alse support a variety of third-party VoIP and analog phones. In our tests the system offered good call quality, a useful set of phone features and was easy to manage.

On the downside, Distributed Office is a voice-only platform. If you're looking for a unified communications system that can integrate voice with other applications, such as e-mail, or if your branch offices would benefit from an all-in-one system that supports functions such as firewalling and routing, you'll have to look elsewhere. Avaya is aiming squarely at companies that will find Distributed Office's low starting price of $350 per seat for 20 users--with the i40 gateway and phones included--and ease of deployment a square trade for all-inclusive hardware.

Avaya's main competitor in this market is Cisco, which is taking a different approach with its UC500 and ISR series platforms. The UC500 with Call Manager Express is similar to the i40 in terms of voice service, but also provides WAN access, routing and a firewall. However, if a branch has more than 50 users, you would have to move up to the full Cisco ISR line; that will increase costs significantly and may be more horsepower than you need. Cisco's SmartAssist program covers configuration needs, comparable to Avaya's preconfiguration options.

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