VoIP Without The Headache12:50 PM EST Tue. Apr. 14, 2009
Used to be, there were the data gurus and then there were the telephony gurus. With VoIP becoming more of a standard in businesses, the worlds of data and telephony continue to mesh. Hosted voice offerings can make deploying and administering a VoIP system even easier, especially for IT professionals who are used to dealing with more data-oriented products. Seattle-based Speakeasy offers an SMB-hosted voice product that "speaks" to the telephony needs of a small to midsize business.
All that was required to test out Speakeasy's solution was an IP phone, an Internet connection and access to Speakeasy's Web portal. There are two Web interfaces: one is for administrators and the other for end users.
End users can perform an abundance of administrative tasks to their phone or "seat." Basic tasks, such as configuring profiles, setting time schedules and managing passwords can all be done by the end user. Speakeasy's client Web portal service also gives an end user some surprisingly granular and advanced options for managing their extensions.
For example, users can opt for Anonymous Rejection. This will block any incoming, restricted calls. Call Forwarding gives a user three ways to forward: always forward, forward only when phone is busy, or forward if the user does not pick up after a specified number of rings. Users can also set up call notifications. Within the interface, an e-mail message can be sent to the user's inbox when any call or specified callers dial the user's extension. This feature worked well on testing and was easy to set up.
Ever wanted to give clients the impression that you are hard at work in the office, when you are really sneaking in a few rounds of golf? Speakeasy's end-user Web client has a feature for that: Remote Office. With this feature, users can answer any phone, appearing as though they are in the office. It is also ideal for those working from home; all outbound calls have the ID of the office phone, and any long-distance phone charges are billed to the office system, rather than the home worker's private phone.
Call Manager is another component to the client interface. Users can place and transfer calls hands-free with the click of the mouse. They can also send calls to their VM, place on hold and establish conference calls. The application communicates with Speakeasy's system; that system, in turn, interacts with a user's IP phone, using underlying SIP technology.
Users also have a lot of flexibility with messaging; greetings can be customized for Busy, Standard or Out of Office. Users can also create distribution lists with specific greetings.
The Call Manager applet is run via the client Web interface. It can run on IE or Firefox. Our one issue with it is that (at least in IE 6) it opens in a separate window with the maximize button disabled. We couldn't easily see or navigate to objects that were aligned to the far right of the window.
Conferencing is an optional feature offered with Speakeasy's voice platform. The system supports 97 people logged in at one time, more than enough to support the conferencing needs of most businesses. Recurring conferences can be set up; reservationless conferencing can also be done. Users can record conference calls and send that recording as a URL to participants on the call.
The features in the client side of the Web interface are almost too numerous to fully detail here. Because users can manage much of their own telephony experience, the admin interface is reserved more for systemwide tasks, such as creating Hunt Groups and setting up an Auto-Attendant. A Call Center feature lets calls be placed into queues, and the obligatory call center "comfort message," "All agents are busy at this time," is configured in the administrator portion of the portal.
The configuration options for end users are so vast, we were wondering if there is any way for administrators to "lock down" some of the features. For instance, a manager may not want his or her sales team members to be able to forward calls to their cell phones. Speakeasy's representatives confirmed that there really isn't a way to granularly lock down features on the client side. Instead, companies that do not want their employees to have such controls usually prevent access to the entire client Web console.
Speakeasy works with Linksys, Cisco and Polycom's IP phones. There is no LDAP support to import and export from an Active Directory listing, for example, but there is an add-on in which many of the same tasks in Call Manager and the client side of the interfaces can be performed straight from Microsoft's Outlook.
Speakeasy sells through independent IT contractors and has more than 8,000 partners. With a robust solution like its hosted PBX, and value props, Speakeasy's VoIP is a sound platform for resellers, both technically and channel-wise.