It's taken a few years of steady growth and plenty of channel evangelism, but Switchvox, Digium's Asterisk-based open source VoIP-PBX system, is finally getting the kinds of-notices its longtime devotees have sought.
Fresh off a recent "Best of Show" win for Switchvox at IT Expo West, Digium also this year appeared, for the first time, on Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications, an influential industry barometer for assessing key vendors in major IT categories.
Digium's been building channel credibility for years, and all the while it's been continuing to tweak the Switchvox platform as well. Last year, it launched a mobile version of Switchvox and earlier this summer, it updated the Switchvox platform to include fixed mobile convergence and a number of other features in its 5.0 version.
"They're SMB-centric, and we were looking for solutions that had extensive feature sets without a really large price tag," said Dale Whitney, owner of NetImage, a Shelton, Conn.-based solution provider. "They have a team that's very responsive to the channel, too."
NetImage has been a Digium partner for about two years, and Digium ends up being a good fit for SMB customers seeking voice solutions more in about 70 percent of his engagements, Whitney said. The combination of price and features are what's been appealing, and the only significant roadblock is brand awareness.
"We do get 'Who is Digium?'' Whitney said. "Sometimes the more technical people will know Digium because they know Asterisk, but if you're dealing with the business owners or a middle manager, they've likely never heard of Asterisk."
That's changing for the better, said Whitney, especially as Digium finds a home with more and varied customers. One of NetImage's more interesting wins behind a Digium and Switchvox sale came with Greenberg & Co., a Shelton, Conn.-based law firm in a unique situation.
Attorney Daniel Greenberg, the firm's principal, had two years ago decided to emphasize Greenberg & Co's. international interests by opening a satellite office. So while Greenberg & Co. is headquartered in the U.S., it also has an office in the British Virgin Islands, where it is based on the island of Tortola, and known as Greenberg & Co. Solicitors LTD.
Sixty percent of Greenberg's clients are outside the U. S., and cover 15 different countries. Ergo, the firm needed a VoIP-PBX system that could support 16 employees in the Connecticut office, plus Greenberg in the Tortola office or wherever else he finds himself, plus a range of different mobile devices, plus a mix of PC and Mac computers, plus a call volume of about 1,000 calls a week.
And do it affordably.
Until that point, Greenberg & Co. had used an aging Nitsuko (NEC) system Greenberg said had been in place for about a decade. Working with NetImage, out came the Nitsuko, and in went a Digium Switchvox AA65 designed for supporting up to 30 users, plus 25 Polycom IP phones.
The ultimate goal was to have a situation where a live receptionist in the Shelton office could switch a call from Shelton to Tortola as if Greenberg was a hallway away, not more than 1,600 miles south.
There also needed to be seamless connectivity for Greenberg's mobile devices -- he uses an iPhone and a BlackBerry -- so he could take calls from different time zones when away from his desk, and do conference calls using those devices, often on the fly. Further, he uses a soft phone that connects through his laptop, and wanted as much sync as possible between the VoIP system and both his voice and e-mail capabilities.
Switchvox, Greenberg said, covered all of that -- and most importantly of all, preserved call quality.
"We needed a flexible system that could be maintained remotely and have VoIP and be a seamless system, so it wouldn't matter if I was in Connecticut, or Tortola, or Brazil," said Greenberg. "We ultimately spoke seriously to six vendors, and when we looked at the relative cost and features of the Switchvox system, we thought it was a good solution. We've been very pleased with the results."
Next: Digium Beat Out Five Other Vendors
The initial six vendors in contention dropped to three in the final round, and in the end, the Switchvox solution beat out systems from Mitel and ShoreTel, Greenberg said, and was implemented in September 2010.
It cost Greenberg & Co. about $30,000 in total phone and computer upgrades, but Greenberg said all three finalists were within 10 percent of each other price-wise.
"The prices were close enough," he said. "But we wanted flexibility and the ability to grow. We have high levels of configurability and quality connections with this."
Another key recommendation from NetImage, Greenberg said, was to adjust Greenberg & Co's Internet connectivity to leverage SIP trunks. Specifically, Greenberg & Co. uses SIP trunks from Comcast that let it use its VoIP connectivity even outside the office network, meaning it doesn't need wallet-busting international PSTN gateways or other costly connectivity technologies.
Affordable connectivity, call quality and ease-of-use were what the firm had achieved, Greenberg said. The success of his business hinges on all three being up to snuff.
"If you're yelling into a phone to a guy who's also on his cell phone in the wilds of Brazil, that's not good," Greenberg said. "It just makes the call about trying to understand each other, as opposed to doing business."