Digium Has A Switchvox Hit

The AA65 has an LCD panel from which the PBX can be configured to join a network. A little about the box--the AA65 is a desktop wall-mount form factor, ideal for small organizations that do not have a lot of room to expand data closets or may not have a lot of rack space. It's about the size of a typical desktop PC. The LCD panel is a large, well-lit display with soft-touch buttons that makes menus easy to navigate through.

Although Digium Switchvox offers IP PBX appliances that are capable of handling up to 400 users, the AA65 is the small-office version. It supports up to 30 users and 12 concurrent calls. It does call recording and conferencing, but again, this is the small-office version so only five concurrent recorded calls and up to five simultaneous conference callers are supported, but that number should suffice for the typical small office.

From the LCD is a menu listing of items that makes it ridiculously simple for any network administrator--or resident company techie--to get the PBX in sync with the network. Besides being able to do a clean reboot or shutdown of the device from the LCD, admins can also reset the HTTPS certificate, enable or disable tech support access, enable or disable Web access as well as reset the administrator and LCD password. All menu items were pretty straightforward; the only thing that was a little unclear was the "Restore Web Access" item. After we set the option to "No" we were still able to access the PBX via a Web browser. Perhaps it's to restrict another type of access?

The software that comprises the system is Digium Switchvox SMB 4.0. Although it's got SMB in the name, there are still a ton of features and configuration options in the admin console. There's a lot to like about the Web-based management interface. It's cool--you get lots of feature options and it integrates Web 2.0 mashup technology. The switchboard plug-ins allow admins to set up users with panels that give access to SugarCRM, Salesforce or Google Maps in the user Web-based interface--yes, users get one too.

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For example, say a user gets an inbound call. With the Google Maps Switchboard Panel, Google Maps will pinpoint the location of the incoming call based on the caller ID. Administrators can also add custom panels. Just think of the potential: An HR manager could receive a call from a prospective employee and have that person's Twitter or Facebook page pop up.

Digium calls Switchvox SMB 4.0 more than a VoIP system. The company refers to it as a Web-Aware Unified Communications System, and justifiably so. Users have access to a Switchboard that allows for chat, interactive phonebooks and quick access to a company directory. The Switchboard is, in a nutshell, a graphical display of what's happening on the Switchvox system. It displays users' calls, call queues, and any parked calls. End users can also use drag-and-drop to transfer calls and can record, monitor and pick up calls with a single mouse click. Users, via the user Web console, also can control voice-mail greetings, fax settings, access call history and run usage reports.

By the way, the ability to send and receive faxes is one of the latest features in Switchvox SMB 4.0. Other new features include support for videophones and a private chat server that uses the XMPP protocol, the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol formerly named Jabber.

Digium takes the concept of unified messaging even further by incorporating an IMAP mailbox for each phone extension. The mailbox holds voice mail and faxes.

The administrator's feature set has gotten some enhancements as well with this latest version. One big improvement is extending the feature set of call queues. Because it is so interactive and graphical, Switchvox is an ideal PBX for SMBs that need call center capabilities. Queue members can now log in, log out or pause their status per queue rather than a set of queues. Via the switchboard, queue members can even add comments about their unavailability or when they will be available.

Switchvox's underlying technology is the Astrerisk open-source telephone software. Because of the very nature of open source, Switchvox is highly customizable. Switchvox encourages customizations and has resources for developers. Its Web site offers Switchvox Extend, the newest API for developers and solution providers who need to tailor custom-made system for clients.

With that kind of focus on customization, plus an already well-designed turnkey system like the API, Digium Switchvox is a great choice for SMBs' VoIP needs.