Shopping for VoIP gear is a lot more fun than it used to be. Now you can get prefab servers and bundles with everything you need, and all you do is plug things in and start yakking. OK, so it's not quite that easy, but the progress in the past couple of years in user-friendliness has been phenomenal. Comparison shopping is easier than ever, so today we're going to do a bit of price and feature comparisons on some of the vendors we know and love so welland see if we can't figure out who offers the best value. (Note to miserly PHBs: cost and value are not the same things.)
The majority of them are based on Digium's Asterisk, so we'll compare how well the progenitor stands up to its offspring.
Just to keep it simple, we'll pretend we're a smallish office with up to 50 talkative users.
When I was researching this, I kept bumping into some serious acronym infestations, such as "How can Cisco CPE PPPoE MTU size adapt to MRU of LNS?" While all of those are interesting in their own way, the one that really matters to the IT decision maker is CPE, which means "customer premise equipment." Vendors fling that one around like rodeo queens flinging candy in a parade. The rest of the quotation means "We are mysterious so we can charge you more."
I'm going to compare products from Digium, Switchvox, Bluesocket, Fonality, Rhino, and any others that grab my fancy. In addition to the for-purchase products we'll be looking at, many of these also offer free-of-cost community-supported editionswhich are great for test-drives and hardy do-it-yourselfers. Prices may vary from what I've found, depending on who you purchase from and how good you are at negotiating sweet deals.
Gold and Platinum subscriptions are available at additional cost. An extra $220 buys Gold, and a cool $660 elevates your status to Platinum. These give you phone support, a package of Incidents Per Year (which normally cost $200 each) next-day replacement, and training discounts.
If you want POTS (plain old telephone system) analog phone or trunk integration, it holds up to 8 FXS/FXO ports in banks of four. So you can have four of each, or all of one or the other, at about $100 per port. It supports both SIP (session initiation protocol) and IAX (Digium's own VoIP protocol, Inter-Asterisk Exchange). The Asterisk Appliance does not support T1/E1 interfaces.
The box is cute, energy-thrifty, and has a small footprint, but it won't fit in a standard rack. It runs a slimmed-down, streamlined embedded Linux-based operating system, but it still seems underpowered compared to other VoIP appliances, and a single gigabyte for data storage seems meager.
Digium licenses its Asterisk code two different ways: under the GPL, which allows anyone to modify and re-distribute Asterisk code and its descendants, and also under a commercial license that permits closed-source development. Switchvox was originally closed-source, but Digium plans to open-source it.
Digium sells Switchvox appliances in two classes: SOHO and SMB. Since we are a fictional small office, we'll look at the base AA60 SOHO unit, which starts at $1595.00. This is not a rackmount, but a small unit that goes on a desk or wall mount.
There are a number of add-ons to choose from, such as a cold-spare failover unit, extended hardware warranty, and discounted hard phones. You can mix-and-match FXS/FXO ports however you like at about $100 to $160 per port, depending on how many you buy. T1/E1 goes for $664.00. So why does this cost so much more than the Asterisk Appliance, and seemingly do less? Because it's a big waddling fully-featured Asterisk server, not just a SIP + IAX server.
Come back again soon for more VoIP power shopping.
This article was first published on VoIPPlanet.com.
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