Gizmo Goes for Biz

SIPphone's Gizmo Project seeks to transcend its enthusiast roots and find a home in the business sector.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Sep 22, 2006
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Following, somewhat, in the shadow of Skype (hard to avoid if you're in the free VoIP service business), SIPphone this week announced a new program—Gizmo for Business—aimed at bringing business accounts on board as customers for its Gizmo Project.

Gizmo Project is both a SIP-based softphone-client-cum-VoIP service (see our review), and a SIP telephony network. A couple of SIPphone announcements earlier in the year presaged this week's announcement of Gizmo for Business's debut:

In May, the company chronicled Gizmo's integration with the hugely successful free, open-source IP PBX, Asterisk, whereby the Gizmo client could function in the role of extension phone within the PBX and, if/when necessary, make free or low-cost VoIP calls outside the organizational telephony framework.

In July, SIPphone trumped its (almost-) free-softphone competition by declaring that, going forward, all calls in North America, whether within in the Gizmo network or to the PSTN, would be absolutely free. In fact the All Calls Free program extends to a good part of the world, including mobile phones, albeit with some limitations in that sphere.

Back in the context of this week's announcement, SIPphone has now set up a sales entity that embraces the needs of organizations ready to step up and try this bold (to say the least) new approach to business telephony. The Gizmo for Business program lets businesses centrally purchase Call Out credits—to be pooled among as many users as the organization designates—and to acquire and pay for blocks of Call In direct-dial numbers (DIDs) on the same basis. Interested businesses are invited to apply here.

Businesses with a SIP PBX—or willing to set up a PBX (a number of SIP-based PBXs will work fine with Gizmo)—will certainly reap cost savings by using Gizmo clients as system phones. And those choosing to use the Gizmo network as their primary service provider (by acquiring a Call In number for primary access)—or as a supplement to service provided by a third party—should be able to save significantly on basic VoIP connectivity, thanks to All Calls Free.

With or without a PBX, the inherent flexibility of the Gizmo network can serve the needs of companies with distributed workforces, satellite offices, telecommuters, and the like. Gizmo can connect offices or workplaces cost-free, pretty much wherever they are, regardless of the number of staff involved.

On the potential impediment side, firewalls employing network address translation (NAT) can be an issue for SIP-based services like Gizmo, primarily due to the way SIP selects connection ports. We're sensitive to this since it's impossible to connect with the Gizmo registry from within this company's IP network.

SIPphone does provide a Firewall FAQ, which initially states that Gizmo will probably find a way to traverse your firewall on its own (a prospect that would give our IT staff apoplexy), and then goes on to suggest settings that will improve VoIP performance. Any organization with a SIP-unfriendly NAT implementation, in any case, will probably need to swap it or scrap it, or take a pass on Gizmo.

Firewall issues aside, SIPphone is quick to point out the rich feature set that Gizmo for Biz users can take advantage of. They include voicemail-to-email, call forwarding, free audio conferencing of up to 99 parties, online presence information, and, for those times when a phone call just isn't the thing, instant messaging.

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