New Hybrid Phone System for Very Small Businesses

TalkSwitch offers PSTN/IP flexibility, networkability, and more, in compact, affordable solution for startups.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Jun 1, 2007
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Ottawa, Ontario-based TalkSwitch has a reputation for addressing the telephony needs of small businesses, with a focus on flexibility and simplicity. Indeed, the company was founded with that very objective.

Until this week, however, even TalkSwitch did not offer its signature "hybrid" capability—the ability to custom configure each extension in the system either for analog or for IP connectivity—at the entry, or very small business, level. That changed with Wednesday's announcement of the 240VS model.

Like the older 24CA model, for which it's actually a significantly upgraded replacement, the 240VS offers 2 analog ports and support for 4 local extensions. Unlike it, each of those extensions can be configured for either IP or PSTN connectivity.

"It's built on a new platform [the "VS" platform] that gives us a lot more flexibility," explained TalkSwitch spokesman, Chris Brennan. "The 24CA was very much a standalone product—couldn't be networked, couldn't get voicemail to e-mail notification, and couldn't be upgraded to VoIP because it didn't have a LAN port. It was limited."

The 240VS addresses each of those shortcomings, greatly increasing the flexibility of the system.

According to Brennan, most very small businesses—the kind that start off in a basement or garage, or a very small franchise shop—start off with analog phones. "As they expand or open up new locations, they add a voice over IP component to tie those locations together . . . or increase the capacity of that existing system," he said

The 240VS will let owners upgrade to—or start off with—voice over IP, network with other units, and support the company's Attendant Console (and other) software. Owners can mix and match analog and IP extensions, even add a block of 8 more IP extensions. Moreover, it is easily user-configurable, by means of a Windows-based utility. No consultants needed.

A key feature for very small businesses is the unit's support for "remote extensions." It turns out, this means two distinct, but equally important things. First, the 240VS can be configured so that if no one picks up the phone at the office, calls are forwarded to your cell phone (or any other number you specify).

"When you're running a small office, if you're out of the office, there may not be anybody back at the office to answer the phone," Brennan pointed out. "So the ability to build your cell phone into the network is something that's really important to them. We've done a lot of work on this and it's a key selling point for us."

Then, alluded to earlier, there's the ability of all TalkSwitch units—now including the entry level—to create a distributed IP phone system by interacting with TalkSwitch boxes in other locations. This allows a company to expand its phone system as it grows, without relinquishing any of its investment.

The TalkSwitch 240VS is a compact, all-in-one unit, priced at $695USD, and is available through an extensive network of resellers, or directly from TalkSwitch.

According to Brennan, there's been a decided upswing in IP-from-the-get-go installations, now accounting for about 50 percent of TalkSwitch deployments. Further, "in the past 18 months we've done a lot of interop with some of the big ITSPs, like Primus, BroadVoice, BroadSoft, and Cbeyond," Brennan said. "So a lot of our resellers are now actually bundling the service offering with the unit –so you can actually get the full suite from them."

All these developments should help take the pain out of provisioning a phone system for the fledgling business.

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