Kerio launches Operator 1.1 IP PBX

San Jose, Calif.-based Kerio is a software development company that has a history of providing e-mail and network security to small businesses through an extensive chain of reseller partners. Early this year the company launched itself into the VoIP market with the release of Kerio Operator 1.0

Today, roughly six months after the initial launch, Kerio is announcing the first upgrade, Operator 1.1.

Bucking the current trend toward cloud-based services, Operator is designed as an on-premise solution and is available as a software package bundled with server licenses or as a hardware/software appliance, the Kerio Operator Box.

On the other hand, according to vice president of business and product development James Gudeli, a number of Kerio’s partners offer Operator on a hosted basis. It is also VMware compatible and thus will function in a virtual environment.

Gudeli stressed that Kerio’s stock in trade has always been affordability and ease of use and deployment. “We put the functionality people associate with enterprise technology solutions into the hands of small businesses,” he said. With Operator specifically, the goal is to eliminate the interconnect or “phone guy.”

Though Kerio is a software development company—and built the voicemail piece of Operator—they decided not to reinvent the wheel, but based the product on the open-source Asterisk platform. “We built a new interface and integrated our voicemail, to create an IP PBX with ISDN and E1/T1 connections—plus pure SIP,” Gudeli said.

Since Kerio is in the network security business, you’d expect security to be a focus of the voice product—and it is.

Since intrusion via password guessing is one of the most glaring vulnerabilities of IP-based phone systems, Kerio Operator 1.1 addresses it head-on with a password-guessing-protection feature. Once a party has made three unsuccessful attempts to log into the system, that IP addressed is blocked, and an alert is sent to the administrator, who can check to see whether the attempt came from within the home network or from a public IP address.

The other interesting security feature in Operator 1.1 is the ability to set up rules for the system to report anomalous behaviors, and block them. One example would be calls placed to unlikely places. “If no one is supposed to be calling Sudan, you can block based on that,” Gudeli explained. Other examples would be lots of calls being placed in a short time period—indicating an automatic dialing system—or if calls are going on for inordinate amounts of time. As with password guessing attempts, these phone behaviors trigger alerts to the admin.

Kerio also touts the flexibility that makes Operator 1.1 adaptable to the increasingly mobile workstyle emerging in today’s enterprise.

“Being in the mail server business, we have seen the extent to which mobile devices have infiltrated organizations as a tool for accessing e-mail, Gudeli said. “Given this mobility, you may want to get their phone to follow them as well.”

Operator 1.1 does this with a feature that allows a single extension to register multiple devices, so calls to that extension ring multiple phones. “It’s almost like having your own personal ring group. So, even if you’re overseas, you can get your calls directly to your extension.” According to Gudeli setting this up is a simple operation that end-users can easily accomplish.

Operator 1.1 also supports multi-location network—like any IP PBX—allowing for extension dialing between offices.

A number of popular IP phones have been certified for plug-and-play installation with Operator. Initially, only Cisco and Linksys phones were accommodated. “We added snom because they were gaining popularity, and we have a big sales presence in Germany,” Gudeli explained. “Recently, our partners pointed out the glaring omission of Polycom. We were connoisseurs of their conference phones, so we added auto provisioning for Polycom desk phones—as well as the conference phones.”

The software-only version of Operator 1.1 is priced at $600, which includes five server licenses. According to Gudeli, it can be deployed by an IT administrator: “Anyone who can host mail,” he said.

For larger deployments, there’s the $2,000 Operator Box 1210, which comes with 20 licenses or the $3,000 Operator Box 3210, which comes with 40. Additional licenses for any of the products are $24.

The purchase price with any version of the product includes product updates for one year. The company sells maintenance subscriptions to cover subsequent years.

To find a Kerio partner, check the partner finder on the company’s Web site.

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