Plug and Play VoIP for the Small Office

Every business needs a phone system, and such systems are often a major capital expense for startups. A pair of networking technology companies—Allied Telesyn and Aastra Technologies—have joined forces to create a complete, full-featured voice over IP solution at an affordable price point, designed to meet the needs of businesses with 5 to 50 employees.

Aastra is a pioneer in the design and production of peer-to-peer VoIP telephone systems that pack most of the features normally provided by a PBX into the phone deskset itself. Indeed Aastra’s VentureIP system, consisting of the VentureIP 480i phone and VentureIP Gateway—form the telephony core of Allied Telesyn’s new VioCall Express Connect solution, in which context they’ll appear as the VH-480i and the VG-401i, respectively.

Allied Telesyn’s stock in trade, by contrast, is data communications. And networking infrastructure is what it’s bringing to the Express Connect table—along with a mature distribution/sales channel.

According to Steve Hawkins, Aastra’s director of marketing, the aim of the partnership “is to create a turnkey solution for the SMB customer, so they can purchase all of the gear from one place, know that it works, know that there’s a single point of contact for support, and so on. That’s what the Allied Telesyn VioCall portfolio brings.”

“The Express Connect is based on the VentureIP phone system,” concurred Allied Telesyn product manager Rodney Elder. “What we’ve done is we’ve extended that to include the networking components—the security devices, the routers, the wireless access points—to create a complete network phone system bundled offering that we can take to our distribution channel to take to customers, because what we discovered—when we first started talking to Aastra—was that many customers were in desperate need of the full kit.”

To be explicit, the ‘full kit’ includes power-over-Ethernet switches, NAT security, and firewall, along with service and support.

Then there’s the ease of installation factor. Aastra’s VentureIP phones are self-discovering and self-configuring: Plug them into the network, they find each other and exchange ID parameters to produce a functioning phone system with minimal human intervention.

“The whole concept behind Express Connect is the fact that we fundamentally eradicate the need for a certified installer,” Elder pointed out. “Certainly anyone in a datacom or IT role can plug these things in and within 30 minutes, have a very functional system, with dialing between handsets, dialing to the outside world, voicemail, and auto attendant included—all your basic table stakes of a phone system for a small office.”

“The synergies are bringing good value to the end customer,” Aastra’s Steve Hawkins agreed.

Elder pegged Express Connect’s scalability as filling the space between 5 and 50 extensions. “We can be cost effective with as little as five handsets,” he said, going on to comment that organizations smaller than five tend to be ‘extremely price conscious.’ Then again, “We see an interesting crossover at around 50,” Elder said. Offices of this size are frequently branch offices of larger companies, and hence good candidates forExpress Connect’s big brother, VioCall Professional Connect, an enterprise-scale plug-and-play VoIP solution built around Sphere Communications Sphericall IP PBX.

Eventually, the VioCall brand will be filled out with Subscriber Connect, a carrier-class digital phone framework. But the immediate focus is gettingExpress Connect out there. “We’ve been with the Express Connect for a month or so in the market and we’re getting warmly received,” Elder told “What we want to do is get another little while under our belt and get some feedback, from our customer base to understand exactly what product is going to fit best,” including, eventually, voice over Wi-Fi capability and other VioCall-ready features and components.

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