Posted on 25-May-2007 13:42 by Steve Biddle| Filed under: Reviews
The Epygi Quadro 2x packs a lot of features into a unit that’s around the same size as a typical router. Not only is it a fully featured PBX but also a full NAT router with DHCP & DNS servers, a SPI firewall and intrusion detection system, traffic filtering, QoS to ensure that voice traffic is prioritized over other internet traffic, PPPoE and PPPoA support and VPN endpoint supporting IPSec, PPTP, L2TP and 3DES.
The 2x unit as supplied by 3Bit Solutions Ltd in New Zealand has a single RJ11 FXO port for connecting to a regular PSTN telephone line and two FXS ports for connecting regular analogue telephones or a fax machine supporting the T38 protocol. The unit handles 4 IP phones in its factory configuration and this can be expanded with an additional 12 phones by way of an upgrade licence.
The Epygi family also includes both 4x and 16x models both featuring 66 extensions in total (a combination of IP and analogue phones) and 20 simultaneous calls. All models are also available with optional ISDN connectivity giving you real flexibility in the way you want to connect your PBX to the outside world – while there can be obvious benefits in running the Quadro with a VOIP provider such as WorldxChange’s VFX service the system can easily be used with existing analogue lines without an internet connection.
VoIP systems have received a lot of criticism in the past with people believing the voice quality was poor and that it was simply a way of making cheap (or free) phone calls. Anybody who’s used an IP phone system over the past year or so will know that the problems that have plagued VoIP in the past are relegated to history.
The world is very quickly moving to IP telephony and unbeknown to most people a large percentage of your voice calls are already carried over IP circuits. Voice quality using a properly configured VoIP system is indentical to that of a traditional analogue phone line. Significant cost savings can be achieved by moving to a VoIP carrier such as VFX but the beauty of switching to IP is that you can have access to features that simply can’t be delivered using older traditional PBX’s.
In terms of features the Epygi units do everything you expect from a PBX and more – a fully configurable multilevel IVR/auto attendant, voice mail with integrated email and SMS notification (using Clickatell), call parking, music on hold, call conferencing, directory assistance, call forwarding, call transfer, do not disturb, call queueing, hunt groups, speed dialing, CDR (for viewing records of all calls made by the system) and a very configurable dialplan which allows you to implement call routing via multiple providers to deliver the cheapest possible call costs.
Because this unit also functions as a router with a built in SPI firewall and VPN support it can simply be hooked up to your existing ADSL or cable modem. The traffic filtering capabilities also allow blocking of ports or IP addresses restricting access to web sites or services.
While any SIP compliant phone should work fine with the unit, it pays to consider looking at Aastra, Snom (pictured below), Polycom or Cisco 7960 phones as these can all be auto configured by the Quadro. By simply configuring an extension and mapping it to the MAC address of the phone it will autoconfigure itself using the unit’s built in TFTP server – installing phones can’t get any simpler than that! The Snom 300 phone I used is a basic desk handset with a 2 line LCD display, 6 fully customisable function keys, dual LAN connections with built in switch, and message waiting indicator. The audio quality was superb both using the handset and speakerphone. My only real complaint was the lack of backlit LCD however this is something that is lacking on many brands of phones.
One of the beauties of VoIP is that once you have a PBX connected to the internet you can connect a VoIP phone to a broadband internet connection virtually anyplace in the world and be able to make calls in the same way as you would being in the home office and the only costs incurred are internet access charges.
Multiple Quadro units can also easily be bridged together via the internet allowing a company with multiple sites to eliminate call costs between sites. With recent Nokia mobile phones supporting WiFi and VoIP capabilities the ability also exists to replace desk phones with mobiles – when you’re in the office you can connect to your office WiFi network and send and receive calls as though you were using your desk phone without incurring mobile costs. Once you leave the office calls could automatically be forwarded to your mobile phone.
With the increasing number of public WiFi hotspots in New Zealand from both Telecom and CafeNet you could also be sitting in a café or hotel and only be paying for your internet access and not racking up costly mobile charges.
At present in New Zealand the choice of VoIP providers is limited however this is something we are sure to see changing over the next few years. WorldxChange’s VFX service is your best option at present and at the time of writing costs were $20 per month excl GST per phone line for business users with additional blocks of DDI numbers also available if required. Local call costs are 3.5c per minute excl GST and toll call prices to anywhere in New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, the United Kingdom as well as many other European & Asian destinations are 5c per minute excl GST. Calls to mobile phones in New Zealand are 30c per minute excl GST.
There is nothing stopping you from signing up with a foreign VoIP provider either – have business contacts in Australia for example? A myriad of Australian VoIP providers will provide you with a physical Australian phone number for around NZ$10 per month and allow you to make flat rate untimed calls anywhere in Australia for around NZ15c per call. The dialplan makes the selection of multiple providers a seamless process for the end user as the Quadro will route the call based upon the number dialled.
• Extremely powerful unit combining a full PBX and router with NAT and SPI firewall and VPN support.
• Auto configuration of phones makes setup a breeze.
• Powerful dialplan enabling basic LCR (Least Cost Routing) via multiple VoIP providers.
• Full support for SIP phones unlike some other IP based systems on the market which tie you to a single provider’s phones or older H323 based devices.
• Built in STUN server to solve any NAT transversal issues with remote phones.
• Some configuration menus are quite complex however many of these are unlikely to be of concern to the end user once the unit has been configured by your VoIP provider/installer.
• Auto attendant menu options are configured via a XML file. If you’re somebody who makes frequent changes to your auto attendant this could be a cumbersome job.
• No built in overhead paging. This could be implemented using one of the FXS ports but would require additional hardware.
For a small to medium size business who want a PBX that will “just work” it’s probably hard to look past the Epygi units. With the cost of a unit such as the Quadro and IP phones comparing very competitively with the cost of a traditional PBX you would have to have a very compelling reason not to go down the IP path if you’re looking to install a new PBX system or replace an existing unit.
While the cost benefits of moving to a VoIP provider such as VFX can be significant, even if you’re not ready for such a move its backwards compatibility with existing analogue or ISDN lines enables you to have a future proofed system.