D-Link VoiceCentre with Microsoft Response Point review
Posted on 22-Jun-2009 13:50 by Steve Biddle|
Filed under: Reviews
Microsoft Response Point is a VoIP PBX solution targeted at the small to medium business market. Originally released in the USA in 2007, it has just been launched into the New Zealand market by D-Link who brand their product D-Link VoiceCentre.
While Microsoft have developed the actual Response Point PBX software, all hardware development has been left in the hands of several companies - D-Link, Aastra, Quintum and Syspine. The Response Point systems from each manufacturers have the exact same PBX features, the difference between the systems lies solely in the hardware that is supplied by each supplier. D-Link are the only supplier currently selling Response Point systems in New Zealand.
The demonstration system contained the D-Link DVX2000MS PBX unit (which is essentially a mini ITX PC in a D-link branded case), a D-Link 3104MS FXO gateway for hooking regular PSTN lines to the system, and several D-Link DPH125MS VoIP phones.
The DPH125MS handset is currently the only handset that D-Link manufacture. The keypad layout was very clear and simple with a dedicated button for conference calls, voicemail, speakerphone, transfer, hold and mute. The phone has a two line LCD screen and also features a red LED in the top right corner for visual notification of new voicemail messages. The menu button cycles through various options that also include the ability to set DND (Do Not Disturb). Call forward and recent call history is also available, and but not least the blue RP button which controls the voice activation features of Response Point
Response Point PBX configuration is through the Response Point administrator software. After plugging in the Response Point hardware and running the software, the Response Point PBX was automatically detected and was ready for configuration.
It may help that I work with VoIP equipment, but I was amazed how quickly I could set the system up and configure it to make calls. Within 15 minutes I had the unit up and running with 3 phones and had the system registered via a SIP extension on my Asterisk PBX here at home and was able to make and receive calls. The whole setup procedure was very simple – and that seems to be exactly what Microsoft’s goal was with Response Point.
The first step was to hook the phones I had up to my network and configure these. Once these were plugged in I simply clicked on “Add phone” and was shown a list of detected phone MAC addresses on my network. It was then a very simple process to link this phone to an extension number and to a user. Once these extensions were configured the phones automatically rebooted and provisioned themselves with all the correct settings and displayed the user name and phone extension on the LCD screen.
After testing calls were working, I was ready to hook up the D-link 4 port DVG-3104 FXO gateway to a regular Telecom PSTN phoneline to test call quality. I was initially quite disappointed by the quality of these calls. I suspected that the gateway was not correctly configured to the correct line impedance for New Zealand but could not find any options in the Response Point Administrator to configure this.
After reading through the online manual for the DVG-3104 I discovered that the line impedance could easily be changed from the web interface of the gateway and once set to the correct line impedance settings that are used in New Zealand call quality was much improved, with none of the echo and low audio levels that were present before. Anybody setting one of these gateways up in New Zealand needs to ensure that this is done or you will suffer from poor call quality.
Also in the web interface are adjustable settings for the RX and TX gain which can be adjusted as required if audio levels are too high or low as well, as the ability to set the voice codec used between the FXO ports and the Response Point box. There are also options for creating dialplans allowing the insertion of digits if the adapter was connected to a Centrex line or you wanted to integrate the system into an existing PABX that requires a 1 (or similar) to dial out.
Response Point can have two separate trunk lines configured, either both SIP, or a SIP trunk and a FXO adapter. These use either the 8 or 9 prefix for external access to make calls via these outbound trunks. This leads to one of the features that Response Point really lacks, support for a dialplan. Being forced to dial a digit for external access is something Microsoft really need to address in future Response Point updates. It’s a legacy feature from traditional analogue PBX’s that should not be forced upon users and is unnecessary in a VoIP setup.
In terms of PBX features Response Point does all of the basics that most small business users need from a phone system including an auto attendant/IVR, call transfer, conference calling, voicemail, overhead paging, call parking, DID and music on hold.
One of the most powerful features of Response Point is also the feature that makes it unique – the blue Response Point Button that is on all handsets. Pressing this activates the speakerphone and activates the voice recognition feature. The voice recognition is extremely useful and also extremely powerful, no longer do you have to remember somebody’s extension number to transfer a call, you can simply press the RP button and say “Transfer Call Steve” and the current call will automatically be transferred to the destination extension.
Depending on whether you are on a call or not pressing the RP button gives you different options. You can also say “what can I say” at any time to hear a list of commands.
If you are not on a call the following commands are available:
Voicemail – go to your voicemail box. Voicemail can also be accessed by pressing the voicemail envelope button on the phone.
Intercom – Call another user using the intercom feature. This automatically enables the speakerphone on phones that are called. This allows a handsfree full duplex speakerphone call with another phone.
Page – Page another user or group of users. This works in a similar way to intercom but is one way audio only so doesn’t pick up microphone feedback from nearby phones if you page a large number of handsets.
Company Directory – listen to all the extensions and users on your system.
Free411 – access free411 directory service, a feature not applicable in New Zealand.
If you are on a call pressing the Response Point button automatically parks the current call and the following options are available.
Transfer Call – transfers the call to another extension..
Transfer Voicemail – transfers the call to a user’s voicemail box.
Retrieve Call – retrieves the call that you have parked.
One of the small disadvantages of the system is that all voice prompts in the system are recorded with an American voice. This means that you are prompted to “press the pound key”, a button that we call the hash key in most other English countries. It would certainly be nice to have voice prompts available in other languages.
I’ll now look at some of the other features of Response Point
Response Point features an included voicemail system that also has the ability to send voicemail messages to the email address of the user. This feature simply requires a valid SMTP server.
Remote Access & DISA.
It’s possible to set up call routing to give a user direct access to their phone from a remote location. One scenario is that a user can have their mobile number set up so that they can dial into the Response Point system and have access to the exact same features as they would have if they were using the phone at their desk. You can use the voice recognition feature to check your voicemail or to call another local extension. It’s also possible to make an outbound call from the Response Point system and take advantage of cheaper calling rates that may be available. DISA access is password protected by default for security purposes.
Response Point features an Automated Attendant to answer inbound calls with a recorded message. There are numerous options available within the IVR menu and also the ability to automatically direct calls to a human operator using a daily schedule. The voice recognition feature is active within the IVR which means somebody calling the company can say the name of the person they would like to speak to and be automatically transferred to that extension.
Response Point Assistant
Also included as part of the Response Point system is a Windows based Desktop application called Response Point Assistant. This application can be run on the PC of the phone user and allows you to dial numbers from your PC, click to dial from Outlook contacts, manage parked calls and configure local speed dial numbers. Local speed dial numbers are a very cool feature – once you assign a name to your speed dial you can use the RP button and say the name of this person to call them. Link a mobile, home and work number and you can call the person by saying their name and the appropriate number such as “Steve Mobile”.
One obvious configuration oversight was the power settings on the PC’s motherboard was not being set to resume on power off. I’m unsure if this is the case in all systems but the demo system I used had this disabled. In this mode if power is disconnected to the PBX or a power cut occurs that the power button needs to be pushed to restart the PBX. The Award bios used by the motherboard supports this feature but the bios was password protected so I was unable to change it.
A feature that isn’t easily configured is remote extensions. Running a phone at a remote location can cause issues if NAT is used which is presumably why Microsoft have tried to simplify the whole process and therefore phones must be on the same subnet. VPN support is available within Response Point so a VPN endpoint is required if you wish to run phones from a remote location.
Response Point is based upon the SIP (Session Initiated Protocol) which has become the industry standard for VoIP. The one downside that Response Point has is that regular SIP phones cannot be used as the system is “locked down” to ensure that setup and configuration is as simple as possible. This means you are limited to the handsets available from the current Response Point manufacturers (gateways and phones can be used from different suppliers however) but can’t use other SIP hardware that is on the market such as WiFi handsets or conference phones.
So how does Response Point really stack up? Despite not supporting some features that are common in other PBX’s such as a dial plan Response Point really does impress. Its core feature set encompasses the features that most small business users need in a PBX system and the system really is extremely simple to use. The voice recognition feature alone has made the process of transferring calls extremely simple and should avoid a still far too common issue of calls being accidently disconnected. It’s certainly well worth investigating if you are in the market for a PBX for a small to medium size business and can live with some of the limitations of the product.
• Certified for connection to WorldxChange VFX/DVX platform
• Voice recognition is fantastic
• Simple setup and configuration
• VPN supports remote extensions
• Lack of dialplan support is quite limiting
• You are tied to Response Point phones – you can’t use other SIP devices
• No call pickup feature
• No T.38 support for faxing