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IT EXPO: Digium Adds Web-aware UC to Switchvox SMB 4.0

Digium Inc. introduced Monday a new version of its Switchvox SMB IP PBX that allows integration with Web and office applications, turning the phone system into a unified communications platform. General availability will be March 3, 2009.

It’s been about a year since Digium announced a new version of Switchvox SMB, but this is not a routine upgrade; Digium said it’s defining a new category called “Web-aware unified communications.”

Switchvox SMB combines the Asterisk open source telephony software with easy-to-use administrative features. Version 4.0 adds integration with the Web and other communications methods, such as fax, chat, IM and video calling.

The new capabilities build on previously available integrations with Google maps and Web-based CRM software such as Salesforce and SugarCRM. Digium also published an API to enable Switchvox to integrate with a business’ back-office software.

“It certainly did more than [an IP PBX], but now with the three big features – fax, video and chat – we can say it is definitely, without a doubt, a unified communications solution,” said Tristan Degenhardt, director of product marketing for Switchvox. “When you take that and consider that we also do the Web integration component better than anyone else, what we are saying is that Switchvox is a Web-aware unified communications solution.”

Switchvox’s new fax integration includes a printer driver that enables users to send faxes to other fax machines or fax mailboxes. Inbound faxes use the same DID as the phone, but the system automatically detects T.38 transmissions and sends the fax to the right mailbox, explained Degenhardt.

The system also supports video phones using the H.263 and H.264 codecs. Digium does not have a preferred video phone vendor, but Degenhardt suggests using the same vendor within a deployment.

Switchvox now also includes an integrated private chat server, so that companies can have a closed IM system, rather than have business communications running over MSN or AOL IM systems. Users can chat with other employees using the Switchboard user interface. Or, said Degenhardt, if a company has a third-party chat client that supports XMPP, they can use that.

With version 4.0, presence and status details for chat and calling activity are visible across multiple peered Switchvox PBXs.

Another significant upgrade is the Notifier, which replaces the click-to-call Outlook plug-in. In addition to being able to click to call, pop-up notifications show incoming caller details and call history, and one-click options let users add contacts to Outlook.

Another useful feature is IMAP integration so that when users listen to their voice mail in Outlook, the message indicators on the phone turn off.

Switchvox SMB 4.0 also includes 12 new Web-aware IVR tools, such as exchanging sound files with Web applications, setting system-wide variables and more.

There are several new administrative tools as well. Version 3.5 added auto provisioning for Polycom Inc.. Version 4.0 includes auto-provisioning for snom phones as well, Degenhardt said.

The system also enables administrators or VARs to assign extensions in a batch file instead of typing them in one by one.

And, there are now prepackaged reports that can be scheduled and e-mailed in addition to the existing on-demand reports.

A new XML-based API, Switchvox Extend, exposes features of the Switchvox system so VARs can create special applications. Degenhardt offered the example of helping a hotel develop a new user/extension on check in and retrieve call accounting on check-out.

“As we add different calls to that API, you are going to see people building some really neat applications. That’s where we think VARs can add a ton of value to certain verticals,” she said.

There is no pricing change for the upgrade and begins at U.S. $3,390 for a 10-user system, including hardware, software, a one-year subscription and warranty. Existing customers who have any version of Switchvox SMB and have a current support subscription can download the upgrade at no charge.


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