Small and midsize businesses looking to make the leap to a truly standards-based voice-over-IP technology should seriously consider Zultys Technologies Inc.s Enterprise Media Exchange. Although none of the Zultys components that eWEEK Labs testedfrom the media controller to the phones to the various interfacesis much to look at, the Zultys system proved to be highly functional, flexible, and easy to use and administer.The call quality was quite good in our tests, with no noticeable jitter or delay problems on calls within the test lab or with remote devices connected via the Internet. We tested the MX250, Zultys midtier IP PBX and data router, which accommodates as many as 250 users. The MX250 is priced starting at $3,000 but includes no user or feature licenses. A commonly configured system supporting 250 users will cost in the neighborhood of $44,000 (including Zultys basic ZIP 2x2 handsets). Click here to read about Zultys ZIP 4x4 and ZIP 4x5 handsets. Our biggest complaint about the Zultys system is its Byzantine licensing scheme. Practically every function is licensablethe number of users, sessions, concurrent connections, MXIE soft phone users and numerous others are subject to (and restricted) according to license. A mind-numbing 25-page report on licensing options can be found at www.zultys.com/zulp/licensing2005.pdf. However, Zultys does allow flexibility to easily expand capabilities on a short-term basis through temporary licenses. Features may be rented in 10-, 28-, 31-, 45-, 60- or 90-day blocks, allowing a company to test new features, temporarily add features to meet new business conditions or amortize the upfront costs over a longer period of time. The MX250 is a 2U (3.5-inch) rack-mountable appliance that features a real-time Linux operating system, dual processors, two 10/100M-bps Fast Ethernet network adapters and two built-in FXS (Foreign Exchange Station) ports. The MX250 offers three telephony slots that support as many as 24 FXS or FXO (Foreign Exchange Office) trunks or four digital T-1/E-1 connections that can be used for voice or data services. A $2,300 backup 48-volt DC power supply can be purchased separately. The MX250 can be clustered with a backup unit for high availability and redundancy, or as many as 32 MX250s can be grouped together to scale up to 8,000 total users in a multiple-location enterprise. Preconfigured with a 36.7GB SCSI hard drive, the MX250 supplies as much as 400 hours of recording capacity for voice mail or faxes. Administrators can optionally add RAID 1 and differentially allocate voice mail space to groups depending on need. We tested the MX250 running Version 2.2.17 of the Zultys system software, which started shipping earlier this month. The latest software offers dramatically improved Advanced ACD (automated call distribution) features for call centers, the ability to send and receive faxes, and on-demand call recording. The Advanced ACD is a huge improvement over the previous functionality offered in the 2.0 software. Whereas previous software versions offered limited capabilities to redirect calls, Version 2.2.17 allows much more flexibility to redirect calls automatically according to agent status and call status. We particularly liked the new abilities to offer callers approximate wait times and status messages. Administrators can select from a series of included canned messages, record and import their own recordings, or take advantage of the MX250s new text-to-speech converter. Configuring the MX250 was a snap. The administrative console, a Windows application, can be downloaded and installed directly from the MX250s embedded Web page. Although the console looks a little archaic and leaves a multitude of open dialog boxes within the primary window, we were pleasantly surprised by the ease with which we could configure the network, trunks, call plans and devices. The console includes several useful high-level and detailed canned reports. The MX250, which supports G.711 codecs for voice quality and G.729 codecs for bandwidth reduction, comes preconfigured with a series of voice-quality profiles that can be assigned according to connection type. We liked the ease with which we could assign differing voice quality, depending on whether the connection was local or traversing a WAN. However, we were forced to create user accounts manually through the console, or, for a large user base, we could import data to the MX250 from a delimited data file. In the future, wed like to see Zultys expand this functionality to import user data directly from existing directories such as LDAP. To aid in the deployment of our IP phones, we configured the MX250 to provide DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), TFTP (Trivial FTP) and NTP (Network Time Protocol) services. (For a review of client devices, see the related story, below.) Customers can disable these services if the services are already available on the network. The MX250 can act as a data router, so customers may choose to deploy the system at the network perimeter and take advantage of the integrated stateful inspection firewall and NAT (Network Address Translation) services. The MX250 can also route SIP packets across a NAT, using the new ALG (application layer gateway) functionality, although we did not test the ALG for this review. Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.
Designed from the ground up as an Internet telephony solution, the Zultys system fully embraces Session Initiation Protocol, which allows Zultys products to interoperate with products from many other vendors that also support SIP.