As voice-over-IP systems prove to be less easy to use than the technologys champions suggest, vendors are responding to small and midsize businesses need for simpler, more intuitive IP telephony.
Nimcat Networks Inc. this week is launching a Web portal where users can download new features for their VOIP handsets within minutes. The portal, called NimGate, provides an array of features that can be purchased, installed and used without the need to add hardware to the network. The new features include a System Web Administrator, which lets the telecommunications manager make central changes to the system, such as designating extensions for an office and determining the length of messages that is allowed.
Ottawa-based Nimcat touts its technology for its ease of use, requiring only that users plug a Nimcat-powered phone into the LAN and turn it on. Standard VOIP handsets embedded with Nimcat processing software recognize other devices on the network and form a virtual exchange to interact on a peer-to-peer basis or connect to a WAN or the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
Earlier this year, Multiple Capital Inc. traded in the traditional phone system that it had been using for 15 years for Nimcat-powered handsets from Aastra Technologies Ltd., in Concord, Ontario. Following a work force reduction earlier in the year, the Montreal-based company relocated to a smaller office and took the opportunity to install a less expensive, easier-to-use system, said Claude Vachet, a partner at Multiple Capital.
No central processing gear is needed with Nimcat call processing software, making it more affordable than traditional key systems or IP-based PBXes. Multiple Capital also saved money from the outset in its migration to VOIP because separate lines did not have to be installed for voice and data traffic.
Once the building was wired, Vachet had only to purchase handsets. He chose Aastra equipment, but other manufacturers, such as Tecom Co. Ltd., in Hsinchu, Taiwan, also embed Nimcats technology.
If an enterprise connects directly to a service provider that supports IP connectivity, no equipment other than the phone is needed. To connect to the PSTN, however, Nimcats Thin Trunk interface must be added.
Vachet said he is particularly impressed with the features, which include call forwarding, transferring, holding, returning, logging, conferencing and paging, as well as a voice mail notification system being launched this week.
With plans to grow, Vachet said he needed to install a system that would grow easily with him. "With Nimcat, we just buy more phones and plug them in, and it works." The Nimcat software can handle more than 100 handsets, according to the company.
In the future, Vachet would like to see a feature added that lets users listen to their voice messages via Windows WAV files on their computers. "One thing that would be nice would be access to voice mail via a Web page," he said. "It would be cool if while youre away, you could access voice mail via your e-mail."
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