Melbourne-based kitchen and whitegoods distributor, Andi-Co, has deployed an Asterisk-based IP-PABX for a unified communications solution.
The company selected a Digium Switchvox IP-PABX for the project which replaced an ageing Samsung OfficeServ 500. The Switchvox appliance runs the open source Asterisk software on Linux.
Andi-Co IT director, Elbert Van Bommel, said the Digium solution was selected over other vendors based on its ease of deployment, integration capabilities and cost.
“It was at least a third of the cost of other solutions and we can now do maintenance and moves, adds and changes in-house,” Van Bommel said.
For the past 27 years, Andi-Co Australia has marketed and distributed kitchen and refrigeration brands Andi, Falcon and GE.
Andi-Co is using about 40 extensions and has capacity for 400 extensions on the one box. It must still pay extra for extension licences.
“It is important for all employees to be able to communicate clearly with each other regardless of their location to ensure an efficient inventory and client management process,” Van Bommel said. “With the Digium Switchvox, all of our 40 employees are fully connected, wherever they may be.”
Last year Asterisk creator and Digium CEO Mark Spencer celebrated 10 years of the open source PABX, which now claims some two million downloads per year.
Andi-Co joins a growing list of local companies using the Asterisk for VoIP, including the University of Queensland, department store chain Adairs, marketing agency Clear Blue Day, TV production company FremantleMedia and a number of ISPs in South Australia.
In 2008 Sydney-based IT consulting firm Glintech replaced its PABX with Asterisk and developed a UC platform that integrates e-mail and IM.
“It is easy to set up call groups and very flexible, and it doesn’t interfere with computers on the network,” Van Bommel said.
VoIP calls are done over the company LAN and then go through a multi-dial line from Optus for external telephony.
Van Bommel said the only drawback is when calls are made to mobile phones sometimes there is an echo.
“It has been running since October last year non-stop. In that period there was three times the system would hang, but it always seemed to coincide with work on servers with DHCP and DNS. Then it requires a reboot. But it since then it’s been going for three months non-stop,” he said. “Its reliability is no worse than the Samsung.”
The cost of the new system was about $35,000, which was less than half of other products considered.
Van Bommel has tested a free softphone with the IP-PABX, but using one does use up an extension licence.
The solution was supplied by Wavelink Communications. Director Ilan Rubin said Switchvox is designed for businesses that want a full-featured voice over IP phone system for hundreds of employees per server at a fraction of the cost of traditional PABXs.
The installation of the new PABX took two days and after “one and a half days of hiccups” the system was working well.
“When people leave a voice message it goes to an e-mail address. That’s handy but not many people use it,” Van Bommel said. “We also have switchboard which allows you to look or listen to messages on the screen.”
“Sales reps on the road can be part of this system if they need to be. Netbooks are becoming more flexible, but the mobile phone is still something to communicate with. My ultimate setup will be to have a mobile phone that talks to a laptop that connects to the Internet.”
The Asterisk phone system is the latest addition of to Andi-Co’s family of Linux-based systems for information management.
The company runs a firewall on Linux and its ERP and accounting software from local vendor Pronto Software is also on Linux.
“We are very happy with the Pronto ERP on Linux as it is reliable,” Van Bommel said. “Anything running on Linux is reliable if it is setup properly. The firewall is on Linux and it hasn’t been rebooted in two years.”
Andi-Co also manages Windows Server 2003 and 2008 installations.