By that I mean a telephone/communications system, email and networking. Firms can easily spend in excess of ten thousand dollars providing these services which are critical to the process of serving clients. Although it is possible to use peer-to-peer networks, hosted email, telephone and application systems, most firms rely on software that requires premise based equipment. In other words, some critical applications are not available on a hosted basis.
Enter SUTUS. Greg LaFollette and I had the opportunity to visit with a representative of this Canadian based technology company during the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. The purpose of our brief meeting was to listen to his description of SUTUS’s new flagship product the BC200. The ‘BC’ is short for ‘Business Central’. The concept is simple and not necessarily new – provide a single hardware solution which includes all the necessary services for business. The BC200 provides the following:
· Business class IP PBX (IP based telephone system)
· Support for existing TDM phone lines or newer SIP trunks
· Voicemail/email integration and auto attendant
· Direct inward dial
· Call forwarding to external devices
· Support for soft phones and remote IP phones
· File and email servers
· Hard disk redundancy (RAID 1)
· Support for Windows, Mac and Linux desktops (workstations)
· Built-in automated backup
· Wireless Access point supporting 802.11 b/g
· 8 Port power over Ethernet 10/100 router
· Firewall with VPN support
· External music/advertisements on hold
In addition, the Company provides online customer and telephone support. The hardware carries a 12 month warranty along with a 30 day no questions asked guarantee. Software upgrades are also included in the initial cost.
Now, what would all this technology cost separately? Significantly more than the suggested retail price of the BC200 which is . . . .? Drum roll please: $2,199. This pricing includes the BC200 and one analog Gateway which supports up to 3 incoming TDM phone lines. Additional gateways cost $350 each and Polycom 330 phones cost an additional between $130 and $179.
So does this single box really provide all that it claims? We asked SUTUS to send us a BC200 to test, and test we did. It arrived in a specially constructed suitcase of about the size you’d check at the airport for a week away. Inside was the BC200, a single Gateway and 3 of the Polycom IP phones. Also included was a foldout setup guide intended to take the non-technical person step-by-step through system setup. We found the steps and included graphics easy to follow and provided all the necessary information to get the system physically connected and running. For us, this process took about 10 minutes. We then connected a Windows XP laptop and accessed the web based configuration interface of the BC200. Using this interface, we stepped through a wizard for complete setup. As you might expect, there are different levels of access to this management interface for security purposes. We then setup a Microsoft Outlook client to send and receive email. We found the process smooth and well documented including the execution of a program for automatic Outlook configuration. The documentation for setting up Outlook manually or using another email client (other than Outlook) was straight forward also. We then proceeded to test the VPN and again were pleasantly surprised at the ease and functionality of remote connections to the BD200. Finally we connected one of the Polycom IP phones and ran into our first glitch. During the self configuration process for the phone, we received an error. We contacted SUTUS support and they pushed an update to our BC200. After the update was applied and the BC200 was rebooted several times, the phone connected without further issue.
It’s important to note here, that the BC200 will support standard analog phones and soft phones in addition to the Polycom IP phones – this can reduce the cost.
Overall, I was impressed with the amount of technology provided given the relatively low cost. The downside is of course the reliance on a single piece of hardware running all the critical technology systems for your small firm, but with the very reasonable price point, you could consider purchasing two units and keeping one in reserve. You should also know the BC200 operates on Linux software so there may be challenges getting support from the companies that provide your tax and accounting software. With the 30 day guarantee, it might be worth a test in your environment with your applications. The SUTUS BC200 certainly expands the available options for small firms in providing networking and telephone system capabilities. You can learn more about the SUTUS BC200 at: http://www.sutus.com