September 22, 2008

Boise-Based Sawtooth Technology Brings VoIP to the SMB Market

By Hagadone, Zach

Sawtooth Technology, a 14-year-old Boise provider of computer networking solutions, is branching out to offer voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone systems to the small- and medium-sized business market.

Called CentrixOne, featuring Trixbox, Sawtooth's VoIP system is based on technology that converts analog data (your voice over the phone lines) to digital "packets" that are streamed over the Internet from one phone to another based on their IP addresses. VoIP systems generally come in one of two forms: "hosted" systems, which send both data and voice over a single broadband connection and are controlled by a third-party provider; and "premise-based" systems, which house their own servers and equipment on-site, putting several locations or phones through a single route.

Because they're run through a third-party and exclusively over the Internet, hosted systems often suffer spotty transmission due to bandwidth and service problems. But premise-based systems, running only their own phones through the server and over dedicated T1 lines, are much more secure and reliable.

They're more expensive too, but using open source software from business phone solutions company Fonality, Sawtooth is now able to offer premise-based systems at substantially less than was previously available.

Including phones, a server (which Sawtooth builds itself), installation and setup, account manager Terry Smith said a Sawtooth system running five phones would cost a total of under $4,200. A company running 10 phones would spend around $7,500 and a 20 phone system would run around $14,000. As a comparison, IP phones from technology products retailer CDW - which is partnered with VoIP heavyweight Cisco - can cost more than $500 each, with a four-port VoIP gateway running upwards of $1,200 and software costs in the thousands.

"The combination of the features and economy is what makes our Sawtooth solution unique," said owner Chuck Page. "We can produce a system that's probably 75 percent less cost, for example, for a five or 10 user system than a typical PBX [standard phone system] or even a proprietary voice over IP system."

Page said Sawtooth has already deployed VoIP systems to about five companies in the Treasure Valley, including a software firm, a remodeling company and a small call center. Sawtooth handles its own phones through a VoIP system, which it installed earlier this year. The company decided to pursue VoIP as a product after hearing from customers that they wanted to implement the technology but lacked the money.

Trying it out himself, Page said he was convinced that more businesses needed access to its features - which include all the standards (auto attendant, do not disturb, call forwarding, etc.) but add things like the ability to receive voicemails via email, a graphic user interface that enables management and use of the system from a computer desktop and the ability to connect into the system from anywhere in the world.

"This just gives another dimension to mobility," Smith said.

Sawtooth will actively market CentrixOne, featuring Trixbox, in the coming months, and will soon have preferred status from Fonality after its senior engineer completes a course of training.

"We wanted to make sure we could support and install any of their product lines," Page said. "[But] we're ready now. It's ready to be marketed."

Credit: Zach Hagadone

(Copyright 2008 Dolan Media Newswires)

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