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A Distributed PBX?
Star2Star has a combination of little boxes, clever software and a service to back it up. Their solution provides a distributed PBX for small to medium sized companies. Their product is most ideal for companies that have many small offices that want to be virtually integrated across the network. Each office gets a StarBox, which is a local instantiation of the PBX, that hooks up to the LAN, to the WAN connection and to a few local POTS lines for backup. The service then connects these boxes to each other and to gateway providers to provide a virtual PBX that is spread across all company sites.
The network? They use your broadband link. Of course I asked about QoS! They attach the StarBox to the WAN link, and make the data router play behind it. That way all traffic (voice and data) flow through the StarBox and they can provide the appropriate QoS as it heads out the WAN link.
To ensure the best network link quality, the StarBox watches the network and tests network paths to the gateway resources available. As calls come in or go out, the StarBox makes a call-by-call decision about which gateway provides the cleanest network path and lowest latency for the call. So call quality remains high even as the quality of the Internet comes and goes.
So think about the possibilities for the small agile business. Setting up a new office? Setting up at a trade show? Doing a week-long training session? Plug in a StarBox, connect to the service and you are in the office. Building is flooded, iced over or the roof removed by a hurricane? Take your StarBox to a hotel or Mom's big house in the country and set up the office. Running a campaign? Setting up a helpline or hotline? Need phones quickly but only for awhile? Plug it in and get started.
This architecture is like the business version of Skype. It has all the enterprise phone features you can think of like call groups, queuing, find-me/follow-me forwarding, time-based call routing, menus, workflow, etc. But it has the configuration flexibility of Skype where you plug into the network and you are online and ready to work.
This seems to me like a great combination of technologies that has used the fully connected nature of the Internet to provide a big leap forward in flexible communications that support a business environment. I will be interested to see how Star2Star and similar solutions fare in the market over the coming years.