It isn’t easy for companies with around 20 employees to find an easy to configure IP PBX. But a Toronto startup hoping to inject a new beat into telephony for small companies believes its just-released appliance is simple enough for most small firms to do the job without hiring a system integrator.
Jazinga Inc. began selling its $1,095 MGA120 wireless router Tuesday, which includes an IP-PBX based on the Asterisk open source switch. Plug it into a broadband line, plug in almost any analogue or SIP phone, connect to a computer, answer a few questions from the setup wizard and it’s done.
According to company CEO Randy Busch, the idea for the product came from the early stage venture capital company that’s funding it, Brightspark, which was founded by communications entrepreneurs Tony Davis and Mark Skapinker.
About a year and a half ago Busch, who had held marketing posts at the VC for several years before leaving for one of its wireless startups, returned to the company. At the time it had a hosted phone system that just wasn’t working, so the firm began kicking around ideas for a replacement.
One was for an appliance for small companies who couldn’t attract telephony business from resellers or system integrators because of their size.
“We needed to build a system so someone with some technical savvy that can set up a home router could set up a phone system for their office without having to know MAC or IP addresses,” Busch said. “Just answer some business-related questions and get it up and running.”
One of the Brightspark founders began researching Asterisk with the thought of using it to save development time, and came across Shidan Gouran, founder of the Toronto Asterisk user group, and Nabell Jafferali, a colleague and open source PBX expert. They were brought in as co-founders and honed the Jazinga plan.
They designed a middleware platform that allowed the creation of a simple interface for end users, yet also include a Wi-Fi b/g wireless router as well as a REST-based API so resellers or integrators can add additional functions – for example, a time and billing system for a law firm.
The appliance is aimed at companies with up to 20 employees simply because it was felt whoever would be going through the setup would get tired of filling in more names, Busch explained.
The router and DHCP server automatically configures a data network for voice applications, and autodetects and configures phones plugged into it.
Some manufacturers of mid-sized systems try to serve this market by eliminating some features from their systems, Busch said. However, the MG120 includes a wide range of capabilities including auto attendant, paging, music/message on hold, follow-me/find-me, unified messaging, the ability to create individual as well as team mail boxes and conferencing among other features. Most of it is controlled through a simple set of wizards.
After plugging the phones into the appliance, and then plugging a PC into the box, the administrator opens a browser and types “jazinga.local” to get to the setup menu.
The MGA120 comes with four LAN ports for phones of PCs, which can be expanded by adding a gateway.
While Busch would like to portray this as a limitless opportunity – he hopes to sell 10,000 appliances in the first 12 months – competition has a way of seeing opportunities. Microsoft, for example, is pushing its Response Point IP-PBX for up to 50 users. Jayanth Angl, a telecom analyst at Info-Tech Research, notes that there are also a number of other Asterisk or open source-based solutions for small organziations from companies such as Digium, Fonality and TalkSwitch. In addition, Cisco Systems has a small office product, he said.
Busch stresses that Jazinga works with most analogue, SIP and even DECT cordless phones. He also believes Jazinga’s automatic provisioning feature distinguishes it from others. Angl agrees that small companies are looking for “simple, reliable solutions.”
After examining Jazinga’s Web site, Angl finds much worth looking into. “One of the advantages of Jazinga has is that it’s a very low-cost system and they’re not trying to repackage a mid-market solution.” The appliance also lets buyers use broadband for their IP phones inside the company but standard a phone connection for outside, which could appeal to organizations that don’t want to get into VoIP.
Jazinga is initially available in Canada through three value-added resellers, including voipdepot.ca, which is owned by Jazinga co-founder Jafferali. Two resellers are also signed in the U.S. Busch hopes to expand the channel to telephony providers well as retailers such as Staples and Best Buy.