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With VoIP, Zultys makes every office the home office

Zultys' new VoIP add-on can make remote offices seem like a single office to callers. An analyst says the offering proves that smaller VoIP vendors can successfully challenge the likes of Cisco.

Zultys Technologies Inc. today announced the availability of a product that allows users of its Internet telephony gateway to virtually link geographically disparate locations, making them seem as if they are a single site.

The new MXgroup product from the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based IP telephony vendor is a software option for the company's VoIP gateway, the MX250. With MXgroup, a business can enable voice, video, fax, instant messaging and other presence-based applications across multiple sites.

Users in geographically dispersed sites can contact each other by simply dialing an extension, a feature that can help dramatically cut phone bills. In addition, users can promptly discern whether another employee is on the phone or otherwise engaged through the presence-based application.

Zultys' systems are based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), an open standard for VoIP equipment that allows users to choose among various SIP-based end devices, including Zultys' own phones.

Patrick Ferriter, vice president of marketing for Zultys, said that, in addition to the ability to mix and match devices, an advantage of the architecture is that the system will continue to operate even if the central office fails, because intelligence is distributed to each node on the system. Also, administrators can log in and manage the system from any device on the network.

Paul Consani, president of Consani Seims Ltd., a Vancouver, Wash.-based consulting firm, found that the Zultys system helped it save money and serve its customers more effectively.

The organization has 11 employees scattered across five states, many of whom work from home. The company did not want to hire a secretary; instead, it wanted to have one phone line that any of the employees could answer if they were available.

The only way to do that economically was to jump to a VoIP system. The company chose Zultys primarily because it was cheaper than the competition, and also because of its features, Consani said.

With the system in place, the company's main telephone number now rings at all 11 phones, meaning anyone can pick it up. Employees can use the presence-based application to see which of their colleagues is available at any given time. Because the phones are networked, employees can transfer calls from Oregon to Alaska as if they were transferring the call down the hall.

"With one system, we can give the perception to our customers that we are all in the same office building, that we are available to take calls and we are responsive," Consani said.

Since Consani's company works with physicians who are often hard to reach over the phone, it gives the organization a competitive advantage, Consani said.

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It has also helped Consani save money. Since the company does not pay for calls between the remote offices, and because it can now get bulk billing for its centralized system, phone costs have fallen while service quality has risen, Consani said.

This is just the kind of organization that Zultys will appeal to, said Max Smetannikov, an analyst with the 451 Group, a New York-based research firm. While Cisco Systems Inc. and other top-tier VoIP vendors may appeal to large enterprises, Zultys can approach small businesses and those disenchanted with Cisco, Smetannikov said.

Zultys has had some success by beating the large players on price and offering fewer but unique features. The fact that it is using the open SIP standard is also a benefit, since many other vendors are continuing with proprietary products, he said.

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