Toshiba IPedge EP review
The IPedge EP delivers enterprise-level IP telephony and conferencing features at a reasonable price
IP telephony systems can be prohibitively expensive for small businesses, but Toshiba’s new IPedge EP has these customers firmly in its sights. It represents the cheapest of a family of three appliances, a desktop unit supporting from eight to 40 users with an extensive range of communications features.
It slots into an existing network, where it requires only a single IP address. Its main role is as a standalone server but it’s also well suited to branch office deployments. Using Toshiba’s IPedge Net feature, multiple appliances can be linked together over a WAN, where the primary node provides centralised management of all secondary nodes.
The appliance supports Toshiba’s IP5000 series of hands-free IP phones and its forthcoming IP4100 DECT SIP phones. Laptop and PC users can also get in on the act using Toshiba’s SoftIPT Softphone client or the Call Manager Windows application.
Full access to all features is provided by a single web interface, and a four-step network wizard helps installation. The IPedge EP supports all the main SIP providers and can handle up to 20 separate accounts.
For testing we took up Toshiba’s offer of remote access to its own IPedge EM appliance. To link our appliance to the remote unit, we created separate trunks for incoming and outgoing calls, and to ensure call security we ran this over an IPsec VPN to Toshiba’s offices.
The appliance provides a set of core features that can easily be expanded by adding extra applications. Standard features comprise the IPedge Core software, which provides call handling, and Media Server for audio processing. The Media Server plays, records and mixes audio streams, manages audio compression and decompression and applies noise cancellation. Other audio duties include hold music, ad hoc conferencing and group paging.
During setup, directory numbers need to be assigned to handsets, and this can be achieved in a number of ways. The appliance can create a range, you can do it manually, or you can automate the process by linking each one to a handset’s IP address. After this, you decide which functions are available to users and groups. Voice mailboxes are a standard feature and these are assigned during directory number creation. Each voice mailbox has an extension number that users dial to access messages. All Toshiba IP phones also have a mailbox quick-access button, which flashes to alert the user to new messages.
If permitted, users can also access the management console by logging in with their directory number and password. They can access their personal telephony settings and modify functions such as redial on busy, call holding, call forwarding and key-strip assignments. We also loaded the SoftIPT app on a Windows 7 system where it picked up the IPedge appliance and worked seamlessly. The interface is identical to the physical IP phones, and it supports all features available to them as well.
The system’s call-conferencing system is provided by the Gemini Conferencing Server app, and adding licences enables web and video capabilities. After creating moderators, you define your conferences and for web access provide a URL. Slick integration with iCal-enabled apps enables invitations to be sent directly from the portal. Clicking the iCal button for our conference entry provided an ICS file, which automatically opened Outlook on our host system and created an invitation email, complete with the conference URL, dial-in number and access code.
We found web and video conferencing easy to set up. Our users dialled the access code, loaded a web browser from the email URL and as soon as the moderator joined, they were able to share their presentations, documents, desktop and webcam. During testing, we also used the IP phones for a variety of calls and to talk to Toshiba’s engineers. Call quality was extremely good in all cases and indistinguishable from PSTN calls.
The price we’ve shown is for the IPedge EP appliance licensed for 16 users with 16 IP5522F-SD handsets, the Standard Call Manager and the conferencing server licensed for four voice, video and web channels. This price also includes a site survey, on-site installation and training by a Toshiba reseller.
The IPedge EP is a small but well-endowed IP telephony system, ideally suited to SMBs and branch offices. It’s packed with features and, unlike some competing systems, doesn’t have any hidden costs.