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One of several asterisk-based appliances now available, Four Loop Technologies’ Switchvox SMB provides a good overall IP telephony experience. However, potential customers should evaluate the long-term potential of the appliance, which is lacking in redundancy and the latest Linux components.

The Switchvox SMB, which is priced starting at $2,495, is delivered on a desktop PC with just one network adapter and one hard drive power supply—two components for which we’d like to see redundancy.

The appliance eWEEK Labs tested included a 2.53GHz Intel Celeron processor, 256MB of RAM and an 80GB hard disk. We also tested a $389 Digium Wildcard TDM400P analog trunk card with four Cisco Systems’ FXO (Foreign Exchange Office) ports.

Click here to read a review of D-Link’s new VOIP products aimed at SMBs.

Setting up the Switchvox SMB couldn’t have been easier, as phones are shipped preconfigured.

We are a little concerned about the Linux distribution the appliance runs—Fedora Core 3, a distribution for which the Fedora Project has already halted support. (It is, however, supported by the Fedora Legacy Project.)

A review of the Linux packages on the appliance showed that most were up-to-date with patches, and Switchvox representatives told us their periodic update packages will refresh the underlying version of Fedora Core. They said they also will use the Fedora Legacy Project updates or create their own packages as necessary to keep the system up-to-date.

For the sake of stability, the Asterisk and Zapata Telephony’s Zaptel components remain several iterations behind the latest and greatest. It appears that the telephony systems we tested were based on an Asterisk SVN (subversion) from last April, released just days after Asterisk 1.2.7 shipped. The newest Asterisk release is 1.2.12.

Four Loop provides Switchvox updates via its Web site in a single large file that is applied via the Switchvox Web management interface. When we first installed our appliance, Four Loop provided us with the Build 6294 update, even though Build 6212 was the most recent build on the Web site.

We did like the Switchvox SMB’s IVR (Interactive Voice Response) wizard, which allowed us to easily configure our phone tree as needed. Using the included sample templates, we quickly were able to figure out how to organize our own IVR templates.

We also appreciated the Switchvox SMB’s conferencing features. We had the option to configure both open (anyone can join) and private (requires a PIN) conferences on different extensions.

Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at

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