Lets face it, there are a ton of options out there for the small/medium sized business looking to deploy
VoIP. Hosted/Cloud, premises, hybrid…the list is confusing. This review will focus on the Grandstream UCM 6100 series. There is a larger 6500 series model, but lets save that for another day. Our test unit is the Gramdstream UCM6102, which is now replaced by the Grandstream 6104. Essentially the only difference is the amount of traditional CO/FXO lines the system can handle, 6102 being two and the 6104 being able to handle 4. Additional lines can be added by installing a Grandstream FXO device on the network.
The Grandstream 6102 is a nice little system, really quite amazing considering the price point it starts at. This little system, about the size of a home wifi router, is packed with features and is a compelling alternative to a purely cloud/hosted system. SIP telephones are used for the endpoints, these may be softphones, hardware phones, or iPhone/Android apps. We tested Grandstream, Snom, and Polycom on our unit. All phones worked well, however, if one uses the Grandstream model SIP phones they can auto discover the UCM system and provision themselves, which can be a time saver if you are deploying more than a couple telephones at once. The advantage of the UCM being on premises compared to a purely cloud based system is the ability to fail over from SIP trunks to traditional CO lines. This means if your internet is not working you can still use your phones on a traditional CO line. Most businesses seem to have a line or two still for alarms, faces, or other devices. The line can be programmed on the system and used if your internet service fails. The unit also has two FXS ports for traditional analog devices such as faxes, modems, or analog telephones.
The front of the unit has a snall LCD display that shows your current firmware level and status. There are also several status lights for things such as LAN and WAN status. The rear of the unit has the ports for etnernet LAN connection, WAN connection, two (or four) FXO/CO line ports, two FXS analog telephone ports, and the power plug port.
Being a SIP system you can deploy remote SIP telephones at home or in disparate locations. We tested two telephones at home over the public internet and experienced no issues. The phones were simply provisioned and taken to the users house where they were plugged into a local ethernet port. At this point they found the Grandstream UCM 6100 at the test office and worked flawlessly for internal and external calls as well as intercom calls across the WAN.
Additional features included are voice mail to email (common now of course), call reporting that can be emailed at a designated time, ACD/UCD distribution groups with log-in/log-out, and other great business features.
Licenses are all included, so there are no annual license fees or fees to add users as you grow. SIP trunks are of course supported and work great with the typical provisioning on the system. Programming is a snap with the web based GUI, we picked it up with only minimal reference to the manual – though we have traditional telephone system experience too.
In the end we think this is a nice little unit that should be on your radar if you are thinking about either premises VoIP or cloud/hosted VoIP. The up front or rental cost of the system is so low it is a viable alternative to a purely cloud based system if you desire survivability of your calls or desire a more traditional system.