Linksys SPA9000 review

£190
Price when reviewed

The acquisition of Sipura Technologies by Cisco in 2005 was the first for its Linksys division, and aimed to propel this provider of SMB networking solutions into the popular VoIP market. It certainly looks to have achieved this, as Linksys now offers an impressive range of low-cost IP telephony products. The SPA9000 is the latest to join this burgeoning family, and behind its palm-sized dimensions lies a truly remarkable set of features.

The SPA9000 is a complete IP PBX in a box, and the base product supports up to four IP phones and two analogue devices such as handsets, answering machines and faxes. An optional (£116) firmware upgrade increases the IP phone count to 16. The unit can be installed manually, but we recommend downloading the Setup Wizard utility. The SPA9000 supports a number of network scenarios, as its LAN port can isolate management access on a separate subnet, or be used to assign IP addresses to client systems and IP telephones connected to the same Ethernet switch. We opted to place one PC on the LAN to manage the device and connected the unit’s WAN port into our test network.

The utility locates the unit on the network and offers options to configure IP voice and PSTN services. For the latter, you’ll require a device such as the Linksys SPA400 telephony gateway, which supports up to four analogue lines. We opted for pure VoIP and provided the wizard with our Sipgate (www.sipgate.co.uk) proxy server and SIP account details. The SPA9000 doesn’t support voicemail, but if your service provider offers this then you can enter mailbox URLs at this stage. Next, we added station names and extension numbers for IP and analogue phones, set up the auto-attendant service and selected a prefix number to request external calls.

The SPA9000 supports most IP telephones, but for testing we used Linksys’ own SPA921. Setup is simple, as the wizard will locate the phone, allow you to designate a station name and extension number from the previously created list, and will then register it ready for use. We found the routine worked well, and we were making internal and external calls from the SPA921 within minutes. The auto-attendant service can be customised to suit where you provide office hours, options to call a receptionist or allow callers to enter an extension number. However, this and many other features are accessed using an analogue phone, and dialling in to access the options.

Things become even more complicated from here on in, as the web interface for the SPA9000 isn’t particularly intuitive and many advanced features are configured using script-based rules. Examples are provided, but it took some time before we succeeded in setting up functions such as custom call plans, contact lists, hunt groups, call parking and so on. However, there’s much to play with, as the unit supports three-way conferencing, and with Linksys IP phones you also get functions such as shared line appearance, call parking and call transfer.

More could be done to make many of the advanced features more accessible and easier to configure. But the SPA9000 offers a superb level of features, making it ideal for SMBs looking for a single IP PBX solution at an affordable price.

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