3Com is broadening its IP PBX offerings with the introduction of three new products geared for businesses with as few as five phones.The company is shipping two versions of its VCX Connect devices. The 100 model supports as many as 100 users, and the 200 model supports as many as 250 users. Both can be deployed in redundant mode to preserve uptime if one unit fails.

3Com also has entered an agreement to resell Digium’s Asterisk open source IP PBX under the name 3Com Asterisk Appliance. It is designed for as many as 30 users and integrates with 3Com IP phones.

These new offerings fill out the small-business end of 3Com’s VoIP line that includes the NBX for medium businesses and the VCX IP Telephony Platform that supports enterprises.

3Com says these products represent a new iteration of its Secure Converged Networks strategy meant to blend communications with business applications on a single network.

The low-end VCX models include ease-of-use features designed for smaller businesses with less technical expertise, and those features will be added to the higher-end gear within six months or so, the company says. The features, including Web-based administration, are designed to let users set up the devices faster.

The smaller VCX versions are based on the same software as the enterprise edition and include such features as autoattendants, conferencing and presence. They also integrate with applications in the IBM System i business application suite.

A new release of VCX software integrates voicemail into Lotus Notes e-mail, and supports Lotus Sametime’s click-to-call and conferencing features.

3Com Asterisk comes preconfigured to make deployment easier. It has four ports for external phone lines, four for internal analog extensions and four for IP phones. The device doesn’t require separate user licences and costs $1,595.

3Com is expanding its IP phone offerings via a partnership with Polycom, which will sell the phones with both vendors’ names on them.The VCX Connect 100 costs US$7,000 for a single server. A secondary server costs US$5,500. The VCX Connect 200 costs US$7,500 for a single server. A secondary server costs US$6,000.

The 3Com Asterisk Appliance costs US$1,595.

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