Review – AastraLink Pro 160

aastralink-pro160-front-backOn paper the AastraLink Pro appears to be the dream system for small businesses; an affordable, feature rich and easy to manage PBX designed for up to 25 users all for under $1,000.

It delivers on many of its promises, but is it the right solution for your small business?

Overview

The AastraLink 160 is one of two products offered by Aastra Telecom aimed at small business.  It is a Linux-based appliance running the popular open-source Asterisk PBX.  Asterisk is the world’s leading open-source PBX platform and is available as a free download for most operating systems.  While Asterisk is extremely flexible, it can be difficult to manage and relies on the stability of the underlying operating system.  Aastra has created a simple interface designed for users with basic computer experience and eliminated the need to secure an operating system.

Basic Features

  • Supports up to 25 users and 50 extensions
  • Customizable Auto-attendant
  • Conference Calling
  • 6 Analog phone lines
  • Remote provisioning of user handsets
  • Analog audio ports for on-hold music and overhead paging
  • Voice-mail to email
  • Remote web access to system

Evaluation

Aastra clearly put a great deal of thought in the design of the AastraLink Pro 160 user interface.  It sports a clean interface that is easy to navigate.  Users comfortable configuring home wireless routers will feel at home in the system however it is vital that you download and install the latest firmware from Aastra.  There were a number of usability issues with the older firmwares and you will save yourself a great deal of frustration by upgrading.

Once online and connected to your analog phone lines, all you need to do is boot a handset.  It is important to note that the AastraLink Pro 160 is only compatible with the Aastra 51i, 53i, 55i, 57i, 57i CT, 536M, 560M, 9143, 9480i and 9480i CT.  The phone will automatically connect to the AastraLink and prompt for the user’s name, desired extension and email address.  The first phone configured will be treated as the administrator’s handset although this can be changes later.  Additional phones can be added by following the same process.  This function is much easier on phones with a larger display, like the 55i and 57i.  Generic SIP phones can only be used as secondary handsets for existing users however that might be useful for offices that require a dedicated conference phone.

Surprisingly enough, that is all that needs to be done to get core functionality out of the system including voice mail, extension-to-extension dialing, outside dialing and incoming calls.  Advanced users should take the time to create a customized auto-attendant, configure extension groups and outgoing mail settings.

The AastraLink is capable of supporting Voice over IP (VoIP) trunks to external service providers.  This is a great way of lowering your telecommunications costs or adding capacity beyond the six analog lines built into the chassis.   Unfortunately, the system does not have a configurable outgoing call routing plan.  The end result is that users need to dial 9+<telephone number> to call an external number using the analog phone lines and 8+<telephone number> to use the VoIP pathway.  It would be ideal if the system could be configured to automatically select the route based on the destination number, time of day or availability.

The system also has the ability to support remote workers however we have found this to be erratic at best.  Remote phones are able to connect from the remote office, but often lose their synchronization.  In our testing, it has been far too unreliable to trust for the sole means of voice communication in a remote or home office.

Pros

  • Simple setup
  • Stable platform
  • Low-price
  • 6 included analog ports
  • Time-based auto-attendant
  • Analog pass-through

Cons

  • Poor support for remote phones
  • Lack of outgoing call routing flexibility
  • Overly simple auto-attendant

Bottom Line

We definitely recommend this system for a small business or for use in a branch office unless supporting remote phones is a critical feature.  It represents an excellent value to despite its limitations.  There are other options available, but they tend to me much more expensive and difficult to manage.

Please contact sales@l2nj.com with any questions or if you’d like assistance integrating the AastraLink Pro 160 in your environment.

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