Allworx Introduces Third Generation IP Phone System, Allworx Connect
Allworx introduces its third generation of IP phone systems, the new Connect series for small and mid-sized businesses. Connect systems incorporate a faster processor, and in combination with the company’s latest System Software 8.0, can deliver functionality over and above the earlier Allworx platforms. Businesses that deploy a Connect system can take advantage of native Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, increased network bandwidth, improved security, SIP video support and the latest Allworx mobility features. Perhaps most importantly, the processor improvements open up a “whole new playground” for development and support of next-generation capabilities into the future.
Allworx routinely solicits its own customers for feedback and recently commissioned an SMB survey by Hanover Research to gain insights into the perceptions, needs and requirements of smaller businesses. Responses indicate that smaller businesses are somewhat behind the technology curve, still ranking typical phone system features, such as 3-way calling, intercom and music-on-hold, as the most popular features being used today. However, many are beginning to realize that productivity applications like unified messaging, unified communications and mobility (smartphone and tablet integration) are the key to improving their business operation going forward. It is these more forward-looking capabilities, and making these reliable and easy to use, that is driving the future hardware and software development at Allworx – all of which is engineered in-house.
Small Enterprise Focus
Allworx adheres to its mantra “intentionally small enterprise focused” by designing and developing all-in-one, affordable systems for the SMB market, specifically targeting businesses with 10-150 employees in a single site or up to 1,000 employees spread across multiple sites (Allworx solutions support up to 100 networked locations). Allworx systems are simple to install and maintain, with popular VoIP features built-in. Each Allworx server comes with a base number of users included; user expansion keys are purchased for more. Almost all the basic VoIP features are included with the server regardless of the number of users. There are no separate licenses required for auto attendant, voicemail or unified messaging (among other VoIP features) as is often required on competing systems.
Today, Allworx has some 25,000 customers in the U.S., Canada and Latin America (including some well-known companies like CBS and Orange County Choppers), selling its telephony systems indirectly through its channel partners. Additionally, parent company Windstream that acquired Allworx in 2011 sells an end-to-end managed service offering for SMBs called IP Simple that includes the Allworx phone system (as a rental) in combination with Windstream’s nationwide VoIP and data service. Allworx reports positive momentum via both sales methods - the external sales channel (Allworx dealers) and the internal sales channel (the Windstream IP Simple bundle). Windstream also offers enterprise cloud unified communications solutions from Avaya and Mitel for larger businesses.
Allworx Connect Highlights
Five Connect Models: The new Allworx Connect series includes five models designed for different size businesses with up to 20, up to 50 or up to 180 users per site and with varying requirements for simultaneous external calls (12, 30 or 60). Specifically the new models include Connect 731 (to 180 users), Connect 536 (to 50 users), Connect 530 (to 50 users, no analog ports), Connect 324 (to 20 users) and Connect 320 (to 20 users, no analog ports).
All-in-one Simplicity: As an all-in-one box solution, Connect (and earlier Allworx systems) are easy to install and maintain and come with popular telephony features built-in and no per-seat licensing for handsets, voicemail or unified messaging as is often required on competing systems. Additionally, Connect systems include native Gigabit Ethernet interfaces for faster network connections, full support for G.711u, G.711a and G.729a codecs for increased network bandwidth efficiency, HTTPS secure encryption for Web-based Allworx administration and SIP video support for video calling.
Productivity Add-ons: These more advanced capabilities are sold as separate licenses:
- Mobility: With the Allworx Reach SIP Mobile Application (a per-user license) downloaded to an Apple iOS or Android OS mobile device, users can make, receive and control calls, listen to voicemail, view call history and see the status of other Allworx handsets or Reach users via the mobile device. The Reach Link feature (only available for Connect servers) is a new device handover capability that keeps active calls connected when moving from a 4G data network to a WiFi network, or vice versa. Reach Link is built-in and license-activated per Connect server (no additional hardware or software is required).
- PC-based Call Management: The Allworx Interact application enables PC-based management of an Allworx phone. Interact “Basic” is a free version for viewing and answering incoming calls, while a “Professional" version requires a per-user license for activation and adds presence management, an Allworx directory, contact list search and call history for one-click dialing.
- Meet-me Conferencing: The Allworx Conference Center is part of the system software and can be license-activated per server to host, schedule and monitor meet-me conferences. The largest Connect 731 platform supports up to four concurrent conferences with a maximum of 30 participants across the four call bridges.
- Call Center: Allworx offers call center features such as automatic call distribution (ACD) and call queuing activated by purchasing software licenses per server. The largest Connect 731 platform supports 60 callers spread across 10 defined call queues.
- Business Analytics: Two business intelligence applications, Allworx View and Allworx View ACD, can be license-activated per server, providing real-time call data (Allworx View) and ACD queue status and agent information (Allworx View ACD) through configurable dashboards with threshold alarms and on-demand or scheduled reports. Data is consolidated for all networked servers in a multi-site configuration.
- Multi-site Networking: Allworx supports VoIP calling between servers at up to 100 sites and 1,000 users with uniform dialing, centralized voicemail and shared auto attendant, a global directory, presence status visibility and more across all networked locations.
All five Connect models are generally available now. For the time being, the Connect Series will co-exist with earlier Allworx systems, 6x12, 6x, 24x and 48x, which can be upgraded to incorporate some of the new System Software 8.0 features, including the Allworx Migrate tool for transferring data files between Allworx servers, an updated User Interface and a new management dashboard, to name a few. Existing customers that wish to upgrade to Connect can take advantage of a new Allworx trade-in, trade-up program.
Desk Phones in 2015: A Contrast
Around this time last year, we took a look at the desktop telephone market. In 2014, market analysts were reporting that desk phone sales were relatively flat or in decline due to a growing preference for softphones and mobile devices. Nevertheless, a significant number of new low-end, mid-range and advanced business telephones entered the market in first half 2014, including some 25 or so new phone models from eight of the business communications vendors on our radar. Read more here about new desk phones in 2014 from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, Digium, Mitel, Panasonic and ShoreTel, Grandstream, snom and Yealink.
A year later, the market statistics are similar. A March 2015 report from research firm MZA reveals a continued decline in the global PBX/Call Control extensions and licenses market which was down a modest 0.5% in 2014 compared to 2013, but down a more significant 5.3% since 2012. The company’s first quarter (Q1) 2015 analysis shows a decline of 4% year-over-year versus Q1 2014.
Additionally, a look at new desk phones in 2015 reveals a significant contrast to the same period the year before. Since January 2015, there have been far fewer new desk phones entering the market - only 10 new models so far from the vendors we track. Recent entries include new “smart” desk phones from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise and NEC (one model each), a new IP phone family from Vertical Communications (three models) and a handful of new SIP-based phones from Grandstream (four models) and Yealink (one model). Read more on the new 2015 models below.
New Desk Phones in 1H 2015
- In January, Yealink Network Technology Ltd, a China-based voice and video over IP phone designer and manufacturer, added a new desktop model to its T2 Series of IP phones for business users. The new SIP-T29G dual-port Gigabit phone, which represents the most advanced phone in the series, includes a 4.3-inch color display, a flat user interface and Yealink’s Optima HD voice technology for “life-like” audio quality. Additional upgrades are planned. The T2 Series now includes eight models, all of which have recently refreshed hardware and software that improves the voice quality and overall user experience. Use of the open standards-based SIP protocol makes the Yealink phones interoperable with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services worldwide.
- In March, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise announced the new 8088 Smart DeskPhone, the second model in the company’s Smart DeskPhone series of multi-media user devices (the first model in the series, OmniTouch 8082 My IC Phone, was released in 2011). The new 8088 features a 7-inch touch-screen, Bluetooth handset and built-in HD autofocus camera for video conferencing. Open APIs can be used to develop customized applications such as room automation or video concierge services for a hotel environment. The 8088 Smart DeskPhone supports the company’s OpenTouch Conversation UC client application which can also be downloaded to iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Windows PC and Mac computers and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise 8068 Premium DeskPhones, allowing users to move conversations between devices without interruption.
- In the April/May timeframe, Grandstream introduced four new GXP1600 desktop IP phones for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and home office use. The new business phones are competitively priced at only $49 for the most basic model in the series (GXP1610) and just $85 for the most advanced (GXP1628). Despite the low price points, all of the Linux-based GXP1600 series phones have some advanced features such as XML programmable softkeys, Electronic Hook Switch (EHS) support for Plantronics headsets, multiple language support, a large phonebook and are preloaded with weather and currency exchange real-time Web applications. GXP1628 adds BLF extension keys and dual Gigabit network ports with integrated Power over Ethernet (PoE), among other features. Use of the open standards based SIP protocol makes Grandstream phones interoperable with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services.
- In May, NEC introduced the new UT880 desktop telephone that combines a traditional desktop phone with the features and usability of a tablet device. The Android-based UT880 has a 7-inch color touch-screen for access to call control, a corporate directory, presence, instant messaging, unified messaging and video applications, as well as an integrated Bluetooth capability, a built-in camera, a USB port and more. A number of partners are already developing applications for the phone related to video surveillance, hospitality, healthcare and e-learning, to name a few. An App Store with NEC-qualified Android applications will be accessible this summer. NEC UT880 is generally available for use with the NEC UNIVERGE SV9100 and SV9300 communication servers, with support by the NEC SV9500 and UNIVERGE 3C to follow in August.
- In June, Vertical introduced the new Edge 9800 IP phone series for its Wave IP platform. The new IP phones represent the company’s most advanced and highest quality phones to date and offer different levels of features and functionality to suit a variety of user requirements. All three new models support Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, Power over Ethernet, a full duplex speaker and an option expansion module with additional programmable buttons for direct extensions, speed dial or one-touch feature access. The cost-effective Edge 9820 10-button IP phone is for general office use, while the Edge 9830 16-button model and Edge 9840 24-button executive models add multi-function softkeys and larger displays (the 9840 has a 4.3-inch graphical color display).
Perhaps a few more desk phones will enter the market in the second half of 2015, but in general, it seems that business communications vendors are slowing down on the manufacturer of new hardware-based devices as they closely monitor the growing preference for softphones and mobile devices and direct more of their research and development dollars into software and applications.
As generations go by, the desktop phone will likely become obsolete. For now, it is holding its own as an important communications device that can ensure high quality audio, recording and speakerphone capabilities – a necessity in conference rooms and during critical business conversations. Voice quality on mobile devices will continue to improve. As it begins to equal or surpass that of hard-wired devices, we will be able to comfortably make the switch to all-mobile communications.
NEC Introduces Contact Center in the Cloud
NEC has enhanced its UNIVERGE cloud services with the introduction of a new hosted contact center suite that enables efficient handling of customer communications, whether these are telephone, email or Web interactions. The NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Service Contact Center utilizes technology from partner Enghouse Interactive (formerly Zeacom) to deliver a suite of cloud services that includes inbound multi-channel communications, outbound dialing, intelligent routing and queuing, self-service via Interactive Voice Response (IVR), multimedia recording, quality monitoring, real-time and historical reporting and more.
NEC and other cloud providers of late are on-target with the introduction of hosted contact center services and hybrid cloud opportunities. Cloud-based contact center services are an appealing alternative for any business that wants to eliminate the expense of purchasing and installing contact center software and/or hardware on-site and the cost of the ongoing administration and maintenance that follows. A cloud service can be up and running quickly with no need for any new infrastructure or equipment other than an Internet connection and a Web-based client with built-in softphone or an IP phone (with or without an associated desktop PC) for each contact center agent and supervisor.
Data from a number of market research firms confirms that cloud-based contact center solutions are increasingly becoming the preferred deployment model. Research by Frost & Sullivan indicates that the hosted and cloud contact center market is growing at nearly twice the rate of the premises-based contact center system market. IDC forecasts U.S. spending on hosted contact center services to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% to reach $2.0 billion in 2018. Worldwide, Research and Markets estimates the cloud-based contact center market will grow from $4.15 billion in 2014 to $10.9 billion by 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 21.3%.
Cloud Contact Center Packages
NEC’s UNIVERGE Cloud Services Contact Center includes three Agent packages priced with varying levels of functionality and with the flexibility to add-on more advanced features and functionality, per agent or per tenant, as needed. Note that the package pricing listed includes the agent extension and the UCaaS extension for business (non-ACD) calls. NEC UCaaS is the company’s hosted version of its UNIVERGE 3C software-based unified communications and collaboration on-premises solution.
- Basic Agent supports inbound voice-centric ACD queuing and routing with skills-based routing and real-time and historical reporting. Basic Agent starts at $60 per agent per month.
- Standard Agent builds on the Basic Agent package, adding a desktop call control client and support for shared presence status information with other NEC UCaaS subscribers. NEC also offers a selection of add-on functionality (per agent and/or system-wide) for an extra fee. Standard Agent starts at $90 per agent per month.
- Advanced Agent incorporates all Basic and Standard Agent features and supports a connector for a basic call tracking, screen-pop capability. Subscribers can select from a variety of add-on functionality (per agent and/or system-wide) for an extra fee. Advanced Agent starts at $95 per agent per month.
Agent Feature Add-Ons include the supervisor role, shared presence with NEC UNIVERGE 3C users, call tracking, media recording, screen recording and outbound predictive dialing (future). Tenant Resources Add-Ons (system-wide capabilities) include the administrator role, touch-tone IVR, additional voice and/or IVR ports, professional services, email queuing, Web chat queuing and outbound preview dialing. Add-ons incur an extra monthly fee with pricing ranging from $3-$36 monthly per agent or per-tenant depending on the feature.
Additional CRM integration is available through a professional services engagement. NEC offers pre-packaged connectors for Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics and Sugar CRM, as well as SDKs to facilitate other integrations.
Agent and Supervisor Interfaces
Cloud contact center agents can take advantage of a Web-based desktop client for managing customer calls and interactions. Agents can view the presence status of any UCaaS subscriber (agent and non-agent), allowing them to connect with knowledge experts across the entire enterprise as needed to efficiently resolve customer inquiries and issues. If the Web client is configured with a built-in softphone, agents will use a headset for communications. Alternatively, agents can utilize an IP telephone (with or without a desktop client). NEC currently supports Polycom VVX IP phones.
Supervisors typically communicate using the Web-based client and have access to additional statistics and real-time and historical information regarding the contact center’s activities, as well as features such as silent mode, whisper and barge-in to evaluate agent performance or to assist with customer issues.
A Hybrid Cloud Approach
NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services Contact Center is deployed as a public cloud offering (hosted in an NEC data center) or as a privately managed service (hosted in an organization’s own data center). It is closely integrated with NEC’s unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) cloud-based solution, but can also function with an on-site system such as NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C or with the NEC SV9000 communications server or even an IP-PBX system from another vendor via SIP trunking.
Hybrid cloud solutions can be a perfect fit for businesses that have existing phone system already located on-site, but want to incorporate new functionality, such as contact center, without the hassle of purchasing, installing and maintaining additional hardware and software on-site. The pay-as-you-go model afforded by cloud-based services will make sense for a business that is not yet ready to move all of their communications to the cloud. Read more about how a number of vendors are addressing the hybrid cloud opportunity.
NEC’s UNIVERGE Cloud Services Contact Center is available as of April 9, 2015 in the United States (other regions will follow). A meet-me audio conferencing service was introduced last fall, and NEC is planning to release several more hybrid cloud solutions, including Web Collaboration, Emergency Conferencing and Mass Notification. Stay tuned.
RingCentral and inContact Partner for Cloud Contact Center
RingCentral, a cloud business communications provider based in San Mateo, California, recently announced a partnership with inContact to offer a hosted contact center service. RingCentral Contact Center, powered by inContact, enables efficient handling of customer communications, whether these are telephone, email, text or web chat interactions, along with IVR (interactive voice response) capabilities and Web-based reporting tools for measuring, monitoring and managing performance.
RingCentral chose inContact after being a customer itself for over four years with 500 RingCentral customer care agents already utilizing the inContact solution. RingCentral has gained first-hand experience in how the solution works and how it can benefit an organization’s operation. Rather than simply reselling the inContact service, RingCentral has integrated the contact center functionality with its RingCentral Office hosted business communication service. The tight integration enables workers functioning as contact center agents to use RingCentral endpoints (desk phone, mobile client or softphone) as their voice interface and allows them to view and share presence status information with all other connected users.
RingCentral Contact Center, powered by inContact, is available as of May 2015 in the U.S. and Canada.
An Enterprise Focus
In 2014, RingCentral announced a focus on the enterprise market and its intention to develop features and applications that are important to larger businesses. RingCentral is on-target since data from many market research firms confirms an escalating interest in hosted VoIP services by larger enterprises (Infonetics).
Furthermore, specific to hosted contact center, Frost & Sullivan research indicates that the hosted and cloud contact center market in North America is growing at 11.6% a year which is nearing twice the rate of the premises-based contact center system market at 6.1%. Worldwide, Research and Markets estimates the cloud-based contact center market will grow from $4.15 billion in 2014 to $10.9 billion by 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 21.3%.
RingCentral Contact Center Editions
Three RingCentral Contact Center “editions” or user packages are available for a monthly or annual per-user subscription fee. A number of key contact center-related features, often costly extras on competing services, are included in all three editions such as skills-based routing, call recording, IVR and reporting.
- Basic: This subscription is for voice-only, inbound call routing with standard ACD features and an IVR capability that routes calls based on customer selections or based on certain criteria such as time, location or day of the week. Pricing varies by the number of users and whether there is a contract in place (annual or monthly), but as an example, the Basic edition is priced at $99.99 per user per month for a monthly contract for 20-99 users.
- Advanced: This subscription builds on Basic, adding inbound routing of communications from multiple channels, enabling agents and customers to interact via voice, Web chat, Short Message Service (SMS) and e-mail. Pricing varies by the number of users and whether there is a contract in place (annual or monthly), but as an example, the Advanced edition is priced at $119 per user per month for a monthly contract for 20-99 users.
- Ultimate: As the most advanced subscription, the Ultimate package includes all of the features and functionality of Basic and Advanced, but adds outbound dialing (preview, progressive and predictive dialing) and outbound campaign management. Ultimate also enables advanced IVR that automatically routes calls based on data from a traditional database or a third-party CRM service like Salesforce. Pricing varies by the number of users and whether there is a contract in place (annual or monthly), but as an example, the Ultimate edition is priced at $179 per user per month for a monthly contract for 20-99 users.
Additional services are available optionally, including CRM integration (Salesforce), speech recognition, survey options and workforce management.
UCaaS Providers Pursue the Enterprise
Acceptance and adoption of hosted/cloud solutions is rising for all size businesses, small to large. Recent data from Synergy Research Group, one of many market research firms tracking and forecasting growth in the hosted voice and unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) market, indicates that, for the first time, revenues from hosted/cloud solutions have surpassed revenues of premises-based solutions. Hosted/cloud solutions now account for 51% of the total collaboration market. Additionally, revenue from premises-based solutions fell 2% year-over-year, while revenue from hosted/cloud solutions grew by 10%.
While evidence shows that small businesses in particular often find a fixed-rate (pay-as-you-go), quickly deployable hosted solution appealing, there is an increasing interest by mid-market and enterprise organizations. The adoption of cloud UC services by larger-size businesses, distributed organizations or companies with more sophisticated needs lines up with analyst firms studying the UCaaS market. Infonetics confirms this trend “up-market,” highlighting an escalating interest in hosted VoIP services by large enterprises that continue to actively evaluate cloud UC. Analysts at Frost & Sullivan agree that hosted communications solutions are gaining traction with larger organizations, especially those with remote and mobile employees.
Cloud UC providers, including those that sell a portfolio of cloud and premises-based solutions, are targeting the mid-market and enterprise space, but here we highlight several cloud-only communications companies that have been introducing new services to address the more sophisticated needs and requirements of larger businesses.
New from Pure Cloud Providers
8x8, a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider based in San Jose, California, has been rapidly introducing new solutions that focus on the needs and requirements of its growing base of midmarket and enterprise customers, especially those with distributed, often global, organizations. To this end, 8x8 has been rolling out a steady stream of new services, including these new solutions in 2015: new business analytics tools, a new service level guarantee and a professional services package. Additionally, 8x8 bundled these new services along with its Virtual Office Pro telephony/UC service to create a single package targeted to enterprises (read more here).
A number of other recent and forthcoming enhancements from 8x8 are related to improving the customer experience, including the integration of its telephony/UC service and contact center service for shared presence status information across both solutions (Expert Connect) and new global reach technology for the contact center that reduces the audio latency when connecting calls across long distances and geographically-dispersed agents (VCC Global), among other new features. 8x8 is also expanding its portfolio through acquisitions, recently purchasing DXI, a UK-based contact center business that specializes in outbound contact center technology and Quality Software Corporation (QSC) that offers call recording, screen capture, live monitoring, speech analytics and other quality management solutions.
MegaPath, a cloud business communications provider headquartered in Pleasanton, CA, recently announced it would devote resources to its voice and UC service offers, following the sale of the company’s managed services business division in April 2015. To that end, the company has been introducing new features and services that increase productivity and streamline management for any size business, including a larger distributed enterprise with multiple small or mid-size locations. Additional collaborative and mobility features are incorporated into the company’s unified communications (UC) client application, including SMS Text Messaging (using the business phone number) and Device Handover that moves calls from mobile to desktop devices and vice versa, among other new UC features. In May, MegaPath introduced a new-and-improved user interface for its Receptionist Console which enables administrators to streamline call handling, routing and conferencing.
Most recently, MegaPath announced a new indirect sales and support program that supports MegaPath agents and resellers with a dedicated channel sales team who can help with go-to-market planning, customer support and retention, new business, upsell opportunities and other sales-related activities. In the coming months, MegaPath will enhance its call center and screen sharing capabilities with expanded reporting and additional presenter controls, as well as improving multi-point video capabilities with a new virtual video conference room – all demands of today’s enterprise-class businesses looking to increase employee productivity and improve customer service.
RingCentral, a cloud business communications provider based in San Mateo, California, is moving forward with a focus on the enterprise market, developing new features and applications that are important to larger businesses. RingCentral began investing in the enterprise in 2014 when the company introduced an enterprise-grade packaged offering called RingCentral Office Enterprise Edition, along with enterprise-focused applications for Web and video collaboration and mobility.
In 2015, RingCentral continues to deliver on services for the enterprise, opening up its Application Programming Interface (API) to customers and partners, enabling them to build, test, deploy and manage custom business applications that will improve business processes. A new Integrations App Gallery allows customers to find integrations already developed and in production by RingCentral partners. The Connect open platform and Gallery are part of the company’s focus on enterprise (larger customer) requirements as are some recent RingCentral Office feature enhancements, namely voicemail transcription, additional international toll-free numbers, voice encryption for added security, call monitoring and a visual IVR editor.
Additionally, RingCentral has entered the cloud contact center space, adding a hosted contact center service to its portfolio of services, partnering with inContact to integrate contact center functionality with its RingCentral Office hosted business communication service. More recently, RingCentral acquired Glip, Inc., a cloud messaging and collaboration company and plans to offer the Glip team collaboration application as "RingCentral Teams." RingCentral is also expanding internationally, recently launching RingCentral Office in Singapore, citing a growing base of business customers with multinational locations and with operations in the Asia Pacific region.
Vonage is building out its Vonage Business division with new portfolios that enable the company to address the needs of larger small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and distributed enterprises (typically with 1-1,000 employees). With the acquisitions of two cloud UC providers over the last several months, Telesphere and SimpleSignal (both of which use BroadSoft technology), Vonage can now serve larger businesses with a more robust set of services, including voice, video, mobile and collaborative services. Prior to these acquisitions, Vonage was offering cloud-based communication services only for very small businesses in the U.S. and Canada based on hosted services from Vocalocity, a cloud provider that Vonage acquired in 2013 (this was Vonage’s first entry into the hosted business market). Related to this, Vonage announced two new solutions to better serve its enterprise-level business customers: the VideoConnect on-demand virtual meeting space (25 attendees) and the ChannelSphere partner portal designed to simplify the sales process, including educational and marketing materials and quoting tools.
Recently, Vonage signed a definitive agreement to acquire gUnify LLC, a cloud-based technology company that offers a middleware solution to integrate cloud-based business applications, including Google for Work, Zendesk, Salesforce and other CRM solutions. Vonage is looking to “better address the needs of larger SMBs” with this acquisition.
Look for more enterprise-related cloud services in the near future, including from these pure cloud providers, as well as “hybrid” solution providers that offer a mix of both cloud and premises-based solutions. It is the mid- to larger-size enterprise, especially those with distributed locations or remote employees, that will likely need to buy more services. For the cloud UC provider, this means more recurring revenue.
Vertical Releases Wave IP 5.0, Adds New Cloud Service for Software Updates
Vertical Communications has released new software for Wave IP, the company’s lead telephony system for the small and mid-sized business (SMB) market and larger distributed organizations. Wave IP 5.0 focuses on three general areas that include offering a wider range of user endpoints to meet a range of use cases, adding new applications and features that improve employee productivity and business operations and further reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO).
The Wave IP UC and IP-PBX appliance incorporates Vertical’s ‘Applications Inside’ architecture that embeds all applications within the system software. Most of the functionality is standard with the single user license, including enterprise telephony features, voicemail and mobile twinning, as well as Vertical’s ViewPoint desktop and mobile unified communications (UC) client applications and ViewPoint Softphone. There are a few add-on applications (for contact center, database look-ups and networking), but no additional hardware is required, making it a true, single box solution. It is possible to stack expansion units for additional digital and analog capacity above the native analog/digital support, but all IP connectivity is handled within the single box.
Vertical sells two versions of the system, Wave IP 500 (10-50 users) for smaller, cost-sensitive businesses and Wave IP 2500 (30-500 users) for SMBs and larger distributed organizations. Wave IP 5.0 software is shipping now with any new Wave IP 500/2500 system and is a global offer available in North America, EMEA, APAC and Latin America.
What’s New in Wave IP 5.0?
Additional Endpoint Options. The new Vertical Edge 9800 Series of IP phones represent the company’s most advanced and highest quality phones to date and offer different levels of features and functionality to suit a variety of user requirements. All three new models support Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, Power over Ethernet, a full duplex speaker and an optional expansion module with additional programmable buttons for direct extensions, speed dial or one-touch feature access. The cost-effective Edge 9820 10-button IP phone is for general office use, while the Edge 9830 16-button model and Edge 9840 24-button executive models add multi-function softkeys and larger displays (the 9840 has a 4.3-inch graphical color display).
In addition, Vertical Wave IP fully supports the SIP-based Polycom VVX business media phones for voice and video communications; entry-level, mid-range and high-end VVX models are available.
New Features. The Vertical ViewPoint desktop UC client has a new look and feel, as well as a device handover feature that seamlessly moves active calls between a ViewPoint Mobile device and a desktop device, either a desktop computer with softphone running the ViewPoint application or a connected desktop IP phone. In addition, Vertical’s built-in IVR capabilities, previously for outbound call applications only (scheduling, appointment reminders, outbound campaigns, etc.), now supports inbound call applications such as enabling a customer survey at the completion of an inbound call.
TCO improvements. With a refresh of the platform’s core operating system and databases and enhanced auto discovery tools, Vertical has improved the resiliency and performance of Wave IP, thereby lowering the cost of overall operation. Adding to that, with release 5.0, the capacity of the built-in call recording/call logging capability has been doubled to allow for the simultaneous recording of up to 125 VoIP calls (no additional hardware is required).
Finally, and perhaps most intriguing due to the high interest and trend toward in hosted/cloud solutions, is the new Vertical Updates cloud-based service that automates the software update process, ensuring that Wave IP customers keep up-to-date on the most recent security and feature releases. The Vertical Updates cloud service is a significant improvement over the previous process to update Wave IP which involved a lengthier, more delayed roll-out of new features -- and the service is available at no charge, further adding to the product’s lower cost of ownership.
The Hybrid Cloud Opportunity
The new Vertical Updates cloud-based service marks the second cloud service available to Wave IP customers. Earlier in 2015, Vertical introduced the subscription service CRMLink to integrate Wave IP with major Web-based CRM platforms such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and NetSuite. Wave IP users simply sign up and purchase user licenses as needed; no additional software or hardware is required.
Vertical’s introduction of cloud services for Wave IP is timely and on-target. Hybrid cloud solutions are an appealing alternative for any business that wants to eliminate the expense of purchasing and installing software and/or hardware on-site and the cost of the ongoing administration and maintenance that follows. A cloud service can be up and running quickly with no need for any new infrastructure or equipment other than an Internet connection.
It's an exciting time in the enterprise communications market as we witness the shift toward subscription-based hosted/cloud services for telephony and collaboration. In this transitional period, subscribing to hosted/cloud services for some applications and using on-site solutions for others is a win-win for businesses and for the vendors that serve them. Vertical hints that, going forward, we can expect to see additional Vertical applications delivered in the cloud. Stay tuned.
In recent news:
8x8 introduces several new solutions, including the integration of Virtual Office telephony/UC service and Virtual Office Contact Center service for shared presence status information across both solutions (Expert Connect) and new global reach technology for the contact center that reduces the audio latency when connecting calls across long distances and geographically-dispersed agents (VCC Global), among other new features. 8x8 is also expanding its portfolio through acquisitions, recently purchasing DXI, a UK-based contact center business that specializes in outbound contact center technology and Quality Software Corporation (QSC) that offers call recording, screen capture, live monitoring, speech analytics and other quality management solutions. In other news, 8x8 has been awarded two new U.S. patents related to contact center technologies and routing methods.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise releases the latest OpenTouch Suite for SMBs (R10.1), introducing new features for the OmniPCX Office RCE communication server and related applications. The OpenTouch Conversation (OTCV) mobile application adds telephony presence and a call history per contact and now runs on Windows Phone in addition to iPhone and Android mobile devices. A new “Get Call” feature allows users to switch calls from a desk phones to mobile DECT phones with one click. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise also introduces the SMB Sales Assistant interactive tool to help channel partner-customer interactions be more efficient, and ultimately, shorten the sales cycle.
Allworx introduces its third generation of IP phone systems, the new Connect series for small and mid-sized businesses. Connect systems incorporate a faster processor, and in combination with the company’s latest System Software 8.0, can deliver functionality over and above the earlier Allworx platforms. See the related write-up “Allworx Introduces Third Generation IP Phone System, Allworx Connect” for more detail.
Avaya makes a series of announcements of late, including the acquisition of Esna Technologies that develops unified communications and unified messaging products and cloud integration software that links existing PBX/UC systems to cloud-based applications such as Google Apps. Avaya also introduces the Collaboration Pod 2400, a new pre-installed turnkey solution designed for mid-size enterprises that combines applications, servers, storage, networking and management components into a plug-and-play, ready-to-operate solution (available globally in late June). In other news, Avaya and BT Wholesale have launched Avaya Aura Contact Center and Aura Unified Communications cloud-based services in the UK over BT Wholesale’s high speed Ethernet network to be sold through BT Wholesale channel partners. And, Avaya is partnering with StarHub to launch the SmartUC service based on the Avaya IP Office platform for businesses in Singapore; the solution is suitable for businesses with up to 2,500 users and can be deployed on-premises or hosted in the cloud as a monthly subscription offering.
CoreDial introduces the SwitchConnex Communications Client, a unified communications (UC) client application that allows users to conveniently manage all communications from a single interface, including inbound and outbound phone calls (via an integrated softphone), video calls, instant messaging, presence and camera status, voicemail and call history. The new client, developed in-house, is built on WebRTC specifications and is Web-browser based, making it accessible from the Web browser of any device. Additional capabilities are planned, including integration with third party chat platforms and additional video and conferencing capabilities. CoreDial offers its cloud services to Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Interconnects and Carriers in the Mid-Atlantic and other regions of the U.S. through a private label program. Resellers can offer the new UC client under their own brand as an additional opportunity for recurring, monthly revenue.
Estech Systems Inc. or ESI has a new mobile client application for its IP Server 900, an on-premises IP phone system for small or mid-sized businesses. Users can download the IP 900 Mobile client to an iOS or Android mobile device to conveniently access ESI desk phone features on-the-go, including managing calls to/from an office phone number (single number reach), click-to-call from a contact list and receiving voicemail notifications. Calls are placed over WiFi or 3G/4G data networks. The new IP 900 Mobile application is similar to the company’s previously-introduced Ditto mobile client for customers of the ESI Cloud PBX, a subscription-based hosted telephony service for businesses in North America.
Grandstream introduces four new GXP1600 desktop IP phones for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and home office use. The new business phones are competitively priced at only $49 for the most basic model in the series (GXP1610) and just $85 for the most advanced (GXP1628). Despite the low price points, all of the Linux-based GXP1600 series phones have some advanced features such as XML programmable softkeys, Electronic Hook Switch (EHS) support for Plantronics headsets, multiple language support, a large phonebook and preloaded real-time Web applications. Grandstream also introduces a new room-based IP video conferencing system for SMBs with 9-way video and advanced features without a high price (lists for US $3,999). In other news, Grandstream has opened a new Office in Malaysia as a regional base for training and educating partners and resellers.
Interactive Intelligence adds another cloud-based service within its PureCloud suite of unified communications and contact center applications running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The new PureCloud Engage cloud service for contact centers offers multichannel routing, speech-enabled interactive voice response, outbound campaign management, multichannel recording and quality management, reporting, customer relationship management integration and graphical scripting. The service initially targets smaller contact centers with up to 100 agents, with support for 1,000 agents expected next year and 10,000 agents in the future. Some advanced capabilities are on the roadmap such as allowing customers to browse agent personality profiles, and behavioral analytics that will match customers and agents according to personality profiles. PureCloud Engage is available in North America, Australia and New Zealand as of June 30, 2015, with Europe and Japan to follow in 2015.
MegaPath announced a new indirect sales and support program that supports MegaPath agents and resellers with a dedicated channel sales team who can help with go-to-market planning, customer support and retention, new business and upsell opportunities, among other sales-related activities. Additionally, MegaPath has been introducing new, more advanced features and services that can meet the demands of larger-size businesses, distributed organizations or any size company with more sophisticated needs. See the related write-up “UCaaS Providers Pursue the Enterprise” for more detail.
Microsoft Skype for Business Server (the next version of and new name for the Lync Server) is now generally available with improvements such as a new user interface more similar to the consumer version of Skype, native video interoperability with Cisco Tandberg video teleconferencing solutions, a call quality dashboard, an enhanced Skype Developer Platform and a public preview of new Skype Web SDK. Upcoming features include a hosted broadcast capability that will support Skype for Business meetings of up to 10,000 people. Microsoft is also introducing tools to make it easier for Google Android and Apple iOS developers to create applications for Windows Phones. In other news, Microsoft is previewing Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA), an on-premises security monitoring product based on technology by Aorato (a startup acquired by Microsoft last November). Also, Microsoft acquired Datazen Software that specializes in cloud-based business analytics for Windows, iOS and Android devices.
Mitel enhances its hospitality offer with the acquisition of UK-based TigerTMS and its portfolio of premises and hosted/cloud solutions for the hospitality industry, including call management and billing, guest wake-up and voicemail and the iConnect application that allows guests to connect to the hotel’s voice network using their own iOS, Android or Windows mobile device. Mitel also introduces a new Hospitality authorizedPARTNER program that accredits partners in one of three levels of distinction, Expert, Advanced or Basic. In other news, Mitel enhances the solutions within its MiContact Center portfolio, adding new features and functionality that address the needs of contemporary contact center operations such as more advanced multimedia capabilities; there are new releases for MiContact Center Solidus, MiContact Center Enterprise Edition and MiContact Center Outbound.
NEC introduces a new hosted contact center suite called the NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Service Contact Center that utilizes technology from partner Enghouse Interactive (formerly Zeacom). Three Agent packages priced with varying levels of functionality and with the flexibility to add-on more advanced features and functionality, per agent or per tenant, as needed. See the write-up “NEC Introduces Contact Center in the Cloud” for more detail. NEC also introduces the new UT880 smart desk phone that combines a traditional desktop phone and an Android tablet into one device; an App Store with NEC-qualified Android applications will be open this summer. NEC UT880 is generally available for use with the NEC UNIVERGE SV9100 and SV9300 communication servers, with support by the SV9500 and UNIVERGE 3C to follow in August. In other news, NEC partners with CareClix for a 'smart' telehealth solution and introduces the UNIVERGE SV9300 Airport Emergency System.
RingCentral enters the cloud contact center space, adding a hosted contact center service to its portfolio of services, partnering with inContact to integrate contact center functionality with its RingCentral Office hosted business communication service. See the related write-up “RingCentral and inContact Partner for Cloud Contact Center” for more detail. In other news, RingCentral acquires Glip, Inc., a cloud messaging and collaboration company and plans to offer the Glip team collaboration application to be named RingCentral Teams. RingCentral is also expanding internationally, recently launching its RingCentral Office service in Asia Pacific region starting in Singapore, citing a growing base of business customers with multinational locations and with operations in Asia.
ShoreTel is partnering with Ingram Micro and HP to jointly market a hosted/cloud solution for small and mid-size businesses that includes the ShoreTel Sky hosted/cloud telephony service along with HP routers and HP PoE switches. The solution, called HP Networking for ShoreTel Solutions, is due out in the third quarter of 2015 and will be available via joint HP and ShoreTel channel partners who work with Ingram Micro. In addition, ShoreTel continues to promote its newly developed hybrid platform, ShoreTel Connect, which will function as a common platform for both cloud and premises-based deployments. ShoreTel Connect was introduced to ShoreTel’s partner community in May and is expected to become generally available by the end of 2015.
snom technology introduces the new M325 DECT phone bundle, an affordable cordless VoIP solution that supports up to 20 handsets on single cell DECT base station. The snom M300 base station and associated M25 handsets operate over a coverage area of 300 meters outdoors and approximately 50 meters indoors. Coverage can be extended using three snom M5 repeaters. The M25 DECT handset has a color display and graphical user interface and supports seven hours of talk time and 75 hours of standby time. The M25 can also function with snom’s M700 base station for more advanced functionality such as single-cell to multi-cell calling, voice encryption and color picture caller IDs. Use of the open standards-based SIP protocol makes snom devices interoperable with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services.
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division announces the availability of the recordX call recording solution. The solution is fully tested and tightly integrated with the latest versions of the Toshiba Strata CIX and IPedge business communications systems. Recorded calls are encrypted using AES 256bit encryption and can be used to monitor the quality of staff-customer conversations, evaluate staff performance, verify transactions made during a call and demonstrate call compliance with regulatory guidelines. In other news, Toshiba has launched a new leasing program for its VIPedge cloud UC service. Customers pay no cost up-front for equipment or installation and can take advantage of 24, 36 and 60-month lease options.
Unify expands the capacity of two all-in-one voice and unified communications (UC) OpenScape solutions. The OpenScape Business S software-based UC solution for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) now supports up to 1,500 IP users, up from 500 IP users in previous releases. OpenScape Enterprise Express for larger organizations now scales to 2,000 users, up from 1,000 (additional scale to 8,000 users is planned). Both solutions can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. In addition, Unify Support Services are now available for channel resale in the U.S., Germany, and the UK, with additional regions to follow; standard and premium service packages are available, with options to add more comprehensive support.
Vertical Communications releases new software for Wave IP, the company’s lead telephony system, including support for new endpoints, new features and a new cloud-based service that automates software updates. See the write-up “Vertical Releases Wave IP 5.0, Adds New Cloud Service for Software Updates” for more detail. In other news, Vertical introduces Release 2.0 for its Summit communications appliance for small business, adding a new UC desktop and mobile client, 6-way video conferencing, mobile video calling and more.
Vonage has signed a definitive agreement to acquire gUnify LLC, a cloud-based technology company that offers a middleware solution to integrate cloud-based business applications, including Google for Work, Zendesk, Salesforce and other CRM solutions. This acquisition, along with its recent purchases of cloud UC providers, Telesphere and SimpleSignal, is part of Vonage’s focus on addressing the needs of larger size businesses. See the write-up “UCaaS Providers Pursue the Enterprise” for more detail.
For questions or additional information, please contact us at