Cloud UC: Moving Up-market
More and more Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) providers are beginning to report a growing interest in hosted/cloud UC from mid-size and larger organizations. Adoption of hosted/cloud solutions is rising for all size businesses, and there are numerous benefits, including budgetary considerations particularly important to the small business owner - reduced capital expenses, fewer IT personnel and predictable per-user monthly fees, to name a few. But there are also strategic advantages that mid- and larger-size organizations with multiple, geographically-dispersed offices will want to consider:
- Scalability: Unlike premises-based telephony systems that have fixed capacity limits, hosted/cloud UC services scale flexibly to meet changing requirements.
- Ease of Adding New Locations: Add new users on-demand and quickly get new locations up and running. Or, stagger rollouts using hosted/cloud services for remote sites while continuing to use a premises-based telephony system at main locations.
- Consistency Across a Network: Eliminate the need to manage multiple vendors by having just one provider that offers a consistent suite of cloud services across all locations.
- Built-in Disaster Recovery: Communications can continue during outages with automatic failover to redundant servers located at the provider’s data centers.
- Availability of Advanced Applications: Subscribe to call recording, contact center, Web and video conferencing or future innovations as-a-service, without having to install equipment on-site.
Analyst firms studying the UCaaS market confirm a trend “up-market.” Infonetics, in its latest report, sees broad adoption of hosted VoIP services from all size businesses, with escalating interest from large enterprises over the next five years. Frost & Sullivan agrees that larger, geographically distributed organizations are moving toward hosted services as the best way to “consolidate infrastructure and streamline vendor relationships.”
See below how three UCaaS providers are eyeing opportunities in the mid-market and larger enterprise space.
8x8: Mid-market Focus
8x8, a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider based in San Jose, California, is moving forward on several fronts, with a focus on the needs and requirements of a growing base of mid-market business customers. This “mid-market focus” is driving the introduction of new capabilities that solve particular pain points for distributed businesses such as the new 8x8 Branch Office feature and more sophisticated contact center services (more on these here). It is also the impetus behind the company’s expansion into other world regions as more and more 8x8 customers, most of which are currently based in the U.S. and Canada, have multi-national operations that they need to tie into the corporate communications network, particularly customers with global call center operations. To date, 8x8 offers services to more than 39,000 small, midsize and distributed enterprise organizations that operate in over 40 countries.
Recently, 8x8 reported increased revenues driven it says by sales to mid-market and distributed enterprise customers. In the first quarter of the company’s fiscal year 2015, 8x8 reported a total revenue increase of 30% year-over-year, with 41% of service revenues coming from the mid-market.
NEC: Pipeline is growing
NEC has been reviewing its hosted/cloud Unified Communications (UC) service called NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services. Based on feedback from sales partners in the field, NEC has “unbundled” and “repackaged” the Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) offer and altered the pricing to be more in line with competing cloud offers. This included re-aligning the telephony and unified communications features within each of the three package levels, as well as making new recommendations about the customer options for network transport, enhancing the management portal, improving the partner quoting tools and adding new requirements for technical support and service levels that will ensure a quality experience. Read more on this here.
Of late, NEC indicates that the “pipeline” for its UCaaS sales is growing in number of generated quotes and also in the size of businesses evaluating the hosted/cloud alternative. NEC cites recent sales wins on the order of thousands of endpoints, including a large state university in PA that will utilize NEC’s cloud service to replace an on-premises PBX solution across 86 buildings and 3,400 endpoints and a national retail furniture chain that has some 12,000 phones in locations around the country.
RingCentral: Investing in the Enterprise
RingCentral, a cloud business communications provider based in San Mateo, California, is moving forward in 2014 with a focus on the enterprise market, developing new features and applications that are important to larger businesses. In years past, RingCentral targeted smaller businesses with fewer than 100 employees, but today, the RingCentral Office business communication service can handle larger organizations with 1,000 users or more due in part to a new enterprise-grade packaged offering called RingCentral Office Enterprise Edition. As part of this move “up market,” RingCentral is also increasing internal staff to support a growing number of large enterprise customers and adding new internal programs designed to ensure quality of service. In 2014, RingCentral introduced a new Web and video conferencing service (RingCentral Meetings) and updated its mobile client application and expects to continue rolling out new features and capabilities every few months with an eye on the needs and requirements of enterprise customers. Read more on this here.
Recent financials indicate that RingCentral’s enterprise focus is paying off. In addition to posting a revenue increase of 40% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2014, the company announced its first customer deployment of over 1,000 users.
Epygi Transitions to the QX Product Line
At the recent ITEXPO conference in Las Vegas, Epygi Technologies, a U.S.-based designer and manufacturer of business telephony solutions, unveiled the first model in its newest line of “QX” IP-PBXs and Gateways. The new QX200 IP-PBX, which won a Best of Show Award at the conference, is designed for offices with up to 200 employees and is the forward-looking alternative to certain models in the company’s earlier Quadro business phone system line, namely the Quadro4L (26 users), QuadroM8L (98 users) and the QuadroM32x (194 users).
General availability of the QX200 is expected in October, along with two other new QX IP-PBXs and four QX Gateways for analog and digital connections, as Epygi transitions to the QX product line. The new QX50 IP-PBX is designed for smaller offices with up to 50 users (48 IP devices). The earlier QX1000 IP-PBX, originally introduced in 2011 as the company’s entry into the enterprise market, is discontinued for new sales and is being replaced with the higher-capacity QX2000 that can handle up to 2,000 users. At the same time, Epygi is unveiling four new QX gateways for TDM connections - the QXFXO4, the QXISDN4, the QXE1T1 and the QXFXS24.
Epygi’s IP phone systems have long been designed as affordable, easy-to-administer all-in-one IP-PBXs. Voicemail for every user is a standard feature (no license required) and includes some unified messaging functionality such as retrieving stored voicemail messages via e-mail as attachments or receiving notifications via e-mail or SMS. An Auto Attendant with Interactive Voice Response is also standard to direct callers to an extension or voice mailbox.
The new QX IP-PBXs come with a number of built-in productivity applications which are easily activated by software license key (no additional hardware required). Licensable capabilities include Call Recording, Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), Barge-in, the Windows-based Desktop Communication Console (DCC), an outbound Auto Dialer, Audio and Video Conference Bridges and the Mobile Toggling feature that allows users to start a call on a desktop phone and seamlessly transfer it to an iPhone or Android device, or vice versa. QX IP-PBXs also have a licensable Application Programming Interface (API) for developing customized applications to work with the system.
Video usage is gaining traction in the workplace. A recent Nemertes benchmark study finds that easy access to video technology is resulting in increased utilization, and demand is rising as more and more of today’s workers expect company-provided services similar to consumer services like Apple's Facetime and Microsoft Skype. Epygi is on-target with the QX’s built-in Video Conference Bridge that, as an easily license-activated capability, eliminates the need for costly video equipment. Users only need a video desk phone or a PC softphone with a camera to enable face-to-face communication. The new QX50 IP-PBX supports up to eight simultaneous video users; QX200 and QX2000 allow 16 and 104 video participants, respectively.
The QX Line-up
The new QX IP-PBX portfolio includes three, scalable QX models:
- QX50: For smaller offices with up to 50 users (up to 16 concurrent calls)
- QX200: For small and mid-size offices with up to 200 users (64 concurrent calls)
- QX2000: For mid-range and larger enterprises with up to 2,000 users (300 concurrent calls)
All QX IP-PBXs include support for SIP trunking that allows direct connection to an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) without the need for any additional equipment. QX50 and QX200 units also house some FXO and FXS trunk and station ports. Additional FXS, FXO, ISDN BRI, E1 and T1 ports can be added to all three QX models by connecting QX Gateways. Each QX model also supports system redundancy by purchasing a second unit and duplicate license keys (QX50 and QX200) or the Server System Redundancy Activation license (QX2000 server).
Epygi’s new QX50, QX200 and QX2000 IP-PBXs are generally available as of October 1, 2014. The company will continue to sell and support earlier Quadro units, and current customers can continue to update their Quadro IP-PBX with the latest software releases for the next five years.
Toshiba Introduces New UCedge Productivity Application
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division has rebranded and enhanced its Unified Communications (UC) client application for mobile and desktop devices. The new UCedge runs on selected Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, with support for Windows PCs and Mac computers to follow in October. UCedge is the forward-looking alternative to the company’s current Call Manager Mobile and Call Manager for Windows clients (a few features will roll out in phases – see On the Roadmap below).
UCedge is based on HTML5 technology that enables code portability across devices so that features and functionality are the same on different device types, an advantage over many competing UC clients that may offer a full feature set on a Windows desktop client, for example, but just a subset of features on a mobile client.
UCedge is available to businesses that subscribe to Toshiba’s VIPedge cloud service, as well as to customers that install a Toshiba IPedge or Strata CIX phone system on-site. Note that Strata CIX requires the add-on IPedge Application Server or a subscription to a forthcoming suite of cloud-based applications that will include access to Toshiba’s UCedge application as-a-service (more on this in the next issue).
The UCedge Mobile Experience
Though UCedge provides plenty of value whether the application runs on a mobile device or on a desktop computer, the advantages for mobile users are of special interest since smartphone and tablet integration has become a top priority and “must have” technology in most workplaces today.
Business phone systems typically include standard mobile features like find-me/follow-me call forwarding or a basic mobile twinning feature that rings multiple devices, but today’s professionals are looking for more advanced mobile phone integration. With the new UCedge software downloaded and installed on an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet (from the Google Play or the iTunes App Store), workers can use the mobile device as their business telephone, displaying their office extension in the Caller ID for ‘single number reach’ whether the user is in or out of the office.
In addition to accessing Toshiba calling features, UCedge also synchronizes with the contact list from the Toshiba phone system and enables access to more advanced capabilities that will facilitate real-time communications like viewing presence status information and exchanging Instant Messages, even with some external to the system. With UCedge running on a mobile device, users will not miss important business calls and will be able to collaborate with colleagues and customers quickly and efficiently.
Toshiba has enhanced the feature set in this new version of its UC client. UCedge adds the following benefits over and above the company’s earlier client applications:
- Smartphone and Tablet Support: UCedge runs on both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets (Call Manager Mobile was for smartphones only). The application can be downloaded from the Google Play or the iTunes App Store and has been tested for more than 20 mobile devices, including selected smartphone models from Apple, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Sony and LG and tablets from Toshiba, Apple and Samsung.
- New User Interface: Toshiba has redesigned the user interface to be “flatter” with less menu depth and fewer pop-ups, making the client application visually simpler and easier to navigate.
- New Features: Users can now take advantage of four additional productivity features.
- Federation: XMPP server integration allows users to share presence and exchange IMs with external users, including Microsoft Lync Server users or external organizations using the Toshiba software.
- Deskphone Pairing: New call control pairing between the UCedge client and Toshiba’s IP 5000 desk phones lets users control the desk phone using their smartphone or tablet. For example, users can dial from their mobile device, but pick up the call on their desk phone.
- Consolidated History: Users with multiple devices (such as a mobile device and a Windows PC softphone) can view consolidated call and IM history information stored on the cloud-based Google Drive.
- Built-in Softphone: UCedge includes a built-in softphone that allows the client, including tablets with headsets or speakerphones, to function like any other extension on the system. Calls are handled over a low-cost corporate Wi-Fi network instead of the cellular network, reducing communications costs since minutes from the cellular calling plan are not being used. The initial release supports a softphone for Android devices; a softphone for UCedge running on iOS, Windows and Mac devices is expected in October.
On the Roadmap
Additional functionality is coming in 2014, including UCedge client support for Windows PCs and Mac computers this October. A softphone capability for iOS, Windows and Mac devices is also expected in October. Currently Toshiba’s Call Manager for Windows has some ACD-related features not yet available for UCedge such as viewing and managing ACD group status information, CRM integration with screen pops and Microsoft Outlook dialing; these features will be added to the UCedge client in a subsequent release which will allow UCedge to eventually fully replace the Call Manager product. Google App integration, social media integration for LinkedIn and Google+ and point-to-point video are on the roadmap for early 2015.
Unify Targets Under-30 User Segment with OpenScape Business X1
Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications) introduces a new OpenScape Business appliance that is designed specifically for small businesses, branch offices and home offices that have fewer than 30 users. The new X1 platform is an all-in-one solution with voice, unified communications and mobility capabilities built-in, giving the small business valuable functionality at an affordable price. The entry OpenScape Business X1 joins three higher capacity IP/TDM hardware options (the X3, X5 and X8 appliances), as well an IP-only software version (more on the deployment options below).
In 2013, Unify began streamlining its telephony portfolio for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) into the single platform called OpenScape Business, a scalable platform (to 500 users and to 1,000 users in a network) that simplifies and replaces the company’s two earlier platforms for SMBs, namely the OpenScape Office all-in-one IP system and the legacy HiPath 3000 converged PBX. Unify has taken steps to ensure a smooth migration from either of these earlier platforms by allowing customers to reuse existing housing, power supply and some peripheral boards and devices.
HiPath 3000 customers with the proper system release replace only the motherboard, system software and license file, while OpenScape Office requires just a software upgrade. Unify indicates there is good progress in existing customer transitions to the new platform due to a number of migration promotions, though the company is allowing customers to migrate at their own pace, without pressure to transition immediately.
Embedded UC and Mobility
The all-in-one X hardware platforms, including the new X1, have an embedded UC application called “UC Smart” for up to 50 users. This software runs on the motherboard of the OpenScape Business X1, X3, X5 and X8 appliance and enables basic UC functionality similar to that of Siemens earlier HiPath 3000 WebServices, including presence and status-based announcements, visual voicemail control, ad-hoc conferencing (eight parties), directory access and internal chat, plus additional UC features (R3.0) based on customer requests such as call recording of group calls, forwarded calls and call pick-up calls into the Call Journal, speed dialing from Favorites and Directories and more.
A new myPortal To Go client application for Android and Apple iOS mobile devices supports Unify's One Number Service and displays presence, voicemail, directories and more. Users can also use the client to control their office phone remotely, dialing from the smartphone contact list or a local UC Smart directory. As an alternative, Unify’s myPortal for Mobile browser-based application continues to be available for smartphones and tablets (Apple iOS, Google Android, Symbian or BlackBerry operating systems).
Note that the higher capacity X3, X5 and X8 appliances have additional UC options. These hardware platforms support a full UC Suite (additional productivity features) by adding either a UC Booster Card (150 UC users) or a UC Booster Server (500 UC users). These appliances also support several other myPortal client applications to access the UC Suite functionality, including myPortal for Desktop (Windows or Mac), the myPortal Outlook plug-in client (a licensed option) and myAttendant client, a receptionist application (a licensed option), as well as myAgent and myReports clients for contact center environments.
Flexible Deployment Options
OpenScape Business has flexible deployment options. It is available as a hardware appliance or as software that can be virtualized to run in a VMware environment. With the addition of the new X1 appliance, there are now four hardware platforms (X1, X3, X5 and X8) that support varying numbers of users (30-500) and have built-in slots for analog and digital trunks and stations similar to the legacy HiPath systems.
The IP-only software version (OpenScape Business S) resembles the earlier OpenScape Office LX, supporting 500 IP users. The software runs on a customer-provided dedicated server or in a virtualized environment (VMware vSphere), and OpenScape Business X1, X3, X5 or X8 appliances can be networked as gateways for analog and digital devices, if needed.
All of the above deployments can be part of a multi-site network for up to 1,000 users across up to 32 systems, with one system acting as the Master Node and the single point of administration. Networking is accomplished over IP (LAN/WAN) or via digital trunking.
Vertical Introduces Summit IP/TDM Platform for Small Business
Vertical Communications introduces Summit, a new communications appliance designed for smaller businesses looking for a cost effective phone system with embedded applications that will improve productivity and collaboration and help to streamline their operation. Summit has a hybrid IP/TDM architecture that supports analog, digital and IP connections, along with native smartphone integration and PC-based call management that meet the needs of today’s workers on-the-go. Optional unified communications (UC) capabilities for additional productivity gains are planned for later this year.
Vertical explains that Summit is a “step above” the company’s SBX IP, a key system that targets small businesses with very basic phone system requirements. With Summit, popular telephony functionality is built-in, including voicemail and auto attendant, e-mail notification, Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) and Web-based administration, but more advanced applications are also embedded and ready-to-use without the need for any add-on software. Mobility is a particular focus as businesses, including small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), are increasingly requiring more advanced cell phone integration that enables business call control features from one of today’s popular consumer mobile devices such as an Apple iOS-based or Google Android-based device (the Bring Your Own Device or BYOD trend). In fact, a majority of workers are already using personal smartphones and tablets for business-related communications, and this trend continues to grow.
The new Summit platform is in line with Vertical’s “applications inside” philosophy: Get applications into the user’s hands and they will use them. Other vendors may offer applications ‘a la carte’ which are often too expensive for a customer to try without having prior knowledge about whether these will actually benefit their business or not. With Summit (and Vertical’s lead telephony and UC platform Wave IP), productivity applications are built-in and simply license-activated, making it easy for users to adopt capabilities that will ultimately improve their own productivity and that of the entire business operation.
- Summit is positioned as a medium IP key system suitable for businesses with 5-50 users (the “sweet spot” in terms of optimal cost-effectiveness), but can scale to 140 extensions using one of four basic system units and one expansion unit.
- Summit can be part of an IP network (up to 250 sites) with Vertical’s small SBX IP and larger MBX IP key systems; basic features and functions are transparent across the network (Summit does not integrate with the company’s Wave IP platform).
- Communicator for Android and iOS is a SIP client for smartphones that enables the mobile device to function as the user’s personal phone, but also as a business phone, displaying the user’s office extension in the Caller ID (single number reach) and providing access to corporate phone system features such as hold, pickup, call forwarding, transfer, 3-way conferencing, paging and SMS/Broadcasting. When the user is in the office, calls are handled over the corporate Wi-Fi network, reducing communications costs since minutes from the cellular calling plan are not being used. Two Communicator licenses are included with Summit at no extra cost; additional licenses can be purchased. Tablet support is planned.
- The Phontage IP Softphone for Windows PCs and laptops is suitable for remote workers or call center agents. Notable features include internal SMS, on demand call recording, incoming call pop-ups and the Schedule Dial feature that organizes and schedules phone calls and provides reminder alerts; a Deluxe version adds 4-party video among Phontage users. Two licenses are included with Summit at no extra cost; additional licenses can be purchased.
- An IP Attendant enables PC-based call handling and control (Windows-based) with a display layout designed for ease-of-use and flexibility. An IP Attendant for Hospitality, due out in Phase 2 by the end of 2014, will provide access to wake-up calls, check in/out, room status, group registration and billing information.
- Phase 2 due out by the end of 2014 will introduce the Unified Communications Server, a new and separate client/server solution with additional productivity features over and above the built-in Communicator and Phontage clients. The UCS client will enable Instant Messaging, presence status information, 6-party video conferencing and desktop/application sharing among other more advanced functionality.
- Phase 2 will also embed license-activated contact center capabilities, including a dashboard for real-time monitoring, flexible management (based on skill sets, IVR, Web chat, call back services), call recording, staff reporting and social media integration.
Vertical Summit is generally available as of July 8, 2014 primarily from select reseller distributors that also offer Vertical’s SBX IP and MBX IP key systems. Recently, Vertical merged with Fulton Communications to form a larger direct sales force focused on selling Vertical’s Wave IP solution; Fulton may also offer the new Vertical Summit.
In recent news:
8x8 extends the integration with the Zendesk cloud-based customer service system for creating, tracking and closing trouble tickets. New features available to 8x8 Virtual Contact Center (VCC) hosted service subscribers include instant display of customer profiles using Caller ID and click-to-dial from directories. In other news, 8x8 was issued three new patents related generally to networked contact center and to conferencing and meeting mechanisms; the company now has 95 patents in total.
Allworx updates its VoIP system software. The new R7.7 expands networking options and enhances system security with a wipe command for lost or stolen remote devices and forced or voluntary password changes for client applications. The Interact Professional productivity application for PC-based call management (R1.1) adds single click call recording, access to database information, shortcuts and other new features. Allworx offers three systems for smaller businesses: the Allworx 6x12 for branch sites (to 12 users), Allworx 6x (to 60 users) and Allworx 48x (to 250 users). Allworx is a Windstream company.
Apple and IBM are collaborating to develop a new class of business applications that combines the strengths of each company, namely IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities and Apple’s consumer expertise, hardware and software integration and developer platform. The new IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions, available starting in the fall of 2014, will run on Apple iPhone and iPad devices and will target specific issues in a variety of industries, including retail, healthcare, banking, travel and transportation, telecommunications and insurance. The companies are also developing the IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS (end-to-end service), AppleCare for Enterprise (24/7 assistance) and IBM MobileFirst Supply and Management. As part of the agreement, IBM will also sell iPhones and iPads with the industry-specific solutions to business clients worldwide.
Avaya and HP have expanded their partnership to sell a combined portfolio of cloud services. HP will resell Avaya as-a-service offerings, namely Avaya Unified Communications-as-a-Service and Contact Center-as-a-Service. Avaya will benefit from HP’s cloud deployment models and has also been selected to upgrade HP’s internal contact center operations. Per the agreement, Avaya Private Cloud Services (APCS) employees and contractors will transfer to HP’s Enterprise Services (ES) Business Process Services organization.
BroadSoft acquires Systems Design & Development, Inc. (SDD), a software and services provider to hotels, resorts, convention and meeting facilities. The new UC-One Hospitality offering combines BroadSoft's Unified Communications and SDD's Jazz Fusion hospitality software as a cloud alternative and forward-looking option to aging premises-based PBX solutions.
Cisco has acquired cloud-based collaboration application provider Assemblage to enhance its collaboration software portfolio which currently includes WebEx and Jabber. Assemblage develops real-time collaboration applications, such as shared white-boarding, presentation broadcasting and screen-sharing, that can be accessed via a Web browser by any mobile device or platform without the need for any additional downloads, plug-ins or installations. The Assemblage team will become part of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group.
Epygi is launching a new product line of QX IP PBXs and Gateways this October, including the QX50, QX200 and QX2000 IP systems that provide a forward-looking alternative to the company’s earlier Quadro systems. See the related write-up “Epygi Transitions to the QX Product Line” for more detail.
ESI announces its Ditto mobile client application for customers of the ESI Cloud PBX, a subscription-based hosted telephony service for businesses in North America. Customers that subscribe to the ESI Cloud PBX Premier package will be able to download the Ditto 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), configuring feature settings and receiving voicemail notifications. Ditto joins other ESI cloud-based application services, namely SIP trunking, hosted reservation-less “meet-me” conferencing for up to 50 participants, a Virtual fax service for receiving/sending faxes via email and ESI’s Abillity cloud-based billing application.
Fujitsu introduces a new cloud-based unified communications solution that targets larger enterprises in North America. The new Fujitsu Cloud Enterprise Communication Service (ECS) Connect is “ideal” for companies with more than 1,500 users, but can handle up to 100,000 users. The solution is based on Microsoft Lync technology and enables voice services (Lync Enterprise Voice), audio and video calling and conferencing, instant messaging, presence indicators and desktop sharing as-a-service. Additionally, Fujitsu will offer professional services related to integration with related Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Office 365. Fujitsu is also transitioning to Lync Enterprise Voice for its own internal 160,000-seat deployment. ECS is generally available as of July 15, 2014.
Grandstream Networks introduces a second Android-based IP Video Phone. The new GXV3275 combines a 6-line IP video phone and 7-inch touchscreen and runs the Android operating system for access to Android Apps from the Google Play Store. The phone supports 6-way audio conferencing, 3-way video conferencing, integrated Bluetooth, Gigabit ports, a built-in Web browser, integrated Wi-Fi, HD wideband audio and Power over Ethernet connectivity, among other features. List price is US $319.
MegaPath made a series of announcements lately, including a new UC client application for desktop, smartphone and tablet devices that enables presence/IM, softphone, screen sharing, SMS texting and video calling. For a limited time, MegaPath channel partners can earn rewards and prizes for selling the company's Hosted Voice service along with the new UC client. The company also announces a new Self-Installation deployment option for Hosted Voice by which customers that leverage their own broadband service (instead of MegaPath’s privately owned nationwide IP data network) can opt to use their own onsite resources to deploy MegaPath Hosted Voice. MegaPath is backing this up with a 7-Day Service Level Agreement.
Microsoft adds features for mobile users, updating its Lync Mobile software for iPad tablets with a new Gallery View feature that enables four live video streams in a Lync Meeting on the iPad (already available for Lync Desktop and Lync for Windows 8). Also new is Lobby Control (attendee management) for a presenter with Lync 2013 for iOS (iPhone or iPad) to admit or deny participants waiting in virtual lobby.
Mitel’s MiCloud Enterprise UCaaS offering for channel partners is now available in Canada. The offer was already launched in UK and US; additional selected markets are planned. MiCloud Enterprise is a white label solution that allows channel partners to offer the subscription-based Mitel services, along with their own portfolio, under their own brand. A number of Mitel partners serving the Canadian market have already signed up, including Excel Telecom Inc., Incotel-GH IP Solutions, Introtel Communications Inc., Merbridge Networks Corporation, Minitel Communications Corporation, RackForce Networks Inc. and Williams Telecommunications Corporation.
NEC has released the first of its new UNIVERGE SV9000 series of appliances. The new UNIVERGE SV9100 represents the next generation of the company’s SV8100 on-premises telephony platform for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). The single server solution comes with built-in capabilities such as unified messaging, mobile twinning, UC clients with Microsoft Outlook integration, UC Attendant and CRM integration and contact center functionality (customers choose from Standard User and Premium User license packages). Two server models are available: the SV9100E (to 896 users) or the SV9100S for smaller needs (to 48 users). Two additional SV9000 servers are expected soon, the SV9300 appliance and the virtualized SV9500. Look for more details in the next Insider.
Panasonic has refreshed its line of IP, digital and DECT phones, introducing three new and improved models in each category which are compatible with all Panasonic business phone systems, including legacy systems. The KX-NT550 Series of IP phones support a large, backlit graphical display, full duplex headset and speakerphone, a built-in Electronic Hook Switch (EHS), dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and self-labeling (paperless) keys among other popular features. Three new KX-DT500 digital phones are also full duplex speakerphones and come with built-in EHS support for wireless headsets, allowing users to answer and end calls using a button on the headset. For in-building wireless needs, Panasonic’s new KX-TCA85 Series DECT handsets have 1.8 inch color LCDs, a noise reduction feature and can be paired with a desk phone extension for seamless transfer and simultaneous ringing.
RingCentral Office 6.4 adds new reporting options to help assess company/department performance. The new Service Web Reports, now available for U.S. customers, display summaries of queue and user activity for insights about individuals, departments, groups or company-wide workloads and performance. Also new are new RingCentral Templates for batch configuration of phone system settings that can be applied to multiple users (up to 20) at once; the templates are currently available to U.S. and UK customers.
ShoreTel adds video support in the latest version of its ShoreTel Mobility client for mobile devices. Version 8 adds single touch video calling between iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. Video calls are also supported between ShoreTel Mobility users and Windows desktop users running ShoreTel Communicator. And, mobile users can join a multi-party, room-based video conference (Polycom or LifeSize room systems supported). Version 8 also introduces the Virtual ShoreTel Mobility Router (vSMR) deployment option, allowing ShoreTel Mobility software to run on VMWare platforms.
ShoreTel is releasing two cloud-based applications, e-Fax and Voicemail Transcription, available as-a-service to customers with a premises-based ShoreTel IP-PBX. The new ShoreTel Connect for ShoreTel Sky Fax email-to-fax service eliminates the need for a fax machine by letting users receive incoming faxes in an email inbox and send outgoing faxes as emails with attachments. The ShoreTel Connect for ShoreTel Sky Scribe service offers a convenient way to check voicemail by transcribing the first 60 seconds of a voicemail message into text and delivering it to a user’s email inbox, along with a .wav audio file attachment that contains the entire message. The two ShoreTel Connect services are in a Controlled Release as of August 12, 2014, with general availability expected in during the fall of 2014. A third cloud-based ShoreTel Connect service, ShoreTel Mobility, is currently in beta testing.
Thinking Phone Networks, a provider of hosted/cloud voice and UC services to mid-size and larger enterprises in North America and EMEA, acquires Whaleback Managed Services, a provider of cloud-based managed voice and UC services for small and medium enterprises in North America. The addition of Whaleback will broaden TPN’s customer base and market footprint, and current Whaleback customers will gain access to additional TPN-developed capabilities such as ThinkingMobile, the company’s in-house Fixed Mobile Communications (FMC) solution and the business analytics application called ThinkingAnalytics.
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division has rebranded and enhanced its Unified Communications (UC) client for mobile devices. The new UCedge replaces the company’s Call Manager Mobile and Call Manager for Windows clients and will run on selected Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, with support for Windows PCs and Mac computers expected in October. See related write-up “Toshiba Introduces New UCedge Productivity Application.”
Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications) introduces a new OpenScape Business appliance that is designed specifically for small businesses, branch offices and home offices that have fewer than 30 users. The new X1 platform is an all-in-one solution with voice, unified communications and mobility capabilities built-in, giving the small business valuable functionality at an affordable price. See the related story “Unify Targets Under-30 User Segment with OpenScape Business X1” for more detail. In other news, Unify announces new version of OpenScape Enterprise (OpenScape UC and OpenScape Voice) with a focus on virtual teams; new features include a redesigned user interface and improved security and reliability.
Vertical Communications introduces Summit, a new communications appliance designed for smaller businesses looking for a cost effective phone system with embedded applications. See related story “Vertical Introduces Summit IP/TDM Platform for Small Business” for full details.
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