3CX Announces Wholesale Hosted PBX Service and Hybrid Cloud with V14
3CX announces the general availability of a new version of its Microsoft Windows-based software PBX, 3CX Phone System for Windows. Version 14 includes a number of improvements for users and administrators, but primarily, the new release introduces a wholesale hosted/cloud offer for 3CX channel partners that can be sold as a monthly or yearly subscription service to end customers. The new 3CX Cloud PBX Server is designed for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Value Added Resellers (VARs) that want to support multiple customers using 3CX in the cloud. A multi-instance implementation allows for up to 25 virtual instances of the 3CX software to be installed on a single Windows Server - a significant advantage to partners in terms of cost and management.
Perhaps even more importantly, with V14, 3CX partners can now offer their customers the deployment (hosted/cloud or on-site) that best meets their particular business challenges. This includes hybrid arrangements for multi-site customers, with on-site systems deployed at some locations and utilization of hosted/cloud services at others. More on the hybrid cloud opportunity below.
3CX first introduced its Phone System for Windows in 2006 as a software-based, open-standards telephony solution and a cost-effective alternative to traditional proprietary PBX hardware. 3CX software fits well into a company’s existing IT infrastructure, including virtualized environments since the software can be installed along with other applications on an existing Windows machine or on a virtualized server running Hyper-V or VMware technology. The system has been tested with, and pre-configured for, a large number of third party SIP Trunking services, SIP telephones and VoIP gateways that support the SIP standard.
Today, 3CX has offices in the US, UK, Germany, Hong Kong, South Africa, Russia and Australia, serving some 30,000 customers worldwide (one million users), including Boeing, McDonalds, Harley Davidson, Pepsi and other major corporations. 3CX is a 100% channel company.
3CX Phone System for Windows has become known for its all-in-one functionality, advanced feature set and affordability for small and mid-size businesses (supports up to 1,024 simultaneous calls per license).
- Advanced Feature Set. The software enables all popular business features such as call transfer and forwarding, audio conferencing and call recording to name just a few, but also includes more advanced features at no extra cost like voicemail-to-email notification, presence status information, Web meetings and mobile phone integration – all standard with either of the 3CX user packages, Standard or Pro.
- Integrated Mobile Clients. Users can download the mobile client application and softphone for iOS and Android mobile devices, allowing the mobile device to function as a business telephone and displaying the user’s office extension in the Caller ID for ‘single number reach’ whether the user is in or out of the office. Client applications are also available for Windows PCs and Mac computers.
- Built-in Web and Video Meeting Capability. 3CX WebMeeting is a client-free web conferencing solution that leverages WebRTC technology to enable one-click conferencing, meeting recording, remote control and screen sharing. Pricing is based on the number of concurrent meeting participants (10, 25, 50 or 100), and the solution can be deployed as an on-site server or accessed as a hosted service. A 10-user license is included free, and currently, a 25-user license is free for customers with a valid maintenance agreement that upgrade to V14.
- Bundled Call Center. The Pro package includes some additional features to enable informal call center functionality such as routing strategies (round robin, longest waiting, fewest answered, etc.), queue monitoring and notification, whisper and barge-in, wallboards and advanced reporting. Third party application integrations, such as Salesforce, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Exchange and others, are also supported by the Pro package.
- Wide Variety of SIP-based Devices. The system supports popular third party SIP telephones that are pre-configured for easy provisioning. 3CX recommends phones from Fanvil, Htek, snom and Yealink, but also supports phones from Cisco, Panasonic, Polycom and other SIP phone providers. Similarly, a wide range of third party VoIP Gateways and SIP Trunking Services have been tested for reliability, though any SIP-based solution will be compatible.
- Web-based Management. The 3CX Management Console, accessed via Web browser, is used to manage IP phones, download new firmware and automatically update software. V14 adds new management features such as scheduled backup and restore, scheduled reports, more alerts and a streamlined interface. The PRO edition allows for a hot standby mode in which a virtual copy of the 3CX Phone System takes over during a server failure.
The Hybrid Cloud Opportunity
With V14, authorized 3CX channel partners have the flexibility to offer the 3CX Phone System for Windows as an on-site deployment or as a hosted/cloud service, either hosted by 3CX (a single instance solution in which the partner rents hosted instances from 3CX) or hosted in the partner’s own facility for more control (a multi-instance solution in which the partner can install up to 25 instances on a single Windows server).
Using the same software stream for both premises-based and cloud-based deployments is an advantage for both channel partners and end-customers due to the common user experience and management, but additionally, this opens up new opportunities to meet unique customer business challenges. Multi-site customers, in particular, can flexibly mix and match cloud and on-premises 3CX solutions within their corporate network. As an example, customers that have a 3CX Phone System deployed at some sites can subscribe to the 3CX hosted/cloud service when opening a new office location. This not only minimizes the upfront capital expenses, but also allows the quick integration of a new office into the existing network.
Down the road, 3CX hints at plans for additional hybrid cloud solutions, video improvements and other new capabilities. Stay tuned.
Contact Center in the Cloud – New 2015 Offers
Acceptance and adoption of hosted/cloud solutions for business telephony and unified communications is well underway. This includes a shift toward cloud contact center services as businesses recognize the benefits in subscribing to a contact center solution “as-a-service” rather than purchasing and installing hardware and software on-site. There are obvious budgetary advantages to selecting a cloud solution - reduced capital expenses, fewer IT personnel and predictable per-user monthly fees, to name a few. But, there are also strategic advantages in terms of scale, consistency across a network and the ease of adding future innovations that are particularly appealing to organizations with multiple, geographically-dispersed offices and remotely-located employees such as contact center agents and supervisors.
Data from a number of market research firms confirms that cloud-based contact center solutions are increasingly becoming the preferred deployment model. A 2015 Call Center IQ research study concludes that cloud technology is the “new normal” for contact centers with some 52% of surveyed organizations already actively investing in cloud contact centers, and 76% expected to be investing by the end of 2016. CCIQ adds that organizational discussions about cloud contact center have shifted from “if” cloud is the right strategy to “how” best to integrate cloud solutions and which parts of the business will benefit the most from a transition to the cloud.
These statistics line up with numerous analyst forecasts tracking trends in the cloud contact center market. IDC forecasts U.S. spending on hosted contact center services to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.7% to reach $2.0 billion in 2019. Research and Markets estimates the worldwide 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%.
New in 2015
A large number of cloud UC providers - including those that sell a portfolio of cloud and premises-based solutions as well as cloud-only providers - are already onboard and offering business customers a cloud contact center alternative. Below are some of the new services that entered the market in 2015.
8x8 has been rolling out a steady stream of new services, including a number of new contact center related solutions in 2015. Recent 8x8 enhancements are aimed at improving the customer experience such as the integration of 8x8’s telephony/UC service and its 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). 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.
Avaya is addressing the hybrid cloud opportunity with new partnerships and services aimed at businesses transitioning toward a public cloud delivery model. Among these partnerships is the recently announced service called Customer Engagement OnAvaya™ Powered by Google Cloud Platform. With this collaboration, Avaya’s IP Office Contact Center technology is now offered as-a-service for a monthly subscription fee through Google Cloud. The solution, which supports from 10-250 agents and up to 50 supervisors, is co-branded and will be sold to small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and mid-market companies through certified Avaya and Google business partners. Customer Engagement OnAvaya is generally available as of April 27, 2015 in the U.S., with expansion to other countries expected later. See the related write-up Avaya and Google Partner to Offer Cloud Contact Center for SMBs for more detail.
Interactive Intelligence continues to expand its PureCloud suite of unified communications and contact center applications running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The latest offering, PureCloud Engage, is a cloud service for contact centers that enables 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, but support for 1,000 agents is expected next year and up to 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 set to follow.
NEC’s new UNIVERGE Cloud Service Contact Center utilizes partner technology 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. The subscription-based contact center service can be 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. The cloud solution is available as of April 9, 2015 in the United States (other regions will follow). See the write-up “NEC Introduces Contact Center in the Cloud” for more detail.
RingCentral and inContact are partnering to offer RingCentral Contact Center, powered by inContact. The subscription-based contact center service 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. 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 app 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. See the related write-up “RingCentral and inContact Partner for Cloud Contact Center” for more detail.
ShoreTel Connect Contact Center is a redesign of ShoreTel’s earlier multi-channel contact center solution, with some new capabilities and, perhaps most importantly, with deployment either on-site or in the cloud (ShoreTel’s earlier cloud call center offer was an informal, inbound, voice-only offer). Notable features of Connect Contact Center include a new agent Web experience, an integrated chat capability and remote connectivity without the need for a third party VPN; the solution supports up to 1,000 concurrent agents. ShoreTel partners are now officially “quoting” Connect Contact Center, along with the company’s other Connect solutions. Shipping is set to begin in the second half of September. A hybrid networking capability that enables the networking of cloud and premises deployments (Connect HYBRID Sites) is expected later this year. See the related write-up “ShoreTel Addresses the Hybrid Cloud with New Connect Platform” for more detail.
Digium Adds Metered Pricing with Switchvox Cloud 6.0
Digium updates its Switchvox Cloud hosted unified communications (UC) service with a new, lower cost pricing option that will appeal to smaller businesses with low or unpredictable call volumes. Now, customers can opt for usage-based metered pricing that charges only for external local and long distance calls actually made (flat-rate monthly rates for unlimited usage are already available – more on the pricing options below).
Digium first entered the hosted UC market with Switchvox Cloud in 2013. Switchvox Cloud mirrors Digium’s Switchvox SMB, the company’s premises-based IP-PBX which has been well known for its built-in UC capabilities, including unified messaging, presence, chat, smartphone applications for Android and iPhone, extension mobility features, meet-me conferencing, visual voicemail and more. Also included is the company’s Switchboard application, an intuitive, customizable Web-based user interface for managing calls, viewing presence status information, directories and queues, as well as integration with third party applications such as Salesforce.com and Google Maps.
All Switchvox SMB capabilities have carried over into the Switchvox Cloud service and are included with no additional monthly fees – a differentiator from other hosted PBX services on the market that may charge extra monthly fees for UC-type capabilities such as mobile phone integration, presence and chat or meet-me conferencing.
Flexible Pricing Options
Digium has been offering Switchvox Cloud at a flat monthly rate of $29 per user per month with a 3-year contract, $33 per user for a 1-year contract or $35 per user with a month-to-month subscription. These “unlimited” plans include all local and long distance minutes across the U.S. in 48 states free of charge (excludes Alaska and Hawaii).
The new, metered pricing with R6.0 will likely appeal to additional businesses that experience lower or unpredictable call volumes since it is usage-based and charges only for external US48 local and long distance calls per Digium’s current rate schedule. For example, with a 3-year contract, a customer will pay $12.99 per seat per month plus $0.023 per minute for any external US48 local and long distance calls. With a 1-year contract, the monthly fee is $13.99 per user (plus $0.026/minute for usage) and $14.99 for a month-to-month subscription (plus $0.030 per minute). All internal, extension-to-extension calls are included free of charge in any of the flat-rate or metered plans. There is a 5-user minimum for all plan options.
In addition to the new metered pricing, R6.0 also brings enhancements based on the company’s latest Asterisk 13 software, introducing a redesign of the company’s Switchboard Web-based call control application that adds customizable, roles-based user interfaces, improved Salesforce.com integration and several new widgets, among other features. These enhancements will also be available for the premises-based Switchvox SMB in the next few weeks.
ShoreTel Addresses the Hybrid Cloud with New Connect Platform
ShoreTel has begun the phased rollout of its newly developed platform, ShoreTel Connect, which will function as a common platform for cloud, on-premises and hybrid deployments. ShoreTel describes the new solution as a “monumental” release that reaffirms the company’s mantra “Brilliantly Simple” by blending the best of ShoreTel’s earlier premises-based IP-PBX software and its unique distributed architecture (plus some new capabilities) with elements from its cloud-based solution, including redundant data centers, a 24x7 help desk, 911 location services, billing systems and other cloud-related assets (acquired when ShoreTel purchased M5 Networks in 2012).
The result is ShoreTel Connect, a single platform that can be deployed at a customer site or accessed as a cloud-based subscription service, with the same user experience, features and applications regardless of the deployment. This is a boon for ShoreTel in terms of product design (a single software stream or code base for both premises and cloud solutions), for ShoreTel’s sales team and partners that will require training on only one solution, and for ShoreTel’s customers who will be able to flexibly mix and match on-site equipment with cloud solutions as appropriate for their business needs.
ShoreTel is on-target with the new Connect hybrid cloud and premises offer. Such solutions are rapidly entering the market as the traditional telecom vendors recognize the value in offering customers (1) the flexibility in subscribing to hosted/cloud services for some applications and using on-site solutions for others and/or (2) the ability to network the two solution types (cloud and on-premises) for feature parity across all locations regardless of the deployment. ShoreTel has hit on both strategies with the new Connect HYBRID Applications and forthcoming Connect HYBRID Sites. More on all of the Connect solutions below.
The ShoreTel Connect Portfolio
ShoreTel Connect was first introduced to ShoreTel’s partner community in April 2015, and partners are now officially “quoting” the following: a new on-site IP-PBX (Connect ONSITE), a new cloud-based unified communications service (Connect CLOUD) and a new multi-channel contact center solution (Connect Contact Center), as well as cloud-based applications for customers with premises-based system deployments (Connect HYBRID Apps). Actual shipping of these new offers will begin in the second half of September, according to ShoreTel. A hybrid networking capability that enables the networking of cloud and premises deployments (Connect HYBRID Sites) is expected later this year.
- Connect ONSITE is a new premises-based system that retains and builds upon ShoreTel’s earlier IP-PBX functionality and unique architecture with distributed application servers for management and distributed voice switches for call control and trunk and station connections, supporting up to 20,000 users as a single system image. With Connect, ShoreTel introduces an all-new user interface (more on the user licenses and bundles below), plus a number of new capabilities, including a new Edge Gateway security device, Remote VPN phones, redesigned Director management software and a new series of double density “ST” Voice Switches, to name a few.
- Connect CLOUD is the hosted version of Connect ONSITE, with all system components and software located in ShoreTel data centers rather than at the customer site. Customers simply pay a monthly subscription fee to access all telephony and unified communications, eliminating the expense and hassle of purchasing, installing and maintaining any system equipment within their business location. Connect CLOUD is available to new ShoreTel customers and will replace the company’s earlier ShoreTel Sky cloud service over time.
- Connect Contact Center is a redesign of ShoreTel’s earlier multi-channel contact center solution, with some new capabilities and, perhaps most importantly, with deployment either on-site or in the cloud (ShoreTel’s earlier cloud call center offer was an informal, inbound, voice-only offer). Notable features of Connect Contact Center include a new agent Web experience, an integrated chat capability and remote connectivity without the need for a third party VPN; the solution supports up to 1,000 concurrent agents.
- Connect HYBRID Apps currently includes two standalone cloud-based applications, e-Fax and Voicemail Transcription, available as-a-service to customers that deploy the ShoreTel Connect ONSITE system (or have the earlier premises-based ShoreTel IP-PBX 14.2). ShoreTel Connect HYBRID Fax is an email-to-fax service that 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 HYBRID 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.
- Connect HYBRID Sites will enable multi-site organizations to deploy an on-site system (Connect ONSITE) at some locations, while subscribing to the cloud service (Connect CLOUD) at others, tying all locations together as a single network with feature transparency and common applications among all users regardless of the deployment model. ShoreTel Connect HYBRID Sites will be available later this year.
Three User Bundles
ShoreTel has devised three Connect user bundles, with varying levels of features and functionality and priced accordingly, either as a one-time user license for Connect ONSITE (starts at $199) or as a per-user recurring monthly fee for Connect CLOUD (starts at $34.99).
- Essentials is the most basic user bundle or license. It includes a user extension and voice mailbox, as well as ShoreTel’s Professional UC client application that enables presence, instant messaging and two-party video, along with voice communications (built-in soft phone) and 8-party audio conferencing. Web collaboration (4-party) is supported via the optional ShoreTel service appliance (for Connect ONSITE) or as part of the user bundle (for Connect CLOUD). Users can also take advantage of ShoreTel’s Web & App Dialer for simple click-to-call functionality and basic mobility in the form of twinning or simultaneous ringing to an alternate device.
- Standard builds on the Essentials bundle to add three additional capabilities, namely the ShoreTel Connect Mobility client application for iOS and Android devices (a full mobile client based on the company’s earlier ShoreTel Mobile application), Remote Phone (for ONSITE users) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) integration, including salesforce.com and other CRM applications. Web collaboration (25-party) is supported via the optional ShoreTel service appliance (for Connect ONSITE) or as part of the user bundle (for Connect CLOUD). The Standard CLOUD package also includes ad-hoc call recording and voicemail transcription. These capabilities, previously purchased separately, are bundled into the Standard user license for a significant cost savings.
- Advanced is the highest user level and builds on Standard and Essentials to add ShoreTel’s Operator UC client application with call coverage features, such as extension monitoring, drag and drop call transfers and call pick-up, as well as instant messaging and presence status information to consult users before transferring a call. Web collaboration (100-party) is supported via the optional ShoreTel service appliance (for Connect ONSITE) or as part of the user bundle (for Connect CLOUD). The Advanced CLOUD package also includes full-time call recording and unlimited archiving.
ShoreTel has its plate full with the rollout of Connect over the next several months, including a simplified and enhanced channel partner program set to launch this November. At present, ShoreTel Connect is aimed at new customers, with plans for migrating existing ShoreTel customers (with current cloud or on-premises deployments) to be revealed later on. ShoreTel is not ready to give specifics, but we can expect to see future developments around the user experience and more hybrid solutions which are quickly gaining popularity as a way to ease a variety of business challenges. Stay tuned.
In recent news:
3CX announces the general availability of a new version of its software-based 3CX Phone System for Windows. Version 14 includes a number of improvements, but primarily introduces a wholesale hosted/cloud offer for 3CX channel partners who can now offer cloud or on-site deployments, including hybrid arrangements. In addition, 3CX recently released a WebRTC-based version of its WebMeeting service, offering unlimited Web and video conferencing for one yearly price depending on number of participants (10-100); starts at $495 per year. See the write-up “3CX Announces Wholesale Hosted PBX Service with V14” for details.
8x8 continues to enhance its Virtual Contact Center (VCC) cloud-based service with a focus on the customer experience, adding new features such as virtual queuing (automatic callback option) and co-browsing that allows contact center agents and customers to simultaneously view the same webpage. 8x8 is also extending its partnership with Salesforce to integrate 8x8’s Virtual Office with Salesforce’s Desk.com all-in-one customer support (help desk) application for small businesses; users will be able to answer a call from within the Desk.com application, access the current customer record and click to dial. In other news, 8x8 has been awarded several additional US patents related to remote management of VoIP device contact lists, emergency call services and server load control. These, plus a call center related patent gained through the recent QSC acquisition, bring the total number of 8x8 patents to 111.
Alteva has been acquired by Momentum Telecom, a VoIP, broadband services and unified communications provider headquartered in Birmingham, AL with regional offices across the United States. The merger, expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2015, will increase Momentum Telecom’s customer base to over 250,000 users, including some 55,000 Alteva users according to Alteva’s second quarter 2015 financial report. Alteva was established in 2003 as one of the first Hosted Service Providers in the U.S., offering a portfolio of hosted UC services based on the BroadSoft BroadWorks switch for call control and hosted Microsoft Communication Services for messaging and collaboration. In 2011, Alteva became an independent subsidiary of Warwick Valley Telephony Company, which later took on the Alteva brand name.
Avaya IP Office has a new Feature Pack that allows the IP Office “Select” software to support 3,000 users (up from 2,500 in the previous release). Additionally, Avaya IP Office Preferred Edition, IP Office Server Edition and IP Office Select Release 9.1.2 or later support the Avaya Communicator for Web (from the Esna acquisition) that runs as a Chrome browser extension or Internet Explorer add-on to enable voice, video, IM/presence and conferencing within cloud-based applications such as Salesforce.com, Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365. In other news, Avaya is partnering with telecommunications services provider TELMEX to offer a hosted UC service based on IP Office in Mexico; the new pay-per-use subscription service will be hosted in TELMEX data centers. For enterprises, a new version of the Avaya Aura platform is generally available; R7.0 adds a new software-based media server, a flexible virtual appliance model and increased scale to 250,000 users and 350,000 devices, among other new capabilities.
Broadvoice is partnering to expand its cloud PBX and unified communications suite of services. The California-based hosted voice and telecommunications provider will resell the cloud-based Virtual Contact Center (VCC) platform from Five9, including automatic call distribution (ACD), computer telephony integration (CTI), interactive voice response (IVR), and Predictive, Progressive, Power and Preview Dialers. Broadvoice is also partnering with OrecX to add a hosted call recording solution to its portfolio. The new Broadvoice Hosted Call Recording service will automatically record audio calls and store the files in the cloud to be downloaded and played back as needed for quality assurance, regulatory compliance or training purposes; the service has a monthly rate of $4.95 per enabled extension.
Cisco and Apple announce a partnership around mobile business solutions. Apple is looking to expand mobile device sales into the enterprise, while Cisco plans to deliver new mobile experiences in the workplace by developing tighter integrations, customizations and networking enhancements. The partnership marks the second time that Apple has teamed with a major technology company to develop mobile business applications; Apple and IBM announced a partnership in July 2014. In other news, Cisco adds two new video desk phones to its IP Phone 8800 Series; the IP Phone 8845 and IP Phone 8865 have a widescreen color display and deliver 720p HD video and integration with personal mobile devices using Cisco’s Intelligent Proximity feature.
Digium updates its Switchvox Cloud hosted unified communications (UC) service with a new, lower cost pricing option that will appeal to smaller businesses with low or unpredictable call volumes. Now, customers can opt for usage-based metered pricing that charges only for external local and long distance calls actually made (flat-rate monthly rates for unlimited usage are already available). See the related write-up “Digium Adds Metered Pricing with Switchvox Cloud 6.0” for more detail. In other news, Digium has extended its Respoke cloud-based development environment to support mobile developers in building solutions for iOS and Android mobile devices.
Fonality introduces a new Agency program designed to engage Master Agents and Sub-Agents in selling the full Fonality product line, including on-premises, cloud and hybrid solutions – all in a subscription model. Fonality is unique in that customers can take advantage of a subscription-based pay-as-you-go model with any deployment method (on-site installations or cloud-based deployments). And, since Fonality uses the same software stream for both the premises and the cloud offer, partners can also offer hybrid (on-site and cloud) arrangements in which the customer can flexibly deploy on-site equipment and subscribe to hosted/cloud services as needed - the same familiar features are available in either deployment model. With the enhanced Agency program, Fonality is aiming to reach $100 million in revenue with a 70+% contribution from the channel over the next few years.
Interactive Intelligence announces that its PureCloud Communicate, PureCloud Engage and PureCloud Collaborate Pro services are now available for purchase in North America, Australia and New Zealand. Availability in other regions is expected soon. The cloud-based services are part of the company’s PureCloud suite of unified communications and contact center applications running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). PureCloud Collaborate is an unlimited free service that enables group chat, desktop sharing and video conferencing, while Collaborate Pro (starts at $9.99 per user per month) adds unlimited storage, additional third party integrations, an API and more. PureCloud Communicate (starts at $19.99 per user per month) includes all PureCloud Collaborate functionality, but also enables enterprise telephony (cloud PBX), speech-enabled auto attendant, audio conferencing, call recording, unified messaging and screen pops. PureCloud Engage ($100/agent/month) is a contact center offering that also encompasses the Collaborate and Communicate capabilities.
Jive Communications expands its enterprise-grade hosted/cloud VoIP and unified communications services into the Canadian market by acquiring FonAngle, a Business VoIP provider based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Jive has also acquired audio and web conference service vendor Speek and its online meeting technology. The Speek meeting service enables screen sharing, file sharing (integrated with Dropbox, Google Drive and more), conference recording and in-conference chat. The service requires no PINs, dial-in codes or downloads; meeting participants simply join the call by clicking on a personalized Web URL.
Microsoft is previewing three new Skype for Business services for inclusion in its Office 365 hosted offer: Cloud PBX (Microsoft’s Skype for Business/Lync enterprise voice features), PSTN Conferencing (a traditional dial-in capability) and Skype Meeting Broadcast (for large virtual meetings with up to 10,000 participants). The technical previews are available to customers with an Office 365 enterprise plan or Skype for Business Plan 2. General availability of these services is targeted for the end of 2015. Pricing and licensing details have not yet been disclosed; the three services will be part of a new premium Office 365 Enterprise Suite called E5 which will also include some new analytics and advanced security features.
Mitel is enhancing its cloud agent program for North America by simplifying and consolidating previous programs and increasing the financial incentives. Existing and new agent partners now have the potential to receive up to three times the monthly recurring commission when selling MiCloud Business or Enterprise. The enhanced program also gives Mitel cloud resellers more access to tools and resources such as for RFP responses. Mitel cites strong growth in its cloud business, with an installed base 1.6 million cloud users, up from 850,000 in under a year, as well as a 134% increase in total recurring payments to agent partners over a 24-month period.
NEC introduces new solutions for the retail, hospitality and education vertical markets, including a ‘Store-in-a-Box’ all-in-one point of sale solution for small-to-medium-size retailers via a partnership with SYNNEX. New Smart Hospitality Solutions incorporate NEC’s NEOFACE facial recognition identification technology along with other technologies; NEC’s "Hotel IT in a Box" approach consolidates hotel solutions onto a single server platform. NEC also announces a cloud-based collaborative solution, NEC Collaborative Content Manager (CCM) Business, that was initially targeted to the education sector (interactive digital learning), but which is now being offered to any enterprise business that has a need for real-time collaborative capabilities. CCM Business integrates the PassTheNotes content management solution and NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C Collaborative Meeting Manager (CCM) to create a single interface for communications, cloud content storage and collaborative meetings. Functionality includes creating instant meetings, scheduling meetings, remote desktop control, white boarding, discussion feeds, cloud-based content storage and search.
Panasonic announces the new KX-TGP600 SIP cordless DECT phone system for small businesses, with support for up to eight DECT handsets and eight simultaneous calls. Notable features include noise reduction technology, an automatic volume adjustment capability and support for both cordless and corded handsets, including three cordless models and a unique desktop DECT phone that requires no wired LAN connection. The basic KX-TGP600 system (MSRP $199) includes a base station and one KX-TPA60 standard cordless handset with charger. Additional handsets and/or wireless repeaters are priced separately. KX-TGP600 builds on the earlier Panasonic KX-TGP500 SIP cordless DECT phone system for up to six users.
Polycom adds two new entry-level models to its portfolio of VVX business media phones. The new single-line VVX 101 and the 2-line VVX 201, suitable for small work spaces and common areas, feature intuitive user interfaces and support Polycom’s specialized technologies for sound quality (HD voice) and noise/echo reduction, as well as Polycom Zero Touch Provisioning for simple installation and configuration. In other news, Polycom introduces three new video collaboration solutions: Polycom RealPresence Touch for visual group collaboration (tablet touch control), Polycom RealPresence Group Series 5.0 software for Microsoft environments and Polycom RealPresence OTX Studio for immersive visual collaboration (mid-sized conference rooms). Polycom solutions are standards-based and certified to interoperate with a wide range of hosted/cloud or premises-based SIP call control platforms.
RingCentral announces the integration of its RingCentral Office hosted/cloud UC service with Microsoft Office 365, creating a central “hub” for click-to-dial from within the Office 365 application, scheduling of RingCentral conferences using the Office 365 Calendar, viewing RingCentral and Office 365 contacts on one screen, and more. In other news, the latest RingCentral release 7.3 adds Single Sign On authentication that allows Premium and Enterprise users to log-in with one set of validated credentials to access their RingCentral online account, RingCentral for Desktop, RingCentral mobile app and RingCentral Meetings tools. Also, the RingCentral Office solution is now available in the Oracle Cloud Marketplace, furthering the company’s goal to introduce the service to larger enterprises.
ShoreTel has begun the phased rollout of its newly developed platform, ShoreTel Connect, which will function as a common platform for cloud, on-premises and hybrid deployments. Partners are now officially quoting the following: a new on-site IP-PBX (Connect ONSITE), a new cloud-based UC service (Connect CLOUD) and a new multi-channel contact center solution (Connect Contact Center), as well as cloud-based applications for customers with premises-based system deployments (Connect HYBRID Apps). A hybrid networking capability that enables the networking of cloud and premises deployments (Connect HYBRID Sites) is expected later this year. See the related write-up “ShoreTel Addresses the Hybrid Cloud with New Connect Platform” for more detail. In related news, ShoreTel Cloud for Partners has launched in the UK; currently, three UK partners are offering ShoreTel’s cloud UC and contact center subscription service in addition to the ShoreTel on-site IP PBX deployment.
Sprint adds the Switch Communications hosted/cloud business telephony and unified communications service to its OfficeFuel suite of cloud-based collaboration and mobility solutions. Switch hosted UC is a business grade phone system designed for Google Apps for Work users. Sprint adds its end-to-end Carefree Cloud support and mobile device portfolio, along with a variety of value added services such as Switch Communications’ UberConference for audio conferencing and online meetings, PingOne for one-click access to Google Apps and other cloud applications, and Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition. Switch hosted UC, priced at $15 a month per seat, will be sold by Sprint’s direct and indirect sales forces, as well as through Switch Communications’ direct and reseller channels.
ThinkingPhones continues to expand its global footprint. The company, which began offering hosted/cloud voice and UC services to mid-size and larger enterprises in North America in 2006, launched its service in the European market in 2013 and is now partnering with Group Phoenix, an international IT solutions and managed services provider in the EMEA region to reach additional countries, including Romania, Ukraine, Moldavia, Italy and the Benelux region. Further expansion into Eastern Europe and Russia is planned for later this year.
Uniden America Corporation introduces the new Uniden Office Express 1600 (UOE) small business phone system designed as an all-in-one appliance complete with popular business phone features and pre-configured for easy plug-and-play set-up, including a built-in WiFi Access point, router and firewall. The system supports up to 50 UOE VoIP telephones (corded or cordless) and 20 telephone lines, including up to eight standard PSTN lines and 12 Uniden Office Express VoIP (the company’s new SIP trunking service). List pricing starts at about $700 for the UOE1600 server. Uniden products are available online (at Amazon and VoIPLINK) and through dealers and distributors in North, Central and South America.
Vonage announces the acquisition of iCore Networks, a UCaaS provider that targets mid-market and enterprise companies. iCore cites a customer base of more than 85,000 seats, noting that 60% of its revenue comes from customers with 100 or more seats. Vonage also gains iCore’s large, direct sales force and a channel sales organization that supports iCore’s nationwide network of indirect channel partners. The addition of iCore is complementary to other recent Vonage acquisitions, namely Telesphere and SimpleSignal which, like iCore, offer voice, video, mobile and collaborative cloud UC services based on BroadSoft technology. Vonage first entered the hosted business market in 2013 when it acquired Vocalocity, a provider of cloud-based communication services for very small businesses in the U.S. and Canada. The four acquisitions put Vonage in position to serve a range of businesses, including SMBs, mid-market companies and enterprises.
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