Leading communications vendors continue to focus on hosted UC services as an alternative to premises-based solutions. They realize that today’s businesses want options when it comes to choosing a telephony solution, and many are carefully looking into whether a hosted telephony service or the purchase of an on-premises system makes more sense for their particular business requirements. There are pros and cons for either type of solution and plenty of factors to consider – costs, scalability, features and applications, resiliency and recovery, ease of administration, the level of ongoing support, and of course, the selection of end user devices. Nevertheless, the hosted market is maturing quickly, and small businesses in particular are finding that a fixed-rate (pay-as-you-go), quickly deployable hosted solution is appealing in a challenging economic environment.
A number of cloud or hosted PBX (News - Alert) and UC services from traditional telecom vendors have already entered the market, including from Interactive Intelligence, Mitel and Siemens to name a few. ShoreTel gained instant entry into the hosted UC market by recently acquiring M5 Networks, an established, New York-based hosted provider that serves small and mid-size businesses in North America. So, whether a business decides to subscribe to a hosted service or prefers to purchase and install PBX equipment, a vendor that offers both options is in a good position to serve that customer.
Read more below on some of the new and upcoming hosted offers from Avaya (News - Alert), Microsoft, NEC, Sprint and Cisco that were highlighted at the recent Enterprise Connect 2012.
Recently, Avaya announced a new ‘collaborative cloud’ strategy called AvayaLive that includes new public cloud-based services. The first hosted offers are (1) AvayaLive Engage, an enhanced version of the company’s earlier web.alive software-as-a-service, a virtual meeting space for corporate networking and collaboration with life-like visuals and audio (from the Nortel acquisition), and (2) AvayaLive Connect, a brand new hosted unified communications service for smaller businesses and an alternative to an on-premises voice platform (i.e. a PBX replacement). AvayaLive Connect is based on the company’s Software Communication System or SCS (also acquired from Nortel) and targets the under-20 user business with a focus on the needs of remote and mobile users in multiple locations. The service will support various modes of communication, including voice, voice conferencing, messaging, multi-party video, mobility and presence across endpoints such as PC and Mac computers, iOS and Android devices. The service will be easy to order and download from the Web. Avaya is initially partnering with Level 3 Communications (News - Alert) that will offer the AvayaLive Connect service via its network infrastructure.
Availability: AvayaLive Engage is available now. AvayaLive Connect is currently in trials and is expected to become available in the U.S. market by mid-2012.
Recently, Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Multitenant Pack for Partner Hosting, a new offer that enables hosted service providers to combine Microsoft Lync capabilities (instant messaging, presence, voice and video over IP, audio, video, and web conferencing) with their own infrastructure and range of third party solutions. With the new Microsoft Lync multitenant solution, providers can host and manage a large number of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), up to 50,000 total users across multiple tenants. Chinook Communications , a Value Added Reseller (VAR) based in Seattle WA, is offering the first production release of Microsoft’s multitenant solution. Chinook’s bundled service, called Total Connect, provides SMBs with full Microsoft unified communications (UC) capabilities, including Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone service and business software (e.g. Microsoft Office, Exchange and SharePoint).
Availability: Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Multitenant Pack for Partner Hosting and Chinook’s Total Connect bundled service are available now.
NEC is integrating a number of its technology components into a new hosted offer called UNIVERGE Cloud Services - UCaaS (Unified Communications (News - Alert) as a Service). The solution will deliver IP telephony, unified messaging, contact center, audio and video conferencing, Web collaboration, mobility, presence and IM – all designed for easy access as hosted services for a monthly fee which eliminates the need to purchase traditional premises-based equipment to handle business communications needs. UNIVERGE Cloud Services is based on the company’s Sphericall open, call control software (now known as UNIVERGE 3C) that scales to meet the capacity requirements of small to large organizations (to 30,000 endpoints) and supports NEC’s UC for Business contact center solution and NEC’s Business Mobility, as well as video solutions from partner Polycom (News - Alert). Initially, three UNIVERGE Cloud Services packages (Basic, UC Standard and UC Premium) will be offered by NEC’s authorized dealer network and directly from NEC’s enterprise sales group. Basic will include over 200+ voice features, while the UC Standard package builds upon Basic to add voicemail, desktop call control, IM and presence capabilities; UC Premium encompasses Basic and UC Standard and also offers unified messaging, softphone, mobility, video, call recording and a choice of endpoints. There are a number of add-ons for any of the packages, and additional options for contact center, Fixed Mobile Convergence, disaster recovery and more.
Availability: NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services will become available in second quarter 2012 (June) in North America.
Sprint and Cisco
Sprint is partnering with Cisco to deliver a new, managed hosted unified communications (UC) bundle called Sprint Complete Collaboration aimed at mid-sized and large businesses. The bundle incorporates Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) for IP and video telephony, integrated messaging and collaboration and Sprint’s network-based mobile integration solution and SIP trunking. Three packages, priced-per-user, include: Voice-Centric, Standard (adds IM, presence, desktop sharing) and Premium (adds mobile presence and wide range of user endpoints). All packages include a soft client with headset, video telephony and multiple device support. Additional desk and mobile device options and advanced conferencing services are also available.
Availability: Sprint Complete Collaboration is available now and is the first of several Sprint cloud-based services to be launched in 2012.
Edited by Brooke Neuman