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 today’s challenging and uncertain economic environment.
Forecasts differ among the various market analyst firms since there is variation in the UC elements included in the calculations. Nevertheless, all forecasts point to strong growth in the cloud UC market. Wainhouse (News - Alert) Research predicts the worldwide Hosted UC market will grow to $5.6 billion by 2014. Infonetics Research projects that the number of seats for hosted business VoIP and UC services (worldwide) will more than double between 2012 and 2016. By 2018, the North American Hosted IP telephony installed base will reach 17.5 million users (15 percent of the total business telephony user base), according to Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert).
So, it’s no wonder that traditional business telephony vendors are quickly getting into the game, adding hosted UC services to their portfolio of premises-based IP-PBX, contact center, messaging and other UC solutions. Whether a business decides to subscribe to a hosted service or prefers to purchase and install PBX equipment, a vendor that offers both hosted and on-premises options is in an excellent position to meet any requirement.
Better yet, ‘hybrid’ solutions that include both hosted services and on-site solutions may be the best of both worlds at least for businesses that are not yet ready to move all of their communications to the cloud. A business with an existing PBX already located on-site may find that subscribing to a call recording service or a hosted contact center capability, for example, is more desirable than installing additional hardware and/or software for this on-site. Using hosted services for some applications and on-site solutions for others can be a winning combination and will likely make sense for many businesses.
Cloud or hosted PBX and UC services from traditional telecom vendors have already entered the market, including services from Aastra, Interactive Intelligence, Mitel (News - Alert) and Siemens to name a few. Panasonic is partnering with BroadSoft to offer a hosted PBX service for small business. Read below about some of the latest Cloud UC entries from some additional business telephony vendors, namely Avaya, NEC (News - Alert), ShoreTel and Toshiba.
New in 2012
Avaya has a new cloud-based UC service for smaller businesses called AvayaLive Connect that targets the under-20 user business with a focus on the needs of remote and mobile users in multiple locations. The service supports 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 (News - Alert) devices. The service is an alternative to an on-premises voice platform (i.e. a PBX replacement) and is based on the company’s Software Communication System or SCS (acquired from Nortel). AvayaLive Connect became generally available for order and download as of July 11, 2012 in the continental United States with a free 30-day trial for new customers.
NEC is integrating a number of its technology components into a new hosted offer called UNIVERGE Cloud Services - UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service). The solution delivers 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. UNIVERGE Cloud Services is based on the company’s UNIVERGE 3C open, call control software (formerly called Sphericall) that scales to meet the capacity requirements of small to large organizations, up to 30,000 endpoints. Three UNIVERGE Cloud Services packages (Basic, UC Standard and UC Premium) are targeted for availability in early 2013 in North America.
ShoreTel gained instant entry into the hosted UC market in March 2012 by acquiring M5 Networks, an established, New York-based hosted provider that serves small and mid-size businesses in North America (the 5-500 user market). M5 Networks, recently renamed ShoreTel Sky, operates as a separate ShoreTel business unit and has enabled ShoreTel to offer a hosted UC service in addition to its own on-premises IP-PBX that scales small to large (24-20,000 users). In recent months, ShoreTel announced support for a UC application, a Web-based management application and the ShoreTel Mobility fixed mobile convergence solution for its cloud-based customers The company also introduced a new application integration product (ShoreTel Sky AppFuse) that ties together Salesforce CRM capabilities with ShoreTel’s cloud-based phone system and contact center offerings. Going forward, ShoreTel will be engineering ‘hybrid’ applications that will work across both its premises-based and cloud-based solutions.
Toshiba has a new cloud-based or hosted business telephone solution called VIPedge designed for small businesses as an alternative to purchasing an on-premises telephony system. Businesses can simply subscribe for a monthly service fee to access telephony system features and applications without having to deploy or maintain any system equipment on-site. Initially, Toshiba is targeting small businesses with up to 60 users, but plans to increase capacity later to 1,000 users. VIPedge is based on Toshiba’s premises-based IPedge business phone system, so it provides similar IPedge features and functionality, including complete telephone features, voicemail, unified messaging and the Call Manager UC application. Toshiba is managing multiple IPedge systems in six data centers. The VIPedge service is available as of July 10, 2012 in the U.S. from Authorized Toshiba Dealers (expansion to Canada and other markets is planned).
To find out more about Bernard Gutnick, Senior Director - Product Marketing, and Shore Tel, visit the company at ITEXPO Miami 2013, taking place Jan. 29- Feb 1, in Miami, Florida. Gutnick is speaking during “How Consumer Demand Drives Video Adoption Across Devices and UC Platforms.” For more information on ITEXPO Miami 2013 click here.
Edited by Brooke Neuman