Startup wants to move business phones to 'the cloud'
May 01, 2013 (The Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
It's been years since cheap or free phone calls and video chats online have surprised anyone, so why do small businesses still pay for expensive phone systems
For reliability and features, as anybody who has struggled with Skype can understand.
Ray Pasquale, of Milford, founder of a just-launched firm called Unified Office, hopes that cloud computing, wireless broadband and clever software can help a tiny startup fill that gap profitably.
Unified Office, born in the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center incubator in Portsmouth and this week expanding into the abi Innovation Hub incubator in Manchester, has created a business variant of the voice-over-IP revolution that Pasquale hopes will snag a chunk of the "small- and medium-business" market -- doctor's offices, property management companies, midsized retailers, and the like.
It has put together a series of services, from virtual attendants to queueing of callers to instant messaging to intercontinental intercom, accessible via apps on tablet computers, either Apple or Android, as well as via handsets if necessary. Its an open system, based on the Google API, HTML5 and WebRTC, that uses Wi-Fi when possible and 4G LTE broadband cell services when necessary.
Pasquale claims it can provide a "virtual office" connection for a far-flung workforce, save costs on T-1 lines and PBX telephone exchange systems, and help avoid some cell-phone charges.
He's far from the only one making these claims, since a host of firms, some as big as Verizon and FairPoint, offer various business variants of VoIP service.
Pasquale said those services fall short or cost too much for small businesses.
The big telcos, he said, "want to go after that market, but don't know how to. It's hard, so they say, let's go after Boeing," Pasquale said during a Tuesday visit to The Telegraph touting the company.
Paquale admitted that he encountered some difficulties as well, recounting hiccups during beta testing in Philadelphia.
"If you make mistakes, you want to make them far away," he joked.
Testing included many days tracing problems that turned out to be related to Comcast routers and switches used by a small office, which is no way to make a profit. But, he hopes technology changes have made it possible for a business to thrive.
"The cloud didn't exist in 2005, 2006, the way it does today," he said, ticking off server and data center hardware costs that can now be virtualized.
Pasquale is a Digital Equipment Corp. veteran who also worked for Sonus Networks and Cascade Communications, two telecommunication startups that grew by being more nimble than entrenched in competition. The NHICC and abi Hub were designed to encourage such companies to grow in New Hampshire.
Pasquale said the company is funded by founders and angel investors and is gearing up for a round of venture capitals.
As it finally leaves beta mode, Unified Office has seven full-time workers in Manchester and a half-dozen part-time workers. Its business model will be to use resellers, Pasquale said.
David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@Telegraph_DaveB).
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