TMCnet Feature
April 05, 2013

Digium Introduces Switchvox Cloud Service with Built-In UC

By Sandra M. Gustavsen, Analyst, Business VoIP

Digium has a new option for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) called Switchvox (News - Alert) Cloud, a hosted business telephony service designed as an alternative to purchasing an on-premises telephone system. Businesses simply subscribe for a monthly service fee to access telephone features and unified communications (UC) applications without having to deploy or maintain any system equipment on-site.



Per Digium, the target customer size for Switchvox Cloud is five to 30 seats (the typical buying market for this type of service), though the service can scale to support hundreds of seats. Monthly subscription pricing ranges from $29-$35 per user, depending on the contract length.

Why the Cloud?

Today’s businesses want options when it comes to choosing a telephony solution, and many are carefully looking into whether a hosted/cloud unified communications (UC) and 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 the selection of end user devices.

Many smaller businesses are seeing the benefits of a fixed-rate (pay-as-you-go), quickly deployable hosted solution that requires no management, and multi-site organizations appreciate the on-demand scalability and how quickly new locations can be up and running.

Digium joins other telephony manufacturers that are now offering their premises-based telephony solutions as a hosted/cloud UC service. Cloud services have become a strategic imperative, and a number of vendors are already reporting that their cloud division revenue is now exceeding the revenue from their premises-based business. This encouraging trend, coupled with analyst forecasts that indicate strong growth in the hosted/cloud UC market, make it certain that vendors will be investing heavily in hosted/cloud offers going forward. So, new and improved cloud services, including hybrid premises-cloud offers, are surely on the horizon. Click here to read more on this emerging trend.

What’s Unique?

Built-in UC

Switchvox Cloud mirrors Digium’s Switchvox SMB, the company’s premises-based IP-PBX (News - Alert), in features and functionality. Switchvox SMB is known for its built-in UC capabilities, including unified messaging, presence, chat, smartphone applications for Android and iPhone (News - Alert), extension mobility features, meet-me conferencing, visual voicemail and more. The company’s Switchboard application is also included as an intuitive, customizable Web-based user interface for managing calls, viewing presence status information, directories and queues, as well as integrating with third party applications such as Salesforce.com (News - Alert) and Google Maps.

Flat Monthly Rate

All Switchvox SMB capabilities carry over into the new 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. The flat monthly rate for Switchvox Cloud ranges from $29-$35 per user and is discounted based on a contract length of one, two or three years. There is also a monthly subscription with no length of time obligation. See below for pricing specifics.

Survivability

Switchvox SMB is a software switch, so it is inherently cloud-ready and housed as a software application or ‘instance’ on a virtualized server in a data center. Long-time Digium partner VocalCloud has deep Asterisk (News - Alert) and Switchvox experience and is providing the network, infrastructure and back office that powers the Switchvox Cloud offering.

Currently, Digium has installations in two different data centers in Atlanta, Georgia, with a third data center planned for the west coast. There is no real-time failover capability that automatically switches to a backup system in the other data center; however, "backups" of customer systems (disk files) can be rapidly moved and restored on an alternate server during a server failure (due to the platform design, this scenario is highly unlikely according to Digium). Additionally, because of the Switchvox extension mobility feature that twins an office extension with alternate phones, users can continue to receive office calls via a designated mobile device, for example, remaining “always on” even during a location power outage.

Digium Phones

Customers can choose from three Digium telephone models (introduced earlier in 2012) that are tightly integrated with the Switchvox system and give users direct access to Switchvox features from the phone. This includes the ability to view Switchboard information on the phone display such as caller profile information (name, number, e-mail, title, location, etc.), visual voicemail and call queuing information. Models include the entry-level D40, the mid-range D50 and the D70 for executives and administrators. Third party SIP phones will also work, but the Digium phones offer more functionality and are fully supported by Digium.

Switchvox Anywhere

Because the Switchvox Cloud service and Switchvox SMB premises-based appliance are based on the same Switchvox software, business customers can migrate easily from one to the other. A business that starts with a subscription to Switchvox Cloud, but later decides to deploy the hardware appliance on-site, will be able retain the Digium phones, settings and all familiar applications. Digium provides a full backup and restore of the Switchvox instance and can easily port that to the new environment. Digium refers to this hybrid premises-cloud flexibility as “Switchvox Anywhere,” a concept not yet available from too many competitors.

National Channel Support

Digium points to its expansive, national base of channel partners that includes 1,440 partners in the U.S. where the Switchvox Cloud service is offered (Digium has a total of 2,300 partners worldwide). Unlike other hosted PBX providers that may charge extra for ongoing support, Digium’s flat monthly fee includes end-user training from these partners for the initial configuration, as well as ongoing support for any issues related to the Digium components. The partners will also coordinate assistance for network-related issues (in the service provider or customer environment) to help solve problems as needed, charging their respective rates, but providing a convenient, single ‘touch point’ for any customer need.

Availability and Pricing

Digium Switchvox Cloud is available as of March 4, 2013 across the U.S. in 48 states (excludes Alaska and Hawaii). Subscription pricing (five user minimum) is based on the length of the contract as follows:

  • $29/user: Three year contract
  • $31/user: Two year contract
  • $33/user: One year contract
  • $35/user: monthly subscription (no obligation)


In addition to the full Switchvox feature set, the service comes with unlimited minutes of local/long distance calling, local DID, unlimited extension dialing and number porting; fax services and toll free numbers/services are charged separately.




Edited by Jamie Epstein
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