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Siemens Demos A Potential Cloud-Based UC Offering

Are you at VoiceCon? If you are, make sure you visit Siemens’ booth for a demo of a potential CaaS offering residing in Amazon’s EC2 environment. Unfortunately, I cannot make it to Orlando this year, but I can’t wait to hear/see more details. (And no, the picture above is not part of the demo :))

Not only does this eventual partnership bring Siemens to the forefront of UC innovation once again, but it can also give a boost to hosted UC and Communications as a Service (CaaS), as well as to UC, in general. Such a partnership marks a trend that will grow over the next few years and will be eagerly pursued by all leading communication and business application vendors. Time to market is a critical factor, though, and the trend-setters can both gain a competitive advantage and/or suffer the consequences of market immaturity. For the sake of Siemens, their customers and even their competitors, I hope they do it right from the start!

A potential OpenScape deployment in the Amazon cloud is significant, because it opens up a whole new growth opportunity for UC. As a hosted (CaaS, cloud) offering, it provides flexibility and a less risky entry point for customers that are willing to trial UC but have limited capital budgets. By leveraging a partner that already has an enormous brand recognition and marketing abilities, Siemens has just created a channel for its UC solution, that expands its addressable market well beyond the reach of its direct sales force.

It is too early to predict exactly how successful this partnership is going to be, but we can speculate. Although demand for CaaS and UC in general is growing, even a joint endeavor of this magnitude cannot overcome the numerous barriers to adoption including the general economic climate, availability of legacy infrastructure and customer hesitation about which vendors and platforms to choose. Further, while this partnership creates marketing and sales opportunities, how will services be handled? Which party will businesses turn to for CPE (phones, gateways, etc.) installation, maintenance and evolution/migration? If the entire premise-based infrastructure is up-to-date and all that’s needed is a hosted presence component, it may be a favorable scenario for this kind of solution. But if the CPE needs to be upgraded, will customers handle the migration and the new integration with the hosted service or will they call someone and who would that be?

There are a lot of further implications from that announcement. For example, this CaaS solution threatens hosted UC providers that are dependent upon their hosted telephony business to grow. Given the larger CPE base, a hosted UC platform that integrates with premise-based solutions has a greater potential than end-to-end hosted services. With Siemens’ superior OpenScape voice capabilities, a fully hosted package, if properly delivered (from sales to installation to management) can dramatically impact the hosted telephony and hosted UC markets, which are currently very fragmented and populated by multiple small providers with limited technology capabilities and sales resources.

Overall, a potential OpenScape UC in the cloud is good news for the industry and worth monitoring closely going forward. The concept is great, but let’s see how Siemens handles the execution.

 

Do you think soon we will be shopping for communication services like we do for books and CDs? Will we trust what we see on the Internet? Won’t businesses still look for a more direct touch, e.g. a call/visit by a knowledgeable consultant? Is the Amazon brand as popular with businesses for business solution shopping as it is with consumers? I have many questions. Let me know if you have the answers.

gdpr, News, Science, WebRTC

Google Voice vs. Response Point with ITSP

VS  

I will admit, this is a bit of a silly comparison but the truth is that I have had a few customers (and some analysts) asking for some clarification on the new Google Voice offer and how it may compete with Response Point when coupled with an ITSP. The fact is they really do not compete in any measurable way and they could easily compliment each other.

Major Differences

The obvious major difference is that Response Point is a small business phone system, Google Voice is really a service offering targeted at individuals.

When we combine Response Point with an ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) we start seeing some similarities in the services between the two offers but they are really meant for 2 distinctly different purposes.

Response Point offers an actual premise-based system with a base unit, handsets and features like; auto-receptionist, DID integration, hunt groups, voice mail to email integration etc. All of the things one would expect when purchasing a small business phone system.

Google Voice service is an overlay service on whatever you have today, so if your existing phone system is simply not cutting it, it’s unlikely that Google Voice is going to be able to transform it into the system of your dreams. It’s true that Google Voice will allow you to take advantage of certain features but don’t expect to find a Park, Hold or Transfer or anything fancy like speech recognition.

Google Voice is an inbound-centric service. Most features can only be used with an inbound call, that includes call recording and call joining.

How they play nice together

One could use the Google Voice – simulring feature to call your Response Point phone number and at the same time it could call your mobile.

Google Voice – call recording is a handy feature that is currently not a feature offered in the Response Point system.

Google Voice – voice mail transcriptions is a handy way to receive visual voice mails via email and SMS.

Google Voice – call widgets allow users to put callback widgets on a website. This will allow the visitor to put in their phone number and the system will call them and then it will call your Google Voice number.

Google Voice – SMS is a cool way to compose, accept and manage text messages while maintaining control over the devices associated with that service.

Potential ‘Gotchas’

The Google Voice service is only available in the US. Even US subscribers can only forward/simring their Google Voice numbers to other US numbers but that is likely to change to include international countries in the near future.

In theory, the Google Voice call should go wherever the media is sent. Call Routing results may vary depending on the Response Point ITSP you choose.

When calling out, your existing phone number (Caller ID) will be presented to the callee unless you use the dial-out feature, which is (IMHO) a bit of a hassle. This causes some problems as most of us are used to calling people back on the number we last saw from them. Fortunately, many ITSPs (unlike the conventional phone companies) will allow you to change your Caller ID number to match your Google Voice number.

Google Voice does not address LNP (Local Number Portability) at all right now. Which means you can not bring your existing numbers to Google Voice, you have to choose a new number.

WebRTC

Hosted UC

With all the hype about Unified Communications and its productivity benefits, it is imperative we remind end users of the tremendous integration challenges they are bound to face when looking to integrate a large set of disparate applications. While vendors claim they have ensured interoperability with various partners and competitors, the market is still so nascent that the hassles may very well exceed the benefits for many businesses seeking to deploy a complete unified communications solution (IM/chat+telephony+VM/UM+conferencing, etc.).

Therefore a hosted UC service seems to offer a major benefit – a service provider has already dealt with all integration challenges and can deliver a package of applications that it also continues to manage, upgrade and enhance as the technologies evolve. Add to this the flexibility of a hosted offering (the ability to drop or add users as the business downsizes or grows) and a hosted UC solution seems perfect for the current economic climate.

It is not so simple, however. In a scenario where all applications are hosted, the assumption is that the customer has no or limited premise-based infrastructure. Otherwise, the service provider and the business face the same old interoperability/integration challenge. That holds particularly true if the IM/chat/UC platform is hosted. Most UC platforms (MCS, OCS, Sametime, etc.) do not scale to multiple premise-based PBXs. Which basically makes hosted UC highly correlated with customer demand for hosted telephony.

So far, the North American hosted IP telephony service market has experienced slow growth due to multiple factors including greater customer familiarity with premise-based platforms and a large installed PBX base, fragmented competitive landscape with limited involvement of established service providers, and lack of aggressive marketing resulting in low awareness of the value of hosted IP telephony. Frost & Sullivan estimates less than one million installed hosted IP telephony lines as of the end of 2008, which is fairly insignificant compared to a total of over 100 million business telephony lines (hosted and PBX) in North America.

Over the past couple of years, equipment vendors made significant efforts to enable the integration of their premise-based platforms with other communication and business applications in complex unified communications (UC) and communication-enabled business process (CEBP) environments. These technology advancements and the respective marketing efforts have greatly popularized the benefits of premise-based IP telephony and have driven high adoption rates. Hosted IP telephony providers, on the other hand, continue to market their services primarily as cost-effective voice communications, which has limited their value proposition for business customers. Therefore, hosted IP telephony penetration remains limited to small businesses of less than 50 users.

Going forward, hosted IP telephony services will continue to offer a somewhat limited value proposition until integration with hosted or premise-based communication and business applications becomes more common across providers. In the meantime, premise-based IP telephony offerings will make a significant progress in terms of features, integration with UC platforms, CEBP, and cost-efficient branch-office integration. Combined with customers’ historical preference for premise-based solutions and familiarity with PBX vendors and their VARs, as well as with vendor and VAR creative leasing and financing programs, this trend is likely to determine a general preference for IP PBXs versus hosted IP telephony among business customers (the few that may choose to make an investment in this climate).

In North America, hosted UC accounted for about 20K lines at the end of 2008. As I mentioned earlier, hosted UC will be highly correlated with hosted telephony. I do, however, expect some service providers to choose to host only OCS or another IM/presence/UC client and integrate with either hosted telephony services delivered by other service providers or with premise-based telephony as interoperability improves. There could be other scenarios, where the telephony is hosted and OCS is premise-based. I believe such hybrid implementations will be rare in the near future, but the latter kind will gain traction more rapidly.

I can only make an intelligent guess about the size of hosted UC (combined pure network-based implementations and hybrid ones) going forward since there is no historical evidence of adoption rates. I believe, it is reasonable to expect hosted UC to penetrate one million users in North America within the next five years. Based on my forecast for North American hosted telephony, hosted UC will then account for about 30% of total North American hosted telephony and a negligible percentage of total UC users.

 

News, privacy, WebRTC

Innovative Phone System Benefits Local Company

As our little telecommunications company continues to grow Microsoft continues to take notice. Most recently our partners in Redmond have completed and published a case study on one of our customers “True North Drafting” (TND) a specialist in creating the detailed shop drawings that guide the fabrication and on-site installation of commercial-grade glass and aluminum structures.

TND has been a long time customer of ours and before purchasing their Response Point small business phone system they were using the Lypp conference call services.

This marks the second Lypp case study by Microsoft. The first was on Lypp itself, as a value added reseller for Response Point.

Thanks goes out to Rex and his team at Microsoft for the mention and to our customer of the month, “True North Drafting”, for their ongoing support.

WebRTC

SMB Phone Systems Expands Microsoft Response Point Offer To Alberta

As many of you already know, I have been building up a PBX equipment vendor and interconnect  specializing in Microsoft’s Response Point small phone systems. I have done a number of Response Point installations (many more since that post) in the Lower Mainland and my customers seem genuinely happy. With this in mind I decided to expand into Alberta.

“SMB Phone Systems” now has installers and sales personnel in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. I have a long list of referral customers, spanning many verticals, ranging from 1 person to 20 workstations that would be happy to provide their honest opinion on the Response Point system and their experiences with my newest little venture.

If you are a small business located in Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary and find yourself in need of a Small Office Phone System be sure to visit our website “SMBPhoneSystems.ca” or call sales at (866) 473-0516 ext.1.

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