Avaya on Feb. 26 will bring the big business benefits of voice over IP to very small businesses when it releases a new version of its IP Office IP telephony offering.
Avaya in the launch of its latest IP Office offering took several steps to make IP telephony accessible and affordable for businesses with as few as four users, although the sweet spot for the new offering is 10 to 20 users, according to Joe Scotto, global director of product marketing for SMB solutions at Avaya in Basking Ridge, N.J.
Avaya in version 4.0 of its IP Office software made it possible for small businesses to use the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking services from carriers or service providers such as Verizon for their outside phone lines, cutting calling plans in many cases by half.
"Service provider resellers can package in services. With Verizon, for example, the typical cost for a 24 channel T-1 [line] is $650 [per month]. This with a calling plan included is $350 [per month]," said Scotto.
At the same time, SMBs can use those cheaper IP-based lines without having to buy SIP-based IP phones, thanks to a SIP-gateway implementation in the new, modular IP Office 500 communications server.
The server supports analog, digital and SIP phones, providing users of those phones with voice messaging, telephony and a customer service suite of functions.
"This enables that small business expecting growth and needing more sophisticated capabilities to get in at a very affordable price and have a path going forward that enables them to add capacity, locations and intelligence as needed," said Scotto.
That capability to easily upgrade as the business grows "is very important for small businesses," said Maria Carolina Guedes Smith, senior consultant at AMI Partners in New York.
The new Avaya IP Office 4.0 release, in addition to SIP trunking, adds a multisite hot desk feature which allows users to move from one office to another and "log into a phone as if they were using their own office phone," said Scotto. That capability works across analog, digital and IP phones.
Avaya in its IP Office Release 4.0 upgrade created two software options—Standard and Professional Editions.
Standard Edition supports up to 32 ports at a single site, provides a conferencing bridge for up to 64 parties and includes a new system status application that allows resellers to add on remote monitoring and support services.
License options with Standard Edition allow customers to add wireless mobility, the SIP Trunking, voicemail and the option to upgrade to Professional Edition.
The new system status application allows Avaya channel partners to remotely identify and resolve problems with a customers system. "If somethings happening with the system, the reseller gets an alert and they can resolve it remotely. They dont have to send a technician onsite, and the customer gets the problem solved quicker," said Scotto.
That capability is key for small businesses that rely on the systems for their day-to-day activities but dont have an IT staff to maintain them, said Guedes Smith.
Professional Edition for its part can scale to support up to 270 ports, provides secure conferencing through personalized pins for each party and gives access to small community networking. License options for it include unified messaging, integrated voice response, a contract center application, audio conferencing control and storage for call search and replay.
For small businesses looking to add LAN capabilities, Avaya is teaming up with Extreme Networks to offer specially-priced packages that include Extreme Ethernet switches through their joint resellers.
The modular design of both the server and software allows resellers to customize their offerings for smaller businesses. "It also enables the channel to deliver a more holistic solution. They can wrap around services, data networking and applications for a particular industry," said Scotto.
Avaya in addressing the needs of very small businesses is addressing a highly competitive space. IP Office competes with similar offerings from NEC, Toshiba and Panasonic as well as Nortel Networks and to a lesser extent Cisco Systems.
"There is a broad number of competitors including global and local players from voice and data backgrounds. Theyre all developing specific strategies and products to reach this segment. They all have different approaches," said Guedes Smith, adding that Avaya is unique in its understanding of the voice requirements of SMBs.
IP Office Standard Edition with the IP Office 500 communications server starts at $700 list, and a series of line cards supporting handsets and trunk lines starts at $250. The upgrade to Professional Edition lists for $1,000.
A typical configuration supporting 20 users with phones, voicemail, eight trunks and the Standard Edition software would list at $7200.