Qwest Communications is the latest company to offer a hosted unified communications platform.
Qwest on April 7 unveiled its iQ HUCS (Hosted Unified Communications Service) to help businesses bring together the various pieces of their communications infrastructure-from voice and video to e-mail, instant messaging, and presence-under a single, hosted umbrella.
UC offers businesses the ability to derive greater benefits from the various forms of communications they traditionally use, and to take advantage of the growing number of IP communications avenues coming into the market, according to Eric Bozich, vice president of product marketing at Qwest.
Having that UC environment hosted takes a lot of the management and deployment headaches out of the picture, and makes it easier for smaller businesses to adopt a communications strategy that until now has only been within the reach of the larger enterprises, Bozich said.
"By hosting that solution ... you're taking a lot of complexities out of deploying the services and get the benefits from them," Bozich said in a video presentation. "We're bringing this to smaller ... enterprise customers that might not be able to afford it [otherwise]."
Qwest iQ HUCS enables businesses to more easily bring together legacy voice and IP data network infrastructures in a single, unified communications environment, company officials said. The hosted platform makes those communications models available to land-line phones, mobile phones, smartphones and computers, and includes advanced messaging, IP fax, collaboration and single-number capabilities.
Though it's managed by Qwest, customers of the hosted platform retain their ability to perform routine day-to-day administrative functions. Qwest officials estimate that through iQ HUCS customers can cut their user setup times by 50 percent.
Qwest's platform uses Cisco Systems' multitenant call management capabilities to enable businesses to use existing network resources while building up their UC environments.
The company said Arizona State University will be the first customer to adopt iQ HUCS. The university will use it across four campuses to serve more than 70,000 students, faculty and staff.
A growing number of vendors are moving into the hosted UC space. Most recently, at the VoiceCon show in March, Siemens Enterprise Communications rolled out a new version of its OpenScape UC Server that includes not only greater virtualization capabilities, but also a cloud-based model for its UC offerings.
Also at VoiceCon, Nortel Networks' VOIP (voice over IP) business, Nortel CVAS (Carrier VOIP and Applications Solutions), demonstrated its Hosted IP Communications solution to enable enterprises to put their IP-based communications and collaboration services into a private cloud.
Nortel CVAS is in the process of being bought by Genband.
In December 2009, Cisco and BT unveiled a plan to develop a cloud-based service that will offer businesses hosted UC services.
In June 2009, NEC Unified Solutions launched its UC for Enterprise Collaboration application. At the same time, the company announced a Web-based service, Hosted Collaboration, to offer the same services to small and midsize businesses.