Avaya Updates IP Office

Company claims latest release brings to small businesses sophisticated calling features that were previously too expensive.

Avaya Inc. continued its quest for dominance as IP telephony provider to small and medium-sized businesses Monday with the latest release of its IP Office product suite.

IP Office, which combines support for IP and digital phones with messaging, contact center, firewall and router functions as well as call routing or processing into a single offering, further extends the features and functions of a business communications system typically only affordable to large businesses.

The Basking Ridge, N.J., company created a more scalable hardware platform for IP Office that is capable of supporting up to 256 concurrent users. The previous hardware platform only supported up to 180 concurrent users. Avaya now offers three different hardware platforms depending on the number of users supported.

The latest version of the suites IP Office software, which integrates call routing with a variety of voice-over-IP applications, adds support for two concurrent conference calls that can include as many as 64 attendees, or a larger number of smaller conferences.

IP Office Version 1.3 also adds security features for its conference bridging capability. The ability to automate conference bridging in an affordable IP telephony product can quickly make IP Office pay for itself, said Dave Johnson, Avayas group vice president of small and medium business solutions.

"Because you dont have to use AT&T or [British Telecom] in Europe for a conference call, in just a few months it could pay for itself in just the conference call savings," he said.

The new release also adds a new VoiceMail Pro automated attendant feature for dial-by-name calling, more interactive voice response features with open application program interfaces for third-party applications developers, enhanced virtual private networking features that extend calling features to remote sites, and enhanced manager/secretary operation to more efficiently handle calls.

Johnson believes that Avaya is bringing much more sophisticated calling features to SMBs that were previously too expensive for them to absorb.

"IP Office is bringing a lot of applications that typically large enterprises use—things like contact center with sophisticated call routing capabilities with integrated applications," he said. "For example, it can route a call center call into a voice mailbox if theres a long wait time. Were bringing those applications to the SMB customer as an office in a box. You dont need different servers and management systems to manage the servers. And its affordable to manage the applications once they are installed."

Avaya last summer put its stake in the SMB ground for IP telephony when it formed the Small and Medium Business Solutions Group shortly after initial shipments of IP Office. To date it has sold about 8,000 systems, which are priced starting at $2,690 and sold through distributors and VARs.

The company has 13 percent of the IP telephony market among SMB customers, vying with Cisco Systems Inc. and 3Com Corp. for the top spot.

Avaya will leverage its history as a technology leader, its global reach and its strong distribution channels, as well as dedicated marketing and sales, to try to become the dominant supplier in the SMB space, according to Johnson.

The company last week announced that the Boston Celtics basketball franchise and the Jenny Craig Inc. weight loss company became IP Office users.