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Archive for March, 2010

Avaya Updates UC Suite

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

via Information Week

Avaya released the latest version of its unified communications (UC) suite for SMBs today. The new version, IP Office 6.0, brings Web-accessible desktop communications tools to Avaya’s UC offering. Though the provider has doubled multi-site network support capacity to scale up to 1,000 users, Avaya’s target for the updated UC suite is truly small businesses – Avaya claims that IP Office 6.0 makes UC 40% more affordable for businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

Though individually small, sub-20 employee businesses comprise more than 90% of small businesses worldwide according to IDC and some indications point to spending by that multitude. The great recession continues to keep spending tight, but the recent Forbes Insights/CIT report: US Small Business Outlook 2010 found that 60% of SMBs expect revenues to grow coming out of the recession and 78% believe that they will need to find new ways to take advantage of market opportunities. With this offering, Avaya hopes to be well positioned to provide those recovering SMBs with a place to spend is presenting IP Office 6.0 as a means to seize opportunities for increasingly distributed workforces of teleworkers, mobile workers, and office workers.

“With Avaya IP Office 6.0 in place, small businesses don’t have to sacrifice easy, intuitive operation in order to get the enhanced communications features of large enterprises,” said Avaya’s Anthony Bartolo, general manager, small and medium enterprise (SME) communications. “Our latest version provides SMEs with all of the next generation collaboration tools necessary for competing more effectively today against peers and larger competitors — and for thriving as the economy recovers.”

The introduction of IP Office 6.0 includes include enhancements to Avaya one-X Portal for IP Office, the aforementioned Web-accessible desktop communications tool that allows users to manage communications from any location using a VPN and a PC/phone combination. The new release offers a number of features intended to boost the speed and responsiveness of inter-office communications among co-workers including fully-integrated instant messaging with embedded voice-calling capabilities, presence icons, access to company directories, audio conferencing for up to 64 parties per call with options to view, add, drop, and mute attendees as well as record. The suites’ new video capability is offered via the IP Office Video Softphone, a virtual phone that runs on a PC or laptop and can support basic visual communications for video presentations. The multi-site network offers business a measure of disaster recovery assurance with continuity tools that allow access to telephony as well as voice messaging, auto attendant, and other features in the event of an outage.

Though he touted the features of the new suite, Avaya’s Bartolo was also keen to point out updates to the purchasing process. “Most [SMBs with less than 20 employees] don’t have an IT department often and don’t’ have IT savvy so it [UC] could be a confusing purchasing experience,” he said. “We’ve simplified the steps to decide the platform and phones, the collaboration package, and the type of end-user behavior you want to accommodate. In our research we found that a lot of products forced a customer to change their environment, but we think the product should fit in to the process that made that biz successful in the first place so we’ve tried to make it simpler for the customers by talking to them in their language and removing communication jargon.”

VoiceCon Orlando 2010: My Top Ten List

Monday, March 29th, 2010

by Blair Pleasant for No Jitter

Wow–it’s back–the energy, the promise, the customers. VoiceCon Orlando 2010 was a happening place, and it was clear that we’ve weathered the worst of the storm and are returning to somewhat “normal” conditions. The vendors and exhibitors I spoke with raved about the floor traffic, while the session rooms were packed.

1. Demos–In the keynotes, on the show floor, during briefings–there are lots of new and exciting UC applications and products that we have to look forward to. And we all breathed a sigh of relief that IBM’s demo worked this time! My favorite demo was Avaya’s web.alive, showing real time interactive interaction in an immersive Internet environment (similar to Second Life) with special audio (based on Nortel’s Diamondware). While not as cool as the web.alive demo, Brett Shockley did an impressive demo with Kevin Kennedy showing contextual communications, document sharing on various devices, ease of conferencing, etc., showing that SIP makes it easy to bring people, documents together.

Cisco also had some great demos, but those of us who attended Cisco’s Collaboration Summit had already seen demos of these capabilities. Cisco showed how it’s integrating social software and customer service–and I’ve long believed that social software (twitter, Facebook, etc.) will have a big impact on customer service.

2. And speaking of demos and social software, it was clear that social software integrated with UC is becoming a reality. All I can say is it’s about time. Most of the keynotes highlighted social software capabilities and/or integration of the vendors’ UC capabilities with public or enterprise social software.

Siemens Enterprise Communications introduced OpenScape Fusion, which offers packaged integration of social media with UC. In the keynote demo, Becky Davis showed how easy it is to add real-time communication information from twitter, contact information from LinkedIn, and location information from Google Latitude. For customer service applications, tweets can be sent to contact center queues and agents who can best handle the request. Contact center agents can have a “social pad” on their agent desktop that displays tweet that came into agent desktop based on key words and phrases. And congratulations to Siemens for receiving Best of VoiceCon for its OpenScape Communications Server.

3. New phone devices. Alcatel-Lucent introduced a sleek new “smart desk phone” called My IC Phone, providing a smartphone experience, desk phone reliability, and application Pod openness, while supporting the development of mashups, combining communications and web applications. ALU also announced a new developer portal called the AAPP Factory for developers. Cisco also introduced a new phone device, which lets users view shared desktop content, video, etc. on the phone screen, and can even plug in a flip video via the USB port and share video on the phone screen–how cool is that?

4. Lots of new announcements: While too numerous to include them all, some of the new announcements that got my attention include NET’s UX Series “Survivable Branch Appliance” for Microsoft Communications Server 14; ADTRAN’s NetVanta Business Application Server and the company’s focus on helping channel partners develop custom applications around CEBP; and Dimension Data’s Adoption Management Program turnkey solution that accelerates end-user adoption of UC, TelePresence and IP telephony.

5. Microsoft’s Wave 14 was formally announced as Communications Server 14. If you didn’t think Microsoft was serious about voice communications before, you better believe it now. As Gurdeep Singh Pall mentioned in his keynote, “When you’re ready to move to completely rationalized UC infrastructure, you can do so. Communications Server 14 can work with your PBX and you don’t need to get rid of your PBXs, but when you’re ready to turn off the lights on your PBX, this system will be ready to take over.” In addition, Microsoft added some new phone devices, including some from Aastra that look much more user friendly than the initial OCS devices.

6. Something for the little guys–IBM announced several partnerships with telephony vendors for its Lotus Foundations, a true appliance for SMBs. NEC and ShoreTel provided demos at their booths, showing how their PBXs can be integrated into this environment, while Broadsoft touted its cloud-based offering with Foundations (Mitel, which did not have a booth at the event, also integrates with Lotus Foundations).

7. Best line of the conference: Avaya’s Phil Edholm: “If you can’t be with the device you love, love the device you’re with.” First runner up: Alcatel-Lucent’s Jack Jachner (in response to Microsoft and IBM discussing their UC offerings): “If you’re going to choose a communication solution, choose it from a communication vendor.” Second runner up: Microsoft’s Gurdeep Singh Pall and Moz Hussein, noting “UC in the future will be like a belly button–everyone will have it and you don’t need to see it, but some people want to show it off.”

8. Lots of great sessions–while I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to attend many of the sessions, the ones I did attend were lively and interesting, and of course the UC interoperability “discussions” will be remembered for a long time. I thought IBM’s Bruce Morse made an excellent point when he said, “We have to focus on interoperability and can’t wait for standards.” There was also good UC user panel, which highlighted some of the challenges companies are facing and how they’re overcoming them.

9. The new name for VoiceCon–Enterprise Connect. I think it works well and is relatively future-proof.

10. And the best part of VoiceCon–Jim Burton and UCStrategies’ wine tasting event, comparing French and Californian wines. IMHO, California wins again.

While I’m sad to say goodbye to VoiceCon, I’m eagerly looking forward to the next Enterprise Connect.

Tips on Choosing an Office Phone System

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

via Gaebler.com

There are a million choices when it comes to buying a phone system.

It’s a good idea to find a vendor who can help you, but be careful. Many vendors can’t translate phone speak into English; they will overload you with jargon until you just surrender and let them make the decisions. Making it even more difficult, phone systems evolve at an incredible pace. Many vendors don’t keep up and are still recommending phone systems that are now archaic and overpriced. Or, they just recommend the one phone system that they represent. The advice you get on choosing a phone system for your office won’t be very objective.

Here are some quick tips that may be helpful:

  • Ask other businesses how they did it. If you like the way a phone system works at another business, seek out the owner and ask them what they use and how much it cost. Talk to at least ten other business owners to get a feel for pricing, vendors, and options.
  • Don’t underinvest in your phone system. Although the Internet now plays a huge role in connecting businesses to customers, clients, and partners, telephones remain key to business success. Simply put, some things require a phone call. If people call your business and feel your phone system is amateurish, they may opt not to do business with you or choose to pay you less for your goods and services. If calls are routed incorrectly, if callers get disconnected, or if they are faced with a bewildering array of automated options, their business may be lost forever – and you’ll never even know about the lost opportunity. The bottomline? Invest the time and resources to get it right.
  • Take advantage of your existing phone assets. When buying a new phone system, consider what existing assets you might have. Take telephones for example. They can be very expensive if you have to buy proprietary phones. So, if you’ve already got them, you may want to buy a new phone system that uses the phones you already have.
  • Buy used, not new. Buying used or refurbished phone systems is a brilliant move if you want to save money. In some cases, you can buy phone equipment for ten cents on the dollar relative to what you’d pay if you bought new. Most of the equipment is well engineered and lasts for years, so you are safe to buy used phones and used phone systems. Ebay is a great place to buy a phone system or to get phone system components you might need.
  • Prioritize your features. Do you need an auto-attendant feature? Will you need to handle conference calls? Do you want music-on-hold? Do you need to monitor phone usage by employee? What are your voice mail needs? By listing out what you want, you can create a checklist that will allow you to rank the varying phone systems and find the best phone system for you.
  • Find a good phone system dealer. You will need outside assistance for installing and programming most phone systems. Once you’ve determined the type of system you want, finding a good phone dealer is the key to success. Ask the dealer how many installations they have done. Were the companies similar to yours? What options or features were added? Call dealer references and ask about your dealer’s customer service record.
  • Consider VoIP phone systems. The latest in computer telephony – Voice over IP (VoIP) technology – allows businesses to place and receive calls using the Internet. VoIP is perfect if your business is distributed (e.g. you have telecommuters working out of their home offices). This is the future of phone systems, and you’d do well to get started with it now. It can really help to keep you connected and keep your overall costs down.
  • Consider voice mail compatibility. Make sure your phone system can work with a wide range of third-party voice mail systems. This keeps your voice mail options open and minimize the chance of your getting stuck with an inferior or overpriced voice mail system.
  • Overwire. If you need to wire up your office for the phone system, install more wiring than you need to handle your current needs. Phone system experts suggest that you double the wiring you currently need. Although it adds to the cost of installation, it’s a huge savings if you might need to add wires later.
  • Time your purchase to get the best deal. Make your purchase at the end of the quarter when sales reps are trying to hit their quotas and you can get a much lower price.
  • Consider leasing and financing options. Ask your vendor whether you can pay for your system over time. This can be a big benefit if current cash in the bank is limited. But, watch out. Leasing costs can drastically increase the price of your phone system.

Avaya Uprades UC System

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

via Network World

Avaya recently introduced a new version of the company’s flagship communications solution targeted to small and midsize enterprises. The Avaya IP Office 6.0 release is designed to be an easier and a more affordable unified communications system for businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

The system’s new features include improved collaboration tools using voice, instant messaging, presence and video to drive a more productive and flexible workforce, according to the company. Avaya estimate the enhancements will make “unified communications up to 40% more affordable for small businesses.” One way the company has improved affordability is with a new ‘combination card’ — using a single card for what used to require several cards to support digital, analog and IP devices.

Among the new features, Avaya has added fully integrated instant messaging with embedded voice calling and presence. The release also adds an IP Office Video Softphone application for video collaboration; the feature includes voice control via a virtual phone on a PC or laptop, supporting point-to-point video communications when visuals are required.

Other upgrades include an audio conferencing feature that permits up to 64 parties on a single call, offering the ability to view, add, drop and mute attendees; the system can also record conference calls. Another improvement doubles the support capacity in a multi-site network configuration for up to 1,000 users.

Next time, we’ll report on announcements coming from voice

The importance of regular telephone maintenence

Monday, March 15th, 2010

by B.J Freeman for IT Now

In the world of IT, there are a number of maintenance activities that need to be performed regularly in order to keep a network running smoothly. Much like changing the oil or rotating the tires on a car, system updates, backups, hard drive defragmentations and other processes are important for maintaining the overall health of a network or server. Many of these processes require system resources or even system down time, so a certain amount of planning and organization is required in order to minimize impact on end users or overall system performance. In addition, running too many of these tasks at the same time can cause these processes to slow down or even conflict with each other, further complicating the issues associated with system maintenance.

For these reasons, we have strived to maintain a proper schedule when it comes to system maintenance tasks. Most of these services happen during off hours when end users will be impacted least. In addition, they are set up to run at specific times in order to minimize conflicts, such as updates causing the system to reboot while a backup is in progress. It also allows for greater troubleshooting. For instance, if we know all system updates occur on a specific night, it makes it easier to assess whether or not those patches are related to a specific issue that a system may be having. This kind of organization not only allows us to provide better service, but is also essential to ensuring proper system health while minimizing system down time.

Phone Systems – 77 Features You May Want Your System to Have

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

by Jenn Stevens for Ezine Articles

There are phone systems that support anywhere up to 1,000 telephones or so.

Check and see if you would like your phone system to have any of these features:

1. Busy Automatic Redial

2. Routing of Calls

3. Queuing

4. Multiple Logins for Agents

5. Call Recording

6. Voice Assistant

7. Text / To / Speech

8. Automatic Intercom for Call Backs

9. Dialing Buttons (Automatic)

10. Hold (Automatic)

11. Automatic Hold, Park Recall

12. Line Select (Automatic)

13. Number ID

14. Release Call From Hold Option

15. Release From Voice Mail (Automatic)

16. Background Music

17. Control Station

18. Overrides

19. Station Transfer, Ringing

20. Call Forwarding

21. Busy, No Answer

22. External Remote

23. Call, Park

24. Call Pickup

25. On-Hold, Park

26. Ringing Other Stations

27. Page To Meet

28. Call Record to go to Voice Mail*

29. Transfer Calls

30. Internal Calls

31. Recall

32. Call Waiting

33. Caller ID

34. Call History (Abandoned)

35. Call History List

36. Redial

37. Inform While Busy

38. Internal User Name

39. Flexible Station Numbering

40. Busy Lamp

41. Flash Button

42. Multi-Line Accessl

43. Service Override

44. Conferencing up to 8 parties

45. Multi-Station System

46. Credit Card Calling (“O”+ Dialing)

47. Day, Night Modes and Switching Automatically

48. Delayed Ringing

49. Direct Inward Dialing

50. Direct Inward System Access

51. Direct Inward Termination

52. Direct Station Select

53. Buttons

54. Direct Station Selection Console (Optional)

55. Voice Page

56. Line Hold (Automatic)

57. Night Transfer

58. Speed Dial Button

59. Voice or Tone Signals

60. LED Indicators

61. Distinctive Ringing

62. Inform Do Not Disturb

63. Do Not Disturb Override

64. Door Lock

65. Door Phones

66. Dual Color LEDs

67. Executive Override

68. Executive Override Blocking

69. External Amplified Speaker

70. Paging for Groups

71. Handsfree Answerback Intercom

72. Headset Interface

73. Hearing Aid Compatible

74. Hot Dialing

75. Hotline Service (Emergency)

76. LCD Alphanumeric Messages

77. LCD Automatic Callback Number Display

Besides having good phone features on telephone systems, it is imperative that the company has excellent Customer Service. Be sure you can reach them by phone, by fax, and by email. Should anything happen with your business phone system, it can mean lost calls, which can mean, a financial loss as well. If a potential client/customer is unable to reach you when needed, he or she just might go somewhere else to do business.

Your business phone system is the first impression your potentials get about your business. Communication is critical to every business. Without it, it is impossible to be successful. As your business becomes more successful, your business phone system needs to improve as well.

There are many options to consider. A phone system decision can affect your business, Making the wrong decision could hurt your business financially.

Business Telecommunications Spending Will Hit $146 Billion in 2010, Says Insight Research Corp.

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

via Business Week

BOONTON, N.J., March 2 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) — Despite slowdowns and spending cuts in many industries, overall spending by all U.S. businesses on wired and cellular calling is forecasted to exhibit modest growth over the next five years, says a new market research report from Insight Research.

The study predicts that cellular calling will account for nearly 44 percent of the U.S. corporate phone bill for telecommunication services in 2010, and is the only enterprise market segment showing substantial growth. Insight’s newly released market analysis report, “Telecom Services in Vertical Markets, 2009-2014″ reveals that wireless service revenues are expected to grow at a compounded rate of nearly 18.4 percent annually from 2009 to 2014, while growth in wired services remains essentially flat.

The biggest spenders on cellular services will come from four market segments: construction; financial, insurance, and real estate; professional business services; and transportation. The study analyzes 14 vertical industries categorized by the NAICS, and focuses on corporate spending for wireline and wireless telecommunications services in each of the 14 industries.

“The year 2009 was all about cut backs and retrenchment in every industry sector we examined,” says Robert Rosenberg, President of Insight. “However, it is continued demand for wireless services that will keep the telecom industry in the black over the next five years-and that demand is going to be uneven across the various business sectors,” Rosenberg concludes. An excerpt of this market research report, table of contents, and ordering information are available online: www.insight-corp.com/reports/vert09.asp.

This 115-page report is available immediately for $3,995 (hard copy). Electronic (PDF) reports can be ordered online.

Avaya Intros New UC Tools

Monday, March 8th, 2010

via ChannelWeb

Avaya debuted four new unified communications products at HIMSS: an updated version of its Mobile Device Checkout system for tracking mobile devices; a Nurse Call Response system that allows patients to reach nurses directly; Patient Admit Coordinator, a system that uses various messaging tools like e-mail and IM to notify individual departments about patients from an emergency room; and Patient Appointment Reminder, a patient notification system that sends automated messages to patients to remind them about appointments.

Sanjeev Gupta, general manager of Avaya’s Healthcare Solutions group, told Channelweb.com that the new products are designed to advance mobility in the health care space and help organizations grapple with ongoing problems such as staff shortages.

“Most healthcare CMIOs spend a lot of time on process improvement, and many nurses spend a lot more time on care coordination than patient care,” he said. “These are designed to relieve bottlenecks.”

The new products will role out to the channel over the coming months, according to Avaya, with Mobile Device Checkout available now, Nurse Call Response and Patient Appointment Reminder arriving in June, and Patient Admit Coordinator ready by July.

Avaya’s recent acquisition of Nortel (NYSE:NT)’s enterprise unit significantly ups the company’s stake in health care. Gupta was formerly Nortel’s general manager for healthcare solutions and was among executives who transitioned to Avaya following the acquisition.