Business Phone Systems
Unified communications (UC) (Business Phone Systems) interest and adoption continues to accelerate in the small and midsize business (SMB) market. While adoption lags behind the large-enterprise market segment, according to Gartner end-user research, UC investment currently registers as a top five SMB networking investment initiative for 2012 (see Note 1). Gartner expects the SMB market will increasingly exhibit SMB UC investment momentum as the market matures during the next two to three years.
Evaluation Business Phone Systems criteria of SMBs are different from those of large enterprises (due to resource constraints), although most SMBs have many of the same business needs as their large-enterprise counterparts. This research highlights the purchasing criteria that shape SMB UC investment decisions and evaluates UC offers within this context. SMBs require UC solutions that are easy to install, configure and manage and that do not increase demands on an already lean IT staff. Additionally, SMBs require straightforward pricing and exhibit greater preference for UC solutions that have integrated user and management interfaces.
Since the 2011 UC MarketScope, providers serving the North American SMB market have been actively enhancing their UC portfolios and marketing and Business Phone Systems sales strategies. Many providers have improved the integration of applications as well as user and management interfaces. Consolidation of servers across applications has also improved the ease of UC deployment. Furthermore, providers have made investments in enhancing support for mobile devices (including tablets). Gartner has updated its 2012 evaluation criteria, which caused some vendors to move up or down in their overall MarketScope ratings compared with the previous year. The following provides a summary of notable overall vendor rating changes:
- Avaya — Rating increased from Promising to Positive, based in part on the high market strategy rating. Avaya receives frequent consideration for UC by SMBs, partly as a result of its SMB-related marketing campaigns and high penetration of certain UC components (telephony, voice messaging and conferencing). Additionally, Avaya is focusing efforts on improving support to its SMB channel partners.
- Digium — Rating moved from Positive to Promising. In 2012, Gartner added “clients” and “communications applications” as areas of UC product evaluation as well as “the UC functionality in each area being integrated into a complete solution.” While Digium’s Switchvox solution does have clients, the clients are limited in scope. Additionally, Digium’s conferencing capabilities are limited to audio (no Web conferencing or videoconferencing capabilities). Digium’s solution is not as integrated as some competitors’ offerings because it has to rely on a third party for certain applications.
- Mitel — Rating increased from Promising to Positive, based in part on changes related to Mitel’s marketing and sales initiatives. In the fourth quarter of 2011, Mitel made some significant changes to its channel program. The new structure eliminates competition between partners and Mitel, and it promotes better support to Mitel’s partners. Additionally, Mitel’s strategic focus on the sub-2,500-employee market segment hones Mitel’s ability to offer solutions for a particular market segment.
- Vertical — Dropped from the North American SMB UC MarketScope evaluation due to limited market penetration and interest to warrant market coverage.
Business Phone Systems – MarketScope
This MarketScope focuses on the premises-based (or infrastructure-based) UC market for North American SMBs. For the purposes of this MarketScope, an SMB is defined as having between 20 and 499 employees, which falls within — but doesn’t align exactly to — Gartner’s broader global definition of up to 1,000 employees (see “Dataquest Guide: Gartner’s New SMB Segmentation and Methodology”). We chose to limit the scope of this report to the 20- to 499-employee category because of the wide range of SMB offerings within this segment. To support this MarketScope evaluation work, Gartner did the following:
- Conducted customer interviews
- Conducted channel partner interviews
- Requested and analyzed UC RFPs (one for a 50-user implementation and one for a 250-user implementation) from each vendor
- Conducted vendor interviews
- Conducted financial ratings of vendors according to Gartner’s financial rating tool
This MarketScope is different from the existing Gartner UC Magic Quadrant because it focuses strictly on those offerings aimed at the needs and requirements of SMBs. The UC Magic Quadrant focuses on solutions for upper-midsize businesses, large businesses, very large businesses and multinational corporations. However, there is some overlap in vendors and offerings between the two reports (see “Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications”). In addition, this MarketScope is focused on premises-based UC offerings, as opposed to the service-based offerings covered in the UC as a service (UCaaS) Magic Quadrant (see “Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, North America” for more information). SMB purchasing criteria for UC are based on preferences for solutions that:
- Are easy to install, configure and manage (require limited customization)
- Are simple to use and have consistent user interfaces
- Don’t increase demand on already limited IT resources
- Have affordable, transparent and simple pricing that makes it easy to acquire UC functionality
- Come with superior customer service and support
These SMB characteristics formed the basis of this MarketScope’s evaluation criteria and provider ratings.
Business Phone Systems – Market/Market Segment Description
UC is a direct result of the convergence of communications and applications. Differing forms of communications have been developed, marketed and sold as separate individual applications. In some cases, they even had separate networks and devices. The convergence of all communications on Internet Protocol (IP) networks and open-software platforms is enabling a new paradigm for UC, and IT is changing how individuals, groups and organizations communicate. Gartner evaluates UC using a framework of six broad communications functions:
- Business Phone Systems Voice and telephony — This area includes fixed, mobile and soft telephony, as well as the evolution of PBXs and IP PBXs. This also includes live communications, such as video telephony.
- Business Phone Systems Conferencing — This area includes separate voice, videoconferencing and Web conferencing capabilities, as well as converged unified conferencing capabilities.
- Business Phone Systems Messaging — This area includes email (which has become an indispensable business tool), voice mail and unified messaging (UM) in various forms.
- Business Phone Systems Presence and instant messaging (IM) — These will play an increasingly central role in the next generation of communications. Presence services, in particular, are expanding to enable aggregation and publication of presence and location information from and to multiple sources. This enhanced functionality is sometimes called “rich presence.”
- Business Phone Systems Clients — Unified clients enable access to multiple communications functions from a consistent interface. These may have different forms, including thick desktop clients, thin browser clients and mobile tablets, as well as specialized clients embedded within business applications.
- Business Phone Systems Communications applications — This broad group of applications has directly integrated communications functions. Key application areas include consolidated administration tools, collaboration applications, contact center applications and notification applications. Eventually, other applications will be communications-enabled. When business applications are integrated with communications applications, Gartner calls them “communications-enabled business processes.”
Business Phone Systems – Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria
To be included in this MarketScope, solution providers must have:
- On-premises products that include all of the following six UC areas: (1) voice capability; (2) conferencing; (3) messaging; (4) presence and IM; (5) clients; and (6) communications applications
- The ability to generate significant interest in the 20- to 499-employee segment
- An offering that has significant market presence (defined as market share, differentiating innovation, and/or “mind share”)
- Demonstrable UC for SMB portfolio/products with references
- The UC functionality in each area be integrated into a complete solution
Business Phone Systems – Rating for Overall Market/Market Segment
Overall Market Rating: Promising
Gartner maintains an overall Promising rating for this market, although the rating has been edged closer to Positive territory. During the past 12 months, providers have continued a robust pace of enhancements to product portfolios. While additional work is required before full consolidation of all applications and consistent user and management interfaces across applications exists, this report iteration marks a year with positive integration momentum. Additionally, vendors enhanced their support for various mobile devices, expanding support to tablets, Android, the iPhone and other devices. Overall, vendors maintain significant differences in their abilities to position their UC solutions to channel partners and to support their partners through a UC implementation. Some providers, especially providers with significant installed bases of time division multiplexing (TDM) telephony, remain challenged to transition their partners to get them appropriately trained, certified and comfortable positioning UC. Other vendors are further along with having a broad base of UC-certified channel partners. UC providers overall are continuing to enhance training programs, improve software bundles, create attractive UC pricing, and provide more simplified UC implementations. We expect that solution positioning and partner capabilities will be more advanced in approximately 18 months to two years. While adoption and interest in UC by SMBs continues to grow, adoption is gradual. Continued adoption is expected to occur at a modest pace for the following reasons:
- The existing economic environment is creating some caution in UC and IT-related investment initiatives.
- Maturity of vendor solutions is evolving: Providers are in various stages of enhancing and integrating their UC components, but some UC elements are still offered in separate servers, which increases not only the complexity of the communications decision and implementation but also the overall solution cost.
- Difficulty in business case justification: A lingering focus on cost containment and conflicting and time-sensitive requirements for hardware and software upgrades are preventing organizations from moving ahead with UC implementations.
- Some SMBs opt for basic communications functionality (basic telephony and voice messaging functionality) instead of advanced UC capabilities.
- Existing investments in point solutions: Most SMBs have portions of UC in place (telephony, voice messaging and email), but some fail to find the cost or business justification of “unifying” these components — especially when the existing equipment hasn’t reached the end of its useful life cycle.
Business Phone Systems – Evaluation Criteria
|Table 1. Evaluation Criteria|
|Market Understanding||Ability of the technology provider to understand buyers’ needs and translate these needs into a UC solution. Vendors that show the highest degree of vision are those that listen and understand buyers’ wants and needs, and can shape or enhance those wants with their added vision.||Low|
|Marketing Strategy||A clear, differentiated set of messages consistently communicated throughout the organization and externalized through the website, advertising, customer programs and marketing position statements.||Standard|
|Sales Strategy||The strategy for selling SMB UC solutions that uses the appropriate networks of direct and indirect sales, marketing, service and communications affiliates that extend the scope and depth of market reach, skills, expertise, technologies, services and the customer base.||Standard|
|Product/Service||Core goods and services offered by the technology provider that compete in/serve the SMB market. This includes current product capabilities, quality, feature sets, skills and so forth, whether offered natively or through OEM agreements/partnerships.||High|
|Overall Viability (Business Unit, Financial, Strategy, Organization)||Viability includes an assessment of the overall organization’s financial health, the financial and practical success of the business unit, and the likelihood that the individual business unit will continue investing in the SMB UC product portfolio, will continue offering SMB UC solutions and will advance the innovation within the organization’s SMB UC portfolio.||Low|
|Customer Experience||Relationships, products and services/programs that enable clients to be successful with SMB UC offers. Specifically, this includes the ways customers receive technical support or account support. This can also include ancillary tools, customer support programs (and the quality thereof), availability of user groups and service-level agreements, and so forth.||High|
Business Phone Systems
Source: Gartner (August 2012) Figure 1. Vendor Ratings Source: Gartner (August 2012) Return to Top
|Table 2. UC for SMB Offerings Target Market Size Segment Map|
|20 to 49 Users||50 to 99 Users||100 to 250 Users||250 to 500 Users|
|Alcatel-Lucent||OmniPCX Office Rich Communications Edition||OmniPCX Office Rich Communications Edition||OpenTouch Business Edition, OmniPCX Enterprise + OpenTouch Multimedia Services||OpenTouch Business Edition, OmniPCX Enterprise + OpenTouch Multimedia Services|
|Avaya||IP Office||IP Office||IP Office||IP Office, Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise|
|Cisco||Smart Business Communications System — UC 560, Cisco Business Edition 3000||Smart Business Communications System — UC 560, Cisco Business Edition 3000||Cisco Business Edition 3000||Cisco Business Edition 3000; Cisco Business Edition 6000|
|Digium||Switchvox 65, Switchvox 305||Switchvox 305||Switchvox 305, Switchvox 355||Switchvox 355|
|Interactive Intelligence||Customer Interaction Center||Customer Interaction Center|
|Microsoft||Lync 2010 plus Exchange|
|Mitel||Mitel Communications Director, Mitel Applications Suite, Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced, Mitel 5000 Communications Platform||Mitel Communications Director, Mitel Applications Suite, Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced, Mitel 5000 Communications Platform||Mitel Communications Director, Mitel Applications Suite, Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced, Mitel 5000 Communications Platform||Mitel Communications Director, Mitel Applications Suite, Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced|
|NEC||UC for Business, UC Desktop Suite||UC for Business, UC Desktop Suite||UC for Business||UC for Business|
|ShoreTel||ShoreTel 13 (Small Business Edition), ShoreTel Communicator, ShoreTel Conference and Collaboration||ShoreTel 13, ShoreTel Communicator, ShoreTel Conference and Collaboration||ShoreTel 13, ShoreTel Communicator, ShoreTel Conference and Collaboration||ShoreTel 13, ShoreTel Communicator, ShoreTel Conference and Collaboration|
|Siemens Enterprise Communications||OpenScape Office MX||OpenScape Office MX, OpenScape Office LX, HiPath 3000 with OpenScape Office HX||OpenScape Office LX, HiPath 3000 with OpenScape Office HX||OpenScape Office LX, HiPath 3000 with OpenScape Office HX|
|Toshiba||IPedge EC, Toshiba Strata CIX40, Toshiba Strata CIX100, Toshiba Media Application Server, Strata Meeting, Toshiba Unified Communications Suite||IPedge EC, Toshiba Strata CIX200, Toshiba Media Application Server, Strata Meeting, Toshiba Unified Communication Suite||IPedge EM, Toshiba Strata CIX670, Toshiba Media Application Server, Strata Meeting, Toshiba Unified Communications Suite||IPedge EM, Toshiba Strata CIX1200, Toshiba Media Application Server, Strata Meeting, Toshiba Unified Communications Suite|
Source: Gartner (August 2012)
Business Phone Systems – Vendor Product/Service Analysis
Alcatel-Lucent positions two primary solutions for the SMB market. For companies with 10 to 100 users, Alcatel-Lucent has the OmniPCX Office Rich Communication Edition (RCE) which can support more than 200 users. The most recent release of the OmniPCX Office RCE offering is appliance-based and provides support for the UC functionality: voice; mobility (mobile UC, secure access control and teleworking); messaging (IM, UM and fax); rich presence; voice, data and video collaboration; and contact center capabilities. Video and Web conferencing are available as premises-based or cloud-based offerings. For midsize businesses with between 100 and 1,500 employees, Alcatel-Lucent offers the OpenTouch Business Edition — the evolution of Business integrated Communication Solution (BiCS). OpenTouch Business Edition provides full-featured, integrated UC functionality and includes the OmniPCX Enterprise. OpenTouch leverages a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) architecture and provides telephony, conferencing (audio, video and Web), as well as messaging, mobility, and presence/IM functionality. OpenTouch Business Edition features native video switching and multimedia collaboration and features unified management of all UC elements. Additionally, in June 2012, Alcatel-Lucent announced support for the OpenTouch Conversation (OTC) for iPad. Support for OTC for PC, Mac and Android are anticipated later in 2012. In 2011, Alcatel-Lucent announced it was exploring the sale of its Enterprise Business Group, which included its UC product portfolio and Genesys contact center business. On 1 February 2012, Alcatel-Lucent confirmed the sale of Genesys to Permira, a private equity firm, and indicated it will keep the remaining enterprise business. SMBs should consider Alcatel-Lucent if they are seeking a UC offering that is competitively priced, reliable and easy to use, or if they are part of a company with European sites, because Alcatel-Lucent is headquartered in Europe and has strong delivery and support capabilities there.
- SMBs can acquire a full UC suite through Alcatel-Lucent at relatively lower price points versus most other UC competitors.
- Unified management of the UC applications within the OpenTouch platform helps meet the needs of IT-resource-constrained SMBs. Alcatel-Lucent has a strong focus on the small-and-midsize-market segment versus the large-enterprise segment, and the company understands the resource constraints and purchasing criteria shaping SMB buying decisions, and it has effectively incorporated certain elements to address these purchasing criteria — simplified solution bundling and intuitive user-centric pricing through its On Demand user Communications (ODC) licensing model.
- Alcatel-Lucent’s OTC for IPad and MyIC offer users an intuitive and secure way to enable communications across various devices, including laptops, SIP phones, desk phones, video devices and tablets. While the first iteration of OTC offers limited platform support, the next iterations (availability expected during the second half of 2012) are expected to support Windows, Android and Mac OS, followed by the main smartphone platforms.
- During 2011, Alcatel-Lucent’s exploration of selling its Enterprise business unit created uncertainty regarding Alcatel-Lucent’s long-term commitment to its UC business. In early 2012, Alcatel-Lucent announced the sale of its Genesys business unit and the intention to retain its Enterprise business unit. Despite this renewed commitment, some momentum appeared lost during this period.
- Alcatel-Lucent has not yet experienced significant traction with its SMB UC portfolio in North America. While Alcatel-Lucent has been able to leverage some brand recognition associated with “Lucent,” the company does not frequently receive consideration in the North American SMB UC market. However, Alcatel-Lucent is taking steps to grow its North American partner footprint and added two significant partners — ICON Voice Networks (Iwatsu heritage channel) and AT&T — in 2011.
- Although Alcatel-Lucent’s UC offerings are reliable, when issues do occur, some partners have experienced problems with timely and effective next-level support — especially when support needs to be escalated to Europe — which can negatively impact the overall customer experience. In addition, redundancy and failover capabilities are extra-cost options.
Avaya continues to make significant progress integrating the products and channels of its combined Avaya/Nortel Enterprise Solutions (NES) assets following Avaya’s December 2009 acquisition of Nortel’s enterprise business. Avaya was taken private by private equity firms Silver Lake Partners and TPG Capital in 2007. In June 2011, Avaya announced plans to file for an initial public offering (IPO). However, the company has not yet scheduled an offering date. Within the small- and low-end midsize-market segment, Avaya positions IP Office and the Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise as follows:
- The IP Office product portfolio includes IP Office 8.1 and the new Server Edition. IP Office 8.1 can scale up to 384 users in a single site and up to 1,000 users in a multisite network, with additional expansion modules. IP Office Server Edition is Linux-based and scales up to 1,000 users at a single location. IP Office is sold in role-based packaging, with UC functionality offered for different worker types, and it can support voice, UM, audioconferencing and videoconferencing, presence/IM, and notification. IP Office does not natively support Web conferencing; instead, Web conferencing functionality can be obtained through a certified DevConnect partner. IP Office is sold in the following editions: Essential for fewer than 25 users; Preferred for more-advanced UC functionality; and Advanced for SMBs with customer service departments requiring contact center applications. All three versions support TDM and IP on the same platform. Starting with release 7.0, which was announced in March 2011, IP Office supports most end-of-sale Nortel BCM and Norstar phones, as well as a broader range of Avaya devices, SIP trunks, and customized applications for the healthcare vertical.
- The Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise combines telephony, call center, messaging and UC onto a single virtualized server and supports up to 2,400 users. Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise adds more native UC functionality than IP Office, including IM/presence, Web conferencing, notification and multivendor integration, as well as an add-on multichannel contact center option. Customers can maintain IP Office endpoints by using it as a gateway when migrating to Avaya Aura, or they can network IP Office with Avaya Aura. Additionally, Avaya Aura supports desktop video and videoconferencing using the Avaya Desktop Video Device with the Avaya Flare Experience and Radvision Scopia video endpoints as well as Avaya B100 audioconferencing devices.
SMBs should consider Avaya offers if their UC plans include telephony, messaging or contact center requirements, and they are looking for a solid telephony brand with an ample selection of UC channel partners.
- Avaya has strong brand recognition and reputation in the SMB telephony market. Avaya has a history of selling portions of UC (most notably, telephony, messaging and contact center functionality) and being recognized as a reliable provider of these solutions. As a result, for voice-centric UC bids, Avaya is frequently included in the SMB UC consideration set.
- The company has a very large installed base of telephony and contact center customers across North America, and it offers the opportunity to migrate customers to Avaya’s next-generation SMB UC solutions. For example, IP Office supports most heritage Nortel IP and digital phones, which enables customers to migrate their Nortel investments to IP Office as well as to Avaya Aura.
- IP Office is widely recognized for natively supporting an audioconferencing capability for various combinations of up to 64 simultaneous users for a total of 128 ports; Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise supports a call center application widely deployed among midsize and large organizations.
- Avaya has a broad base of SMB-certified channel partners throughout North America, which gives Avaya a more extensive reach to SMB end users compared with most competitors. Through its partners, Avaya is investing in marketing campaigns. As part of these marketing efforts, it is holding SMB-focused events and focusing on SMB-specific promotional programs.
- All Avaya SMB solutions support the use of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and operating systems such as iOS, Android and Windows.
- The incremental costs for UC licensing could discourage some users from implementing UC functionality. Prospects should understand licensing charges for endpoints as well as bundles for certain elements that were previously available for purchase through a la carte pricing. Shifts in solution pricing has created the perception among some SMBs that basic telephony functionality through IP Office is price-competitive but advanced UC functionality is price-prohibitive. Avaya is taking steps to correct this perception.
- It’s important to validate that specific channel partners have had appropriate training associated with IP Office Server Edition, which became generally available in July 2012, because the Server Edition’s architecture and operating system differ from IP Office and Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise.
- SMBs should consider the financial strength and overall stability of Avaya and the Avaya partner. According to Gartner’s financial rating tool, Avaya’s financial rating is Caution, as it was when this research was published in 2011.
- For single-site configurations for IP Office, redundancy and failover capabilities are extra-cost options. Unlike Avaya Aura for large-scale requirements, redundancy and failover capabilities are extra-cost options for the Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise.
- Growing organizations should evaluate the capacity options of the Avaya IP Office portfolio because migration to the Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise can be expensive. While most IP phones and user licenses can be reused across most platforms, the user and management interfaces vary across the SMB product portfolio and will likely require retraining for users.
The Cisco SMB portfolio that supports UC functionality comprises three platforms:
- For small businesses from 20 to 138 employees, Cisco has the Smart Business Communications System (SBCS) UC500 series. The UC500 series comes in two versions — the 540 supports up to 24 users and is upgradable to the 560, which supports up to 138 users. SBCS is an all-in-one offering that includes: voice, data, integrated messaging, single-business voice mailbox for mobile users, auto attendant, automatic call distributor (ACD), video, VPN, and wireless LAN (WLAN) access. Support for IM and presence requires an optional Cisco Smart CallConnector.
- Cisco Business Edition 3000 supports up to 99 users in a single system, as well as up to 300 users and 10 sites by deploying multiple systems. The solution integrates voice, video, mobility, messaging, applications and voice gateway services on a single appliance. Support for IM and presence requires Cisco Jabber Cloud, which is an optional subscription-based cloud service.
- Cisco Business Edition 6000 is designed for organizations with up to 1,000 employees, and it provides the same features offered through the Business Edition 3000, but it adds support for the Cisco Jabber mobile client, offers a contact center option and adds redundancy for up to all four co-resident applications, which can be call processing, contact center, voice mail and presence. A virtualization option enables consolidating multiple applications on a single server.
SMBs should consider SBCS if they have up to 125 employees in a single site looking for an all-in-one solution. They should consider Business Edition 3000 if they are looking for more basic UC functionality to support up to 300 users; and they should consider Business Edition 6000 if they are looking for support for up to 1,000 users, advanced UC features, and the ability to run in a VMware environment.
- Cisco has a well-aligned, consistent global marketing message and is able to get its UC messages out to SMBs and channel partners on a global level. This marketing strength has allowed Cisco to obtain strong mind share among SMBs and SMB partners, and allows Cisco to be frequently considered in the SMB UC vendor consideration set. Gartner has noted an increase in partners deciding to resell Cisco SMB UC solutions in addition to their existing portfolio because of the increase in customers demanding Cisco UC.
- Cisco has expanded the breadth of its phone portfolio, offering a wide range of low-priced IP phones that are also more energy-efficient than older models. The low-priced phones improve the company’s ability to compete in the price-sensitive SMB market.
- Cisco offers a robust and complete portfolio of UC functionality — from conferencing to presence and video capabilities. Because of its strengths in solution development, Cisco can typically offer advanced UC functionality if the SMB desires customized functionality and/or specific applications. Cisco’s partners now have the ability to resell WebEx, so SMBs desiring Web conferencing/videoconferencing and collaboration capabilities can obtain this functionality through their Cisco channel partner.
- Cisco’s channel partners typically provide the network infrastructure (switches and routers), as well as the UC functionality, which can be especially appealing for SMBs because it gives them “one throat to choke” if there are performance issues.
- Depending on the platform and level of functionality required, the Cisco architecture could require a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) to implement it — something not many SMBs regularly have in-house. Cisco has developed simpler versions of some products, such as Packaged Contact Center Enterprise (CCE); however, Gartner clients continue to report complexity associated with Business Edition implementations.
- Growing organizations should evaluate the capacity limits of Cisco SBCS and Business Edition. For example, if a small business outgrows the SBCS 540 version, it must upgrade to the 560 version or replace the 540 with Business Edition. Similarly, migration from Business Edition 3000 to Business Edition 6000 will require a server upgrade. While most IP phones and user licenses can be reused across most platforms, the user and management interfaces vary across the SMB product portfolio and will likely require retraining for users. Redundancy is an extra-cost option for Business Edition 6000.
- Pricing and licensing can be complex for some of the solutions. Overall solution costs for advanced UC functionality are difficult to calculate, and in some cases, the solution is designed with multiple boxes, which can be time-consuming to implement and more difficult to manage.
Switchvox, Digium’s all-in-one packaged solution geared toward SMB organizations, is based on the open-source-based Asterisk platform. Digium’s Asterisk solution (the toolset that can be customized to create a UC solution) is not included as part of this MarketScope evaluation because it is not available as an off-the-shelf solution and requires a network integrator. Switchvox is offered in three variations: The Switchvox 65 supports up to 30 users; the Switchvox 305 supports up to 150 users; and the Switchvox 355 supports up to 400 users. The solutions feature telephony, audioconferencing, UM, IM/presence, call queues, fixed mobile convergence, recording, fax, salesforce.com and SugarCRM integration, as well as notification and collaboration functionality. Switchvox does not provide built-in Web conferencing or videoconferencing functionality. In April 2012, Digium released a line of SIP standard phones that can be sold in conjunction with Switchvox: the D40 — a low-priced two-line phone with basic functionality; the D50 — a midlevel four-line phone with 10 rapid dial/busy lamp field (BLF) keys; and the D70 — a more feature-rich six-line key executive-level phone with an LCD screen featuring real-time status information. Digium relies on third-party phones (Polycom or Snom) for other phone types, including conference, Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT), touchscreen and other SIP phones. Organizations with fewer than 400 employees should consider Digium’s Switchvox solution if they are highly price-sensitive and looking for basic UC functionality. While Switchvox is better-suited for single-site organizations, the solution does have a limited ability to support IP phone users at remote locations.
- The Switchvox solution is very price-competitive and can effectively meet some small organizations’ needs for basic UC functionality (voice, presence/IM, reporting, mobility and call queues) because the simple pricing structure extends features to all users versus having to pay a per-user license fee.
- Switchvox can be implemented out of the box, with minimal configuration requirements and with minimal time. Additionally, the Switchvox 355 includes redundant array of independent disks (RAID) controller with mirrored drives and redundant power supplies.
- Digium is expanding its phone portfolio to help decrease the dependence on third parties for a full communications solution. The release of Digium’s three phones in April 2012 is a positive move that has the potential to improve the integration of Switchvox and decrease the cost/time associated with acquiring phone feature packs to hook into third-party devices.
- Digium has a loyal partner community and has developed effective lead generation and training to support its partner base. Digium utilizes Web-based programs to educate and train partners. Furthermore, video programming is available for partners to host on their websites to help promote Switchvox.
- Although Digium has added phones to its product portfolio, the company does not yet offer a total communications solution with a full suite of endpoints or networking equipment (switches or routers) that some organizations might desire. Polycom or Snom phones are still required to support users looking for advanced feature phones (phones with a touchscreen or color display), wireless, conferencing or softphones. The lack of full in-house offerings means some customers will look to multiple providers (which can increase the cost and complexity) for their communications solution.
- While Switchvox has some nice features that are well-designed for many SMBs, the solution has some functionality limitations that might be incompatible for an organization with specific customization requirements. Switchvox is positioned to support up to 400 users, so it is not ideally suited for organizations possibly growing beyond 400 seats. Additionally, Switchvox does not support centralized networking and administration. This means sites are administered individually as opposed to centrally, which can pose a management burden on IT resources.
- Switchvox does not offer Web conferencing or videoconferencing functionality. End users desiring these capabilities will have to integrate third-party solutions.
- Cold spare redundancy is an extra-cost option available for the Switchvox 65 and 305 models.
The Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center (CIC) is an all-in-one SIP-based system with a preintegrated application suite that supports a range of business communications on one platform. The solution includes CIC’s very strong contact center applications, call processing, voice mail, fax server, UM and presence capabilities. CIC is well-suited for enterprises from 100 to 15,000 users for multisite deployments. The single-server software offering (with separate media application server) targets midsize businesses and large enterprises, it supports a range of client and device options, and it provides the ability to integrate with contact center and other applications. The solution also integrates with third-party UC solutions, such as Microsoft Lync and IBM Sametime, and video solutions, such as those from Polycom. Release 4.0 features new mobile and speech analytic developments, including the enablement of SMS to desktop clients, which allows users to send and receive SMS directly from their desktop to a mobile device. The Interaction Analyzer provides real-time word and phrase spotting within contact center conversations. Although we are evaluating CIC as a premises-based offering, CIC functionality can alternatively be acquired as part of a cloud or service-based offering. Interactive Intelligence has strong contact center offers that serve organizations with heavy requirements in markets that include insurance agencies, accounts receivable organizations (collections agencies), financial services and banks. SMB organizations should evaluate the CIC solution if they are looking for a particularly strong contact-center-based UC offering and if they are seeking an integrated offering with potential to satisfy custom sophisticated applications. CIC would not be suitable for highly price-sensitive organizations.
- Interactive Intelligence provides robust contact center as well as business process automation functionality. The product is well-suited to integrating contact center functionality with UC functionality.
- While Interactive Intelligence might be smaller than many of its competitors, the company, which is publicly traded, is demonstrating staying power in the industry by growing total revenue 26% in 2011 and 27% in 2010.
- The flexible application program interface and architecture enable customization for vertical applications, while the all-in-one single-server approach and intuitive administration interface facilitate the ease of provisioning of users, as well as the ease of moves, adds and changes.
- While Interactive Intelligence offers CIC without the contact center component, SMB users will find that the platform is most cost-effective when there is an integral business requirement for contact center capabilities. The overall price points may be unattractive to some price-sensitive SMBs.
- Despite progress, the company is known mainly as a contact center provider, which reduces its effectiveness and appeal in delivering its broader UC product to enterprises.
- Not all of Interactive Intelligence’s channel partners are strong in designing, installing and supporting UC environments. Prospects should check channel partner references that match their UC needs, and they should verify that support resources have been trained and certified on current product releases.
- Redundancy and failover capabilities are extra-cost options for CIC.
Microsoft positions Lync 2010 for its premises-based UC offering in the above-250-employee segment. The solution scales to 5,000 users in a single-server environment; an additional server is added for redundancy purposes. Microsoft primarily positions Office 365, Lync Online and Exchange Online in the under-250-employee-market segment. However, for purposes of this evaluation, we are examining only Microsoft’s premises-based offers. Lync 2010, combined with Exchange, provides conferencing capabilities (audio, Web and video), IM/presence, email, voice mail and UM, as well as telephony functionality. In November 2011, Microsoft increased the conference size from 250 users to 1,000 users. In December 2011, mobile device support was expanded with the release of Lync for Mac 2011; Lync mobile client was released for iOS, Windows Phone and Android. Additionally, new third-party phones and compatibility with existing IP phones and room-based video systems are continually being rolled out. While Lync is typically implemented alongside an existing PBX solution, Microsoft is gaining referenceable accounts in which employees’ direct inward dialing (DID) lines have been transitioned to Lync. Microsoft positions Lync through a growing network of partners. The solution can be acquired directly through Microsoft or via partners. The offer is available as an end-user-owned solution, or as a managed or hosted solution. Midsize businesses (organizations with more than 250 employees as defined by Microsoft) should consider Lync plus Exchange 2010 if they currently rely on or have significant investments in Microsoft Office applications, and they have a mobile and collaboration-centric workforce. Organizations should ensure they have the required IT resources in place to integrate and manage the offering.
- Microsoft’s continual initiatives relating to new device (for example, mobile, SIP, DECT and IP phones) support and interoperability will encourage adoption and broaden Lync’s appeal. The Lync mobile application is offered free (via Microsoft’s application store) and is available on the iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Android and other mobile devices.
- Microsoft’s installed base of email users and desktop applications provides the company with a broad reach across small and midsize organizations. This existing presence, combined with new marketing messages relating to UC, means Microsoft frequently registers as a UC bid contender in the 250-and-above employee market segment.
- Microsoft’s channel developments related to Lync are continually being modified to strengthen partners’ capabilities and incentives in selling and supporting Lync. In the fourth quarter of 2011, Microsoft reorganized partner competencies and created a stand-alone Communications competency focused on Lync. Additionally, a Solution Incentive Program for Lync in which (implementation) partners earn incentives based on Lync license transactions was also created to reward partners involved in the Lync sales process.
- Microsoft’s ability to offer midsize enterprises a gradual migration approach to UC adoption versus a rip-and-replace acquisition eliminates some of the risk associated with implementing Lync and broadens the appeal across organizations. Lync interoperates with most telephony solutions, which means organizations can retain and use their PBXs/voice over IP (VoIP) as desired and decommission the telephony solution when the organization is ready to transition to Lync for voice functionality.
- While Microsoft has gained some experience positioning Lync as a full-featured telephony replacement, in most instances, the Lync server resides in the communications environment alongside a PBX/IP-PBX. Some users rely on Lync, while others maintain a DID associated with the existing PBX. Overall, Microsoft is in an early phase of being considered as a full PBX replacement.
- Microsoft is focused primarily on a service-based UC approach (Office 365 and Lync Online) for the SMB market, as opposed to a premises-based approach (through Lync 2010). This strategy means that the architecture and positioning of Lync can be more applicable for larger organizations.
- Remote site redundancy and failover are extra-cost options.
- Lync 2010 plus the Exchange offering requires more IT skill and resources to manage than many competitors’ offerings. The high level of flexibility of the system can translate to a more complex integration (and typically a hybrid environment), which requires a greater budget for integration and dedicated IT resources. The cost and complexity associated with Lync do not make the solution suitable for organizations with significant IT resource constraints or with fewer than 250 users.
- Microsoft Lync functions best in environments with Windows-based PCs and Exchange Server for Outlook email.
- Organizations that do not have a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft will pay a higher incremental cost for the right to use Microsoft Lync.
To support the SMB market segment with UC capabilities, Mitel leverages the same Mitel Communications Director (MCD) software that large Mitel customers use. The software can run on traditional Mitel 3300 Controllers or industry standard servers, such as those from HP, Dell and IBM. In keeping with its established product architecture for deploying advanced applications, Mitel’s UC functionality is accessed by users through the Mitel Applications Suite (MAS). Included in MAS is Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced (UCA), a UC client for the desktop and mobile devices. UCA integrates presence, IM, audioconferencing, as well as Web and video collaboration with Mitel call control capabilities. As an option, Mitel extends UC capabilities to mobile workers on devices such as a BlackBerry, Android, iPhone and iPad. MCD and its associated components can be deployed either premises-based, hosted or cloud-based, or a combination of these three, as well as in a VMware virtualized environment. While the lower-priced Standard licensing package for use with MCD in a stand-alone configuration does not include redundancy or failover protection, the MCD Enterprise licensing package (geared for customers that require resiliency and high availability features with failover) includes redundancy. Mitel UC offers will appeal to SMBs that are looking for the ability to run UC on industry standard servers or in a virtualized environment, a viable UC suite from a single vendor, or the option to interoperate with Microsoft Lync.
- Mitel’s increased focus on the 100- to 2,500-user market during the past 18 months has been improving the company’s ability to be more responsive to the requirements of the SMB market, and it is providing very cost-effective UC pricing bundles.
- Mitel’s support for a virtualized environment can streamline communications infrastructure costs, simplify the implementation and reduce ongoing operating costs.
- Mitel’s formerly lackluster financial performance has improved during the past two years. According to Gartner’s financial rating tool, Mitel has a Positive financial rating, which indicates the company has viability in the SMB UC market.
- Mitel has had success with its managed service offering in the U.S. market, which is offered through direct and indirect channels, and which achieves high customer satisfaction ratings. It includes Mitel’s TotalSolution managed service offering with NetSolutions network services. The turnkey program provides fixed costs, full service and warranty, and includes software upgrades.
- Licensing for the MAS and MCD software streams as well as for the UC client can be confusing. However, in July 2012, Mitel introduced a bundled alternative (the Virtual UC Business Bundle) for up to 250 users that combines the MAS and MCD components in a VMware environment. The combination is less expensive than the a la carte model and facilitates a more simplified ordering process. The pricing for UC client licenses will continue to be based on the total number deployed.
- Although improving, Mitel is not currently viewed as a leading UC software provider but instead is viewed as a telephony provider. Mitel will need to continue marketing efforts to grow its perception as a UC provider and increase its consideration rate in the SMB UC market.
- Prospects should confirm Mitel channel partner references match their UC and geographical requirements, and they should verify that support personnel have been trained and certified on current product releases.
NEC offers three UC solutions for the SMB market. The first is the UC Desktop Suite, which runs on the Univerge SV8100. The solution is ideally suited for organizations with between 20 and 100 users. The next offering is the UC for Business (UCB), which is available globally, except for EMEA. NEC’s Business ConneCT (BCT) UC solution is positioned for organizations in EMEA. Both BCT and UCB support virtualization (UCB v.6.1, released in March 2012, now offers support for virtualization). Both the BCT and UCB solutions are preloaded and preconfigured to operate on NEC’s Univerge SV8000 Series Communication Servers. Although UCB and BCT solutions are scalable, both have a “sweet spot” supporting small businesses with between 20 and 100 users. Gartner has dropped the Univerge Sphericall UC software solution (now Univerge 3C) from coverage within this MarketScope evaluation, as the marketing and positioning of it is increasingly focused on the large-enterprise segment. Organizations should consider NEC if they are an organization with fewer than 100 users, are part of one of the key vertical markets that NEC addresses and are looking for affordable UC functionality.
- Creative solution packaging encourages UC usage across NEC’s customer base. Every Univerge SV8100 (NEC’s most popular SMB telephony platform) is UC-enabled with four free licenses of the UC Desktop Suite at the time of the sale. Extending UC to additional users simply involves turning on licenses for additional users.
- NEC has a strong vertical market focus; its solutions within the healthcare, education, government and hospitality segments offer specific UC applications tailored for these specific industries. NEC also has internal vertical leads focused on positioning and implementation of these solutions within industry segments.
- NEC is focused on the SMB market, and it understands and delivers on the need for simplicity and affordable pricing. NEC features a relatively straightforward UC licensing plan, with fees for trunk access licenses and client licenses.
- NEC’s offerings can be best for single-region organizations as opposed to multinational SMBs, because the products offered, the customer experience and channel support will be different by region, which can create planning and integration challenges. NEC does, however, offer a Netlink feature on the Univerge SV8100 platform to allow for a single-system telephony image (and shared presence information) across regions.
- Some applications and management interfaces could use additional integration to be more intuitive for users. For example, for conferencing functionality, users must work with a separate interface to reserve a conference bridge. Integration related to conferencing is expected to occur within the next 12 months.
- NEC’s UC solutions do not have as much brand recognition as competitors, and NEC isn’t frequently in the North American UC consideration set.
- Redundancy and failover capabilities are extra-cost options for NEC SMB solutions.
ShoreTel competes in the UC market with an appliance-based distributed UC architecture. The Linux-based Service Appliance 100 and 400 units enable IM, conferencing and desktop collaboration, which are functionally integrated with ShoreTel’s telephony switches. The appliances operate without hard drives and instead use flash memory. The individual appliances operate independently but are collectively managed and configured together within a single ShoreTel Director Web application that scales to 20,000 users. The ShoreTel Director Web administration application is supported on Windows Servers and via virtualization with VMware 5. User administration integrates IP telephony, UM, IM, conferencing and collaboration, video and mobility. The ShoreTel 13 release, an update to the ShoreTel 12, was released in July 2012. ShoreTel 13 provides enhanced SIP trunking capabilities, video connectivity with room-based systems via the advanced video coding (AVC)/scalable video coding (SVC) codecs supported by Polycom and LifeSize and other providers. ShoreTel also now offers a remote monitoring service that monitors production deployments. As part of the rollout, ShoreTel increased conferencing capacity with the Service Appliance 400 that supports 2,000 IM users, 200 audio users and 100 Web/desktop collaboration users, with up to five service appliances supported in an organization. Additionally, voice/Web recordings are now downloadable to PCs. ShoreTel continues to focus on mobility developments stemming from its fourth quarter of 2010 acquisition of Agito Networks and initiatives relating to better integration to mobile devices (Android), and it remains platform-agnostic via connectivity from the ShoreTel Mobility Router to competitors’ SIP-based telephony platforms. In March 2012, ShoreTel completed the acquisition of hosted telephony provider, M5 Networks. The move positions ShoreTel to address the voice-as-a-service market opportunities through M5’s expertise and northeastern U.S. delivery capabilities versus focusing on internal service capability developments. M5 now operates as ShoreTel’s Cloud Division and announced the availability of ShoreTel Mobility for cloud-based customers in July 2012. SMBs should consider ShoreTel if they are looking for a reliable UC solution, in which ease of use, ease of management and ease of implementation are more important than breadth and depth of features, or if they have a distributed office setting.
- ShoreTel has designed a solution that effectively addresses IT-constrained organizations’ needs for easy-to-use, easy-to-manage and easy-to-implement communications solutions. The user, administration and implementation simplicity as well as the inherently redundant architecture of ShoreTel 13 is well-suited for most SMBs’ UC needs and resource limitations. ShoreTel’s architecture offers the SMB market the same inherent redundancy that is used by large customers.
- ShoreTel’s acquisition of M5 Networks in March 2012 provides an opportunity for ShoreTel to expand the portfolio of services to end users and grow its northeastern U.S. presence. While cloud solutions are not the focus of this evaluation, ShoreTel’s move enables the company to support customers that desire non-premises-based UC acquisition models.
- ShoreTel’s focus on customer satisfaction (which is tracked through Net Promoter scores) through the implementation cycle and beyond translates to generally positive customer experiences with ShoreTel UC. ShoreTel partners receive rewards and recognition based on their Net Promoter score metrics. Furthermore, the company has effective practices in place to bring customer feedback into the business to resolve issues.
- While ShoreTel has fewer marketing resources than many of its SMB UC competitors, the company is rapidly gaining recognition as an SMB UC provider and is increasingly being considered in UC bids across North America. ShoreTel is consistently making positive strides, adding new customers and expanding its channel footprint on a quarterly basis.
- Gartner is evaluating ShoreTel’s channel shifts to determine if the rapid growth of new partners or the 2011 shift to a tiered distribution model (smaller resellers are supported by value-added distributors, ScanSource Communications and Ingram Micro) has had an impact on partner profitability or customer support.
- Limited resources: Compared with many organizations featured in the MarketScope evaluation, ShoreTel is an organization with more limited resources. In 2011, ShoreTel generated revenue of $220 million and had approximately 700 employees. While ShoreTel continues to exhibit solid revenue and user installed-base momentum, the company does have a more limited geographic footprint (12% of ShoreTel’s revenue was generated through international sales in 2011) and more limited sales, marketing, product development and support resources than some other competitors. Gartner recommends channel coverage should be evaluated before extending deployments o sites outside of North America.
- While ShoreTel includes most features that SMBs desire in an all-in-one package, some capabilities are not as advanced as other competitors’ offerings. For example, ShoreTel’s contact center capabilities are not as robust as some competitive offerings, and ShoreTel doesn’t currently offer its own multipoint video functionality. Additionally, the appliance architecture can be less desirable for SMBs with larger, centralized environments.
Rating: Strong Positive
SIEMENS ENTERPRISE COMMUNICATIONS
Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEN) is 51% owned by private equity firm, The Gores Group, and 49% by Siemens AG after a 2008 joint venture. SEN sells end-to-end enterprise communications solutions comprising UC solutions and business applications, as well as related managed, professional and life cycle services. The portfolio also includes network infrastructure and security systems from Enterasys Networks. OpenScape Office is SEN’s UC platform for the SMB market. The solution supports voice, voice mail, UM, mobility, IM/presence and contact center, as well as multiparty Web and video collaboration functionality, and a suite of collaboration applications for SEN’s OpenStage phones. SEN has made several enhancements to OpenScape Office V3 in recent releases (R2 and R3), including the addition of OpenScape Web Collaboration into the desktop user interface. Additionally, R2 brings support of mixed multisite networking; the MX, HX and LX platforms can be networked together, which allows customers more flexible deployment options. Furthermore, SEN expanded mobile client capabilities, including support for the iOS and Android operating systems, and now supports a broader range of smartphones and tablets. The major enhancements of R3 include UC support and integration with VMware’s Zimbra Collaboration Server and enhanced support for Microsoft Office 365. Three versions are available:
- OpenScape Office MX is an all-in-one UC solution in a single cabinet with preinstalled software. It can be deployed as a stand-alone system or as a gateway for OpenScape Office LX. The MX is targeted to organizations with up to 150 users.
- OpenScape Office LX is the server-based UC solution that can be operated on a Linux server, independent of the platform. OpenScape Office LX supports up to 500 users in a single server and can run in a virtualized VMware vSphere environment.
- OpenScape Office HX UC enables the older HiPath 3000, and it supports TDM, analog and IP phones for 50 to 500 users.
The three OpenScape Office versions can be networked in any configuration for up to 1,000 users. SMBs should evaluate SEN’s OpenScape Office for requirements that include a single-site or multisite all-in-one UC offer with Web-based functionality and the option to run in a virtualized environment.
- SEN introduced promotional programs/marketing incentives to increase the adoption of UC functionality and make it easier for its voice customers to transition to UC. In 2011, SEN started offering MX and LX customers free upgrade licenses to attain full access to UC features.
- The financial backing of The Gores Group has enabled the company to invest in UC-focused strategic initiatives.
- Both OpenScape Office MX and LX are built as complete all-in-one solutions with broad UC capabilities; the LX supports integration with a large range of third-party software developers. Additionally, OpenScape Office receives positive scores for ease of implementation. Built-in wizards make OpenScape Office relatively straightforward to configure and deploy.
- Redundancy and failover capabilities are extra-cost options available for SEN OpenScape Office.
- SEN’s channel coverage is less extensive in the North American market than it is in many other regions. For high-level problem resolution, some SEN dealers have their own network operation centers to minimize coordination with resources based in Germany.
- While OpenScape Office is a very versatile UC platform, prospects should compare its multiyear total cost of ownership with other UC solutions for the SMB market and evaluate the competitive cost-effectiveness of OpenScape Office. The solution includes UC functionality, which may not be required in all organizations with fewer than 100 users.
- Prospects should check channel partner references that match their UC and regional needs, and verify that support resources have been trained and certified on current product releases.
Toshiba positions two offerings in the SMB UC market. The first solution is based on the IP-capable Strata CIX telephony platform combined with the Media Application Server (provides voice messaging/UM, notification and contact center functionality), Strata Meeting (provides Web conferencing and audioconferencing and collaboration), and the Strata Call Manager (provides presence/IM). The Strata CIX is available in five versions to accommodate different size segments: CIX40 (four to 28 users); CIX100 (20 to 70 users); CIX200 (50 to 160 users); CIX670 (100 to 560 users); and CIX1200 (250 to 1,000 users). The second offer, released in June 2011, is based on the Toshiba IPedge. IPedge is available in three versions: IPedge EP (sweet spot is at eight to 40 users); IPedge EC (sweet spot is at 20 to 100 users); and the IPedge EM (sweet spot is at 100 to 500 users, although the solution scales up to 1,000 users). IPedge is a pure IP solution built on a Linux-based platform featuring telephony, voice messaging/UM, IM/presence, and SIP trunking capabilities in a single-server architecture. During the second half of 2011, Toshiba’s Meeting audio/video Web collaboration application became embedded into the IPedge, eliminating requirements for an additional server to provide conferencing and collaboration functionality. The Strata CIX and IPedge solutions are positioned to customers in the same size segments. The CIX solution supports digital and IP devices, while the IPedge is a pure IP-based solution. The solutions can be networked together as necessary. The IPedge provides survivability for IP telephones, softphones, Call Manager UC clients and Messaging applications, with the ability to reregister to a secondary (backup) system if the primary system fails. Both the outgoing and incoming calls automatically follow the IP telephones to their new location on the secondary system through an AudioCodes gateway. The Strata CIX provides the same survivability for IP telephones and softphones. Small businesses should consider Toshiba if they are looking for a reliable, more voice-oriented offering geared specifically for smaller environments.
- Toshiba offers a flexible UC migration path for its customer base. Although dividing research and development dollars between two different solution sets may create a financial and support burden for Toshiba, the company recognizes that its customer installed base has unique buying preferences and is committed to investing in and supporting both product lines going forward.
- The IPedge solution continues to undergo server consolidation, making the solution easier to implement and support. During 2011, the Meeting application was built into the IPedge server; the solution no longer requires an external server for conferencing/Web collaboration. Overall, IPedge provides integration of several UC elements, compared with the Strata CIX, and it has the potential to create a simplified UC user experience with centralized management capabilities.
- Toshiba is known for producing reliable and affordable voice-oriented offerings. The company is known to focus on its core market and business, which is small-business communications, and to deliver solutions that are integral to this market.
- Toshiba’s Strata CIX-based UC solution requires the integration of various servers to achieve full UC functionality. While Toshiba’s prices for basic voice functionality are price-competitive within the SMB market, a modular approach that requires the integration of multiple servers to obtain UC functionality and separate license fees for each element can add significant cost and complexity for customers and partners.
- The IPedge solution has received limited traction to date, and most Toshiba dealers do not have experience with IPedge implementations or support. Prospects should ensure a specific partner has the expertise to install an IPedge solution or the dealer has effective relationships in place with Toshiba to address potential implementation issues before moving forward with an IPedge deployment.
- Toshiba is rarely the first provider to introduce a new feature in its UC offering, so small businesses that are interested in emerging and innovative products may choose to look elsewhere. In addition, Toshiba’s UC applications, including conferencing, have more-basic functionality and limited features than some competitor offerings.