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Keeping in Touch with Telecommunications

11/2012 - By Cassandra Balentine - Business Tech Edge

In spite of a continuing trend towards Internet-based communications, small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) still rely on phone systems to maintain customer and partner relationships. However, it is important to recognize the landscape has and continues to adapt with technology advancements.

The market is fragmented and many vendors serve the space with varying phone systems, some tailored to very specific needs. However, Alberto Montilla, product manager, small business technology group, Cisco Systems, Inc., notes common requests. “SMB systems that are simple to procure, install, and use tend to be more popular. Phone systems that build on simplicity with business-enabling collaboration applications with a strong offering of end points tend to stay in the leadership position,” he offers.

Major trends affecting phone systems in the space include consideration for cloud-based services, mobile worker and phone compatibility, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunk adoption, collaboration tools such as instant messaging (IM) and presence—real-time status and availability, and IP-enablement made possible with Private Branch Exchange (PBX).

Move to Mobility

Smartphones and other mobile communications devices are strongly affecting the way businesses and consumers alike communicate—amongst themselves and with one another.

“Smartphones are proliferating in the SMB workspace at a significant pace and are allowing SMBs the ability to access critical data at speeds that were not possible before,” suggests Montilla. However, he adds that they are not replacing landline systems. “Rather, this trend has given rise to increased adoption of collaboration applications, and landline-based phone systems are required to provide tighter integration with mobile devices through applications like soft phones and instant messaging clients,” he adds.

Bill Savino, marketing manager, SMB, Panasonic Corporation of North America, sees mobility as a key driver in business and the need to support mobile phones as office extensions is increasingly important. “An SMB phone system should allow end users to use any cell phone or smartphone as a virtual extension of the office phone system, making the transfer of calls and the ability to receive voicemail possible anywhere in the world,” he adds.

Laura Schaffer, product manager, Phonebooth, a division of, Inc., points out that smartphones have created a pain point for landline providers that did not previously exist. “With the advent of the smartphone, employees are as productive in the field as they are at their desk. Nevertheless, they still require interconnectivity with their business’ central phone system. The need to accommodate mobility is likely the biggest drive, from plain old telephone service to hosted options,” she adds.

Desk and mobile phones are seen as complementary by Natalia Kagramanova, senior product manager, SMB, ShoreTel Inc. “Desk phones are still more suitable for in-office communications with speaker phones, whereas solutions like ShoreTel put the power of the desk phone in your pocket with smartphones when you happen to be away from your desk or at a remote location.”

Vani Edwardson, director, solutions marketing, Mitel Networks Corporation, agrees, suggesting that smartphones have simply become an extension of the business communication system and are not a replacement for the communications platform or even the desktop-based device.

Available Systems

As previously noted, a variety of phone systems serve different needs. Solutions providers highlight products suited to the SMB. Additionally, feature sets most demanded and utilized by smaller organizations are shared.

Cisco offers several phone systems suited to the SMB. Among them is the Cisco Unified Communications (UC) 300 Series, which allows businesses to take advantage of IP telephony to reduce costs, boost productivity, and create a more collaborative company. It also includes built-in data and wireless support, plus advanced phone features such as voicemail and automated attendant. The company suggests that with its UC series, users can replace PBX or key systems with a single, all-in-one network solution. Part of the Cisco Small Business product family, the solution is easy to set up and manage, but flexible enough to change along with a business. The system supports voice, SIP trunking, integrated wireless, and built-in routing and switching.

Montilla suggests that the average use of a phone system before it needs to be replaced or upgraded is seven to ten years on average. This figure varies by geography. “Developed countries tend to be on a shorter refresh cycle than emerging countries. Another factor determining the average usage—at least in the last five years—is access to leasing the phone system from service providers, partners, or manufacturers. In this case, average usage depends on the lease terms—typically 36 to 48 months,” he notes.

Mitel’s virtualized UC offering is based on the company’s Mitel Communications Director and the Mitel Applications Suite. It is designed to provide SMBs the ability to deploy UC either as premises-, hosted-, or cloud-based, or a combination; as well as in a VMware virtualized environment.

To meet the growing demand to support an increasing number of mobile employees, Mitel offers Unified Customer Advanced (UCA) included in MAS, a UC-client for the desktop and mobile devices. UCA integrates presence, IM, audio conferencing, as well as Web and video collaboration with Mitel call control capabilities. As an option, Mitel extends UC capabilities to mobile workers on smartphones or tablets.

Edwardson lists key features for SMBs from a role-based perspective including IT Manager, a simplified administration via a centralized single point of access and ability to leverage existing technology investments; Mobile Workers, the ability to work remotely on a device of choice leveraging features such as teleworking, twinning, and SIP-based mobile clients; as well as Knowledge Workers, the ability to communicate and collaborate to ensure efficient, effective decision-making by leveraging collaboration tools such as IM, presence, knowledge management, video, and audio conferencing.

The Panasonic Network Communication Platform (NCP) system is a highly-modular, all-in-one communication, collaboration, and monitoring solution that supports a variety of endpoints including IP telephones, conference phones, DECT 6.0 wireless phones, digital, and analog phones. It is designed to provide SMBs with a broad choice of options to customize a solution to best suit their unique needs. The NCP solution is also highly flexible and is developed to improve business communications workflow. The solution allows SMB users to effectively reach, serve, and retain customers by offering a combination of intelligent call routing, call center functionality, and integral desktop productivity applications.

Specific advantageous features of NCP include built-in voice messaging and automated attendant functionality; advanced voicemail using optional TVA50 and TVA200 voice processing systems; mobility applications that support mobile phones as office extensions; support for remote workers and offices; access to cordless handsets; remote management, upgrades, and monitoring of phone system; desktop, network, and business application integration; Communication Assistant call management software; built-in support for Advanced IP extensions; and integrated SIP solutions via SIP trunking providers for more affordable monthly telecommunication costs.

Phonebooth offers a hosted phone system. The company’s Phonebooth OnDemand enables SMBs to sign up online and instantly set up cloud-based PBX through an online portal, select features, and go. The only physical requirement is a high-speed Internet connection and IP phones.

“The greatest benefit of a hosted VoIP phone system to SMBs is the immediacy with which they can customize and adjust their system based on business needs. As soon as they sign up, they are immediately able to log in and add or remove users and set up call groups,” explains Schaffer.

According to the company’s SMB customer base, the most valuable feature of Phonebooth OnDemand is the voice-to-text message transcription service, which sends voicemails as email attachments to a user’s inbox. Schaffer states that customers report time savings on a daily basis.

ShoreTel is a phone system provider market that recently earned Gartner’s Strong Positive rating for UC for the SMB Market. The company provides ShoreTel 13, a complete UC system that starts at about $600 per user, but varies based on the existing network equipment available to support the applications. The product integrates with mobile phones through the ShoreTel Mobility software. Up to 20,000 users are allowed on a single system.

Kagramanova says the most important phone system feature for the SMB is simple management, which helps those with a small IT department. “We have the lowest total cost of ownership because of the reduced complexity compared to other systems,” she states, offering an example. “When a company opens a new location, there is no need to buy a new system. On ShoreTel only takes a couple of minutes to configure a new site and add users to the new site—it’s so easy.”

Another advantage is scalability. The same system scales from ten to thousands of users. This means that customers will never reach the breaking point when they have to replace the system.

System Upgrade

Many vendors provide next-generation phone systems and support to the SMB space. Changing business demands, such as the integration of mobility, enter into traditional phone systems at every scale, enabling small business owners to compete at an enterprise level.

Nov2012, Business TechEdge


Mitel Simplifies Business Collaboration and Mobility

March 6, 2012

Web-Based Collaboration Solution and New Mobility Client With IM and Dynamic Presence Delivers a Superior User Experience

OTTAWA, March 6, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Mitel (Nasdaq:MITL), a leading provider of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) software solutions, today unveiled the latest version of its flagship UCC offering, the Mitel Applications Suite (MAS 4.0). Based on Mitel's Freedom Architecture, MAS 4.0, which is also available as a virtualized solution, is designed to address several points of frustration plaguing IT organizations and business users, and gives companies the ability to tailor the solution to their unique communications needs. With new Web-based collaboration and mobility solutions, MAS 4.0's unique single application interface facilitates easy, natural communication and collaboration between colleagues regardless of their location or device.

"Our business users need tools that allow them to work easily, intuitively, and consistently. They're swamped, and they don't have the time or desire to configure and connect to multiple or complicated interfaces," said Jason Spainhour, director of Information Systems, SkillPath Seminars. "IT has always operated with minimal staff levels, so from our perspective, we need a solution that is easy to manage and maintain. By simplifying our ability to manage our applications and allowing us to efficiently deliver advanced capabilities to our users, Mitel Applications Suite provides our teams with a truly collaborative experience."

Key highlights of MAS 4.0's collaboration and mobility features for end-users include:

  • Web-based Collaboration, without client downloads, to support spontaneous collaboration — In addition to a completely redesigned user interface, Mitel Collaboration Advanced (MCA) includes a new Web-based collaboration portal, designed to give collaboration participants a hassle-free collaboration experience without the need to download a client.
  • Secure Instant Messaging and Dynamic Presence on mobile devices — Unified Communicator Advanced (UCA) Mobile, Mitel's mobile client software, now enables secure instant messaging and real-time presence, giving employees visibility of their colleagues status, so they can choose the most effective way to communicate with them. These new features are available now on the Android and Blackberry clients, with availability on the Apple iOS client soon to follow. The UCA Web Portal has also been completely redesigned to provide faster navigation from any device with a web browser, and now enables secure instant messaging and real-time presence information.

MAS 4.0 also offers several new features to make IT's job easier, including:

  • Simplified Administration —MAS 4.0 extends its single management interface to provision users with complete UCC functionality and manage the solution across the entire enterprise, aimed at saving precious IT time and effort.
  • Extended Virtualization — strengthening Mitel's leadership in virtualization, MAS 4.0 supports VMware's vSphere 5.0, enabling it to be deployed alongside other business applications in the data center, and vCenter management tools, enabling the solution to be managed like any other virtual application, with the latest VMware infrastructure.
  • Increased Scalability — support for up to 1,500 users with full unified communications and collaboration functionality.

"UCC simplicity and ease-of-use is critical to adding value in an enterprise — both for the end-user and for IT," said Ron Wellard, executive vice president and general manager, Mitel Communications Solutions. "Today's IT manager has too much going on to waste time with difficult-to-manage solutions. Likewise, if it's too hard to collaborate, end-users will look to other solutions and productivity will suffer. Mitel's new unified solution set is designed to alleviate these real, business impacting concerns."

Additional Resources:

About Mitel

Mitel (Nasdaq:MITL) is a global provider of business communications and collaboration software and services. Mitel's Freedom architecture provides the flexibility and simplicity organizations need to support today's dynamic work environment. Through a single cloud-ready software stream, Mitel delivers a powerful suite of advanced communications and collaboration capabilities that provides freedom from walled garden architectures and enables organizations to implement best-of-breed solutions on any network; extends the "in-office" experience anywhere, on any device; and offers choice of commercial options to fit business needs. For more information visit:

Mitel and the Mitel logo are registered trademarks of Mitel Networks Corporation.

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Letter to Nortel Users

As many of you know Nortel is seeking to sell all assets and not expected to emerge from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. There is already a $650 million dollar offer from Nokia for the Carrier division of Nortel.

It is widely predicted that the Nortel, as a company, will cease to exist in the very near future. As of June 10th 2009, Rel Comm’s relationship with Nortel as an authorized dealer was terminated. We as a company, simply could not continue to promote Nortel products and to paint a picture to our customers that "everything is just fine" when nothing could be farther from the truth.

As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely no value in being an Authorized Dealer for a company that is in the process of liquidating all assets.

Rel Comm not only has a substantial inventory of Nortel components, but we also have numerous lines of supply and the same technical expertise that we have always had to provide quality service and support.

The latest news is that Avaya has put an offer of $475 Million toNortel to acquire the Enterprise division. The game plan is probably to obtain the Nortel customer base and then attempt to sell that base into Avaya IP products before the customers go elsewhere. For more information visit

We, as a company, have been promoting Mitel as a cost effective migration strategy for existing Nortel Customers.

Mitel and Rel Comm developed an integration package that will allow the Mitel 3300 IP PBX to communicate with your existing Nortel PBX.

This eliminates the need to "forklift" your existing Nortel system while investing future dollars into a better platform (Mitel) at your own pace.

Please email for information regarding your contingency plan.


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