If you’ve ever worked for a small company, you know how painful office telephony can be. Case in point: At my last gig, I inherited the desk and phone of another reporter who had left the company.
No one in that office knew how to change the voicemail options and phone calls to the telephony provider went unreturned for days. Finally I had to call the reporter — now with a competitor — and beg him for his password so that I could get into voice mail and change the configuration. Luckily, he was a mensch.
Sadly, that is not an exception to the rule when it comes to small businesses.
Microsoft Response Point is supposed to remedy that situation by making it a no-brainer to move extensions around and reprogram options.
This week, the company will tout Response Point Service Pack 1 that will add outward-facing VoIP capabilities to the year-old small business phone system.
The full Response Point system — Microsoft software bundled with D-Link, Quantas or Aastra hardware — plugs into a company’s LAN and from that point promises easy and flexible phone management.
It can work with traditional analog or VoIP lines or a combination, says Jason Harrison, president of Harrison Technology Consulting, a Nashville, N.C.-based small business specialist. Harrison’s been a fan since the inaugural release.
Microsoft will talk up SP 1 at its annual Small Business Summit this week. SP1 should be available as a download to existing customers and make its way into new hardware this summer.
The product competes with small business phone systems from Avaya, Digium and others.
One Microsoft talking point will be integration with Outlook email and Business Contact Manager. In theory, that will enable it to suck up all a user’s contact information and the user can then, click a button, speak the name of the client, and the system will place the call. It uses the company’s Speech Server technology.
The outbound-VoIP capabilities means companies can easily assign new phone numbers (and discard them if needed.) The previous release has internal VoIP capabilities and some partners say SP1 is adding features that had been promised in the initial release.
The target market is companies with up to 50 employees. Harrison says the outbound VoIP-essentially direct SIP trunking is done within the server
“The fact that it works with VoIP and non-VoIP lines is a plus for smaller customers who may want to try out VoIP,” Harrison said. For his company the product opens up all sorts of telephony-oriented doors
“This is an area we haven’t been involved with before. This product lets customers try VoIP and add it as they want,” Harrison noted.
He sees integration work opportunities with ResponsePoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, and Microsoft Office Accounting. With that amalgam a partner can create system in which an “inbound call prompts a popup toast that identifies the customer from caller ID, Outlook does a cross check, and you click on the toast to bring up all the data about that customer or prospect,” Harrison said.
The software also will give D-Link partners an entrée into voice applications.
Hardware/software solutions from all three partners list for about $2,500 for base unit and four or five desktop phones with slight variations depending on the OEM partner.
Barbara Darrow can be reached at email@example.com.