It’s important to remember it’s not always about the large enterprise when it comes to moving to unified communications. Sometimes the small business needs UC most.
For example, Habitat for Humanity’s Kim Trainor, community relations director of the greater Lowell, Mass., area, isn’t a bleeding-edge technology adopter. She’s been more of a last-gen user using a black push-button phone with no features for the past three years. In a job where she spends time looking for corporate sponsors, writing grants and working with families that need housing, a hold button, basic voicemail and the ability to transfer calls without telling someone to call back could have changed her life.
When the opportunity to beta test Avaya’s new AvayaLive Connect public Internet UC solution presented itself, complete with new handsets, Trainor and her four office mates graduated to a plug-and-play service that include audio and video conferencing, presence, mobility, messaging, and of course voicemail that can be delivered to email. At that moment, Lowell’s Habitat for Humanity group joined the 95% of companies doing something with UC, according to Nemertes Research vice president Irwin Lazar.
Trainor’s group didn’t have to know what presence or soft clients are. They just got to use the features.
“We knew we needed a new phone system, but in the non-profit world, you just try to make do and hope that people donate stuff,” Trainor said. “We have no technology budget. But we’ve been testing it for two months, and it has made our lives much easier.”
AvayaLive Connect, which is designed for small businesses, will roll out commercially in early summer. Its aggressive pricing, we’re told (unofficially), will be $20 per user, per month, with Avaya throwing in a free month’s subscription.
Announcing the service at Enterprise Connect 2012 in Orlando this week, Avaya is betting on attracting the huge and often underserved small business market. It plans to have its channel partners heavily involved — at least those who have shown they’re good at selling services, not just boxes. The service is also available via the Avaya website.
While the service runs over the public Internet, Avaya announced a strategic relationship with Level 3 Communications to support AvayaLive Connect. It is unclear what the provider’s strategic mission is.
Cloud and/or hosted collaboration service announcements are plentiful this week, and providers (which include carriers, UC vendors and startups) are labeling them as “cloud,” “hosted” or “managed” services to avoid customer “cloud fear.” Microsoft also markets Lync Online, its Office 365 public cloud services suite, for small business customers.
Many more announcements targeted larger enterprises. For example, Sprint announced the availability of Sprint Complete Collaboration, a managed UC service bundle that integrates Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration solution (HCS) platform that provides connectivity through SIP trunking via its MPLS network. Capitalizing on its carrier background, Sprint offers class of service at no charge and integrates client- and network-based mobile integration intended to extend PBX features to mobile devices.
UC services like Sprint’s are too big for Trainor’s needs, however, with its sweet spot of enterprises with 500 to 5,000 users. Avaya Live Connect can scale down to two users to fill a blank in the market, according to Philippe Allard, product manager for AvayaLive Connect, adding that the handsets arrive completely assembled with cords plugged in if the customer even wants to buy phones, which is not required.