Thursday, September 30, 2010

Home TelePresence coming from Cisco?

Blogosphere lights up with specualtion on Oct. 6 consumer product launch

By Jim Duffy on Wed, 09/29/10 - 4:46pm.

The blogosphere is alive with speculation that Cisco next week will unveil a home version of its TelePresence virtual conferencing system for $200 to $500. The source of the fire seems to be this post from Reuters, but The Wall Street Journal's Kara Swisher is taking her share of the credit as well.

Comcast and Verizon may launch and endorse the product with Cisco, which is expected to compete directly with Skype's Internet video-calling service. Remember when Cisco was going to buy Skype? Instead, Skype hooked up with Cisco's unified communications and collaboration competitor Avaya this week.

Cisco is expected to extol the high-definition video virtues of its home TelePresence system as an advantage over the Skype service, Swisher says in her post. It is also expected to be much easier to implement than Cisco's higher-end, higher-priced business conferencing systems.

Cisco's holding a press event next week to roll out a new consumer device. Swisher, Reuters and many others in cyberjournalism are pretty confident this is it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NY Times: Video Calling Is Going Mainstream, As Long As Price Stays Down

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Web Editor

Video calling is slowly moving from a science fiction fantasy to a daily reality for a lot of Internet users, The New York Times is reporting.

According to a new survey, the VoIP company, Rebtel, commissioned from Harris Interactive (News - Alert), shows that 14 percent of U.S. adults currently make video calls and 34 percent of them are willing to pay a fee for them, the Times reports.

With technologies like Skype (News - Alert) and its built-in video calling feature, as well as Apple's FaceTime and various other mobile video calling solutions, the market for video calling is becoming mainstream as the tools for making these calls are becoming more easily available, according to the Times.

The survey shows about a third of those Internet users who are making video calls are also willing to pay for it. According to the Rebtel (News - Alert) survey, the price for this feature can't be too high, the Times reports. Most users aren't willing to spend more than $10 per month for this, and 44 percent of those respondents who are willing to pay don't want to pay more than $5, the Times reports on the survey results.

Rebtel's CEO Andreas Bernstrom said, "This opens up a new, non-ad based revenue model for providers like Skype who are looking to monetize on their video services," said Rebtel’s CEO Andreas Bernstrom in the Times’ report.

In a related matter, TMCnet recently reported that mobile video chatting and conferencing has been a hot topic in the telecommunications space over the last few years. While the equipment is available, mobile networks do not have the bandwidth capacity to allow these products and services to be adopted on a widespread basis. With the recent advances in communications technology, consumers demand a higher level of video quality than mobile networks are currently capable of delivering, TMCnet reported.

For this reason, wired networks will continue to be a staple in the enterprise space, according to Rico Vitale, senior systems engineer at Enablence, a supplier of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) equipment and optical components.

Avaya, Skype in deal to offer low-cost, IP-based calling

Skype users would be able to reach a company using Avaya gear for free or at low cost

By Matt Hamblen, Computerworld

Computerworld - Avaya and Skype signed an agreement Wednesday to offer Skype Connect to Avaya customers to help them lower international voice-calling costs through IP-based calls.

Avaya and Skype also plan to deliver a wider range of communications and collaboration capabilities for large businesses, helping both Avaya and Skype users connect with presence technology, instant messaging, voice and videoconferencing. The companies said such a service would be an efficient way for a company call center to resolve customer service inquiries. These services would be offered in the second phase of the agreement, beginning in the last half of 2011.

Alan Baratz, senior vice president of Avaya, said the agreement will offer customers a common user experience. Skype's David Gurle, general manager of Skype for Business, said the relationship with Avaya will help expand Skype Connect's footprint into more large U.S. businesses.

The first phase will bring Skype calling to IP-based enterprise communications systems running Avaya gear. A Session Initiation Protocol channel will be set up between customers with Avaya Aura Session Manager or SIP Enablement Server, CS 1000, IP Office or BCM systems. Those Avaya customers will use Skype Connect to make international calls at lower cost while getting enterprise-level security features in the Avaya systems.

Skype users globally will be able to make inbound calls to Avaya customers in the U.S. market for free or at low cost, and the Avaya gear will add a variety of features for collaboration. A business, for example, could add a Skype Click & Call button to its Web site for a customer to make a call to a customer care center.

Small- and medium-size business customers already using Avaya IP Office should be "very excited about getting access to Skype," said Steve Hilton, an analyst at Analysys Mason. "It will help them save money on international calling and get access to webcam-style video communications integrated with their Avaya phone systems."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research, said the partnership between Skype and Avaya should enhance the value of the coming Avaya Desktop Video Device and its Flare user interface. "This partnership would open up Skype presence information and voice over IP to be displayed and used by the Flare tablet," Kerravala said.

Avaya will also gain greater credibility as an IP switching vendor with the Skype agreement, Kerravala said. "With Cisco having such a huge palette of unified communications [systems], Avaya can gain credibility through its partnerships," he said.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Polycom Reorganizes, Adds Execs to Tackle UC Opportunity

Unified Communications solutions supplier Polycom Inc. has made some significant internal changes to how it will do things. That includes a reorganization of its business units to better align with the idea of unified communications, and the addition of six new executives to its management team.

Polycom is combining its video, telepresence, and voice development units into a single research and development organization. The company also is forming three new lines of business targeting the enterprise and government/public sector; service providers; and small to medium business customers – an area for which IDC reports worldwide information technology spending is expected to grow to nearly $630 billion by 2014.

"Polycom grew sharply in the first half of 2010 to a $1.2 billion revenue run rate, and we expect this growth to continue into 2011 and beyond," says Andy Miller, Polycom president and CEO. "Unified communications is expected to be one of the fastest growing sectors in technology, and Polycom is ideally positioned to deliver innovative solutions for our customers and strategic partners.

“To best capture this unprecedented opportunity, we have assembled a management team that is one of the best in technology,” he says. “By blending the video and voice development teams into one powerhouse UC innovation engine, we will further increase our agility and enable efficiencies in R&D. Additionally, the LOB structure allows us to better anticipate and deliver on our customer and partner needs."

Leading the charge will be Polycom’s existing management (with the exception of Joe Sigrist, previously senior vice president and general manager of video solutions, who has left the company and joined Avaya as well as the handful of new, but experienced, recruits.

That includes Joseph Burton, who serves as senior vice president, chief strategy and technology officer, general manager enterprise and service provider. He previously served as Cisco's CTO for unified communications. In that Cisco position since 2007, Burton’s work involved video technologies, WebEx collaboration, call management, and social computing. He also has held the post of co-general manager of Cisco's UC Software business unit.

Also new to Polycom is Sudhakar Ramakrishna, senior vice president and general manager products, and chief development officer. Joining Polycom on Oct. 11, Ramakrishna comes from Motorola where he was corporate vice president and general manager for wireless broadband access solutions and software operations. In that post Ramakrishna was instrumental in scaling the 4G (WiMAX and LTE) business and leading large teams of more than 2,300 employees and businesses worldwide. Previous to his tenure with Motorola, Ramakrishna was the vice president of product operations at Stoke Networks and a senior manager at 3Com and other companies.

Susan Hayden, meanwhile, has been named executive vice president and general manager for Polycom SMB. Polycom says Hayden – who will direct Polycom's LOB strategy – is well-known for building and expanding large-scale global operations in technology companies. Previously, she was group vice president of sales for OracleDirect. She’s also worked at SAP, Fidelity, Dun and Bradstreet Software, and Monster.com.

Polycom also has named Alan Rudolph senior vice president of Global Services. He previously served as senior vice president of applications management and consulting for Affiliated Computer Services, a Xerox Company, where he helped to transform the company into a services-focused organization. He also has run global application product delivery for IBM, and has held positions at Corio, Oracle, and other technology outfits.

Gary Rider has been tapped as president of Polycom’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In that post he will complement Polycom's existing theater presidents in the Americas and Asia Pacific. He previously held the position of vice president of Europe global sales and marketing for NCR, and has held senior sales management positions for HP and Digital Equipment.

And Ashley Goldsmith joins as senior vice president of human resources, having come from F. Hoffmann-La Roche.

Which Switch Is Right for Your Small Business?

by Dawn Allison Brister


Learn the difference between managed and unmanaged switches to choose the best device for your business

I talked briefly about the advantages of managed switches for your small business network , but in this post I’ll give you more information about both managed and unmanaged switches, so you can decide which is best for your company.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4088/5012030717_209c452930.jpg

The nuts and bolts of a managed switch

A managed switch, such as the Cisco 300 Series lets you prioritize the traffic traveling across your network so that the most important information gets through first. In addition, you can control who has access to your network.

With a managed switch, you can configure, manage, and monitor your network. Managed switches use SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) to show you how well your network is running and if any of the devices on your network are broken or failing. SNMP also provides remote management capabilities, enabling you to make changes to the devices on your network and repair any problems through the Web-based interface, without having to directly connect to the switch itself.

Managed switches also provide redundancy and VLAN (virtual LAN) capabilities to help improve your network’s performance. Redundancy allows the switch to keep network traffic flowing even if a network connection fails. In other words, your network won't go down.

VLANs let you create groups within your company to isolate different kinds of traffic on the network. For example, you can segment traffic between your finance and marketing groups so that mission-critical financial information has priority over marketing data. VLANs also provide an additional layer of security by letting you hide sensitive company information from guests you’ve allowed to access your network.

Finally, a managed switch can support you as your business and technology needs grow. For example, if you decide to adopt an IP-based phone system, having a managed switch with QoS (Quality of Service) support allows you to assign a higher priority to voice traffic so that call quality isn’t affected by other traffic on your network. Additionally, a managed switch that includes secure wireless connectivity lets you add users—employees and guests—to your network at any time and allow them to access your network and the Internet from any office or conference room in the building.

The simplicity of an unmanaged switch

An unmanaged switch has fewer features than its managed counterpart, so it requires little technical know-how to add to your network. There's no software to install and nothing to configure, making an unmanaged switch ideal for small businesses that are just getting their network started or that have no in-house IT support.

Unmanaged switches, like the Cisco 100 Series, have a fixed configuration and are ready to communicate with your PCs, network printers, and other devices right out of the box. All you have to do is plug in the switch, connect your computers and other devices to it, and connect the switch to the Internet. That’s all there is to it.

The choice is yours

Which you choose depends on your needs. In a nutshell, an unmanaged switch provides basic connectivity for linking the various devices in your office to each other, including computers, services, printers, etc. A managed switch, on the other hand, gives you more control over your network as well as support for advanced communications technologies like IP telephony; in short, a managed switch will grow with your business

Regardless of which type of switch you choose, make sure it has all the basic must-have features. These include energy efficiency, interoperability with other vendors’ products, and Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.

Have you recently purchased a switch? Which did you choose and why? Share your tips with other small businesses.

How Technology Gives Smaller Businesses a Bigger Advantage

By Jason Deign

The way Matthew Fincham handled a life insurance request for a thousand-year-old says it all about what makes small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) special.

When the 36-year-old consultant at Executive Planning International Life Insurance (EPILI), in Aurora, Ontario, was asked to cover a client's children who were apparently born in 1009 and 2995, it was clear the client was just having a bad day at the keyboard.

A quick personal e-mail from Matthew, son of EPILI's founder Paul W Fincham, quickly resolved the matter. A bigger company might not have done such a good job, however. Getting dates wrong is the sort of human error that might cause problems in a heavily automated system.

And the typically impersonal response the client might have got from a bigger insurer would probably not have gone down well. Most of EPILI's clients are high-net-worth individuals who value special treatment.

Customer retention

That may be why EPILI, with just seven full-time employees, has a customer retention record most other companies could not even dream of. "We have a thing called persistency, which is the percentage of policies that remain in force without lapsing or being replaced," says Fincham.

"Ours is pretty much 100 percent. I have only had one person leave in 16 years, and that was due to financial hardship—the client had to cancel almost everything she had not to go bankrupt."

Much of this success is down to the old-school values of honesty, trust, and personal service that Paul Fincham built the business on in the 1960s and 70s. His son's contribution has been to use technology to build on those values in a fashion which is typical of many SMBs globally.

"I can take a call in my car and unless you heard the noise of the wind you would not know I was not in the office."

— Matthew Fincham, consultant, Executive Planning International Life Insurance

While employees in many larger businesses tend to hide behind their voicemail and e-mail systems, at EPILI, like many other customer-conscious SMBs, technology has been tailored to make it easier to get hold of staff at any time.

Single number

"Clearcable configured a 560 Series Unified Communications system with single number reach, so my phone rings at the same time as my office phone," says Matthew Fincham.

"It means I can take a call in my car and unless you heard the noise of the wind you would not know I was not in the office."

The illusion is strengthened by the fact that he can log onto the office network remotely via VPN.

During a recent three-week break in Florida, he says, he was able to deal with client issues and important new business, including selling and closing an employee benefits package, thanks to his Cisco IP SoftPhone.

And he can even keep tabs on office security while he is away, thanks to a wireless IP camera fitted with a motion detector which sends him five-second clips by e-mail whenever it is activated.

Smart business

What is perhaps surprising is that all these features come from a single system and a single vendor… and one that until recently was barely known in the SMB world. Cisco got serious about the SMB market in 2005, with a range of products specifically targeted at the sector.

This was followed in 2007 with the development of a Smart Business Communications System and a specific channel partner certification process for SMBs.

Now small business is considered one of the 30 market adjacencies that will generate growth for Cisco in the future, and has a dedicated range of products ranging from routers and switches through security and surveillance devices to wireless and network storage technologies.

There is no doubt that the sector has a sizeable demand for technology. SMBs are said to make up about 99 percent of all businesses worldwide, generating up to half of the world's gross domestic product.

Right technologies

Their technology needs are usually not very sophisticated, but even the smallest business nowadays needs access to IT for simple processes such as order taking and book-keeping.

And as EPILI's experience demonstrates, the right use of the right technologies can really transform the way SMBs do business and gain the edge over larger competitors.

Ticking off the benefits of Unified Communications, Fincham notes that before EPILI got the Cisco equipment its long-distance telephone bills were of the order of CAD$1200 a month.

With the 560 Series, the company now uses Session Initiation Protocol routing to send all its calls through an Internet connection managed by the service provider TeraGo Networks. "This year our total bill for outbound calls, after eight months, is $97," he says.

For a small business battling it out against much larger rivals, that sort of boost is a big, big deal.

How UC and Multimodal Notifications Will Change Communication

By Art Rosenberg

UC-based, mobile, multimodal communications will be changing how people both initiate and receive contacts from other people, as well as directly from automated business process applications.

While person-to-person contacts will become intelligently based upon the status and preferences of the participating parties (”presence”), the contact initiator will typically be in the driver’s seat at first. The mode of communication used will then become based on what works for both the initiator and the individual recipient(s).

Because UC also encompasses human contacts with automated applications, the human user, regardless of how contact was initiated, with one major exception, must dictate the mode of interaction. While great progress has been made in speech recognition as a means of data input and user interface control, it has not made completely full-voice conversation practical as a user interface for self-service applications.

As recognized in a new book, “Advances In Speech Recognition: Mobile Environment, Call Centers and Clinics,” speech is efficient for user input, but not practical for large amounts of content output which can most efficiently be reviewed on a screen as text or graphics. That is why I see traditional telephone self-service applications (IVR) being replaced with what I call “Interactive Multimodal Response” (IMR) applications on all forms of multimodal mobile endpoint devices (smartphones, iPads, tablets, etc.)

One of the key roles that mobility and UC flexibility can play is supporting automated business processes that can initiate contacts with individual end users for time-sensitive notifications. However, I see such applications doing more than sending notification information to a user. Instead, the applications will be able to initiate an interactive multimodal exchange with the recipient, but with the choice of input and output media resting with the human recipient.

Communications Enabled Business Processes is going to heavily exploit such “multimodal notifications” because they can proactively initiate a self-service interaction without waiting for the recipient to take the initiative. Until now, telephony-based IVR was seen as the best way to handle self-services from consumers who, until lately, were not expected to have access to a real-time communication device other than a phone.

With UC and mobile, multimodal devices, the future and value of business self-services will expand significantly from legacy online desktops and telephone IVR applications.

Multimodal notifications will also become another gateway for efficient customer care, since they will also provide the necessary context for efficient “click-to-contact” live assistance, rather than a “blind” phone call.

Polycom announces next generation Voice-over-Wi-Fi Handsets

By Jeff Owen, http://www.telecomreseller.com/

Polycom has announced a new series of voice-over-Wi-Fi handsets designed for emerging applications such as barcode medication administration (BCMA), inventory control, equipment monitoring, and more. These new devices enable web browsing, IM, and boasts an XML API for customized applications, and two models have integrated barcode readers. The SprectraLink 8400 series will initially consist of three handsets: the 8440, 8450 with 2D barcode capability and the 8452 with 3D barcode capability. The 8440 and 8450 models are scheduled for availability during the second quarter of 2011 with the 8452 following in the third quarter.
Polycom’s SpectraLink Wireless Telephones communicate with the customer’s call control platform over a converged 802.11 (a, b, g, & n) wireless network. They are designed to allow employees to roam the facility while still being able to make and accept calls via the enterprise’s communications system. Polycom has made these handsets to withstand the rigors of the toughest workplace environments while providing all the feature functionality of a desk phone. The new 8400 series adds the convergence of web browsing and application access to improve the productivity of this mobile workforce.
“Polycom has a rich heritage and is the industry leader in voice-over-Wi-Fi, and our customers have come to expect exceptional reliability and access to mission-critical business applications,” said Jim Kruger, Polycom vice president of Solutions Product Marketing. “By offering a flexible, standards-based handset with open applications support and the industry’s broadest interoperability, Polycom helps to drive competitive advantage for our customers by reducing on-going operational costs and improving employee productivity while delivering on the promise of unified communication solutions for the mobile worker.”
Key features of the 8400 series include access to web-based applications, IM and Presence via Microsoft OCS, voice-over-Wi-Fi, durability (MIL STD 810F and IP 54 compliance), ease of use, open SIP platform, and a low TCO. The 8450 and 8452 also include integrated barcode scanning capabilities making the adoption of and compliance with best practices in BCMA and inventory control easier for mobile workers especially in the healthcare, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing industries. Additional features include quick battery changing and a high-definition voice docking station.
For more information visit www.polycom.com

Cisco Expands SMB Portfolio

by Ray Horak, Technology Editor, http://www.telecomreseller.com/

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) has just announced a range of new products and enhanced services and support offerings, all designed to help small businesses grow their business, improve security, and boost performance while controlling costs. New products include a new class of Cisco small business switches, new IP phones and new video monitoring software with alerts. We have followed Cisco pretty closely for the last 20 years here at Telecom Reseller and we have always been impressed with the company, people and products. We recently had the privilege of spending some time with David Tucker, Vice President and General Manager of the Small Business Technology Group, who explained the significance of this launch.

Tucker explained that “Cisco small business technology focuses on three buckets—Connect, Secure and Communicate. Connect encompasses everything required to connect Point A to Point B, simply, reliably and affordably. That includes switching, routing and wireless technologies. Secure includes network security and video surveillance technologies. Communicate refers to collaboration technologies that enhance productivity. Voice, e-mail, text, video and conferencing technologies all are included.”

Cisco 300 Series Managed Switches are a new portfolio of affordable, energy-efficient managed switches. Cisco 300 Series switches, some of which support Power over Ethernet (PoE), come in a broad range of port sizes and are designed to save up to 74 percent on power. The new line offers improved QoS granularity, enhanced security features, limited auto-discovery and auto-configuration support, initial support for 7 key languages, a lifetime warranty with advanced replacement options, and support for IPv6.

Three new IP phones and a new desktop administration tool are designed to help small businesses communicate more effectively. With these new additions, Cisco now offers HD voice (i.e., wide-band audio) across the entire Cisco Small Business IP Phone portfolio. The Cisco SPA 300 Series is a portfolio of affordable, entry-level IP phones with robust features supported with the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series and hosted IP telephony systems. The Cisco SPA 525G2 IP Phone is a full-featured, wireless IP phone with Mobile Link, a feature that pairs with a mobile phone to allow the smooth transfer of calls back and forth, plus the import of contacts wirelessly. The Cisco SPA 525G2 IP Phone is Bluetooth-enabled, includes a USB port to charge a mobile phone, and boasts built in Wi-Fi and an MP3 player.


Office Manager, available as a free download, is an administrative tool that can be customized by the Cisco partner and left behind with the small business office administrator or IT person for handling routine operational tasks for the Cisco Smart Business Communications System.

New cameras and video software are designed to help small businesses secure the business. The Cisco VC 220 Dome IP Video Camera provides outstanding image quality in both bright and low lighting conditions. The Cisco VC 240 Bullet IP Video Camera also provides outstanding image quality as well as weatherproof housing for outdoor environments. Cisco Advanced Video Monitoring System (AVMS) software offers easy-to-use, high-quality monitoring and control with advanced analytics for small business video surveillance deployments of up to 64 cameras. By adding licenses, the business can detect motion, receive alerts if items appear, disappear or move, and integrate video cameras and point-of-sale equipment.

With regard to services and support, Cisco Small Business Support Service is now available across the entire Cisco Small Business portfolio on a subscription basis. According to Tucker, “That means that small customer with a single router as the entire network can get same level of support as a customer with a UC500 and considerably more sophisticated switching.” The service delivers three years of peace-of-mind support, including next-business-day advanced hardware replacement, software updates, access to the Cisco Small Business Support Center and Small Business Support Community, and online chat support. Cisco has also simplified and enhanced the level of warranties for all Cisco Small Business Series products, including routers, switches, storage devices and wireless access points. There is now a single, uniform warranty across four simple price bands ($19, $69, $149 and $499) sensitive to the level of device complexity.

Tucker noted that “Cisco’s primary route to market is through resellers and partners so we spend a lot of our time and focus to ensure their success. With that in mind, we have simplified profitability programs and worked to enhance the partner experience, overall.” Cisco is enhancing Partner Portal and streamlining Partner Development Fund (PDF) to four tracks instead of eight to help simplify the program for partners while helping create opportunities for partners to increase their profits.

To make the process easier for partners, Cisco is implementing automatic re-enrollment for eligible partners enrolled at the end of Cisco’s fiscal year 2010. Cisco also is making it easier for partners to do business with Cisco by fundamentally simplifying their Cisco.com experience through My Cisco, which provides immediate access to the Cisco business applications and information that partners use most frequently to help improve productivity. More at http://www.cisco.com.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Polycom, Microsoft Ink Agreement to Deliver UC and Collaboration Solutions

By Shamila Janakiraman, TMCnet Contributor

Polycom specializing in telepresence, video, and voice solutions announced that it has inked an agreement with Microsoft for the delivery of integrated end-to-end unified communications and collaboration solutions and other coordinated go-to-market initiatives.

According to company sources this multiyear, strategic global agreement will be leveraged by Polycom to develop and market standards-based UC solutions that span the enterprise, besides including software, hardware, networking and services. This is expected to transform business communications for clients.

Polycom offers an optimized comprehensive portfolio of integrated solutions that cover voice, video, telepresence services, and application integration for Microsoft (News - Alert) Office Communications Server R2, Microsoft Communications Server “14”, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Active Directory solutions.

The expanded partnership between Polycom and Microsoft solutions will enable organizations to improve productivity, streamline operations, reduce costs of travel and minimize carbon footprint. By utilizing the existing infrastructure deployments organization can communicate seamlessly across all media including IM, voice, video, and Web.

More information on Polycom and Microsoft’s expanded partnership offerings can be obtained by downloading Solutionz’ Polycom-Microsoft Info Packet, said company sources.

Solutionz Conferencing, Inc. is a total conferencing provider that offers video conferencing, audio visual integrations, managed services, and grant services. Organizations desirous of leveraging the Polycom and Microsoft state-of-the-art technology and productivity enhancements are encouraged to do so by the two companies.

In order to educate and answer questions regarding Polycom’s and Microsoft’s enhanced capabilities owing to the new partnership, Solutionz has created the Polycom-Microsoft Info Packet. This uses resources like Polycom Unified Communication Solutions for Microsoft Environments; Polycom Conference for Outlook and UC Professional Services for Microsoft Solutions.

Solutionz Conferencing, Inc. is a nationwide total conferencing provider that offers end-to-end video and voice communications, audio visual integration, managed services, and grant services, which optimize face-to-face meetings irrespective of distance.

Six Business Executives Join Polycom Leadership Team

By Nathesh, TMCnet Contributor

Polycom, a dealer in unified communications, has added six seasoned business executives to its leadership team. The company has also combined its video, telepresence, and voice development units into a single, aligned research and development organization to tap the tremendous potential of the high-growth UC market.

Polycom has formed three lines of business including enterprise and government/public sector, service provider, and small-to-medium business – focused on meeting the needs of customers in each of these fast-growing technology sectors.

The new seasoned executives have participated in leading the company through a period of expected significant growth.

Joe Burton, senior vice president and chief strategy and technology officer of GM Enterprise and Service Provider, leads Polycom's long-term strategic agenda and next-generation focus areas. Before Polycom, Burton served as Cisco’s (News - Alert) chief technology officer for unified communication, encompassing video technologies, WebEx collaboration, call management, and social computing.

Sudhakar Ramakrishna will join Polycom as senior vice president, general manager of products and chief development officer on Oct. 11. Ramakrishna has been instrumental in scaling the 4G (WiMAX and LTE) business and leading large multi-function teams of more than 2,300 employees and businesses across the globe.

Sue Hayden, executive vice president and general manager of the small- to medium-sized business unit, is responsible for directing Polycom's go-to-market and line-of-business strategy. She is well known for building and expanding large-scale global operations in technology companies.

Alan Rudolph, senior vice president at Polycom Global Services, is responsible for leading Polycom's customer-centric services and support organization worldwide. He has a strong background in professional services and a proven track record of scaling large service and support organizations for multiplying business growth at such companies as Oracle and IBM (News - Alert).

Gary Rider, president at Polycom EMEA, leads Polycom's EMEA management team in developing and executing strategies and plans to drive aggressive revenue and market-share growth in the theater. Rider brings to Polycom a wealth of business management and sales experience, a deep appreciation of how to succeed in a geographically complex and culturally diverse theatre, and the ability to lead cross-functional teams. He joined Polycom following a successful seven-year career at NCR, where he led the transformation of NCR’s EMEA theatre to a highly profitable, $1.75 billion success story—and the largest theatre at NCR. Prior to NCR, he held several senior roles with StorageTek, HP and Digital Equipment.

Ashley Goldsmith, senior vice president of human resources, leads Polycom’s global human resources team. She brings more than 16 years in human resources leadership experience to Polycom. She joined Polycom from F. Hoffmann-La Roche, where she was senior vice president of human resources, corporate communications, and environmental health and safety for Roche's Tissue Diagnostics Division.

New Tolly Report: Avaya 9600 Series VoIP Phones

By Wilson Korol | 22 Sep 2010

Rightful so, the last week has been a heavy saturation of the the Avaya Flare™ experience and Avaya Desktop Video Device on this blog and many other media outlets. This was a massive and successful product launch from our company.

But, this doesn't mean that our other work went by the wayside, and in fact I am pleased to highlight another welcome development. Just before last week's launch, Avaya received some very positive, and green news. Tolly, a global provider of hands-on IT research, published an energy consumption evaluation, commissioned by Avaya, Avaya 9600 Series Voice over IP Phones: Energy Consumption Evaluation versus Cisco Unified IP Phone 7900 Series.

"This is yet another gratifying proof point of Avaya's commitment to sustainability. Energy efficiency is a key aspect of our products sustainable operations and the results from the third party verified Tolly report are another proof point." said Geoffery Baird, Avaya's Sustainability Officer.

Four VoIP phones from each vendor were tested in various states of activity in order to provide more granular data points for energy consumption modeling.

The Bottom Line: here are the take away results from the report. You should also check out the chart that is included in this post. The chart pretty clearly demonstrates the tested results, and the energy savings that Avaya can deliver with our 9600 series phones.

- In every scenario tested by Tolly, the Avaya 9600 phones consumed 40% to 60% less energy than the comparable Cisco offering

- Over 80% of the overall energy consumption of VoIP systems can be attributed to the VoIP phones (this means that power savings on the phone front can really add up. Because they are discrete end points in a solution, the power draw of the many phones in a solution can get missed)

- Avaya VoIP solutions (gateways, servers, IP Phones) were validated by Tolly to use 45% less energy, produce 45% less CO2 and lower electrical expense by 45% versus Cisco.

Other folks in the industry see the value of efficiency at the phone level in a solution as well. For instance, Gary Audin, from Delphi authored a piece for No Jitter that looked at the math behind the power draw from IP phones, using this report as a starting point, The IP Phone Power Bill Can Be High.

The TCO for VoIP should include the electrical power bill. The cost to power the IP phones can be much higher when comparing one vendor's power consumption vs. another vendor. This becomes apparent in the Tolly Enterprise's report Avaya 9600 Series Voice over IP Phones: Energy Consumption Evaluation versus Cisco Unified IP Phone 7900 Series.

What was the methodology of the testing?
Each VoIP solution was paired with a LAN switch from the same company, to incorporate the base power management systems in place at the solution level. Then, for each test, the phones were connect to a LAN switch and then measured in each of the five modeled use states, Minimum: lowest display setting, Normal Off Hook: phone in use, Normal On Hook: phone not in use, Energy Saver: testing with the specific energy-focused power management system enabled and Maximum: in use with speakerphone.

Use IP Video Surveillance to Gain a Strategic Advantage

Does your business use video surveillance? If not, why not?

It's funny; when we introduce a product we think we know what it does and how it will be used. By that I mean we spent time, money and thought looking at what people do at work and how we can make it easier. When we launched IP Video Surveillance we thought "Cool! Now people can have their surveillance cameras on the network, they can look at their business from anywhere and we have a storage device that makes it easy to go back to review tapes if you need to. Wow, we're awesome!" We had barely considered the possible uses.

When we launch a new product we go find customers who are using it and produce videos and written stories to share with other customers. So there I was! (I always like stories that begin this way) talking to people who are using our cameras. Guess what, they thought of new ways to use it. Security was cool, and very important but we had overlooked productivity. One of the first customers I met was Dr Tuuyen Do at Skye Dental. She actually told me she had asked for IP Video Surveillance for Christmas! (I can't make these things up, I'm not that good) While I don't think many of us are going to ask Santa for an IP Video Surveillance solution -- The way she uses it is very creative. Her practice is young and growing. Rather than have an employee who just sits at the desk, she uses the cameras to watch the lobby with screens in each of her treatment centers. She can see when someone comes in and her assistant can step out to greet them. Patients feel attended to and she's saving money to invest in the practice! We didn't really see that coming; but it did give us an idea!

Today we announced the Cisco Advanced Video Monitoring System to track customers walking through the store to check how they react to promotional signage or to identify dead zones where no one visits. During ad campaigns, the video monitoring system can count the number of customers coming through the door and follow their journey. And cameras can be linked to point-of-sale (POS) systems to see how many of the customers make purchases and what they bought. It's like having an extra pair of eyes!

IP video cameras like the Cisco VC220 and Cisco VC240 are for more than just security. See how the shop manager at Larry’s Auto uses IP video to check the progress of a customer's car as well as technicians’ workload, regardless of whether she’s in the office or working from home.




Posted by Dawn Allison Brister on Sep 22, 2010 12:22:32 PM


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Avaya CEO: How Video Will Change Business World

Last Wednesday, Avaya, Inc. made a splash in New York City with a portfolio of new collaboration products, including the Flare Experience multimedia conferencing system, a new tablet designed to support the Flare software and the web.alive (stet) virtual reality meeting service, among other offerings. (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/091510-avaya-tablet.html) In the latest installment of the IDG Enterprise CEO Interview Series, IDGE Chief Content Officer John Gallant talked with Avaya leader Kevin Kennedy about the company's collaboration strategy, how the new products change the competitive battle with Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems, Inc., and what it's going to take to make video a part of everyday life for business users.

Q: A lot of the pre-launch buzz about your announcements centered on Avaya developing a tablet in a market that already has a variety of tablet options. But that wasn't really the focus here, was it? How would you encapsulate the key news of the rollout?

A: Today, the fact is that people buy isolated high-def video for enterprises and they probably spend $5,000-$6,000 to put that on their desks. The second fact is that most desktop video consumes a lot of bandwidth, 1.5M to 2M [bit/sec]. That's limiting for global companies that want to go to Asia, South America, and so forth. It's a boundary that can't be crossed at that level. Third, these are disparate systems, so it's hard to do things like forward an unanswered video call into voicemail. Integration is poor because [systems are] isolated.

Today was about accessible videoconferencing collaboration, meaning it's a lower acquisition cost and lower bandwidth, so your operating cost is less. We tried to put a fun user interface on this and we called it Flare. It's a user experience that features a lot of integration, whether it's directories from the consumer or the enterprise world, or it's making use of SIP infrastructure. So, number one is innovation; number two is execution for over a year on innovation; number three is a new set of devices that solve a real problem in the enterprise; then lastly a software experience that we can put on any device, we just happened to introduce one [the tablet] today.

Q: You made some big claims about the improvements that this brings, one of them being a 10X productivity improvement. How do you support that? Where does that number come from?

A: Let's walk through an audit of what it takes you to have a board call. I don't know about you, but we may all dial in, and the first thing is that everybody comes in differently because the end points have to come onto the call. That process alone can take sometimes five or ten minutes - as opposed to simply dragging a set of people from a directory into a spotlight, which takes seconds. Right off the bat we've got, call it, single-digit seconds versus double-digit seconds. Then you do a roll call in today's world, because you don't know who's actually on. Then, let's say you want to ask the two lawyers to exit so you can have a private company conversation. Then you hear a beep-beep after you've asked, they go away, then you want them to rejoin, and you call them up again. Hopefully, they get it. If they don't get it, you leave a message on their Blackberries, and then they come back in, it's beep-beep-beep, and you do a roll call. Versus swipe, bring them in, swipe, put them into a separate area, and swipe, bring them back. Literally we've done an audit and the improvements could be as much, in some cases, as 20 times faster.

Q: What would you say are the two or three key messages you want people to take away about Avaya from this launch?

A: Number one, innovation is important to us, and we have taken great strides in building a track record on execution for innovation. Secondly, we have aligned ourselves to new markets that are growing, video being one. Third is that we've taken a differentiated approach versus our competition: Low bandwidth versus high bandwidth; a user experience that is phenomenal; and an integrative approach versus products today that are standalone and don't have that user experience.

Q: We've seen customers embrace very high-end telepresence videoconferencing systems for some very specific uses. But what is going to make video become part of our daily lives? We haven't crossed that threshold.

A: I think there are two items. I've been in communications all my career. In my early days with modem technology - now I'm really dating myself - and in my early days at Cisco where we would come up with smaller and smaller routers, a very interesting calculus would emerge. Every time you dropped the price in half of a functionality, you'd have anywhere from a three- to six-fold increase of either the numbers of people who bought it or the size of the market. The mere fact that we're bringing a high-def video capability at one third [the cost of] what people are purchasing today, I believe that's going to expand the market. The second is that if you have a user experience that's fun, more integrative - you know, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, as well as Active Directory - all of a sudden you're going to become more dependent on it. So I think it's really two things: the price point's a crucial thing. But then the second is that user experience is really the art of the sale.

Q: Let's talk about the tablet, the desktop videoconferencing device you announced today. What's your expectation on the market for that? How many customers do you think will use that versus, say, their desktop PCs or the versions of the software that you come out with for mobile devices?

A: Hard to say. The best way for me to answer that is how I think about it in our own company. Today, I have a $6,000 device in my office, I have a conference room with a device that's bigger and even more expensive, and at home I have no video. Would I be inclined to have a device that we shared today with the Flare experience on my desktop, in my conference room, as well as at my home, all for the price of what I have paid just for that one device? You bet I would. Of course, the goal is over the next 18 months to provide that same user experience frankly on almost any device that you want. A big piece of this is the recognition that our business model is about the software and the experience.

Q: How does this change the competitive landscape versus Cisco or Microsoft?

A: There was a point in time where Microsoft's architecture and the premise was that everyone would want all capabilities to be convergent on a single device that was Windows-based. I believe that that has less momentum today than it had a year ago. I don't believe that has anything to do with Avaya, by the way, with all humility. [That has to do with] the advent of social networking and the fact that directories other than Active directory are important. [It has to do with] the advent of new devices which people just fall in love with, like the iPad. The consumer world cannot be bounded and [it's] coming into the enterprise. As that has happened, this premise that there is only one device that's the convergence point for all is less strong.

Also, the cost for those desktops and operational upgrades is becoming too prohibitive, so people want to centralize that capability, again giving the opportunity for devices other than the laptop to be the convergence point. My belief is that this is a great time for a new device, but an even better time for a user experience that makes people more productive. That's what we're doing.

Q: Avaya has strong customer loyalty, Nortel has strong customer loyalty, but how do these announcements open you up to a new customer

set?

A: They actually do two things. One is [generate] new sales motion with our existing customers. At the end of the day, people absolutely have budgets for video, whether it's their motivation is to save travel cost, or motivation for collaboration - this now allows us to have a different conversation. I know that you have a video budget; I now have a user experience that you've never seen before. In terms of new customers, absolutely. By reducing the cost of the infrastructure, reducing the cost of the WAN facility, and reducing the cost of the device, and actually taking it to software, a small business can put it on any device. That has to open up the market.

Q: Are there plans to work with application vendors to integrate some of these collaboration capabilities into the more widely used applications?

A: Yes, absolutely. Obviously ERP systems and tighter integration with our own call-center capability are all going to be opportunities for us.

Q: Talk about web.alive. (http://www.avayA:com/usa/product/web-alive) How do you see people using it? People experimented with Second Life for business and it never really hit the potential that they hoped for. Will they find it here?

A: I can give you two use cases which relate to customers that have already bought it and what they're doing with it. This is not an ethereal hope. This is reality. One group of customers is using it for distance training. It does not take a lot of bandwidth and the use of these Avatars affords a lot more diversity in the audience. The spatial 3D voice is phenomenal. If you've had a chance to experience it, it surprises you when you do it. It's almost disarming. Because it's low bandwidth, it works great for large-scale, geographically dispersed work forces. The second [usage] is as a showroom. It allows consumers to call in and say, "I want to see this." You can have specialists on the chat piece of it; you can walk around the room and see diagrams, demos. While there will be many more, this is reality now. We have multiple purchases of significance and tens of millions of dollars in these two cases: the distance learning and the virtual showcase.

Q: You've talked a lot about the innovation. What's coming in the year ahead?

A: Number one is the delivery on the promise of getting this Flare user experience across more devices, as well as we'll have our own additional devices. The real purpose is to achieve a larger number of price points for the industry for that user experience. Second, we'll do more in the size of the installations that we can support. Third is really the integration - whether it's the integration with web.alive, integration with virtual desktops, integration with our call centers, or integration with ERP systems and so forth. Integration is going to be a very, very important piece of this for the enterprise.

Q: Avaya's been through a lot of changes over the past couple of years. Define for our readers the unique position that Avaya has in the market.

A: The combination of Avaya and Nortel is very unique in the sense that we're the only company that spent four decades migrating the Fortune 1000 from one architectural change in real-time communications to another. We're going to interoperate with our competitors and we're going to try to innovate so we give Fortune 1000 a low-risk migration. We've been doing for 40 years, and we're going to step it up.

John Gallant is the chief content officer for IDG Enterprise, which is comprised of Computerworld, CIO, CSO, InfoWorld, Network World and ITworld.com.

Cisco Continues Investment in Small Business Market With Expanded Portfolio of Products and Services

New small business technologies and expanded services and support help small businesses drive productivity, manage costs, and improve security


SAN JOSE, Calif. - Sept. 22, 2010 - Cisco today announced a range of new products and enhanced services and support, all designed to help small businesses grow their business, improve security, and boost performance while controlling costs. New products include a new class of Cisco small business switches to create a reliable and complete small business network, new IP phones to increase employee collaboration and productivity, and new video monitoring software with alerts to help keep businesses safe.

To help small businesses get even more from their technology investment, Cisco is also making its high-value support available across the entire Cisco Small Business technology portfolio and enhancing its small business product warranties. Finally, Cisco is continuing to invest and innovate to help its channel partners build profitable, sustainable small business practices by simplifying its Partner Development Funds profitability program and offering an innovative, personalized workspace for partners called My Cisco to help streamline business interactions with Cisco.

KEY FACTS / HIGHLIGHTS:

Expanded Technology Portfolio

  • Cisco today announced eight new products and technologies to help small businesses manage costs, grow their business, and improve productivity.
  • A new generation of Cisco Small Business managed switches to help small businesses connect to global business opportunities.
    • Cisco 300 Series Managed Switches are a new portfolio of affordable, energy-efficient managed switches that save up to 74 percent on power; offer enhanced quality of service and security features, globalization support for languages, a lifetime warranty and advanced replacement options, and help to create a reliable, future-focused network through support for IPv6. These easy-to-set-up, high-performance switches keep employees connected to the applications needed to conduct and create a more efficient business.
  • Three new IP phones and a new desktop administration tool to help small businesses communicate more effectively. With these new additions, Cisco is now offering HD voice (wide-band audio) across the Cisco Small Business IP Phone portfolio
    • The Cisco SPA 300 Series is a portfolio of affordable, entry-level IP phones with robust features supported with the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series and hosted IP telephony systems.
    • The Cisco SPA 525G2 IP Phone is a full-featured, wireless IP phone with Mobile Link, a feature that pairs with a mobile phone to allow the smooth transfer of calls back and forth, plus the import of contacts wirelessly. The Bluetooth-enabled IP phone also includes a USB port to charge a mobile phone.
    • Office Manager is an easy-to-use desktop administration tool, customized by the Cisco partner, which helps enable a small business office administrator or IT person to handle routine operational tasks for the Cisco Smart Business Communications System.
  • New video software and new cameras to help small businesses secure the business.
    • Cisco Advanced Video Monitoring System (AVMS) software offers easy-to-use, high-quality monitoring and control with advanced analytics for small business video surveillance deployments of up to 64 cameras. By adding licenses, the business can detect motion, receive alerts if items appear, disappear or move, and integrate video cameras and point-of-sale equipment.
    • The Cisco VC 220 Dome IP Video Camera provides outstanding image quality in bright and low lighting conditions.
    • The Cisco VC 240 Bullet IP Video Camera also provides outstanding image quality as well as weatherproof housing, making it ideal for outdoor environments.

Expanded Services and Support

  • The subscription-based Cisco Small Business Support Service is now available across the entire Cisco Small Business portfolio. The service delivers three years of peace-of-mind support, including next-business-day advanced hardware replacement, software updates, access to the Cisco Small Business Support Center and Small Business Support Community, and online chat support.
  • Cisco has also simplified and enhanced the level of warranties for its Cisco Small Business routing, switching and wireless access point. For more information, go to: www.cisco.com/go/warranty.

Partner Profitability

  • Cisco is streamlining Partner Development Fund (PDF) to four tracks instead of eight to help simplify the program for partners while helping create opportunities for partners to increase their profits.
    • To make the process easier for partners, Cisco is implementing automatic re-enrollment for eligible partners enrolled at the end of Cisco's fiscal year 2010. Also, Cisco will implement a single enrollment process so that partners can enroll in either VIP or PDF, but not both.
  • Cisco is making it easier for partners to do business with Cisco by fundamentally simplifying their Cisco.com experience through My Cisco.
    • My Cisco provides immediate access to the Cisco business applications and information that partners use most frequently to help improve productivity.
    • To help simplify the partners' experience, Cisco has created an integrated, personalized web page that can be customized with modules a partner selects from a new catalog to create your own My Cisco workspace.

Supporting Quotes

  • Ian Pennell, co-chair, Small Business Council, Cisco:
  • "Small businesses are working harder than ever to drive efficiency, productivity and profitability. By delivering innovative, new technology and services, Cisco is stepping up to help our small business customers meet their business objectives."

  • Angela Beltz-Norrie, vice president of the Cisco Solutions Group, Tech Data Corporation
  • "Our reseller customers—who support a wide range of IT solutions needs among small and medium businesses nationwide—always benefit when an industry leader like Cisco introduces a new portfolio of solutions designed for the small business market. By adding these products to their own solutions offerings, Cisco resellers will be able to provide even greater value to their SMB customers, especially in the areas of networking, collaboration and security."

Product Pricing and Availability

  • The Cisco 300 Series Managed Switches list prices start at $217 USD, depending on the model. Most models are available now.
  • The Cisco SPA300 Series list prices range from $83 to $125 USD depending on the model. The phones are available now.
  • The Cisco SPA525G2 IP Phone lists at $430 USD. The phone is available now
  • Office Manager is a no-cost download and is available only in English.
  • Cisco Advanced Video Monitoring System software lists starting at $1,000 USD and is available now.
  • Cisco VC220 Dome IP Video Camera lists at $794 USD. The camera is available now.
  • Cisco VC240 Bullet IP Video Camera lists at $921 USD. The camera is available now.

Photos:
Cisco 300 Series Managed Switches

Cisco 300 Series Managed Switches


Cisco Advanced Video Monitoring System (AVMS)

Cisco Advanced Video Monitoring System


Cisco SPA300 and 500 Series IP Phones

Cisco SPA300 and 500 Series IP PHones

Monday, September 20, 2010

AVAYA/NORTEL BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER (BCM) RELEASE 6.0 SUMMARY

BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER


RELEASE 6.0 SUMMARY

Avaya is pleased to announce the general availability of Business Communications Manager (BCM) Release 6.0 software. BCM 6.0 will be available on the BCM 50 and BCM 450 platforms and introduce enhanced unified communications capabilities to increase productivity and efficiency, improve mobility, collaboration and provide new teleworking solutions. Interoperability with Avaya IP Office further illustrates Avaya commitment in the small and medium enterprise space and provides the stepping stone for convergence standardizing on IP Office as the future platform. The BCM 6.0 products will also be entirely rebranded to the Avaya brand.



















BCM Release 6.0

What it brings to the Customer

Find Me Follow Me Enhancements



  • Analog Trunk Support

  • Increase of Capacity

  • Fixed Mobile Convergence


(FMC) on external destinations



  • Configurable delay for external destinations

  • Disable FMFM for Hunt Group call s


  • Increased capacity and flexibility of FMFM

  • Ability to use BCM features (park, hold, conference, transfer) on external destinations (FMC) like mobile or home phone

  • Ability to use FMFM over analog trunks

  • Additional configuration options t personalize the FMFM experience

Remote Worker Solution - Unistim VPN Client (UVC)



  • Integrated UVC in 1120/1140 IP Sets

  • BCM 6.0 will support simplified configuration and provisioning of UVC sets


  • Secure Remote Worker Solution

  • No need for PC based VPN Client or VPN Router at remote worker site

Remote Worker Solution - NAT Traversal



  • Allows to use any Unistim IP Phone remotely

  • No need for expensive VPN infrastructure


  • Low Cost remote worker solution that does not require a VPN solution

  • Ideal for not business critical communication

2050 IP Softphone version 4



  • Windows 7 support

  • Server & Node-Look Licensing

  • Audio Quality Enhancements

  • Remote Installation

  • TAPI Control

  • Incoming Call Notification

  • Soft Expansion Module


  • Windows 7 support

  • Improved feature capabilities/remote Configuration


For more information on the BCM system visit TRC Networks

5 Ways Unified Communications Can Improve Your Customer Service

Posted by Patricia Sampson on Sep 15, 2010 10:45:24 AM


“A few weeks ago, I needed to reorder a faucet kit after the first one didn't fit. I needed help from the retailer’s commerce site, but I didn't want to sit on the phone with noisy kids in the background. Instead, I clicked the ‘Live Chat’ button but didn’t expect much. To my great surprise and delight, I was immediately connected to a very helpful customer service agent. After a few minutes, she confirmed my problem with the first faucet, contacted the manufacturer of the new kit I wanted, retrieved the critical measurements, and sent the information to me via email and instant message. Now that's customer service.”

ATGStores.com has unified communications (UC) to thank for providing this high level of customer service. The customer service rep had access to several UC tools (instant messaging, email, and phone) to communicate not only with me but also with the manufacturer—simultaneously. The rep also had access to a customer database, because she already knew my order history.

Have you had a similar stellar customer service experience?


The 3 C’s of customer service: communication, collaboration, convenience

With a UC solution you can offer your customers that same level of excellent customer service and convenience. UC provides more efficient, faster collaboration between customer service employees and experts throughout your company by integrating telephone features, like click to dial with desktop-based communications, such as instant messaging, Web conferencing, and video conferencing.

In a survey Cisco commissioned with Forrester, small businesses indicated that they can improve their responsiveness to customers with unified communications. In fact, 77% of respondents said that customer satisfaction would improve if their company could reduce delays in internal communications. Some respondents really focused in on UC's conferencing capabilities, with 69% saying that better conferencing between colleagues would lead to better customer support. The survey focused on three vertical industries -- financial services, manufacturing companies, and professional services. Regardless of industry, respondents said UC could help them increase customer satisfaction by enabling them to respond more efficiently to as well as collaborate directly with customers.

https://www.myciscocommunity.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadBody/18648-102-1-31677/UC_stat_graph.jpg

Here are five ways UC can help your small business serve customers better:

  1. Answer customers' questions more quickly: With UC, your customer service employees can contact experts within your company faster and more easily, getting answers to your customers more quickly. That's the basic premise of UC: better, faster, and more efficient collaboration among colleagues, including instant messaging, conferencing, and telephone-based tools. When it comes to customer service, this means allowing your employees to see who else in the company is available at that moment to help and to bring that person into the conversation without asking the customer to wait.

  2. Give customers better information: UC can also help you give customers better, more complete information straight from the experts, whether they're within your own company or a partner’s. Internal conferencing features give customer service reps access to experts; and, in some cases, they can even transfer the customer directly to the expert without having to put the customer on hold for more than a few seconds.

  3. Be available to customers any time, any place: UC is great for companies that conduct business globally. It lets international customers contact you with whichever communications method they prefer. On your end, a UC solution will gather voicemails, emails, and other messages into one inbox, which you can use to respond to customers in any time zone.

  4. Help customers find the right product: UC can let you connect customers who are researching possible purchases to in-house experts who can help guide them to the right product—and even suggest other products to buy. If you’re already using a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, you can integrate it with a UC solution to provide employees instant access to customer order histories. Improving customer service can also benefit your bottom line. In the Forrester survey, 67% of small business respondents said that they could generate as much as 20% more revenue from the Web if they could connect customers to experts online.

  5. Strengthen customer relationships: Using UC's conferencing features, you can have a Web-based meeting complete with audio, video, and collaboration tools with customers any time (sans jet lag). Much like meeting face to face, video conferencing helps you create more loyalty among your customers and reduce your travel costs at the same time. Good customer service is critical to the success of any small business. Happy customers are repeat customers who will willingly recommend your company to others. Has your company had success using unified communications? Share your stories with us!




Check out how Zamen Restaurant Groups relies on their Cisco Small Business Unified Communications Solution to ensure that every guest call is answered and that guests receive excellent customer service. Now, reservations are immediately taken.

Avaya Transforms Business Collaboration

Innovative Video Solutions Make Real-Time Collaboration More Accessible and More Effective for Enterprises and End-Users

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – Avaya, a global leader in enterprise communications systems, software and services, today announced a family of real-time enterprise video communications and collaboration products and services that deliver a simpler, more compelling end user experience. Highlighting this next wave of Avaya's innovative, fit-for-purpose solutions is the Avaya Flare™ Experience, the industry's first, next-generation user experience that delivers unique collaboration capabilities across video, voice and text.
The new solutions, which range from personal desktop to multi-screen room systems, make high definition, low bandwidth video collaboration accessible for more employees in more enterprises at one-third the cost and using significantly less bandwidth than competing solutions. Avaya Aura™ – the first true Session Initiation Protocol-based, unified communications architecture for multi-vendor, multi-location and multi-modal communications – makes video calls and conferencing as easy as making a telephone call by using the same platform for both. Businesses integrate real-time video into their core Avaya Aura infrastructure for better control of costs, quality of service, administration and management. Adding video functionality to the network is as simple as adding video-capable endpoints since no overlay network is required.
Today's announcement marks an important milestone in the 10-year history of Avaya as it transforms how companies communicate by providing open, flexible collaboration applications that help businesses streamline processes, make faster decisions and compete more effectively. The rollout is the latest delivery against the multi-phase product roadmap that Avaya first introduced in January. Since then, Avaya's Innovation Series has delivered advancements in unified communications and collaboration across its Small and Mid-Size Enterprise, Data Solutions and Contact Center portfolios as well as the Avaya Agile Communication Environment and Avaya Aura 6.0 communications platform.
Real-time, unified communications is at a crossroads as employees and IT departments spend too much time juggling and managing siloed applications, networks and directories that dictate the behavior of the user. According to Kevin Kennedy, president and CEO, Avaya, current enterprise video solutions further complicate the picture.
"To be fully productive, employees need to simply connect via easy-to-use, fully integrated video, voice and text capabilities," Kennedy said. "This is the heart of Avaya's people-centric approach to collaboration and the means to faster, better results with less effort and a lower total cost of ownership. We're delivering a more potent collaboration experience at one-third the cost using substantially less bandwidth over other solutions on the market today."
Findings in a recent survey by Webtorials indicate use of video is expected to grow rapidly as the cost, ease of use and quality improves, with respondents projecting the number of users who will make frequent use of videoconferencing to explode by 400 percent over the next two years. For that to happen however, four most commonly noted obstacles need to be overcome: the high cost of equipment and bandwidth, the need for a special room, lack of integration with other applications and data sources and frequent, disruptive issues during videoconferencing sessions.(1)
The solutions Avaya announced today solve these challenges and more. The company's real-time communications portfolio now includes the following collaboration technologies and services:
The Avaya Flare Experience breaks down the barriers between today's communications and collaboration tools with a distinctive user interface for quick, easy access to desktop voice and video, social media, presence and Instant Messaging, audio/video/web conferencing, a consolidated view of multiple directories, context history and more. The Flare Experience features a central spotlight that highlights active or in-progress communications: Initiating a communication session is as easy as moving one or more contacts from the directory into the spotlight. For text messages, a pop-up keyboard appears when a user taps a text-based icon under a contact's photo. Developed on the Android™ operating system, the Avaya Flare Experience provides employees with:
  • An intuitive, 'touch and swipe' user interface from which employees can communicate in any mode, check messages, schedule meetings and appointments, and receive alerts or reminders
  • Drag-and-drop voice and video calling and conferencing, with the ability to separate from a call for sidebar interactions via voice, email or IM, and subsequently rejoin the conference without interrupting the call in progress
  • A virtual 'Rolodex' that provides a singular view of multiple directories, including corporate and personal, Facebook, Twitter and others. Users flip through to find the person with whom they want to collaborate, see their availability, select the preferred mode of communication and launch the connection
  • The ability to download productivity and business applications, including the ever-growing set of Android-based tools
The Avaya Flare Experience is initially sold with the Avaya Desktop Video Device but will soon be made available for other environments, including PCs, laptops, tablet PCs, and smartphones. The Avaya Flare Experience leverages the Avaya Aura 6.0 solutions announced in July, including Avaya Aura Conferencing and Avaya Aura Messaging.
The Avaya Desktop Video Device has been developed especially for the Avaya Flare Experience as a cost-effective, video-enabled desktop collaboration endpoint for executive desktops or power communicators that can also perform as a customer kiosk. The Avaya Desktop Video Device features a large 11.6" HD touch screen with video and audio capabilities supported by a HD 720-pixel camera and HD-quality voice supported by built-in dual microphones. The device will enable campus-wide mobility via SIP and WiFi. The device also offers USB connectivity for an optional keyboard or handset, 3G/4G access or a thumb drive. Upcoming versions will support remote access over VPN connections and 4G access.
The Avaya Flare Experience for Avaya 9600 Series Deskphones provides voice, conference control, instant messaging and presence capabilities plus desktop integration with Microsoft Outlook for contact management. These latest capabilities bring new value to the desk phone, enabling the user to have a sidebar chat while talking on the phone or to find experts from a variety of directories.
The Avaya Collaboration Server provides all of the Avaya Aura 6.0 core functions on a single server, enabling businesses to quickly take advantage of the Avaya Flare Experience, Avaya Desktop Video Device and Avaya Video Conferencing Solutions over existing, multi-vendor H.323 and/or SIP communications systems with support for up to 50 endpoints.
Avaya Video Conferencing Solutionsrange from individual employee desktop video to small group systems to large, multi-screen conference rooms. The videoconferencing solutions are easy to deploy to any location with centralized operation and management via Avaya Aura, which offers bandwidth control and eliminates the need for an overlay video network. Cost and bandwidth requirements are a fraction of most competitive offers on the market today. Avaya Video Conferencing Solutions include:
  • Avaya one-X® Communicator Desktop Video Soft Client, which provides cost-effective SIP-based video in a comprehensive UC desktop interface that offers tools such as IM, presence, click-to-video conference and integrates with desktop environments from Adobe, IBM and Microsoft.
  • Avaya 1010 and 1020 video systems for workgroup or small conference rooms, which provide high quality, simple-to-use video in a small, cost-effective footprint suitable for two or three people.
  • Avaya 1030, 1040 and 1050 video systems for mid- to large-size conference rooms, which are dual-screen systems allowing content-sharing along with the face-to-face video conferencing experience. The 1040 and 1050 also include integrated, multi-party conferencing bridges for connecting multiple sites.
  • Avaya Videoconferencing Manager 6.0, which provides a breadth of management tools, including conference scheduling, configuration and monitoring accessible from Avaya Aura System Manager.
Avaya Professional Services for Video offer a menu of consulting services to help ensure success with smooth, on-time, on-budget video implementations that deliver maximum ROI and user requirement assessment and business case development; design and planning; video readiness assessments; implementation and integration with SIP or existing H.323 environments, and optimization services.
Avaya Managed Video Services offer help desk and end user support for setting up and managing video that includes scheduling, quality-of-service active monitoring and H.323 integration for internal or external videoconferences. The managed video service is ideal for companies that want to take advantage of video but lack the day-to-day management and expertise in their IT organizations.
Avaya web.alive is now available via software-as-a-service. Avaya web.alive is a virtual reality, meeting space business communications platform that uses personalized avatars and rich, spatial audio and visuals to bring a new dimension to training and distance learning, business meeting collaboration or role-playing that improves event outcomes, customer engagement and sales opportunities. Avaya web.alive is simple to learn and use, features rich analytics to help measure ROI and can integrate with and leverage current enterprise software.
"This is a significant announcement from Avaya," said Roopam Jain, Industry Director, Conferencing and Collaboration, Frost & Sullivan. "I am very impressed with the user interface of the new video device. It seems intuitive and easy to use. We have been waiting for Avaya to provide their end-to-end video strategy and what I have heard is well defined."
LIVE WEBCASTAvaya will be demonstrating the Avaya Flare Experience and Collaboration Device in a live webcast today. To participate in the webcast, please click on the following link: http://bit.ly/bCgD2L

Additional information, photos, demos, etc. are available in the Avaya News Room at: http://www.avaya.com/gcm/master-usa/en-us/corporate/pressroom/index.htm