Cloud VoIP SMB Phone System Buyer s Guide

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1 White Paper Cloud VoIP SMB Phone System Buyer s Guide Contents Introduction....2 Fonality x8...4 RingCentral....6 Momentum...9 Freedom Voice/Freedom IQ Digium About Ziff Davis B2B Ziff Davis B2B is a leading provider of research to technology buyers and high-quality leads to IT vendors. As part of the Ziff Davis family, Ziff Davis B2B has access to over 50 million in-market technology buyers every month and supports the company s core mission of enabling technology buyers to make more informed business decisions. Copyright 2014 Ziff Davis B2B. All rights reserved. Contact Ziff Davis B2B 100 California Street, Suite 650 San Francisco, CA Tel: Fax:

2 Introduction Small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) can reap major benefits from cloud VoIP services. Among the most important of these is that they can have a powerful, sophisticated phone system with little or no upfront spending. They also can avoid the ongoing burden of upgrading and maintaining their phone system because the provider is running it in its own data center. They can also easily add and subtract users as conditions change as well as readily connect employees in widely varying locations and working environments to the office phone system. Cloud VoIP providers target SMBs of varying sizes. Some aim to serve companies with as few as four or five users, while others are looking for installations of hundreds of seats. Thus while all these potential customers qualify as SMBs, the provider s offerings vary considerably. They can range from little more than dial tone and inbound calling to sophisticated call center functions. At the same time, because the phone system is in the cloud there is no direct correlation between the size of the customer and power of the features they can access. Employees of small companies, or small groups of employees of larger companies who have specialized needs, may have the same capabilities at their disposal as workers at the largest enterprises. This Guide introduces six providers that take various approaches meant to meet a broad range of customer needs. Fonality Fonality didn t start out as a cloud-based (hosted) VoIP provider. Rather, it was one of the more innovative pioneering vendors of business phone systems based on Asterisk open-source IP PBX software. Although originally it sold the systems in the form of appliances, its technical approach also happened to be particularly suitable for cloud deployment. Now it offers both cloud- and premises-based VoIP systems, as well as products that blur the lines between the two. As such, it brings the benefits of both types to small companies looking for business-class phone systems. The most widely recognized benefit of the premises approach is that it lets customers retain physical control of such data as voice mail and call recordings. This may be necessary for security or regulatory compliance reasons. Another key benefit is that it lets companies continue using traditional telecom services for inbound and outbound calling, which they may prefer for reliability reasons. The best-known benefit of the cloud approach is that it eliminates the need for companies to buy, operate, maintain and update their phone systems. This means among other things that they don t have to spend money upfront on equipment purchase. All they need do is pay a monthly fee per user. Fonality offers both cloud/hosted and premises options. Hosted service starts at $30 per user per month, with phones included. But even its premises products attempt to offer some of ziffdavis.com 2 of 15

3 the benefits of hosted service. For example, Fonality is pushing a premises option based on a so-called pay-as-you-go model. This lets customers pay a monthly fee starting at $25 per user, after a down payment of $125. As such, it combines the technical advantages of having the equipment on premises with the financial advantage of not having to purchase the equipment. A one-time payment model that involves more-traditional upfront purchase of the premises equipment is also available. But the most interesting option is one that Fonality announced in September It lets customers with 25 users or more choose between cloud and premises deployment for a monthly per-user fee starting at $40 per month, with neither upfront payment or long-term contract required. Companies can thus select whichever type of system works best for them from a technical and performance standpoint, without having to worry about equipment purchase cost should they opt for a premises configuration. Premises systems feature two hardware configurations. The Dell Optiplex XE supports 50 users or 23 concurrent calls, while the Dell PowerEdge R320 and R620 are rack-mount servers that support up to 500 users or 100 concurrent calls. But even when systems are on customers premises, Fonality s innovative architecture means the administrative software remains at the providers data center, accessible via a Web portal, rather than on the premises server. Thus customers tech staffers don t have to be on-site, or deal with issues such as opening firewall ports, in order to manage and administer their systems. Fonality offers a broad array of features that it divides into three main categories. The Business Phone category includes basic yet powerful functions available to all users. One of these is so-called find me/follow me capability, which allows incoming calls to ring different phones including desk and mobile devices in order or in sequence according to user-specified rules. Another is visual voice mail, which includes the ability to access voice messages via Microsoft Outlook and Gmail. A second category dubbed Collaboration integrates features such as screen sharing, audio conferencing, paging and text chat. While such capabilities can be convenient to many types of employees, they are particularly useful for call center agents. As such, they illustrate how hosted VoIP providers are responding to the growing recognition that when even the smallest companies have employees who spend most of their time talking to customers on the phone, they have de facto call centers. Fonality also, however, has a separate Contact Center category. This provides such high-end functions as the ability to create unlimited queues; real-time monitoring of queues; skills-based routing; sophisticated agent and queue reporting; call recording; as well as the staple call center supervisory functions of monitoring, whispering and barging. Most features in the different categories are accessible through what Fonality calls its Heads Up Display, or HUD, application. This is a graphical onscreen dashboard that lets employees ziffdavis.com 3 of 15

4 do things like see the availability of other users; access voice mail messages with a single click; and transfer calls by dragging and dropping. It also lets contact center managers visually monitor agents and queues, and perform the various supervisory functions by clicking, dragging and dropping. Fonality also provides mobile integration, a key ingredient of so-called unified communications, or UC. Employees can have calls forwarded to their mobile phones, and make calls from those phones, as if they were using their office phones. They can also send SMS text messages from the HUD desktop app. HUD mobile apps are available for iphone and Android devices. Fonality doesn t offer such UC components as video conferencing or some of the more sophisticated types of online meeting tools. It does, however, provide integration with CRM systems such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite and SugarCRM. 8x8 If you re in the market for a hosted or cloud VoIP phone system, 8x8 Inc. is a good place to start comparison shopping. The provider formerly known as Packet8 is probably the most representative example of what the industry is about, from both a technical and a commercial standpoint. And in at least one area, it is ahead of the mainstream. Either way, it can serve as a sort of unofficial standard against which to measure hosted or cloud, as they are now usually called VoIP offerings in general. 8x8 s history gives it a considerable credibility as a stand-in for the industry at large. It was a pioneer of hosted VoIP, which lets customers use phone systems running in providers data centers rather than on their own premises. As such, it played a key role in getting the technology accepted as a business tool. It also targeted hosted service from the start, in contrast to premises-based VoIP system vendors that moved into the hosted market only after they saw the kinds of margins it offered. Similarly, 8x8 focused on small companies from the start, and is now moving up-market to larger customers just as the hosted VoIP industry as a whole is now doing. And it developed its own technology. Thus its mix of products is the result of its own judgment of the market, not that of a third-party platform provider. The products start with voice communication features ranging from basic to advanced. Even the basic Virtual Office voice package offers some call-routing functionality, in recognition of the fact that even a few employees who spend a lot of time on the phone with customers amount to a call center. But 8x8 also provides high-end contact center features that enterprises would find useful, and which will thus be important in the attempt to move up-market. Its product set also includes a number of integrated non-voice features that generally fall in the category of UC, or unified communications. 8x8 prefers the term unified communications and collaboration, or UCC. In any case, they too are typical: These days, any cloud VoIP offering that doesn t also include UC or UCC components risks being left behind. ziffdavis.com 4 of 15

5 The fact that 8x8 delivers calls to its customers over the public Internet is both typical of the industry and significant to users. It is typical in that most (but not all) other cloud VoIP providers also use Internet delivery. It is significant because 8x8 s large customer numbers (nearly 35,000 businesses), rapid growth (25 percent revenue increase year-on-year) and low churn (1.5 percent per month) demonstrate once and for all that Internet delivery works just fine for lots of companies. That answers a key concern for many businesses considering cloud VoIP. On the other hand, 8x8 doesn t pretend that making Internet delivery work is effortless. It provides a number of tools and recommendations to ensure success, including: An online speed test, which tests your broadband Internet connection under real-world conditions to determine whether it can deliver voice calls with acceptable quality. A bandwidth calculator, which determines how much you ll need to boost your Internet connection when you start running voice traffic over it. The number averages out to from roughly 9 Kbps per extension for light use to 23 Kbps for heavy use such as call centers. The calculator comes with a reminder that when the connection is asymmetrical, the direction with the lower speed (typically upstream) is the one that has to meet the minimum requirements. Each office or site that will be getting new VoIP extensions requires a separate such calculation. Recommendations covering routers and firewalls, first advising that these should have QoS (quality of service)/priority queuing capabilities, and second listing a number of products from different vendors that work with 8x8 s service, including some that come preconfigured with 8x8-specific settings. A related recommendation is that you use LAN switches rather than hubs to distribute IP data traffic at your various sites. Hubs broadcast all IP data to all devices connected to the local network, while switches send each device only the packets specifically addressed to the device. 8x8 packages its various features in a way that again is fairly representative of the industry as a whole: Virtual Office provides a basic but powerful set of call handling capabilities and UCC features. They range from auto attendant and extension dialing to online dashboard, mobile apps, integrated chat and presence, and online meetings with video and screen sharing capabilities Virtual Office Pro adds several more features, including Internet faxing and call recording and storage. Both Virtual Office and Virtual Office Pro come with various calling plan options, ranging from metered extensions to unlimited global calling Virtual Contact Center provides a variety of sophisticated contact center capabilities. They include skills-based routing, various supervisory and management functions, and ziffdavis.com 5 of 15

6 integration with CRM (customer relationship management) systems Virtual Room provides video conferencing for up to 15 participants at a time, in low-, standard- or high-definition modes, using either Webcam-equipped computers or various types of Polycom video conferencing equipment Virtual Meeting provides separately available online meeting capabilities allowing various forms of desktop and application sharing, integrated with VoIP and chat, for maximums of 15 or 50 participants per meeting Customers can access and use the various 8x8 products in a number of ways. A mobile app for iphone and Android smart phones comes free with both Virtual Office packages. Access from computers is possible through browsers via a Web-based dashboard, or through downloaded applications for Windows and Macintosh machines. Both methods provide integrated access to and management of voice calling and messages; voice, video and text chat; collaboration tools; presence information and other capabilities. 8x8 also offers physical end-user equipment from vendors such as Cisco and Polycom, including desk phones, video phones, conference phones and more. It typically charges separately for the equipment rather than including it in the fees for service. All of these access methods are again representative of the industry. 8x8 is ahead of most of the industry in one area, however: security verification. It supports compliance with a number of regulations and standards, including: FISMA: Federal Information Security Management Act PCI-DSS: Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard CPNI: Consumer Proprietary Network Information HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act HITECH: Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health In the past there has been little clarity about how such rules apply to VoIP. 8x8 has made considerable efforts to translate various more-general computing and networking security requirements into procedures designed specifically to assure the security of VoIP systems. RingCentral RingCentral provides hosted, or cloud, VoIP services that are particularly suitable for small businesses. It also offers a variety of tools to make the transition to VoIP easy and convenient for such businesses. Like most of the industry, it is working hard to move up-market and attract more mid-size customers. Either way, RingCentral s approach is clearly effective. For one thing, it successfully went public in September For another: It has more than 300,000 customers. ziffdavis.com 6 of 15

7 RingCentral s products are based on technology the company developed itself. Thus they don t depend on the decisions of a third-party platform provider about what capabilities customers might want. Even so, they will look familiar to anyone who has done some comparison shopping for VoIP systems. Like most cloud-based VoIP products, they offer small businesses the kind of powerful features that used to be available only to large enterprises, but at a price even the smallest organizations can afford. The key to this affordability, as with all cloud-based services, is that customers are paying monthly fees for use of a provider-owned system rather than buying one upfront. The flagship RingCentral Office product comes in three editions: Standard at $25 per user per month, Premium at $35 and Enterprise at $50. Different types of endpoints, including fax machines, desk phones, soft phones and conference phones, count as users. All three editions come with a solid set of standard features, including: Professional-quality call-handling functions, including auto receptionist, dial-by-name directory, extension dialing and visual voice mail Online call management and administration via a Web portal Mobile apps for Android, BlackBerry and ios Presence detection across all mobile, soft and desk phones Unlimited outbound calling to the U.S. and Canada Unlimited Internet faxing Unlimited conferencing Unlimited Business SMS, which lets employees send and receive text messages via their business phone numbers rather than their personal mobile numbers Integration with Microsoft Office and Outlook, Google, Box and Dropbox The packages differ in whether or not they include: Higher amounts of inbound calling minutes via toll-free numbers Integration with Salesforce.com s cloud CRM application Call recording Online meeting capability with document sharing and video conferencing Premium support A number of the different editions features fall into the category of unified communications (UC). These include mobile applications, soft phones, visual voice mail, integrated faxing and integrated collaboration/meeting tools. UC features play an important role in making contact centers more effective, and even small companies with employees that spend most of their ziffdavis.com 7 of 15

8 time on the phone with customers need some contact center capabilities. At the same time, RingCentral doesn t offer some of the heavyweight contact center functionality, such as sophisticated skills-based routing, that large companies require but smaller businesses may find unnecessary. Making it easy for small companies to move to cloud VoIP is also important. Automated Web signup, which cuts costs and saves time for providers and customers alike, is one of the best ways to accomplish this. For companies with unique needs, RingCentral does offer the option of contacting its sales staff for customized packages if desired. But it would hard for any cloud VoIP provider to gain hundreds of thousands of customers the way RingCentral has without Web signup. And providing as much information as possible is key to making this process both convenient and comfortable. To make the Web signup process go smoothly, RingCentral offers a comprehensive collection of both information and online tools. These address a variety of issues hosted VoIP customers tend to worry about, including: Quality of Service: Several technical factors determine whether a given IP connection can support voice conversations. Latency, for example, is the amount of delay in delivery of IP packets, while jitter is the variation or inconsistency in such delay. Packet loss determines the percentage of voice data that gets through. RingCentral offers an online VoIP quality test that measures such factors to predict the voice quality a customer can expect over a specified connection. Possible results range from VoIP unsupported to radio quality, which is higher than standard voice quality. Network issues: RingCentral recommends Internet connections with 90 Kbps of dedicated bandwidth upstream and downstream for each planned voice line. That requires ensuring that the connection has sufficient capacity to support the added voice traffic, as well as using network equipment that prioritizes real-time traffic like voice. RingCentral provides an online capacity test to verify the former, and recommends use of routers incorporating QoS (quality of service) technology to ensure the latter. It provides a list of recommended routers, and also names devices it does not recommend using. Return On Investment: One of the most basic questions underlying any move to cloud VoIP is the potential it offers for saving money. RingCentral provides an online ROI calculator that determines how much money a customer can save, based on factors such as: Number of locations, employees and remote workers Telecom costs, including those for long-distance calling, toll-free calling, phone numbers, trunk lines and faxing Maintenance, support, staffing and one-time costs of competing premises-based systems ziffdavis.com 8 of 15

9 Once customers have ordered service, they will find RingCentral has made getting up and running easier for them in a number of ways, including: Phones come preconfigured to work out of the box with RingCentral service. They can rent phones rather than buying them, to further cut upfront costs. Their employees can use soft-phone applications that run on Windows and Macintosh PCs as an alternative to desk phones, further cutting equipment purchase costs. They can use an online wizard that automates porting of existing numbers to RingCentral. If they already have IP phones, they can get documentation online that explains how to reconfigure them for RingCentral service. In general, they will be able to access a comprehensive set of online instructions covering just about every aspect of setting up, managing, administering and using RingCentral service. RingCentral makes particular efforts to address reliability concerns that are another big worry of small companies considering the move to cloud VoIP. These efforts include: An emphasis on redundant data centers Providing information about various technical issues affecting reliability, including: Physical and logical redundancy Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with the telecom carriers that will be carrying the voice traffic Monitoring of Mean Opinion Score (MOS), a measure of various technical factors translated into a number describing how good a voice call sounds to human listeners The physical security of data centers All in all, regardless of how RingCentral s products stack up compared to those other cloud VoIP providers, it is a leader in providing as much detailed information as possible. And that alone may in some cases tip the balance when it comes to choosing a provider. Momentum Momentum offers a broad range of cloud VoIP features and functions. They range from basic enough for the smallest businesses to powerful enough for large ones. A key selling point is that they allow customers to select different levels of functionality to fit varying needs. For many this will work better than the one-size-fits-all approach, because it means customers don t need to pay the same full rate for every extension, phone or user. ziffdavis.com 9 of 15

10 The choices start with three packages of features: Basic service is little more than a line that shows caller ID and call waiting. It is ideal for phones that get only occasional use, such as those in loading docks, warehouses, break rooms and reception areas. Basic lines are available as add-on s to Advanced and Executive services Advanced service provides standard functions necessary for phones assigned to individuals, including voice mail; call forwarding, return and transfer; three-way calling; and voic to Executive service adds various features that provide more flexibility, including speed dial; find me/follow me; various methods of call forwarding, blocking and acceptance; and Do Not Disturb This three-tier approach contrasts with hosted VoIP services that charge the same flat fee for all extensions, even those that are in actual use only a few minutes per day or week. Customers can also choose between usage plans. Metered extensions let them pay as they go for only the calls their employees make. The basic charge is $0.03 per minute for calls to the continental U.S. and Canada. This is a good deal for companies with low call volumes. The alternative is unlimited extensions, which cost a flat fee for any amount of domestic calls. This is better for companies with large call volumes. Toll-free and vanity numbers are also available. This choice of plans again lets companies pay in a way that best fits their needs. In addition to the three basic packages of functionality and the different usage plans, a variety of other options further increases flexibility. Mobile apps for Android and iphone let employees access features of their office phone system, including the company directory and settings such as Do Not Disturb, from their smart phones, and also to make mobile calls via their business numbers. Virtual numbers provide local numbers in any market where a company does business. Smart numbers let employees route incoming calls to up to five destinations. These can be home or office phones, mobile phones or even soft phones. Momentum also markets several specific sets of functions that amount to categories of their own. One of these is a collection of features and capabilities that qualify as Unified Communications (UC). They include: Mobile integration, including access via the abovementioned mobile apps, find me/ follow me, and the ability to reach various devices via smart numbers Soft phones, which allow employees to make and receive calls via headset-equipped computers Presence detection across the various devices and platforms Virtual fax, which lets employees send and receive faxes from any device and any location, rather than being tied to physical fax machines ziffdavis.com 10 of 15

11 Integrated instant messaging, which lets employees communicate with one another even when they are on another call. This is particularly useful when the employees are on the line with customers as in contact centers Integrated video conferencing, which can significantly improve communication and rapport among employees. Momentum markets another set of functions as collaboration tools, the components of which overlap to varying degrees with UC features. They include: Audio conferencing accessible via the various platforms Video conferencing which is similarly accessible in multiple ways Web conferencing, a browser-based service dubbed Momentum Meeting that combines various online presentation tools with built-in support for audio and video conferencing. Momentum s highest-end product is its hosted contact center. It supports agents in multiple locations, including home offices, and includes a robust set of monitoring, supervising and reporting functions. It provides such features as: Automatic call distribution (ACD), which routes calls to agents based on factors such as their skill levels, availability, what ring group they belong to, how busy they are and other factors. It permits customized greetings and routing for different categories of customers based on the purpose of their calls and which of the company s inbound numbers they called. Monitor and barge functions, which let supervisors silently listen to and also join agents calls as necessary. Call recording, one of the basic necessities of contact centers. Speech analytics make it possible to categorize and index recordings without having to listen to them, while screen capture provides a snapshot of agents onscreen activities at the time of the call. Real-time monitoring of agent and queue activity, via a graphical dashboard that displays agent and queue status on-screen On-screen call control, which makes it possible to make calls by clicking, and to transfer calls by drag-and-drop in order to manage queues more efficiently Mobility management, which lets managers supervise and oversee agents no matter where they are, including at home or at different branches, as if they are at a single contact center Momentum puts more emphasis on selling its services via customized quotes than on providing comprehensive online pricing information and automated Web signup. Its Website does note, however, that plans start at $9.95 per month. Momentum sells standard and executive models of Cisco and Polycom phones, which it ships preconfigured. It also provides ziffdavis.com 11 of 15

12 information about whether customers existing phones will work with its service. Freedom Voice/ FreedomIQ FreedomIQ is the cloud VoIP product of FreedomVoice, long-time provider of toll-free numbers and inbound call-handling services. FreedomIQ carries on FreedomVoice s tradition of handling lots of customer calls efficiently. Like most cloud VoIP products, it does include a basic service targeting small and home offices with enterprise-grade features and capabilities. But it also unsurprisingly provides call center functionality that is particularly comprehensive. FreedomIQ cloud VoIP starts with a capable auto attendant. This feature provides callers with a variety of options, including speaking to an agent, answering a questionnaire, obtaining information, receiving a fax or simply leaving a voice message. It also gives the person answering the call various types of information about the caller. This can include the caller s name or number, the extension the caller selected, and the inbound number the caller dialed. The last can be especially important because it indicates the particular marketing campaign the caller is responding to. Integration with Microsoft Outlook provides yet more information. Employees answering a call can click to look up the contact s Outlook information before answering, or even during, the call. If there is no such entry in Outlook, they can create one on the spot. They can also click to call contacts from within Outlook. Sophisticated call center functionality makes sure calls reach the right employees in the first place. It can route calls based on how long agents have been idle, which ones have spent the least time on calls, their skill levels and various other factors. It can also ring extensions simultaneously for anyone in a specified group to pick up. Managers can set up custom call queues based on callers responses to auto attendant choices or on the numbers they dialed. This makes it possible to give different types of callers customized messages or music on hold. FreedomIQ s call center capabilities also include extensive supervisory and reporting functions. Managers can see detailed information about individual users, or agents, such as whether they are logged in and how long they have been on their current call. They can also of course listen in on agents calls. In addition, they can get information about callers situations via real-time queue status reporting. This includes how many callers are waiting and how long they have been waiting. They can even change settings that affect callers. For example, they can choose to let callers know their positions in their specific queues, and to set a limit on maximum hold time. The various reporting capabilities also provide information for use in FreedomIQ s Employee Scheduler. This feature allows managers to use historical call data to estimate future needs. For example, it helps them predict how many calls will occur at specific times on specific days. They can then schedule enough staff to cover the projected call volumes. An online dashboard called WebLink Internet Control Panel operates through a Web browser rather than via downloaded software. It provides an onscreen interface to many ziffdavis.com 12 of 15

13 of FreedomIQ s functions. For example, managers can use it to access both historical and real-time call data and other information. They can also use it to control various functions and settings. For example, they can click to record or listen to calls. They can also add users, activate phones, change forwarding numbers and modify various auto attendant and call queue settings from within it. A number of additional features boost FreedomIQ s capabilities. Employees can read voice mail messages through speech-to-text transcription. A unified messaging feature lets them receive voice mail, fax and messages in the same inbox. They can have recorded calls sent to them via , or access them via the WebLink portal. A particularly useful feature is Address Capture. This records a caller s phone number, which is notably effective with inbound calls to toll-free numbers, and then looks up the caller s name and address in FreedomIQ s extensive database. It can be a powerful source of information about who is calling and why, particularly when combined with toll-free numbers that are used for specific marketing campaigns. While FreedomIQ services run on internally developed technology, FreedomVoice does not emphasize branded endpoints and other equipment. For example, it sells a variety of IP phones from Polycom and some from Panasonic. It offers routers from Adtran, Cisco and SonicWALL. It promotes the free CounterPath X-Lite soft phone for making calls from headset-equipped PCs (Windows or Macintosh), and the CounterPath Bria mobile app for Android and ios. Both provide information about other users presence and availability, as well as access to various features such as the corporate directory. FreedomIQ has put a lot of effort into building a reliable backbone network. This can be an advantage for customer companies that have a lot of workers working at small branch offices or at home. Under such circumstances, ensuring VoIP calls quality by delivering them over private corporate wide area networks (WANs) with built-in Quality of Service technology isn t practical. In addition to general call center applications, FreedomIQ targets specific businesses types such as financial and insurance; legal; medical; marketing and advertising; political campaigns; real estate; retail and travel. Digium Good things can happen when vendors of SMB premises VoIP systems add cloud VoIP services to their product mix. Cloud VoIP can bring customers well-known benefits that premises products can t provide, but on-premise products also offer less-publicized advantages that cloud-only products can t match. So integrating on-premise and cloud VoIP products makes it possible to leverage the strengths of both. Digium, inventor of Asterisk open-source IP PBX software, is doing this in a way that emphasizes simplicity and flexibility. The simplicity comes from how Digium prices the cloud version of its Switchvox premises VoIP ziffdavis.com 13 of 15

14 product. Switchvox Cloud offers a full set of features, from basic call handling and distribution to sophisticated call center functions, at a single competitive per-seat price. This contrasts with cloud VoIP providers that offer different tiers of features at different prices. On the other hand, Digium s prices do vary by length of commitment. The cost per seat ranges from $29 per month with a three-year contract to $35 on a no-commitment month-to-month basis. The monthly fees include unlimited long-distance domestic calling. The flexibility results from the fact that Digium runs its cloud product on the identical platform that it sells for SMB on-premises use. This does more than just give companies the usual cloud benefit of being able to add or subtract seats quickly and easily. It also lets them mix premises and cloud seats. Because all of a company s seats run on the same underlying platform, they can operate as if they are all part of the same corporate phone system. Thus companies can start with their employees using cloud-based seats and move some or all of them to an on-premise system when the time is right, or they can run their headquarters on an on-premise system and branch on the cloud service. Any number of other combinations is possible as well. This flexibility to mix and match seats will be important to a lot of businesses because of the advantages on-premise systems offer. For example, in the long term they are cheaper than cloud products. The main reason: When buying premises equipment, the purchase cost is a fixed sum. With cloud systems, the monthly payments never end. Thus the on-premise approach may work best for a company with a long-term, stable user base. It can also make security issues easier to deal with. Security standards and regulatory compliance often require that corporate data, including recorded messages and voice mail, remain under the physical control of the company that owns them. With purely cloud services, this can never happen. Despite its competitive price, Switchvox Cloud s capabilities are powerful. They start with a solid set of business-grade phone system features and functions. These include auto attendant, interactive voice response (IVR), visual voice mail and integrated inbox (for voice mail, and fax messages), but they also add a number of powerful call center functions that other providers often bundle in higher-priced packages. These include: call queues, detailed call and queue reporting, integration with applications and services such as Microsoft Outlook, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Google Maps; and the ability to monitor, whisper, barge and record calls. Switchvox Cloud also includes some unified communications (UC) features such as presence detection, integrated text chat/instant messaging and mobile integration. Part of mobile integration is the ability to converge or associate up to six phones on a single extension, which can include wireline or mobile phones of various types. ziffdavis.com 14 of 15

15 Digium s Switchboard, a browser-based graphical interface that is free for all users, is a key method of accessing some of the most powerful features. It provides online access to such general capabilities as: Click-to-call Drag-and-drop call transfer Phone book/directory access Extension control, including the ability to converge phones with extensions and determine how incoming calls ring the different phones It also is the interface for some of the previously described UC and call center functions such as: Text chat/instant messaging Presence/availability detection Call monitor, barge, whisper and recording Viewing of call and queue information Similarly useful for employees who spend a lot of time out of the office is a mobile app (again free for all users) for Android, BlackBerry and ios devices. It lets smart phone users access such features and functions as call history; voice mail; directory; call dialing and transferring; and setting call rules and greetings. Incidentally, some aspects of mobile integration don t require the mobile app. For example, any mobile phone that is converged with an extension can receive calls forwarded from that extension. And a so-called InCall Menu provides audio prompts that let users on any type of converged phone, even a basic wireline or mobile device, easily transfer or record calls by merely pressing keys. In addition to premises systems and hosted service, Digium sells its own branded phones. These devices, available in entry-level, mid-level and executive models, come preconfigured to work with Switchvox as soon as they are plugged in. They also support specific Switchvox applications and functions such as visual voice mail, contacts, call queues and presence/ status detection. And of course they work identically with both premises and cloud Switchvox products. In January 2014 Digium also introduced a program that allows Switchvox Cloud customers to rent rather than buy phones, bundling the cost of the devices into the monthly fees for service. This eliminates the need for any upfront equipment purchase expenditures at all. ziffdavis.com 15 of 15

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