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NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services: 'All NEC' from A to Z

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NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services: 'All NEC' from A to Z

June 04, 2013
By Sandra M. Gustavsen
Analyst, Business VoIP

NEC (News - Alert) reports positive momentum for its new hosted/cloud UC service called NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services, or NEC Unified Communications as a Service (nUCaaS). Available in North America exclusively through NEC channel partners, the new service has been designed with dealers in mind. NEC has developed an easy-to-use dashboard and customer quoting tool and offers financial support to encourage its dealers to add the new subscription-based service (a recurring revenue model) to their traditional telephony equipment portfolio. More than 80 NEC dealers have signed up to sell the service since it launched in March.

NEC explains that UNIVERGE Cloud Services is not just voice-as-a-service, but offers full UC functionality, including IP telephony, unified messaging, mobility, presence and Instant Messaging, along with planned contact center, Web collaboration, video conferencing, Fixed Mobile Convergence (News - Alert) and other features – all designed for easy access as hosted services for a simple monthly fee. Prior to general availability in March 2013, NEC tested the service internally and with select customers to ensure the ordering, deployment and turn-over process was simple and smooth.

Why the Cloud? The benefits of hosted/cloud UC services have been well-discussed, and many businesses, particularly smaller businesses, are finding that a fixed-rate (pay-as-you-go), quickly deployable hosted/cloud solution is appealing in today’s challenging and uncertain economic environment. Additionally, all analyst forecasts point to very strong growth in the hosted/cloud UC market, so it’s easy to see why traditional business telephony vendors like NEC are moving quickly to add hosted UC services to their portfolio of premises-based IP-PBX (News - Alert), contact center, messaging and other UC solutions. Whether an end-user decides to subscribe to a hosted service or prefers to purchase and install PBX equipment on-site, communication providers that offer both hosted and on-premises options are in an excellent position to meet any requirement. Read more on this hybrid premises-cloud trend.

NEC’s Hybrid Approach

NEC's cloud service uses the company’s UNIVERGE 3C as the core software. Using the same software stream for both the premises and cloud offers lends itself nicely to hybrid environments in which a business can flexibly deploy on-site equipment and subscribe to hosted/cloud services as needed - the same familiar features are available in either deployment model. The cloud service can act as a disaster recovery solution for a premises-based UNIVERGE 3C system, or vice versa. Or, a business can install the on-premises 3C solution at a main office and take advantage of the cloud service at its branch locations. Though UNIVERGE 3C software can scale to handle as many as 30,000 users, NEC classifies the target market for its cloud service as ideal for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) with 20-250 extensions. (NEC previously marketed UNIVERGE 3C under the brand Sphericall, a software-based IP-PBX acquired in 2007 when NEC Corporation of Tokyo Japan purchased Sphere Communications (News - Alert).)

Exclusively NEC

What sets NEC apart from other hosted PBX and cloud UC providers? NEC is unique in that it owns and manages the technology and transport from end-to-end, including the servers within the NEC-owned data centers where the UNIVERGE software is hosted to the telephone on the end-user’s desk. Other hosted providers that rely on third parties for phones, routers, data center facilities and the network backbone may not be able to guarantee a high quality of service (QoS). NEC, however, manufactures all components, including the end points, data switches, routers and cabling, continues to develop the 3C call control software and applications, owns the strategically-placed, Tier 3 (News - Alert) data centers, manages a 24x7 Network Operations Center and even manages the MPLS network to avoid QoS issues when transporting voice, data and video over the Internet.

In addition, NEC designed its cloud service to be dealer-friendly, allowing channel partners to add the service to their portfolio without investing a lot of money. This is important as dealers used to selling equipment may not see the financial benefit to selling a pay-as-you-go subscription service in which the revenue is collected over a period of time. NEC is providing strong financial support that includes upfront payments, special promotions and rewards programs that will ease dealers into the cloud's recurring-revenue model. NEC Financial Services acts as the single financial focal point for both reseller and customer, processing a single payment for the reseller and supplying a single customer bill for rentals, cloud services and long distance charges.

Three User Packages

NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services come in three simplified packages for varying user types, which can be mixed and matched as needed. Some functionality can be added a-la-carte if needed such as voicemail, unified messaging, fax and call recording. Additional advanced applications are on the roadmap for later this year, including contact center, Fixed Mobile Convergence and Web collaboration.

  • Basic: The Basic user package ($20/user/month) is suitable for lobbies and common areas. It includes standard voice features like call waiting, Caller ID, transfer, forward and 911 service.
  • UC Standard: General office users and receptionists will likely choose the UC Standard package ($40/user/month) which builds upon Basic to add voicemail, desktop call control, IM and presence capabilities, as well as 125 minutes per month of pooled long distance calling.
  • UC Premium: The UC Premium package ($50/user/month) includes all Basic and Standard functionality, but addresses the needs of power users and executives that require unified messaging, softphone, mobility, video and call recording; this package also includes 250 minutes per month of pooled long distance calling. Local calling is free with NEC’s MPLS network.

At the recent NEC Advantage 2013 consultant/dealer conference in Phoenix, NEC was clear about its commitment to the future of communications, a future that is less about physical equipment and more about software, open standards, virtualization and the cloud. A number of traditional telecom manufacturers that have begun offering hosted/cloud UC services are reporting that their cloud division revenue is already exceeding the revenue from their premises-based business.

This encouraging trend, coupled with analyst forecasts that indicate strong growth in the hosted/cloud UC market, make it certain that vendors like NEC will be investing heavily in hosted/cloud offers going forward. It’s an exciting time in the enterprise communications industry. New and improved cloud services, including hybrid premises-cloud offers, are quickly taking center stage.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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