Toshiba (News - Alert) has a new cloud-based or hosted business telephone solution called VIPedge designed for small businesses as an alternative to purchasing an on-premises telephony system. Businesses can simply subscribe for a monthly service fee to access telephony system features and applications without having to deploy or maintain any system equipment on-site. Initially, Toshiba will target small businesses with up to 60 users, but plans to increase capacity later to 1,000 users. The service is available in the U.S., with expansion to Canada and other markets planned.
Cloud-based or hosted telephony services are indeed gaining popularity, or at least garnering high interest among smaller businesses, as a way to reduce equipment costs and ensure reliability, redundancy and disaster recovery. In lieu of an on-premises telephone system and the associated monthly telecom and data costs, a business may prefer the simplicity and security of paying a fixed monthly fee to utilize a hosted service for their communications needs. This makes budgeting easy and also avoids getting locked into a particular solution for the long-term (VIPedge comes with a two-year service agreement).
Whether a business decides to subscribe to a hosted service or prefers to purchase and install a phone system on-site, Toshiba is now in a position to offer either option. Toshiba VIPedge joins the company’s existing portfolio of premises-based business telephone systems, resulting in three options designed to meet any SMB need:
- IPedge ,a pure IP on-premises solution (three versions for 40, 200 or 1,000 users)
- Strata CIX, a converged on-premises solution, supporting a mix of IP and digital telephones (five versions for 24, 72, 160, 560 or 1,000 users)
- VIPedge, a cloud-based VoIP service for small businesses, up to 60 users initially with future expansion to 1,000 users
Support – a key factor
Toshiba has hit on a very important element and differentiator in its hosted offer – the level of support. There are pros and cons and plenty of factors to consider when choosing a telephony solution – costs, scalability, features and applications, resiliency and recovery, ease of administration and the selection of end user devices, but perhaps most important is the level of pre- and post-sale support. Today’s hosted telephony providers take different paths when it comes to supporting their customers. Some offer little support at all; for others, support may come with a hefty monthly fee. Toshiba differentiates its VIPedge hosted offer by including high-level support services before, during and after the sale. VIPedge is sold and fully supported by Toshiba dealers, from the initial assessment and quotation to the installation of the router (from Adtran) and Toshiba phones and followed up with ongoing support for future needs or issues.
How does VIPedge work?
To enable the hosted service, Toshiba is managing multiple IPedge systems in a data center. There are six data centers, and currently, the IPedge systems (including backup systems) in support of the VIPedge hosted service are located in Toshiba’s main data center in Atlanta. For survivability, when one system fails, all users and applications are automatically switched to a backup system; this is completely managed within the data center, so there is no impact on the end user’s communications. Later, Toshiba plans to install additional backup systems in other data center locations to eliminate the danger of a total location outage such as from a natural disaster or large-scale power outage.
VIPedge is based on Toshiba’s IPedge business phone system, so it provides similar IPedge features and functionality, including complete telephone features, voicemail, unified messaging and the Call Manager UC application. A few capabilities are not available with the initial release, but will be available with Phase 2.0 scheduled for November 2012. These include ACD and reporting and Toshiba’s Meeting application for meet-me conferencing and voice/video/Web collaboration, as well as a few hosted-specific services, namely Microsoft (News - Alert) Hosted Exchange UM and SQL software services, data storage and cloud backup services and managed data center services for customers that require a dedicated IPedge server in the data center.
Customers will be able to choose from several Toshiba telephone devices. VIPedge supports three Toshiba IP5000 desk phones (IP5131-SDL, IP5531-SDL and IP5631-SDL) and the IP4100 SIP DECT (News - Alert) handset, as well as Toshiba’s Call Manager PC softphone. Toshiba will be offering significant price discounts to entice businesses to take a look at the new service – the IP5531-SDL model that normally lists for $190.99 is discounted to only $49.99 for this special introductory VIPedge offer.
Availability and Pricing
The VIPedge cloud-based telephony service Phase 1.0 is generally available as of July 10, 2012 in the U.S. from Authorized Toshiba Dealers (expansion to Canada and other markets is planned). Phase 2.0, with additional capabilities as noted above, is scheduled for November 26, 2012.
The basic per-user monthly charge is $14.99 (includes DID, unlimited Local/Long Distance calling, IPedge PBX (News - Alert) features, unified messaging and Toshiba’s Call Manager PC softphone plug-in. With a SIP Trunk at $30 per channel,Toshiba calculates an average cost of $29.99 per user based on a 2:1 user-to-channel ratio. An Auto Attendant capability is $4.99 per month, and international calling plans are also available for an extra fee.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO click here.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman