Dave Michels
Dave Michels is a Principal Analyst at TalkingPointz. His unique perspective on unified communications comes from a career involving telecommunications...
Read Full Bio >>

Dave Michels | June 02, 2014 |


Uniquely Hosting VoIP

Uniquely Hosting VoIP Hosted providers need to keep innovating, adapting, and evolving just to stay competitive.

Hosted providers need to keep innovating, adapting, and evolving just to stay competitive.

It wasn't long ago that just having hosted voice as a deployment model was enough to stand out. That's when the competition was selling big-ticket capital items that required minions to deploy and maintain. Now every major premises-based vendor has a cloud-based angle on its menu, and there are hundreds of hosted alternatives.

Providers need to keep innovating, adapting, and evolving just to stay competitive. The past few years have been focused around core features such as presence, mobile clients, and video. Moving forward, the path will be more about complementary services and integrated solutions. The opportunity for differentiation lies in appealing to more granular segments with targeted and compelling value-add. Here are a few ideas:

Personal Assistant: Particularly in a mobile world, being able to speak (rather than type) to an "assistant" regarding meetings, calls, and message processing is helpful. AVST CX-E is a unified messaging platform with a personal assistant called Atom. The CX-E also enables cloud-premises hybrid deployments, since it interoperates with most call control and email systems on-premises.

Collaboration: It is a general catch-all term, but increasingly used with regarding to messaging and content sharing. There's several interesting add-on applications emerging in this space. The goal is to empower teams to communicate and seamlessly share content regardless of location or device. Many collaboration solutions are stand-alone, but some can be integrated with hosted VoIP. Vobi here offers WebRTC-based collaboration that supports video, chat, and content sharing, and it can be integrated with IMS based UC offerings.

Video: There's no shortage of hosted video solutions. Acano offers a traditional approach in which providers can purchase hardware and offer customers interoperable meeting minutes. In addition, the Acano coCloud enables a brandable hybrid solution. Enterprises can use the cloud provider or their own premises-based hardware depending on their needs. The hosted portion is a multi-tenant solution with granular reporting and invoicing.

Ad-hoc Video Rooms: Personal collaboration solutions can be effective on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices, but sometimes group collaboration involves participants in the same location. Traditional video meeting rooms are expensive, but there's some low-cost, SIP oriented options emerging that facilitate small group collaboration. Both Mitel's MiVoice Video Unit and Vaddio's HuddleStation facilitate video, and they also function as a SIP conference saucer.

Cloud Integrations: Integrating into business applications makes customer accounts sticky. Click-to-dial from Outlook and are fairly well supported, but Google Apps integration can be still be difficult. gUnify offers providers a cloud-based middleware approach that delivers one-click integrations. With gUnify, it's possible to get one touch conferencing and click-to-dial from Google Apps (without a client), and automatic call logging in

Endpoints: Despite reports to the contrary, the soft client has not killed hard phones or other physical endpoints such as wireless handsets, speaker saucers, or attendant consoles. Many of the early hosted providers discouraged hard phones because they saw them as low-margin commodities that could only complicate the sale and installation. Hard phones also threatened or diminished the "no up-front costs" portion of the value proposition.

Providers now embrace endpoints as a means of differentiation. There's opportunity to differentiate with the actual endpoints themselves, as well as the provisioning and support processes. Most providers now offer endpoint-rental programs to ensure their capital avoidance proposition.

To simplify provisioning, consider a distributor that can preconfigure endpoints before shipping--many do. NetXUSA, for example, can configure a wide variety of SIP endpoints and insert custom documentation before shipping the units directly to end users. Relatedly, CounterPath's Client Configuration Server centralizes provisioning for soft clients.

Differentiation is difficult, and it is increasingly complex to achieve through core UC features. Providers want to be transparent, and that makes building loyalty difficult--particularly without the crutch of capital commitments. First comes reliable services, and then comes strategies for loyalty. Becoming broadly embedded into business workflows reduces the risk of competitive displacement.

Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz

Follow Dave Michels on Twitter and Google+!
Dave Michels on Google+


July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.