Hosted VoIP service unifies communications for SMBs

A hosted VoIP service for SMBs is aiming to unify phone, fax, mobile devices and email communications and offer calling from mobile, home and office phones.

A hosted voice solution has added VoIP, offering small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) a mix of traditional landline, mobile and VoIP communications for both incoming and outgoing calls, features that have been somewhat neglected in the SMB market.

Online hosted voice provider RingCentral Inc. this week released a new VoIP service that lets companies unify and manage their phone, fax, mobile and email communications. Called DigitalLine, the new VoIP service integrates into RingCentral's hosted phone and fax service, letting SMBs make and receive VoIP calls over broadband. It offers IP PBX functionality in a hosted environment

"RingCentral is focused on the needs of small businesses and mobile professionals -- a market that's been underserved by traditional carriers and hardware manufacturers," said RingCentral CEO Vlad Shmunis, adding that small business users are looking to revamp their communications strategies to present a more professional image to the outside world while also maintaining control over their communications tools.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, said using VoIP capabilities to round out a rich communications service fills a gap in the SMB space, giving smaller companies a competitive edge mostly enjoyed by only enterprises.

"Small businesses need the same kind of communications services large businesses need, but without the cost or the administrative overhead," Enderle said.

Jay Blazensky, RingCentral's vice president of business development, said what sets the DigitalLine offering apart from other SMB VoIP and mobile solutions is it doesn't require a business to rely solely on VoIP. Instead, it integrates various forms of communications like mobile, home and office phones and fax and email. The VoIP component can be used with a softphone client, IP phone or ATA adaptor, Blazensky said.

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The goal, Blazensky said, is for the SMB to be more productive and to improve response time to customers, while not incurring the overhead involved with a rip-and-replace VoIP system.

Blazensky said DigitalLine is targeted at smaller companies that need the functionality of a PBX but can't afford to buy and manage one in-house. Instead, with RingCentral's options, the only necessity is a broadband connection.

Small companies, Blazensky said, struggle with three hindrances: presenting a unified image to customers; managing calls; and trying to present an image that makes them look bigger from the outside.

The new DigitalLine component lets RingCentral users assign DigitalLine to any extension in their suite and use answering rules to route calls to DigitalLine phones based on day, time and caller ID. A unified call log keeps track of all incoming and outgoing calls. An enhanced call controller function used in conjunction with a softphone enables calling, conference calling and recoding capabilities from the PC. Companies can also use their existing analog phones with an ATA adaptor or digital Internet phones that tap into the network. The system is also compatible with SIP devices. It integrates with Microsoft Office and features an enhanced e911 service.

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