Unified Communications guide Part 5: How to get a taste

Adam Turner wraps up his UC feature with some great approaches to sampling what is on offer.

PREVIOUSLY: Is Unified Communications only for big business?

Consumer-grade VoIP providers such as engin and MyNetFone are also starting to provide a taste of what Unified Communications has to offer, targeting the features a small business users.

engin customers will soon be able to enjoy the convenience of "one number reach", says engin chief executive Ilkka Tales.

"One number reach lets the customer control on what device they want to receive a communication on, and prioritise things according to who is trying to contact them," Tales says.

"It's not so much about devices sharing the one number, because there's some regulatory issues on that, it's more about having that one number which can reach you anywhere. For example I only have one number on my business card. My phones all ring at the same time, such as my mobile and my fixed line or my laptop. If I'm in a meeting it might go to voice mail automatically, depending on who is calling. If I pick up the call on my laptop in the office and I want to walk out of the office I can transfer the phonecall to my mobile seamlessly. As we see mobile termination rates reduced to the level of fixed line termination rates, consumers will give out the number that's cheapest to call and pick up the call from any device."

"We can do this all now on our internal network at engin and we're working towards making it available to customers within the next 12 months."

Both engin and MyNetFone also offer wireless VoIP in the form of Nokia handsets that can make and receive VoIP calls when in range of a wireless network.

The ability to divert internal calls to a mobile device is offering significant cost savings to businesses with staff that spend a lot of time away from their desk, says MyNetFone technical director Rene Sugo.

"You can set it to ring the desktop for 20 seconds, then try the mobile for 20 second, then leave a message on desktop voicemail - which can then be delivered by email," Sugo says.

"We've had a lot of interest in this from our business customers. One warehouse had four VoIP lines with each forwarding from a manager's desktop phone to wifi phone so when they're on the floor they can pick up calls without diverting to mobile. They were spending a fortune on mobile calls until our sales guys suggested this to them."

MyNetFone is looking to introduce features such as fax to email, but Sugo says the real benefits for businesses will come from workgroup-based features - touting functionality previously only available to large corporates.

"We're looking at hunt group and ring group capabilities, so you can do things like create a workgroup for your sales force and have the system check if other people in the group are available to take the call before going to voice mail. Like our other features, it can all be configured through our web portal," he says.

"We're getting to the point where you can just put a VoIP phone on your desktop and manage everything through your MyNetFone account online. You can create groups, set up diversion and even allocate new numbers on the fly from the website. It's unifying communications whilst removing the complexity."


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