All-in-One IP Communications Appliance - Now with Software Tools

In addition to VoIP, firewall, and a passel of servers, Sutus's BC5880 offers SAP financials and CRM functionality.

By Adam Stone | Posted Mar 31, 2010
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Canadian equipment maker Sutus already has seen success with its all-in-one box device. In just under three years the company has landed 300 small-business customers with an easy-to-use appliance that brings together VoIP, firewall, web-, mail- and file servers as well as a wireless access point.

Now the company has unveiled the latest iteration, the Business Central 5880 (BC5880), which integrates with aspects of SAP Business One such as financial management and customer relationship tools. The idea is to give small business users an easier way to manage business tasks, while making Sutus that much more of a core element in an SMBs’ infrastructure.

In aligning with SAP, "we asked who had the software that was best suited for small business," said Sutus’ Executive VP Shawn Chute.

From the start, Sutus has staked its reputation on simplicity. For example, the device works exclusively with Polycom phones. Because of tight integration with a single phone provider, "there is no pre-configuration required. You plug in a Polycom phone and it is auto-detected and auto-provisioned," Chute said.

Sutus likewise has tried to emphasize simplicity in its arrangements with VoIP providers. It presently has relationships with 13 providers including Bandwidth.com, Cbeyond, MegaPath, XO Communications, and SimpleSignal. Through those relationships, "we’re interoperable with all of them, so there is no programming required and we know that the quality is there," Chute said.

Ease of management has likewise been a priority. Users can manage functionality through a Web-based browser that can be used onsite or remotely. This has been a boon to resellers, who are able to ship and configure devices to multiple locations without having to make site visits. "A lot of our resellers are taking advantage of that," Chute said.

For up to five users the Sutus box costs $2,200; a setup for six to 12 users costs $3,200; and for 13 to 25 users it’s $3,900. The average installation covers nine users, Chute said.

While the Sutus appliance may offer an all-in-one-box solution, the company hasn’t made it an all-or-nothing proposition. The box can be turned on with all or just some of its features enabled, something Chute says provides a needed level of flexibility.

After years of focus groups, "we learned that no matter how easy that appliance is to use, it is going to go into an environment that is not straightforward," Chute said. "You have to deal with your provider, you have the cabling and connectivity to the desktop, you have to look at what existing infrastructure they want to keep, maybe they have a specific server they want to have on their network."

Sutus figures the best way to meet that challenge is by providing options. "If you take a look at all the things that are in our appliance, we have customers who don’t use the phone, who don’t use the file server, who don’t want to use any one of these components, and we are fine with that," Chute said. "We have made sure that this product is flexible enough for the reseller to go in and land the business with the small business client."

If an uncertain environment is one hurdle, an even bigger one is name recognition. You can have a great box, but that doesn’t give you automatic visibility.

"We are a newer company, so you always have the ‘who are you’ question," Chute said.

A number of recent deals could help Sutus gain that higher level of recognition. In the past year the company teamed with ScanSource Communication for North American distribution. In February Sutus signed a deal to simplify distribution of its appliance through Computer Troubleshooters' channel of 475 franchisees in 27 countries. Sutus also is a VIP Partner with Polycom.

Looking ahead, the company plans to roll out two new hosted services products shortly, to help small businesses leverage services in the cloud, Chute said. With these offerings, the dual themes and ease and affordability will remain consistent.

"Everything is about cost savings for the small business," he said. "Can you take tools that are normally only available to large businesses and provision them in a way that small businesses can understand them and afford them?"

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