Office Depot, AccessLine Launch Wireless SMB Phone Solution

Employees' cell phones transformed into key part of the company's virtual phone system.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Oct 17, 2005
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Today, Office Depot, Inc. announced the availability of its new hosted Wireless Office Service, an economical platform for small and medium size businesses that extends a main business phone number to any and all employees phones, by mapping virtual numbers to the appropriate extensions. In particular, with Wireless Office Service, employees' cell phones are integrated into the company phone systems, regardless of cellular provider.

The service, 'powered by' hosted phone service provider AccessLine Communications, routes all incoming calls through a single voice-menu-driven main number, transferring them to the appropriate employee or department using virtual numbers that ring wherever an employee is located, and on whatever type of phone is at hand.

Along with this come some powerful, VoIP-ish features, like find me/follow me capability, and a flexible, integrated voicemail system that, again, lets employees forward messages from their individual cell phone accounts to other workers in the organization.

"This is really a virtual PBX for the small office," AccessLine CMO Kent Hellebust told VoIPplanet.com, "only it's cheaper, because they don't have to purchase any equipment. They can call in and get their employees set up—as few as two employees up to 500, it really doesn't matter—in a couple of hours."

Hellebust elaborated, referencing AccessLine's SmartVoice service, a hosted 'trunk replacement' technology that provides VoIP dial tone to enterprise customers, in deployments as large as 30,000 extensions.

"Our strategy has been to allow businesses to make incremental movement to VoIP rather than total rip and replace," Hellebust said. "SmartVoice customers only have to install a relatively inexpensive gateway, rather than replace their entire capital expenditure for phone infrastructure."

"Wireless Office is a further iteration of that strategy. What we found was that there were very small businesses that weren't even prepared necessarily to move all the way over to a line replacement service where they replace their current phone service provider with a hosted service, but they were interested in some of the functionality that they previously could only get with an equipment solution such as an IP PBX, or a full hosted VoIP solution."

"Wireless Office is an IP-based application software service that's layered on top of their current phone service, giving them functionality that allows them to do things that their current phone service doesn't allow them to do," Hellebust concluded.

The cell phone integration lets employees in the field get all their calls, using the phone they'd normally use when away from the office, but avoids the potential problem of giving ones personal cell phone number to business callers.

"Also, Wireless Office comes with a web-based management tool," Hellebust pointed out to VoIPplanet. "Say, at five o'clock, the numbers that have been being forwarded to Joe Smith directly—to his cell phone in the field—these calls will now be sent to his voicemail box automatically. So he doesn't have to worry about having given a private cell phone number to his customers, and turning himself into being on call 24 hours."

Wireless Office Service is available immediately from Office Depot, at a special anniversary discount of $90.95 per month for 10 extensions/mailboxes (normally $109.00), with a set-up charge of $9.95 (normally $100). Additional extensions can be purchased in increments of 10 at $5 per month. Further information is available at Office Depot's web site and at Office Depot walk-in stores.

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