Allworx Revamps Its IP Phone System for SMBs

East Rochester, NY-based Allworx has brought to market a new, muscled-up version of its IP-based phone system for small and medium sized businesses.

The 48x phone system and System 7.2 Software Upgrade can support up to 250 users, as compared to the company’s previous 150-user solution. The company isn’t necessarily aiming to sell to bigger users, however.

“We want to make sure they have enough room to be able to handle their growth over the next five years without having to start all over with their phone systems,” Allworx president Chris Hasenauer told Enterprise VoIPplanet.

Upgraded DSP (digital signal processing) technology helps the new system accommodate the additional users. That same technology has boosted conference bridge capacity from 30 to 60 users. “We can handle a lot more calls comfortably than we could before because of that,” Hasenauer said.

Allworx has made hardware upgrades, ditching its existing dual hard drives in favor of onboard flash memory. “For any manufacturer, one of the biggest causes of failure is hard drives. They are moving parts and they tend to wear out over time,” Hasenauer said. “This gives us more reliability.”

All this might make one suppose the company is getting ready to reach beyond its traditional SMB market, but Hasenauer says that is not the case. “This might make us an option for companies that are a little bit larger than the ones we were selling to before, but really the goal is just to provide room for growth to our existing market sector,” he said.

Among other reasons for staying with the SMBs, Hasenauer noted that the competition a step up the size scale gets pretty heavy, with enterprise players Cisco, Avaya, and ShoreTel dominating the field. Rather than rush onto that arena, Allworx holds its own turf with a selling price of $500 to $600 per seat, roughly half of what the enterprise players get, Hasenauer said.

Further, by focusing on a small-business niche, Allworx is able to meet a set of user needs that may be quite different from those seen at the enterprise level.

Take overhead paging, for instance. A vital piece of communications for businesses of 30 or 40 people it typically gets stripped out of enterprise VoIP systems. Likewise the busy lamp field: SMBs like it, enterprises don’t need it.

By designing specifically for the small business market, rather than scaling down a product intended for the enterprise, Allworx is able to hang onto a lot of these features that might otherwise get tossed aside.

“When small businesses go to VoIP they are confronted with all this new technology, but all the things they do day-to-day have disappeared, because large enterprise users don’t want these things,” Hasenauer said. “A small business needs a transition in functionality that keeps things kind of familiar.”

As a producer of IP-based phone systems, Allworx enjoys a somewhat unusual business situation. Founded in 1998, it was acquired in 2007 by PAETEC, a nationwide carrier in 84 of the top 100 cities.

That intimate relationship with a carrier has helped the company overcome technological hurdles that may have held it back.

“We designed and built what we thought was a fantastic phone system. People would plug it in to a variety of carriers’ systems, and some installations went really well,” Hasenauer said. “But sometimes there was something wrong with the carrier interface, so the phone quality would be bad. Since we are the physical phone, we are the one sitting there on the person’s desk, people would say that the sound was bad because of this new phone.”

The union with PEATEC was largely an attempt to get over that hurdle. “By being in meetings with carrier engineers every day, we believed we would learn so much that we would get really good at interfacing with other carrier networks as well,” Hasenauer said.

At the same time, the carrier relationship has proved a natural business attractor. In 2009 less than 5 percent of Allworx business came from PAETEC customers. In mid-2009 Allworx and PAETEC launched a bundled solution, IP Simple, and in 2010 PAETEC business jumped up to comprise a third of Allworx installations.

Meanwhile, Allworx marches forward under the banner of painless adoption for the SMB world.

“We want to make it a comfortable transition to the new technology, so the day you get an Allworx phone on your desk, it feels pretty familiar, it feels like what you are used to.”

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