Alteva’s Local Anywhere: A new twist on hosted VoIP.

A growing presence in the world of hosted VoIP, Philadelphia-based Alteva has just added a new feature that it says will help customers take fuller advantage of the promise of unified communications.

The Local Anywhere tool allows a user to assign multiple DIDs (def.) to a single desk phone. Incoming calls can be directed to various numbers, depending on business need, while outgoing calls show up on caller ID with different identifiers, despite originating from the same phone.

Company executives say Local Anywhere is more than just a nifty new function: It’s a suggestion that the potential for genuine UC may be coming to fruition.

“Any way that you communicate, it should make your employees more effective, it should support your brand,” said Chief Sales Officer Louis Hayner. “This Local Anywhere represents a very small piece of that, but it speaks to that bigger picture. It shows that by taking what people have in place and adding just a small twist, we can make their infrastructure that much greater overall.”

The new feature will be added into the basic Alteva package at no extra cost. Alteva currently claims over 60,000 users of its hosted VoIP service.

Alteva developed the new capability in response to requests from customer Abigail Michaels, a firm offering hotel concierge-style services to luxury condos and residential buildings nationwide. The firm operates in 12 locations and also services five privately-labeled concierge contracts.

“They had multiple businesses under one umbrella and they wanted to be able to recognize what business each customer was calling for—and they wanted to be sure that when they placed outbound calls, those calls reflected the correct business name,” Hayner said.

While Alteva’s typical customer has about 150 users, Hayner said he can picture this solution working well for a significantly smaller business.

Take for instance a small-business owner with multiple companies, a flower show above the bakery, for example. With just a handful of people working the back office for both companies, it would be more efficient, and more professional looking, if a single phone could support two different phone numbers.

Among other advantages, this would help the business owner project a larger presence in the world, while at the same time avoiding the common trap of diluting or confusing a single brand proposition by running a single phone number.

“If you are buying a service, and a vendor is supporting you, you want to buy something that applies specifically to you, something that comes from a specific company. If you have seven different companies under a single umbrella, it doesn’t speak well to the sophistication of the individual companies if you have a single phone number for all of this. In that sense this is all about branding, it’s all about sales and marketing,” Hayner said. “Every day you are branding your company, and now the technology is able to deliver and to support what your marketing has worked so hard at.”

The state of the economy plays into the equation. As small businesses are forced to downsize, and fewer people are tasked with carrying more of the load, the ability to access multiple numbers through a single phone system helps a business owner to keep up appearances.

In terms of the big picture in unified communications, Hayner said products like Local Anywhere may help to bring some coherent shape to what is presently a fragmented marketplace.

“Unified communications means so many things to so many different people,” Hayner said. The scenario sounds familiar. “At one point Voice over IP was fuzzy. There were people defining the next generation of telecommunications in different ways, and eventually everyone settled on VoIP, so there is no more ambiguity.”

To speed the shakeout on the UC side, Alteva is launching a certification program for its channel partners, a $300 course in six sessions spread out over six months. The idea is to help partners articulate the benefits of unified communications and, in the process, sharpen the definition of UC in the minds of end users.

Such efforts will help hosted VoIP across the boards, Hayner said. “At some point unified communications will take on a good, clear definition. Then we can evaluate apples to apples, looking at which companies do what, and how well.”

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