Intermedia.net, Inc., headquartered in New York, New York, is a privately held firm that has developed an interesting niche in the communications services business: hosting Microsoft Exchange services, along with other enhanced communications services to small and mid-size businesses. For one monthly fee, customers get VoIP telephony, smartphones, business e-mail, instant messaging, fax, and other communications functions delivered as a service.
Founded in 1995, Intermedia claims to have been the first company to offer cloud-based, business-class e-mail; it now has over 250,000 premium, hosted Exchange mailboxes under management.
This interesting combination of hosted voice and e-mail service has brought in a number of industry recognitions, including a 2007 Perfect Score in Technical Support from HosTest.net; a 2007 Reader’s Choice Award from MSExchange.org; a 2008 Dedicated Server Hosting award from Web Host Directory; and a 2009 Fastest Growing Company award from HostReview.com.
Intermedia also empowers thousands of smaller value added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs)—as well as select Fortune 500 companies—to sell communications services under their own brand. Intermedia has 200 employees with additional operations in Sunnyvale, California, St. Petersburg, Russia, and London.
Intermedia offers its services throughout the United States, primarily targeting companies with 50 or fewer users. The company qualifies its customers based upon the type of communications solution that they are presently using. For example, for companies that are currently running their business using POTS (plain old telephone service), Intermedia provides an alternative that includes advanced features such as an automated attendant, hunt groups, and extension dialing, without having to set up and manage complex equipment, plus cost savings from with no local and regional tolls charges.
Businesses that are run from mobile phones can have a system that provides all the employees with consistent features, management, and costs—plus integration with hosted Exchange. Potential customers that are using Skype or other free online VoIP services can port their phone number over to Intermedia, which provides directory assistance listings that help potential customers find them, plus unlimited calling to anyone in the United States or Canada, without the customer having to purchase off-net minutes. Customers that currently are served by another hosted PBX provider are also welcomed into the fold, with the additional advantage of the hosted Exchange service, with both voice and e-mail services managed from a centralized console.
That management console, called the HostPilot Control Panel; enables online administration of all communications services. This interface provides a centralized point of management for all Intermedia services, including the Exchange server, POP/IMAP e-mail, SharePoint, Fax via e-mail, SpamStopper, Hosted PBX, and Domain Names. Using this control panel, users can add and manage hosted PBX use, set and configure the voice menu and hunt groups, manage music on hold, and view six months of call history for all users.
Each Intermedia hosted PBX account includes hunt groups, so that calls to a specific department, such as sales or customer support, can be answered quickly. Each user account receives a direct dial phone number; unique extension and extension dialing for calls within the company; unlimited calling to the United States and Canada; caller ID, call waiting, call transfer, call forwarding and three-way calling; find-me/follow-me service—which can forward calls to a mobile or additional phone when away from the office—plus voice-mail to e-mail conversion, with Outlook integration. In addition, Intermedia also provides consistent customer support on a 24 x 7 basis, meaning that their system does not default to an “emergency support” call center during off-peak hours. Cost for the service runs $34.95 per user per month.
The hosted PBX service can be expanded into a full unified communications service when customers add hosted Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) and the OCS Calling feature. With Intermedia’s service, calls can be placed to any instant messaging contact in OCS or any contact in Outlook just with a click of the mouse.
The company does not include telephones as part of their service, but recommends Linksys and Polycom models or the free X-Lite softphone, and will assist customers in configuring these devices. Other SIP-compatible devices may be used with the system, but net managers are on their own for installation and configuration functions.
Further information on the Intermedia solutions can be found at www.intermedia.net . Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.