New York City-based Intermedia, widely known for its hosted Microsoft Exchange e-mail service, yesterday announced the addition of hosted PBX to its roster of cloud-based communications services.
Another hosted VoIP provider—in a world in which Enterprise VoIPplanet has already profiled in the neighborhood of 70 such providers?
Yes, but this is a rather different play from the typical hosted PBX offering—and quite forward looking.
As Intermedia has a decade’s experience selling Exchange e-mail as a service (which it does to some 260,000 end users), and added Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) as a service, starting several years ago, Intermedia hosted PBX completes the picture of a true unified communications deployment.
“As excited as we are to be able to offer a standalone hosted PBX product to both our existing customer base and new customers, what we’re really excited about is unified communications,” McCormick told VoIPplanet.
Intermedia hosted PBX is a nice service on its own, featuring a separate DID and phone line for each seat. It offers an automated assistant to greet callers and route calls, as well as hunt groups to route calls across sales, customer service or other teams. It provides in-office extension dialing, find me/follow me functionality, and voicemail to e-mail. And, a plus for current Intermedia Exchange customers, it is managed from the same HostPilot control panel as the company’s other offerings.
Included in the $25 per month per seat price (a promotional price that is likely to rise to around $35, according to McCormick) is unlimited calling within the U.S. and Canada.
“I think one of the big things that will differentiate Intermedia from other hosted PBX providers—straight PBX providers—is not the feature sets of the PBXs, it’s the ability to fully integrate it with the leading hosted Exchange offering already—and to be able to go sell that to a large customer base like ours,” McCormick explained.
Intermedia hosted PBX can be “consumed,” to use McCormick’s term, independent of the company’s other communications service offerings—which include not only Exchange and OCS, but fax, SharePoint, wireless integrations, and the like—or in combination with any or all of the others.
|Intermedia hosted PBX user interface|
E-mail and telephony are probably the two most important communications applications. OCS, for all its cool technology, is fundamentally an instant messaging and presence server that also provides in-network IP telephony and convenience features like click-to-call. In terms of connecting to the outside world, however, it is designed to work with, but does not itself include, a PBX.
McCormick spelled out Intermedia’s underlying strategy: “If you consume all three—hosted Exchange plus hosted PBX, and then you do the hosted OCS add-on [a mere $4.95 per month]—you get a true, fully integrated unified communications product from Intermedia.”
However, McCormick was quick to point out, the company is not emphasizing this in the launch of the PBX product. “We’re taking the step approach toward full unified communications for SMBs,” he said, “because there’s a bit of an education hurdle for them, and trying to sell them unified communications—well, their heads just start to spin.”
“It’s announced as a hosted PBX launch because it’s easier for people to digest and understand, but . . . the real goal of the company is unified communications that the little guy can consume,” McCormick said.
Moreover, the total UC bundle integrates with Microsoft Outlook, a factor of which Intermedia’s customers and partners alike have stressed the importance. “Really, what we’re selling is Outlook that can dial your phone, because if you can keep people thinking about Outlook, that’s something they get and they know and love,” he explained.
This is all in keeping with Intermedia’s ultimate goal, which is to become “the trusted provider for complete business communications in the SMB marketplace.” “If we can get people the extreme productivity that comes with a unified communications system, we’re going to have a very sticky product there,” McCormick said.