Teo Tailors UC for the Medium-Size Business Market

With nearly 40 years in the business, Mukilteo, Wash.-based Teo Technologies has just announced the latest iteration of its broad telecommunications offerings.

Teo UC offers a pretty full assortment of unified communications capabilities, using a Linux-based server to integrate e-mail, voicemail, voice-conferencing, desk phones, mobile phones, soft phones, IM, fax, and call recording. Teo goes a couple of steps further, though. First, its new UC product builds upon the company’s already successful E911 capabilities, while also bringing a high level of sophistication to the presence function.

“We have to have a better feature set, we have to make it easier to use, and we have to have a compelling price point. We know it’s a crowded market,” said Business Strategy Executive Tom Beck.

That price point comes in at $500 per user including desk phone, soft phone, and mobile client. The cost drops for those who want just the basic desk phone and a seat license, with the option to upgrade down the line.

Known as Tone Commander prior to a 2009 name change, Teo serves companies between 50 and 2,000 people, with most filling into the 200 to 1000 range: Those big enough to benefit from sophisticated telecom but still too small to have an IT team devoted to the effort.

In considering the UC market, Teo executives looked first at ease of use as a place where they could likely make inroads. They set themselves a high bar in terms of usability. “We spent a ton of time analyzing all the steps you need to do to manage your communications platform and we laid it out so that nothing takes more than two or three clicks,” Beck said. “All the information you need is right in front of you, where you would expect it to be.”

Simplicity is the watchword on the back end, too. There’s a single administrator’s portal, and the system runs on a single server, where others may require multiple servers in order to fulfill multiple communications functions.

Beyond the simple interface, Teo is staking out its UC ground on the battlefield of presence, claiming a functionality that is richer and more sensitive to business needs than others in the field.

Presence can be viewed from every device on the network, and a user’s status can be tailored to meet specific circumstance. “Instead of just posting your presence and saying ‘so and so is at lunch,’ we can actually take the presence of each user and allow each user to set their own call routing rules, which are automatically activated based on their presence status.”

This ability to set rules and route calls based on a particular presence status isn’t new. Others can do it, Beck said, but they typically require IT intervention to set it up. In Teo UC, any user can define routing operations for a given presence state.

Teo is making one seldom-heard claim, using its UC system as a delivery vehicle for its existing E911 capabilities.

In the absence of E911, Beck said, emergency responders too often respond to 911 calls with no better location information than the front desk. With Teo UC, emergency calls are tied to locations within an enterprise, providing information about the likely caller as well as mapping information.

About 20 states already require office phone systems to associate specific locations to emergency calls, and Teo is looking to the including of E911 as a possible market differentiator.

“Legislation is moving in our direction,” Beck said. “Federal legislation has been in consideration for two or three years now, there are dedicated teams looking at how to make these state requirements more uniform across the country. I see this as being a requirement across the country in three to five years.”

Founded in 1972, Teo could easily be perceived as a lumbering telecom dinosaur, and the company is well aware of the fact. Last year’s name change reflected a very conscious desire to keep appearances current. But it’s not just appearances: The advent of a UC offering suggests Teo is doing its part to remain up to date on the telecom scene.

Meanwhile, the company is touting its long experience as evidence of its readiness to effectively enter the UC fray.

“Coming from a long heritage of developing communication systems, we are very intimately aware of customer experience,” Beck said. “We defined our entire UC platform starting from the customer experience and working backward from there.”

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