Toshiba Gets Its UC Act Together

Toshiba America Information Systems (TAIS) has for some time offered all the components of an effective unified communications system—even including mobility, courtesy of partner Varaha Systems.

The problem is that many of those components—such as presence, instant messaging, dialing from productivity apps, CRM integration, audio and video conferencing, one-number access, and the like—evolved over time, and have been offered as separate purchases, often running on separate servers.

Toshiba wisely concluded that this was not an optimal way to market its rich array of communications tools and this week announced that it has drawn them together into a single software package, the Unified Communications Suite, that installs in a single data load and runs on a single server.

“Our intention here is to enhance Toshiba’s image as a UC provider,” product marketing manager, telecommunications systems division manager, Jon Nelson told Enterprise VoIPplanet. “We have all the UC components in place and we have a really good UC story to tell. All we really had to do was package it all together into one application suite and create a simplified pricing strategy to present it to the customer in order to make it easier for them to buy, and then to implement,” Nelson elaborated.

Nelson described Toshiba’s philosophy on what constitutes unified communications as “integrating business applications with people communications” (as opposed to this, that, and the other specific communications app).

“It’s only real if it creates some kind of tangible benefit,” he cautioned—”if it promotes some kind of way to increase productivity, or profitability, or reduces costs—something that gives the customer an advantage.”

The Presence Viewer component, for example, not only shows phone related activities of fellow work-group members, it enables click to call and click to IM from its own interface, but also from any business app. “Just highlight phone number and click,” Nelson said. “No need to leave that application. ”

The Net Phone call manager application, likewise, allows users to manage incoming calls—hold transfer, etc.—without touching their physical phone. But it also integrates with 25 to 30 of the most popular CRM applications, providing screen pops keyed by caller ID.

“This remains one of the highest-value applications,” Nelson remarked—”even though we’ve been doing it for more than ten years—ever since computer-telephony integration came around.”

The UC Suite is rich in tools for helping calls find their intended recipient. It begins with “One-number Access,” also known as find-me/follow-me, which lets users quickly create sequential hierarchies of phone numbers for the system to ring when a call comes in to an empty desk.

Off-Premise Call Forwarding lets workers set up different call routing scenarios for different times of day—and lets users call into the system remotely to change their current forwarding number.

Personal Call Handling is yet another way to move the right call to the right destination. “You can define the way your calls get routed using both schedule-based and caller-based criteria,” Nelson explained. “Depending on who’s calling you, you can have it route a certain way, or depending on the time of day, you can have it follow a different kind of routing scheme as well.”

The Unified Communications Suite offers a broad palette of conferencing and collaboration tools, such as audio and video conferencing, with application and file sharing, file transfer capabilities, and message boarding.

It uses Outlook as a Unified Messaging platform to aggregate voicemail and e-mail in one location. “Even more important is being able to use our Strategy View mobile client,” Nelson said [which VoIPplanet wrote about here]. “If you’re not traveling with your own computer—or in a place you don’t have access to your own PC—you can use our mobile client Strategy View from any computer that has Internet access, just using a browser.

“So if you’re in a hotel lobby or you’re on vacation and you don’t have your computer with you, and you get an emergency call saying, ‘Hey I need you to take care of something,’ you can actually get into your e-mail account.”

For customers who “insist on using” Microsoft Exchange and/or Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS), Toshiba has made it a simple matter to integrate them with the rest of the UC Suite, according to Nelson.

The Suite is designed to run on the Toshiba Media Application Server (MAS), of which there are many variations with different user support capacities. “You choose the platform that meets your size and price requirements,” Nelson explained. “All you have to do then, is to layer on top of that the Unified Communications Suite, which is the software package that includes all the things we just talked about.”

Licensing for the UC Suite is on a per-user basis. “You just buy as many as you need.”

“The integrated Suite makes it better and easier for our dealers to understand—and for our customers to understand and see the value of unified communications,” Nelson concluded. “And at the same time, it gives us a lower bundled pricing scenario, compared to buying the applications individually.”

The Toshiba Unified Communications Suite is now available from the company’s dealer network, nationwide.

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