Verizon has launched a new cloud phone service for SMBs called Virtual Communications Express. The VoIP service integrates with Google Apps to offer click-to-call functionality from email, calendar, and chat. It also includes telepresence, visual voicemail, and other features common in unified communications (UC) and private branch exchange (PBX) systems. Virtual Communications Express is geared towards businesses that might be hesitant about investing a bunch of money to implementing full telecom systems.
“I think the main thrust of this is to bring PBX features to companies that don’t have the budget or in-house resources to manage a full-fledged PBX or UC system,” said IDC analyst, Matt Davis. Davis sees the new service as a “market-building exercise” for Verizon, citing IDC research that shows reluctance among SMBs to embrace virtual PBX or other hosted communications services–even though those platforms are often intended for companies with limited financial and technical resources. Indeed, Verizon product management director Tom Dalrymple said he’d put Virtual Communications Express in the UC category, just minus the heavy lifting. “There’s no design required,” Dalrymple said. “You don’t have to have the Cisco-certified engineer configure it for you.”
Companies using Google Apps for Business can download a Virtual Communications Express application from the Google Apps Marketplace, which will allow users to make calls — with one click — from Gmail, GChat and Google Calendar. Individuals can also see if other Google Apps users are available to join a call instantly.
Deployment of the system takes about seven days, and if porting over existing numbers, it will be about twice as long, while Verizon will issue temporary numbers in the interim. Verizon will also be supplying loaner phones, with plan pricing ranging between $20 and $35 per user depending on the numbers of users and configuration, not including the phones or the Google Apps subscription. The “sweet spot” for Verison’s VCE is approximately between 20 and 70 employees. While Verizon has offered service bundles with Google Apps, it’s not necessary to buy the cloud suite–or broadband internet service, for that matter–directly from Verizon to use Virtual Communications Express,
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