Zultys 36G IP Telephone Available Today

Now available from Zultys: affordable, functional gigabit telephony with the 36G.

Great new phone from Zultys: the 36G

Affordable Gigabit SIP telephony from Zultys

G’d Up From the Feet Up

Designed to replace the Zultys 35i and compete with the cut-rate gigabit SIP offerings from companies like Polycom, Snom and Cisco, the dual Gig port 36G is compatible with any SIP-friendly telephone system or hosted product. It works especially well with the Zultys MX250, MXSE, MXvirtual and Zultys hosted / UCaaS options.

36G LCD

The phone features a 3.7″ graphical display and 8 softkeys for choosing on-screen menu options. The screen is 240 x 120px and supports XML and an XML browser. In addition, the phone supports LDAP based contact directories.

But how many buttons does it have?

Replacing the paper button labels of primitive telephones, the 8 screen-adjacent softkeys are digitally labeled for up to 21 speed dials and features for ease of use and instant gratification when you make a change to your phone.

That is not enough buttons. I want all the buttons

Ok. We heard you. You can add up to 6 of the 340M expansion modules if you need yet more buttons. That can take you up to 228 LCD-labeled programmable keys. Keep in mind there are 11 dedicated feature keys AND a 4-way Nintendo-style directional pad with selection button AND 4 additional softkeys that let you navigate on-screen menu options. At some point we need to leave room on your desk for a coffee mug.

I am satisifed with the buttons. But what about how calls sound?

The speakerphone is full duplex for talking over each other on a call. Speakers are wideband HD. The audio is nothing less than exceptional.

Alright what does it cost

This phone is competitive with the Polycom VVX310. Contact sales@teamextenda.com for a quote.

What else?

  • 802.3af power over ethernet support – use off the shelf PoE components. Nothing crazy here.
  • Supports VLAN, DSCP, QOS
  • Paging, auto-answer support
  • Call park, pickup
  • Supports the Zultys EHS. The EHS is the Electronic HookSwitch. This is a device you can use to connect to a Plantronics, Sennheiser or GN Netcom/Jabra wireless headset so you can pickup and disconnect calls by pressing a button on your headset while you are away from your phone.
  • Find the brochure here

Affordable Desktop Unified Communications

Dogs need UC tools too

Mitel Phone Manager and Zultys MXIE

Zultys MXIE Unified Communications UC

The MXIE desktop interface really makes it simple to communicate using nearly any media

Small- and medium-sized businesses, non-profits and government organizations throughout Los Angeles and Southern California are in luck! The Mitel Phone Manager and Zultys MXIE are on sale today for your Mitel MiVoice Office 250 (former Mitel 5000, 5200, 5400, 5600, and 5000 HX variants count too) and Zultys MX-30, MX-SE, MX-250 and MXvirtual systems, respectively. Several licenses of each desktop software are, as of the time of writing at least, bundled in with the purchase of a new system, so you can roll out advanced features to power users and VIPs right away.

Extenda also sells enterprise-grade Unified Communications software for large deployments, with the Mitel MiCollab software being the most popular for the MiVoice Business (former 3300 and MCD). I would argue that the Phone Manager and MXIE UC clients are as good or better than competitors such as Microsoft Lync, at a fraction of the cost. Not to brag, but deployments on Mitel Phone Manager and Zultys MXIE take hours instead of weeks, and you don’t need multiple servers to get them to work. Zultys doesn’t even require an external host computer – the MXIE runs right off the physical, virtual, or cloud-based system appliance.

Mitel Phone Manager provides users with desktop control of their calls and messages with an easy to use Unified Communications interface

Mitel’s Phone Manager allows you to control your status. This lets coworkers know where you are and tells the phone system where to send your calls.

What UC Means to Me: Presence

Cutting through the marketing hype, I will use myself as a (very, very biased) case study, so you can see how I use my MXIE UC client to make my work life better. I can see in Outlook and on MXIE what everyone in my company is doing – are they available, on a call, logged out, in a meeting, etc. I can then choose to text someone who is on the phone, or call them if they are around, or send them a voice message they will hear later, or email. I have access to all of these options through MXIE or through Outlook – just hover over a user’s contact or email address.

Mobile Integration and Find Me-Follow Me

When I need to get up from my desk – rare, but it happens – I change my status. Having created what are called ‘Find me / Follow me’ rules, I can decide how I want my calls to get routed. If I am ‘In a Meeting’ calls should go to voicemail, but if I am ‘At Lunch’ calls should try my cell phone and then ring a backup coworker in the office.

An advantage of this type of call forwarding is clear to a mobile salesperson, field technician, plumber, on-site consultant or any other classic road warrior type of worker. You get your calls wherever you are, without giving out your cell phone number to everyone in your life. But there are huge benefits to office workers as well – you can transform your cell phone into a cordless office phone. Everyone knows how to play music and Words with Friends on their smartphone, but leveraging office WiFi allows you to make and receive office calls from anywhere in the building or out, without impacting your voice and data plan. If you have ever shopped for a cordless office phone, you probably know the sad truth that prices start at $200 a device and climb steeply if you need multiple antennae or access points.

Collaboration and Conference Calls

Conference Calling has been solved by Zultys

The Zultys MXIE conference call feature could not be easier. Automatically integrate new conferences into your Outlook calendar to block off time and set reminders. Send formatted conference invites out like a pro. Drag and drop participants into a call too, for on-the-fly conferencing.

Conference calling and collaboration are increasingly vital parts of my work day. I even have to pay attention during these calls now, instead of putting my phone on mute and surfing the internet, protected by my blocked off calendar time labeled ‘conference call’ – ah the good old days. Setting up a conference call continues to be either painful or expensive for most companies. UC desktop software solves this riddle – just a few clicks and you have a conference set up, you sent out the invites with automatically formatted instructions, your calendar has the time and instructions blocked off, you get a reminder on MXIE, and if someone throws you a curve ball and wants to join last minute, just use your mouse and drag their icon or call into conference. They enter the PIN and you look like a hero.

Collaboration always means desktop sharing and video. The Zultys product provides all of the above out of the box with a few MXvideo licenses included in every system. There is an optional add-on, the MXconference, that can allow you to expand your conferencing to hundreds of users for webinars useful for internal communications, sales, training and showing off your new haircut to everyone you know.

Zultys MXIE video calling

Make video calls and desktop share with MXIE

Inspired Laziness

Instead of reaching for the phone, I just click my MXIE interface when a call comes in. I can, with my mouse and/or keyboard hotkeys, transfer calls, send calls to voicemail, park and hold calls. Yes, this is easier than lifting up the phone – my hands are always on a keyboard and this makes it easier to stay in a productive groove. At a glance, I see all the calls active on my phone too – this is another item that has bedeviled phone users for 30 years. Juggling multiple calls when I just had some red lights and a tiny display was never easy. Everyone over age 30 has likely answered the wrong line with the wrong name, dropped calls, transferred calls to the wrong person, and otherwise let your callers know that you are a bit of a phone klutz. Now, you can just drag and drop calls to other users, see the caller ID, and basically have no excuse for hanging up on anyone.

Dialing out is just as easy. Now you can simply highlight a number and hit a hotkey in any application on your computer. Whether on a webpage, Outlook contact, email signature or in a PDF, if you can highlight the number, we can dial it. This is especially helpful for environments where, if you are like me, you might have a list of people to call back at set times when your schedule opens up. You can make a spreadsheet and just knock out a bunch of calls in a row without touching your phone.

Softphones and Smartphones and Operator Consoles

Both the MXIE and Mitel Phone Manager transform into a full-blown telephone – just add a USB headset if you want some privacy. This saves you money over deploying physical phones throughout the office, as you not only avoid the phone itself but the Power over Ethernet switches and electrical power costs. It also let’s you skip cabling, as it will work over a computer’s WiFi connection, or skip out of the office. For years, we sold a second IP phone to managers as a home office phone, but with softphones, this is largely unnecessary as it is more convenient to have a license on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, though perhaps not as impressive for guests. The MXIE even runs natively on Mac and Linux, in addition to Windows. The Mitel product is limited to Windows.

Mitel Phone Manager can function as a telephone

Mitel’s Phone Manager transformed into a phone, as if by magic

The MXIE offers a smartphone app for Apple iOS and Android phones and tablets that fully integrates the majority of desktop UC functions into the palm of your hand. Calls can be sent to the app rather than the cell phone functions, so you can retain full system features such as hold, transfer and conference. These mid-call features are available with the Mitel through the basic system and accessed via touchtone keys rather than touchscreen.

Interestingly, the MXIE doubles as an Operator console without additional licensing, so full-time receptionists can take advantage of the UC features. The system provides a full set of user tiles for easy access to everyone’s status and better capabilities for handling a high volume of calls. A similar product from Mitel is called the Attendant Console, which is separate from the Phone Manager. The Attendant Console, however, allows for Attendants to also make a limited number of programming changes to the telephone system.

Microsoft Outlook and CRM Integration

The best part of UC is that it can save you time. With optional licensing, we can integrate your MXIE or Phone Manager to Salesforce, Outlook, Act!, Goldmine, MS CRM and Dynamics, and many other popular CRM packages. There are APIs and SQL integration available too, as well as the ability to use GET commands to integrate to other web-based packages. Why do you care? Because we can open a customer record automatically when they call in or you call out, we can open a ‘new record’ when an unidentified number comes in, and overall, we can make it easy for you to improve the quality of customer interactions while cutting down on the time spent on data entry.

The Zultys offers out of the box integration to SalesForce or a Flex Communicator license that allows integration to a host of different CRMs. Mitel Phone Manager’s core strength is the number of out-of-the-box integrations it has with different CRM packages.

Mitel Phone Manager integrates with just about every CRM you can imagine

Screen pop just about anything you can think of with the Mitel Phone Manager’s CRM integrations.

Costs and Deployment

Costs vary by system and how many users you have on the system, as we can bundle licenses together in bulk purchases, but in general, I would budget for about $200 per seat, about the same cost as three months of a SalesForce Pro subscription or a single license of Act! Pro 2013. However, both systems have starter kits that include a number of these UC seats, so often customers find that they don’t need to purchase seats a la carte. Compare these costs to Lync – upwards of nearly $2500 in the first year!

Cutting the cord

Webinars that Raise Your Blood Pressure

I sat in on a webinar today from Aruba Networks, a well-respected manufacturer of wireless network gear. We use Aruba for wireless deployments that involve over, say, 20 users, so I was shocked when today’s webinar on “Cutting the last cord” was actually an hour long pitch for eliminating wired networks by moving to Microsoft’s Lync for your telephone system. Moving away from the desk phone is something I am passionate about, but not by getting in bed with the company that fleeced all of us for decades and were guilty of monopoly abuse of market share. It was like finding out that person you were flirting with at the bar was not only married, but married to the jerk that stole your lunch money in junior high.

Cutting the telephone cord

Cut the telephone cord and just have a broken piece of junk in your hand or the first real taste of freedom in your life as an office drone

I understand Aruba’s angle on this – if people buy the premise that you no longer need cables in the office, they would be required to load up on the wireless network hardware and software that Aruba sells. And I understand Microsoft on this too: Cisco right now owns the corporate enterprise network space, and Microsoft Lync has probably picked off all the easy wins at the enterprise telephone system level with companies that are end-to-end Microsoft. They are hitting the wall many manufacturers have slammed up against: the network guys in very big companies are all Cisco-certified and have invested their entire careers in learning Cisco IOS commands, Cisco’s oddball corruptions of industry standards like SIP, and in trying to breathe life into the Frankenstein monster of acquisitions that is a Cisco voice network. (Full disclosure: I flog my new technicians to earn their CCNAs and deploy Cisco switches in most greenfield installations.) If you can convince the C-suite that they can save money by dumping all of those switches and wires, the Cisco ‘one neck to choke’ value proposition falls apart.

Side note: I got a good chuckle at the fact that Aruba is using PRIs (for non-phone geeks, this is quaint, traditional land line technology) with their brand new Lync implementation and claiming $2M in long distance savings from Lync. I take it this means that the savings was found by stitching offices and remote workers together over the internet, the low hanging multi-office fruit that is a 10-15 year old technology solution. So, yes, the savings was from Lync, like my car’s groundbreaking feature of brakes has made it possible to decelerate.

Cutting the Cord

When I started in this industry in 2004, I had a dream. I had a dream that one day, little companies across Southern California would throw their desk phones in the garbage. They would use the Inter-Tel 8602 softphone, a cool piece of software featuring a handy dandy USB dongle hanging out of the PC or laptop. This softphone would, in my feeble, millennial brain, make it super fast to install a phone system, and make life so much easier for companies since they wouldn’t need PoE switches or to worry about programming phones for users. I pitched it over and over again, first with the Inter-Tel Axxess, then the Inter-Tel 5000, all throughout the aughts. All that fishing, and not one bite.

But We Like Our Phones

The feedback from customers made me feel a bit of deja vu to my time in Little League where I hit a lot of foul balls and lead the team in strike outs. So close, yet so far. CFOs and owners saw the cost savings and forward thinking sales manager types liked the deployment flexibility. IT managers with rooms full of desktops running XP on 1-2GB of RAM were ice cold to the idea. Here was a mission critical piece of software on their virus-plagued, under-powered PCs, and they did not want to take the risk even to save about $100 a seat on hardware costs. There were practical problems in the demo, also, such as an inability to hear the phone ring unless you wore the headset. Oh and speaking of sound… these economy class Dell and Gateway desktops didn’t even have sound cards and sometimes did not even have spare USB ports. So much for my per seat savings projections.

Umbilical cord

Telephone cord or umbilical cord? And who is the baby? Is this just a pretty gross picture I am using to shock? YOU MAKE THE CALL

And yes, many managers liked phones. They had an emotional attachment to their desk phone. Their computers crashed, their computers frustrated them, the IT guy was perceived often as a cocky, smelly wizard they hated and maybe feared. Phones? Reliable. Old school. A holdover from their early career. My grandmother even told me once “Businesses will always need phones.”

Businesses of the world, go softphone! You have nothing to lose but your cord!

You will not drown.

Business infrastructure is up to snuff for softphones for the most part.

Fast forward to 2014, and we have a confluence of a few trends that are making it impossible to consider installing an office where everyone gets a desk phone.

Oddly enough, IP phones are a culprit. The secret is out – they are expensive to implement. You have to replace your switches with Power over Ethernet switches, the dreaded PoE upgrade. Your network probably sucks if you haven’t moved to VoIP by now, so assume a technician will be fiddling about in your server closet for an hour or two. And often your cabling is funky. For LA-area startups, there is no cabling, they went wireless only to save precious capital from the start. So that $100 a seat savings in 2004 for a softphone as a best case scenario just exploded into a $250+ per seat savings, because all you are doing is adding software and a license to a desktop connected over WiFi, versus a network overhaul plus phone.

Desktop computers have gotten better too, of course. Minimum specs on Macs and even entry level Dells and HPs are 4GB plus a built in sound card. The shift to laptops didn’t hurt, with relatively sophisticated audio speakers and microphones bundled in. Computers are far more stable – as much as I am a professed Apple snob, the Windows 7 laptop I bang around on at home for gaming and Office hasn’t crashed more than a handful of times since I bought it a few years ago. So we can run streaming audio services like softphones reliably, and we don’t freak out about a daily CTRL-ALT-DEL like we did a few years back. So IT managers are more comfortable with voice on their network, and their networks are better suited for streaming as we moved to gigabit switches and cloud-based applications.

Ubiquitous softphones and tablets have also helped my dream become reality. We have all accepted that we have these phones in our pockets that sound awful on a phone call but are otherwise more or less magical to the lay person, with capabilities beyond anything we could have imagined just a few years ago. Strikingly, the only feature that has not improved with cell phones is the audio quality of a cell phone call. This has trained us to be content with choppy, static-y calls, and thus not mind the occasional audio weirdness from VoIP connections. It also means we all carry awesome computers in our pocket all the time, computers begging to have an app loaded on them, an app that is just an extension of your office’s telephone system.

Let’s not ignore this guy

Elephant in the room

Fact: The telephone is not quite as indispensable as it used to be

We don’t make phone calls like we used to. There are whole departments in businesses that seem to hate using the phone, and a whole generation of people – my generation – that prefer text and SMS and IM and Facebook Messenger and GChat and Snapchat and even email to communicating via voice. I can’t even remember the last time I called a friend for anything. In fact, when my phone rings at night or on weekends, it usually means someone died or a system crashed, so I probably have a pretty terrible phone demeanor in my free time. All that said, some roles, transactions, industries and circumstances will always be better served by real-time human voice, so I am not holding a funeral for the phone. I am saying that it was easier to justify spending hundreds of dollars per user on telephones when they were the only game in town for communications.

I’m a Business. I need a phone system. Now What?

For one, call us at 800-640-2411 and talk to one of our helpful folks in Sales, or email us from our website. We will meet with you, assess your needs, write up a proposal, demo products for you and help you feel like you understand this new vocabulary and whirlwind of technology at least 1% better. That is our “1% less confused guarantee” that has won us at least three compliments.

Without knowing your situation, I would recommend that your receptionist or front desk have a phone, for image and for the ability to handle a call if the computer is shut off. I would recommend conference rooms have physical conference room phones because you need a specialized device for group conversations. This can be a USB “hockey puck” type device but that doesn’t cut it if you have say 6+ people in a room or a room with challenging acoustics. People that make you a lot of money should get whatever they want, so ask them what makes them happy; a phone is a small price to pay to keep your President’s Club broker to stay happy. I’m not going to sit here and piss off your top producer. People with big desks are important and should probably have a phone, and rooms where an intercom and/or paging is important. Everyone else? Softphone it up. A Mitel MiCollab (former UCA) client or a Zultys MXIE client will blow the doors off any telephone in terms of capabilities, and can travel with your employee if they take their laptop home or move about your office. They are also easy to requisition if you have let someone go, as it is just a license you turn on or off with a click, versus a $150 service call to reprogram ye olde ancient phone.

But blow the doors off? Yes. No doors anymore. Your phone’s plaything buttons and paper labels and weird plastic consoles taking up half your desk should be thrown in the trash. With a softphone-enabled Unified Communications client like what we sell with Mitel and Zultys, you can see in detail what everyone is doing, you can highlight and dial with a mouse, you can drag and drop contacts to call and create conferences, and you never have to look at a manual again; contextual help is built right into the software. Dump the phone. You barely use it. That salesperson trying to sell you phones for your entire user community is pushing horse drawn carriages on you. Get a softphone and dial a contact in Outlook by hitting a hotkey combination on your keyboard.

The question you need to ask is, “Why does this person need a phone?” and come up with material, realistic use scenarios to justify a physical phone. If you have reporting, look at the calls per day. Look at your phone bill. I can’t tell you how many businesses tell me they have “a lot of phone calls” and are averaging about an hour or two of phone calls in a week per user. You wouldn’t buy all of your staff a personal fax machine. Why are you getting people that barely use the phone a $200+ piece of equipment only they can use?

Commonalities in Extenda Softphones

We don’t sell lame software that looks like a phone on your PC anymore. That doesn’t even make sense. Someone tell Shoretel?

Wut. This is so terrible.

Someone tell Shoretel they took the softphone thing too literally with this KITT car inspired design

Both of the award-winning softphones form Mitel and Zultys have a host of built-in Unified Communications features that make the software a central point of control of your communications – a real-time dashboard, if you will. Yes you can make a call, but you can also chat, launch a video call, send an email or share your desktop. You can also create custom calling rules that would have cost $10,000 and a dedicated server to implement just a few years ago. Visual voicemail, personal status, presence and a unified, company-wide address book and personal buddy lists are table stakes in this game. Now look at that stupid phone on your desk again, staring back at you like a dummy.

Why Mitel MiCollab

MiCollab

Mitel’s unified communications softphone all in one awesome PC client

The former Unified Communicator Advanced has a lot of great features. It is a clean, great design, very easy on the eyes. It is unobtrusive. It is great in Windows environments, with a lot of great built-in hooks to Outlook and Office products. The hooks to the Mitel family of products are seamless, especially the video and desktop sharing components and the provisioning through the MiCollab (former MAS). It can also be adapted to Lync environments, so you don’t have to use the oddball 3rd party products Microsoft requires to get phone calls going on their system, with the voice component just fitting in to the Lync interface for simple deployments.

Why Zultys MXIE

Zultys thrives in mixed OS environments and/or when you want to empower your users with granular control over their communications. The MXIE is going to get a face lift in the next year if you don’t love the look, but most of my customers see the great personality. This is a very powerful communications tool that features fax and group mailbox access. It is also easier to train on than competing products, because whether you are an operator, a call center agent, a supervisor or part of the rank and file, it is the same software product with slight tweaks for different roles. Products from other companies have specialized software for the call center, for operators, for supervisors and for knowledge workers, which is 4 products to master instead of one. It can also be configured and administered through the MXadmin software as with everything else in the Zultys world, which is very convenient.

Smartphone extensions

I love my smartphone apps from Mitel and Zultys. At the risk of upsetting some people, I like hiding my cell phone number from customers – I need to retain control over my personal time, and my cell phone’s native phone apps do not give me the tools like my office phone system does for sorting and routing calls appropriately. I like having access to my company directory and the ability to chat with a coworker’s desktop from anywhere. That said, you might get some resistance if you aren’t paying for employee cell phones, so the decision on deploying these devices or not is something I leave in your able hands. It effectively replaces a cordless phone for me, and the shorter battery life on my cell from the app running all day is more than made up for with the convenience of being able to see who in my company is available at a glance, set up my own personal status and call routing with a couple of flicks on my smartphone, and access corporate contacts.

Zultys MXIE

Zultys MXIE with a single image across multiple devices for a unified experience

Xarios Phone Manager for Mitel

Mitel has a great constellation of 3rd-party products that write software for their telephone systems. The Mitel Solutions Alliance (MSA) Third-party Developers Program lets developers write to Mitel’s phone system APIs to create software that can integrate to your phone.

Xarios Ltd. is a leading provider of communication solutions for the Mitel and one of our favorite partners. The Phone Manager CTI desktop solution was exclusively designed for MiVoice Office, especially contact centers, sales and customer service personnel and knowledge workers. MiVoice Office users have a greatly enhanced user experience and dramatic productivity improvements with desktop apps that connect their Mitel phone to their PC.

Xarios Phone Manager (Release 3.0) Standard Edition provides a lot of cool features for Mitel users, such as:

  • Highlight & Dial – Highlight a number with your mouse anywhere on your screen and the number can be used in the PC clipboard to click to dial without even touching your phone.
  • Search & Dial – Instead of hunting through your phone’s display, you can access System Speed Dial, Personal Speed Dial, Internal Directory and the user’s CRM directory all at once from a single function.
  • Call Control – Stop touching your phone. Seriously. Answer, hang up, hold, transfer, conference and more, all from your PC.
  • Presence Status Visibility – See what everyone in the company is up to with icons on your PC, with an icon for everyone in the business. Just click an icon to call.
  • Call Details Banner – When on a call, view live information about the call and sync your CRM data instantaneously.
  • Instant Messaging – Chat/IM with other Phone Manager users on the system
  • Change Endpoint States – Set DND / Set Call Forward with custom states
  • Call History – View your call history to call people back with one click or confirm Caller ID / Date & Time of call etc.
  • CRM Integration – Out of the box, easily integrate to Outlook, Zoho, SugarCRM, Goldmine, Act, MS-CRM and many other popular CRM programs. We can also rope in Xarios professional service for custom integrations to your customer applications or databases.

Zultys Wins 2014 Product of the Year

Zultys MXvirtual wins Best Unified Communications platform in 2014

We’ve been saying the Zultys MX telephone system is pretty cool for some time.  The good folks at ‘Internet Telephony’ magazine agree – they recently awarded Zultys with the 2014 ‘Unified Communications Product of the Year’ for the MXvirtual product.

Rich Tehrani, CEO of TMC, is quoted as saying:

“I am excited to proclaim Zultys as a 2014 recipient of TMC’s Unified Communications Product of the Year Award for their innovative product, MXvirtual. Our judges were very impressed with the ingenuity and excellence displayed by Zultys in their groundbreaking work on MXvirtual.”

Which tells you nothing about why the award was given, but definitely makes this a legit post, since I used a quote from someone else.  Mind you I lifted that quote entirely from the Zultys press release.

I would hazard a guess that the MXvirtual was chosen for the award because it is the only telephony platform that has an identical user and administration experience no matter how you deploy it.  Whether you rent the phone system hosted in a Zultys-managed environment in a traditional cloud telephony model, install the phone system in a data center or your server cluster, or use a Zultys-branded server installed in your office, nothing changes on the feature and functionality side of things.  In a completely unique-to-Zultys configuration, you can even have these different configurations networked together, so your hosted phones can failover to a local server.

Other advantages of the MXvirtual platform include SIP-at-the-core architecture that is unlike the competition, where it is SIP at the product edge, usually involving a conversion somewhere.  Customers should care about this because conversion means latency, and latency – lag in sending data –  is the enemy of a pleasant-sounding telephone call.  There are few things more frustrating than a phone call where it feels like you are slowly shouting into a well, hearing your own echo.

Being built using SIP from the ground up also means we can deliver on the promise of a shared standard.  Pick the phones you like, from any manufacturer that supports SIP. Connect to a SIP service provider and make your phone calls over the internet, instead of using gateways and carrier edge devices to use old T1 and PRI technology on a 21st century phone network. It means the most choices for deploying phones, which are the most expensive part of the installation, and the best user experience and audio.

Points on Industry Research

Cat on a phone, calling Extenda

Working in an industry that is not exactly front and center of the tech world means that we get pretty scant mainstream press coverage and have surprisingly little data about our favorite subject, ourselves.  In practice, this means I have to fire up those ol’ Statistics 101 and critical thinking neurons all the time to question industry research. Often this research is dragged into the sales process, used to prove a competitor is the Most Awesome. I want to take a look at just one such report to show how a headline statistic thrown out by a vendor might not be as helpful as they want us to believe.

Nemertes Research provides research for a variety of enterprise software and technology verticals and markets, and is oft-cited by a certain competitor we seem to run into on every deal.  Their 2013 report “Operational Cost Drives Stark Differences in First-Year Telephony, UC Costs” is actually pretty interesting and, on balance, a great overview for an IT or C-level manager thinking about biting the bullet and implementing a phone system from this century, or the underling hoping to build a business case for just such a move.

Where companies have to be careful is when vendors use the findings of an independent consultancy report to buttress arguments made when trying to take your money earn your business. For example, this report shows that NEC and Shoretel have a very low total cost to a business in the first year of implementation. The consultants have thoughtfully calculated not just the actual phones and whatnot you would need off the bat, but first year maintenance, the time your staff spends on the implementation times their pay, and other things typically considered ‘soft costs’ and left off the vendor proposals.

Upon closer inspection, it is important to note that there is a very small sample size to draw from.  I would not fault Nemertes – goodness knows it is hard to get this information out of busy IT people who are probably huddled in a corner in the fetal position after finishing their VoIP implementation. Nonetheless, the survey was based on what appears to be 211 valid responses to uncover information about 7 brands, so about 30 responses per brand or so.

Where I will fault all of these industry consultancies is with the release of their data sets. None of them release their data sets with the report. I find it so odd that companies are allowed to produce statistical claims, and have these claims repeated for real dollars, and there is no peer review of the data behind the claims. I have no doubt the data is valid, but I took enough statistics and econometrics to know that you can also justifiably lop off outliers – as the survey takers state that they did – to change your results, in the name of proper data modeling.  I am not singling out Nemertes at all – I am pointing a finger at the weird tech shadow world of report writers that aren’t regulated and aren’t really held accountable for peer review of their work, for stats that are wildly off, for bad predictions, and bias towards specific brands and solutions.

Of these 30 responses, the Avaya and Cisco responses seem to come from pretty large companies.  The median size of the Avaya sample company was over 1,000 users, and for Cisco, over 500 users.  In my world (moderately successful Mitel/Zultys/NEC dealer in the 2nd biggest city in the US), customers of this size would be my VIPs.  And my VIPs tend to have very robust, sophisticated call centers attached to their phone systems that drive up costs of implementation, or in the case of  this survey, the per seat costs. In fact, both of these companies are very active in the contact center market, much more so than NEC and Shoretel, companies that do not have a robust native contact center option at the time of this writing.

The survey does break down costs further in by brand and for <1000 and >1000 users. That Avaya has start up costs of $1,000 a seat, far ahead of the other brands, in the sub-1000 user market makes me wonder if they did have some contact center apps in these installations. When I compete with Avaya, they are not typically twice as expensive as my products, if we are pitching to the same requirements.

Meanwhile, the winners of the Total Cost of Ownership challenge, NEC and Shoretel, have median company sizes in the survey of… well we don’t know.  We know the NEC range is 6 to 1,500 endpoints (phones), and the Shoretel range is 85 to 1,850 phones.  The largest Cisco system in the survey is 175,000 phones(!), for some contrast.  If we assume a price tag of $500 a user, netting $87.5M, a single Cisco sale did what Shoretel as a company does in a quarter.  My point is that these companies are playing in very different leagues. As an NEC dealer, I can tell you that the 6 phone NEC is dirt cheap, and will not ship with much that an enterprise user would recognize – there is no desktop video conferencing or real-time chat/supervision/reporting baked into the deployment.

There is a lot of great information when you dive into the operational costs, and specifically the information on Microsoft’s Lync solution does match up to what I hear from customers.  Namely, like an Italian car from bygone eras, they are not so expensive to install, but extremely expensive to keep up.  In the case of Microsoft, it is not so much reliability as it is that the mechanics are expensive, though this may come down if Lync really takes off as a viable phone system competitor. The report notes that third party spending on Microsoft is high because the product is new, but I would add it is also because the product is sophisticated and outside the wheelhouse of your more typical IT shop that focuses on SMBs and knows Exchange, AD, Server and the desktop just fine, but that might not have the requisite certifications to even get support on the Lync product.  Microsoft professionals with the alphabet soup of certifications on their business card and the pedigree required of high end IT shops tend to charge a lot more per hour.

Similarly, Cisco’s high SmartNET costs show up in the data, and Avaya, NEC and Shoretel are not terribly expensive to keep up down the road, making me feel that the data here matches up to my extensive though still necessarily anecdotal experience. So maybe I just proved a victim of confirmation bias, and you can chuck this post in the bonfire, too. The takeaways I have for a reader of this post stand; question the headline statistics on these reports, and view these stats as a helpful snapshot of general trends, and not the be all and end all on the topic.

Mitel UCC v3 Released

Microsoft Lync is better with Mitel

Mitel’s seamless, classy integration into your Microsoft Lync environment

It is official, June 30 is the release date for the new version of Mitel’s UCC suite of applications, UCC v3.0.  This is a big release by Mitel standards with a lot of changes. We are excited about a few key elements.

As previously noted, Hyper-V support is here, as is VMware vSphere v5.5 support. This is a great solution for companies that are used to the way our competitors deploy their phone systems and applications: with a menagerie of servers or multiple virtual applications to manage and keep running.  This solution consolidates messaging, user deployment and unified communications applications, as well as off-site TeleWorking and security, to a single virtual instance.

Speaking of user deployment, the UCC v3 allows for a simple user rollout by linking to Active Directory.  This greatly speeds up deployments and makes it simple to manage your Mitel system.

Multimedia capabilities have also been extended to the smartphone, with peer to peer video available via the Mitel smartphone app. I expect personal grooming to be improved across all of my customer base once video calling becomes a standard part of business communications.

Integrations across the enterprise are expanded with this release as well.  Lync deployments will benefit from enhanced Mitel integration.  Google, Office 365 and Salesforce users will also find that there are a number of enhancements on the Mitel platform for their use, including calendar integration with presence, email integration, as well as click-to-call, presence and IM integrations. We see more and more adoption of these platforms and less traditional integration to on-site CRM software.

With the initial UCC release, Mitel did a great job of fixing the most irritating part of their platform for vendors and customers: their licensing.  The old alphabet soup of confusing licenses and license dependencies was poured into the trash, and replaced with 3 super simple license bundles: Entry, Standard and Premium. Now, a 4th tier (Basic) has been added, for users that just want a phone, while Entry users can see coworker presence on the bundled PC and web app. Right out of the gate, customers with a single UCC Standard or Premium license get a 10-port conference bridge license at no charge, too.  This makes it very difficult for Shoretel, Cisco, Avaya and NEC to compete. Each of these manufacturers needs to add an external server or, in Avaya’s case, a sorta-virtual-sorta-dedicated-server-image, to provide secure dial-in conferencing. But then again, these manufacturers really are in love with the miniature server farm model.

Zultys killing it in mobile integration

The latest update to the Zultys Mobile™ application (v4.0) extends existing tools like real-time Presence, Instant Message (IM), Presence Notes, Single Number Contact, Call Handling and more right to your Android for increased productivity, enhanced customer service and cost savings.

Users can now log into call group or operator roles from their Android phone, allowing these power users to actually step away from their desk without handing the baton to coworkers to answer their calls for them. Inbound contact center agents (or in Zultys-speak, “ICC agents”) and receptionists can handle incoming calls as if they were still at their desk.

Parked calls are now visible on the app, so mobile users can pick up and park calls as if they are in the office, making it much easier to handle calls between users taking advantage of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) capabilities of the MX system and their colleagues in the office.  Similarly, full visual voicemail functionality is added with the ability to set and record voicemail greetings, view deleted messages folder, access group mailboxes, create voicemail-only replies to internal users, and call people back from the voicemail screen.

ZultysMobileAndorid

Requirements include Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) or 4.x (Ice Cream Sandwich or higher), and the latest MX software build (9.0.4 at the time of writing).  External (off-network) users should be on 3G at a minimum.

Solving Conference Calling

  1. Cold Fusion.
  2. CO2 emissions.
  3. Conference Calling.

Three of the most intractable challenges of modern science that also start with the letter “C”. For decades, humankind has struggled to fight energy dependence on fossil fuels and radioactive waste products, reverse global warming and the destruction of the only habitable planet we know of, and to get three people on a phone call at the same time.

We can all sleep a little easier now, as Mitel’s UC solution for conferencing has cracked the business collaboration code.  Mitel’s MiVoice Conference Phone makes three- or even four-way calling  dead simple. Just touch an icon, and dial a number to make a call.  Then, touch a second icon, dial a number, and the call is automatically joined.  If you want a fourth person on the call, well, repeat the process. No feature codes, no complicated sequence of events, no secret handshakes, combination of button presses or whispered passwords.

Did I mention it runs on Android, features incredible quality 22kHz Wideband Audio, integrates with a built-in browser to web applications, hosts native apps such as Dropbox, OpenOffice for Microsoft Office doc integration, WebEx, and Join.Me, supports an HDMI video output for presentations, has USB connectivity for connecting your PC, features 16 microphones with a 12′ 360-degree audio pickup radius, and of course provides amazing Mitel Unified Communications connectivity?

 

Mitel MiVoice Conference telephone

Mitel MiVoice Conference unit for innovative, enhanced audio, web and video conferences.

Mitel MiVoice Business 7.0 (Mitel 3300, MCD) Released

The newest release of the Mitel MiVoice Business – variously known as the Mitel 3300 and Mitel Communications Director, or MCD – promises to have a lot of great enhancements for customers enrolled in ExtendaCare or that are enrolled in Mitel Software Assurance (SWA).

Hyper-V Support.

While we don’t have a release date as of yet for the Hyper-V support (this feature is coming with a future v7 SP1 release), the news that Mitel is supporting Microsoft Hyper-V for their flagship voice platform this year is huge news.  Mitel has been VMware-only since 2010, establishing an early lead in this space.  However, many of our small and medium sized business customers are taking advantage of Microsoft’s very inexpensive Hyper-V platform instead of VMware products.  This move will undoubtedly help Mitel compete against Microsoft Lync and create a bigger gap with competitors in this segment of the market such as Avaya, Cisco and Shoretel that are still stuck selling company-branded hardware to customers.

VMWare Lead Extended.

Mitel is extending its lead in virtualized voice with VMWare, a technology Mitel pioneered.  While vSphere/vCloud v5.5 support was introduced with MiVoice Business v6 SP2, now the Small Business package that combines the base call control, MiCollab server and Mitel Border Gateway in a single .ova file has seen its capacity expanded to 250 users, up from 150 users.  In addition, the full size Mitel MiVoice Business can support 5,000 users on a single instance, up from 2,500.  VMware Site Recovery Manager is now supported for scenarios in which a data center instance fails, requiring a failover to a backup data center of the phone system and all of the UC applications.  Temporary call control can be handled by a local gateway so there is no interruption to telephone call handling.

Mobile Phone Integration (“Twinning”) Got Better.

Mitel now lets us group up to 4 devices together for simultaneous ringing and handoff.  This means a user could have a deskphone, a mobile phone app, and a softphone put into a single dynamic extension number.  Callers can just dial a single number and the user is able to juggle calls between devices, handoff calls between devices without putting the call on hold, and provide an easy, seamless way for clients to get in touch.

Call Center Improvements.

As you may know, Mitel is making a big push into the contact center and call center.  They have overhauled improved silent monitoring, coaching, barge-in and steal features on the MiVoice Business v7, making it easy for supervisors to, well, supervise.  In addition, the MiVoice Business is now shipping with the ‘Enhanced Ring Group’ option for assigning ACD-type routing of any type to a collection of Mitel phones, SIP phones, outside devices, analog phones and pretty much anything you can think of.

Other Enhancements

As usual with a large release, there were a lot of small changes that nonetheless with delight someone.

  1. Stream music on hold from your network to your phone system
  2. Simplify phone deployment for phones that are for hotdesk users
  3. Simplified user service configuration for faster moves, adds and changes
  4. Enhancements to very large systems (>10,000 users)
  5. Alarms on backup failure and longer error logs
  6. Multiple keymap templates per telephone
  7. Faster configuration automation for new installs

Overall, we are pleased with the upgrade and hoping to see SP1 soon so we can start talking to all those Hyper-V shops that have been left out in the cold by nearly all of the major telecom equipment manufacturers.