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Cloud-Based UC: The Race For Midmarket

A Unified communications offering based on Cisco's Hosted Collaboration Service may allow value added reseller En Point to beat Verizon and AT&T to market.

En Pointe Technologies, a value added reseller of computer systems that has recently begun offering cloud services, will be among the first companies to offer a unified communications service based on Cisco's Hosted Collaboration Service.

En Pointe is about to begin test deployments of ECS, its En Pointe Collaboration Solution, and will be the first firm other than a telecommunications service provider to embrace the system. Verizon's version of Cisco Hosted Collaboration was announced in March at the Enterprise Connect conference, and AT&T is also planning a service based on the Cisco technology.

Because the telecommunication firms currently are testing the Hosted Collaboration Service with a limited number of customers, En Point wants to get a jump on the market by making its service available as of October 1. "We think we will beat them to market with the general release," Lon Cameron, director of hosted services, said in an interview.

Compared with a big telecommunications firm, or a pure cloud-computing player, En Pointe also believes its experience as a VAR serving mid-market customers and managing their on-premises technology "allows us to create a service more in tune with what customers need," Cameron said. Many companies have sprung up to offer voice over Internet protocol telephony as a hosted service, but the "next generation" of service needs to include video and collaboration services, he said.

Through wholesale relationships with telecommunications service providers, En Pointe can provide the same network services to its customers without being a telecom operator itself, Cameron said.

En Pointe is targeting midmarket firms of 600 to 800 employees, although it will also pursue Fortune 500 companies as the opportunity arises. ECS will be sold in five basic feature bundles, starting with a VoIP service, voice with more calling features, voice plus video, and two higher-level voice, video, and collaboration packages. Pricing for ECS will range from $42 to the high $60s per seat, per month, depending on the options purchased. En Point also charges an implementation fee and asks for a 3-year commitment to the service.

In return, En Point is promising a turnkey service where all required hardware will be bundled into the price. Its higher-level packages include Cisco phones with integrated video screens, features like mobile phone integration with a corporate extension, and WebEx web and video conferencing.

Cameron said the pricing and configuration of the solution can also be adjusted for customers who want a hybrid solution that allows them to continue to take advantage of their existing on premises equipment in combination with features of the cloud offering.

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