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Avaya Intros IP Office 7.0 For SMBs

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Avaya on Tuesday debuted version 7.0 of IP Office, its unified communications (UC) system for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

The newest version completes the integration of Nortel Enterprise Solutions (NES), which Avaya acquired in 2009, and enables roughly 14 million users with NES IP and digital phones on the IP Office platform. That means former NES customers can keep their phones when they move to IP Office; the latest updates also include a data migration tool to assist those users with porting over extensions, contacts, voicemails, and other information.

"It's a major convergence release between the Nortel and the Avaya portfolio in the small and medium business space," said Isabelle Guis, head of Avaya's small and medium enterprise communications business, in an interview. Guis noted that the integration took less than 18 months.

IP Office 7.0 also features new equipment, including touchscreen desktop IP phones and wide-band audio conference-room devices, as well as call recording on SD memory cards. Avaya uses SME rather than SMB as its tag for companies with up to 1,000 employees; while IP Office scales to the upper end of that range, the vendor focuses on firms with between 5 and 250 employees for the platform.

Avaya also teased coming enhancements to IP Office, including a version of Avaya Flare Experience for tablets and other mobile devices. Guis said Avaya will re-tool the enterprise version of Flare for SMBs.

"[SMB] communications tend to be more external than internal," Guis said. "Whereas in large enterprises you have a lot of communication between teams within the company, here it's mainly with suppliers and with customers outside of the business. They have a strong preference for mobile devices as well."

The future Flare addition is part of Avaya's broader mobility strategy and the increasing fact that UC is no longer simply for the office--mobile SMBs, in particular, need to take their platform with them. "It is extremely crucial," Guis said, noting that IP Office's top two user applications packages are Mobile Worker and Power User--the latter including the mobile functions as well. "[SMBs] still want their desk phone. However, it is very important to them that they keep their features when they are on the go as they move to a customer site or to a supplier."

The company also outlined its hybrid cloud approach on Tuesday--namely, that it sees UC and collaboration as increasingly a mix off on-premises and Web-hosted applications.

"We believe this space is growing," Guis said, adding that an increasing number of IP Office customers are interested in the mixed UC model. "Our customers have expressed interest to keep their [on-premises deployment] but also to have more flexibility on some features in the cloud."

Businesses have myriad technology options for pulling together people and ideas. But getting it right still isn't easy. Also in the new all-digital issue of InformationWeek SMB: A UC champion's survival guide. Download it now. (Free registration required.)