Mystery Caller – March 2015

Unified Communications is well and truly a solution for all kinds of businesses that vary in sizeand turnover. Following on from Ian Hunter’s feature on ‘UC for the SME’ in this issue our Mystery Caller wanted to see what was happening at the coal face. This month our Mystery Caller enquired about UC solutions for small businesses and in particular wanted to find out what was available, the major benefits, costs and what was really selling out there.

Solar Communications

Comms Business has reported on Solar recently as they were the first ShoreTel partner to gain platinum status in EMEA, so I thought I would see how they got on with a call. Holly picked up my call and very quickly transferred me to someone that she thought could help answer my questions. After a very brief time on hold Michael answered and instantly said they would have a few options that may suit. He asked me a few simple questions about the size of my business but said really we would need to organise a meeting to assess the precise requirements of the business.

Michael mentioned that we may want to take a look at the ShoreTel Small Business product as that would probably suit us. After a bit of probing he did mention they also partner with Mitel and Avaya but ShoreTel is their leading brand.

At this point Michael was really stressing that a meeting would be preferable before going any further because he would need to assess our business needs before going too far down one path or another. Desperately trying to avoid booking in a fictitious meeting I asked what they used in house for their comms. They used a ShoreTel system and Michael said he was actually sitting at home in Hampshire and still presenting a London number. Although obviously slightly biased, Michael said it had been a great all round true UC product for them.

Unfortunately I had to cut the call short at this point as Michael was back to pressing for a meeting and under rapid fire I gave myself away! After a brief explanation of what I was really doing Michael explained he was in marketing and perhaps I would like to speak to their sales team for more information. Not wanting to muddy my findings with a tipped off salesman I politely declined.

Total 20/30  Reasonable. I wanted more from Michael regarding the wider benefits of UC and what it would mean for a small business if they were to fork out for it. To his credit he had a trump card of being able to say he was currently using a ShoreTel system and was working from home. I was none the wiser until he told me.

 

Paradigm Systems

After navigating my way though the Paradigm, a Microsoft 365 partner, key pad menu I found myself speaking to a David. As a particularly exuberant member of the sales team David immediately gave me a warning! He told me not to buy Lync as a full PBX as they are about to rebrand as Skype for Business and part of that will be a move to a full VoIP system in the cloud. David mentioned that Microsoft are trying to sign an agreement with BT before the switch happens but for the moment it is best to either sit tight or go for Office 365 as that would be automatically upgraded in the future.

I wanted to know what the major benefits would be with going through a partner and not direct to Microsoft and David told me that with Paradigm we would get help with the set up, save a bit of money, and get better ongoing support. Apparently the Microsoft support is poor by anyone’s standards so we would be saving ourselves a major potential headache by going through a partner.

David explained the various features of Office 365 and what Lync could do but said really it would be good to set up a meeting to discuss in depth what Office 365 can do for our business. It was this point David navigated me to Office.com and showed me the price comparison between the different levels of 365. For just £7.80 per user/ month we get all our Office tools and Lync on top of that which on the surface seems very reasonable.

David said Microsoft are dominating the market with their proposition at the moment. He said it’s all out war with the major IT providers trying to get businesses into their cloud because once they are in with a decent solution very few of them are likely to switch providers. Paradigm currently have about 25,000 Lync seats and David said that is going to grow rapidly.

Total 25/30  Top notch! This was a great call and although David wrapped me up in his enthusiasm he was actually very clear and concise about the product and the market as a whole. He clearly explained the cost benefits of Office 365 and warned me about buying a Lync PBX system from other partners. Was that good advice or him being crafty?

 

Discountcomms

After having a quick look on their website it was quite obvious Discountcomms are a traditional PBX reseller that has been around a while. In fact they are still using the Siemens branding on their site which also probably tells a story about their investment in the web generally.

Jason answered my call after a brief moment on hold and what struck me most about his responses to my initial questions was he didn’t seem overly sure he could offer me a UC solution. After finally agreeing (with himself mainly) that UC was something they do offer he spoke about two systems from Avaya and Unify which were their top sellers. He did say they could offer us the system but if we want mobiles they wouldn’t be able to do that part of any deal. I got the impression he wanted to say he could help but really it depended on what we wanted.

Jason explained both systems came with a good portfolio of features and would be perfect for remote/ roaming workers that wanted to have one point of contact wherever they were. He explained when you bought these systems you could either use the proprietary software that came with it or you could use something like Lync which would integrate with each system also.

Jason told me that Lync was more simplistic than a phone system and many people still wanted kit on site for various reasons so integrating something like Lync can sometime be a good way to go. It also would allow us to have certain features, like automated attendants, that you can’t get with a sole Lync system.

Total – 14/30 Oh Dear! I put a call into Discountcomms because I wanted to see how they would handle the UC conversation. Unfortunately not very well, after finally deciding that they could help I felt like everything I did ask was a bit of an effort to answer.

 

Round up

There was a mixed response this month. I felt that David from Paradigm gave excellent answers around my questions and went far beyond what I asked for in terms of information and what I might be looking for. They were a dedicated 365 partner as such should have always been at the top of the pack when it came to UC for the SME conversations. David left the conversation trying to arrange a briefing the next day directly from the Microsoft offices which would demonstrate the capability of the system in full…Impressive!

Michael from Solar had a solid call but was really trying to tie me down to a meeting which probably bypassed a lot of conversation I was looking for. Still, Michael and David where both using the kit they were talking about during the call which would give a lot of customers peace of mind. Unfortunately for Jason at Discountcomms I felt like I got very little from our conversation and was surprised he didn’t even ask me for contact details.

 

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine