Hosted IP telephony has been part of Node4’s portfolio of products and solutions since the beginning of the company in 2004. Andrew Gilbert, MD at Node4 has seen a dramatic change in the way Hosted IP telephony is portrayed within the channel since then.
“As we all know technology advances extremely quickly in this industry, and several years ago hosted IP Telephony was touted as the next big thing. We were one of the first companies to enter the market with our hostTALK offering based on a multi-tenanted Cisco CallManager. We made a considerable investment in making sure that we could deliver a high range of features at a competitive price and as a result saw a good take up of the service through our partners. Saying all that, even though we are one of the market leaders in terms of extensions deployed, the shared hosted IP Telephony market has not met the industry predictions back then.
“The key word here is ‘shared’. People predicted that the take up in hosted telephony would be for customers with a small number of extensions but with several new providers entering the market with cheap (and in Asterisk’s case free) CPE PBX’s, for most smaller customers it worked out more cost effective than what the shared hosted platforms could offer. But what was more crucial was the inflexibility that the shared platforms gave. The industry predicted that most customers would want the same features, but the reality is that every business is different and wants something different from their phone system. We now see telephony being application driven with greater focus on how it helps improve employee productivity, customer service and of course improve profitability.
“This is why we have seen growth in demand for dedicated hosted platforms and expect this to continue in the years ahead. We are still committed to the shared hostTALK platform – it has its place in the market, but the big uptake will be for dedicated hosted platforms. They give the customer more flexibility, greater ability to integrate with other systems they may be using, access to more bespoke applications and greater control as well as still enjoying the benefits of it being a hosted solution – fully managed and maintained in the core of the network.
“In light of all this we have just launched our new dedicated solution based on the Cisco UC6 Business Edition, hosted in our data centre with on-site technical team. Features include Quality of Service connectivity, centralised PSTN breakout with Node4’s SIPlink offering, Voice Mail and Mobility features. The solution can further be individualised to each customer with a range of options including Call Centre applications and voice recording. We also believe that this type of solution demonstrates a stronger ROI.”
This change in the hosted focus was demonstrated in the recent Watford Football Club project that was delivered through Node4 Partner, The Project Network. James Barton, of The Project Network explains the decision to go with Node4; “As a Cisco Partner, and an organisation that very much matched the ethos of The Project Network and Watford FC, the solution provided by Node4 was the obvious choice.”
Node4 delivered a fully-managed voice solution at Watford Football Club using a centralised dedicated platform. Across 4 sites, the solution includes call centre functionality and QoS connectivity.
He continues; “We will bring more and more customers with a hosted focus to the table, for Node4 to work with.”