A Silicon Valley start-up has announced a product to integrate voice and data networks for small businesses and branch offices.
Instant Office from Vertical Networks allows companies with five to 100 people to combine voice and data communications over a single line. Options include a PBX phone and voicemail system, and computer telephony applications. The product can also function as a router, a Lan hub, and a remote access server. The hardware runs on embedded Windows NT and includes redundant power supplies and disk drives.
Internationally the company has a non-exclusive partnership with Telecom Italia in Europe and is looking for links with other resellers.
Customers can mix and match by buying just the functions they need and adding other options later according to their organization's individual needs. Those options include universal messaging, voice- and fax-over-IP services, directory services, and a firewall.
"We don't think that most users are really ready to switch voice and data on the same network," said Alan Fraser, president and chief executive of Vertical. "This is an evolutionary path for people who want to live with what they have today, yet move forward."
Instant Office also allows IT staff to manage and configure the voice and data networks remotely. This is significant because many small businesses do not have the staff to operate the latest products and training costs are high.
"CIOs are reluctant to put the latest technology in branch offices because of huge retraining issues," says Fraser.
Amy Sachrison, senior analyst for the Aberdeen Group, said that small businesses "don't have the staff to operate systems at all their locations so what they need is a product that they can control from one location. They are looking for remote access and a product that simplifies management".
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