Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hybrid, Converged, Pure IP, Hosted.... What does it all mean?

Just like any technological field, the telephone and voice mail world sometimes seems like it has it's own language.  When you start shopping for a system you are bombarded with terms like hybrid, hosted PBX, converged and pure IP, it can get confusing very quickly.  This article will shed some light on the differences of each system option and what they all mean. 

Let's start with Hybrid Telephone and Voice Mail Systems.  This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a hybrid blending of digital and analog technologies all in one system.  You can use digital system telephones with all the features and capabilities, LCD screens, and pre-programmed buttons, or you can use standard single line analog telephones on the system.  The same applies for the incoming telephone lines, you have the option of using standard analog (POTS) copper lines or digital offerings like PRI or VOIP lines.  The hybrid systems are slowly being phased out and being replaced by converged and pure IP systems, but they are still out there so we wanted to make sure they were on the list!

Next we have Converged Telephone and Voice Mail Systems.  Wikipedia defines technological convergence as "the tendency for different technological systems to evolve towards performing similar tasks. Convergence can refer to previously separate technologies such as voice (and telephony features), data (and productivity applications), and video that now share resources and interact with each other synergistically".  Ummm... what?  In plain English, Converged communications systems not only allow you to combine the digital, analog and VOIP technologies like the Hybrid systems above, they add in integration to your computers and programs allowing features like dialing your phone from your contacts database, among many others.  They also allow integration with video conferencing systems and other video applications such as IP security cameras.  Converged systems allow the integration of all the most commonly used business technologies and applications, phone, computer and video, into one seamless system.

One of the newest options for communications systems is a Hosted Telephone and Voice Mail System.  These systems are occasionally referred to as Virtual PBX, but basically all it means is the service provider "hosts" the phone system equipment in a remote datacenter, not at your site.  So you have no physical telephone system equipment at your site other than the telephone sets, which are generally single line phones, IP phones, or SIP phones.  The things to watch with a hosted system are making sure you are getting the features and capabilities you want and need, and the overall cost versus a physical, on-site telephone system.  In most cases, hosted telephone systems are a monthly fee from your service provider and you are renting the equipment, so at the end of your contract, you have no system and no phones.  Hosted systems can be a very good solution for some homes and businesses, just make sure you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges when considering a hosted vs physical, on-site telephone system.

Last but not least, we have the Pure IP Telephone and Voice Mail Systems.  Pure IP systems are based on the Converged systems, but with significant differences to it's form factor (the physical size and shape of the system).  These systems are generally a 19" rackmount system with a pre-installed Main Processing Card that has the option for IP trunk ports (incoming telephone lines) and/or IP extension ports (telephone sets), and which runs desktop productivity software and simple voice mail . Thus, a complete IP system (including voicemail and CTI) can be configured using only the Main Processing card and optional VoIP DSP cards – no external components are needed.  Out of the box, the system is set for a Pure IP deployment, but it also can be configured to support analog or digital system phones as well as analog/digital telephone lines with additional equipment.

Hopefully this has shed some light on the differences between the communications system options available today.  It can be very confusing, but working with a trained and knowledgeable telephone vendor like Key Communications can take the guesswork out of your next communications system purchase.  Contact us today to review your options or schedule a system demo.  Let Key Communications take the mystery out of shopping for your next system.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Panasonic Launches Smart Desk Phone, A Game Changing Business Communication Solution

New SIP Telephone Features Interactive Touchscreen and Open Source Technology to Enhance Business Operations

Panasonic System Communications Company of North America, the leader in small business phone systems, today announced the introduction of the KX-UT670 Smart Desk Phone, expanding the company’s current lineup of SIP UT Series telephones.  This new offering is Panasonic’s first SIP open source-based operating system desk phone and allows for integrated solutions to be developed for business communications and operations.   

“As a trusted name in consumer electronics, and a leader in the business telephone market, Panasonic is committed to offering innovative telephony solutions to enhance business productivity,” said Bill Savino, Marketing Manager for business communication solutions at Panasonic System Communications Company of North America.  “By incorporating open source technology in the new KX-UT670 SIP phone, we are pushing the boundaries of the future of business communications while still offering business owners reliable, flexible and cost-effective solutions that they have come to know from Panasonic.  Additionally, we are opening up a new door for application developers to move into a growing industry segment and effectively enhance business communications.”

The KX-UT670 offers users a communication solution and business tool that can enhance operations in fields such as retail, education, healthcare and hospitality.  Through the use of the high-quality video (H.264/720P) viewer and up to 16 integrated Panasonic Network Security Cameras, managers in retail environments can discreetly monitor a store with their desk phone from a back office or even from home.  Users can choose a specific camera feed to view or opt for all feeds to run sequentially on the LCD screen. Similarly, school faculty and authorities can monitor potential emergency situations in classrooms from a secure area by viewing live video on the phone from Panasonic’s PTZ network video cameras.  Users can control integrated camera’s pan, tilt and zoom functions directly from the phone’s screen, ensuring they keep an eye on all areas of a room in an emergency. 

In the healthcare and hospitality fields, the KX-UT670 phone gives users the opportunity to develop applications to enhance business operations and could include applications such as nurse call systems and easy ordering from a touchscreen for room service. 

The KX-UT670 is equipped with a large 7-inch LCD touchscreen, which allows for easy access to control phone features and installed applications. The open source-based operating system is programmable in Java, one of the most popular programming languages, allowing for a company to utilize a variety of business-friendly applications or develop ones which are specifically designed to fit their needs.  Applications can be easily loaded onto the phone using the built-in SD Memory Card Slot.  Users can also take advantage of web browsing, access email directly from their phone and check daily calendar appointments.

Coupling with a hosted or open-source PBX allows for simple, user-friendly configuration so users can easily set-up a phone system without the cost or hassle of installation services.  Two 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports and Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability allow for simplified wiring and easy connection of a second device.  Additional phone features include 3-way conference call support, phonebook, long handset cords, non-slip rubber feet, wall mounting option and a changeable angle stand. 

The Panasonic SIP KX-UT670 Smart Desk Phone, available in January 2011, will be showcased at 2012 International CES at the Panasonic booth.  Contact Key Communications for more information on this amazing phone!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Panasonic Helps Non-Profits Cut Costs During Tough Economic Times

Panasonic offers affordable flexible communication solutions and financing options to aid non-profits

Like businesses nationwide, non-profit organizations have suffered in the financial crisis, forcing cuts on already stretched budgets. The impact of these budget cuts often seeps into decisions on much-needed office equipment, like new computer technology and telecommunication systems.  Panasonic System Networks Company of America, the leader in small business telephone systems, with Key Communications, are now offering flexible, affordable solutions that empower nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations, and help to reduce communication costs.

Offering bundled communication solutions for different sized installations, Panasonic provides non-profit organizations the updated equipment that they require in order to provide flexible communication solutions, while streamlining system needs to reduce monthly costs. As part of a commitment to help non-profits succeed, Panasonic is offering non-profit organizations savings up to 45% on bundled solutions and a 7-Year Extended Service Plan/Program through Marlin Leasing.

“This volatile economy has impacted businesses across all industries, but the non-profit organizations have really felt the effects. We realize affordability is critical, especially for non-profits, so we created exclusive financing options that will help make our solutions more affordable,” said Bill Taylor, President, Panasonic System Networks Company of America. “Several non-profits are already taking advantage of our great financing program to get the best technology and most cost-effective, flexible communications solutions on the market.”

Panasonic provides a variety of business communications system configurations and versatile connection options, from traditional telephony to advanced IP phones, to fit any non-profit organizational need, no matter how basic or complex. Flexible networking options allow off-site employees and volunteers to stay connected to the office or allow multiple locations to utilize a centralized telephony system. Additionally, key phone features like Auto Attendant, Call Routing and DECT Wireless Handsets provide tightly staffed operations with the ability to operate more efficiently.

Panasonic recently worked with the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation to solve communications challenges at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia, California, which is governed through a private/public collaboration between the Foundation and the County of Los Angeles through the Parks and Recreation Department. With a new responsibility of maintaining the facility’s data and phone infrastructure, which was previously supported by the county, the Foundation decided to upgrade the existing telecommunications system to one that was current, easy-to-use, flexible and would offer cost-savings. After an extensive search for a new phone system, Panasonic’s phone systems surfaced as the Foundation’s top choice. The Foundation hired a Certified Panasonic Dealer to install the Panasonic KX-TDE200 system, a converged IP-PBX system that supports up to 256 total extensions and 128 CO lines, and the KX-TVA200 voice processing system with 12 ports. The resulting communications solution provided the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden with significant savings on monthly communication operation costs, allowing them to allocate those funds for other areas of its operations that needed help.

Panasonic is currently offering the following business communications solutions to qualified non-profit organizations:
KX-TDA50G Hybrid IP-PBX System
KX-TDE100/200/600 Converged IP-PBX Systems
KX-NCP500/1000 IP Communication Systems
KX-TVA Voice Processing Systems
High Definition Visual Communications (HDVC)
CTI/Applications Software

To read the full case study on The Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation, please click here.

For more detail on Panasonic’s Finance Solutions program, please contact Key Communications.