Pardon my exuberance but I am about to write about a product that I have been beta testing for the past few months. Seven months ago I knew very little about small business PBX’s other than to know they had big $$$ signs associated with their operation.
Back in 1992 my employer of the day paid $28,000 for a PBX that would service our local Canadian office of six to ten employees – and all the extensions had to be physically in the same office. Of course we would also be paying significant long distance charges, especially for out-of-country calls. The same employer was paying about $10,000 per month for a T1 line between California and their European office in Ireland. The economics of worldwide communications has changed somewhat since then; today’s announcement from In Store Solutions of the FREETALK Connect small business PBX takes small businesses further down that path.
About six weeks ago, while visiting In Store Solutions head office in Spain, using Skype for iPhone in a WiFi zone at my hotel room, I called a SkypeID that gave me the options to press 1 for Jim, 2 for another person and 3 for another person. I pressed 1 and a few seconds later my BlackBerry was ringing me back in Spain, But the PBX was at my home near Toronto, Canada as was an attached Linksys VoIP phone that the PBX also rang simultaneously with my BlackBerry in Spain. Had I answered my BlackBerry the only charge would have been my voice roaming package $1.25 per minute. Had somebody else originated that call in the way I did, I also would have had the option to answer the call, with no resulting charges for either party, on my PC’s Skype client which at the time was also in my hotel room in Spain1.
Bottom line: any Skype user worldwide could have reached me via this PBX on a “local” or “remote” phone, a mobile smartphone or my Skype client with minimal, if any, costs for the call. And, in practice, geography as a factor to Find Me or Follow Me was not in the equation.
Today In Store Solutions announced FREETALK Connect, a small business PBX that changes the algorithm and business model for small business voice communications. With FREETALK Connect a business can benefit from:
- accepting inbound calls made via Skype, a Skype Online number, a SIP client, Asterisk (IAX2) or the PSTN, via either an analog line or a VoIP service provider.
- incorporating Find Me, Follow Me features
- accept calls on local analog phone lines, local or remote VoIP phones, mobile phones anywhere or remote PSTN-accessed phones – all provisioned within the PBX.
- placing outbound calls over Skype, SkypeOut, a SIP-connected VoIP service or an analog PSTN line.
- managed voice mail including consolidation of voice mail and email into one mailbox
As I experienced the different communications paths this product opened up, I realized that this box can revolutionize how small business communicates with their suppliers, customers and business partners – worldwide.
The press release lists all the services that will be on board the FREETALK Connect when it becomes available for purchase by U.S. registered Skype users in March on the Skype Store:
Some of the key features from the Jazinga platform found in the FREETALK Connect include:
- Callback / Dial-around
- Access to Skype Buddy lists
- Auto Attendant / IVR
- Call Parking
- Remote Extensions
- Music on Hold
The FREETALK Connect also has an easily configured and updated:
- Managing routes to users, telephone services, and applications
- Providing SIP/Skype telephone service management
- Router management (networking, port forwarding, DNS, DHCP)
“Jazinga’s products consistently ensure call integrity by integrating quality of service and prioritizing voice traffic on the network into an affordable, simple product,” said In Store Solutions COO Craig Smith. “There was no question that FREETALK wanted to partner with Jazinga to develop the FREETALK Connect, because it continues our goal of working with the best providers to distribute outstanding products around the world.”
“FREETALK Connect is designed for small businesses with between 2 and 49 users, an undersold market that desperately needs UC functionality,” said Randy Busch, CEO of Jazinga Inc. “As a result of our partnership with In Store Solutions, the telecom technology playing field is much more level between larger enterprises and their smaller competitors.”
In terms of the technology within FREETALK Connect it incorporates both Skype for SIP and Skype for Asterisk to provide an optimum level of Skype-based services but at the same time providing inbound calling flexibility and optimizing outbound calling expenses, all combined with the call integrity features quoted above.
FREETALK Connect will requires users to have a Skype for Business account, available through the Skype Business Control Panel, associated with each unit. More on this aspect of FREETALK Connect is the subject of a future post.
Bottom line: Targeted at small businesses with 2 to 25 employees and/or business partners with its wide range of inbound and outbound calling options, an attractive price point, incorporation of Skype for Business infrastructure and the ability to self-configure via wizards, FREETALK Connect represents a game changer in the small business communications market. Lots more will be written about this product as the applications experiences evolve.
1In this situation I could not have the Skype client answering option since I was using my Skype account to originate the call.
Full disclosure: In Store Solutions has become a client of Denali InterConneXions, publisher of Voice On The Web, building on the author’s previous business development experience with establishing partnerships that can assist with the promotion of a primary vendor’s offerings. A more complete statement will follow shortly.
Saunderslog: FREETALK Connect, the worlds first Skype-enabled Unified Communications system.
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