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VoIP providers should focus on enterprise to ensure future growth

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The SMB market has for a long time been the focus of VoIP providers because of the ease of install and desire for SMBs to save money. But a focus on small to medium businesses doesn’t adequately prepare VoIP providers to handle the demands of larger companies, says James Whitemore of Smoothstone, who is focused on providing VoIP and other communication services to the large enterprise market.

Whitemore told FierceTelecom’s Samantha Bookman, “Most have built their market presence primarily focused on the SMB marketplace or in the case of NGT also on wholesale. Smoothstone’s focus is very much on the enterprise space. Typically, you’ll see a hosted or cloud customer averaging in the $500 to maybe $5000 a month ARPU … At Smoothstone we’re averaging around $35,000 a month with deals in the $100,000 to $200,000 a month in earned revenue being quite normal. The average sized customer that we acquire is far different from most hosted providers, and that’s a big factor in the volume of seats and our market share.”

The key for Smoothstone has been its acquisition by West Corp.’s InterCall division, which has integrated Smoothstone’s hosted communications services with its collaboration offerings.

“It became very clear to us that to reach the next stage we would need a significant partner, to keep that enterprise focus,” Whitemore told FierceTelecom. “We essentially are asking (a potential) customer to sign with Smoothstone versus signing with one of those industry giants. Just the extra effort we have to go through to close a sale based on the size and the … nature of the company has been, it’s been difficult, it’s been challenging. … (what) we’ve been looking for is a partner who had global scale… and West Corp. is a $2.5 billion, 37,000 employee company that ranks up there with the big guys.”

Smoothstone announces direct peering agreement with Google

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Smoothstone has now set up a direct peer with Google, allowing for a Smoothstone customer to have direct, private connectivity to Google apps through the MAXXIS application aware network. Using MAXXIS network tools, customers can also determine the Quality of Service (QoS) settings for the transit of data to Google.

The peering connections come from Smoothstone’s data centers in Atlanta and San Jose. Traffic to and from Google Apps, the Google Search engine and other Google affiliates will transit directly without having to cross into the public cloud. This means a more secure, fast and reliable connection for business-related applications.

InterCall experiencing growth after acquisition, partnerships

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TMC’s John Lahtinen was able to sit down with InterCall at last month’s Channel Partners Conference in Chicago. At the conference, InterCall recently announced that the new Pay Per Minute and license pricing models for Adobe Connect in North America are now available through channel partners.

West Corporation, the parent company of InterCall, has been very active in looking to expand its presence in the unified communications space. In April, West added to its expanding UC business, which includes InterCall, by announcing the acquisition of Smoothstone, a provider of cloud-based communications solutions for the enterprise.

“Interest is very high right now,” said Robert Wise, Executive Vice President for Unified Communications Services at InterCall. “We are making acquisitions, investing in streaming technology, and are in the process of creating a full CaaS solution.”

TMC reports that InterCall recently worked with Microsoft to develop a solution that integrates its Reservationless–Plus audio conferencing platform with Microsoft Lync Online. InterCall, a Microsoft Silver Certified Partner and national systems integrator (NSI), is one of only three providers worldwide to offer integrated audio conferencing with Lync.

Smoothstone Charity Events – September

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This past weekend was a busy one for Smoothstone employees!

Smoothstone was proud to put together a committed team for the 2011 Bike to Beat Cancer, a cancer awareness and fund-raising event.  Team members Robert Baggatts, Brad Estes, Kevin McMahon, Joshua Mosher and Chuck Piazza were pleased to welcome a sixth “honorary Smoothstone” member, Robert Theuerkauf of Middleton Reutlinger into their ranks.  Together team Smoothstone cycled over 550 miles, with most covering the entire 105 mile course, against the wind, rain and numerous Kentucky hills to achieve a total fundraising amount of approximately $5,400.

We also had 30 employees and friends compete in Saturday’s Big Brown Truck Pull for Special Olympics, a fun event held at 4th Street Live where teams of 15 pull a loaded UPS 18-wheeler 12 feet!   Our two teams raised over $3,500 for the Special Olympics KY, which will send 32 kids to the State Summer Games.  The Smoothstone Power Pullers Gals defended their title as reigning champion by coming in 1st in the Women’s Division with a pull of 5.13 seconds. The Smoothstone Power Pullers Guys came in 3rd place at 4.37 seconds. Check out our demo strategy that was shown at a pep rally before the event.

Special thanks to all our employees who participated in this weekend’s events by either pulling, riding, donating or supporting!

Smoothstone Community Outreach in Action

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While the Smoothstone Community Outreach Team normally participates in one charity event or fundraiser a month, we’re taking on three events this weekend. On Saturday,  Smoothstone will be sending more than 40 volunteers to three different fundraisers in order to raise money for local charities. Below are a description of each, plus a link to learn more and donate.

Bike to Beat Cancer 2011

For 2011, The Norton Cancer Institute in Louisville, Ky., has partnered with The Bike to Beat Cancer to coordinate this year’s event to raise funds toward cancer outreach, prevention and education as well as cancer treatments, including brain, breast and pediatric cancer. The 2011 Bike to Beat Cancer will take place September 24th and Smoothstone is very excited to be participating in the event.

Big Brown Truck Pull

Smoothstone’s women’s team won this competition last year, and we’ll be defending our title this Saturday. The competition consists of 14 people pulling an entire loaded UPS 18-wheeler truck 12 feet in the shortest time. There are also awards for the top fundraisers, team with the most team spirit and the best team T-shirts. Donations raised by each of the teams goes to benefit the Special Olympics of Kentucky.

Habitat for Humanity

Smoothstone’s most common charitable event is Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville. This weekend, we’ll be sending a team of volunteers to perform various tasks on a house in an underprivileged part of our city.

Credit unions contemplate the move to cloud-based communications

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Gartner estimates the cloud market will reach $150 billion by 2013, and the financial services industry is one of the main industries reaping the benefits of leveraging the cloud for communications purposes. Among the business reasons for this movement to cloud-based communications are:

  • The need for collaboration among the increasing number of remote and mobile workers;
  • The addition of new branches;
  • A desire to improve customer service; and
  • The need to improve operational excellence while reducing technology equipment and management costs.

But what does that really mean for the financial industry, specifically credit unions? Do you now need to abandon your current technology investment and move it to the cloud?

Smoothstone’s James Whitemore gives some advice on the migration to the cloud for credit unions in this article on creditunionmagazine.com.

LMEs: Get your minds and networks right for the move to UC

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Five years ago, the focus in telecom migration was the costly “rip and replace” approach. That has been changing, especially in the last 18 months, as large to medium enterprises (LMEs) are looking to make a much more orderly migration to the emerging unified communications platforms – often with the help of managed service providers.

James Whitemore of Smoothstone offers some suggestions for this migration in an article posted on MSPNews this month entitled LMEs Have to Get Their Minds and Networks Right for the Move to Unified Communications.

The first step is to get the network right. The problem for many LMEs is that over time, they have built a patchwork of networks that they now need to prioritize, consolidate and optimize. That makes it extremely difficult  for even the best corporate telecom teams to make the migration to unified communications while keeping their networks up and running. Learn how to work with a managed service provider to get the network right and jumpstart the migration to UC in this article.

InterCall To Provide Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution

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CHICAGO – September 8, 2011 – InterCall, the world’s largest conferencing and collaboration services provider, and a leading provider of hosted enterprise communications applications and services, announced today that it will extend its Smoothstone VoiceMaxx IP-PBX services with the addition of VoiceMaxx CE, a suite of service packages based on the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution.

Smoothstone, a subsidiary of InterCall, will add VoiceMaxx CE to its existing portfolio of cloud-based enterprise voice and data solutions to offer service packages that combine leading-edge IP-PBX functionality with audio and web conferencing, messaging, presence, mobility and video conferencing and streaming.

“The VoiceMaxx CE service packages combine Smoothstone’s proven service delivery capabilities with the latest in Cisco unified communications technology, a seamless addition to our existing voice and data applications and services for enterprises with a Cisco-centric environment,” said Bob Wise, Executive Vice President of InterCall Unified Communications Services.

VoiceMaxx CE is designed to meet the requirements of mid- to large-sized enterprises that need a fully-integrated unified communications solution based on Cisco technology. VoiceMaxx is coupled with MAXXIS, a fully-managed IP network service, to provide an effective unified communications deployment. Supported by professional services and systems integration expertise, VoiceMaxx CE enables businesses to speed the deployment and adoption of advanced unified communications applications and services.

VoiceMaxx CE will be available to U.S. clients later this month, making InterCall one of the first U.S. service providers to offer enterprise clients a service package based on the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution.

About InterCall
InterCall, a subsidiary of West Corporation, is the largest conference and collaborations service provider in the world and a leading provider of global cloud-based unified communications services. Founded in 1991, InterCall offers telephony, messaging, conferencing and collaboration tools for businesses of all sizes, from large global enterprises to small or regional companies. Smoothstone IP Communications is a subsidiary of InterCall and a leading provider of cloud based communications for the enterprise – including MPLS-based application networking, enterprise voice, unified threat management, advanced contact center solutions, unified messaging and collaboration tools – all delivered as a unified suite of cloud-based applications. With a global footprint and broad service capabilities, InterCall’s flexible models for hosted, managed and on-premises communications services help companies get the most out of their business processes. InterCall’s strong U.S. presence, including four call centers and 26 sales offices, is bolstered by operations in Canada, Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. For more information on Smootshtone IP Communications, visit www.smoothstone.com, and for more information on InterCall, please visit www.intercall.com.