IBM Offers Cost-Cutting Office-In-A-Box

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IBM is offering cost-conscious businesses a unified communications and collaboration UC(2) solutions based on an open platform

Technology giant IBM announced a self-managing, “office-in-a-box” appliance for small to medium-size businesses that combines the unified communications and collaboration tools critical to running a business, along with the ability to connect to telephony in one solution.

The new Lotus Foundations Reach solution customizes and extends the IBM Sametime UC(2) capabilities in a single appliance IBM said is designed specifically for SMBs that have limited IT skills and smaller budgets. The company claims that in about an hour, a business can install and configure its entire UC environment in a system small enough to fit under a desk. The self-managing technology that automates IT tasks such as adjusting to workload demands, conducting proactive system checks for security and reliability of the network, and detecting and repairing potential issues.

“Until now, the complexity and cost of creating an IT solution combined with UC and IP telephony capabilities have been a deterrent for small businesses,” said Caleb Barlow, director of Lotus Foundations, IBM. “With Lotus Foundations Reach, IBM enables telephony partners to combine their technologies with IBM’s UC solution to create a comprehensive offering that is affordable and simple enough for the smallest of businesses to use.”

Lotus Foundations Reach combines UC features such as instant messaging (IM), presence awareness (to see who is online and available), email, calendars, contacts, office productivity tools, network security, remote access, file and print sharing and backup and disaster recovery. IBM argues the ability to access these capabilities from a mobile device makes it easier for users that travel or work remotely, and by communicating and collaborating virtually, midmarket companies can reduce costs by decreasing the need for travel, supporting remote workforces to cut down on office space, and decreasing long-distance telephone expenses with VoIP capabilities.

Lotus Foundations Reach enables IBM’s telephony partners to extend the company’s self-managing capabilities and provide features such as click-to-call, click-to-conference, the ability to see if someone is on the phone or not, and voicemail access. By enabling small businesses to communicate in real time and by using an open approach, which allows them to incorporate their products with IBM’s to reduce the costs and complexity of IP telephony, IBM argues it can increase employee productivity and efficiency and offer comprehensive communications solutions that were not previously available to SMBs.

IBM pointed to a growing number of business partners are choosing to build solutions based on Lotus Foundations, including NEC, which is creating a version of its Univerge Sphericall communications software that can be downloaded to Foundations to create a complete UC and business collaboration solutions designed for SMBs, and ShoreTel, which is incorporating its IP telephony platform with Lotus Foundations on UC solutions for midsize companies.

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