Vodafone says its One Net services can help SMBs and enterprises be more productive and flexible
Vodafone has revealed more details about its next-generation of unified communications services, promising the revamped One Net portfolio will allow SMBs to punch above their weight and that large corporations can also become more efficient.
The Newbury, Berkshire-based operator already has 3.5 million One Net users around the world, but believes the updated range of services can make businesses more efficient, flexible and attract more customers thanks to cloud-based unification and integration with third party services like Microsoft Office 365 and Lync.
All levels of business
One Net Express is aimed at small businesses, One Net Business is targeted at medium-sized firms and One Net Enterprise is designed for large corporations. Each service gives every user a single geographic number and communications are unified in the cloud and sent to mobile, landline and web-based devices. More advanced features include voice, video and web conferencing as well as document sharing.
Vodafone says all sizes of business can benefit from unified communications, with a flat fee charged for each user and a single point of contact if a problem goes wrong. The ability to have a geographic number means businesses can remove landlines and employ more staff without requiring more office space, while SMBs can still look professional even though they use mobile devices.
“This makes a small business look bigger than they are,” says Jenni Mundy, enterprise product management director at Vodafone, who adds that SMBs can be more responsive, something which is crucial when they are competing with larger rivals.
Why aren’t you at your desk?
One Net Business and One Net Enterprise provide switchboard features which support policies for certain types of calls. For example, customer calls can be directed to just one person or an entire sales time, while employees can set calls from their boss to be pushed to their mobile while all other calls will only be directed to their landline.
Switchboard operators can even see where an employee is with a presence feature, allowing them to direct the call to the most appropriate device or saving on roaming costs by directing calls to a PC if the user is abroad.
All policies are hierarchical, meaning that workers cannot overrule anything imposed from above – something which will annoy those wanting to appear as though they are at their desk but are actually at the pub.
Because all this integration occurs on the cloud, there is no need to download client software, which means One Net is compatible with any phone. Field workers no longer have to take expensive phones on assignments and there are many other advantages to not using a client, which uses up memory, drains battery and requires a data connection which could result in high roaming costs.
Cloud storage also has other benefits, such as the ability to store calls in a centralised location, something which will appeal to regulated industries. Document sharing is also available, with the operator claiming that some of its customers are even creating shared environments with other companies.
“No one else has that capability on the market,” says Scott Petty, Enterprise Products & Services Technology Director at Vodafone
Vodafone believes the close integration of its network and compatibility with third party unified communications tools sets it apart from the competition, but does storing all this information in the cloud leave sensitive information vulnerable?
Petty says that it would be easy to attack an on premise unified communications system, but because One Net is located on Vodafone’s network, it’s more secure than if it was on the open Internet.
“Security is absolutely key for us,” adds Mundy, who says customers in regulated industry have “zero tolerance” for risk.
In fact, the biggest problem Vodafone says it has to face is showing IT departments, who are used to dealing with physical infrastructure, cope with a cloud-based system.
Fixed line drive
Vodafone offers SMB services in 10 markets and serves multinationals in 14 markets. It began offering unified communications services in 2009 in Italy, and uses the fixed network it acquired in the £1 billion takeover of Cable & Wireless in the UK.
The firm has been investing heavily in fixed line networks as part of an effort to offset falling mobile revenues. It has agreed deals to purchase Kabel Deutschland in Germany and Ono in Spain, while it also building its own fibre infrastructure in the latter nation and Italy.
Last week, Vodafone announced it had secured a partnership with Rogers Communications to provide services for its enterprise customers in Canada.