AT&T recently launched its AT&T Business in a Box service, designed to make IP communications user-friendly for small and mid-size businesses. Included with Business in a Box is AT&T's hosted IP PBX service called Voice DNA, a managed T-1, and the company's Business in a Box router (see images, below), which includes Wi-Fi, firewall, Power over Ethernet, and VPN functionality.
Jason Gadsby, product manager for AT&T Business in a Box, says the solution was developed after the company took a closer look at the challenges that smaller businesses face with VoIP. "There are a lot of different types of technologies to manage, and you need a certain level of expertise to be able to use them all so we wanted to be able to provide a customer with a single consolidated infrastructure solution that AT&T owns and manages," he says.
The fact that AT&T continues to own and manage the infrastructure, Gadsby says, is key. "One of the things that we're trying to replicate here at the end of the day is that within an enterprise environment, typically, you have an IT department that would run something like this." In the case of Business in a Box, then, AT&T serves as the IT department, providing the customer with a single point of contact for support.
Moreover, Gadsby says, the advanced capabilities of the router itself serve as a major selling point for the solution. "When you take all of the features and functionality, and you look at what a customer would normally have to purchase to get these various features, they're not going to have to purchase an access point, they're not going to have to purchase a separate Power over Ethernet switch, they're not going to have to purchase a firewall or a terminal adapterit just creates a very cost-effective solution," he says.
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The solution also allows customers to migrate gradually from analog to IP telephony as needed. "They're able to plug analog phones and fax machines into the analog ports, and basically use the VoIP to trunk it back," he says. "So customers don't need to purchase IP phonesthey can use their infrastructure that they currently have in place, and plug it into the Business in a Box."
Pricing for the service starts with a one-time fee for the router itself, then an ongoing monthly fee for the service. Aron Talwar, AT&T's product manager for VoIP, says the price can vary widely depending on the customer's requirements. "It depends on the size of the customer, how many stations, how many Ethernet ports they need, how many concurrent callsthere are different packages depending on their needs," he says.
The "sweet spot" for the offering, Talwar says, is locations with 15 to 50 stations. "As we were looking at the small/medium business customer in that space, we found that they had certain problemsthey had several technologies onsite, several vendors to manage, and their equipment got outdated," he says. "So from a sales perspective, we're now talking to those customers about the Business in a Box solution."
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One of the first companies to deploy Business in a Box is Take Care Health Systems, which is using the solution in a number of its clinics across the country. Company director of telecommunications Kevin Young says the product makes it much easier to work with AT&T. "Business in a Box reduces the number of disparate services with AT&T, meaning we're able to move in a direction where we have fewer AT&T platforms," he says. "Business in a Box improves the provisioning and ordering processwhen launching a clinic and deploying B.I.B., we now have fewer vendors (LECs) to work with."
And the fact that it's a managed service, Young says, is key. "Since we have a large number of convenient care clinics across the country, we do not have local IT support," he says. "AT&T provides local clinic-level support and maintenance."
Ultimately, Young says, it's all about keeping things simple. "Take Care Health Clinics depend on voice and data communications for virtually all aspects of patient care and administration, including patient-initiated electronic sign-in, electronic medical record technology for providers and patients, and seamless voice and high-speed data telecommunications support," he says. "The simpler it is to manage these services, the better for our clinics and, most importantly, for the patients."
And according to AT&T's Talwar, that's exactly the idea. "We want customers to run their businesses and let us run the communications for them," he says.
This article was first published on EnterpriseVoIPPlanet.com.