Small Business Gets Hosted PBX, Unified Communications Service from Intermedia

By Chris Talbot  |  Print this article Print

Intermedia, known for its hosted Microsoft Exchange services, is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for small business' unified communications needs with the launch of its new hosted PBX service.

Hosted Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications Server (OCS) provider Intermedia  is now offering a hosted PBX service aimed at small businesses with about 50 employees. Intermedia Hosted PBX is the last big piece of the company's unified communications puzzle, and customers who subscribe to all three services can get fully-integrated UC features and functionality.

Direct pricing for the hosted PBX service is expected to be about $30 per user per month. New products are initially sold direct to get all the kinks out, and that's true about the new Intermedia Hosted PBX, as well. The company expects to roll it out to channel partners within 60 days.

"We're always very focused on getting it out to our channel partners as quickly as we can," said Jonathan McCormick, COO of Intermedia.

The hosted PBX service is a full private label offering, which the majority of Intermedia's channel partners take advantage of. Intermedia provides its partners with all the sales and billing tools they need to conduct business, and the partners own the contracts with the end-client, McCormick said. Partners also set pricing for their end-customers.

The ultimate goal is to migrate small businesses to an integrated unified communications solution hosted by Intermedia. Intermedia Hosted PBX is now available direct from the company. It will be available through channel partners within 60 days.

Originally a hosted Microsoft Exchange provider, Intermedia has been building out its portfolio of hosted products over the last few years in an effort to provide everything a small business needs for the burgeoning unified communications market. Although a full unified communications deployment is something many small businesses may not be quite ready for, Intermedia is able to offer individual pieces of a unified communications deployment to customers and slowly migrate them to all the features they will need in the future.

"This is one of the key critical mission products to claim that leadership position in communications product in the small- and mid-sized business," said McCormick.

Intermedia's business is based on a traditional software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, with subscription pricing based on a per user per month basis. The company has a hybrid go-to-market model, with 65 percent of its revenue coming through direct sales and the other 35 percent through its channel partners. However, the channel side of the business is growing, with 50 per cent of new business this year already coming from the channel, McCormick added.

"That's a big part of our business, and we've got a lot of the company focused on it," he said.

Intermedia Hosted PBX is being delivered as a complete service.

"It is a full business-featured PBX, allowing things like voicemail menus, personalized greetings, groups, voicemail to email, find-me-follow-me, call routing, three-digit internal extensions, three-way calling – all the things you would expect from a business-class PBX," McCormick said.

Although the SIP phones and Internet connectivity are the responsible of the customer, the rest is handled through Intermedia and its channel partners. Intermedia offers migration services, support for their SIP phones, billing and customer service. Additionally, the vendor will contract with SIP trunking providers on behalf of the customer if they wish it.

The majority of the hosted PBX customers will at first come from Intermedia's existing customer base, but McCormick said he expects there will be much interest from small businesses who have their own on-premise PBX systems and want a change that simplifies things.

"I see that to be more of our growth path. Just robbing and stealing from other hosted providers is not the best path for success. What we're going to offer more than other people is a long history of serving the SMB marketplace as a full service provider," McCormick said. "The other thing that we would offer compared to a lot of other standalone hosted PBX products is the opportunity to get to a full UC product," he said.

With plenty of hosted voice services on the market, one of the defining characteristics of the Intermedia Hosted PBX is that it truly is a full-featured system, said Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst at COMMfusion. The service provides everything a small business needs for voice. It's not a watered-down offering, she noted.

"Not everybody can afford or want a premise-based solution, and certainly for SMBs, they want something that's going to be easier to maintain and manage and support and that's cost-effective, and that's what Intermedia's providing," Pleasant said.

Additionally, since the system ties directly into Outlook, it makes it easier for businesses and their end-users because it's an environment they're already familiar with.