Accent is bucking the trend. The national provider of telecommunications services and solutions recently expanded its portfolio with a premises-based IP-PBX called VoiceONE Onsite, introducing new on-site equipment when most providers and vendors are racing to build out their cloud unified communications (UC) offers. Yet, the company, which has been a cloud-only provider of business communications services for years, has found that not every business is ready for the cloud. And so, Accent has designed and developed an on-premises system with the same features and functionality as its cloud counterpart. The new VoiceONE Onsite solution is shipping now.
Chris Cameron, President of Accent, explains. “Some customers are locked into a current service contract for premises-based PRI or POTS lines and can’t terminate that contract, making the move to cloud difficult and costly. VoiceONE Onsite allows these customers to migrate to a next-gen VoIP service that is deployed as an on-site UC appliance, but which has the convenience of full management and support by Accent as a Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) offering.”
The new VoiceONE Onsite system is available as a solid state hardware appliance which can support multiple virtual appliances, or can be deployed as a virtualized stack inside a customer’s existing VMware environment. Either way, a business can run other business applications alongside the VoiceONE call control to optimize resources and gain cost and administrative efficiencies.
VoiceONE, whether a cloud or premises implementation, utilizes Zultys call control as the underlying technology, but the solution is completely manufactured, monitored and supported by Accent. All user license tiers (Standard User, Advanced User and Contact Center) support popular enterprise telephony functions, plus more advanced features not always standard in competing telephony solutions such as unified messaging, a mobile client application with presence and instant messaging, disaster recovery and ACD call queuing. The Advanced license adds a Windows or Mac desktop client, meet-me conferencing, third party application integration, voicemail transcription (a new feature this January) and other capabilities, while the Contact Center license enables Web chat, real-time queue and agent monitoring and other contact center related features. Optional add-ons are available for video and Web conferencing, call recording and outbound campaigns, to name just a few.
Hybrid Cloud and Subscription Pricing for All
With the common software for both cloud and premises deployments, Accent is hitting on an important trend – hybrid cloud. Customers use the same phones and endpoints, experience the same functionality and access the same administration software whether the solution is deployed on-site or in the cloud. And, Accent can flexibly support hybrid cloud-premises networks for multi-site business customers that may want to install on-site systems in some locations, but utilize cloud services for others. Further, any new software developments effectively “kill two birds with one stone” since the improvements will benefit both deployment types (premises and cloud).
Perhaps most significant is the simple, subscription-based payment model that applies to both cloud and premises deployments. A trend is emerging in which vendors, seeking ways to ease the buying decision process and eliminate the up-front costs typically associated with installing an on-premises communications system, are beginning to recognize the benefits of offering the same subscription-based pricing (a recurring, operational expenditure or OPEX) for both cloud and premises deployments.
With respect to Accent’s new VoiceONE Onsite system, the customer does not buy, rent or lease the installed IP-PBX equipment, but simply pays a predictable per-user monthly fee – the same monthly fee as the cloud-based alternative. The fee does not fluctuate from month to month, and Accent provides the on-site UC appliance and any gateways required to interface with the customer’s existing PSTN service (typically PRI, POTS lines, or SIP interfaces). The consistent subscription-based pricing is appealing for budgetary reasons, but also makes it easier for a business to move to an all-cloud solution in the future, if desired.
Leading Edge Tools
In fourth quarter of 2016, Accent introduced two new online, self-service tools that aim to assess a customer’s (or potential customer’s) network connection and give subscribers confidence in the performance of Accent’s VoiceONE services and uptime. The first, VoIP Test, is a public Web page that gives a live, pre-deployment assessment of the user’s Internet connection and whether the user’s device and network meet the needs of the VoiceONE application. The second, Cloud Status, provides a current status report of VoiceONE cloud services and infrastructure. At present, this real-time view reflects what’s going on in Accent’s Columbus, Ohio data center, but Accent is in the process of adding a second data center in Minneapolis, Minnesota which will serve the north central region of the U.S. and offer full redundancy and failover in conjunction with the existing OH-based data center. In the near future, data from both data centers will be displayed.
With these two real-time performance tools, Accent’s commitment to excellent customer service is clear. How many other providers offer this level of real-time data and transparency on a public website, particularly about their own network performance?
Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is emerging as the next frontier for enterprise networking and a better approach to handling the high-bandwidth requirements of the modern workplace, including the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications for information technologies (IT) and unified communications and collaboration (UC&C). Just over a year ago, Accent began beta testing cloud-based SD-WAN technology powered by VeloCloud, and in early 2016, began rolling this out to customers as an alternative to using more expensive MPLS for delivery of its VoiceOne business communications cloud offering.
Accent’s “Cloud SDN” solution brings benefits in terms of network simplification, performance improvements, failover and cost savings versus traditional VPN or MPLS techniques. And, Accent goes a step further by fully implementing, managing and monitoring the solution for the customer. A VeloCloud Edge appliance is installed at each customer location to connect the customer’s communications infrastructure to the SD-WAN via the public Internet. The Edge device provides a window and deep level of visibility into real-time network and application performance. Accent engineers are able to monitor real-time performance data, network utilization statistics, and critical circuit details for every location. With this intelligence, traffic control decisions can be made on-the-fly to ensure all communications continue to run efficiently.
Accent reports record sales in 2016 for its cloud services offerings, citing nearly 70% growth of its VoiceONE and CloudSIP (SIP trunking) business in 2016 and the doubling of its business over the last 24 months. This growth is spurring investment in new services and technology, as well as plans to increase its sales team, build out its Partner/Agent program and expand into new geographic markets. Accent also hints that some additional and unique value related to WAN performance is on the roadmap for 2017. Stay tuned.