Remote workers pick up on converged telephony

The more ways there are to call someone, the more complicated it has become to reach them.

For small businesses that may not have staff dedicated to figuring out who’s working out of the office, from home, or even from their car, a robust phone system solution is critical. TalkSwitch, from

Ottawa’s Centrepoint Technologies, attempts to do it all.

The convergence of telephony “”has been a holy grail of telecommunications and data networking for over three decades, going back to the late ’70s,”” says Lawrence Surtees, industry analyst with IDC Canada.

TalkSwitch, which recently announced a free software upgrade, is attempting to tackle the problems of convergence via a new capability called Uniform Call Distribution. The phone system allows incoming calls to be routed automatically, cascaded, queued, or forwarded, to specific extensions — be they local to the office or offsite cellular phones interfacing with the TalkSwitch network.

Bryan O’Connor, director of marketing for Centrepoint, sees the enhanced integration of cellular and PBX systems as an increasingly important part of keeping up with the business world.

“”We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had a call offsite and the client asks to be transferred back and you have to say, ‘Well, I can’t really do that, I’m not really there.’ For small businesses that are very lean on staff and wear many hats, the ability for them to multitask whether in or out of the office is critical to the business.””

And of course, image is everything when connecting to clients.

James Caruso, CEO of MediaFirst in Atlanta, Ga., which uses TalkSwitch, says that the appearance of seamless integration of telephone technology is critical to his company’s image.

“”I think that’s a lot of it,”” says Caruso. “”If you just have a voicemail system, that’s fine, but you don’t sound like a company where you dial in and you get an automated attendant. The automated attendant functionality was key for me, as was the this remote extension functionality. A lot of phone systems in this class just don’t offer that.””

Caruso finds the ability to connect quickly and automatically to a graphic designer in New York, or a Web developer who is a part-time soccer coach, indispensable.

Tracy Fleming, a convergence specialist with Avaya, says, “”Convergence isn’t about going to one and only one technology, it’s about being able to discreetly manage a number of devices in the background, and then to be able to provide that sort of ubiquitous interface to the end-user. The end-user doesn’t really care, as long as that customer can get to me when I need to talk to them.””

Fleming adds, “”I used to hand out a business card with five numbers on how to reach me. Today my business card has one number. I don’t want to have to burden my customers with having to figure out five different ways of calling me.””

Surtees sees the future of true convergence as not so far off.

“”The advent of higher-speed wireless services may end up going a long way to solve some of these problems for users,”” he says.

“”Wireless may become one of the sleepers that comes up the middle in between the land line phone stuff, the tethered IP phones, and the laptop world. And when that happens I think that’s going to be a quiet boom for true integration and simpler integration for users.””

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