LightEdge's UC Service Taps BroadSoft-Microsoft Partnership

Unified communications (UC) has emerged from the Internet cloud thanks to a partnership that brings together LightEdge Solutions, BroadSoft and Microsoft. A new "Hosted Unified Communications" service -- announced on Tuesday and run by LightEdge -- provides voice-over-IP (VoIP), e-mail and collaboration solutions to small-to-medium business (SMB) customers.

Des Moines, Ia.-based LightEdge supports the service using BroadSoft's BroadWorks VoIP platform and Microsoft's Exchange and Office Communicator 2007 solutions.

LightEdge sees SMBs as the target market for a number of reasons. They generally lack the expertise to handle their own UC solutions on premises. Moreover, as the economy slumps, IT staff that could have carried the ball may have been let go.

"We find that most of our business comes from companies that are 50 to 250 [employees], which means they have some IT staff but probably not enough to do everything they need to do," said Scott Riedel, LightEdge's marketing director.

Hosted UC takes over where the staff leaves off.

"We have all the servers; we control everything," Riedel said. "We do the maintenance and patching."

When Microsoft issues a patch or upgrade, LightEdge engineers integrate it into the system. Customers, on the other hand, don't lose complete control over their voice and data communications.

"We have a customer portal, so to add or remove users, they would go to the portal," Riedel explained. "But once it's running, it's just a matter of getting your contact list and making sure new employees are added to that list, and when employees leave, they're taken off that list. Other than that, it's really hands off for the IT staff."

The partners are staying engaged to make it all happen in a seamless fashion for the end user.

"All three companies, LightEdge, BroadSoft and Microsoft, all had a lot of different eyes on this…making sure that the process was going very well," Riedel said.

That process includes bringing together disparate-yet-complementary software. For instance, a PC-to-PC call via Office Communicator 2007 becomes a "full voice-over-IP handset call to another handset" with the software integration, Riedel explained.

The software integration also enhances presence. Typically, Office Communicator 2007 shows when a user is idle or busy on the computer based on the Exchange calendar. With the integration using BroadSoft's VoIP solution, it now can recognize when the user is on the phone, and will display that information.

Riedel sees an opportunity for managed services, even in a bad economy.

"You don't have to buy or lease servers. You don't have to go through the process of setting everything up and maintaining it," he said, "and you don't have to buy any licenses [because] the licenses are included. It's a simple, straightforward way to get access to new, enterprise-grade technology."

About the Author

Jim Barthold is a freelance writer based in Delanco, N.J. covering a variety of technology subjects.

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