An in-depth look into Avaya’s IP Office solution: design, installation, features and benefits
Our Senior Systems Engineer Matt Davis reviews Avaya’s IP Office solution, including the history behind the product and the real business benefits to be gained from using this Midmarket Collaboration tool.
Avaya’s IP Office is the latest incarnation of a system which was created back in 1994. Today it is one of the best-selling, feature-rich communications solutions available worldwide.
In 1994, Network Alchemy was founded, with its main focus being the deliverance of a telephone system that integrated with PC networks. Spearheaded by lead designers Sean Harding and Robin Hayman, a product that did just that was launched in 1997- and it proved a huge success. Network Alchemy was bought within 12 months by SDX Business Systems. SDX, with this new product in their arsenal as well as the successful Index system, experienced exponential and unprecedented growth and became the UK’s ‘largest supplier’ of telephone systems.
In June 1998, Lucent Technologies purchased SDX Business Systems for £124m. In 2000, Lucent separated out its communications division, which became Avaya Inc. Avaya rebranded the Network Alchemy system, calling it the IP office. Today the IP office solution is Avaya’s flagship product, and is still sold on a global scale. It is aimed at the SME and mid-market.
In the past, communications systems were a fixed design, meaning that you could end up paying for features and capacity that you do not require. The beauty of the Avaya IP Office solution is that there is a recognition that every company is different. The IP500 system can be designed to cater for only the number of handsets, lines and features you actually require, which is a far more efficient solution than previous offerings.
It is also extremely scalable. Enjoying the benefits of advanced features once required you to purchase expensive additional software packages, meaning that many smaller companies were priced out of many of the useful functions of their own new system. Avaya’s pricing model allows for software to be purchased on a per user basis, bringing prices down to a level that makes advanced features an option for all.
From the engineering side, having worked with many other not-so-friendly systems in the past, IP Office is a dream to install and configure. This means that a great deal of time is saved during installation, which from my perspective means that more time can be spent on training users and ensuring that they are fully confident and happy with their new system. The clear, easy to use interface of the system administration tool means that customers can be given access to make name/directory changes as required, with user accounts locked down to prevent any harm to the system. The system is also easy to support, meaning that any issues you do experience can be resolved quickly and with minimal disruption. In earlier versions a simple name change would have required a reboot, however only major changes such as network settings now require a reboot before they take effect.
Avaya have recently taken massive steps forward with their Unified Communications solutions, developing apps for Apple and Android products and taking a fresh approach to PC client applications by moving to a browser-based solution, the One-X Portal. This removes the requirement to have software installed on every PC, and means there is less cross-over between IT and Telephony support. Avaya’s first few attempts at creating a built-in module for housing voicemail, One-X etc. got off to a rather rocky start, with a lot of different issues reported. However, Avaya have worked on their Server Edition solution a lot and it is a now an extremely viable option if a business is wanting to remove the need for a separate server for telephony software.
Having acquired Radvision in the last year Avaya now own one of the best video conferencing solutions on the market, Scopia. Compared to other big-name video conferencing solutions Scopia is great value for money and again very easy to install and use. I feel that Avaya may need to work harder on making people aware of this product, potential customers could miss out on the opportunity to get the same package of features for a much lower cost.
In terms of the negatives, having worked with the product since the Alchemy days I am aware of its history of quirks and a few stability issues here and there. However, since the release of the current IP500 V2 chassis the product you see today is extremely stable. As with a lot of hardware manufacturers, you do get the impression sometimes that Avaya like to let the customer do the testing of their latest software and hardware, so we only like to recommend the most recently released, tried and tested products or recommend upgrades that have been through vigorous in-house user testing. This does however show that Avaya are continually improving their product and that they are still heavily investing in the IP Office solution. One gripe is that I would like to see more money spent on the actual hardware itself, as presumably due to recent financial strains felt by all the once solid metal systems of yesterday have been replaced with mostly plastic materials. This affects the performance of the product in no way, but it would make a difference to the overall feel of the product.
Avaya are in a very good place at the moment and in my opinion, really do offer the complete package. The IP Office solution ticks all the boxes for a company looking for a flexible, responsive and easily scalable solution that incorporates voice, video, mobility and much more.
It will be exciting to see how they will continue to develop this solution in the future.