Panasonic Unveils Cloud-Based Small Business Telephony

Monday Nov 7th 2011 by Thor Olavsrud
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With the Panasonic Cloud Business Phone System, Panasonic aims to make feature-rich telephony available to small businesses at an affordable price and without the need for dedicated IT staff.

Panasonic System Networks Company of America in August took the wraps off its new cloud-based telephony solution for small businesses. Dubbed the Panasonic Business Phone System, the solution is intended to serve the needs of 10 or fewer employees.

The New Jersey-based company is a leader in small business telephony systems already, but is looking to this new offering to expand its footprint into the services industry.

"The cloud is the new frontier for major technology companies like Panasonic, and we're excited to harness it for the benefit of our customers," Bill Taylor, president of Panasonic System Networks Company of America, said of the launch. "Our small business customers tell us they want a simple, easy to manage and feature-rich, customizable business phone system. Panasonic values this feedback and we have handpicked the leading companies in their fields to help us reliably meet our customers' requests. With support from these industry leaders, we created a top-of-its-class cloud-based hosted-voice solution to help small businesses maximize their potential."

According to Bill Birnie, general manager of New Business Growth at Panasonic, this product fills a gap in the marketplace and serves the needs of very small businesses.

 "Very small businesses need a very low capital investment solution," said Birnie. "Instead of buying a PBX and having to pay a consultant to manage their telephone solution, small businesses would like to have something that costs less. We know we are one of the lowest-cost solutions in the marketplace."

Panasonic's new offering consists of a basic package that includes one corded phone that serves as a base station and one cordless handset. The suggested retail price is $299.99 (though Birnie noted Panasonic will offer a holiday season special of $99 per unit), and the service costs $39.95 per line per month. Additional cordless handsets can be purchased separately. The corded base station can support six cordless handsets and up to three telephone lines.

"Installation is very simple," Birnie said. "You just connect the broadband connection into the back of the phone, or you just connect into the router."

Birnie said the service comes with "all you can drink" local and long distance calling and a host of features that business owners can manage through the Panasonic Cloud, the Web-based portal for the service.

Among the features are music on hold, voice mail (network-based, so there's no storage limitation), number portability (you can bring your existing phone number onto the service or pick a new number), IP-based fax (so you don't need a fax machine to receive fax, they just go directly to your email inbox) and mobile phone integration. You can even set up an auto attendant to answer the line and direct the caller to the appropriate person to help them.

"It has all the traditional features and functionality," Birnie said. "There's nothing missing. All you need is power and a broadband connection."

The Panasonic Cloud also gives users the capability to generate custom reports on how the system is being used. Business owners also have the option to restrict users to only incoming or only outgoing calls, or to only make calls to or receive calls from certain numbers. For international calls, Birnie said the rates change daily or weekly by country, but the software seeks the lowest daily rate for whatever location the user calls.

Panasonic collaborated with BroadSoft to create the cloud-based small business telephony solution. BroadSoft specializes in software for the delivery of real-time voice and multimedia communications services.

"We believe Panasonic's expansion into the hosted unified communications services market exemplifies its dedication to innovation and desire to meet the communications needs of its small business customers," said Michael Tessler, president and chief executive officer of BroadSoft.

"Panasonic has been a trusted brand by small businesses for decades," he said. We share its commitment to serving this market segment, and we believe small businesses will benefit greatly from this comprehensive device and cloud-based communications services offering."

The Panasonic Cloud Business Phone System is available off the shelf at Fry's Electronics retail stores, and on the Web through Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, OfficeDepot.com and Staples.com.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to SmallBusinessComputing.com and a former senior editor at InternetNews.com. He covers operating systems, standards and security, among other technologies.

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