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Interview: Making Small Companies Sound Big, Part 1

Innoport gives you the sound of a hosted PBX without all that hardware and expense By Charlie White

Intellicomm offers a service called Innoport, which gives individual users and businesses the functions of automated telephone hardware such as a hosted PBX without its associated high costs. The service can make a small business seem like a major corporation by screening callers, handling fax-to-email functions and finding its users by automatically calling a list of phone numbers, all the while playing the users choice of music to callers while they wait. Digital Media Nets Charlie White talked with Harprit Singh, President and CEO of Intellicomm, about the companys services in this two-part interview.

DMN: Tell me about Intellicomm and how that relates to telecommuting.

Singh: Sure, Intellicomm is a unified communications service provider. Its a service that provides near-ubiquitous access to your faxes, voicemail, email, find me/follow me, call forwarding?the idea is that your communication follows you wherever you are. So it really lends itself to the whole concept of telecommuting and being able to work in virtual environments, virtual offices. The essence is that you can be anywhere and conduct your business; you dont necessarily need to be tied to one location.

DMN: How are you able to do that?

Singh: The service itself is called Innoport, and its available from innoport.com. Intellicomm is the corporate identity and Innoport is the unified communications service. Basically, the service can be broken down into several key segments. We provide virtual telephone numbers, so when you subscribe to Innoport and you get a phone number, somebody sends a fax to you at that phone number. That fax gets forwarded to you via email. So now youve got your fax communications covered, because the expectation is wherever you are you have access to the Internet, access to your email and the Web. Voicemail works in a similar way. When somebody calls that number they can leave a voice message and that voice mail comes to you in your email as an audio attachment. You have your voicemail covered because you can just double-click on the attachment and listen to the audio file. The beauty of the Innoport service is also the hosted PBX model which is where that ?find me/follow me, or call forwarding aspect comes in. What we allow you to create is a full-blown hosted PBX model through the online interface, so you dont need to buy phone switching equipment at the premises. Once you get rid of that tie to the hardware, you can be anywhere.

DMN: Can you explain what a hosted PBX model entails?

Singh: What it involves is that you can create an auto attendant, and after the auto attendant you can also have extensions. On the phone number that we provide on Innoport, you can set up the phone number as an auto attendant, where someone can press, for example, 1 for sales, 2 for customer service, or whatever your departments are. Or, you can have all of the extensions that you want for each individual employee. If someone presses that extension, that call can be routed to up to five different phone numbers in a sequence. Heres where the call forwarding and the find me/follow me service comes into play, because you could be out of the office and have that number forwarded to, lets say, your cell number, your home number, your home office number, to a remote location phone number and then wherever you are, youre able to take that call.

DMN: This is all transparent to whoever is calling you?

Singh: Thats right. The idea is not only having just one number to which your calls can be forwarded, you can have up to a sequence of five numbers, so it can try you on your cell first, it can try your home office after that, and so on and so forth. It actually creates transparency between your locations and being able to capture that call. So the idea is that telecommuting becomes a breeze in terms of being out of the office yet still staying connected and conducting your business?because you have your fax covered, you have your voicemail covered, you have your calls covered. Thats really what were trying to achieve in terms of ubiquitous access.

DMN: Now youre talking about incoming faxes, incoming calls?this also works for outgoing calls, too?

Singh: When you say outgoing, we dont allow you to make outgoing phone calls through the service. In other words, with an auto attendant, the call comes into the Innoport number which is the number we provide, that call gets routed from Innoport to any of your numbers. You can think of Innoport as being your phone switching system, except its remote. You dont have to worry about the hardware, the infrastructure, we take care of that. You manage all of your settings through the Web interface. We allow you to set up rules between how you want the calls forwarded during business hours, after hours, or between certain time frames, and those all go into effect instantly. So you have full control even from a remote location of how you want your calls forwarded. 

DMN: Lets say Im calling somebody who has this system, and they have it set up so that it tries his cell phone and it tries the other phones?what does this sound like to me, the caller?

Singh: You can actually be listening to a music-on-hold message. Its something that can be customized as well, so customers have the choice of putting music if they want, they can have a standard ?please wait kind of message they keep going in a loop?they have total control of what you hear based on what they would like you to hear, and they control it through the Web interface.

DMN: So, for example, as a caller, it says to you, ?If youd like to talk to Charlie White, press one, and then it says ?Hold please, and then it goes and calls me at these different locations Ive designated. I answer the phone and say, ?Okay, go ahead give the call to me. Is that the way it works?

Singh: Exactly. There are a lot of cool features where the person who is being called can also use call screening. That person can also set it up in a way that it forces you to announce your name. And they can then hear the name and decide to take the call or send it to voicemail or whatever the case may be. Lets say the person youre trying to reach is in a meeting?that person can at least get the message, but wants to send it to voicemail so the call can be returned. All that can be done in a very seamless fashion, and the caller doesnt really realize hes going through a virtual system. The end goal of connecting the two parties has been accomplished.

DMN: So you can make it sound like you have a great big corporation but really youre just hanging out at the beach, right?

Singh: Absolutely. A lot of small businesses want to get that Fortune 500 image. But if you wanted to do it in the traditional, conventional paradigm of going in buying a PBX, it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. The software itself to run Auto Attendant is thousands of dollars, and then theres the cost of managing the telephone infrastructure and not to mention the expertise to manage that PBX as well?that all goes away in a subscription model. So you pay as you go along, and if you grow you can add more numbers, more extensions. If you want to downsize it, you can do it in a heartbeat. It really is a very elegant system of providing virtual communications. 

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Related Keywords:Intellicomm, Innoport, automated telephone hardware, hosted PBX, screening callers, fax-to-email, Harprit Singh, President and CEO, interview, telecommuting

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