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Increasing mobile productivity by extending the office

Xtended Office, a new VoIP and unified messaging product from Computer Science Corporation and Nortel Networks, offers converged voice and data as an outsourced service.

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The convergence of voice and data: It's possible to extend the functionality of voice calling with data. It's possible to build a network infrastructure in which voice is supplied, just like data, in packets. But how about offering the converged solution as an outsourced service? That's what consulting and outsourcing company Computer Science Corporation is now offering in conjunction with Nortel Networks.

The service is called Xtended Office. There are many aspects of this service that are not new or are available from other sources, but this is the first time this breadth of converged remote or mobile voice and data services have been made provided as a managed service offering.

The key functions of Xtended Office are voice over IP telephony (VoIP) and unified messaging. Whilst the VoIP market is still in its early stages, with some solutions suffering from lag, this is based on Nortel switching technology integrated onto the existing telecom infrastructure. The performance from PC or PDA clients through to each other or regular phones is excellent, and the user growth can be incremental, since this isn't a replacement, but an addition to the existing infrastructure.

The unified messaging adds the key piece to the technology, and with the accompanying "one number -- follow me" feature means that users can make sure that their messages and calls reach them wherever they are. When they connect a laptop to a wireless LAN in a hotel on a business trip and someone calls their office phone, the client on the laptop will ring. Unified messaging means that voice, e-mail and fax messages can be routed and accessed through a single manageable point.

In combination with Nortel's technology, Computer Science Corporation applies the managed services to deploy the solution on a global basis with enterprise grade security and support. If it was just a packaged solution, however, that might still not be interesting enough. Whilst it's true that certain technologies are converging in interesting and novel ways, the ability to deploy these new ideas always lags.

Enterprises may have the skills in-house, but the complexities and up-front costs of mobile and remote technologies might consign them to limited pilots and minor proof of concepts. By the time comes to evaluate progress the technology has moved on, and the cycle either restarts, or is often dumped. No wonder many companies are reluctant to embark on this type of project, despite the obvious potential for making employees more productive outside the office.

However, when a company with a strong IT outsourcing business like Computer Science Corporation combines with a telecom company of Nortel's standing to deliver converged mobile technologies as a service, there is another route. More incremental, and the technology becomes SEP: Someone Else's Problem.

There are costs associated with outsourcing, not only from paying for the service, but also from the potential cost of lost internal capability. However, there are economies of scale too, as outsourcing companies can aggregate large numbers of customers and negotiate more favorable deals. Most importantly, the costs are far more manageable and transparent, being incremental by user by month. There's also no investment in technology that's becoming rapidly obsolete to write off.

That's very important in the fast moving torrents of converging technologies. Xtended Office allows enterprises to extend someone else's toes in to test the water.

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