Avaya IP Office Review – Flexible All-rounder for SMBs

Avaya IP Office phone system review - updated edition JAN '19

Avaya IP Office Review – Flexible All-rounder for SMBs

Avaya is one of the best-renowned communication companies in the world. Known for an incredible range of Unified Communications and Contact Centre solutions, Avaya is a market leader in delivering innovative, open and converged solutions for intelligent business experiences.

Here at UC Today, we’ve followed the Avaya story for many years. When the business first launched in 2000, it was already preparing for great things. A spin-off company from the successful AT&T and Lucent companies, Avaya began life with a vision to create pioneering communication systems in a transforming business environment. Despite difficult periods, including a brush with chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016 to 2017, Avaya has come out ahead of every challenge it has faced so far – bigger and better than ever.

Today, Avaya is the largest pure-play CC and UC company, with revenues of $3.3 billion in 2018. During 2018, Avaya also debuted their new leadership team and revised go-to-market strategy, based around their cloud-first architecture, infused with artificial intelligence, blockchain, and other emerging technologies.

Today, we’ll be looking at one of the most crucial components of the Avaya portfolio: Avaya IP Office.

As always, the views expressed in this review are those of the author only. UC Today is an entirely independent news and insight service with no role in promoting or endorsing any particular products or brands.

The History of the IP-PBX and IP Office

The story of the IP-PBX has been one of nearly continuous, and rapid, evolution. When VoIP first began to make its mark in telecommunications two decades ago, the initial benefits of transmitting telephony over the internet rather than PSTN were all about call costs.

Since then, the developments of multimedia UC, software servers, IT convergence, mobile integration, and browser-based communications have followed in rapid succession.

IP Office allows us to see much of that history still living in a single product. Now on its tenth stable release, IP Office started life as a pretty straightforward IP-PBX solution for small businesses. With five available editions, at one end of the scale, it remains just that – a small, on-premises IP-PBX server which can support between 2 and 250 users.

But at the other end of the scale, IP Office has evolved into something quite different – a midmarket solution with a vast swathe of UC and collaboration applications tagged on, which can run in software-only format either on dedicated datacentre servers or virtual machines.

Having been a mainstay of the IP telephony market for many years, and a pioneer in developing UC and converged solutions, IP Office vendor Avaya now finds itself undergoing its own transformation as it battles for financial survival in a changing marketplace. Avaya’s new strategy includes everything from investments into new blockchain and artificial intelligence technology, to the acquisition of companies like Spoken Communications. Indeed, the acquisition of Spoke in 2018 helped Avaya to give their vast contact centre customer base a direct path to the cloud, created using technology from a leading innovator in Contact Centre as a Service solutions.

The purchase of Spoken Communications, along with a broader change in direction for Avaya as a company has not only led to the development of new products for the brand. Avaya has also begun to invest additional resources and time into making their flagship products more appealing too. For instance, the Avaya flagship VoIP platform, “IP Office” is one of the most well-respected solutions on the market, and Avaya is constantly searching for new ways to make it better.

How Does It Look?

The IP500 v2 server comes in a 17.5” black chassis suitable for rack mounting, full dimensions 445mm x 73mm x 365mm. Each unit has four module slots which can be used to vary the line, endpoint and data connections available on each server. Up to 12 expansion units can be stacked with a primary server.

Primary Capabilities of IP Office

At its core, Avaya IP Office is all about simplifying your communication and collaboration strategy. Whatever you need to take your digital transformation strategy to the next level, Avaya can help you find it, from a flexible deployment strategy that’s available in the cloud, on-premise, or in a hybrid environment, to an all-in-one solution for Communication and Collaboration delivered through Avaya Equinox. This turnkey solution will help you to take your organisation to the next level with:

  • Cost-saving applications to suit your strategy: From audio and video conferencing systems that allow you to embrace the remote-working trend to BYOD integrations and instant messaging, IP Office has the cost-saving solutions that will enhance and future-proof your business.
  • Excellent mobility solutions: As more employees venture outside of the standard office environment, Avaya IP Office is there to ensure that you’re prepared for anything. The intuitive, cloud-connected tools in your Avaya environment will keep members of your staff connected and engaged, wherever they may be.
  • Complete integration: Designing the ultimate communication and collaboration experience today means finding a solution that can integrate with your existing strategy. Avaya IP Office is ready to work alongside some of the leading tools in today’s business space, including Microsoft Office 365, Google, Salesforce, and even Skype for Business.
  • Security: With secure and highly reliable systems embedded throughout, Avaya IP Office excels in security. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you’re protected against everything from toll fraud to malware. You’re even defend against unexpected downtime thanks to a tried-and-tested architecture.
  • Endless communication options: Communication in the modern world isn’t just about voice anymore. Instead, you can integrate everything from email and webchat to voice and fax into your technology stack. Support any customer interaction, no matter how your clients approach your business.

All that, and Avaya IP Office is even designed to scale with the changing needs of your business. As companies of all shapes and sizes strive to remain agile, Avaya can support anywhere up to 3,000 users at once, across up to 150 individually networked communication sites.

Available Editions of IP Office

Avaya IP Office is available in five editions, Basic, Essential, Preferred, Server and Server Select. The different editions offer a range of deployment options, either on the IP500 v2 hardware server or as software-only solutions, with maximum numbers of users as follows:

Basic: IP500 v2 server only, up to 25 users

Essential: IP500 v2 server only, 20-99 users

Preferred: IP500 v2 server only, 21-250 users

Server: IP500 v2 server, software on a dedicated Linux server or virtualised in a VMware environment; 100-2000 users

Server Select: IP500 v2 server, software on a dedicated Linux server or virtualised in a VMware environment; 100-3000 users

With the software solutions (Server and Server Select), users can be distributed across a maximum of 150 sites, using a networking architecture built from a primary server, a secondary server, and up to 148 expansion ‘nodes’ at each location – either an IP500 v2 or software on a Linux server. If an IP500 v2 is used as the primary server, a maximum of 250 users can be deployed across 32 sites.

IP Office is a hybrid system, supporting TDM analogue and digital telephony as well as VoIP and trunking. An IP500v2 must be deployed to support legacy connections, with a wide range of base cards, trunk cards, and expansion units available to increase analogue and digital capacity. As well as a wide range of Avaya IP, SIP and DECT endpoints, IP Office also supports Nortel hardware.

The Features of Avaya IP Office

Versatility is critical with Avaya IP Office. This means that your small or mid-sized business will have a range of flexible choices for business communication, no matter what your strategy demands. You can choose the specific features that you need most and add extra capabilities as your business evolves. Although the specific features available will depend on the package you want, every option comes backed by Avaya’s state-of-the-art customer service and support team.

. Every edition from Basic upwards gets access to voicemail with email alerts, auto attendant and ad hoc conferencing, with a gradual scaling up of mailbox capacities and conference users supported. An impressive 128 parties can join in on ad hoc audio conferences when using Essential edition, while Preferred offers Meet Me functionality with two 64 party conference bridges.

Mobile integration begins with Essential edition, with the one-X Mobile iOS and Android client available for every user. This delivers call twinning between desk phone and mobile and remote voicemail retrieval. With the Preferred edition, this extends to full VoIP functionality via Wi-Fi or 3G/4G plus mobile access to IM, presence, directory and conferencing functions.

The Preferred edition provides full support for the two main UC platforms, Avaya Communicator and one-X Portal. Based on Avaya’s Aura software, Communicator is a desktop collaboration suite for Windows and iPad which provides video conferencing, IM, presence, and directory functions as well as a call control interface. One-X Portal is a browser-based interface offering call control, conferencing and messaging over the web, so users can access the network remotely from a laptop or home computer without having to download a GUI client.

From Preferred edition upwards, users also get access to Voicemail Pro, call recording, advanced auto attendants with time/day call routing and queue announcements, plus expanded third-party integration options. Server and Server Select editions offer the same application options as Preferred, with the addition of contact centre reporting, analytics and supervisor options, plus centralised administration, improved failover resilience and, for Select edition in VMware, high availability options.

Avaya Powered by IP Office

One of the more recent developments in Avaya’s IP Office portfolio is the creation of the “Powered by IP Office” system. This solution gives Avaya partners all the virtual machine images required to deploy the feature of IP Office in the data centre that suits them. These virtual machines are licensed by Avaya operating systems that are also provided to partners, giving them a more natural way to provision systems and onboard new cloud clients.

Powered by IP Office is the comprehensive UCaaS solution that builds on the strategy Avaya started with the purchase of CCaaS company Spoken Communications. Partners can give their clients the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they’ll always have the latest, most compliant version of their UC system with a scalable, and feature-rich cloud-hosted solution.

Powered by IP Office was a service designed to support end-users searching for an alternative route to the cloud. The solution is ideal for companies in the midst of digital transformation, as it allows them to create a cloud transition strategy that suits their budget, time frame, and expectations. End users can even select a hybrid model so that they can keep part of their UC system on-premise if they prefer.

What do we like?

There is a well-balanced sharing of UC application features between different editions, meaning businesses of 50 employees get the same opportunity to use the same advanced tools as companies of 500 or 2500. The Preferred Edition, which is mainly intended as a single site option run from an IP500 v2 server, delivers the same system features as the Server and Server Select software versions, bar a few advanced contact centre tools.

Additionally, when it comes to flexibility, there’s nothing quite like Avaya IP Office. This advanced communication solution can be tailored to suit the specific needs of the employees in your community, from the people who just need necessary communication capabilities, to high-level users who need to stay connected to everything on the go.

Who is it for?

The five available editions give IP Office an impressive range of potential customers, from the microbusiness looking for a simple, single site telephone system for 25 users or less, right up to large multisite operations touching on enterprise level. You can perhaps divide IP Office into two target markets – SMEs with up to 250 employees looking for separate server solution, and midmarket companies looking to gain efficiency savings from integrating communications with main IT systems, and to centralise networks across multiple sites.

What is it compatible with?

IP Office supports CTI integration with third party platforms through TAPI and DevLink Pro. It integrates with Skype for Business and can be configured as a plug-in for Salesforce and Microsoft Outlook, while the contact centre applications combine with a range of CRM software. Integrations are also supported with Google tools, and Skype for Business.

How much does it cost?

Pricing is based on a licensing system depending on the edition and the number of units, with additional costs for hardware. Contact your Avaya reseller for more details. Additionally, remember that you may need to pay extra if you plan on adding bespoke features to your package.

UC Today Opinion

As a solution for the small to midmarket, IP Office is as comprehensive in the range of options it provides as any rival product on the market. Perhaps that is a result of the trust and loyalty Avaya has shown in the platform, developing and expanding it through many editions to respond to changing market demands and to reach out to new customer bases.

Like Avaya itself, Avaya IP Office has evolved in recent years, showing the resilience and innovation that’s so deeply entwined with the identity of the brand. When you invest in an Avaya IP Office system, you’re not just getting the latest in UC connectivity or collaboration tools. You’re also getting the support and commitment of a brand that’s battled through thick and thin to continue delivering the best services to its customers, year after year.

It’s Avaya’s incredible personality as a business that helps to make its services so appealing. This isn’t just a UC solution that you can rely on; it’s a company that you can get behind too.

Are you an IP Office customer or reseller? Which editions do you use, or which do you find are most popular? What are your thoughts on the product overall? Please feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below, and if you know anyone else who might want a say, share this article with them.


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