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October 13, 2010

Star goes for plug and play UC

On-demand WorkLife platform aims for 'ignored' SMB space

By Steve Evans

UK firm Star has launched an on-demand unified communications (UC) platform, adding to its portfolio of SaaS business software.

The WorkLife Productivity Suite is available as a managed service for a fixed, per user per month price, the firm said, and is made up of email, instant messaging, presence, collaboration, conferencing and telephony. Hugo Harber, director of convergence and network strategy at Star told CBR that customers can pick and choose which services they sign up for and can be integrated with existing systems.

The ‘presence’ element of the UC platform lets workers know when a colleague is available for screen share, which Harber says will boost productivity and collaboration.

The benefits of Star’s new on-demand UC offering are, according to the company, a reduction in the cost of communications and travel while cancelling out the need for third party telephony and conference services like WebEx. Productivity should also be given a boost as the new technology can encourage home or remote workers. "2010 has been a good year for home working due to floods, snow and strikes," Harber told CBR. "Looser working conditions mean more home working and that can reduce travel costs."

No additional hardware or software costs are associated with the platform as any hardware requirements from the customer are covered in the price, Star said. The company will also take control of the day-to-day management, upgrade and support of the system, with upgrades done via a web portal.

The platform will be hosted in Star’s two UK data centres on a multi-tenant basis, the company said.

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It’s built on Microsoft applications because Star’s target market of SMBs generally use Redmond products and are familiar with them. WorkLife also integrates with BroadSoft telephony technologies.

A dedicated, on-demand UC offering is something that the SMB space has missed out on so far because the larger vendors tend to focus on the bigger businesses, while UC deployments can often be expensive and complicated. "The big guys tend to think and the enterprise level, which ignores a lot of the market," Harber said. "We think IT should be easy, it needs to take the plug and play model from the consumer space."

The Star WorkLife Productivity Suite will be available for £45 per user per month.

Star’s clients include Oxfam, Royal Albert Hall, Hanley Building Society and the Royal Academy of Dance.

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