Ooma Helps Small Businesses Face the Fax

Ooma, provider of VoIP hardware and phone services, has more features in store for owners of its small business communication offering. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has added electronic fax support and rolled out call log enhancements to Ooma Office, CEO Eric Stang told Small Office Computing.

The features are part of Ooma’s mission to level the playing field for very small businesses (VSBs—defined as those with one to a handful of employees) and provide them with a voice communications platform that is indistinguishable from the systems used by larger companies; minus, of course, the complexity.

Most competitive VoIP solutions are downsized versions of enterprise products, which leaves VSBs “truly underserved,” said Stang. Ooma got its start as a consumer brand, which he sees as an advantage when it comes to delivering technology products for small businesses.  At home, people don’t want to fuss with convoluted installations and configuration sessions before they can place a single phone call. It stands to reason that small business owners don’t want to either.

“Keep it simple, and just make it work,” said Stang of his company’s stance on products for the consumer set. “We really brought that philosophy to the small business.” The system is simple to setup and use, noted Small Business Computing’s Joseph Moran in his review of Ooma Office.

Now the company has expanded on what the platform can do.

Expanded Features in Ooma Office

New electronic fax capabilities let small business owners send, receive and manage faxes without forking over cash for another device, or on reams of paper for that matter. Jim Gustke, vice president of marketing for Ooma, explained that you can deliver faxes as attachments and view them in Ooma’s administration interface without ever printing a single sheet of paper.

The end-to-end digital nature of the technology also eliminates a common problem with traditional fax machines: garbled faxes. Alluding to traditional phone technology, which was designed to carry conversations, not documents, Gustke said “VoIP has difficulty sending a fax,” particularly long ones. Ooma’s electronic digital fax capabilities generate pristine, hot-off-the-printer documents.

To help small businesses better manage the platform, Ooma will also provide detailed call logs. “The administrator can see all the calls going in and out,” said Gustke, a boon for professionals that bill hourly or include calls in their fee structures.

In December, the company will also institute a new, simplified pricing plan. Previously, Ooma charged $19.99 per month per line, which Gustke admits caused confusion among customers as to what constituted a line (Ooma offers a mix of actual and virtual numbers). Under the new plan, the company charges $9.99 per month per user and $9.99 per month per phone number with unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada, allowing customers to better tailor their setups to their needs.

Ooma isn’t stopping there. Starting in 2014, the company plans to release several upgrades, said Stang, including new mobile features. Also in the works is a capacity increase, up from five phone lines currently. Finally, look for integrations that make it easier to roll voice communications into other business processes and systems, he hinted.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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