centurylink_CenturyLink announced the launch of Managed Office today, which aims to target small and medium businesses (SMBs) with a voice and data managed services solution. It’s the latest example of service providers trying to leverage their network assets and IT expertise to introduce new value added managed services to business, and in some cases, consumer market segments.

CenturyLink Managed Office will target SMBs with a suite of services that includes hosted VoIP, on-site customer premises equipment,  hosted business software applications and storage, and IT security, with the training and support required to launch and maintain the service. The idea is to give SMBs a one-stop shop for their voice, data, and software needs, all for a single monthly cost. SMB customers don’t have to buy any equipment or software, rather they “rent it” from CenturyLink, with a dedicated “…project manager and an account consultant who learns its business…”

“Managed Office is CenturyLink’s solution for customers who are frustrated managing disparate networks, keeping up with new technologies, allocating IT staff, reconciling multiple bills, making never-ending investments in IT infrastructure and failing to resolve issues via the traditional call center support model,” said Shirish Lal, senior vice president of marketing, CenturyLink in a press release.

Inside Managed Office
Thuy Ha, director of managed services for CenturyLink shared more details with Telecompetitor regarding the new service. CenturyLink plans to offer it both in and out of their incumbent territory, with coverage in “…all 50 states, at 6,700 rate centers where the Broadsoft Hosted Voice service is offered,” Ha revealed.

The software package includes a hosted Microsoft Exchange offer for email, calendar, address book, and contacts, with hosted Sharepoint for each site, with 100 GB of storage. Ha says more applications are being evaluated and will be added over time.  For security, Managed Office will leverage McAfee for email and endpoint protection.

“On-Line backup, which enables backup for PCs, laptops and mobile devices through our simple Management Console…” is included and each user will get 10 GB of space.

From an equipment standpoint, Managed Office includes “…feature-rich IP phones, routers, switches and Wi-Fi access points,” but no PCs or tablets. Ha did say that PCs, tablets and other devices are “…on the roadmap for supply and management.” All equipment costs are rolled into the per seat price.

“A predictable cost model helps businesses move from a capital expense (CapEx) model of purchasing and maintaining equipment on premises to an operational expense model (OpEx) where business pays for usage not ownership,” says Ha. CenturyLink declined to reveal specific pricing, but said it will be determined by length of contract and total number of seats.

Crowded Competitive Field
CenturyLink sees their competitive advantage coming from the customer service that Managed Office will provide. Ha says they have identified an approach to beat competitors, who they identify as AT&T, Verizon, Windstream, Comcast, Earthlink and Cbeyond, among others.

“A ‘white glove’ customer care experience is our main differentiator for the small and medium-sized business leader who is accustomed to spending time on hold with a call center or working with a different contact person for every customer service interaction.  We anticipate that these customers will quickly find value in working with an account manager who knows their IT and networking needs inside and out,” said Ha.

Managed Office and products like it are increasingly becoming available and attractive to offer for service providers who have invested in cloud and hosting infrastructure, or partnered with the right companies who can offer it for them in a white-label fashion.

The SMB market segment represents a revenue opportunity measured in the tens of billions, and service providers like CenturyLink are moving quickly to seize it. It’s a crowded field and getting more crowded by the day, as traditional telecom carriers defend their turf, new IP based service providers seize the opportunity, and cable companies move in for new revenue growth.

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