ConnectMe Mobile Launches First Mobility Service for Small Businesses

Originally posted 12 February 2007 by TMCnet

One of the biggest challenges facing employees of small businesses is the need to be in two places at the same time. Sometimes work needs to be done in the office, sometimes out of the office, and sometimes life pulls an employee away from work all together. But the rules of physics and, up to this day, the limitations of technology make solving this challenge impossible.With a hosted, managed mobility service designed specifically for small businesses and optimized for smartphones, New Jersey-based ConnectMe Mobile (www.connectmemobile.com) is closing the gap between how employees work inside and outside the office.

ConnectMe Mobile is a spin-off of ConnectMe Voice which has been providing thousands of small business customers with “virtual” PBX (Private Branch Exchange) services for eight years. Virtual PBXs are hosted telephone systems that allow small businesses and businesses with employees in multiple locations to have a phone system with similar functionality to premise-based large business phone systems.Although ConnectMe Voice was a successful, growing business, customers were letting them know they wanted more.

“Our customers made it clear to us that there was still a gap between the ease of communications and access to information on the road versus in the office,” says Scott Seltzer, CEO of ConnectMe Mobile. “We have a powerful web interface that users have come to love, but it was not available to them on the road when they needed it most. So we created ConnectMe Mobile to close that gap.”

ConnectMe Mobile is designed to work with the feature set and capabilities of smartphones (at launch the service supports Windows Mobile PDA phones, but the company says support for more operating systems is coming). So the first thing ConnectMe Mobile set out to do was take the big fully-featured PBX phones that sit on every desk in large enterprises, cut off the wires and put it in a user’s pocket.Before ConnectMe Mobile, small business mobility was largely limited to forwarding calls and data to a mobile phone. With a small, easy-to-install application that uses such PDA features as the touch screen and stylus, memory card and menus, users tap and click their way through voice mail, forwarding messages, changing settings and a wide range of functions, and all without having to place a call.

The service is a fully-featured hosted PBX system too, and does not work exclusively with smartphone and PDA phones. ConnectMe Mobile also works for non-mobile employees who use desktop phones and PCs, as well as those mobile employees who use standard cell phones, or companies with any combination of the above.

Once ConnectMe integrated the PBX into its new solution, the next step was to add the additional functionality users had requested, like the ability to let users see important data. ConnectMe Mobile started with faxes. The screen of the average smart phone is small, and ConnectMe Mobile recognized that viewing a fax on such a small screen needed special features.The personal fax viewer they created uses the stylus and touch screen to allow someone to easily zoom in or out, switch between portrait and landscape, and tap and drag the fax document for easy reading.

“Finally I can actually read faxes on my PDA phone, rather than just merely knowing I got one,” says Bob Iguchi, president of TheWebSuperStore and a longtime ConnectMe Voice customer who has been using ConnectMe Mobile.

When a user receives a voicemail, fax or “audio email” (voice messages sent via email), they are all delivered to the ConnectMe Mobile inbox which looks strikingly like a mobile email client. The design is intentional, giving users an interface with which they are very familiar. Messages can be sorted by date or type, making it very easy to find, listen or view, and respond to important messages quickly.

“The simple way ConnectMe Mobile lets me review my voicemails on my PDA, make on-the-fly changes to my follow-me settings when I am traveling, and send voice messages by email is making a noticeable difference on my productivity outside the office,” says Iguchi.

The next set of features ConnectMe Mobile built into their service gives users the ability to easily and securely manage documents and work collaboratively from both PCs and smartphones. Mobile workers use the ConnectMe Mobile software on their smartphone to get encrypted access to shared and personal folders on 1 gigabyte of hosted server space – enough space to store thousands of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat and other documents.Customers can add more space if needed.

ConnectMe Mobile executives say their vision is for a person to be as far away from his office as he can be, yet still seamlessly connect to all its resources. At first look, the ConnectMe Mobile service is making great strides in that direction. While the smartphone is not likely to soon replace the laptop, there are frequently times when laptops, desktop computers and fax machines are not available.ConnectMe Mobile gives users a true mobility service addressing just those situations so business does not have to stop when employees leave the office.

Very important to a large percentage of small businesses is that the service requires no hardware to install or maintain and no technical knowledge to deploy. New users receive a message on their smartphone with a link to the software, which auto-installs once downloaded. The point and click management on the PDA phone mirrors the ease of use on the web interface available on a user’s PC.At $59.95 per month for up to ten users, the service is also very affordable.

Seltzer says once small businesses embrace mobility solutions “workers will be less tied down to their laptops, and have the freedom that comes with a productivity device that fits right into their pocket. And of course, there is a level of convenience that is so critical for workers that are traveling. Once small businesses embrace mobility, they will start to see very recognizable increases to their productivity.”

How has mobility changed Seltzer’s own life? “I used to get anxious if I had to be out of the office because I felt disconnected from what was going on and I knew work was piling up for me. Mobility keeps me connected to the office and that pile that is waiting for me when I get back from a trip is far smaller, if there is one there at all. I no longer record ‘away’ greetings on my voicemail and the people I communicate with have no idea if I’m in or out of the office.And there is no reason they should.”

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