When Century 21 Eudan Realty lost power for eight days after Hurricane Sandy, phone calls were redirected to owner David Fanale's cell phone, making him in effect a one-man call center.
The ensuing chaos convinced Fanale he needed a smarter way to manage outages for his Hasbrouck Heights business. He believes he found a backup plan by hiring Voixis, a provider of Internet-based telephony that sells cloud-based phone systems to business.
Even after a storm, when real estate sales are naturally down, Fanale says plenty of legal legwork and paperwork can be done regarding ongoing transactions.
“I can't afford to be down,” Fanale said. “When my phone's ringing, that call could be worth $4,000 or $5,000. We can't afford to be down that much. Not in this economy.”
Such feedback explains why Voixis believes it has identified a critical niche. Whereas cloud services are normally associated with storing backup documents, Voixis unveiled its Voice Continuity Plan to do the same for phones.
“Why would you move 50 percent of your business to the cloud but not the other 50 percent?” said Robert Cistaro, vice president of sales.
Voixis stores Internet-connected servers at its Belleville headquarters that manage its client phone systems. CEO Louis Lombardi says Voixis incorporates all elements of a complete business phone setup, such as extensions, voicemail and forwarding instructions, that essentially mimics the original. Users can tap their phone system from any Web-connected device, be it a computer, tablet or smartphone.
“What we have done is basically created another phone system sitting somewhere else,” Lombardi said. “It answers the phone the same as if you were at your office.”
Fanale, whose Century 21 operation employs about 30 people at offices in Hasbrouck Heights and Rutherford, says it beats the haphazard nature of relying on individual cell phones for backup.
“If we lose power in our main office, our phones will be working because of the phone system they implemented,” Fanale said. “It's one less thing for me as a business owner to worry about.”
Voixis, previously a division of Eastern Computer Services Inc., spun into a standalone company in 2011, selling Internet-based phone systems to small and midsize businesses.
The startup sees cloud-based service as key to its growth, which it hopes to apply nationally. Lombardi says privately held Voixis has booked about $2 million in business in the past six months. Monthly plans can range from $200 to $700 depending on the size of a client's business and the complexity of the phone system, he said.
Because Voixis technology contains elements of a full phone system, Cistaro says businesses can conduct their regular phone operations through the cloud if they wish. In fact, that's the vision at Voixis.
“We already have that information,” Cistaro said. “All they have to do is purchase a handset. Not only is it today's backup system. It's an on-ramp to tomorrow's phone system.”
Voixis, currently based out of Eastern Computer Services' Belleville office, plans to move into its own, larger space in Rutherford in 2014 as it delves into new frontiers. Lombardi said its next phase is to create backup email systems via the cloud.
Weather-inflicted damage being a universal phenomenon, Lombardi says the company is eyeing national expansion next year. Voixis is hiring resellers to work contractually, saving the company labor costs associated with a national rollout.
“Anyone who has a phone system of a decent size” is vulnerable to weather-related disruptions, Lombardi said. “That includes the South, hurricane season and up to the West Coast. Then you can include Chicago and the Plains states, where you have had tornadoes.”
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