PanTerra Networks Launches SmartBox, Joining File Sharing And Unified Communications

Bridging together two cloud-based technologies, PanTerra Networks launched SmartBox, an integrated platform for file sharing and unified communications for midmarket enterprise end users.

SmartBox, the first product of its kind, combines file-sharing capabilities with communications capabilities like IM, email and VoIP. The product reduces "friction" between users, letting them share files in real-time while communicating with peers, CEO Artie Chang told CRN.

The combination of the services not only cuts back on the number of solutions needed for the same job, but also helps cut costs for both partners and end users, by as much as 70 percent, Chang said.

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"If you're buying five different cloud services from five vendors, each vendor has built in a startup cost ... so they can make money. If you're paying that minimum entrance fee five times, they replace five different services," Chang said.

Chang also cited the recent Dropbox outages, now a competitor of SmartBox, most recently a several hourlong outage earlier this month. Chung said that PanTerra Networks has never experienced downtime because the company approaches its product with a "telecom mentality," instead of a cloud services point of view.

Chang said that the company plans to leverage and expand its channel, which comprises around 80 percent of its revenue, with the launch of the SmartBox service. He said that many of PanTerra Networks' telecom partners can add the product on top of existing customer relationships, increasing revenue without additional sale costs.

"The sales opportunity is significant, and since we already have significant knowledge and experience in dealing with the channel, we understand what makes the channel tick, which is, how do I make money," Chang said.

Going one step further to support the channel, Chang said that the company recognizes the tricky nature of making the switch to a recurring revenue model. He said that the partner program for SmartBox will include both a lifetime recurring revenue model for services, as well as additional revenue during the first four months for new customers to help partners make the transition to a SaaS-based model.

Tom DeLuca, sales director at Dial Communications, a North Richland Hills, Texas-based PanTerra Networks partner, said his company was "very excited" about the product release. He said that Dial Communications had previously been big Dropbox users, but has recently been using SmartBox internally. He said that he particularly appreciates the security of the file-sharing system and its accessibility on multiple mobile devices.

DeLuca said that his company mostly sells communications solutions, but was excited to branch out and add revenue and solutions packages to make customers stickier.

"As far as reselling, I think it's exciting. File sharing is definitely a growing part of the marketplace and there aren't a lot of players," DeLuca said.

He said that Dial Communications is still coming up with a strategy on how to start reselling the product to current customers and will then branch out from there. He said he expects customers to be open to the idea, but thinks they had never really thought about combining the two solutions before.

"There are definitely folks that are going to want it, and there are people that haven't thought about it," DeLuca said.

The product is being priced "aggressively," Chang said. The simplest version is available for free on the company's website. The basic version comes in at $15/seat and includes international calling abilities, file sharing and other basic communications capabilities. Customers also can upgrade to a more advanced version that can completely replace a PDX telephone system and desktop phones.

"That's one of the powers of cloud, that you can pick and choose what services you get from PanTerra. It's very customizable because that's what companies demand. They don't want to be locked in ... we allow the administrator to pick and choose however they want," Chang said.