8x8 Brings Low-Cost Cloud Videoconferencing To SMBs

The new service, Virtual Room, is targeted for the SMB market and provides access for up to 20 participants. It offers a tiered, flat rate pricing model, which starts at $199 per month.

But while there have been a number of comparatively priced or even free videoconferencing services hitting the market of late, Virtual Room differs from other offerings in the flexibility it affords its customers, and by its ability to integrate across all platforms -- from high end corporate boardroom systems, down to the handheld videophone, according to CMO Debbie Jo Severin, of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based 8x8.

“In the past, what most companies have had to do is to buy their big room systems, buy a video bridge, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. And then of course they need the IT staff to manage it,” Severin said. “What we’ve done is bought that bridge system and put that into the cloud, our network, and can now offer that to businesses of any size who want to do videoconferencing.”

And Virtual Room is good news for VARs looking to get in on the cloud-based videoconferencing craze. Since the service utilizes Polycom’s UC Intelligent Core software platform, VARs who partner with 8x8 have the option to sell affordable Polycom products to clients to support Virtual Room, for example their VVX videophones, and also receive ongoing residuals from the services they connect.

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According to Severin, VARs will be an integral part of their channel strategy going forward with this service.

“The channel will love selling great hardware. They are going to be able to sell a great telepresence system, and nice videophones and so we felt like this was a good service to layer on top,” she said. “We think it’s a nice cloud based service that they can sell that doesn’t cannibalize their current business.”

8x8 has been stepping up its channel game, launching a new partner program this past June.

Jonathan Rusk of Phoenix-based Chromis Technology, said his clients showed interest in videoconferencing in the past, but until now high costs were an impediment to sales. Now, Virtual Room from 8x8 allows for more people to join in on virtual collaboration in a secure, reliable and integrated way, which doesn’t break the bank for small- to mid-sized businesses.

“What Virtual Room offers is a unique, hybrid hosted service that is high end without the need for expensive gear. It’s a nuanced service that can allow you to meet regularly with colleagues or clients or will allow you to bring someone off-net in, even for one consultation,” he said.

Rusk said he’s excited to be part of what he called the “Wild West” of cloud-based videoconferencing. “It’s been hot, but it’s getting hotter. I think it’s just the beginning.”