Talk on equal terms

THE revolution in communications is a double-edged sword for small businesses, as it offers them the opportunity to compete more equally with the big boys but only if they invest, writes Roger Trapp.

This is where Nexus Telecom comes in. Launched in Oxford last year by three former colleagues at Northern Telecom, the company has put small businesses on the road to competing at an affordable price. Now, it is improving its offering by launching a version of its Nexus Call Server that allows 30 ISDN channels, six standard lines and 56 extensions to be run off one piece of equipment.

As with its original product, the system works by using a smart card plugged into the back of a computer server to turn a locally-networked computer system into the office telephone exchange. Moreover, by linking the two technologies the company can help customers provide the sorts of service that callers have come to expect from utilities and other large organisations, such as instant identification based on their telephone number, simultaneous recall of account data, and easy transferring of calls.

The linking of computers and telephone systems in this way also enables outward calls to be made automatically by clicking on the computer screen. Similarly, messages taken while employees are out can be left on a screen and returned at the touch of a button, saving the need for lots of little notes.

John Burton, the Nexus managing director, puts ease of use right besides price and adaptability as the most attractive aspects of his firm's products. Operation is totally intuitive, he says.

The past 18 months have seen the company, which is backed by 3i and Lucius Cary's Oxford Technology Venture Capital Trust, invest heavily in developing a dealer network, largely because it believes that the convergence of computers and telecommunications requires a new type of seller.

Nexus is intent on staying at the forefront of developments through partnerships with a range of organisations from IBM to the distributor AVG Sales and Marketing, supplier of the software programme GoldMine.

But Mr Burton is aware that a large telecommunications company keen to get into this area might want to buy up a company that still employs only 12 people.