Creating a Communications System Built for Hybrid work: How existing customers can transform their on-prem solution with cloud-based flexibility

Survey after survey keeps telling us that the in-office workplace is a thing of the past. Offices are not obsolete, but most companies admit that remote work didn’t cause any collapses of infrastructure, operations, or productivity. In fact, 83 percent of employers and 71 percent of employees call remote work a success according to PwC’s Remote Work Survey.

Hybrid work models involve flexibility on where someone works, whether remote, on-site, or anywhere in between. However, this model is creating challenges for businesses with existing on-premises phone systems as they look for a seamless transition that keeps operations moving forward.

Introducing UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE – Your BRIDGE to the Cloud

Up until now, the options on-premises NEC customers had in response to remote and hybrid work was limited. On-premises users had two options: continue utilizing an existing on-premises phone system with disparate applications or abandon the on-prem investment and move to a completely different solution.

NEC recognized the need to provide another option to meet the needs of our customers in this new work environment. That’s why we created UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE. This new option extends existing NEC phone systems with cloud-based communication tools via desktop and mobile apps, creating a seamless, all-in-one communications experience.

Protect Your NEC Phone System Investment, Extend Its Capabilities

Many on-premises NEC PBX customers are choosing to keep their existing on-premises system due to its’ long shelf life, despite the hybrid work benefits of cloud communications; and this is why we have differentiated our strategy from other competitors in this space. NEC will continue selling and supporting premise systems for many years to come, and enhance their capabilities through integrations into the cloud. This is great news for NEC premise customers! If your on-premises system continues to work well for your business, there is probably not an immediate need to migrate to a full cloud-based unified communications (UCaaS) solution. You already paid the capital expense for your on-premises system, so it’s understandable for businesses to opt out of a full cloud migration to see their investment through its end-of-life.

With UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE, existing on-premises NEC customers no longer have to choose between the flexibility of cloud communications or protecting their current phone system investment.

UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE was designed specifically for NEC customers. It seamlessly integrates with:

  • UNIVERGE® SV9100
  • UNIVERGE® SV9300
  • UNIVERGE® SV9500
  • UNIVERGE 3C®

CONNECT BRIDGE enables inbound and outbound calling via desktop and mobile apps, PLUS includes an integrated suite of collaboration services.

Consolidate Multiple Standalone Solutions – Reduce Complexity and Costs

To keep up with the needs of the workforce during the pandemic, businesses with on-premises phone systems turned to standalone collaboration services with the intent of empowering employees to stay connected and maintain productivity from dispersed locations. While this approach may have worked for the short term, as a long-term solution, there are many drawbacks.

Leveraging multiple disparate systems cause productivity and efficiency challenges. Lack of integration results in these standalone tools living in silos, leading to significant issues for the business at the user level. Additionally, using multiple standalone solutions often means juggling multiple vendors and bills. This can result in billing complexities and higher costs than consolidating all your tools into one application, which is traditionally a benefit of migrating your entire solution to the cloud.

UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE brings together your existing NEC phone system with the critical collaboration tools your teams need – all in one single application from the provider you already trust with your business communications, NEC. By extending your existing NEC phone system with cloud-based tools via desktop and mobile apps, employees enjoy one seamless solution with all the collaboration tools they need to get work done. The days of switching back and forth from one application to another are over. Now, employees receive a seamless, all-in-one communications experience for one low per-user monthly fee.

How To Solve Collaboration Issues In A Hybrid Work Environment

Allowing for remote flexibility is good for business and retaining high-value employees. They have different expectations now, with 92 percent of employees requesting to work remotely at least one day a week.

How do you manage a hybrid workforce and all their communication and collaboration needs? Regardless of where your employees sit, they should have the same experience with access to the technology required to do their jobs well. Now, on-premises NEC users can leverage their existing platform to be the ideal solution for hybrid teams. With UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE, employees can collaborate in the office, at home, or anywhere in between with integrated video conferencing, chat, and file sharing/backup.

Hybrid work requires advanced tools such as video, chat, messaging, and file sharing to enable seamless and quick collaboration. For businesses with existing on-premises NEC phone systems, depending solely on the voice features with an on-premises PBX could result in a disadvantage when it comes to hybrid working and attracting new talent who expects flexible working environments.

Enhance productivity and collaboration through seamless cloud UC integrations with NEC’S UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE, keeping your team connected anywhere they are.

How Organizations Need to Respond to Shifting Communications Needs

Business communications needs are different than they were during the in-office work era. While businesses had to pivot to address communications and collaboration quickly, many did so in haste; hence, the standalone applications model. Now, you need business communications tools that address current and future work models. Futureproofing the work model will be a priority for every business that wants to grow and thrive. Thankfully, there’s a way to do this while leveraging your investment with your existing NEC phone system through NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT BRIDGE.

Now is the time to look for a consolidated approach that extends your business phone system to remote workers, protects your current investment, and adds on additional voice and collaboration tools that your employees need to stay connected and productive. To learn how NEC can help, reach out to your Authorized NEC Representative, or visit the CONNECT BRIDGE website to learn more: www.univergeblue.com/connect-bridge

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UNIVERGE BLUE is not just a suite of services, it’s a strategy for NEC’s Channel Partners

As a global leader in communications solutions with over 75 million global users, NEC relies on a large Channel Partner network to drive the best results for those customers. NEC started offering services for products well over a decade ago in response to the service-model demand from customers.

In the “NEC UNIVERGE BLUE is a Strategy, and a Suite of Services” Podcast, I sat down with NEC’s Director of UNIVERGE BLUE Sales Strategy,Mike Mitsch to discuss NEC’S UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program. In the podcast, we learn how UNIVERGE BLUE helps NEC’s end-users successfully meet their cloud migration plans while enabling the Channel Partner to remain close to the customer and effectively “own” the relationship, even as the customer moves to the service model.

What is UNIVERGE BLUE?

NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE offers a comprehensive set of unified communications, collaboration, backup/disaster recovery, and contact center services. UNIVERGE BLUE incorporates all the clients’ business communication methods and devices into one integrated, easy-to-manage system.

According to Mitsch, UNIVERGE BLUE not only delivers enterprise-grade cloud communications and backup as a service, but it’s been tailored to the needs of the Channel Partners who historically, literally, installed the NEC base, and that base’s customers.

“UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES Channel Partner Program was designed to give our Channel Partners choices” explains Mike. NEC understands that partner programs are not “one size fits all” – and that is why NEC lets Channel Partners choose from three, robust Channel Partner models based on what’s right for their business and their customers, and how they want to make money.

  • Customer Ownership Model: In this model, the customer contracts with the Channel Partner who has full ownership of billing, bundling and support. They take top line revenue on a Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) basis.
  • Agency Model & Revenue Share Model: In these models, the customer contracts with NEC through the Channel Partner. Channel partners are still fully involved with the customer during the sale and on-going support, while NEC handles billing if that’s what the partner prefers.

UNIVERGE BLUE – A strategy for Channel Partners

The ever-changing cloud services industry doesn’t just have an impact on service providers and their customers, but the people in the middle of the sales cycle too. For years, NEC has been committed to delivering solutions that appeal to their channel partner’s target audience and deliver bottom line revenue. Now that the cloud model is growing in desirability, NEC is helping Channel Partner’s rethink the way that they go to market with cloud services, so they can continue to provide personalized support to end-users while accessing the same value.

“There can’t be just one way to adopt cloud-services. NEC’s customer base is comprised of many on-premises PBX users, so we developed our program to provide these partners a bridge into a hybrid environment.” Mike explains that by offering flexible deployment models, Channel Partners can appeal to any audience – those who want to stay on-premises, take a hybrid approach, or migrate entirely to a cloud environment.

Why should new Channel Partners consider NEC?

Mike shared a few reasons why new Channel Partners should consider the UNIVERGE BLUE Channel Partner program. The first reason is self-service. The program was tailor-made for Channel Partners to sell, install, and support. NEC designed UNIVERGE BLUE from the ground up with input from their Channel Partner community and with the goal of making it easy for them to sell cloud services profitably.

NEC also offers a variety of onboarding education and support, so when new Channel Partners are brought on, they can quickly start adding value and displacing their competition.

Additionally, Mike points out NEC’s longevity in the IT market and their large customer base. “NEC’s brand recognition and large following gives new Channel Partners access to our PBX customer base – the ability to choose a Channel Partner model that is best for them is the icing on the cake.”

Synergistic suite of services, combined with excellent partner training

Mitsch explains that UNIVERGE BLUE was built to coexist – customers need their communications to integrate with other commonly used business applications. Mitsch describes UNIVERGE BLUE to be a synergistic suite of services, combined with excellent Channel Partner training. Mitsch also points to NEC as being one of the early adopters to have Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) integration with Microsoft® Teams, signaling to the Channel Partner community that NEC Corporation of America is a path into the Teams market, with a package that’s designed to anticipate an on-premises network and the adoption of cloud by the customer.

Cloud Services for Any Industry

A few significant industries that will remain conducting business in person are healthcare, hospitality, and education. These verticals have a long history with NEC and UNIVERGE BLUE is now helping major organizations to move to the cloud. “We leveraged our industry expertise and verticalized our UNIVERGE BLUE Solutions, making it much easier for our channel partners be competitive within these industries” Mitsch shares.

Whether it is doctor’s office or a government agency, there are innumerable vertical and horizontal opportunities for NEC’s Channel Partners to deliver UNIVERGE BLUE to companies looking to offer a better experience to their customers. By working with NEC, Channel Partners can look to the future and focus on expansion to help customers stay competitive as cloud services become central to a greater customer experience.

To learn more about the NEC UNIVERGE BLUE Channel Partner Program, visit www.univergeblue.com/partners and visit the Channel Partner Success Story page to hear what NEC’s Channel Partners are saying about UNIVERGE BLUE.

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Please let us know if you have any questions about the program or to meet with a UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program Representative. Fill out the form, and we will get back with you.

9 Ways an Aging Phone System Could be Putting Business Success on Hold

Prior to the advent of Cloud Communications, companies relied upon on-premises hardware to deliver their communications. The trouble with continuing the use of an on-premises phone system is the architecture of conventional phone systems dates to a time when going to work meant going into an office. Many were even designed when smartphones were considered nothing but science fiction. Today’s workers require more agility and capabilities than these systems support.

Traditional On-Prem PBX with UC vs. UCaaS

Unified Communications (UC) systems can take two forms: On-Premises and in the cloud, which is referred to as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). So which is best?

With on-premises UC, you own the phone system, the infrastructure and host all hardware on-site, paying for it as a capital expense. For businesses with multiple locations, PBX hardware must be installed in each location. To implement a new application, you typically have to buy new hardware/software, install it, get your resources trained on how to support it, and then go through a series of tests.

A cloud phone system with UCaaS combines many different communications applications and features into one platform, hosted in the cloud. You can choose to rent or own the phones, and in a lot of cases, phones are offered free by service providers, and you pay a monthly subscription for all maintenance, features, upgrades, and support. UCaaS takes phone system management and maintenance off your plate. All you need is an internet connection to access a cloud service, making it easy to link different branches and integrate mobile devices.

A modern cloud phone system not only provides highly reliable connectivity and call quality but is also easy to deploy and simple to maintain. Plus, the cloud delivers the agility and advanced features your business needs to keep pace with consumers and mobile workers.

In this blog post, we’ll uncover the 9 ways an aging phone system could be putting your business success on hold.

Too Costly

ROI CalculatorWith a cloud-based phone system, you enjoy one flat-rate for all your calls nationwide. For one predictable monthly charge, you also get a range of additional services without the complexity of multiple bills. Contrast that with traditional on-premises systems where, even when the hardware is paid for, you still incur ongoing costs for things like software upgrades, maintenance, and support. You may also need expensive expansion cards for adding new users or costly private business exchange (PBX) lines for connectivity between multiple locations.

Low Customer Satisfaction

A study by the respected research firm Gartner also found that when it comes to making a purchase, 64% of people find customer experience more important than price. This means businesses must quickly put customers in touch with exactly who they need.

This can create problems for businesses still using traditional on-premises phone systems. When a traditional on-premises PBX phone system is not built to integrate with your teams’ mobile devices, you leave yourself open to a poor customer experience unless your sales representatives happen to be sitting at their desks right when the customer calls. A modern cloud phone system gives your employees the ability to answer a call from any device and stay in touch with customers anytime, anywhere, and from virtually any mobile device.

Unreliable Phone Service with Traditional PBX

First and foremost, every business needs reliable phone service and good call quality. Of the many shortcomings of traditional PBX systems, their lack of adequate disaster recovery and business continuity may be the most serious. On-site legacy systems are not designed to provide continuous connectivity in the event of outages from natural disasters and other events.

With UCaaS, your communications and collaboration solutions run in the cloud, in redundant datacenters, not on on-premises hardware. This means business continues even in the event of a fire, power outage, or natural disaster.

Weak Security and Compliance

With a cloud-based system, data is backed up to secure datacenters that employ dedicated security personnel to monitor networks and server rooms at all times and are built to withstand natural disasters. With on-premises phone systems, servers are located in your office, which is more susceptible to break-ins and unforeseen weather disasters, which pose threats to your servers containing your data.

With the right cloud provider, robust security protects your data. This is particularly important for small- and medium-size businesses, which typically lack the dedicated IT and Security staff of larger businesses. The right cloud service provider experts can provide world-class security, which includes compliance with government regulations like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

Not Mobile Friendly

Most traditional PBX systems, with their hardwired infrastructures, can’t easily accommodate the needs of an increasingly wireless, mobile world. A cloud phone system provides apps for mobile devices and desktops to support your workers anywhere they roam. This mobility allows mobile employees to access conference calls, video conferences, faxing, and team chats from a mobile device. Meanwhile, your customers can reach your employees from a single company phone number.

Hard to Scale

What happens when your business grows, and you need to add more users? With traditional PBX with UC, more phones and UC licenses need to be purchased and installed. You’ll also need to ensure that sufficient voice channels will be provisioned, which involves significant lead time that could severely impede your ability to react in a timely manner. Cloud-based communications provides users with on-demand scalability and bursting capabilities. This means you can increase your seat count in record time – or quickly scale down during slower seasons to control costs.

Difficult to Set Up Branch Offices and Remote Workers

As businesses undergo mergers and acquisitions, move offices, launch new international locations, and hire new teleworkers, your communications must be able to adapt quickly. With traditional communications platforms, adding a PBX to each location can be slow, labor intensive and expensive. This limits an organization’s flexibility to easily adopt new features, functionality, or process improvements.

Rather than requesting a service call or waiting for the phone company to provision lines, a cloud phone system lets you simply send phones to new offices or remote workers.

Aging, Out of Data PBX

Premises-based PBX systems can quickly become out of date as keeping up with updates and new feature enhancements can become costly and time consuming. Moving traditional software models to the cloud helps ensure employee access to the communication tools they need, while also helping you stay up to date with the latest versions.

A top-tier cloud service provider will automatically upgrade your calling and other features in the cloud so you won’t have to worry about upgrades or added fees.

Cumbersome and Complicated

A cloud-based phone system eliminates the need to pay for collaboration services such as video conferencing, chat, file storage, internet fax, backup, and other stand-alone services from different suppliers. This not only reduces procurement and billing complexity as with a traditional PBX but also dramatically improves employee productivity. For example, with an integrated cloud communications service, employees collaborating in a group chat can instantly elevate the session to a video conference or web meeting without leaving the application.

Ready to Move to the Cloud?

The days of waiting for the phone company to deliver, set up, and connect on-site business phone hardware are gone. With NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT, you will have a reliable, full-featured cloud-based phone system up and running almost instantly.

If you’re ready to make the move, chose a cloud company with superior call quality, proven reliability, and a track record for stellar customer service and support. The fully integrated UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT solution provides a premier business phone system to meet your needs.

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NEC at NRF 2020: Seamless Retail Customer Experiences with Greater Operational Efficiency

NEC was one of the early pioneers in biometrics technologies since the 1970s. Today, NEC is the world’s leading provider of biometric solutions to both governments and commercial entities, which include air travel, theme parks, stadiums, casinos and more. Next stop: retail, where we are leading new initiatives to transform the Customer Experience (CX).

Looking Customer Loyalty Right in the FaceAt NRF 2020, visitors to NEC’s booth got a glimpse of how retailers are using facial biometrics to deliver an improved CX and achieve tangible business benefits.

Several years ago, we deployed a Customer Experience initiative aimed at transforming the way consumers transact in physical spaces, from entering theme parks and stadiums, to boarding planes, accessing benefits and making payments, interactions that require security as well as streamlined convenience. Today, we see this visionary concept in several very high-profile implementations. And what we saw at NRF this year, is that the retail space is ready to embrace this trend, with facial recognition as the enabler for an item-of-interest to become an item-in-hand with minimal effort and delay. Our leading technology makes it possible to deliver on this promise.

Customer Experience Starts with Fast, Frictionless Transactions

To kick off their booth experience at NRF 2020, visitors self-registered by simply taking a picture of their face, creating a digital ID on our facial identity management platform, NEC I:Delight. This one time enrollment enabled multiple touchpoints and experiences throughout the booth, providing for faster, more secure transactions for applications such as loyalty and payment.

As customers progressed through the booth, they experienced our facial recognition enabled Self-Checkout solution. This self-checkout lane recognizes the items a customer has placed in their shopping bag via RFID, calculates payment and then activates the charge without the customer ever stopping or swiping a credit card. As they walk through the lane, the customer has the option of scanning a QR code on their device or using their face as the “method of payment." NRF attendees also had the opportunity to interact with NEC’s technology partner, POP ID, a Cali Group company. POP ID’s self-ordering kiosk makes recommendations based on past food orders for faster decision-making, reducing wait times, increasing customer loyalty and revenue opportunities. Customers simply register once on their mobile device, and then use the kiosk to choose items and pay without pulling out a wallet or device a second time. Available at numerous quick-service restaurant (QSR) locations today, POP ID’s “Face-pay” concept is enabling unique and memorable customer experiences and generating a fast return on investment.

Experience Advanced Analytics

NEC also showed how facial technology can be applied to enhance data analytics and assist retailers behind the scenes to improve business operations. By analyzing key aspects of the shopper population, either in-store or in front of a particular display, retailers are able to send offers or engage customers in real time based on their individual interests. These types of up-to-the-minute data analytics help retailers survive and thrive in this competitive marketplace. Reliable sales data enables tailored in-store offers to customers, plus aids in managing inventory and staffing.

Retail … the Next Facial Recognition Frontier!

Finally, visitors could see NEC’s next-generation, modular point of sale (POS) design. Our POS design includes a space-saving footprint that can transform from a manned-POS station into a self-service POS just by turning around the peripherals. The embedded facial recognition option enables seamless payment. Both single and double-display versions are available.

Which of these retail trends does your organization plan to embrace in the coming year? Talk to an NEC expert to hear more and engage in our Biometric CX Discovery & Strategic Planning Process as a first step in realizing your vision. Simply fill out the form below, and we’ll get in touch!

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Create the Perfect Cloud Solution for your Organization

Cloud computing used to be the “wave of the future” but now small businesses and large enterprises alike are realizing the benefits. Instead of replacing aging infrastructure or making large purchases as the business grows, cloud services allows scalability and availability at a lower operating cost. Small businesses enjoy enterprise grade features and mobility with the use of cloud computing, allowing them to do more with less cost, less maintenance and a smaller staff. Large enterprises can grow exponentially, deploying large systems on a scalable platform that’s available when needed.

A cloud solution allows organizations to revolutionize how they deploy business applications, communicate and store data with greater flexibility and scale. Businesses that have previously managed their own infrastructure may be hesitant to subscribe to a public cloud model. A private cloud or a hybrid solution, may be a good alternative for those businesses looking to maintain control over security and expenses while offering the latest technologies.

Built on our award-winning IT infrastructure, NEC offers flexible solutions for organizations considering a private, trusted cloud or hybrid cloud solution.

Communicate Better with Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)

UCaaS, or Unified Communications as a Service, offers tools for businesses seeking to move communications, messaging, chat, video collaboration, contact centers and more into the cloud. UCaaS is customizable, allowing organizations of any size to scale up or down, depending on seasonal demand, so that businesses are only paying for what they’re using. Lower up-front costs, minimal maintenance and extensive mobility allows your IT staff to be proactive and efficient, anywhere and at any time.

NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Business Cloud Services delivers dynamic flexible UCaaS options, using public, private or a hybrid cloud, and can also leverage your current on-premises PBX investment. NEC’s cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions brings value and, if needed, improves upon the existing IT infrastructure.

UNIVERGE SV9100 BLUE

Straight out-of-the-box, UNIVERGE SV9100 BLUE delivers hybrid cloud communications for businesses wanting the ease and cost-effectiveness of a cloud solution while still maintaining an on-premises system. Reliable and secure, the SV9100 BLUE provides unified communications and mobility applications with a minimal investment.

Hosted Telephony

NEC’s hosted telephony solution reduces the need for in-house maintenance by a telephony support team. Free up space in the data center and management costs for scalable features such as call recording, automated attendant, mobility and call transfers from a landline to a cell or a computer.

UNIVERGE BLUE SIP Trunking

Route calls over an IP network instead of traditional phone lines with NEC’s SIP Trunking. For businesses with multiple offices, SIP Trunking turns voice into an application, creating the appearance of a single location without the cost of extensive infrastructure.

UNIVERGE BLUE Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)

Capitalize on customer interactions and let them engage with you on their terms, from anywhere, at any time by providing multiple avenues of communication through social media, SMS, webchat and more with NEC’s CCaaS. Customers speak to a real person, specifically selected to meet their needs through skills-based routing, while allowing high-priority clients to skip to the front of the line. Additionally, NEC’s CCaaS provides metrics and workforce management solutions to improve the effectiveness of your customer service team.

UNIVERGE BLUE Team Collaboration

Improve company-wide communication and collaboration with NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Team Collaboration. Enabling users to participate in private one-to-one, group, or company-wide conversations. Communications are streamlined and can follow users to whatever device they are using at the time.

Unified Threat Management

NEC’s Unified Threat Management monitors and manages threats between the local network and the local gateway. The appliance connects to the cloud for up-to-the-minute virus definition updates and can also be used for keyword filtering, URL filtering and notifications when a threat is detected.

UNIVERGE BLUE Video Collaboration

NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Video Collaboration delivers a reliable video hosting solution for businesses. Powered by Vidyo, this scalable communications solution offers 4K quality, multi-party conferencing, crystal clear picture and sound from any device and location at an affordable price.

Backup as a Service (BaaS)

In a sobering 2018 statistic, 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within six months of the disaster. As cloud environments grow, the need to securely back up and manage data that is delivered in the cloud and not cloud-delivered has also grown. Considering the threat of natural disasters, power outages, cyberattacks and man-made errors, NEC offers powerful Backup as a Service (BaaS) solutions to mitigate the risk of data loss and save businesses money on the investment of backup infrastructure.

Built on NEC’s award-winning distributed grid storage platform, HYDRAstor®, placed in highly regulated, compliant and secure IronMountain® datacenters and using industry-leading Commvault® backup software, BaaS delivers powerful performance and security. Whether backing up between datacenters on site, straight to the cloud or in virtual or physical environments, organizations can expect cost-effective managed backup 7x24x365, advanced encryption, compliance and easy scalability.

NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Cloud Services allows your organization to grow and deliver a reliable and secure experience with minimal investment. Customize the solution that’s perfect for your organization. Contact an NEC Solutions Expert to learn more.

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