According to recent IDC/ CompTIA research defining the reseller opportunity for selling VoIP to small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), it appears that the SMB market is ready for VoIP.
The report finds that resellers are presented with a significant opportunity to sell converged communications solutions to SMBs, with the majority of respondents saying that they recognize the business value in converged solutions, such as unified messaging and integrated voice and data applications.
The research shows that 13 percent have already deployed a merged solution, while an additional 40 percent said they are currently evaluating or will make the evaluation within 18 months. Less than one-third of the respondents said they had no plans to carry out or evaluate the merging of voice and data communications over a common network.
While the numbers show an increased awareness within the SMB community of VoIP and its benefits, its clear that not all SMBs are convinced that VoIP is a worthwhile consideration for their business operations. Perhaps its simply a matter of not being aware of all the potential benefits that accompany an upgrade to IP-based communications technology.
The first thing many people think about VoIP is that this technology is primarily a cost-saver. For many enterprises, that is enough of a reason to consider VoIP, and in fact, the cost savings element has many aspects to it that merit consideration. Tremendous cost savings come in the form of lower telephone bills. By converting voice into packets and transporting these packets over an IP network, either a private WAN or public Internet links, corporations are able to avoid the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and the associated tolls. It becomes theoretically possible to drive the cost of voice transport down to zero.
In the case of an enterprise with multiple branch offices, this is especially true. By using the companys data network, enterprises can eliminate all costs associated with calling between branches. Furthermore, they can have all locations served off of a single IP PBX, thus enabling extension dialing between far-flung locations. Now, by simply dialing a co-workers three- or four-digit extension, you can speak to a distant colleague as if he were in the very next cubicle, when in reality they might be sitting on the other side of the same building, across town, or in a remote office located on the other side of the world.
If the data network reaches a remote location, so too do the telephony applications that are enjoyed by employees at the main corporate location. Applications such as conferencing, voice mail, unified communications, click to dial: all of these new productivity enhancing services are enabled across the enterprise.
The IDC/CompTIA research found that, when asked about unified messaging, 25 percent of respondents claimed they had already deployed the solution and felt it provided good business value. Another 41 percent who had not yet deployed unified messaging said they recognized it would provide good business value.
Another major benefit of VoIP for SMBs is that managing the telecommunications system becomes increasingly simplified due to the elimination of the need to look after multiple networks. By combining separate voice and data networks into one network, VoIP enables cost savings from a network infrastructure perspective as well. In so-called greenfield deployments, there is no need to run two separate network cables (one each for voice and data). Furthermore, network administrators need manage only the single converged network.
VoIP also reduces the cost and complexity associated with moves, adds, and changes. Many enterprise VoIP solutions enable administrators to manage the system via a Web-based browser interface and allow managers to enact changes to an employees phone settings and voice mail settings (for example) remotely, and without the need to call the phone systems manufacturer to send a representative to make those moves, adds and changes. The costs can add up quickly. VoIP practically negates that expense.
There are many benefits to trading up to an IP-based telecommunications system for the SMB marketplace. Cost savings, an increase in efficiency, easier system management, and better integration of business process applications and telecommunications applications all point to a brighter future courtesy of VoIP. Many in the SMB community have already seen the light and are prepared to embrace VoIP on its merits. So this begs the question: What are you waiting for? IT
Greg Galitzine is the editorial director of Internet Telephony magazine.