When it comes to advancements in telecommunications, SMBs historically have gotten the short end of the technological stick. Large corporations and consumers have been among the early adopters of VoIP due in large part to large corporations having the money to invest in emerging technologies like VoIP in order to save themselves money in the long run. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, consumers are being offered VoIP services at rock-bottom monthly rates from service providers willing to sacrifice profit margins in order to gain widespread adoption.
SMBs fall into the middle of this paradigm; they are too small to afford the investments larger corporations can make easily and too large to ride on the coattails of consumer VoIP offerings. This presents a tremendous opportunity for hosted IP telephony providers, but also a significant challenge in convincing the SMBs to change their communications infrastructures.
While VoIP is attractive with the main benefits consisting of flexibility, simplification of infrastructure, scalability, improved productivity, wireless compatibility and most of all, a reduction in operating costs SMBs have proved slower to change their telephony infrastructures than originally predicted. Once the benefits are understood, there are a number of factors that can trigger the migration to VoIP, however.
Many small companies are considering hosted PBX in the context of events that require attention to the communications situation. Any events related to growth of the company are high on the list including:
A PBX system that is out of gas.
A key trigger for SMBs is when they have exceeded the capacity of their existing phones system. A large capital expenditure is required because the current systems modular capacity (i.e., cards in slots) has been exceeded and/or the system is obsolete and no longer supported by the manufacturer.
The addition of branch offices.
When SMBs expand, so does the complexity of their communications systems. With VoIP, SMBs will be able to seamlessly manage campuses of geographically dispersed offices or remote workers and make administration of adds/moves/changes with ease.
The need to cut costs.
SMBs constantly are looking at new ways to cut expenditures. Instead of dealing with projected estimated costs of intrastate long-distance associated with traditional phone service, hosted VoIP solutions give SMBs the ability to control certain recurring costs (e.g., intrastate longdistance) and predictable, incremental costs for growth.
VoIP-specific feature benefits are also a trigger for SMB adoption including:
The ability to extend reach.
SMBs can eliminate location as a limiting factor through VoIP, specifically hosted PBX. An SMB can place its communication presence and resources anywhere broadband reaches.
The ability to stay ahead of the technology curve.
Traditionally limited by the expense of new technologies, SMBs desire to have access to the latest and greatest features and functionality that can give them a leg up on the competition. With VoIP, SMBs have ongoing feature enhancements without the headache of equipment replacement/upgrades.
The ability to unload infrastructure management.
The telephone man becomes obsolete with a hosted VoIP service-delivery model that mirrors the support for SMBs computing and IT needs.
The ability to do more with less.
With special features like call forwarding and extension-dialing, VoIP becomes more than just a cost-saving measure its a tool to enable employees to enhance their productivity.
In order to spur continued migration in the SMB arena, it is vital for hosted IP telephony providers to understand the key decision-making indicators at play when these companies officially cut the cord and shift to VoIP. While some of the aforementioned events are isolated in nature, most are central to setting the wheels in motion for the move to VoIP. For hosted IP telephony providers, the keys to success lay in gaining a deeper understanding of each SMBs communications needs.
Dave Clark is president and director of CommPartners, a provider of hosted VoIP services and IP-to-PSTN connectivity. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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