Comment : Are SMEs maximising the potential of hosted VoIP?

In today’s telecoms marketplace, the industry hype surrounding the predicted and increasing success of advanced hosted VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) platforms, is fast infiltrating business infrastructure of all sizes.

Recent research by financial analyst Grant Thornton predicts that the VoIP sector will continue to grow over 2008 across all sectors and will reap £13.5 billion worth of global revenue by 2010.

In addition, the migration from fixed line to mobile and VoIP services will increase two fold over the upcoming years, resulting in rapid decline of traditional telephony.

For the SME market, VoIP is increasingly becoming a fundamental telecoms solution to enable a seamless operation for business infrastructure. However previously in this sector, hosted solutions were deemed a risk, regardless of cost savings, due to the lack of control and accessibility they offered.

For SME’s, those not willing to play Russian roulette with their communications were keen to take advantage of IP telephony, which was only typically afforded by larger organisations.

However key factors such as limited budgets and a general lack of bulk buying power have persistently sidelined SME’s from being at the forefront of new technologies, forcing them into invest in second rate solutions and constantly play a game of catch up.

Previously in the technology field, hosted VoIP platforms were hailed as a bridge to narrow the divide separating larger enterprises from SME’s.

However as technology innovates, can SME’s now invest in an affordable hosted solution, whilst still maintaining a high degree of control and accessibility? Is this game of catch up finally coming to an end?

In today’s telecoms landscape, SME’s are rapidly being enticed by the flexibility and cost saving benefits of deploying a hosted VoIP solution.

By implementing such a system, businesses can now reap valuable benefits since the service provider takes overall responsibility of managing the infrastructure, so allowing businesses far more time to focus on driving their core activities and increase revenue.

In addition, hosted VoIP platforms reduce initial capital expenditure simply because there is less equipment installed, so operational expenditures are much more predictable and therefore easy to budget for.

Infact far from reducing costs, hosted VoIP platforms provides a fully managed service and equips you with all the features businesses require.

With a choice of UK incoming call numbers/geographical numbers combined with advanced features such as time or day routing and hunt groups, SME’s now have the capabilities to control their appearance augmenting their image to customers and maximising their business potential.

Furthermore, due to recent advances in technology, hosted VoIPs can now offer a high degree of visibility and control over IP telephony. Until now, hosted VoIP has never been considered robust enough to stand up to business requirements.

Problems with call quality and inadequate data networks were previously critical factors that created problems and so limited its uptake.

Also, larger enterprises that have already invested in their infrastructure rarely consider adding a premise based PBX solution as a significant expense.

A premise based VoIP solution has its own benefits such as instant accessibility and total control to name but two, but unfortunately comes with significant expenditure and responsibility. SME’s simply cannot afford this responsibility, and the added expenditure involved sometimes does not justify the need.

Overall, hosted VoIP saves time, upfront costs and makes sense from an operational standpoint. It removes the responsibility and management that is necessary in successfully operating IP telephony in-house. Hosted VoIP also has the ability to even out the playing field by allowing organisations to grasp all of the benefits of premise based PBX systems, including a high degree of control, without the costs.

As a result, IT and communications are now finally being recognised as an integral part of the success for any organisations regardless of size.

As VoIP is the key tool to narrow the field between SMEs and larger organisations, it is important for SMEs to realise the benefits and invest in IP telephony that will allow them to fully maximise their business potential.