SaaS and Web 2.0 tools help SMBs compete with heavyweights

DominiraSaulthumbnailToday more than ever it is possible for small to medium sized companies to compete on a level playing field with bigger organizations.  One of the reasons for this trend is the availability of technology that helps smaller companies have the same operational capacity and global reach as their multinational counterparts.

Advanced telecommunications, and technology infrastructure have given larger companies an edge when it comes to delivery of services, meeting SLAs and having access to new and emerging markets.  Recently, because of the emergence of some new technologies and the novel application of some old ones SMBs are now able to expand their global reach and provide a wide variety of service offerings. 

Integrated telecommunications has long been a tricky prospect for many small companies.  The cost of complex and feature-rich private branch exchange hardware often proved prohibitive when it came to purchasing and the complexity of the setup and maintenance was either too complex to do in-house or too expensive to outsource.  When the cost of having a comprehensive telecommunications solution was balanced against the cost of not having an adequate telecom solution, SMB owners often found themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place.

The emergence of remotely hosted services, “Software as a Service” and the prevalence and maturity of Web 2.0 functionality has made many of these problems things of the past for SMBs.  Numerous solutions on the market today offer to remove to overly complex setup and maintenance while providing all of the features of high-grade hardware solutions… and they do so at a fraction of the cost.

Protus IP Solutions offers a SaaS solution called my1voice that offers small businesses many of the features of an advanced PBX.  There are no overhead costs of equipment rental, installation or maintenance.  And customers get many of the features of an advanced PBX.

The appeal of a service such as my1voice is not only in the money savings.  According to Kevin Baker, the Product Marketing Manager for my1voice: “A good part of our customer base is not a techie group so they don’t really even know what an auto-attendant is.  We try to use terms such as ‘virtual receptionist’.”  Ease of use makes a big difference.

Extending the service beyond the software interface is also a major part of what attracts users to services such as my1voice.  With 24/7 telephone support, daily webinars and online Flash tutorials, there are many resources to get users up to speed and all of them are provided at no extra charge.  In addition to those value added services there are features of a virtual service that aren’t generally found in all but the most high end hardware solutions such as voicemail messages being sent to you email inbox as attached audio files, dial by name directories or the ability to unlimited extensions.

In today’s fast paced business world missing a call can cost a company money and not looking professional can cost a company business.  With a variety of virtual services like my1voice, Google Voice and VirtualPBX out there it is possible for an SMB to have affordable, scalable and easy to manage solutions taylored to fit their exact needs.

As economic forces drive the creation of small entrepreneurial companies there will surely be an increase in services that leverage the power if the Internet to help them compete.

Dominira Saul is the Director of User Experience Design for design firm. Akendi in Ottawa. Dom is a usability expert who has worked in various fields Follow Akendi on Twitter: @akendi

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