SMBs and Internet telephony

As a growing company, how can we afford to upgrade to IP telephony?

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) make up 99.7 per cent of all businesses in Canada (by number of businesses, not employee count), according to IDC, yet this market continues to be underserved and misunderstood

when it comes to telecommunications needs. The void becomes most apparent as small businesses look to adopt new voice-over-IP (VoIP) technologies. Solution providers are prone to treating small business as simplistic, smaller versions of the enterprise market. The result is scaled-down versions of VoIP solutions that are too costly and complex for the average small business to implement.

Problems with enterprise ‘lite’

When attempting to adopt a scaled-down solution originally intended for large enterprises, small business owners are often:

  • Forced to hire IT staff or use expensive outsourced labour to manage a complex phone system
  • Made to pay three separate invoices for their telephone service, to the equipment vendor, service technician and carrier
  • Charged additional high prices for basic system administration while experiencing delays in service

Addressing the needs of small business

Faced with limited financial and technical resources, small business owners want telecommunications solutions that are economical, easy to use and provide them with control, meaning:

  • No major up front costs — They don’t want expensive voice hardware, software and network equipment, but rather a system that eliminates the need to build and manage a costly technology infrastructure.
  • Controlled costs — Systems should scale up with their company as it grows. This means they should retain functionality equivalent to their old telephone system and provide a simple method of managing system changes, such as adding or removing new users.
  • Easy administration — Smaller businesses need to focus on their core competencies and on growing the business. They don’t have time to manage complex voice systems nor do they wish to rely on others to manage the solution for them.

A self-serve solution: hosted VoIP

Customer self-service has been a successful, empowering model in many other industries, from gas stations to banking. Carriers and service providers are now following suit to meet the needs of the small business market. As a result, service providers are looking to value-added resellers (VARs) to provide tailored solutions such as hosted VoIP software. This can make good business sense for small businesses. Virtual key system (VKS) technology, hosted in the service provider’s network, gives the small business owner all of the functionality of a regular key system through an intuitive Web interface.

VKS paves the way for small businesses to streamline business services by using the same service provider for all of its communication needs, including phone, Internet, and long distance service. By having complete self-serve control over its phone services through a relationship with one service provider, a small business can save between 20 to 30 per cent of its costs. It may also save time and reduce the frustration of dealing with multiple contact points.

A hosted approach to VoIP also allows carriers to offer subscription-based services. This pay-as-you-go model gives small business more control over their telecommunications spending by anticipating communications costs.

With a hosted VoIP service, small business can receive a comprehensive and scalable voice solution built specifically for their unique needs that puts them back in control of their communications tools.

David Cork is COO and co-founder of Natural Convergence. He has 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and was previously the COO for Nortel’s eXtremeVoice. He can be reached at [email protected].

Got a question for our experts? E-mail [email protected].

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