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70% of SMEs want VoIP – still underserved

Seventy per cent of small businesses in the UK are keen to cut their costs using VoIP, but many dread the prospect of setting it up, according to a survey by enterprise VoIP provider ShoreTel.

Even more – 80 per cent – believe that a VoIP system would make it easier to do business but 39 per cent said they were deterred by the perceived difficulty of configuring an enterprise VoIP deployment.

Martin Geddes, independent consultant and chief analyst with STL Partners’ Telco 2.0.com, describes this sector as “a deeply underserved segment – they are flocking to Skype,” he said, “although it’s not really suited to their needs. It doesn’t integrate with your mobile, and there are quality issues that matter to businesses, because it’s either excellent or trash”.

Geddes argues that the telecoms and IT industries are still to see the possibilities, being over focused on large, centralised enterprise systems serving fixed desk phones. “The industry wants to sell you a box with overpriced software in it that drives desk phones. The desk phone is dead – it doesn’t fit the loosely coupled, dynamic teams people are working with,” he said.

Small business network administrators are likely to be chary of VoIP because of unfamiliar technologies such as SIP, heavier demands for bandwidth, quality of service on the LAN and VPN tunnels between sites and the increased criticality of the network. After all, losing an Ethernet switch is a problem, but losing the phones as well is a crisis.

Even the arrival of an open source IP-PBX, Asterisk, isn’t helping – those companies who have difficulty supporting VoIP are also the ones that are likely to be concerned about support costs. “For the really small business, there is virtually an open space in the market,” says Geddes.


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