In a July blog, I noted that despite VoIP's obvious appeal to SMBs, no super-vendors (a la Vonage in the consumer market and Avaya in the enterprise market) were selling VoIP to SMBs.
That has changed, and in a somewhat dramatic fashion. One of the biggest tech vendors, Dell, is partnering with an open source company called Fonality to market simple-to-use and inexpensive VoIP systems to SMBs, writes CNET blogger Matt Asay.
The combination of Dell's strong brand and capable sales force with Fonality's quality product is "a good deal for Dell," writes Asay, and "could be the making of Fonality."
Asay cites IDC research that shows Dell commanding an impressive 28 percent share of the highly fragmented SMB market. An increased emphasis on services could give Dell an even bigger chunk of the market, says Gartner. The Fonality partnership should help.
While open source is an excellent option for SMBs interested in VoIP, wrote IT Business Edge blogger Carl Weinschenk in November, many open source products lack an adequate support infrastructure. Yet open source providers, including Fonality, "understand that they need to make things simple if they are going after the SMB market," writes Weinschenk.
Asay also gives Fonality props for its hybrid-hosted model. AMI-Partners analyst Sanjeev Aggarwal was bullish on hosted VoIP options for SMBs in a May interview with IT Business Edge. He says:
The whole concept of voice as a service is becoming very compelling. On the software side you hear about Salesforce.com and others. In a hosted VoIP solution, you have a phone in your home and it rings like in the office. You have a single mailbox, can look at e-mail and have voicemail delivered to that mailbox. You can look at it from the airport or anywhere else. Like unified communications, it improves the productivity of employees.
Installing an on-premise VoIP system necessitates a good deal of advance planning and legwork, says Aggarwal. In contrast, it's easy for SMBs to try out hosted VoIP, only phasing out their traditional voice solutions when they are ready to make a full move to VoIP.
Unlike traditional voice solutions, there is little hassle or expense associated with adding or moving employees, says Aggarwal.
Now it's like moving a PC from one place to another. It becomes very easy. It can even be done by the office manager.