Business VoIP Growing -- With Even Better Days Ahead

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Enterprises want to have their cake and eat it too. Or, to be a bit more specific, they want VoIP deployments that work well, but they don't want to invest the money in tools necessary to ensure that outcome. At least that's the implication from this press release announcing the results of a NetIQ survey. It starts with an interesting statement: Experts, the company says, are noting "extensive delays" between VoIP proof-of-concepts installations and regular "production" rollouts.The logical question is why. The release notes that 46 percent of 240 respondents are not planning a management or monitoring system, while 90 percent say that performance and availability are their key concerns. What the release implies, but doesn't outrightly say, is that there is a disconnect that is causing enterprises to procrastinate.


The winding path to actual deployments notwithstanding, businesses overall are becoming more enamored of VoIP. In-Stat released research earlier this month that suggests businesses gradually are moving toward hybrid VoIP/legacy systems. The good news for VoIP proponents is that this transition is happening while cost savings remain the main driver. In the longer term, In-Stat -- and many others -- believe that VoIP will be driven by more persuasive and attractive rationales focusing on ease-of-use and unified communications applications. Recognition of these value-propositions will add to momentum established on the much narrower price advantages.


Conceptually, businesses of all sizes understand that the future is VoIP. However, getting from the present to the future raises myriad challenges and questions. Companies don't want to trust their vital voice services to a network that is even marginally less reliable than traditional time division multiplexed (TDM) services. They also are loathe to strand investments made in these older systems.


The SMB market is, perhaps, the most promising VoIP frontier. GigaOm reports that Dell is embedding Fonality software into its enterprise servers. The goal, the story says, is to make a VoIP play to companies with 125 or fewer employees. The Dell'Oro Group is quoted in the story as saying that the annual PBX market will exceed $7.5 billion by 2011. Eleven million SMBs are using VoIP, according to comments Dell'Oro analyst Alan Weckel made to The Wall Street Journal in August and quoted in the piece. This number will grow to 35 million before 2010. Suffice it to say that the coming of Dell will have a big role in pushing other vendors in the sector.


Vendors and service providers stand to make a lot of money in easing this transition. Companies adopting VoIP have two choices: They can purchase the hardware or outsource to a service provider.


AT&T, among others, is trying to help companies attempting to run their own VoIP services. In August, the company said that its IP Flexible Reach is compatible with key systems, which are multi-line analog setups common in business. IP Flexible Reach enables small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to use virtual numbers to appear national in scope, among other features. The offering is designed to help SMBs transition into VoIP, the release says.


There is a lot to say for outsourcing, however. This Junction Networks post uses the supposed misinterpretations of a New York Times story on SMB use of VoIP as a jumping off point to pitch the virtues of a hosted VoIP services for SMBs. Hosted services usually offer 24x7 network operations, disaster recovery options, no capital costs, free upgrades, no support contracts, and capacity and service growth as a company grows. Companies buying their own hardware don't realize these advantages, the writer says.