VoIP Continues to be a Tough Sell to SMBs

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This VoIP News story does a good job of extolling the virtues of the hosted VoIP model for small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs). The heart of the piece, however, is a list and brief synopsis of the leading hosting companies, including big players such as AT&T to pureplays, including Speakeasy.


IT and telecommunications publications extolling the virtues of VoIP for SMBs are preaching to the choir. Finance people and other high-level executives who must sign off on this drastic change generally do not go to these outlets. This may partially explain the takeaway of this Phone+ piece, which says that take up of VoIP by SMBs has not been as strong as predicted.


Legacy phone systems and services are far from broken -- they are a model of consistency and reliability, as a matter of fact -- so those who are do not have the imagination to see the futuristic services and applications possible when data, video and voice services are combined are reluctant to change. The "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" argument will slow VoIP, since the people who make the decisions don't necessarily realize that "fixing" it has the side benefit of a world of great new services.


The writer also says that large carriers have trouble relating to the SMB market and that the sales channel struggles with the intricacies of VoIP, which is more complex than what they have sold in the past.


Late last month, Dell and Fonality took dead aim at the disconnect between SMBs and VoIP. It will be interesting to watch how many other companies do the same and what impact the deal has on the growth of the hosted model. The smaller of the two options offered by Dell, Fonality and Nortel is a hybrid host/on-premise offering, it is important to note.


The confusion described in the Phone+ story also is noted in the introduction to this review of SMB-appropriate systems at PC World. The products represent the startlingly wide variety of approaches, from those that are self-installed to hosted virtual solutions and enterprise-level IP PBX-based systems. One of the products reviewed -- YMax magicJack -- is appropriate for home users and, presumably, small office/home office (SOHO) installations. The other products review are the Quick Edition/Netgear Voice over IP Solution from Avaya, Microsoft Response Point and the RingCentral Digital Line VoIP Service.


It is interesting to consider this IBM online magazine story in the context experts' belief that VoIP is moving slowly because of its inherent complexity and the inability of big vendors -- and few are as big as Big Blue -- to market it to smaller businesses. The story begins by very simply extolling the virtues of VoIP in as straightforward a manner as possible. Fully the first half of the piece describes how VoIP can do the job done by legacy networks in a more efficient and less expensive manner. It is only half way though that features and benefits that are difficult or impossible to provide on the older network, such as unified messaging and video conferencing, are described.