As economic indicators in the United States continue to remain weak, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are watching their budgets carefully. Forrester reports that SMBs have a strong interest in improving IT efficiency, but that budgets for new applications and infrastructure management remain flat. The goal for most businesses is to do more with less. Fortunately, that is exactly what Voice over IP (VoIP) offers.
The promise of cost savings has always been a key motivator of VoIP adoption for businesses of all sizes. These savings are even more relevant to SMBs because they typically devote a larger percentage of their resources to phone service. According to Savatar Research, monthly recurring costs and total cost of ownership are the top two decision factors for SMBs considering a new phone system. Economics are more important to these businesses than management capabilities, features and change events—such as moving to a new location.
Businesses surveyed after making the switch to VoIP overwhelmingly reported significant cost savings compared to their old phone services. SMBs seeking maximum savings are best served by a hosted voice service, rather than a premise-based solution. With a premise-based solution, IP-PBX equipment is installed and maintained at each business location. With a hosted or managed voice service, phone system functionality is hosted by the provider and accessible from any business location. For this reason, hosted voice is far more flexible and easy to manage than a premise-based system.
This slideshow highlights the array of savings benefits businesses can obtain by using hosted VoIP, as identified by MegaPath.
Click through for seven cost savings benefits SMBs can gain from using a hosted voice service, as identified by MegaPath.
The capital investment for a hosted voice solution is typically much lower than for a premise-based solution. This is primarily because hosted-voice does not require on-site PBX or IP-PBX equipment, a major purchase that for most businesses necessitates a long-term lease commitment.
To implement hosted-voice service, businesses only need to purchase IP phones and, with some providers, voice gateway equipment or a specialized router. Most providers offer a wide range of phones to suit various needs and budgets. Voice gateway equipment is relatively inexpensive and useful for both troubleshooting and ensuring Quality of Service (QoS).
Many businesses enjoy additional start-up savings with hosted voice because it allows them to combine voice and data on one network. This lowers infrastructure costs and allows businesses to get more value from their broadband investment by operating both voice and data over one connection. If voice and broadband are purchased from the same provider, businesses may save even more with promotional offers or bundling discounts.
Hosted voice eliminates the need for major onsite equipment, thus eliminating the need for onsite maintenance. With hosted service, features and user profiles can be managed virtually from any location. Administrators are often able to make changes themselves via a Web portal, or they may simply contact a provider with change requests.
Most SMBs have moderate long-distance needs, primarily intrastate calling, but they often pay comparatively high rates with traditional phone service because they lack the buying power for volume discount plans. Hosted voice can significantly reduce long distance spending with low calling rates and purchase options that have not previously been accessible to small businesses.
Many SMBs anticipate rapid or unpredictable growth. Hosted voice offers the benefit of virtually unlimited scalability, as long as bandwidth is increased when necessary to support additional call volume. Businesses pay only for the number of phones and lines they need. Expanding or contracting is as simple as adding or subtracting a phone and service plan.
Hosted-voice is also “future proof.” There will never be a need to buy a new up-to-date phone system because the system is always evolving. Hosted voice providers continuously upgrade their platforms as new technologies develop. The customer enjoys total flexibility and is protected from obsolescence by receiving new features and capabilities automatically as they become available.
For SMBs with more than one business location, hosted voice offers even more savings. Rather than purchase separate onsite phone equipment for each location, businesses reap the benefits of a single unified phone system that operates across all locations. That means one provider, one bill, one voicemail system, extension dialing between locations, and centralized management of all users and features. Multiple offices can lower personnel costs by sharing a single receptionist or eliminate the need for a receptionist with an auto attendant feature. Plus, calls between locations are considered “on-net” and can be made free of charge. For businesses that operate regionally or nationwide, interoffice calls often comprise a significant subset, even a majority, of long-distance calls.
Some hosted voice providers offer telecommuter service, allowing employees who work from home to connect seamlessly with the business phone system by simply plugging a specially programmed IP phone into their broadband connection. This eliminates the need to reimburse remote workers for disparate communication services and keeps them closely connected to the rest of the business. Individual home offices have the same phone service capabilities as any other business location, including extension dialing and call transfer. They also share the same voicemail system, and can make free calls to and from other business locations.
Some hosted voice providers also offer an advanced feature that can make any phone a business phone – even a personal cell phone or hotel room phone. When employees place calls through the provider’s Web-based interface, calls made from any phone appear to come from the business office and long-distance charges are billed to the business account. This eliminates the need to pay hotel long-distance rates and surcharges, and simplifies expense administration – no more long-distance reimbursement hassles.
Hosted voice offers significant protection from bottom line impact in the event of a minor disaster, such as an equipment failure — or a major catastrophic event — such as an earthquake. Because voicemail, call processing, and advanced features are hosted on the provider’s network, they remain available, even if something goes down at the business location. This means that even if nobody in the office can receive calls, callers never hear a fast busy signal. Voicemail will continue to function and messages can be retrieved remotely. If they can access the Internet, employees can immediately forward their calls to another phone. If the business has an auto attendant, it will continue to function as an automated receptionist, and the message can be quickly reprogrammed to give current information to callers.
Relocating the entire system is also much faster and easier than rewiring a PBX or IP-PBX system, which can take weeks. If a major disaster hits, businesses can move all of their employees to another facility with IP access and set up a disaster recovery site in a matter of days — hours if the phones can be salvaged.
The features and flexibility of hosted voice offer significant efficiency and productivity advantages. Auto attendant can lower personnel costs by eliminating the need for a receptionist and allowing administrative staff to focus on other priorities. Features — including simultaneous ring, sequential ring, and advanced call forwarding — allow employees to give out one number and stay reachable to customers and co-workers, no matter where they work. Users can receive copies of their voicemail messages as audio file attachments, making it easier for mobile employees to keep up with their messages and forward messages to anyone without losing detail or context. Many hosted voice providers also offer integrated on-demand conferencing, eliminating the need for a third-party provider and supporting collaboration for multi-location businesses and virtual teams.