While cloud-based enterprise solutions have revolutionized business communications for companies of all sizes, there is evidence that it’s smaller to mid-sized companies (SMBs) that have the most to gain from these solutions. In the earliest days of unified communications, voice over IP telephony, collaboration solutions, conferencing and more, it was only the largest companies with the deepest pockets that could afford these features. Now, thanks to the cloud, smaller companies can afford the same advanced feature sets without breaking the bank.
A new study by Cisco and ZK Research based on 50 one-on-one interviews with small business owners and IT leaders addressed the benefits of using cloud-based unified communications systems as a service. The researchers, led by ZK Research’s Zeus Kerravala, found that 86 percent of small companies are today considering the use of cloud-based unified communications (UC) systems as a possible solution to their communications needs, replacing their more traditional premises-based counterparts.
“The desire to grow a business while reducing costs certainly isn’t new, but achieving both of these goals simultaneously has historically been difficult,”wrote Kerravala in the report. “However, digitization has made accomplishing this a top priority as markets shift much faster than ever before.”
While SMBs have the same priority as larger companies – grow revenue, increase profitability, attract new customers and reduce costs – they often had to make sacrifices in the past because they simply didn’t have the capital to invest in large premise-based solutions. Moreover, they were often blocked from their goals by a number of other challenges, including IT security, a mobile workforce that had diverse communications needs, a lack of expertise to handle complex IT problems and a lack of optimization in their IT resources. Cloud-based UC, according to Kerravala, overcomes many of these traditional barriers.
“There is no panacea to all business and IT challenges, but unified communications (UC) presents a multifaceted value proposition that can address many of the challenges,” he wrote.
Larger companies had the budgets and personnel to put premise-based UC into play for a virtual office strategy. Smaller companies simply didn’t. Today’s unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) solutions offer business-grade security and control at little to no upfront investment. Best of all, it’s easy to have someone else manage the IT headaches.
“Maintaining a UC system requires constant upgrades and replacement of failed hardware in addition to tackling other administrative issues,” wrote Kerravala. “UCaaS is maintained by the service provider, which means the administrative burden on IT has been eliminated or at least reduced to managing a minimal amount of client software.”
Eliminating the complexity is also very desirable when it comes to bringing multiple devices, many personal ones used by mobile employees, into the UC mix to create a true virtual office strategy. UCaaS services can be made available to anyone on the network without a need for additional software.
Kerravala stresses, however, that UCaaS can vary wildly in feature sets and the quality of managed services, and that SMBs should be prepared to compare solutions based on how easy they are to deploy, the level of security provided and their breadth of features they offer. Growing companies may also wish to look for a solution built on the “pay as you grow” pricing model so companies can pay for what they need today, but ensure the solution is robust enough for them in the future when they need more.
Author: Tracey E. Schelmetic