Last week James Hone of Thus joined Freeform Dynamics’ Josie Sephton in the Reg studio to discuss how you get from your current set-up to a VoIP solution in a few easy steps - from concepts through to requirements definition and implementation. For those of you considering VoIP as a solution for your business, this should be the …
Does anyone want it?
Last year I was set the task of investigating the feasibility of a VoIP solution to offer to many of our clients. It worked out to be cost effective when compared to many of our client's calling packages and so I set it up over the course of a month starting from scratch. I had no prior knowledge of setting up a VoIP system. A month of testing to make sure the server was stable and usable and we started trying to sell it to clients.
Well, I have to say, no one really cared about any of it, despite most of them saying they were 'definitely interested' when we were trying to get a feel for the market.
I have to say, I don't really see the big deal. I agree that VoIP is probably cost effective for large businesses, but as a small business the hassle of learning a new phone system is probably not worth the savings you achieve from switching, even if the new system has a lot more features.
@Does anyone want it?
Damn Good Question!
I can see an immediate ROI for self hosted conference bridging options compared to using a 3rd party. I can also see an immediate ROI for self hosted automated telemarketing campaigns that tie into the internal development stack and client database, both things usually only seen in SMEs not SMBs.
For businesses that have a vested infrastructure in an existing KSU or traditional PBX, there is no immediate ROI, and what ROI there is usually isn't realized for years.
SMBs usually have a pretty flat network topology, and now I must introduce a routed layer four aware network infrastructure, POE switches, battery backups on the Servers, Gateways, and switches as well as emergency services over POTS or PRI if I'm using an ITSP. The price of those alone is usually worth the maintenance contract on the existing KSU for quite a few more years.
On top of that, slapping a new card into the PBX is dirt simple. Trying to figure out why Oracle isn't replicating properly to the fail over server usually requires a bit more skills than (un)rescrewing in two bolts!
A couple of years ago, maybe the argument still works now, many people were upgrading they're network from one type of topology to another, and maybe they were doing a rip and replace on the wired infrastructure too. In that particular scenario, usually VOIP plays out as a good investment, but that's a pretty atypical case.
On top of that, if the SMB is already using DS1 for the PSTN handoff instead of POTS, they're probably already saving bucket loads of cash anyways. This makes VOIP from the ITSP provider pretty unattractive.
I'm with you, most people that actually sit down and crunch the numbers, and yes all of them, usually the ROI is greater than three years. Most COTS VOIP systems and the network infrastructure they reside on, don't maintain that kind of warranty.
@ AC 13:15 It's *perfect* for most small businesses
The moment a business wants more than two internal phones, it's considerably cheaper than a 'normal' PABX, and offers the possibility of multiple outgoing lines for a lot cheaper than buying several lines from BT.
In a small business, the retraining cost is miniscule.
At the end of the day, pretty much every phone (VOIP or not) works the same - dial x for an outside line, and that's all most staff need to know, regardless of system used.
Some staff will need to go further into it, and it's useful for them to be able to transfer calls to other staff, but if it takes longer than five minutes to explain how to transfer calls and put people on hold then you're doing it wrong.
Many staff will probably already be familiar with Skype and/or MSN, so even PC-bound systems aren't much different.
So I think you had a failure of marketing, not a failure of technology.
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