Advanced features and cost savings are driving interest, but switchover anxiety remains a hurdle, an AMI report indicates.
According to research from IT analyst firm AMI-Partners,
growth is forecast in the VOIP market among small and medium-size businesses.
More than 30 percent of small businesses (1-99 employees) and 50 percent of midsize
businesses (100-999 employees) said that voice over IP technology will become
critical to their business operations.
SMB decision-makers said they see benefit from VOIP in improved staff productivity,
streamlined dispersed communications and lower costs. "The last several
years of the recession caused many SMBs to put new technology purchases on
hold," said Karen Nielsen, senior consultant with AMI.
"Moving into 2011, cost savings, as well as the advanced features
available with IP, will impel more and more SMBs to IP architecture
Most SMBs have limited IT resources, and they will rely heavily on channel
partners for VOIP installation and turnover, and to help with the crossover
from analog to digital, survey results indicated.
"The moment of conversion from analog to digital voice is the single
biggest pain point for SMBs," says Nielsen. "Suppliers and channel
partners should be prepared to make this switchover seamless. Partners should
also understand and be able to prove that economic benefits stem not only from
lower ongoing costs but also from a lower TCO."
AMI's "2010 VoIP Update-U.S. SMB
Market" report provides an analysis of VOIP usage by U.S. SMBs. AMI
said it believes that the market for IP-based voice communications, i.e. VOIP
and IP PBX, will eventually merge.
"The last several years have been dogged by a difficult recession, and
many SMBs put on hold technology decisions. In the end, the migration of voice
and data continues, the chance to leverage data networks with voice
communications continues, and the opportunity for greater market penetration of
IP solutions among the SMB community remains large," a report summary
The report also concluded that, from a supplier perspective, it is still
early and the major players are not fully known. "The architectures are
not completely defined. The markets are not structured. But AMI
believes that down the road, the same things that are important to analog/TDM
users will be important to digital/IP users: reliability, security, and
quality," the report predicted. "The winners will be those providers
who can provide not only a reliable service, but an alternate backup, as well
as the channel expertise to serve SMBs from soup to nuts if needed."
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.