Businesses Increase Migration to VOIP and IP PBX: Report

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 implementation."

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 noted.

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."