VoIP telephony has become a common tool both in enterprise settings and domestic environments, with users from a variety of industries and backgrounds reaping the benefits that it offers.
Many developments in communications technology are available only to big businesses with significant resources at their disposal, but with VoIP it is been possible for smaller companies to get on board at an early stage. In fact there is evidence that the adoption of VoIP in the UK is being fuelled by small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) rather than their corporate counterparts. But why are small businesses so well positioned to take advantage of VoIP platforms and will this trend continue to influence the uptake of this type of telephony?
VoIP Uptake by Businesses
A report published recently on behalf of BT Business found that the current penetration level of VoIP among small businesses is at 25%. This is a decent proportion to use as a launch pad for further growth, but interestingly the study revealed that many more companies are intending to integrate VoIP over the next 12 months. That means by mid-2014, about 48% of SMBs with 50 employees or less will be using VoIP in some form to aid them in communicating with clients and collaborating with colleagues.
Interestingly the report also found that the smaller the firm, the higher likelihood that VoIP adoption had already been carried out or was on the cards within the coming year. Penetration among the self employed and businesses with under 10 employees is set to be at 57%, easily exceeding the market,wide average.
Analysts found that while SMBs across the UK are eager to get on board with VoIP technology, there are stark differences when the statistics are considered on a regional basis. 33% of small businesses in London are already using VoIP, which is a much higher proportion than the 5% penetration rate which was revealed among Welsh firms. This clearly has a lot to do with the availability of superfast internet connectivity. The well-connected companies who have access to high speed fibre services in the capital are in a better position to start using VoIP than businesses based in more rural areas.
The government is being called upon to bridge the digital divide and ensure that commercial operations can expect to receive excellent network connectivity wherever they happen to be based. And if targets are met, then companies in the countryside will not be at a disadvantage when it comes to broadband access within the next few years. Overall the study found that 80% of small British companies have broadband access. As true ubiquity for this technology is achieved, there should be fewer barriers preventing SMBs from migrating to VoIP and other digital communications platforms.
Aside from the current penetration levels, the eagerness to adopt VoIP also varies across the country and this is one area in which London is not a leader. 54% of small businesses from Northern Ireland expressed a desire to harness VoIP in the near future, which could soon make it a national leader in terms of adoption rates.
So far it has been established that VoIP is already an important solution for smaller companies, but what are the key motivations behind adoption?
The first thing that most VoIP evangelists mention about this type of service is that it will help to deliver lower costs, which is of course going to appeal to smaller companies. There are definitely savings to be made, not only as a result of the cheap or free calls that can be placed, but also because there is less need to worry about purchasing and maintaining a complex in-house telephony infrastructure. Because VoIP providers host the majority of the equipment off-site, the only thing required is a solid broadband connection.
Of course with lower costs for calls and equipment, small businesses are better able to adopt VoIP because the upfront investment required is relatively small. This is one reason that many more companies are planning to kick start the migration from traditional analogue services over to a digital equivalent within the next year, if they have not done so already.
Mobile & Remote Working Benefits
In the BT Business study, the example of Woolley & Co. was used to illustrate the advantages that VoIP can endow on small businesses, with a company representative explaining that it is the flexibility endowed upon staff that makes these services particularly appealing. Woolley & Co. is an online legal agency which does not have centralised offices, but instead relies on a small team of staff who work remotely, both from home and while they are out and about. VoIP makes it easy for them to communicate with one another wherever they happen to be, while the unification of this platform with other solutions means they can share data and collaborate on particular cases without having to share the same physical space.
Small businesses with under 50 employees may be in a similar position where maintaining an office is untenable or indeed unnecessary. VoIP gives this type of company the power to still get the benefits of a fully featured telephone system without having to tether it to a particular location.
VoIP is helping businesses to kick down the boundaries of the traditional workplace and break out into new working environments which might not have been accessible in a time before calls could be placed over the internet. The availability of mobile VoIP courtesy of smartphones and high speed wireless connectivity has also added to the flexibility of the modern telecoms market.
Because VoIP calls are handled via an internet connection and often use hosted infrastructures to make connections, it is much easier for staff to manage their daily communications. Calls can be forwarded, redirected, put on hold and passed through to an answering service as is appropriate. Things like the time of day or the particular date can be used to automatically determine the best route for a call and if one staff member does not pick up in a certain period, the call can be passed seamlessly on to a colleague so that every customer gets their query answered.
It is these features, along with the fact that they can be accessed whether you are working from home or at the office, that make VoIP so easy to recommend to small businesses. It seems likely that it will be SMBs that continue to push forwards with VoIP usage in the UK, influencing their larger counterparts to the point that they will have to follow suit or else face the prospect of being overtaken.
This blog is listed under Telecommunications Community