Unified communications have become a more popular approach to collaboration and equipment deployments in the small and medium-sized business sector throughout the past several years. Beginning with Voice over Internet Protocol business phone services at the turn of the century and expanding into completely integrated, robust communication capabilities, UC, when done right, can drive the productivity and efficiency of any firm.
Between video conferencing, VoIP and instant messaging, as well as increasing integration with mobile phone and Internet services, small businesses are becoming better prepared to tackle several unique challenges in the modern market. For example, telecommuting and the globalized economy have had profound impacts on the small business sector, and this is largely thanks to the more ubiquitous availability of advanced communications solutions.
One could likely make a strong argument that new solutions such as UC and cloud services are actually what catalyzed the globalization of the market economy, especially considering the timing of each action's introduction. Whereas larger enterprises with massive budgets were once the only ones truly prepared to deal in international business on a massive scale, new technology has made this a real potential for smaller firms - even startups - of late.
Several recent studies have indicated that the UC market will continue to expand rapidly, potentially even accelerating in its growth throughout the next few years. Small business owners who have not yet considered the benefits that these solutions and strategies provide their firms with should do so soon, as failure to modernize communications and technology frameworks can quickly lead to a strategic disadvantage in virtually any industry.
Business VoIP explodes
FierceTelecom recently reported that a new study from Infonetics Research revealed that business VoIP services market revenues reached $68 billion last year on the global scale, representing 8 percent expansion between 2012 and 2013. What's more, analysts are projecting that the market for these business phone services will grow even more rapidly in the next few years, reaching $88 billion in total global annual market revenues by 2018.
According to the news provider, the researchers found that the SIP trunking arena seems to be one of the most common catalysts for growth across regions, as the market for these solutions expanded by 50 percent between 2012 and 2013. One would be hard pressed to find another industry that is experiencing that type of growth on an annual basis.
Furthermore, the source noted that the managed services providers who provide IP PBXs are already enjoying much more robust prospects in their various markets, and that roughly 10 percent to 20 percent of sales in this area are comprised by value added reseller contracts. The news provider also stated that the majority of SIP trunking growth has taken place in the United States, while European and Middle Eastern nations are beginning to catch up.
"Business VoIP services have moved well beyond early stages to mainstream, strengthened by the growing adoption of SIP trunking and cloud services worldwide," said Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP, UC and IMS at Infonetics Research. "Hosted unified communications are seeing strong interest up market as mid-market and larger enterprises evaluate and move more applications to the cloud, and this is positively impacting the market."
In a separate report on the study, Internet News explained that the number of VoIP subscribers increased to 212 million consumers on the global scale. To put this into perspective, the population of the United States is roughly 317 million presently.
Alternative concerns and objectives
TechTarget recently reported that the average business owner is becoming more interested in the security solutions that accompany VoIP and other UC solutions. A wide breadth of data is generated by these devices, and considering the uptick in identity theft, data breach and cybercrime that has taken place throughout the past few years, companies are right to focus on security.
According to the news provider, UC components use architecture, largely based in Internet environments, as platforms to function properly and efficiently. As such, failure to protect the equipment and information generated can lead to substantial risks for any company, but these issues can be somewhat easily mitigated by simply choosing vendors more selectively and only working with reliable managed service providers.
The source added that hackers have yet to truly target UC-related devices in a more common fashion, as these are generally more difficult to break into than a storage environment, stolen device or other more preferred channel among cybercriminals. This does not mean, though, that hackers will not begin to more frequently attack companies through devices.
By working with a single vendor of UC and cloud computing services, security can be streamlined and maintained over time, leading to fewer vulnerabilities, attacks and issues. Furthermore, this approach can drive cost control, interoperability of systems and other benefits.