Business phone services have evolved substantially in the past several years, driven by demand for affordable, feature-rich technologies that were once not accessible through traditional equipment. Several recent reports have indicated that the old days of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) are going the way of the dinosaurs, replaced swiftly by the latest and greatest Voice over Internet Protocol phone systems.
Small and medium-sized businesses, especially those that have started or expanded their operations within the past few years, have driven demand for these services, especially as they represent an opportunity to almost immediately step into the era of unified communications. There are myriad benefits that come with these solutions, including enhanced collaboration among employees in a variety of locations and the reduction of costs on a massive scale.
Considering the fact that PSTN is often referred to as Plain Old Telephone Service - that is not a joke, but a reality - it is no surprise that businesses are choosing to step into the modern marketplace and remain competitive with the deployment of VoIP and other components of UC. As industries continue to become more mobilized, globalized and technology-centric, failure to upgrade and update communications systems can be a critical error, especially as these trends are projected to only intensify in the future.
Market set to explode
A new study from Infonetics Research found that the VoIP market grew by roughly 8 percent between 2012 and 2013, reaching a global revenue value of $68 billion. This was for both business and residential VoIP services, but it is important to note that corporate deployments have consistently outpaced non-commercial implementations in North America and abroad throughout the past several years.
According to the firm, SIP trunking was one of the hottest areas of growth, expanding at 50 percent in 2013 alone, with the bulk of revenues streaming in from the private sectors of North America, Europe and the Middle East. Maybe even more impressively, hosted PBX and UC services expanded by 13 percent year-over-year in 2013, and this was largely driven by widespread demand for cloud-based communications technologies and managed solutions.
For example, the average number of seats for cloud-based UC expanded by 35 percent, meaning companies that have already been using these services are building upon their deployments and bringing the tools to other departments.
"Business VoIP services have moved well beyond early stages to mainstream, strengthened by the growing adoption of SIP trunking and cloud services worldwide," Diane Myers, Infonetics Research's principal analyst for VoIP, UC and IMS, explained. "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."
The analysts did not believe that the game will begin to slow down for VoIP and other UC services either, as it forecast global revenue growth to accelerate in the next few years, hitting annual values of roughly $88 billion by 2018.
Finally, Infonetics pointed out that managed services providers seem to be raking in the advantages of hosted UC services, notably VoIP, as between 10 percent and 20 percent of new IP PBX lines were deployed as part of an outsourced contract last year.
What's so great about VoIP?
Business News Daily recently outlined some of the core benefits of making the switch to VoIP and UC, asserting that the technology is increasingly driving the always-connected workforce. For example, more companies are beginning to deploy solutions that enable mobile access to VoIP, meaning the same cost advantages of the office-space equipment can be captured through smartphones, tablets and portable computers.
The source noted that Cisco Systems Vice President of Worldwide Commercial Marketing Peter Alexander pointed toward the new features and capabilities that come with VoIP and would be impossible to enjoy with traditional business phone services.
"As long as you have access to a broadband connection, you can use your VoIP system anywhere, such as in a hotel room or at a friend's home," Alexander wrote in an article for Entrepreneur Magazine, according to Business News Daily. "Customers and employees can stay in touch just by calling your regular business phone number - they don't need to call your cellphone, which means you can save precious cellphone minutes."
The news provider added that voice mail and faxes can be archived or forwarded to others, while virtually all messages can be accessed from one centralized location.
Finally, Business News Daily recommended looking for competitive service plans, features, help desk and network aspects of contracts when selecting a UC and VoIP service provider.
Taking a single-vendor approach to IT and UC deployments can help mitigate many of the complexities that would often come with a more spread-out procurement process. By bundling, interoperability will be maximized, while the cost control benefits will also tend to be a bit more intense.