BLOG: An Exclusive Insight to Hosted Telephony from Industry Leaders

Written by: Neil Hutchinson | Business Development Director | Everything Voice Ltd

Twitter: @everythingvoice | Call: 0330 055 3570

Communications publication “Comms Business” has recently interviewed industry leaders about their views on the Hosted telephony/VOIP market, which I read with great interest.

As with any market report, involving both telephone system manufacturers and hosted VOIP providers, there is some disagreement over which telephony solution is the best; an on-premise telephone and Unified Communications (UC) solution; a fully hosted telephony and UC service; or a hybrid of the two.

I personally favour the approach that we have to consider all 3 options, as not doing so could lead us to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. From experience, I have learnt the choice must always be led by a strong understanding of our clients’ needs and so this is the way we have always worked. By asking the right questions and understanding a client’s business, we can then recommend the best solution whether that be on premise, hosted VOIP or hybrid – with or without advanced features and support.

Is price still the most important factor? 

According to research, buyers of hosted VOIP say their reasons for opting for this solution primarily revolve around the need to know exactly what they are getting for their money, without any hidden extras – together with the need for a reliable and high quality service from their hosted telephony provider. Leading industry analyst Frost & Sullivan reinforces this by highlighting that service quality and reliability occupies the top priority slot for buyers of hosted telephony, which is not surprising given that a missed phone call in the UK has recently been valued at a loss of on average £1,200 to any business.

Another factor which is particularly evident in the market review was that businesses only want to pay for what they use. Hosted telephony solutions have now become pretty sophisticated and so allowing organisations to choose from a set of clear, pre-packaged bundles which are simple to understand is a particular advantage. So for example, for a business of 10 users, combining mobility with hosted VOIP appears to be important as their staff tend to be on the move alot – however because they are a smaller outfit, additional advanced UC features such as presence, conferencing, video and web collaboration are not so critical. The way in which bundles are therefore packaged is going to save a business the time and hassle of having to build a solution from scratch themselves.

And thirdly, from what I read it appears that there are very few business communications specialists out there that cater for the SMB market and the complexity of the services they provide or increasingly, the kinds of communication and project management tools they use with disparate teams. To me, this identifies a real need for providers like Everything Voice to offer more than just a reliable phone service, but enable more extensive communication capabilities to this sector, which are both flexible and cost efficient to meet changing needs.

So to answer my original question – by and large, price seems to have dropped in the list of priorities for a business when selecting the right telephony solution – although I’m sure it will inevitably feature at some stage when deciding which service provider to use. This change of focus I believe is in part due to the demand for pre-packed services and solutions, greater service reliability and no hidden charges – which is one of the reasons we are seeing the market for Hosted VoIP growing at such an unprecedented rate.

The key to meeting the communications needs of the business world is all about providing the choice of more advanced communications tools which are easily accessible, reliable and cost effective. Our advice would be to speak to someone who can give you the right bundle of features, taking away the need to buy things you won’t use.

How can SMBs overcome the ‘connectivity issue’? 

It follows that in order to access any kind of cloud services in a reliable way – including hosted VOIP – the “transport mechanism”, or in other words “the connectivity” you have in place has to be right or it has a direct impact on the service quality you will get. Given that connectivity plays such a fundamental role in delivering on business’ top priority of service quality and reliability, this issue was covered in detail in the Comms Business market report.

The report more specifically raises the interesting question; – as a nation do we have sufficient availability of high performance and managed internet access to deliver the highest levels of service reliability and quality? Again, some industry experts believe we do and some believe we don’t.

There are clearly people out there who believe that the connectivity issue still exists – and understandably so if they are still seeing businesses deploying hosted solutions, including VoIP on low cost connections, unsuitable for their size, reducing the levels of service reliability they would ideally expect. In some respects, this is like buying a top of the range sports car and equipping it with cheap tyres – the experience will not be as the car manufacturer intended it to be. It’s argued that with some providers there is a race to provide the cheapest possible hosted telephony solution and therefore they bundle it in unsuitable broadband (including FTTC) products, resulting in quality compromise.

In contrast however, there are many businesses that believe the ‘connectivity issue’ has disappeared due to the progression of broadband in recent years and its ability to now support critical services like voice. The availability of high performing leased line with top level SLA’s are far more accessible to SMEs because of the significant reductions in cost and investment in infrastructure, combined with raised competition from other carriers and good availability whatever your location. We are seeing prices continue to fall – only this week we have passed on reductions of 25% from Virgin Media for their leased line product.

As the biggest market for hosted telephony is businesses with fewer than 20 users – in summary we can genuinely say that the need to enhance your connectivity should not obstruct you from adopting a hosted solution. Yes – connectivity is crucially important. But overall, high quality connectivity is cheaper and more accessible, with prices continuing to fall due to increased competition in the leased line market between the major carriers. The range of high performance leased line options is large and there are choices to suit most budgets and needs. We also agree that some ADSL and FTTC services are available with much better Service Level Agreements than has ever been possible, making sure that quality connectivity and therefore high quality and reliable hosted VOIP remains accessible to smaller businesses.

Whilst it’s true that some businesses are still not using the right connectivity to suit hosted VOIP, this is because either they are coming to the end of a long term contract with their existing provider and have been unable to change, they are just not getting the right advice or they are focused purely on price.

Our advice is to find out exactly what the connectivity options are available for your business and avoid the low cost broadband products. For smaller requirements (sub 20 users) a broadband/FTTC product with a business grade care level would be suitable or for larger requirements and/or where you want Voice and Data on a single connection, a leased line should be considered which are much lower cost today than ever before.

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