Spending by U.S. businesses on IP telephony (IPT) and unified communications (UC) technologies is expected to grow by 10 percent a year for the next five years, according to new statistics from InfoTrack. MSPs serving an SMB customer base should pay particular attention to one subtrends within this larger IT spending inclination: a strong SMB interest in UC technologies and services.
According to InfoTrack data, in 2011, SMBs with fewer than 500 employees represented 46 percent of the U.S. installed base of IPT lines, but accounted for only 30 percent of the spending on UC applications. But during the next five years, the growth of SMB spending on UC apps will be more than twice the rate of U.S. enterprises with more than 500 employees. Spending on combined hosted IP telephony (IPT) and UC technologies is expected to increase by about 10 percent a year through 2016, although large enterprises are expected to account for most of the IPT spending growth. The UC applications forecast projects shipments and spending on nine separate applications in the following five categories – collaboration, mobility, UC clients, messaging and contact center.
MSPs Should Eye UC, TooAt its core, UC is an attempt to provide platform-neutral communications. For example, a UC user could gain access to their voicemail messages through email, or read an email via SMS text. UC also includes leading-edge communication technologies such as telepresence.
The appeal of UC to SMBs is understandable. After all, SMBs operate a considerable competitive disadvantage with larger rivals, and timely access to data is even more vital to their survival. In addition, SMBs are more likely to be reliant on remote employee-owned devices, since they are less likely to be able to afford office space or IT infrastructure, making UC a highly desirable means of bringing disparate employees on a wide range of personal devices together.
Of course, SMBs are also less likely to have the in-house expertise or resources necessary to bring UC to fruition, making managed UC services an ideal offering for MSPs serving the SMB marketplace. UC is a complex concept requiring the provider to have expertise in or partnerships for numerous different types of communication technology and an open mindset when it comes to systems integration, so it is not necessarily a good fit for every MSP’s portfolio. But for those MSPs equipped to provide UC services to their SMB clients, UC should be a core focus for future development.