SMBs Need Help With Managed Unified Communications

SMBs are increasingly investing in sophisticated communications technologies. But the quest for true unified communications (UC) remains elusive for most SMBs, according to a new study from IDC. Many SMBs may not even realize they are taking steps toward a UC environment. That's where MSPs can enter the picture.

IDC analysis finds that forward-looking SMBs are selectively using a range of tools including voice-over-IP (VoIP); conferencing technologies that support audio, Web and video; and unified messaging, which integrates voice and data messaging. Still, relatively few have implemented a comprehensive, end-to-end UC system that can deliver connectivity and collaboration capabilities beyond the sum of its separate parts.

For example, IDC says that more than one-third of small businesses (firms with less than 100 employees) and nearly three-quarters of medium-sized companies (firms with 100–999 employees) currently own at least one UC component technology. And SMB interest in adding UC technologies is considerable: more than 30% of small firms and 55% of midsize firms cite plans to add at least one UC component in the next 12 months.

In addition, voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology has established a solid foothold in the medium-sized business segment, and more than 30% of firms with 100–999 employees use it. IDC believes the relative reluctance of smaller firms to deploy VoIP technology may be due to multiple factors, including lack of awareness, unwillingness to invest in new telecommunications infrastructure, and a perception of VoIP as being less secure and providing lower call quality and less resilience during power outages.

Continuing increases in SMB adoption of mobile communications technology also has not led to any significant uptick in their adoption of UC.

Bad Economy May Be Good for UC

The economic downturn has underscored the importance of expense management, especially for SMBs, and restrictions on business travel have contributed to the popularity of virtual alternatives to in-person meetings. Approximately 45% of medium-sized businesses currently use some type of conferencing technology, which is a key component of corporate UC networks.

The missing piece to the SMB unified communications puzzle is you, the MSP. For SMB clients who have been upgrading different portions of their communications infrastructure but don’t realize they could take a few more steps toward true UC, you need to explain the availability and benefits UC has to offer.

And for clients who are aware of UC but lack the time, resources and/or knowhow to tie everything together, you need to offer an affordable, reliable managed UC services package. Every puzzle has its one final piece, and for the SMB UC puzzle, the MSP is it.
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