Hosted Unified Communications: Will MSPs Answer the Call?

As the VoiceCon trade show unfolded this week in Orlando, I received dozens of emails about new unified communications systems -- both on-premises and hosted. I know there's big-time demand for VoIP and UC in small businesses. But I wonder how many MSPs are willing to manage their customers' dial-tones.

Here's why I ask: Rewind a few weeks to the Intermedia Partner Conference in Silicon Valley. At that event, Intermedia promoted a dual-strategy to its channel partners: Push forward with Hosted Exchange but also begin to embrace Hosted Unified Communications. At the same time, Microsoft is prepping Office Communications Server 14 and a range of online UC services. And giants like Cisco Systems and Siemens are advocating a range of UC options.

Many enterprises are ready for unified communications. According to Mary Jo Foley's All About Microsoft blog:

Microsoft isn’t releasing sales figures for OCS, but company officials claim OCS sales have grown by double digits every year for the last three years. Microsoft officials say that more than 70 percent of the Fortune 100 have OCS as well as 7 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, 8 of the top 10 aerospace companies, and 9 of the top 10 banks.
That's great for Microsoft. But is there a hosted UC opportunity for MSPs? Some skeptics, like Channel Marker, call the UC market lackluster. From where I sit, it seems like the big service providers -- from Orange to Verizon Business -- are working overtime to bring all sorts of UC solutions to big enterprises. But that doesn't mean they'll reach "all" customers.

With each new enterprise technology wave, there seems to be a large opportunity for MSPs to serve small and midsize customers. But in this case I wonder if MSPs are ready to promote hosted UC. At the Intermedia conference, a few attendees mentioned that they were nervous about reselling and/or supporting UC services, because customers freak out if they lose dial-tone services.

I think UC is unavoidable. But I wonder how many MSPs are prepared for the journey... and how you'll profit. I suspect some answers -- or at least a healthy debate -- may surface at events like SMB Nation and future versions of its sister conference, SMB VoIP. I'll be listening closely for answers.

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