Are small businesses missing out when it comes to VoIP?
At least in Australia, the answer seems to be that they are missing the boat. A survey by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that adoption of voice-over-IP (VoIP) service is much lower among small businesses compared with their medium-sized counterparts.
In one of its targeted reports on the digital economy in Australia, the ACMA noted that 39 percent of medium-sized businesses reported using VoIP, while only 28 percent of small businesses said the same.
“Collectively SMEs are big players in the Australian economy,” the report noted. “[They are] estimated to account for 69 percent of the total Australian workforce and 57 percent of total business income earned during 2011–12.”
Further, it noted that small businesses were in great position to use VoIP, since the segment already is a high user of cloud services; 47 percent of respondents said they already used some form of cloud services, whether Web-based email or cloud data storage.
Yet, small businesses in Australia are in many cases not confident enough to press forward with VoIP adoption despite the fact that cloud-based VoIP solutions are the easiest rollout of the technology and almost a no-brainer.
Cloud-based VoIP, known as hosted VoIP, saves businesses of all sizes from having to invest in new infrastructure or maintain equipment. It also enables businesses to stay current without having to invest time and effort in following the technology.
This is a big opportunity left on the table, because VoIP is not only useful to most businesses, it is an equalizer for the small business.
VoIP offers several benefits in general over traditional phone lines.
First, there’s the cost savings: VoIP greatly reduces the cost of phone calls in almost every case, thanks to its use of the Internet for transmission instead of requiring dedicated phone lines. This enables a flat rate for domestic calls in most cases, and reduced cost for international calls.
Second, VoIP delivers a number of features that are either pricey add-ons or not available at all with traditional phone service. These include call-hunting, where a call will try several different phone numbers until it reaches the intended party, and interactive voice response (IVR), which essentially delivers a virtual receptionist.
VoIP also enables true mobility, an increasingly important feature in a work environment where employees are on the go and working from home in many cases. VoIP calls can be taken from a smartphone, a computer, or a desk phone in a home or an office—or all of the above, giving even more mobility than is available with a smartphone.
But for the small business, VoIP delivers additional benefits. It becomes an equalizer.
That’s because for most small businesses, they are unable to justify the cost of features such as IVR or a company directory that connects employees stationed in different physical sites. These are features that usually are reserved for larger enterprises. But with VoIP, especially hosted VoIP, they are just as affordable for the small business as for the larger enterprise clients.
VoIP can put the small business on parity with the larger competition, and also help it project larger than it is since an interactive voice response system sounds the same whether the company employing it is a Fortune 500 firm or a one-man business.
So it is particularly sad to hear that small businesses have been slow in adopting VoIP. Arguably, they are the ones who need it the most.