Here in the U.S., it’s hard to read up on IP telephony without first hearing about its many benefits for businesses. As far as technology goes, VoIP’s age is rather impressive; a lot of technologies tend to fizzle out over a period of time, but VoIP has managed to evolve alongside the Internet, improving and helping businesses keep their bills down and communication efficient. We’re rather lucky to be in the here and now with IP telephony; however, it’s not the same for the Australian small business market.
A recent survey from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that IP telephony services are adopted more by medium and large businesses and not so much the smaller counterparts. Out of 1,500 businesses surveyed, all of which had 200 employees or less, 39 percent of respondents in the medium business category (20-199 employees) reported using VoIP compared to 28 percent in the 1-20 category.
“Collectively SMEs are big players in the Australian economy,” it says. “[They are] estimated to account for 69 percent of the total Australian workforce and 57 percent of total business income earned during 2011–12,” writes the report.
So why are the small businesses of Australia coming in as the smallest adopters of IP telephony? The report suggests it is due to what is known as “digital confidence.”
ACMA defines a digitally confident small business as “…using communications services intensively and is changing business practices to: realize increased productivity through such practices as offering staff the opportunity to telework; gain efficiencies through the use of new services such as cloud computing; respond to the demand for mobile services through developing mobile applications and mobile-optimized websites; use online marketing tools and social networks to access an increasingly global market place.”
Perhaps the lack of confidence comes from some IP myths that have circulated since its inception.
IP telephony is woefully misunderstood for its voice quality in that too many are under the impression that it is inferior. This simply isn’t true. Broadband has improved over the years, so IP has improved as well. Today, packets are able to travel through the Internet extremely fast, delivering crisp, clear voice at a fraction of the cost of traditional telephony.
Also, some telecom decision makers feel that IP telephony is insecure, but the truth of the matter is there are plenty of sophisticated defense measures like firewalls, redundancy and encryption to ensure solid, reliable security. IP telephony is safe in the same way online banking is safe, as they share the same data lines.
From low cost to portability and feature-rich solutions, a business’ reputation relies on not good, but excellent communications. IP phones come with features like call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID and three-way calling, so selecting the right IP phone is a key step to using IP telephony to its fullest potential.
Businesses can see a lot in savings when making the switch, and perhaps the SME market in Australia will get better as they become more educated on the benefits of IP telephony.
Edited by Alisen Downey