Posted by Blair Pleasant

As an industry analyst, I receive many inquiries from organizations about how to move forward to the world of unified communications and the various options to consider. Yesterday I received an inquiry from the president of a growing 15-person engineering firm (let’s call her Jane) who is “trying to determine how to upgrade our phone system into the 21
st century.”The company currently has an old (really old) analog phone system and is evaluating two different market-leading vendors. Jane stated that she’s “concerned regarding the hardware required, the cost and proprietary software and it’s cost with each system to expand.” Typical of most SMBs, the company needs to “act like a big company so we can compete.”VoIP

My initial reaction to this inquiry was curiosity - why is this 15-person company even considering purchasing an expensive solution from a legacy PBX provider even if they are a market leader? It is just too expensive for a small company and there are many alternative options that can support the same features and functionality to address Jane’s business needs.  According to the inquiry, the company “requires quality bandwidth access to the Internet, first class customer service with our clients, and a cost effective solution.” They currently have an outdated analog system and want to move to VoIP (and hopefully unified communications as well). Jane’s company is already familiar with cloud-based solutions including her CRM and Accounting applications. The best solution for this company was obvious – a hosted cloud-based solution.

While the answer was obvious, I’m wondering why this company was focusing on legacy solutions, even while noting that they’re concerned about the cost of expanding a proprietary system. In this case, the choice of a hosted cloud-based solution that can grow as the company grows and eliminates the concerns about hardware upgrades seems to me to be a “no brainer.”

There are several possible reasons why the company was focusing on a solution from a legacy provider:

  • Poor guidance from the channel partner or IT consultant looking to make more margin on the sale;
  • Lack of overall awareness of current cloud solutions and their benefits for SMBs.

Based on what was communicated to me from Jane, I assume it’s a bit of each. She noted that a lot of the information they’re basing decisions on is from their IT provider, as well as an IT consultant. These people may be more concerned about keeping their jobs and continuing to work with the legacy products they are deeply familiar with, rather than finding the solution that makes the most sense an would best meet the company’s needs.

Based on the information I received, this company is clearly a prime candidate for a hosted solution (such as Fonality’s), which would eliminate the president’s fears related to proprietary software and hardware.

There are clearly benefits to using a hosted or cloud-based service:

  • Focus: Organizations, both small and large, can let someone else deal with technology, allowing the organization to focus on its core business;
  • Subscription OpEx model;
  • Companies can be guaranteed to get the latest and greatest features as they're introduced, and don't have to do anything to stay current with new releases--it's done automatically.
  • Time to deploy: Voice and Unified Communication services can be up and running much more quickly in a hosted or cloud deployment. The service can be available quickly and easily, without having to install and implement servers. Users can have a hosted UC solution up and working in days, rather than months.
  • Simplicity: Hosted services can be much simpler for organizations to purchase, deploy, and manage than premise-based solutions, which may require additional technical knowledge.

The cloud is the “great equalizer” for SMBs, as it levels the playing field by providing small companies with economical and manageable access to the same rich capabilities that their larger counterparts enjoy.

I urge any company that is considering replacing its aging phone system to think outside the box and not rely on what the “old guard” suggests. For some vendors, resellers, and consultants, the cloud can be considered a threat to the way they’ve been doing business. For SMBs, the cloud provides an opportunity to get necessary business communication functions and capabilities in a simpler way, helping you be more competitive.