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More Small Businesses Expect to Implement UC&C Soon

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ShoreTel Unified Communications and Collaboration

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are recognizing the tremendous impact that unified communications (UC) can have on their growth. When employees can easily collaborate – wherever, whenever and any device – they solve problems more quickly and deliver on customer needs more effectively. So it’s no surprise that organizations are accelerating investment in new, innovative technologies that streamline collaboration and enable their teams to connect more effectively with customers.

Two-thirds of SMBs say they plan to implement or upgrade their current communications technology to unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions over the next three years, according to a recent survey by IDG Research. In doing so, they’ll begin to catch up to larger enterprises, which have been adopting UC&C at a steady pace.

In fact, IDG sees significant growth ahead for UC&C in small businesses as well as large enterprises. Both expect to achieve high returns on their investment, most notably through improvements in employee collaboration (43%), productivity (42%), and employee flexibility and mobility (33%). Interestingly, only 49% of SMBs have a UC&C solution in place, meaning there’s plenty of upside in making the switch. And that’s a fact many small businesses clearly recognize.

Indeed, SMBs intend to invest significantly in upgrading or implementing UC&C: 33% expect their budgets to increase – by 9%, on average – for communication solutions. These dollars will be spent on Web, audio and videoconferencing services – 47% say of SMBs plan to implement those technologies soon – followed by IP telephony calling and management, and email, fax and voicemail.

SMBs are also increasingly looking to deploy conferencing tools, particularly for connecting with customers. While nearly half use video conferencing for external communications, they’re currently using free or low-cost services like Skype, Google Hangouts and FaceTime. And they done so even as they worry about security, which 34% say is their biggest concern about implementing UC&C.

In fact, they survey says, the top factor for evaluating a vendor is security (54% of SMBs), followed by the total cost of ownership (51%). At ShoreTel, our solutions are designed using security professionals’ best practice model, the triad of CIA: Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. And our clients feel confident they’ll derive a high value from their investment: ShoreTel is the market leader in providing the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

Finally, SMBs are shifting to cloud and hybrid UC&C solutions in a big way. Today, 42% of them have premised-based systems while 27% have a hybrid solution. But in the next two years, more SMBs plan to move fully to the cloud (25%) or to a hybrid solution (42%). It’s a significant shift that underscores how organizations are becoming increasingly comfortable with the cloud and the role it plays in UC&C solutions.

Organizations that move rapidly to adopt UC&C will achieve tangible benefits. For one thing, they’ll be able to move fast, identifying and seizing opportunities that enable them to be more competitive. At the same time, as more SMBs race to implement UC&C, small businesses will have to be nimble to meet the challenges of fast-changing marketplaces.