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SMBs Showing Growing Interest in Unified Communications

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Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are expressing increasing interest in unified communications, according to IDC. But it’s up to UC vendors to show prospective SMB buyers how they can benefit from comprehensive UC solutions, the report added.

"Many SMB business and IT priorities relate to communication and collaboration," Justin Jaffe, research manager for Small/Medium-Sized Business and Remote Worker/Home Business research at IDC, said in an IDC news release. "SMBs are interested in both underlying capabilities and specific UC technologies. The real challenge for vendors is to effectively connect the benefits of unified communications to improved business performance. Show how UC can make a real difference in productivity and efficiency and SMBs will flock to it."

SMBs are deploying tools such as voice-over-IP (VoIP) and unified messaging, which integrates voice and data messaging; and conferencing technologies that support audio, Web, and video, IDC said. However, relatively few are using a comprehensive, end-to-end unified communications (UC) system.

IDC’s findings included:

More than a third of small businesses (companies with less than 100 employees) and almost three-quarters of medium-sized companies (firms with 100–999 employees) currently own at least one unified communications technology. SMB interest in adding UC technologies is considerable: more than 30% of small firms and 55% of midsize firms list plans to add at least one UC component in the next year.

VoIP has a foothold in the medium-sized business segment, with more than 30% of firms with 100–999 employees using it. The reluctance of some smaller firms to deploy VoIP may be due to several factors, including lack of awareness, unwillingness to invest in new telecommunications infrastructure, and a perception of VoIP as being less secure and providing lower call quality and less resilience during power outages, IDC said.

“All of these concerns can and should be addressed by vendors,” IDC said.

ShoreTel offers a comprehensive unified communications solution, in premise-based or cloud-based offerings.