Small Business Telephone Systems Growing

A common theme across my recent articles has been the end-of-life scenario as a driver for VoIP. This is perhaps the easiest to understand and presents the most pressing need, but given the longevity of most legacy systems, it hardly addresses the total market opportunity.

VoIP is almost always deployed in response to some type of pain, but this can take many forms. In this post, I’m going to talk about one that’s akin to death by a thousand cuts. The longer you’ve had a legacy system, the more likely you’ve encountered a variety of small problems. None of these is enough to warrant a move to VoIP, but at some point they reach critical mass where this direction starts to make sense. Regardless of how well your phone system is holding up physically, all kinds of operational challenges will surface, especially as your employees adopt other modes of communication. Here are a few to consider:

· Usage patterns have changed, and end users are using their desk phones less regularly. They may be relying more on their mobile devices, Web-based VoIP services like Skype, or simply using other modes more often – text, chat, IM, etc. Voice remains as mission-critical as ever, but the traffic is shifting to other places. This is not a good thing, especially if your phone system still has many years of life ahead.

· Feature set of the phone system is not keeping up with your needs. The existing features are serviceable, but limited with your existing package. You may find that your employees are asking for enhanced features such as conferencing or call display, but the cost of adding these from your service provider is prohibitive. They may also be asking for features that your legacy phone system simply cannot support, such as visual voicemail, where you receive an email with an MP3 file of your latest message.

· Your service provider has you locked into a long term contract where long distance calling rates aren’t competitive with what you’ve seen elsewhere – and these alternatives do not require a contract commitment.

· Maintenance contract is up for renewal and your VAR or integrator wants an increase. Your phone system is working fine, but the OEM has shifted to IP telephony, and skilled technicians for legacy are in short supply.

· Related to this, the OEM has posted end-of-life timetables for the legacy systems, which means parts will become harder to source and software upgrades will stop coming. In this scenario, your phone system is as good as the release you’re currently using, with no options for add-ons.

· Growth in terms of employees and the need for telephony has pushed your phone system to near capacity. Buying a bigger system or adding switches to the existing system are out of the question, and the economics dictate that some new employees will have to use other options such as mobility, or share an extension with others.

· Your recent experiences with IP telephony in other settings – either home or business – have been better than expected, and you start to question whether the quality of legacy is really that much better, especially considering what you’re paying relative to what VoIP costs.

· As other communication modes become more popular, you begin to wonder why a desk phone call cannot be handed off to a mobile phone, or join an ad hoc conferencing session, or be recorded, etc. When you see what other businesses are doing – especially competitors – you may start to question for the first time whether your phone system is an asset or a liability.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but should provide a flavor of the nagging issues that would lead you rethink the value of keeping your legacy phone system. There isn’t really enough pain in any of these to trigger a move, but chances are you’re dealing with a few of them right now. Legacy phone systems are purchased with a long time horizon in mind, with little expectation of change during that period. Clearly, today’s reality is very different, and if VoIP can address your various concerns, it’s time to step back and consider the risk of keeping the status quo, especially when more changes are on the way.

Contact Dynam Communications today to discuss your PBX small business telephone system needs.



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