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U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Show Strong Interest in Unified Communications: IDC

October 12, 2011

Recent research from IDC finds that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have deep interest in unified communications (UC) technologies, including voice-over-IP (VoIP); conferencing technologies that support audio, Web, and video; and unified messaging, which integrates voice and data messaging.

The research data shows that more than one third of small businesses (firms with less than 100 employees) and nearly three-quarters of medium-sized companies (firms with 100-999 employees) currently own at least one unified communications component technology.

The research also indicated SMBs have greater interest in adding UC technologies. More than 30 percent of small firms and 55 percent of midsize firms said they have plans to add at least one UC component in the next 12 months.

However, IDC notes in its report titled “In Unified Communications in U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Business, 2011: Growing Demand for Communication, Collaboration, and Connectivity -- But Integration Remains Elusive” that very few of the SMBs have implemented a comprehensive, end-to-end UC system that can deliver connectivity and collaboration capabilities beyond the sum of its separate parts.

“SMBs are interested in both underlying capabilities and specific UC technologies,” says Justin Jaffe, research manager at IDC. “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.”

Among the popular communications technologies, VoIP has established a solid foothold in the medium-sized business segment, and more than 30 percent of firms with 100--999 employees use it. VoIP is not popular among small businesses mainly due to 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.

The primary reason for the growth of UC technologies, especially video conferencing and collaboration, among these firms is the need to reduce travel. Approximately 45 percent of medium-sized businesses currently use some type of conferencing technology, IDC finds.

The research hints that although there is substantial increase in SMB ownership of mobile resources – from smartphones to notebooks to media tablets – along with interest in supporting remote workers, adoption of unified messaging remains modest. However, the percentage of firms citing plans to add it in the next 12 months has increased since the previous IDC survey.

Meanwhile a recent research from In-Stat finds that spending on communications technologies in the small-office-home-office, or “SOHO” market will surpass $17 billion in 2015. The overall spending trend in SOHO spending will see a 20 percent increase over the next five years, according to  In-Stat.

Rajani Baburajan is a contributing editor for unified communications. To read more of Rajani's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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