Unified Communication (voice, video, enhanced presence service, conferencing over internet connection and much more) is becoming the standard for business e-communication in larger organizations. SMBs (Small and Medium Sized Businesses) are little late, one reason could be due to the requirement of significant on-premise initial investments.
Simultaneously, SMBs perception of cost has become the major push factor to implement on-premise PBX systems, as they realize the facts of transformation from traditional phone to a hosted IP telephony system, as it can evolve into a full scale Unified Communication System. So it's the right time to study & plan for the Microsoft Exchange based Hosted unified communication services by leveraging Hosted PBX solutions.The industry leaders & all time competitors, Microsoft & Cisco are even turning their battle into a Love affair so that their products works together
With the introduction of Exchange 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 (OCS 2007), many large organizations are gearing up for Unified Communications deployment in their organizations. Some of them are already doing a pilot test. There is a myth which says that SMBs may not be very keen on implementing Unified Communications due to its substantial budget requirements. I am hoping that sooner or later, most of the Exchange Hosting Providers will be able to offer Unified Communications solutions which are blended with Hosted Exchange 2007 & OCS 2007 to serve its SMB customers and to grow their businesses. All these hosters should equip themselves with a “state of the art” hosted PBX solution which can seamlessly integrate with the Microsoft Unified Communication Product suite. This will be a huge cash savings for SMBs, bringing them in par with larger enterprises in terms of customer services & productivity. Eventually, it lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO). Here is an interesting blog on "what happens when communications are unfied"
In a Hosted PBX scenario, the providers will own the equipment and the technology infrastructure is located, owned and managed at the hoster's data center and leased to the customer for the period mentioned in the contract. In the future, what benefits will this VoIP hosted PBX bring to the existing Hosted Exchange 2007 offering? Following are some key benefits:
- Greater Level of Scalability in the Hosted PBX solution – if your company is small in size, start with a smaller size of extensions and as your organization grows, increase to any size of extensions.
- Productivity with enhanced presence service & Improved Customer Services – users can do more customization. For example, redirect the calls to mobile when they are away, forward the voice mails to their email inbox, integrate phone presence service with your Instant Messaging client (e.g., Microsoft Office Communicator)
- No Geographical boundary, be anywhere virtually – this is like the follow-me concept. Your number follows you wherever you go. Turn your PC into your phone with an IP headset, use your mobile & home phone to receive calls and lot more functionality...
- Reduced Total Cost of Ownership – Since you don’t have to purchase the backend PBX infrastructure, there is a significant cost reduction whereby ultimately SMBs & start-ups can surely benefit.
- Support & Maintenance – maintaining and performing technology refresh on the PBX is not your responsibility anymore. Let hosters manage it.
- Business Continuance – With proper SLA, you can make sure that VoIP based applications are available (e.g. voice) in the event of any failure/disaster (usually they reroute to alternate locations)
In summary, make a careful decision on choosing the hosted PBX solution if you have a future plan to implement full scale Unified Communications services. Hosters recently started offering “Hosted Exchange 2007” as Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 is still beta. It wouldn't be any surprise to me if they bundled together these (Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging, OCS 2007 & Hosted PBX) to provide True Unified Communications services next year. To sum up, here is an interesting read on "Why SMBs favor Microsoft VoIP Solution"