A review of SMB communications needs-fixed, mobile or
Businesses of all sizes adopt technology to make them more
productive, cost effective or flexible and help them compete.
Over the years, the adoption of tools such as mobile phones,
wireless laptops, the internet and email have all been driven by
such expectations. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are
often at the forefront as it can give them a lead on their larger
competitors. But what starts as a useful extra tool for a few
soon becomes the accepted norm for all, bringing further
challenges and costs.
The internet has become a vital conduit and tool for many
Widely accepted as a fundamental part of business IT, the
internet has moved far from its academic routes. Around two
thirds of SMBs have been online for over 5 years, and for more
than half of these companies, this commercial use of the internet
is part of a formal business strategy. Around a third of SMBs are
selling online, over a quarter are using IP telephony, and one in
six have some form of network video collaboration capability. The
internet is now a central element of the business and the working
life of its employees, and its selection process must bear in
mind the impact of current and projected usage.
Email addresses and mobile phone numbers are the
primary business contact points for all employees An
email address and mobile phone number are the most consistent
and prominent contact points on SMB business cards.
Surprisingly, the fax machine is not yet defunct as many still
have its number on their cards-more so than list a web address.
Beyond telephony and text messaging, many SMBs use mobile
phones for email, web browsing and instant messaging both
inside and outside the office. Even at a desk with a fixed
phone, the mobile is the first preference for many employees
wanting to make a call, despite the difference in cost.
Working from home is widespread, but is not ideal for
communications and is still relatively ad hoc Most
small businesses have some employees working at least part of
their time from home and, for a quarter of them, this applies
to more than 10% of the workforce. Most of these employees are
provided with a laptop computer, around half a mobile phone,
and a third of employers pay for home workers' broadband
connection, but there is less support for fixed phones or PBX
integration. More than a third of SMBs notice problems getting
mobile phone coverage at work, but at home the problem is, if
anything, worse, with almost half of companies noting that some
employees have difficulty getting coverage on their business
mobile while at home.
Communications costs are high, assistance to understand
and control them would be valued The flexibility,
especially of mobile communications, might be worth it, but
costs are still an issue. SMBs are open to ideas like
fixed/mobile convergence-offering both services from a single
device-providing it delivers value without requiring
substantial upfront investment. Most of them think this is an
area where mobile operators can help, giving those operators an
opportunity to grab fixed call minutes and revenues.
Technology advances are creating all sorts of new methods of
communications, and the IT and telecoms industries are trying to
bring these together through products that offer
‘Unified Communications' or
‘Fixed/Mobile Convergence'. However, for SMBs the
problem is not one of converging technologies, but simplifying
the way they communicate. Their core need is one of capable and
robust connectivity. This means internet connection services
providing sufficient bandwidth, responsiveness and reliability
and for mobile connections, decent quality, coverage and
flexibility. What they need to seek from their suppliers is an
understanding of these basic communications needs. They need to
then be presented with products that meet those needs simply and
in a way that does not try to radically change the current
working practices of the business, but allows them to evolve.
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