IP telephony still out of the cloud

IP telephony still out of the cloud

Summary: Despite many large corporations switching to IT telephony solutions, it seems they're taking the next step, to Unified Communications, more cautiously. Is that because they don't understand it?


Despite many large corporations switching to IT telephony solutions, it seems they're taking the next step, to Unified Communications, more cautiously. Is that because they don't understand it?

The argument for a move to a basic IP telephony solution is a fairly straightforward one — it's generally cheaper than a switched (PSTN) service. Replacing an old-fashioned ISDN link with a shared SIP trunk provides a good savings before you even consider the benefits of on-net calling between premises. That's presumably why 23 per cent of respondents to the ZDNet 2010 IT Priorities study saw IP telephony as a priority over the next six months. In the finance sector it's as high as 33 per cent.

Many argue, though, that the real benefits come from the productivity gains of what has historically been termed Unified Communications (UC) — all those neat little tools that let you integrate your computer and telephone, convert voice to text, share corporate directories across multiple locations, see who is online, and much more.

If you've got IP telephony, why wouldn't you want all this stuff? Yet only 13.5 per cent of IT managers listed Unified Communications as a top interest in the 2010 study and 14.7 per cent gave it as a priority over the next six months (19 per cent in the finance sector). That's about half those looking at IP telephony.

IT Priorities graph

Bigger companies are far more interested in the possibilities of Unified Communications and IT managers are slightly more excited about it than other senior managers, but only by a whisker. Indian respondents showed far more inclination than those in any other country surveyed, although, to be honest, respondents in the sub continent seemed to show far more enthusiasm for everything.

There are two other telling statistics here. First, 12 per cent of respondents are looking at a PABX solution in the next six months. That's one of the lowest rankings for any communications decision, but pretty much what you'd expect for a seven-year renewal cycle on a piece of hardware. Presumably most of those will now be considering an IP-PBX, unless they really are sticklers for an old-fashioned life.

The second interesting figure is the relative lack of interest in cloud computing. 8.5 per cent of respondents said it was a top interest for their organisations, which fell a long way behind mobile solutions (13.8 per cent), virtualisation (16.9 per cent) and security enhancements (17.7 per cent). For more on this see IT managers' virtual love.

So it looks like many companies have not considered, or are not ready, to take the leap to a cloud-based telephony solution. Hosted IP-PBX solutions are becoming more and more common and it seems a natural step for an organisation to take, particularly for multi-location businesses who can disband with physical PBX systems in each location and treat their whole business as if it was a single site.

We can perhaps forgive a lack of interest in unified communications. The term has probably had its day. The benefits are more to do with collaboration really, so maybe it's time we put UC out to pasture. But looking at IP telephony without considering the cloud seems like an opportunity missed.

Topics: CXO, Cloud, IT Priorities, Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • I agree with you in both areas - Hosted and UC.

    As a hosted IP phone system provider, over the last 10 years M5 Networks has seen the ever increasing desire (and need) to NOT have in-house staff running the telecommunications of an organisation. The vast majority of small to medium organisations (who we focus on) do not want these specialised telco staff on salary, and they do not want to be managing their own PBX any more than they want to have staff doing all their tax accounting, legal services or even payroll. They want service contracts and not data communications degrees or vendors promising to come to the office to "fix it" soon.

    We have also seen companies trickling in with UC requirements, and early adopters have, of course, adopted, but the overwhelming rush to UC seems much like the overwhelming rush to WAP (back in the day). The idea is good and it will be taken up eventually. WAP evolved into SMS & RSS etc but it needed the catalysts provided by increased internet and smartphone usage along with the cloud based facilities from information organisations (like Yahoo and Google) and social network tools (like Twitter and Facebook) to really get some ground swell.

    I believe UC will also evolve in a similar manner. Organisations just need dedicated and expert-run (read cloud based) services around it that make it *easy*, and adoption will increase. Especially with those who have already recognised, and realised, the hosted PBX solution. The benefits that can be obtained from properly-implemented collaboration in the new information driven and mobile workforce arena are dramatic.

    That said, and as you suggest, there will likely be a name-change associated with it so that it's shiny and new as well...
    - Matthew