Calling On Convergence
SMBs increasingly are lending their ears to the possibilities of converged communications solutions, according to a new Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and IDC study. "CompTIA/IDC Convergent Technologies Research Study 2005," based on findings from a Web survey of U.S. businesses with 20 to 500 employees, reveals 40 percent of respondents are evaluating merged voice and data applications over a common network or plan to within the next 18 months. An additional 13 percent already has deployed; 18 percent is deploying or will deploy in the next 18 months, and 29 percent does not plan to do so in that time frame.
Businesses are migrating to converged communications solutions at different paces, according to CompTIA, based on elements that include comfort level with new technologies, depreciation schedules, and budget availability. "These plans for deployment and evaluation are even more impressive when you consider that nearly two-thirds of these companies said they are generally satisfied with their existing communications systems," said John Venator, president and CEO of CompTIA, in a written statement. "Small and medium-sized businesses clearly believe converged voice and data networks and applications have real business value, whether it is through reducing the cost of internal and external communications systems, streamlining management of voice and data networks, or improving productivity throughout their operations."
Additional results indicate that more than 60 percent of SMBs believe voice and data application integration like caller ID integration with CRM systems and click-to-dial directories, has good business value. Among those who contend they recognize its value, 47 percent of them have not yet deployed. Sixteen percent revealed that integrating phone and business applications has a good business value and that they have deployed, while 15 percent said that they already have deployed and see little business value. Twenty-two percent reported they have not deployed and it has little business value.
Regarding unified messaging systems, which provide a common inbox for email, voicemail, and fax messages, two-thirds of respondents see good business value. Forty-one percent of them have not yet deployed, while 25 percent of them have. Of the respondents who reported little business value, 17 percent already have deployed and another 17 percent have not.
The study also reveals the top-10 vendors that U.S. SMBs would consider for data network equipment, with Cisco Systems receiving the highest response, at 58 percent. That was followed by Dell (44 percent), IBM (42 percent), Microsoft (37 percent), D-Link and 3Com, both with 33 percent, Linksys, a division of Cisco, (30 percent), Netgear (28 percent), Siemens (25 percent), and Avaya (24 percent).
Cisco also took the top spot for IP phone systems suppliers, with 32 percent. Microsoft came in second with 25 percent, followed by IBM and Avaya (both with 24 percent), Nortel (21 percent), Dell and Linksys (19 percent each), 3Com and Siemens (18 percent each), Nokia (15 percent), and Inter-Tel (14 percent).
"SMBs are already structured to buy converged communications solutions, because the buying decisions for both voice and data communications are predominantly made by the same person or by individuals on the same team," Abner Germanow, program manager in IDC's enterprise networks group, notes in the report's executive summary. "However, purchases of converged communications solutions may be hindered by security concerns, which are generally much higher with the newer IP telephony systems than with the older and more traditional telephony and data communications systems."
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