Small and mid-sized businesses are rapidly waking up to the potential of IP convergence to deliver cost savings and boost business efficiency, newly published research has claimed.
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) said that 40 per cent of US SMEs are currently evaluating new communications systems that deliver voice and data applications over a common network, or intend to do so within the next 18 months.
The survey of some 300 US businesses with 20-500 employees, conducted by IDC, also found that another 18 per cent of these businesses are currently deploying a converged system, or will do so in the next 18 months.
Two-thirds of respondents claim to recognise the business value in converged systems, such as unified messaging and integrated voice and data applications.
"These plans for deployment and evaluation are even more impressive when you consider that nearly two-thirds of these companies are generally satisfied with their existing communications systems," said John Venator, president and chief executive at CompTIA.
"SMEs clearly believe that converged voice and data networks and applications have real business value, whether through reducing the cost of internal and external communications systems, streamlining management of voice and data networks, or improving productivity throughout their operations."
About 40 per cent of companies participating in the IDC survey are in the professional services, healthcare facilities and services, financial and real estate services, and retail trade sectors.
When asked about unified messaging systems, which provide a common inbox for all email, voicemail and fax messages, 25 per cent of SMEs said that they have already deployed these systems and believe them to provide 'good business value'.
Another 41 per cent have not deployed unified messaging but recognise that it would provide good business value.
Asked a similar question about phone and business application integration, such as click-to-dial directories and caller ID integration with CRM systems, 16 per cent of respondents said they have deployed these systems.
The study also found that businesses are migrating to converged communications offerings at different paces, based on factors such as comfort level with new technologies, depreciation schedules or obsolescence of legacy voice equipment, or budget availability.
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