Hosted IP PBX Solutions Are Growing In Popularity With Small Medium Businesses
In-stat, a market research firm, projects that by 2010, there will be more then 3 Million hosted VoIP seats in the US alone, up from 373,000 in 2006. Fueled by cost savings, the small business market continues to be the hot zone for hosted providers with most deployments in the 20-to-50 seat range. “As business managers assess their resident ability to deploy and manage enterprise-like VoIP services, many are finding themselves lacking the capital and expertise required,” says David Lemelin, In-Stat analyst. “As a result, hosted VoIP solutions are becoming more attractive.”
One such hosted VoIP system provider blazing a trial is Vocalocity. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down last week and chat with Vocalocity’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, David Politis, about Vocalocity, their offerings, and the future of the hosted VoIP PBX industry.
Garrett: David, Give Us Some More Information about Vocalocity.
David: The story of Vocalocity starts with a company called ZivVa. In 2003 Boris Jerkunica (currently CEO of Vocalocity) and Phil Hill (currently President of Vocalocity) founded ZivVa, in Atlanta, GA, with the vision of making it easier for people around the world to communicate. The first service that ZivVa offered was an international virtual number service, that allowed immigrants or business people around the world, to buy a local number in a country and city, that they where they were not located, and forward it anywhere else in the world.
ZivVa experienced a lot of success in the Eastern European and South American markets. Then in June of 2005, developed a hosted PBX product targeted at the Small and Medium sized business called ZivVa Office. In June 2006, ZivVa acquired Vocalocity, also an Atlanta company, for its industry leading VoIP platform and have since been combining the two technologies to create a state of the art hosted pbx offering.
Since then the hosted PBX product has been renamed Vocalocity PBX. Over the last year Vocalocity has experienced tremendous growth and has become a leader in the market for small business VoIP. Vocalocity’s vision is to be the leader in innovation for small business VoIP. We continually strive to deliver the best in value, technology and support to our customers.
Garrett: Tell us a little bit more about your service.
David: VocalocityPBX is the most cost effective, reliable and feature rich hosted pbx on the market. We offer small businesses the type of office phone that used to only be available to enterprises at a small fraction of the price. Our product allows small businesses the flexibility that they need. We offer a variety of plans and our product is built so that we can grow with our customers. There is no maximum to how many phones you can have on one of our PBXs. The vocalcityPBX product is built so that is plug and play, we’ve eliminated the need for an installation. For years the phone system has been a headache for small business and we want it to be as easy as email. We can do all of this because of the power of VoIP technology and especially our proprietary platform. Businesses no longer have to have a PBX on site, we host all of that for the business and let them focus on what they’re good at, their business.
Garrett: What makes Vocalocity different from other hosted IP PBX providers?
We differentiate ourselves in three areas.
- Unchallenged Value – We are the best value on the market. We deliver the best product at the best price. The most popular plans with vocalocity are the flat rate plans that include unlimited usage, all taxes and fees are bundled into that price. You dont see that with any of our competitors, they may quote a customer $39.99 per extensions, but when the bill comes it is $49.99 per extension. Our unlimited extension is $34.99 and that is what you pay.
- Proprietary Technology – Most hosted PBX vendors have purchased their technology from a third party and are therefore don’t have the flexibility to modify or improve on their product. They have to wait for the newest update to come out in order to update their customers PBXs. Vocalocity is constantly innovating by delivering top notch reliability and a constant flow of new features.
- Support First Philosophy – Vocalocity is the first in the industry to introduce a Personal Account Manager for all of its accounts. Now, small businesses have an employee at Vocalocity who is dedicated to helping them with any questions or concerns that they may have. It’s like the Cheers song, its good to have a place where people know your name. The philosophy of everyone in the company from CEO to Office Manager is that our customers happiness comes first.
Garrett: Can you give all a good idea of the different plan? How Much Does a basic hosted plan cost?
We have a number of plans and add ons to fit any small business needs. Our most popular VoIP service plan is our unlimited extension plan, this gives the customer unlimited calling to the US and Canada and all of our features at a price of $34.99 per month. We also offer metered plans for businesses that dont use their phones as much, but would still want the benefit of a full featured PBX. These plans are $14.99 a month plus a per minute fee.
Garrett: Any other important value adds about the service?
David: Some of the add ons that Vocalocity offers are, Fax, Conference Bridge (up to 30 participants), Call Queuing, Virtual Departments, and many more. We have any feature that a small business would be looking for.
Garrett: So what are some of the business benefits of going with a hosted solution, as opposed to a premise based PBX solution?
David: There are a few.
- Cost – With a hosted solution Customers can eliminate the upfront equipment costs of an expensive on premise phone systems.
- Reliability and Disaster Recovery – Hosted solutions store all of your PBX information and files at hosting facilities that have sophisticated and redunant equipment, so that the data is secure and can always be recovered in case a customer needs to move offices or work from home. With an on premise PBX all data (including VM, settings, faxes, etc) are stored on the PBX that is on the customer’s premise. If for any reason (and there are many possibilities) they lose connectivity to their PBX they are unreachable by the rest of the world and their data is irretrievable. Also, if the PBX happens to fail or freeze the customer has lost their data and needs to invest in a new PBX.
- Virtual Office – A hosted solution makes the idea of a virtual office truly come to light. You can route calls to any employee anywhere on earth that has a high-speed internet connection. With a hosted solution there is no need for a main office. Everyone could be a remote employee, but to the outsider, no one would know (unless you told them).
- No Maintenance or Upgrades – With hosted solutions you have no hardware or technology to maintain on premise: all day-to-day operations and maintenance of the PBX is performed by the hosting company. Companies also gain access to the latest technology automatically, with all upgrades handled by a hosted PBX company like Vocalocity. This comes as a tremendous cost savings to the customer, and eliminates the need for an on-site PBX technician.
Garrett: What does a typical Vocalocity customer look like?
David: Our average customer is a small business with between 5-30 employees. We have seen great success with business in the real estate, law and financial services industries. We service customers everywhere from California to NY, the beauty of a hosted PBX is that it has no boundaries.
Garrett: What do you do for companies that need a fax line?
David: We offer a fax solution that customers seem to like more then the traditional fax solution. It is a fax to email, email to fax solution. Simply put, a customer can attach a file to an email and address it to the desired fax [email protected] and send the email. The fax will come out on a fax machine at the desired location. When customers receive faxes they simply come in as a file attachment to an email. They double click on it and can view it or manipulate it on their computer.
Garrett: What Do You See as the Future of Hosted IP PBX solutions?
David: The future of hosted IP PBX communications is very bright. I’m sure you are well aware that a small percentage of small and medium businesses are using IP communications today, let alone hosted IP communications. I see the space that we’re in as very similar to the CRM space, in the not so distant past companies had no choice but to put their CRM solution on premise and deal with the headaches and hassle of installing, upgrading and maintaining another piece of hardware on their network that stored arguably their most important data. Now, hosted/on demand CRM applications like Salesforce.com are becoming the preferred CRM tool for business owners. All of the data is backed up in more secure locations then a small office, the system is accessible over the web from anywhere in the world and most importantly it has become easier to integrate other business critical applications with a companies CRM. I see the same happening with business telephony.
When it comes to business VoIP, business owners and IT directors have the same expectations. It has been expected that when it comes time to buy a phone system, there are going to be messy installs, headaches with configuration and other misqueues and confusion involved. Hosted IP PBXs can eliminate all of that hassle. Most businesses already have a high speed broadband connection installed in their office and have a network set up. With a truly hosted solution like ours, the phone system just becomes another application on that network, no worries, just plug and play. This is already something that is happening today, especially in the small business. But, it won’t be long until enterprises realize the benefit and trust the reliability of a hosted solution.
I believe that the most exciting prospect for hosted business VoIP systems is the new found ability and focus on creating new unique and useful applications that will help increase worker productivity and enable integration with other business tools. All of this is going to be done while showing companies significant savings that they can then reinvest into their core business.