So I was at a New Year's party recently and overheard a great grandmother and grandmother waxing poetically about the wonders of Net2phone and VOIP. Both of them happened to also have children/grandchildren living abroad and the cost savings from using VOIP is tremendous. While the penetration of VOIP is still quite modest compared to the traditional phone system, it really got me thinking that 2004 could be the breakout year for the technology. As the New Year brings about predictions, I have included some from Voxilla regarding VOIP.
I am also currently researching the use of VOIP for my office. My team is in the processs of moving from Greenwich, CT and back to NYC, and I have unfortunately been designated CTO for the transition. My first goal was to outsource as much as possible, particularly our phone service and email requirements. For a small office, it really makes no sense to build and maintain Microsoft Exchange onsite or to buy a huge PBX. Regarding VOIP, I found a number of interesting companies that only serve businesses and host the VOIP infrastructure in their own data center where all of the phone equipment, gateways, and interconnects would be located. VOIP equipment is more expensive than PBX so this way we could reduce the upfront capital cost of equipment by sharing it with a number of other customers. All we would have to do is get a direct T1 connection to their data center and buy some VOIP-enabled phones. On the messaging side, I came across a handful (not alot) of companies that offer hosted Microsoft Exchange for monthly service fees.
In general, most of the VOIP business service providers and the hosted Microsoft Exchange companies seemed to be pretty small players. What I did look for and did not find was a company that offered small and medium sized businesses an outsourced messaging platform for both VOIP and email (sounds like a big opportunity for me having just researched the build/buy decision for my office). It would be great to get all of my messaging handled through one vendor where all I really had to do was plug and play to get my office up and running. AT&T recently announced that they will offer VOIP, and rumors are that they will soon introduce a hosted Microsoft Exchange play. Trust me, I am not going to be running to AT&T any time soon for my business needs. If any of you know of reliable companies that offer both of the above services, please do let me know. Until then, my office will be one of many that take the plunge into the world of VOIP in 2004.