Future looks bright for hosted communications

    During the past few years, the telecommunications landscape has experienced some monumental changes. This is largely due to the proliferation and growing understanding of cloud computing services, which has led to the adoption of hosted PBX systems.

    The promise of hosted communications is enticing to companies of all sizes, largely because the technology provides organizations with a highly flexible and efficient alternative to traditional PBX. However, the alluring qualities that have attracted the private sector as a whole have also caused more service providers to enter the market in an effort to get a piece of the growing pie. Not only has this made it more difficult for corporate decision-makers to select a partnering vendor, but the number of offerings has risen rapidly, each with its own benefits and setbacks.

    For this reason, among others, open-source PBX systems have been gathering the attention of executives across North America. In fact, a study by the Eastern Management Group revealed that roughly 18 percent of all PBX sales are open-source systems. While open-source PBX in general has gained momentum during the past several years, the Asterisk PBX in particular has led the way, accounting for nearly 85 percent of the market.

    There are many reasons companies opt for open-source PBX, though small businesses with do-it-yourself mentalities are among the leading adopters. This is largely because these decision-makers don't mind setting up, configuring and managing the business phone systems.

    Where hosted communications come into play

    Despite the size of the open-source PBX market, the demand for hosted and virtual pbx offerings is growing rapidly and will likely continue to do so in the coming years, according to Frost & Sullivan. The research firm highlighted this in recent study of more than 200 North American executives and found that about 40 percent of respondents currently support the use of hosted services in the workplace. Approximately 67 percent of decision-makers currently using hosted communications said they plan to increase their use in the coming years.

    While there are many benefits to adopting a hosted communications system, most organizations recognize the potential advantages of outsourcing operations to a third party. In doing so, IT departments are less burdened with the responsibility of maintaining and running a PBX system on-site.

    A separate report by Infonetics Research revealed that the number of hosted PBX seats grew 44 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, while revenues spiked 33 percent over the same period. This expansion is forecast to continue in the coming years, with the number of users expected to more than double between 2012 and 2016.

    "The revenue that service providers derive from their residential and [small office/home office] VoIP subscribers still eclipses what they get from businesses, but the business segment is growing about twice as fast, due in large part to the surging popularity of SIP trunking and hosted VoIP and [unified communications] services," said Diane Myers, directing analyst for VoIP at Infonetics Research.

    The proliferation of open-source and hosted PBX systems will continue to drive change within the telecommunications landscape. As the business world grows more competitive and decision-makers and employees alike demand the use of advanced collaboration platforms, executives should consider deploying hosted phone systems.

    Because the externally managed offerings reduce internal pressure, IT departments will have more free time to focus on meeting tomorrow's goals. This will enable firms to get ahead of rival companies, while simultaneously enhancing collaboration.

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