As Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication matures, and as high-speed Internet becomes less expensive and more widely available, an increasing number of small businesses are moving their telephony services to VoIP. In essence, a VoIP phone system for small business combines voice and data together on a single, secure network foundation.
Small businesses make up:
- 99.7% of U.S. employer firms
- 64% of net new private-sector jobs
- 49.2% of private-sector employment
- 42.9% of private-sector payroll
- 46% of private-sector output
- 98% of firms exporting goods
- 33% of exporting value
There are many providers for VoIP systems for small business on the market; these are just a few of the premises-based offers VARs should be aware of:
Cisco – Cisco, from San Jose, Calif., is market leader in enterprise VoIP and UCC and makes the Call Manager Express for small business. There are several different models that support from 5 to 450 IP telephones. These products are router-based with a good feature set, UCC capabilities and options, and a strong line of endpoints. Phones, licenses, and some equipment can be used on larger Cisco VoIP systems for investment protection.
ShoreTel – ShoreTel, from Sunnyvale, Calif., is a strong contender in the small business VoIP market with one of the best distributed architectures for branch office configurations. The ShoreTel Small Business Edition 100 supports up to 100 users through licensing and can grow to 20,000 users. The system has a strong UCC feature set with unique endpoints. Many UCC adjuncts are available through partnerships. Full feature-transparency and redundancy between locations is available in branch office scenarios. All equipment can be reused on larger ShoreTel models.
Avaya – Avaya, headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., is another market leader in enterprise VoIP and UCC and makes one product for small business, the Avaya IP Office system. IP Office comes in several different models that support from 5 to 2,000 IP endpoints. The systems include a Basic, Essential, Preferred, Advanced, and Server editions that offer different feature sets and capacities. UCC capabilities and options are decent, but not as strong, overall, as Cisco or ShoreTel’s features, architectures, or endpoints. Some phones and equipment can be migrated to larger Avaya systems.
ESI – Estech Systems, Inc. (ESI) out of Plano, Texas, makes several small business phone systems that support from 2 to 816 users. These products are only sold in America and have little market share compared with Cisco, ShoreTel, and Avaya. Products include the ESI-30D, 50D, 50L, 200, 1000, the C-Plus Executive, and the ESI-IP Server. Many, but not all, of their products are unitized, and hardware does not often integrate to larger models. ESI has a somewhat unique line of endpoints that will migrate up and down the product line supported in both digital and VoIP formats. UCC capabilities are somewhat limited compared with vendors with a stronger market share.
Panasonic – Panasonic, headquartered in Newark, N.J., has a large product line directed at small businesses. Many of their systems are not VoIP, but the ones that are include the KX-NCP500, KX-NCP1000, KX-TDE200, KX-TDE600, and the KS-NX1000. These systems support from 5 to 1,000 users, but hardware does not often migrate between platforms. IP endpoints are fairly basic, and UCC support is often third-party and adjunct. These systems are low-cost and often lack the support that major vendors provide.
Digium – Digium’s Switchvox VoIP product line is based on Asterisk Open Source. Digium is out of Huntsville, Ala.. Its appliances offer support for IP-enabled devices such as VoIP phones and video calling. The Switchvox models include the 80, 310, 360, and 380 appliances, with a maximum capacity of 450 users. Hardware does not generally migrate between platforms. These systems use industry-standard IP endpoints from Cisco, Avaya, Aastra, and others. UCC support is somewhat limited and is often adjunct and third-party.
This is a short list of VoIP telephone systems on the market for small businesses. There are others out there, but in the last few years, many companies, such as Comdial, Executone, Tie, and others, have been absorbed by larger players or simply gone out of business. All of the players discussed today also have cloud-based offers for small business, but that is a discussion for another day. VARs that are aware of competitors they may be up against have a better chance of winning deals.
Are there other small business VoIP premises-based vendors that should be covered in this blog? Please feel free to comment.