By Fiona Mclean-Banks, Polycom Business Development Manager, Zycko South Africa
Telephony is nothing new, and has formed the backbone of real-time communications for more than a hundred years. However, the telephony landscape is constantly changing and evolving, and is increasingly heading in the direction of virtual and cloud computing services.
Cloud computing is the top buzzword in the IT industry at the moment, pushing applications such as voice and video into the ‘cloud’ and turning these applications into hosted services that can be adopted on a per user per month basis. This prevents the organisation investing in expensive CPE, which resides on the books as a depreciating asset.
However, the South African market has lagged behind the rest of the world when it comes to the adoption of delivering managed business applications due to a couple of issues. The first of these has been connectivity and the limited availability of bandwidth required for bandwidth intensive applications. The infrastructure in South Africa has also not been capable of delivering hosted applications from a central source a factor compounded by the prohibitive costs involved for businesses to buy and build their own IT backbone. Therefore, the justification for moving from an ownership model to a hosted services model just did not exist.
With the landing of the Seacom cable and local service providers investing in developing and improving the core infrastructure however, it will soon be possible for businesses in South Africa to take advantage of the advances in cloud computing and utilise services like virtual or hosted IP voice.
The ability to deliver hosted voice services involves the service provider placing voice applications within their core environment, allowing for the delivery of voice technology to the customer base from the ‘cloud’, rather than necessitating the customer to purchase their own PBX systems.
This model has a host of benefits, such as lowered total cost of ownership and negligible maintenance costs. But by far the biggest advantage of hosted PBX systems is the immediate scalability. Because this system works on a utility model, customers pay on a per user per month basis, meaning that if the number of employees within an organisation grows or shrinks, it is a simple process to grow or shrink the telephony system.
This is in contrast to an ownership model, where customers are required to have their own infrastructure, which has been built to accommodate a certain number of users and is therefore costly to scale. Upgrading equipment also ceases to be an issue, as this is all done on the service provider side and customers can take advantage of the latest technologies without having to buy new equipment.
Hosted PBX systems will be the next evolution of telephony in South Africa, and will be attractive to business of all sizes, from SOHO to SMB right through to large enterprise customising their telephony requirements to suite their organisation’s needs. While the country may have lagged behind, the infrastructure is being developed and connectivity issues are being addressed, and cloud services such as virtual PBX will soon become reality in South Africa.