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The micro-business revolution

There was a time, not long ago when the skies were clear; it was necessary to provision a desk phone for every employee to run a large organization or business. Then suddenly, in a flash of brilliance, the smartphone changed everything. Employees quickly embraced the freedom of having a mobile office in the palm of their hand. They began using their smartphones for both personal and business communications. Consequently, using a personal smartphone to conduct business while at the office led to the phrase “bring you own device (BYOD).”

Today, most employees prefer to use their smartphone instead of the desk phone to unify their communications and conduct business, including managing all of their contacts, scheduling events, keeping time, instant messaging, emailing, browsing, keeping notes, sharing files, conference calling, etc. In fact, up to 85% of the time, a person sitting at their desk will use their mobile phone instead of their desk phone to communicate. As a result, desk phones are becoming obsolete. This is especially true for young entrepreneurs who have never owned a phone connected to a wall or people living in an emerging market where smartphones are the primary way to connect to the internet.

The inclination to use smartphones to conduct business introduced several problems, not the least of which is securing massive amounts of proprietary corporate information on privately-owned devices. To circumvent these problems, employees were forced to carry two phones, one for business and one for personal communications. Yet, employees became accustomed to using their free and non-secure communication apps, like Skype and WhatsApp (which were built for personal communications), to conduct business. They refrained from using their PBX-enabled desk phone, fax machine, or company issued phone. In response, companies of all sizes began embracing cloud-based solutions to host their business communication services and store their proprietary information.

The introduction of unified communications (UC), the emergence of BYOD, and “mobile workforce” concepts have caused enterprise planners, mobile operators, and vendors to shift their focus towards flexibility and accessibility to fulfill an employee’s desire to be mobile and connected at all times. The days of issuing a mobile phone to workers and paying for their service are ending.

Not only is the desk phone in its death throes, the traditional office or workplace is steadily being replaced by mobile, home-based workers, and the aggregation of geographically remote offices or community workspaces. This has made supporting voice communications with traditional hardware-based hosted PBX systems extremely expensive and complex. Companies now want the flexibility to add, move or delete individual workers or entire new offices from their phone system in a matter of minutes.

The days of negotiating the purchase of a business phone system, spending weeks to plan, configure, ship and install the hardware (i.e., desk phones), and employing a technician to manage the entire system are also waning. Likewise, businesses want more than just a second phone line that is bundled with data, minutes, and messages from their mobile service provider. They want more value, and instant gratification.

Workers want to be accessible at all times so they can enjoy a flexible work schedule. Managers want to create ad hoc work groups from their smartphone contact list so they can instantly communicate and collaborate with their teams, partners, and customers.

Plus, most workers no longer have any use for the functions and features that traditional PBX systems deliver. They would rather have a single device that enables them to conveniently and affordably conduct business – at any time and anywhere in the world – using every communications channel available to them such as voice, chat, SMS, rich messaging, faxing, file sharing, video conferencing, etc. They are looking for dependable ways to connect, communicate, and collaborate with their team, partners and customers. They want to increase their productivity by enabling faster decisions and improve their lifestyle by having greater freedom of choice and locus of control.

These trends have led to the advent of the virtual PBX – a self-serving business phone system that is affordable, easy to use, and readily accessible using existing mobile phones and business lines. Virtual PBXs leverage the prevailing trend towards inbound marketing, do it yourself (DIY) setup, and software as a service (SaaS) business models.

Small-to-medium sized companies are now considering these mobile-centric virtual PBX systems to simplify their business phone systems and reduce costs. And, for the first time, entrepreneurs and micro-businesses can finally afford a powerful business phone solution. As a result, virtual PBX solutions are radically changing the way businesses communicate.

Most business communications vendors and mobile service providers, faced with falling adoption of hardware-based systems, are migrating towards solutions that promise capabilities similar to a virtual PBX. These traditional suppliers, however, are constrained by their antiquated business models, dependency on hardware, and inability to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of today’s modern workers. Although their solutions are mostly cloud-based, they continue to use their sales force to manage the purchase, configuration, and installation of their alleged virtual PBX services. They fall short of delivering a truly virtual PBX service by not offering a self-serving (DIY), easy to use, and affordable solution.

Virtual PBXs serve a noble purpose by empowering micro-businesses with the same communication capabilities that vastly larger and better-resourced companies enjoy, at a fraction of the cost. They are leveling the playing field — thanks to the cloud.

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