The cloud has captured the imagination of businesses big and small, says Bennie Langenhoven, managing executive, Tellumat Communication Solutions. “Organisations are venturing into cloud services in record numbers, and many more are making careful considerations before they leap. And now, add unified communications (UC) to the long list of applications and services that are moving into the cloud and can be delivered as a hosted service,” he says.
According to Langenhoven, ShoreTel has announced a definitive agreement to acquire M5 Networks, a pioneer of hosted unified communications. “Like ShoreTel, M5 prides itself on delivering easy-to-use hosted phone system and unified communication services and has a passionate focus on the customer. Once the acquisition is complete, our combined customers can choose the best model for their business – either on-premise or in the cloud,” he adds.
Today, more than 95%of UC is delivered on-premise, according to Gartner. However, the market research firm predicts that by 2016, 50% of organisations will source their UC on a utility subscription model.
Why Choose Hosted UC
For Langenhoven, hosted UC is a good fit for many organisations, especially for small and midsize businesses or companies that are geographically distributed. The benefits of hosted UC include:
- Shift to opex from capex. Organisations can shift their IT investments from a capital expense to an operational expense. Many educational institutions, healthcare organisations, government agencies and other organisations can cover their communications costs through federal government subsidies, such as E-Rate. These organisations find the opex model of a hosted UC system particularly appealing.
- Rapid startup. With a cloud-based UC system, installation is handled by the provider. The customer doesn’t need to buy and install UC systems, software, and storage.
- Reduced IT administrative overhead. With UC provided as a service, customers can focus their resources on the core competency of their business—and not on running their phone systems. This allows them to free up people and capital for innovation and serving customers.
- Predictable monthly costs. Hosted UC is typically priced per user per month, and organisations can plan accordingly. Plus, hosted UC scales to meet the organisation’s changing needs, whether a booming business drives hiring, or the company needs to downsize. There are no surprise purchases of more servers, software, and storage to meet the demand – or equipment sitting idle.
- Consolidated telecom billing. Cloud-based UC can help you bring order to telecom vendor management. Instead of having different providers—and different bills—for local phone service, long distance service, Internet services, and others, many cloud providers package multiple communications services into a single bill.
- Reduced risk of technology obsolescence. Using a hosted UC service allows organisations to mitigate the risk of technology change. The rate of technology change is increasing, which means systems are becoming outdated faster than ever before. With a hosted UC system, organisations don’t need to manage the technology transitions.
Why Choose On-Premise UC
The majority of companies today use enterprise-owned phone systems, and while hosted UC is growing rapidly, on-premise deployment of UC won’t fade away any time soon. The benefits of on-premises UC include:
- Control and familiarity. Most major corporations have a long history of buying and managing their own phone systems. They want the control, and they have an existing infrastructure and a well-trained staff.
- Preference for capex. Many organisations prefer to make capital investments for IT infrastructure, and depreciate it over time.
- Business continuity or regulatory requirements. All businesses depend on the flow of incoming calls to make sales and service customers, and if a natural disaster or other unforeseen disruption strikes, losing those incoming calls may be painful, but not catastrophic. But many healthcare providers and government agencies prefer on-premises UC so they can ensure communications within their organisation even if a disaster strikes. Similarly, many financial institutions prefer to maintain UC system’s in-house because they are under stringent requirements to protect sensitive information.
- Greater customisation. Communication-enabled business processes can help organisations optimise workflow. Integrating UC processes into the workflow can greatly increase efficiencies, but it often requires custom integration between an insurance application or a retail application, for example, and a UC system. And that typically means the enterprise needs to use the advanced features and integration points in a UC system.
- Fixed upgrade schedule. With an on-premise solution, the customer has complete control over where and when software upgrades take place. As communications are more tightly integrated into applications, major changes in the UC platform may have an impact on business processes or require that employees be retrained.
On-premise or in the cloud both offer key advantages; companies can choose the deployment model that best fits their business needs.
Top Sectors For SMEs In 2019
“As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
While the South African economy has been underperforming for a number of years, the first positive signs of turnaround started to become visible by the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of the third quarter, data supplied by Statistics South Africa showed that the economy had indeed grown by 2.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. This uptick is expected to have a positive effect on business confidence in 2019.
This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that certain business sectors have already seen an increase in opportunities for small businesses and start-ups.
“While these sectors will not be without challenges, the following four industries are likely to offer the best opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to grow their enterprises in the coming year.”
The World Travel and Tourism report 2018, revealed that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to South Africa’s GDP has been projected to rise from R136bn in 2016 to R197.9bn by 2028 – set to make up a total of 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, says Lang.
“Although this sector experienced some setbacks in 2018, such as the drought in the Western Cape and stricter visa regulations for children entering the country, both the water restrictions and visa regulations have been relaxed and the sector is once again poised for growth,” he says.
Statistics South Africa has credited this industry with being the biggest driver of growth in the country’s GDP, having expanded by 7.5 percent in September 2018, says Lang. “To bolster this, Government has made a concerted effort to stimulate small business growth in this area with initiatives such as the Black Industrialist Programme and the SA Automotive Masterplan.”
He adds that businesses in the manufacturing sphere could therefore likely see significant opportunities in the form of outsourcing contracts and new partnerships with large corporates.
“The debate around land expropriation has occupied most of the discussions surrounding the agricultural sector in 2018, with some questioning growth prospects of this sector. However, this industry has a lot of growth ahead of it, as demonstrated by its 6.5 percent growth over the last three months of 2018,” explains Lang.
“Further to this, the industry is also already taking significant advantage of seven climatic regions in South Africa, with the export of a wide variety of high quality fruit and vegetables increasing substantially,” he points out. The recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has resulted in the suspension of the country’s FMD-free status will however significantly impact meat exporters.
In terms of opportunities for SMEs, he says that these may most likely be found in the rural and underdeveloped regions, where the need for resources like efficient transport, state-of-the-art cold storage, better irrigation and private power generation will be key to making agriculture projects more productive and competitive in the export market.
Data and information technology
Connectivity and information technology infrastructure are both crucial to business and employment growth in South Africa, says Lang.
“With many municipalities and the Western Cape government committing to providing all of its residents with free data as part of a plan to expand public Wi-Fi network access, it is clear that this is also becoming a high priority on a state level.”
It has also been reported that South Africa is awaiting the arrival of three international data centres, and large players in the communications sphere, including Vodacom, Telkom and Vumatel, are making huge strides in drastically growing the country’s fibre optic backbone, he adds. “As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
In conclusion, Lang says that as South Africa’s economic growth has started to turn around, business owners should keep their ears to the ground as 2019 is highly likely to be a year of opportunity.
Herman Mashaba To Talk On City Of Jo’burg Job Creation Initiative
Herman Mashaba to talk on City of Jo’burg job creation initiative at 2019 Business Day TV SME Summit.
Leading organisations at the SME Summit
SME Insurance Checklist For New Year
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers, advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies.
Business owners who are planning for the year ahead should not overlook the importance of reviewing their insurance policies to ensure they are adequately covered against insurable risks.
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, every year businesses face unique challenges ranging from credit and market risks, technological disruptions, compliance, operational and regulatory risks, amongst others. As a matter of precaution, insurance policies should at least be reviewed or updated once a year.
He advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies:
- Employee movements – if there are any employees who have left or joined the company, ensure that your policy is updated accordingly.
This type of cover normally depends on the role and contribution of the employee to the business. For instance, directors may be covered for Key Person Insurance and Directors & Officers Liability insurance.
- Protest Actions – this year is the national election year and leading up to elections we can expect to see an increase in the frequency and severity of protest actions, riots and strikes. Thus, it is essential to ensure that adequate special risks cover is in place from the South African Special Risks Insurance Association (SASRIA).
SASRIA provides cover to both individuals and businesses against special risks like civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and terrorism at affordable premiums.
- Cyber risks – it is essential to communicate with your insurer or broker and find out if there are any new risks that your business should be protected against. Cyber incidents continue to be a major risk for businesses especially in the SME sector. Over the last couple of years there has been a major increase in the number of reported cyber incidences.
More businesses are now facing increased cyber threats due to their increased dependency on technology, relating to their internal and customer data being compromised by fraudsters. It is therefore essential to have some form of cyber risk insurance cover and/or enhancement of data security protocols.
- Regulatory changes – every year there are a number of regulatory changes that impact businesses directly or indirectly, which may result in fines and penalties for non-compliance.
- Natural catastrophes – the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, coupled with intensifying natural catastrophes will continue to have a significant impact on businesses.
Businesses should ensure they are adequately protected against these risks to avoid incurring sever financial losses.
- Business changes – should a business consider moving to a new location, purchasing new premises or venture into new business activities, these types of changes could have a major impact on its risks profile. As a result, the policy needs to be updated accordingly.
- New and Enhanced products – An innovative culture has taken over the insurance industry and ever so often we see the introduction of new products or the enhancement of existing products. Get in touch with you broker to advise you on any new products that might add value to your existing insurance portfolio.
“Reviewing your policy regularly gives you peace of mind knowing that you can focus on running your business effectively, without worrying about unforeseen risks,” concludes Maupa.
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