CTC: Steve, tell us about yourself and Interact Technology?
SWA: Whilst travelling on my year out in Australasia and the Far East, I found myself working for a couple of telecoms businesses. Upon returning to the UK in ’96, it seemed natural to use my acquired skills and jump on the Telecoms boom bandwagon. I joined a freshly formed company called Margolis Communications. By 2000, I was appointed Sales Director and helped the company grow considerably within the traditional voice market over the next few years. In 2004, whilst sustaining growth within this sector we started to dabble within the up and coming video conferencing market.
In 2007, I decided to pursue my dream to start up my own business, Interact Technology. Using my skills and networks, I started up Interact Technology with the view that Telecoms, Video and Data would soon all merge rather than being three different sectors. With this in mind, I laid the foundations of the business to cover each of these areas – with business unified communications being the main emphasis of the company.
Now in 2012 the convergence of voice, video and data is complete, and since we laid the right foundation at the outset it has put us in a very strong position to win new customers whilst servicing and growing our existing legacy customers.
CTC: In terms of supplying business-grade voice services to SMEs, to what extent are your new and existing customer base embracing VoIP and Cloud-based voice services?
SWA: We have three main service delivery methods which we can offer customers for voice services, that is:
On-site legacy equipment
Privately hosted equipment within a customer’s data centre
Cloud-based and Hosted solutions on a per month per handset basis
Whilst many customers are happy ditching their ISDN lines in favour of SIP trunks, we have seen a growing number of new and growing businesses moving to the pure cloud & hosted platform. This is at its strongest in the small office (5-20 handset) market. Larger SME size businesses tend to flirt with pure cloud and hosted telephony solutions, however the majority tend to stay with a legacy PBX or private & dedicated hosted service. The larger the company, the more gradual the move to the cloud and multi-tenant infrastructure tends to be.
CTC: What are the main advantages – or where can SMEs reap the most benefits – from moving away from the traditional digital PBX, ISDN phone lines, voicemail systems etc?
SWA: There is strong financial argument for businesses to review their arrangements and move to a hosted platform. Cost savings can be made immediatley on the following:
Telephone lines: By Moving towards SIP companies can immediately slash their line rental bills by at least half
Telephone calls: SIP telephony offers more aggressive rates often saving up to 80% off current bills
Support: Support costs are almost eliminated using this model
So as a cost justification alone, this becomes very easy against a new system sale although the Manufacturers are getting wise to the threat of lost sales and are offering a number of 0% finance packages over a fixed term, to advertise their models over a monthly period too.
CTC: Are there any things SMEs should be particularly careful about when switching to VoIP and Cloud-based Services?
SWA: It is the same argument now that it was a few years ago. Bandwidth.
Providing that you have good enough bandwidth with high uploads and downloads, and with limited Jitter and latency, the call quality should be just fine but like most IP services, could suffer from periods of poor quality or limited service. As long as you are up front with the customer, and they are not totally reliant on voice then this is often an acceptable risk/reward equation. If recommending a Legacy IP PBX, I would always recommend a (strong) cocktail of ISDN and SIP lines for additional resiliency!
CTC: In your opinion, what are the key things an SME should look for in a voice services provider?
SWA: We work on increasing the service to our customers, providing a single bill for the full range of services that we provide our customers. I would look for a company that is recommending a solution with resilience in mind and that is not just a PBX seller.
CTC: How does Interact Technology differentiate itself from the competition?
SWA: With our knowledge of voice, video and data convergence, Interact can provide a unique insight into providing an all-encompassing service for our clients. Many telecoms companies will partner up with other companies to provide this service – but this will be at a cost to the client both financial and service wise. At Interact we can provide the full solution and offer a single point of contact for all support matters and peace of mind.
With our head office being in the heart of the city, and our demonstration suite housing the latest Voice and Video solutions, we are also best placed to show these solutions working in action without the need to travel to the M4 corridor.
CTC: Are there any particular cloud-based or cloud-related technologies coming down the road which could bring some compelling benefits to SMEs?
SWA: With the convergence theme in mind, The new Microsoft Lync 2013 platform is definitely worth looking out for. We have recently added these solutions to our portfolio, offering this functionality to smaller businesses at a realistic price with our new “one box” and cloud-hosted solutions. We expect this to be a big seller in 2013 although it won’t be for everyone.
CTC: Indeed I understand you’ll be telling us about Lync soon. Thanks for your time Steve – any closing thoughts or advice for people looking at voice communications in the cloud?
SWA: As always manage your expectation. Whilst bandwidth is now becoming more and more stable and with the advent of fibre-based broadband (FTTC) and other high bandwidth types of services, VoIP and Video-oIP performance will only get better. We offer bespoke xDSL products that are fully managed so we can provide an end-to-end solution for fault diagnostics. This type of managed service should be part of your solution to ensure highest service levels and accountability from your supplier.