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Hosted communications affordable for SMEs

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While big business forges forward with the implementation of advanced new technologies for improved communications and the resultant advances in efficiency, smaller companies may be faced with a quandary: in order to remain competitive, they need the technology, but can they afford the cost of acquisition, deployment, management and maintenance?

Probably not, says Louis Yssel, CEO of YSL Group, which is why his company has come up with a better option.
"It is simply unrealistic for most SMEs to afford the costs of configuration and deployment of unified communications solutions. That's where the distinct benefits of a hosted model come into play," Yssel says.
He provides some insight into the infrastructure and technologies which are required to enable unified communications. "You'll need a server with a licensed operating system, Microsoft Exchange for enterprise-class email, Microsoft Unified Communications Server, Communicator 2007, Active Directory and Outlook on each PC."
Yssel points out that the capital investment for such a solution can run into tens or even hundreds of thousands of Rands. This is simply not an option for a company which may have five, ten or twenty users.
However, he makes an interesting point: "No business wants to buy hardware, consulting and deployment fees, maintenance and management. What they do want is the service that all of these components enable – and that service may be email, fax, SMS, telephone or video communications," says Yssel.
Or, of course, it could be a complete combination of these services into what is often considered the "holy grail' of communications. "Unified communications is considered highly advantageous. With all modes of communication coming through a single interface, such as Microsoft Outlook, efficiency is improved, messages are never missed or lost and integrated calendaring means easier scheduling."
By investing in the necessary infrastructure he has described, YSL Group is able to provide a complete unified communications solution as a service which is paid for by the SME on a per-user, per-service basis.
It is fully on-demand, so if the business is growing and adds a user, it is a matter of provisioning that person with the services they need (fax, telephony, email, etc) and paying for them on a monthly basis. Should the staff complement decline, those services are removed from the business' account, and no longer paid for. Instead of a costly capital outlay, the company now benefits from an operational expense which is easier to manage on the books and can provide an improved tax structure.
Also important, says Yssel, is that the SME is able to conduct its business professionally by having its own domain registered. "In this day and age, a 'Google mail' or 'hotmail' address sends entirely the wrong message," he notes.
In addition, Yssel says a hosted platform delivers improved reliability, access and protection of essential communications. "That's where the advantage of Exchange comes in. All the communications are hosted in a protected database which is accessible from anywhere in the world. If a notebook is lost or stolen, the email, voice messages everything else stored in the Exchange server are still available."