Hosted VoIP vs Unified Communications
Merging Communication Platforms
All of us make use of multiple streams of communication with others and we train ourselves to think of these streams as separate and distinct from one another with no interoperability. Though it's inefficient, it poses no major problems for the average person in their personal life. That's because at an individual level, our communication needs are limited and don't go beyond our circle of friends. The communications themselves are not complex and we can do without specific management.
A business on the other hand is an entirely different matter. To get things done, employees communicate with each other far more often and in more complex ways. Here, the problems with not having an integrated stream of communication becomes noticeable. SMSs sent to a person are not part of the transaction record for example. Voicemails can't be easily accessed and stored. Email and chat are not integrated. This leads to a loss of productivity. But new technologies like VoIP have the potential to break down these barriers and provide a single interface for multiple communication streams both real time and otherwise.
Companies take two approaches to streamlining their communications - hosted VoIP and a full blown unified communications system which is in house.
Cost vs Flexibility
Large companies who don't have to really worry about financial considerations tend to go for the latter with their own communications system. They have their own servers which are specially maintained, their software is specifically customized to their requirements and they have dedicated staff to oversee the operations, apply upgrades, patches and implement security measures.
The result is a system which is uniquely built for the specific organization in question. It integrates email, voicemail, telephone systems, IM, and SMS. The downside is that all this is too expensive for a small or medium sized business. But true to its nature, the Internet has a flexibility which we can make use of to provide these services to every business no matter how tiny.
The solution of course is hosted VoIP where a third party ITSP hosts and maintains your entire telephony requirements including HD VoIP services. Access is provided through proxy servers. The availability of SIP servers is worldwide and businesses can revamp their entire organization no matter where in the world they are. It's like hosting a website on someone else's server - something that almost every does. You don't need to spend a lot of money to do it and you can upgrade your plans as your requirements become more and more complex.