Skype, Google and Facebook all battle for VoIP....and why you shouldn't care

The big buzz recently centered around Facebook and whether or not (or when) the company will introduce VoIP-based calling capabilities between its members.  And this article again raises the vision of Facebook as an “e-mail killer,” as it evolves its capabilities to go head-to-head against the likes of Google Voice and Skype.

From a consumer point of view, that’s all well and good.  But from a business perspective, you may want to read and act on this with a grain (if not a block) of salt. 

Here’s why: consumer-based VoIP is still gaining traction.  And when offered through services such as Skype and Google, largely for free or next-to-nothing pricing, it’s clear that they’re aiming for mass adoption as a way of attracting the audiences they want and need to bring in advertisers.

By contrast, business-based VoIP has been fully operational for more than a decade, back to when the bandwidth needed to make it practical was still prohibitively expensive for all but larger businesses.  While the price of that bandwidth has fallen through the floor, the operational and business requirements needed to make it work have not:  reliable performance was, and remains, the pre-eminent thing businesses need in order to replace their traditional landlines with VoIP.

That means they can’t and won’t tolerate packet garble…they won’t accept an infrastructure that doesn’t scale to multiple concurrent users…and above all else, they refuse to live with the uncertainty of whether a network will be operational at any given point.  Take the recent frustration level of consumers when the Skype network went down for more than 24 hours right before Christmas.   The Twitterverse was agog with people bitterly complaining.  Most of them, however, were end-user consumers.  Business users have far greater reliability requirements;  most consumers have never even heard of an SLA.  And Skype’s lack of immediate customer support, except through e-mail, might leave business users wanting far more.

So, business customers must rely on providers who deliver not only the bandwidth, but also the reliability and the technical support needed to ensure that the service is up and running as close to the “five nines” as possible.  And they need the immediate technical support when things aren’t running seamlessly. 

At Windstream, we offer bundled VoIP and data services as well as a hosted VoIP solution, that deliver a solid, consistent level of combined performance and reliability.  Most consumers don’t need that level…Twitter posts notwithstanding.  But businesses do.  And services from the Skypes, Facebooks and Googles of the world aren’t designed to deliver that kind of support that Windstream’s solutions can.

So, read the articles, follow the updates, but understand that as a business person, the buzz has little to do with what you need to do business.