The modern telephone system is about 100 years old, though it faces new competitors everyday. Competition from VOIP, hosted fax and telephone services continue to drive down costs and force innovation.
Having spent about 5 years directly in the telco business, and 10 more years dealing with data solutions, I have witnessed the changes, innovations, and cost improvements. One of the biggest drivers has been the internet and the data-centric thinking from it.
While none of this is news, what is news is that more and more people consume telco services from non-traditional telco providers such as RingCentral and eFax. RingCentral Online - Free Trial plus 10% Off
RingCentral is a hosted solution which offers individuals and businesses toll free numbers, fax services, as well as hosted and managed PBX. Here is a description of their products:
Toll Free and Local hosted phone & fax service for small businesses & mobile professionals delivering all the power of a “big company” phone system but with no hardware to buy and nothing to maintain.
Complete, hosted phone and fax system that combines virtual PBX and VoIP phone service with unlimited calling and full-featured IP phones ready for use.
Easy, secure, and affordable internet fax service for small businesses and mobile professionals.
While the traditional telcos, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint also offer these services, RingCentral is focused on the smaller business.
Another competitor to the larger telco, particularly in the fax arena is eFax. This is a product I have used, and my spouse at a large firm uses as well. eFax allows the user to send and receive faxes over the internet, without a fax machine. This is a great advantage for the road warrior sales rep or consultant. Additionally, eFax is convenient for the home user, as it offers of subset of its products free. Try eFax Annual Plan For 30 Days Free - Get $34 Off the Monthly Rate
In both cases, the internet has been the catalyst or enabler for RingCentral, eFax and others to compete, at least at the fringes, with the larger telcos. As the recession of 2009 continues, businesses large and small will be looking to stretch their communications budgets further than ever.