For small businesses, there are cost-effective options like Microsoft’s Response Point which meet the communications needs pretty well. Large businesses can invest in enterprise-class unified communicaions platforms such as Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007 and the rest of the Microsoft Unified Communications suite. The companies in the middle though, and even some of the large companies, have some tougher decisions to make.
They may not have the budget available to invest in a suitable unified communications solution, the infrastructure available to accommodate a unified communications solution, or the resources available to implement and maintain a unified communications solution. Thankfully for companies like these, unified communications is quickly growing as a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offering. SaaS is a great way for a company to get the features and functions they need without all of the up front investment, or ongoing maintenance that comes with deploying a technology internally.
There can be a downside as well though. Buying a SaaS product or service on price alone is a recipe for disaster. You get what you pay for and often the cheapest provider is actually undercutting themselves and operating at a loss just to win customers. That is a shortsighted business plan that quickly collapses on itself when there is no revenue to sustain the services being provided and suddenly the SaaS provider simply fades away. If you are considering SaaS, for unified communications or any other service, take a look at this article from MSNBC.com for a list of the questions you should ask and the research you should do in order to make a sound decision and select a SaaS provider that you can rely on.