Coping With Christmas

If you’re anything like us at SureVoIP®, you’re busy wrapping, buying things, making Festive plans, and getting your business ready for the holidays.

Christmas is a time for family, relaxing, and reviewing the year just gone. It is also a time of increased staff holidays, altered working hours, and working round office closures and public holidays.

One of the things you have to address is how to handle your phone system. What service will you be delivering to customers over the holiday season? How many staff members will you have, taking into account holidays? What service will your customers need? What service do your customers expect?

We can narrow this down into some key points to consider. Have a read through our checklist below and check if you have answers for all the points raised. If not, get in touch and we can offer some Festive advice!

Reduced Staff Count Over Holiday Period

Your usual call routing may be disrupted due to having fewer staff members working. As you have probably set up your call flow when fully staffed, this may need changed during a time of increased holidays. You may need a different person answering the phone, or a different approach to customer calls altogether during this time.

A VoIP service allows you to change your Call Routing quickly and easily. A SureVoIP® Technical Team member will happily change your Routing and Call Flow however suits. When the Holiday season is over, just give us a call or drop us an email, and we’ll change it back to your standard set up.

Another solution to the potential problems of a reduced staff count is to have employees working remotely. After all, if someone is tasked with overseeing your customer calls, do they really need to be in the office at all? Could this be done with a remote phone set up, working from home?

Various solutions are available. The person could take their standard work desk phone home. A VoIP service allows you to make and receive calls from anywhere you have a good internet connection. Your business phones do not necessarily need to be plugged in to your business internet connection. The employee can use the phone just as effectively using their home internet.

There are also various apps available when using a VoIP service. These allow workers to use their smart phone, tablet or desktop PC. This can replace the desk phone on a temporary or permanent basis, allowing the user a similar degree of functionality. The staff member in question does not then have to even stay in to answer calls! They can work from wherever they are. Visiting family, doing some last minute shopping, or making a snowman.

Unusual Opening Times

As your office has had to adjust to the Holidays, so your standard opening times may no longer be workable.

A SureVoIP® Fully Managed Hosted service allows you to set up Time of Day Routing, so you can route calls according to the time they are received. If your office has to shut early, we can send all calls to a designated answering service, for instance, or to a dedicated staff member. We can also send the calls straight to your voicemail.

There are a number of options available. It depends on your priorities and objectives.

You can use Voicemail to Email to keep track of messages received. Or you can forward all calls to a Staff Member. It depends on how you wish to work. A VoIP service will allow you the flexibility to adapt your phone system to your current requirements.

A possibility you may have overlooked is to use your phone system to pass on information. You can record a message to pass on changes to opening and closing times, and place this message as a voicemail recording, or as part of your company’s main ‘switchboard’ message.

Make it Christmassy!

Let’s not forget – it is Christmas after all!

We offer our customers lots of ways to customise their phone system. As you can guess, at this time of year, some people really get into the spirit!

You can have Santa himself boom out a message in his best Santa voice for all your customers to hear when they call in. You can have any message you want recorded in a studio by Santa himself (we won’t fob you off with an elf doing the voice).

Or you can record your very own staff singing carols! It is up to you.

If you would like to discuss how we can help over the Festive period, just get in touch.

NB – We will be closed on 24th, 25th and 26th, and the 31st, 1st and 2nd.

Enjoy the Holidays! Happy Christmas from all at SureVoIP®

Changing Needs Of Enterprise Telecoms

The face of the telecoms industry in the UK is changing fast. You would be forgiven for being lost at just what functionality can be offered, the different devices which are available, and the possibilities now available for corporate communications.

Larger companies can face some unique challenges when it comes to managing their approach to telecoms.

1) How should the company approach these problems at a policy level?

2) How will this policy be implemented?

3) How will the organisation control telecoms on an ongoing basis?

4) What challenges need to be faced?

The evolution of VoIP has opened a number of new avenues which can make life easier. There are now more ways than ever that a company can utilise technology to add to its communications set up.

Do you support remote workers effectively? Does your company telecoms set up work for customers and your brand in the case of remote workers?

Remote workers can now be added to your overall company phone system using VoIP. As long as the worker has an internet connection then they will be able to communicate as if they were in your main office. Your company IVR Menu, music on hold, and recorded messages will all play as if your customer had called your main switchboard. There is no need to have people using their own phone and explaining to people why their number is showing as different. The remote worker will be able to transfer calls to colleagues, pick up unanswered calls, and receive company voicemails.

As well as consolidating your company branding it also protects staff. Privacy and safety is protected as customers don’t phone worker’s home phone or mobile.

This is an important point as companies have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment.

You should also consider if you have an obligation to support remote workers – is it fair to ask them to pay bills, and incur expenses as part of their official duties?

Do you have to manage large numbers of staff overseas using company mobile phones? If so, does your telecoms set up give you the control and level of service you require?

Another aspect comes into play when you have teams in other countries. If they are using their own mobiles then you can have a situation reminiscent of the one above. Workers phones don’t represent your company. The workers own mobile is being used for official company business. Your company has limited control over the whole set up.

Managing telecoms for a whole department can be a nightmare, never mind a department which is working overseas. Larger organisations are now seeking a way in which they can efficiently manage and implement a solution over mobiles which works at an organisation and an end-user level.

The company needs to control aspects of this service, for instance whether employees will be able to use the phone over the internet, or make and receive certain calls.

Billing and payment must be considered, as must the company’s response if an employee leaves.

Even considering only these factors, it is easy to see how the situation could become unmanageable.

Exactly how does a corporation enforce a policy over remote devices, especially when those devices are located in another country?

The company must be able to implement whatever policy is put in place. This requires a flexible, technically advanced Provider, who is capable of understanding and fully utilising the advantages offered by new technology.

Just as VoIP changed the face of telecoms, so the mobile phone market is being revolutionised by MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators).

An MVNO can offer a technically advanced, more cost effective communications alternative to one of the ‘Big 3’ Providers.

Corporations switching to use an MVNO can then benefit from different, more bespoke services, set up by a smaller, more responsive Operator.

More on our MVNO offering

More on our VoIP offerings

CLI Changes

Those of you watching the telecoms news lately can’t have failed to have missed the announcements regarding CLI (Caller Line Identification) guidance from Ofcom.

Ofcom is the overseeing regulatory body for the telecoms industry in the UK, and is involved with all aspects of legislation or guidance for those operating in the sector.

The latest announcements are regarding the changes to CLI guidance.

Basically, this affects telecoms providers, and the way they need to ‘present’ calls to the network.

As a VoIP Provider, SureVoIP® is bound to follow the new guidelines.

This will mean some changes to the way we work. The changes may also mean some changes for our customers.

As a Communications Provider, SureVoIP® has the responsibility of keeping ahead of legislative changes.

As a result of this, we will have to make some changes to how we work. This in turn may affect some of our customers.

To give some background to the situation – CLI (Caller Line Identification) provides information to the person who has been called regarding the person who is calling them.

The change which Ofcom has made is to achieve some consistency throughout this process.

Up to now, the CLI Data which was being passed through the system was open to abuse, with either inaccurate data or no data at all being passed along.

Ofcom has decided that this system needs refreshing.

The existing legislation from Ofcom states that:

Callers must be able to withhold their number, either on all calls or on demand (for example, by dialling a prefix)

Called parties must be able to prevent callers from displaying their number (for example, help-lines who offer anonymity to callers)

Communications Providers must provide the option for a called party to reject anonymous calls

Called parties must be able to withhold the calling party’s number

Communications Providers must provide information to the public regarding CLI services.

There is a balance to be struck here. On one side, we need to allow the freedom to our users that the proposed changes seek to implement. On the flip side, we have to allow data to be transmitted for some technical telecoms reasons.

For instance, the CLI information is invaluable to the Emergency Services, and could literally mean the difference between life and death. Consider the case of someone requiring immediate medical help. If the person places the call, but then passes out, or becomes unintelligible during the call, before they have managed to pass on their address, then the CLI information could prove a lifeline. The Emergency Services would be able to attend the scene and assist.

This is one of the considerations of the new changes, and should, like the other proposed changes, prove a positive benefit.

The new Guidance places certain obligations on us regarding how phone calls are delivered. Ofcom has altered the data required to accompany a phone call.

After the new Guidance comes into play, Communications Providers will be obliged to deliver some enhanced data to the overall UK telecoms system, and deliver it in a different way.

The change should ensure that all Communications Providers exchange CLI data with improved accuracy, and that this data is valid and up-to-date.

As we touched on earlier in this post, the most important aspect of this to bear in mind is access by the Emergency Services.

Unreliable CLI data could mean that the Emergency Services would not be able to attend a 999 call. Closing any loop-hole which detracts from the CLI system functioning is only good news for the general public.

It also gives the advantage of tightening up the system which protects us from nuisance or fraudulent phone calls. With more reliable data being passed behind the scenes, the chances of catching fraudsters increases.

As you can see, there are a number of advantages to be gained from the Guidance changes. As well as the fraud protection, we should also see an increase in Emergency Services efficiency.

We’ll keep our Blog updated as we find out more.

The Benefits Of A Status Page

There is nothing quite like transparency. When working with your suppliers, do you receive full notification as to what they are up to and why? When they have issues, do they try and cover it up or are they open and transparent?

This is particularly relevant when dealing with internet connectivity or telecoms.

Websites and Social Media makes it easy to keep customers informed, and both these industries deliver services where problems can often be identified quickly by the supplier.

Are you working with suppliers who keep you informed? If not, are you wondering why not?

The SureVoIP® Status Page is where we keep our customers updated with any issues and how we are doing with fixing them.

We don’t often experience problems, but when we do, we are open and transparent.

We always list any and all issues which may be affecting our customers’ service. We give a brief run down of the situation or problem we have encountered and state what we are doing to resolve it.

We also keep this page updated as the situation unfolds, giving updates and more information as we get it.

We will update this page when we have fully resolved the issue, listing what went wrong, what we had to fix it, and giving technical details for the more IT-literate.

Fully supporting our position as an independent, business-grade VoIP Provider, we believe in the quality of our service. We take our obligations to our customers very seriously, and our Status Page is one way in which our service reflect this.

Three Ways To Make BYOD Work For You

Is BYOD a real thing? If so, what is it?

We have been reading more and more articles which mention BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). So we thought now would be a good time to examine this topic in more detail. What is it, what does it all mean, and what difference will it make to your decision-making process when considering VoIP?

Some hardware choices can be very restrictive for users. Not everyone wants a phone on their desk. Not everyone has a desk.

At a time when most employees attend their workplace with their own communication device already on them, is there a case to be made for companies ‘outsourcing’ employee communications to the employees themselves?

This raises a number of questions. Firstly, will the employees like this idea? Second, does it allow the functionality and flexibility the company requires in order to operate as usual? And lastly, are there any employee safety issues regarding customers now knowing employee’s personal phone numbers?

There are two options SureVoIP® can offer as a better solution to the problem. One is to use Hosted VoIP with softphone apps running on smartphones. The other is a dedicated company SIM card.

A ‘soft phone‘ is an app which runs on your smartphone, tablet or desktop PC. This effectively means that the app has become a virtual device, operating in the same way as a standard phone attached to your larger phone system.

When hooked to a company-wide VoIP set up, employee’s phones behave just as if they were a standard device running from a company-wide telecoms set up. Users can pick up and transfer calls. Customers calling you get the same experience as they do phoning you on a traditional phone system. Your company Music on Hold, for instance, will play as normal. The customer will experience a phone call to your company, with no indication that the staff member in question is not using an ordinary desk phone sitting in one of your offices.

A company SIM card uses an existing mobile (or a newly bought one) and replaces the standard SIM with a company issued one. As an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) our SIM Card Only Plans work with all available networks to ensure you always receive a signal. You no longer need to be tied to one of the big players. No matter where you are in the world, your SureVoIP® SIM will keep you in touch. When in the UK, it uses EE, O2 and Vodafone.

Businesses can then use mobile phones as part of an overall telecoms set up. The advantages are a vastly increased capability to stay in contact with staff in an easy, cost-effective way.

Companies with a lot of staff working overseas will find this a particularly attractive option.

We can also help with a third way to interpret ‘Bring Your Own Device’.

Many companies will have been through setting up a VoIP service before. After all, considering the cost savings and added features, it has to be an interesting option for most companies.

If you have existing VoIP-ready hardware, then this can be ‘adopted’ by any capable Provider. When done by SureVoIP®, this process involves automatically pushing end user configurations and settings to the phone, so there is no need to prepare the device to work as it should when integrating into the overall company-wide phone system.

Users do not have to spend hours fiddling with menus and buttons to set the phone up. IT departments are not flooded with calls which they don’t have the training or experience to help with. And the company benefits from an improved implementation time-frame, with less hassle and staff time lost.

So – to run through the whole Bring Your Own Device scenario:
1) There are many ways to utilise a BYOD approach to work for your company

2) Most VoIP Providers will be able to offer at least one option to facilitate this

3) The three most common ways are listed here.

If you are considering a ‘BYOD’ transition to a VoIP Provider, and wish to discuss which of the three options might work best for you, or to discuss your options in more detail, just get in touch.

The Impact Of Shifting From A Traditional Retail Model

Few can have failed to notice the impact the internet has had on the traditional retail model. If you had missed it, then your local High street clearly reflects the changes.

Declining footfall, rising costs, and more consumer choice have sounded a death knell for many traditional high street shops. They are simply unable to compete with a competitor with much lower business costs, which would offer more choice and better pricing.

The advent of many new technologies and solutions provide a vista of alternate operating models.

‘Just in time’ stock ordering, outsourced supply and delivery, online purchasing and ordering have all changed the retail environment. And there is no way back – the genie won’t go back in the bottle.

Within this retail model, the business’s online presence is all important. Branding, social media, email marketing and attention-grabbing home pages have now replaced the traditional store.

The general buying public is now far less likely to be impressed with an upmarket decor (if they even see it in the first place), and more likely to be impressed with a facebook advert or informative, colourful PDF.

However, just as one door closes, so another one opens.

As the change has affected shops adversely, so it has given a boost to smaller retailers.

Setting up and maintaining a website, administering stock and deliveries, and undertaking marketing make it easy and cost-effective to launch a brand.

The only expenses required are connectivity, telecoms, and paying brand and website consultants.

You can also develop this new model even further. Not just your customer-facing presence can be remote or ‘just in time’, so also your entire business can be.

Thanks to VoIP, office workers don’t need to be in the office at all. They can work from home, answering customer calls, playing company messages and displaying your company phone number, just as if they were in the office.

Not only do you need a shop any more, you don’t need an office either! To find out more about how VoIP can help your business, just get in touch.

How To Select The Perfect VoIP Phone

VoIP DeskphoneBuying VoIP hardware for your business telecoms system can be a nerve racking experience.

In fact, it combines two confusing unknowns for most of us – computers, and VoIP. Most consumers find themselves quickly drowning in a sea of acronyms.

From SIP, DDI and PBX, it is very easy to get caught in a world where the IT literate know what’s happening, and the rest of us are lost.

If you have a VoIP system, and a VOIP provider which supplies your phone system, then supplying hardware should be a good test of the service they provide.

The benefits of using a regular, trusted supplier is that any doubts over the providence of hardware is (or should be) removed. You know the hardware is genuine, and you receive the manufacturer’s warranty.

It is the same as making any other purchase. Would you be happier buying a Rolex in a jewellers, or from an ebay shop? The problem is the same – you don’t know where the item has come from, if it will work or even if it is genuine.

The next part of the puzzle is to narrow down your requirements – what exactly do you need your phones to do?

Do you have multiple phone calls to direct and multiple users to keep track of, or do you receive fewer calls, going to one or two users? Do you need to walk about as part of your job role, or are you situated at a desk? All these things will influence your hardware choice.

One of the best features of working with a trusted VoIP Provider is that they should be able to advise in situations like this. Any Provider who you are paying for a service, or in fact any decent Provider who you are discussing a service with, should be able to offer guidance on the best hardware for you based on your requirements.

A really good Provider will even be able to supply your hardware, and preconfigure it with your user settings so it will work as a functioning part of your phone system as soon as it arrives!

As you can see, there are a number of advantages of working with a trustworthy VoIP Provider when sorting out your telecoms hardware.

Have a look at our online store to see the hardware we can supply
Get in touch if you want us to help you select your perfect hardware

The SureVoIP® SIM Card Only Plan – A SIM That Works With Any Network

SureVoIP Mobile SIMYou may have missed our Social Media posts where we have been shouting about our new SIM Card Only Plan, so here is your chance to find out more.

Our SIM Card Only Plans work with all available networks to ensure you always receive a signal. You no longer need to be tied to one of the big players. No matter where you are in the world, your SureVoIP® SIM will keep you in touch. When in the UK, it will use EE, O2 and Vodafone.

Businesses can then use their mobile as part of an overall telecoms set up. The advantages are a vastly increased capability to stay in contact with staff in an easy, cost-effective way.

Companies with a lot of staff working overseas will find this a particularly attractive option.

The other big advantage of a SureVoIP® SIM card is the ability to stay in touch no matter what the mobile coverage is like. No matter where you are, as long as you can receive a mobile signal, your SureVoIP® service will work.

Effectively, your mobile will roam between the major Providers, always finding a way for you to communicate. As long as there is a mobile signal available, your SureVoIP® SIM will work.

Users will be able to transfer an existing number. You don’t need to lose your mobile number, just port (transfer) it over, and keep using it as you always have. No need for people to forget you, or to get in touch with everyone to update them with a new number.

There has been a lot of interest gathering round the subject of MVNOs (or Mobile Virtual Network Operators).

The benefit of the new MVNOs is that the market opens up considerably, giving consumers more choice.

Light MVNOs control some provisions and services, and provide their own technical support. They can control marketing and aspects of support, but don’t have their own infrastructure, limiting their technical abilities.

Full MVNOs operate along different lines. They only need to access the mobile network, and handle the rest of the service provision themselves. They can control more technical aspects of the service, offering differentiating factors such as data usage and customer control.

SureVoIP® is a Full MVNO. We control billing, can port in (or transfer) existing numbers, and perform provisioning for new users. In essence, this means we have full control over all aspects of billing, contract terms and packages, and plans.

We offer full control over how your SIM works, right down to whether it delivers data or not. If you need to control a multiple end user set up using company mobiles, or deploy end users anywhere who use a company mobile, you will have full control at the highest level. You will be able to control the features that end users can access. Want your end users to have calls but no internet access? Need to record calls for compliance purposes, or control end user caller ID? No problem, we can offer you that level of control.

If you have users operating in various countries round the world, you have the reassurance of a communications solution which works with you, and for you. Your SureVoIP® SIM Card Only Plan allows access across the globe, finding the best carrier for your call.

As a Full MVNO, SureVoIP® is able to enhance this product. The feature list is set to expand as we bring our own unique innovative expertise to develop the MVNO sector.

There is a lot more to come with this product. Register your interest here – and take advantage of our great early sign up rates, bundles and packages.

VoIP Phones – What To Consider And What Are Your Options

As more and more people are moving to consider VoIP, we decided to discuss another aspect of your telecoms. The phone itself.

Some people are used to technology and like to explore hardware, pressing all the buttons and playing with the functions. Others are completely lost, staring at the flashing LED lights like a rabbit staring into headlights.

Don’t worry – there is a VoIP phone to suit all levels of IT literacy, budget and requirements.

A key point to consider is this – what will you actually need your phone to do? There is a big difference between the needs of a receptionist, and an average user, for instance. The Receptionist will be handling a large volume of calls, will possibly need her hands free, and will almost definitely need a additional phone module to increase her phone display and functionality.

Obviously, there is no need for all your users to have this range of equipment. Not all will benefit from a headset, or automatic call answering/ ending module. But some may benefit from some features built in to desk phones.

Let’s take this as an opportunity to clarify some points. A VoIP phone is also known as a SIP phone. SIP is the protocol which underpins VoIP phone hardware, and means that all devices from various manufacturers will work together.

Things like Call Recording, Call Forwarding and Conference Calling are all part of a Hosted VoIP system, so are not performed by your handset. Functions like this are set up by your VoIP Provider, either as part of your package or as an additional cost.

Things like Call Transferring, Busy Light Field (coloured LED on phone indicating whether a colleague is available or on a call) or your personal Phonebook/ Directory are all functions of the handset itself. Your VoIP provider should be able to offer advice or assistance with things like this, but the actual phone itself is where any changes will have to be made.

The next thing to bear in mind is configuration. Configuring your phones for end users is an important and often over-looked point. In a multiple user system, typical for any business, call routing and other functions will need to be configured to match the overall business requirements. It is important to bear in mind that, if your VoIP Provider can not provide this function, then you will need to enter these settings yourself.

Another over-looked point are updates. As you are probably aware, pretty much all software and devices these days require updating when manufacturers roll out security updates and issue fixes. Bear in mind that, if your Provider isn’t going to perform this for you, then you will have to do this yourself.

So – we’ve touched on the phone basics, and some things to bear in mind. The next point to consider is which device will suit your needs best.

There are a range of phones and phone types available. If you spend your time having to move from place to place, for instance checking stock or working at different desks, then a DECT phone could suit you best. Just like a ‘walk about’ home phone, a VoIP DECT phone consists of a handset which links wirelessly to a base station. There are no cables to connect you, so you are free to walk, move, stretch, or do anything else you have to.

Next on our list are Conference Phones. For those with meeting rooms, or who spend a lot of time on organised conference calls with colleagues, a dedicated Conference phone will be your best option. These phones are fantastic for picking up voices at a distance, making conversations clear and meaning you don’t need to make do with an ordinary phone on the hands free setting.

A Deskphone for VoIP will operate as the same as a traditional deskphone. A key pad, handset and connecting cable will be familiar to all, as will the ability to transfer, adjust the volume, and pick up calls for another extension.

The next option is a ‘soft phone’. This is an app which runs on your smartphone, tablet or desktop PC. This effectively means that the program has become a virtual device, operating in the same way as a standard phone attached to your larger phone system.

You can pick up and transfer calls. Customers calling you get the same experience as they do phoning you on a traditional phone system. Your company Music on Hold, for instance, will play as normal. The customer will experience a phone call to your company, with no indication that you are not in an office.

So – as you can see, there are a number of ways to connect to your phone system. You can have a traditional desk phone, a walkabout DECT phone, or a softphone app on your mobile, desktop or tablet!

The choice is yours.

To find out more about your options, just get in touch.

See more info on the deskphone options you have

See more on the DECT phone options

See more on the softphone options

Our History As Told To The FreeSWITCH Team

Join us as we talk to Michael Mavroudis as part of the ClueCon weekly broadcast. See the whole broadcast at https://youtu.be/uIs9n23BMdo on the YouTube FreeSWITCH channel.

Our Founder and MD, Gavin Henry, starts his informative talk with a run-down of SureVoIP’s history, and gives the background to our story.

Some the most salient points come across as the conversation starts with a discussion about the UK infrastructure, and moves onto common problems and issues for UK VoIP Providers. The discussion finishes by analysing our current situation, and outlining our plans for the future.

Starting with how he became involved with IT Consultancy, and then VoIP in particular, Gavin Henry runs through how we progressed from a 2 server set up, to owning and managing our own independent network.

Born from the Consultancy set up by Gavin and two others, SureVoIP® was born from his desire to deliver high quality VoIP communications.

Starting with just a two server set up, we progressed to the one currently under-pinning our service today. SureVoIP® runs its own MPLS-enabled network, allowing it to remain independent, and to retain control and quality.

All equipment is doubly redundant, with peering to an extensive network of partners. SureVoIP® is a member of LINX, LONAP, IXScotland and IXManchester.

This means our connectivity customers have their traffic brought straight to our network, bypassing the public internet. If they take VoIP from us, then this receives priority, ensuring their phone calls are of the highest possible quality.

Having taken the time to build a resilient network suitable for delivering a genuine, business-critical service, SureVoIP® then started a long journey to build relationships with the big national players.

Working inconjunction with Ofcom and BT, we established our call routing, and negotiated the legislation involved.

What this means in practise is that SureVoIP® has moved up the food chain. We are now communicating with BT on a regulated level, discussing projects and contracts as equals.

From there on, it was the journey of developing and continually improving our services to our customers.

The most recent part of our journey is our move into mobile SIM cards.

With a SureVoIP® SIM card, users have the advantage of a fully free roaming SIM card, that will work with any of the main providers. No need to change SIM, swap phones, or miss calls when travelling. If (and when) the provider loses service, then your SureVoIP® SIM will switch to another Provider automatically.

The SIM card will operate as part of an overall VoIP system, so if you have a service with us then we can carry over many features to work with your mobile. This is predicted to be most beneficial to companies and corporations with large numbers of staff working out the office. Large staff deployments who requiring to communicate with the office or other staff members will benefit from using SureVoIP® SIMs.