Communications Across Multiple Devices

You may have read about “Cross Channel” or “Cross Device” Communications. Many Telecoms and IT companies are making some noise about this. But what is it? How will you benefit? Will it make your life easier, or is it just more jargon floating around trying to get your attention?

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that, as with most technologies, it has the potential to improve your life. You may need to adjust a little, but it should prove well worth it.

With VoIP telecoms, it is possible to deliver your communications over a range of devices. You can use a range of devices to suit your individual requirements.

For instance, many in a work environment like to have a traditional-style phone on their desk. VoIP can work with this. Within our own customer base at SureVoIP we have many companies using VoIP to service a ‘traditional’ style set up. (You can see some examples of VoIP deskphones here – https://www.surevoip.co.uk/store/voip-desk-ip-phones).

Simple isn’t a problem – your system with us can be as complicated or as simple as you like. If you just want one incoming phone number to ring through to phones on desks we can do this. Alternatively, if you want a more advanced set up, with a menu for callers to select options from, and an order of preference regarding who answers calls, then we can do this too. Advanced isn’t a problem either.

The purpose of this article is to introduce the idea of using different devices withinyour telecoms set up. The set up of a mobile separate to your desk phone, and work phones sitting in your office, isn’t compulsory any more. You have many more options when using VoIP.

Softphone Apps mean you can effectively carry your business phone with you, wherever you go. Simply by downloading an app you can use your mobile as part of an existing phone system. You can make and receive calls using your company number, transfer calls to colleagues, play pre-recorded messages, and more. Your smartphone becomes an extension of your office phone set up – you are effectively carrying a whole phone system (or access to it at least) in your pocket.

So, we have now touched on deskphones and smartphones, and found they can be brought together in the context of your business telecoms.

We can also add a Desktop PC into this mix. Most people have to use a computer when at work. Let’s face it, they are essential for even simple tasks. Emailing, invoicing, creating documents and spreadsheets. These are all essential tasks, and all require a computer. You are sitting in front of one right now! (Unless you are reading this on your smartphone or tablet). Now we have reconciled ourselves to having them sitting on our desks, we can explore how to use them most effectively. An app running on a desktop PC gives the same functionality as the smartphone app discussed previously.

Many people who make and receive a lot of calls as part of their role find a Desktop PC app handy. It cuts down on the hardware on their desk, and means calling someone is no more than a few mouse clicks away.

So we now have more integration between your office deskphone, your own smartphone and your work PC. Of course, you don’t have to integrate all devices if you don’t want to. We are not trying to force your work life into your personal life. But, if you want to integrate the two, the options are there. Many small business owners and Sole Traders are using a more integrated framework, and through this add value to their business via maximising their telecoms. Missed calls are minimised. Answered calls are treated to business-grade phone services, with Music on Hold and call routing mirroring a larger scale set up*.

So, to summarise. The equipment, knowledge and support are all in place to allow a business-grade telecoms experience across your devices. How far you want to integrate your comms is entirely up to you. In the case of smaller companies in particular, it can prove extremely beneficial.

Get in touch to find out how we can help

See here for softphone apps

* Features of SureVoIP’s Hosted services

The Benefits of Regulations

A lot of the time, regulations get a very bad press. We moan about paperwork. We panic at the mention of audits. Sweat breaks out on foreheads when we are faced with our paperwork being scrutinised. Even the mention of a tax audit has been known to reduce a company accountant to tears.

But sometimes regulations can work in our favour.

A gas fitter with the appropriate certification, for instance, is far preferable to one without. Or your dentist. Would you be happy to discover that the dentist you had been going to for years was not actually qualified in dentistry?

So, despite our reservations at the start, we have to admit that regulations can occasionally be acceptable. Sometimes, they may even be desirable!

In the world of internet telephony, we have our fair share of guidelines and legislation. The arena of telecoms is just as regulated as any other industry, perhaps more so.

Ofcom is the overseeing body tasked with regulating our phone and broadband, TV and radio. They regularly issue guidelines and briefing notes.

ITSPA (The Internet Telephony Providers Association) oversees telephony over the internet. As a VoIP Provider, it is particularly relevant to how we operate. Along with Ofcom, this is our main source of industry updates, legislative changes and technology notifications.

ITSPA also serves as a database of VoIP Providers. Any reputable Provider will be listed on the ITSPA website.

In addition, it serves a number of important industry functions. ITSPA allocates awards every year for those which it feels have made an outstanding contribution in their field. This is a great guide for ascertaining the best or most innovative VoIP Providers, those with great customer service or those dedicated to technological innovation.

At SureVoIP, we have been lucky enough to be Finalists in ITSPA’s awards 13 times, in a variety of categories. We were very pleased to win the ‘Best Business ITSP for Medium Enterprises in 2016. We regularly feature in the Finalist list for our innovative VoIP developments. This year we were a Finalist for our Customer Portal in the ‘Best VoIP Infrastructure’ category.

How ITSPA contributes to the VoIP industry

More on their Awards

More on Ofcom and telecoms

More on our 2016 Award win

Phone Numbers – Do We Still Need Them?

Phone Numbers – Do We Still Need Them?

In an era of smart phones, social media and instant messaging apps, is there still a place for the traditional phone number?

It sounds like a daft question, but it is actually very relevant to today’s communications.

The way people are phoning has changed since the Post Office set up the phone system in the UK in 1912. The system for area codes was set up in the 50’s.

Quite a lot has changed since then! Trilby hats are no longer fashionable, and neither are Teddy Boys.

It’s no wonder that the way we use our phones has changed.

In 1969, the mobile was undreamed of. Neil Armstrong had famously landed on the Moon using less powerful computers than we now have in a watch. Now we have watches that synch automatically with your smartphone. You can speak to a small box and have it order your shopping, or play music.

The traditional phone number has fallen a bit behind. Set up in the fifties, it is designed to identify the geographic location of the number, and reach an individual or company.

You may not realise that your area code for your landline may contain a location identifier. The second and third digits often match the first and second letters of the town or city (for instance, for Aberdeen, the area code 01224 contains ‘2’ and ‘2’ as the second and third digits, corresponding to ‘A’ and ‘B’ on the alphanumeric phone keypad).

But changes in technology mean that such geographic identifiers are unnecessary.

In fact, many younger people no longer what an area code or what it is for. It is becoming unnecessary to even dial numbers, as our smart phones now serve as a contact directory, storing numbers we need and dialling with a single click.

The changes are set to continue. BT is discussing moving the whole phone system in the UK from wires to the internet. This will effectively change the requirements for the UK numbering system.

As you will probably know (as you are reading our blog), it is becoming increasingly common for calls to be made and received using the internet just now, as more and more people adopt VoIP.

Get in touch to discuss your options or find out more

See more on this topic on the Ofcom website

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

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.

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.

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.

The Importance Of Correct Equipment

As the internet becomes increasingly important in all aspects of our lives, so we find ourselves having to think ahead regarding hardware provision. It seems as if no sooner have you caught up than the game has moved on! There is no point now in providing for your requirements today – you need to be thinking further ahead.

This is particularly relevant when running a business. Your connectivity hardware is no longer safe to be left in the hands of free, proprietary equipment. The routers sent out as part of a home-based set up are not appropriate to a business environment. In fact, they could be potentially damaging.

There could be security issues, which aren’t being addressed. The hardware firmware could be lagging behind, leaving it unable to work with other equipment or settings. It might be impossible to alter any of these things. After all, the company aren’t making any money from supplying the equipment. Think of it this way – if you had given someone something for free and they came back to complain, would you be inclined to help?

At SureVoIP®, we are understandably focussed on VoIP. The issues experienced regarding a VoIP system range from Router settings blocking traffic altogether, to voice quality being detrimentally affected by hardware configuration which can’t be over-written.

Another problem we frequently encounter is handsets being exposed to the general internet, allowing hackers to exploit this equipment for fraudulent use. This is directly due to the Router being inadequately secure. Consumer-grade equipment is not designed to combat these threats.

This is one of the main differences between business-grade and consumer-grade equipment.

Internal settings can be set by the equipment supplier (eg a broadband provider). It is often the case that these settings are harmful in a business environment, particularly when using a VoIP system.

This is why we supply Draytek Routers from our online store, and advise all customers taking connectivity products from us to invest in a good quality, business-grade router. Drayetk are our first choice, as they are well made and designed with business use in mind.

As a supplier of true business-grade connectivity, we feel that Draytek support our offering well, and work with us to achieve a common goal. It can sometimes feel as is consumer-grade equipment is actively working against you!

In an environment where success or failure now relies on your internet connection, it isn’t an exageration to say that good quality internet Router is a valuable asset which you won’t regret buying, and a bad quality one is something you will regret on a daily basis!

For more info on internet, connectivity hardware, or any related questions, just get in touch. We’ll be happy to help.