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.

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

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.

Innovating For Success

Covering the start of our company, the thinking behind it and the drive moving us forward, the feature in today’s Press and Journal provides a great insight into SureVoIP®.

Gavin Henry, SureVoIP MD - The Big Interview

It tells the intriguing story of how our MD, Gavin Henry, found himself in the position of starting Scotland’s only independent VoIP Provider.

 

Gavin Henry started the company after gaining a BEng (Hons) in Electronic and Communications Engineering. From there he gained an interest in programming, including Linux and Open Source software. This was the start of a recurring theme, and in 2003 he developed a consultancy selling Linux IT support.

 

The next milestone for the company came 2 years later, when Gavin took the decision to leave his full-time job, concentrating solely on developing the target market and capabilities of his own consultancy.

 

A big step for anyone, Gavin’s decision was encouraged by a growing customer base, and a desire to move into the exciting field of VoIP telephony.

 

SureVoIP® was born!

 

From there, the company has gone from strength to strength, adding to its portfolio of business-grade services along the way (including the ability to supply internet connectivity).

 

The company now has a customer base of over 1,000 customers, all relying on it to provide business-critical telecoms. SureVoIP® is the trusted supplier of telecoms to a vast range of companies, including oil majors, multinationals, national charities, TV channels on Sky, wind farms and national hotel chains.

The ITSPA Awards. Who are they, what are the awards for and why you should care

ITSPA stands for the Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association. It is the governing body which oversees the VoIP industry in the UK.

 

They give awards to UK VoIP providers, covering delivery of VoIP services to Small, Medium and Corporate sized organisations. They also give awards for Infrastructure (the network behind-the-scenes, the stuff that makes a VoIP service work that you don’t see), and providing VoIP on-site equipment.

 

ITSPA as an organisation is important for a number of reasons. It provides a voice for the industry, providing effective lobbying on any regulatory issues. It spearheads industry initiatives, and ensures the VoIP industry is working to continually benefit end users. It also helps publicise VoIP technology to the general public, and provides a forum for issues and debate.

 

The reason why ITSPA is important to you, the consumer, is that it gives a level of reassurance when researching any prospective ITSP.

 

More about ITSPA.

 

Ultimately, ITSPA gives the customer reassurance, a level of insight into VoIP companies, and an insight into VoIP in general. It is a very interesting site to read and learn from, and they are impartial and unbiased. They are a good source of information on VoIP, and a great place to check out any potential suppliers. ITSPA give out their Quality Mark to selected providers, and this gives reassurance to customers and potential customers. Not every provider is chosen for their Quality Mark, so a provider displaying it should be more reputable. The Quality Mark only goes to companies who can prove their platform and service is robust and reliable (taken as a measurement to be 99.99% availability between 8am and 8pm throughout the working week). Providers are required to adhere to the ITSPA Code of Practice and Best Practice Guidance, ensuring that the customer gains a quality-focussed ITSP working in keeping with modern business practice.

 

Compliance with Data Protection and Data Retention legislation, fraud prevention measures, complaints handling policies and other technical and legislative checks are indicated by issuing a Quality Mark. The consumer who wishes to know more now only has to check the ITSPA website to ensure compliance for any prospective ITSP. By checking if they have the ITSPA Quality Mark, anyone can check at a stroke a potential provider’s compliance with a range of requirements, commitment to the VoIP field, and commitment to customer care.

 

ITSPA gives annual awards to VoIP providers working in the UK. They break the market down into categories. This year, the categories were Best Business ITSP (Small Enterprise), Best Business ITSP (Medium Enterprise), Best Business ITSP (Corporate), Best VoIP CPE (Customer Premises equipment), Best VoIP Infrastructure, and Best VoIP Innovation. They also award the Best UK VoIP Reseller, and allows the members of ITSPA to pick one further company who they feel has made a significant contribution to the VoIP industry.

 

As the industry governing body, ITSPA has a great deal resting on their reputation and credibility, and this is reflected in the awards process. All entrants are vetted carefully, and must submit their systems to two months’ of testing performed by an independent organisation prior to entering any award categories.

 

More on the 2017 ITSPA Awards.

 

SureVoIP has been nominated as a Finalist in two categories this year, Best Business ITSP (Corporate) and Best Business ITSP (Small Enterprise).

 

SureVoIP has a good track records at the Awards, being a Finalist in these two categories last year, and winning Best Business ITSP for Medium-sized business.

 

It is important to remember that the ITSPA Awards are not based on Marketing activity or market share – they are focussed on infrastructure, processes and innovation. The things which makes a real difference to customer’s lives.

 

More on the Quality Mark.

 

More about SureVoIP’s awards.

Realising and accepting that you may just be an entrepreneur

Gavin Henry, managing director of SureVoIP, will be speaking at the Granite Expo Seminar at 11:15 on Thursday 27th October (SureVoIP also have a stand at the Expo, so why not come along and say hi!). The talk details are below.

 

Realising and accepting that you may just be an entrepreneur:

Gavin will guide you through his 30-year journey spanning various events, decisions and “lucky chances” that have helped shape his path to running his own successful business. It’s easy to put achievements down to just luck, being in the right place at the right time or about who you know. Well, it's exactly all of the above.

This is an honest account of how little things can add up to something sustainable and highly enjoyable. Hopefully if you are thinking about starting a business, already own a start-up or an established company then you might gain some valuable insight – or at least identify with the feeling that the term “entrepreneur” does not apply to you, when in fact it really does.

When Gavin’s Dad died on Valentine’s Day this year, he thought back over his experiences to date and realised the importance of all the little things that had got him here today. Hopefully others will relate to this message and understand that they too can take that all-important step.

This talk originates from Gavin having been named as one of Scotland's top 40 entrepreneurs under the age of 40 and being invited to give a talk for 3rd Year pupils on Entrepreneurs Day at Ellon Academy in November 2016.

Gavin's company, SureVoIP, is regularly recognised as one of the best telecoms companies in Scotland and in the UK, most recently receiving nominations for two awards in the prestigious Comms National Awards 2016. The business also won the Best Business ITSP (Medium Enterprise) UK-wide honour in May 2016.

The Granite Expo audience will be the dry run so Gavin hopes it's of value to those listening, because in his words: “I'm not really an entrepreneur, I just have a passion for what I do.”

Porting Trade Secrets

Anyone who has dealt with their office telecoms will probably have heard the phrase “Number Porting”.

 

However, unless you are a professional in the field, you may not know much about it.

 

 

This brief guide will give you some pointers.

 

However, if you are in the middle of a number transfer and need advice please get in touch.

 

Some may use the term “Transferring” or “Number Transfer”, but the subject is just the same. Number Porting is the process you

will need to undergo if you change telecoms providers, and wish to keep hold of a pre-existing number.

 

The process for changing provider generally follows five steps:

1) You decide to change your telecoms provider, and contact some for quotes

2) You decide on one supplier that you think meets your requirements and ticks all the boxes

3) You sign to their service

4) You realise you need to keep the number which you have advertised for years and is known to your customers

5) You request your new provider to 'Port' this number to your new service.

 

So far so good – your new service is up and running, and your old number is following along ready to be used.

 

Unfortunately, there are issues which can catch out the unwary.

 

As business telecoms specialists, we deal with these requests day on, day out. We have seen the pitfalls which catch customers

transferring over to ourselves, and have come up with some ingenious solutions.

 

These tips are not normally available to those outside the telecoms industry (unless you are a SureVoIP customer and have

benefited from us assisting you).

 

 

The First Trap To Avoid!

 

The first trap which can catch the unwary is having the existing number tied to their broadband contract. Did you know that if you choose to transfer a number with broadband attached, your broadband will be ceased? We have tackled this issue with customers, and have found the best way to proceed.

 

Trade Secret: Place the Porting request, and then request the internet connection is renumbered, thus allowing the number to be transferred. The existing number can shift to the new provider, and the broadband will remain active.

 

 

The Second Trap To Avoid!

 

Another potential pitfall comes from the number being ceased by your original provider. This can happen due to unscrupulous companies trying to make your life difficult because they know you are moving to a different company.

 

Trade Secret (2): We strongly advise only dealing with companies who are Ofcom regulated. In our field (VoIP) we also have the advisory body 'The Internet Telephony Service Providers' Association'. We would strongly recommend looking for their Quality Mark when checking new providers.

 

 

See here for more Porting information. If you are porting a number, or thinking about porting a number, and need specialist insider advice, feel free to contact us for a chat.

 

 

SureVoIP win Best Business ITSP (Medium Enterprise) 2016!

Dear all, I’m extremely happy to announce (if you haven’t already seen my bombardment of pics on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook) that SureVoIP won the ITSPA Award for Best Business ITSP (Medium Enterprise) 2016 (that’s in the whole of the UK!). SureVoIP – Best Business ITSP (Medium Enterprise) Winner 2016   It was a great afternoon in London. I knew there was a Highly Commended category, so was at least hoping for that, but when we won I couldn’t believe it. My speech went like this:

We’ve never won anything like this before, but I’d like to thank all our Customers, Resellers and Partners for trusting us as their VoIP service provider and for their business. I’d like to thank the SureVoIP Team for all their hard work and finally I’d like to place a special thank you to all Open Source software projects. Without them, no telecom company would be in business.

Cheesy, but true! Let’s not forget our news last month regarding the ITSPA Quality Mark and that we were also Finalists for Best Business ITSP (Corporate) and Best VoIP Infrastructure. So finally, thank you for trusting SureVoIP with your business communications service. Gavin. Notes: It was extremely tough competition, but the requirements were: Outline The company winning this category has provided the best all round voice service to medium size businesses. This company provides a good selection of business features, including multiple telephone numbers; call queuing as well as support for remote workers. Eligibility The Award is open to companies offering a VoIP service to medium size enterprises for more than 10 and less than 150 employees/seats. It must offer a full telephony service (including connectivity to and from the PSTN, using standard UK DID numbers and with access to the emergency services). Judging panel companies are not permitted to enter the application process. Entrance Requirements Entrants will be subject to a round of technical testing performed by Malden Electronics. Providing benchmark scores are met, the application will then proceed through the judging process based on the entrants written self-assessment. Scoring

  1. Business performance (25%) – This section should include details about how the service operates and how it has proven both popular with customers and successful for the business over the past twelve months. It should outline how it ensures the necessary business grade quality and resilience for Medium sized businesses and why it particularly provides value for companies of that size. Any details or information around how the business has grown in recent years are welcome.
  2. Innovation (25%) This section should outline how you differentiate your service to other competitors. It should also include details around new services launched and additional features integrated over the past twelve months.
  3. Customer Service (25%) This section should clearly outline the efforts the company provides to ensure excellent customer service. Details outlining the pre-sales approach to installation and in-life support and maintenance are required. An outline of your complaint handling procedures, your number portability policy and ways of communicating with the public (on your website or elsewhere) would be welcome.
  4. Case Study (25%) Provide a comprehensive example of how your service has been deployed successfully in practice over the past 12 months.

 

SureVoIP on LINX and 2015

Just a short post covering some of the things that went on in 2015 via a nice case study we did with LINX – SureVoIP on LINX Case Study

Since joining LINX in 2014 and expanding over to IXScotland and IXManchester in 2015, SureVoIP have recorded an increase of 65% in turnover on their 2014 year end. 2016 looks to be an exciting year for its existing as well as new customers and partners, as this means more funds are being re-invested for enhancements and innovation.

“We’re a small operator, with low important traffic, but have had to date, a very exciting and interesting self-funded and fully-owned journey with lots of friends made and help from others along the way.”

How did LINX help?

Gavin Henry, Managing Director of SureVoIP explains;

“This has been our best year, with LINX really bringing value via two examples I can tell you about. One proving our technical prowess, leading to a much bigger order with an existing customer. Another being the resilience and low traffic latency LINX enables, allowing us to demonstrate to a customer that they could trust us with their whole corporations VoIP traffic. The former allowed us to directly reach out to much bigger network operator NOCs and be taken seriously with our fault finding.

We wouldn’t have that level of access and respect without being a LINX member. This in turn has allowed us to expand our team and invest in becoming a true telecom operator via the SS7 network.”

SureVoIP relate much of this success to peering and will happily give technical and non-technical evidence (friendly community, NOC contacts, traceroutes, sector awareness, legal policies etc.) to anyone that wishes to learn more. They consider the network operator and peering sector, especially LINX, as a community which all depends on the co-operation of everyone in order to make the Internet work.

Gavin concluded; “LINX has really made our network one of the best out there and we have won some pretty well known names due to the quality of our phone calls and attention to detail for doing things right.”