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Connectivity+ Vouchers

The Connectivity+ Voucher scheme is offering funding of between £500 and £3,000 to help local businesses cover the cost of upgrading to faster, more reliable digital connections or broadband.

As a company based in Wetherby and providing services to many businesses in the surrounding areas we know all too well how inconsistent broadband speeds can be around here. An office at one end of the street may be enjoying super fast fibre, while just a few doors down, they may be getting by on a 3 Mbps ADSL connection.

We’ve worked hard over the years to try out many different ways of delivering connectivity to our end users and we are pleased with the improvements we have been able to offer to many local companies. But we know that many of these solutions come at a cost and, particularly in the current climate, this may leave faster broadband still out of reach of some businesses.

This is where the Connectivity+ Voucher scheme comes in. They are designed to help cover some of the costs of upgrading your connection.

Vouchers can also be used to cover other costs associated including:

  • The actual cost of the installation i.e. the cost of the physical connection, including excess construction costs to reach a network
  • Hardware related to facilitating the connection e.g. a firewall, router, receiver/antennae (for wireless connections)
  • Virtual servers and software licences (subject to limitation of upfront costs only)
  • Internal ethernet network cabling
  • Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony
  • Consultancy/project management cost to install a connection – capped at 25% of the value of a voucher

They can even cover some, or all, of the cost of the first years rental of a connectivity solution providing the first year is paid to the supplier in full at the start of the contract.

Connectivity+ Vouchers are intended to help businesses upgrade to higher speed business grade broadband. They can be used to get your speed over 30 Mbps if it is currently under that, or to double your speed if you currently get over 30 Mbps.

To find out more about what options maybe available to help your business take it’s connectivity to the next level, contact us today.

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Enabling a remote workforce

The need for a remote workforce has never been more at the forefront of business mind’s than now. Here we look at why and how you can enable your business to have an efficient and productive remote workforce.

Why is a remote workforce important?

There are many reasons to consider having a remote workforce. From logistics to cost saving, personnel to resources, having a remote workforce can benefit many areas of your business. Here we look at two of the biggest benefits.

Employee satisfaction

Employees who are engaged and motivated within their job role have higher employee satisfaction. A survey carried out by Leadership IQ found that only 24% of office workers said they loved their jobs, compared to 45% of remote workers.

It is this higher rate of job satisfaction in remote workers which can lead to improved productivity. Resulting in increased profitability, reduced absenteeism and increased employee loyalty. This can have a positive effect on overall company growth. With higher employee retention and lower turnover.

Business Continuity

Most companies already have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place should they suffer loss of service.

From builders accidentally cutting cables to power outages, DRPs can keep your business receiving calls. But what happens if your office is completely out of action? Building damage from natural disasters, staff in isolation and transport issues can all hinder your business. An established remote workforce with a well developed infrastructure can seamlessly keep you going.

Remote workforce – The key challenges

Having an effective remote workforce is about more than simply equipping them with a smartphone. Without the right tools and support remote working can have a negative impact on productivity.

Common complaints about remote working

  • Feelings of exclusion – Remote workers can feel excluded because they don’t have the same level of interaction with their colleagues. They may miss out on important communications.
  • Frustration at inability to perform –Remote workers commonly feel inconvenienced and frustrated because they have to carry separate business and personal devices and use multiple tools for work communications. –many of which aren’t designed for use in a mobile environment.
  • Interruptions and distractions – One of the most obvious challenges for a remote workforce is interruptions and distractions. They can seriously damage productivity.
  • Poor service delivered to customers – If remote workers can’t be easily contacted when they need to be, or they don’t have the right information available.
  • Increased risk of security breaches –Commonly because employees use non-approved consumer apps to communicate or to store information.
  • Loss of valuable information – This becomes an issue when an employee leaves and company data or contacts are stored on the workers personal phone.

Solutions for a successful remote workforce

The right tools can keep remote workers aligned with the rest of the workforce. But what solutions can be put in place?

A platform to unify your business communications

Unified Communications enable businesses to integrate all of the ways they communicate such as voice, video and data. It is easy to roll out and cost-effective. And, crucially, it can help to facilitate remote working and communication between teams in different places.

A business Grade Mobile Service

Your employees will have a wide range of requirements from their mobile service. From using it to make and receive calls, to it becoming a potential source of connectivity should their home broadband fail. As such it is essential to have a reliable, business grade service.

An integrated cloud based phone system

Hosted phone systems have long replaced traditional desk phones. Combining fixed and mobile telephony into a user-controlled online interface, your workers have the full range of features they are used to at the office, even when working remotely. Built in directories and CRM integration give your workers access to the right details when they need them.

In conclusion

A remote working policy underpinned with good technology can provide valuable opportunities and significant advantages for organisations.

Improve your remote working policy with our blog post ‘Tips for home working‘.

Contact us today to learn more about our range of products and services to help your remote workforce, including our fully intergrated, unified communication solutions.

tips on home working

Tips for home working

The team at Deep Blue have been using remote working for years. With that in mind we have put together some of our top tips for home working for people starting on it for the first time.

The Workspace

Having a workspace is really important. This might not be a room. It may just be a desk or a corner of the kitchen, but it should be a space dedicated for work. This helps you get in the work mind set while you are there but also, crucially, helps you to step away from work at the end of the day. This is especially important if we do have any kind of lock down period. A lot of our time is going to be restricted to the same space so designating areas of that space to different tasks can help us feel less constricted.

Try to make it a space that you want to work in. If possible set up near a window to give yourself plenty of natural light and fresh air. Have a family photo or a plant there just as you would at work.

Try to get everything you need to hand, paper, pens, etc. If you have to keep getting up to get things it can be distracting and time consuming.

The Structure

Structure is important when working from home. It helps you to stay focused and keep the distinction between work and home life.

Get dressed! As tempting as it is to do a few emails in your pyjamas, getting dressed again can help with defining the working day. You don’t need to put on your best office wear but try to find something that makes you feel in work mode. This can apply to the end of the day too. If the first thing you usually do when you get home is get changed into your joggers and sweatshirt then do that when you finish at home.

Plan breaks. It can be easy on your own to lose track of time. Make sure you keep an eye on the clock. Get up and move around, take breaks when you would normally. Plan a lunch hour. If you usually share the task of making tea/coffee in your office, it can be easy to forget when you are on your own.

If you usually make a lunch to take to work with you, you may still want to do this. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you want to use up your break time prepping food.

The Work

Just because you aren’t in the office, doesn’t mean you need to be cut off from you colleagues. Keep in touch. You may want to do weekly or daily conferences calls so everyone knows what they are doing. Use calls and emails to keep each other up to date. If you have Horizon collaborate, use the instant messaging function to chat in real time. Send through the odd link or funny picture to keep everyone smiling.

It can be hard to tell if someone is struggling when you aren’t face to face with them, regular communication can help with spotting this. If you are the one struggling, speak up. It may be to your manager, it may be to the colleague who always helps you out, it may be to a relative or partner. Just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean you are working alone.

Remember that with emails it can sometimes be hard to judge the tone of what is being said. Try to make sure that your messages come across as intended, use more casual language or emojis for internal emails if this helps with tone. If in doubt, pick up the phone!

If you have children at home with you, don’t get stressed about them interrupting an important call or try to cover up your situation. Be honest. People are very understanding, especially at times like this when everyone is working under different circumstances.

The Benefits

If you usually aren’t allowed within ten foot of the office radio, enjoy being able to put on the playlist of your choice! Music is great for concentration. Vary your playlist depending on what you are doing. you might even want to put together a playlist to share with your colleagues.

If your day usually starts and ends with a commute, use this new found time for you. Throw something into a slow cooker in the morning so you know dinner will be ready when you finish work. Go for a walk and get some fresh air. Workout. Watch an extra episode of you favourite show.

The Transition

The change to home working can be difficult, especially if you have spent a lot of time in the structured environment of an office. Hopefully these tips for home working will help make the transition a little easier.

Deep Blue are on hand to support you and your business when you need us, just call 0333 240 9100 or email theteam@deepbluetelecom.co.uk

Remote working

Covid-19 and remote working – keep calm and log on

With the thought of Covid-19 on a lot of people’s minds, many business are looking at ways to assist their staff in remote working.

At Deep Blue we pride ourselves at not just providing great products and services but also great support. This is why we are offering the following tips and guidance for remote working.

Horizon

With Horizon, starting to work remotely couldn’t be easier. There are multiple ways your staff can receive their calls at home:

  • If you have a compatible router* and a horizon PSU, you can take your horizon handset home with you. First connect the PSU to power. Then connect your handset’s ethernet cable to one of the ports on the back of your router.
  • You can link each Horizon handset with up to five other numbers using twinning. This allows home workers to receive calls on their Horizon phone, home phone and other devices at the same time.
  • For a small additional charge, users can have a Horizon desktop soft phone. This allows users to make and manage their calls via their computer (available for Mac and Windows).
  • For a small additional charge, users can get the Horizon app on their smartphone (available for Android and iOS). This allows them to not only make and receive Horizon calls on their mobile, but also gives them access to the company directory, their speed dials, recent call details and many other Horizon features.

Horizon Collaborate – 4 month free trial

For next level functionality, you can upgrade your Horizon service to collaborate. Collaborate adds the following features to your Horizon service:

  • Audio and Video calling via desktop and smartphone
  • Personal audio, web and video conferencing with up to 15 users (with both Horizon and non-Horizon users)
  • Room audio, web and video conferencing with up to 15 users(with both Horizon and non-Horizon users)
  • Instant messaging and presence (info on a users status and availability)
  • Service management (call settings)
  • Drag and drop file and desktop sharing
  • Visual Voicemail
  • Address Books/Contact Management

This means your work force can still communicate with each other in real time, collaborate with each other and even host conferences with suppliers or customers, all from the comfort of their own home.

In light of the current Covid-19 situation and the increased interest in remote working, Horizon are currently offering the first four months of collaborate for free to support business in establishing home working.

Because Horizon is controllable from anywhere you have an internet connection you can still manage your calls even if you can’t get to your office. Redirecting them or updating your voicemail message to keep your callers up to date.

The statistics tab on the portal allows you to keep track of calls made and received on each Horizon handset. This lets you know if calls are being missed so you can react to this.

Remote Working

SIP Trunks

These can be forwarded to alternative numbers via the trunks themselves or via your phone system. Customers with SIP Trunk call manager can forward numbers via the call manager portal.

PSTN and ISDN

If you are using PSTN or ISDN, a facility called admin controlled call forwarding can be setup on your lines. This allows you to add and remove forwards on your phone numbers via a handset connected to your line. There is a small additional charge for this service and it typically takes 24 hours for the service to be applied at the exchange.

From protecting workers who may fall into at risk groups. Keeping your business running should staff be quarantined. An alternative for staff with childcare issue should schools be closed. Or just a new way to run your business. Whatever reason is making you consider remote working, Deep Blue are happy to be on hand to support your business.

Whether you are an existing customer or not, please feel free to contact us to discuss what options may be suitable for your business.

* Not all broadband services and routers will work with Horizon. Some routers may use settings such as SIP ALG which can interfere with Horizon.

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Phone Hacking – an unexpected cost to businesses

Think of phone hacking and you probably think of news reports of newspapers gaining access to the phones of celebrities and politicians to gather information. What you may not think of is criminals hacking into the phone systems of businesses.

Once access has been gained to a company’s network, this can be used to illegally route calls, either to make international calls or even to generate revenue from premium rate numbers, all at the expense of the hacked company.

Usually after the companies have closed (often at weekends or bank holidays to help avoid detection) the hackers have gained access to the network and called premium rate (09) and special rate (0871) numbers which they earn revenue from. In some cases this revenue is used to fund organised crime and terrorist activity. Many businesses are unaware that they are liable for any charges generated during these attacks and that getting this money back is a lengthy process.

A case in America that made it to court uncovered an international crime gang that had access to over 2,500 PBX’s and had illegally routed calls to the value of $55million dollars. Another case of note, and probably the most high profile UK victim was New Scotland Yard.

The average call charges faced by a company hit by this type of hacking is £10,000.

As you can see by the figures above, phone hacking is a serious crime and in all cases we advise affected parties to notify the police as soon as the hack is brought to their attention. The called numbers should also be reported to Ofcom and Phonepay Plus.

As with computer hacking, there are measures to reduce this risk of being hit, however as fast as these measures close one door, the hackers find ways to open another.

One of the main ways access is gained is through services such as voicemail which allow you to dial into a network externally, but there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of this happening. Ensure all ways of accessing your network are password protected (just as you would put a password on your wireless internet network), change these passwords from the system default and ideally update them often, don’t share passwords, make passwords as long and complicated as possible (many hackers have sophisticated methods that can crack passwords 16 digits long) and keep all access codes secure (some victims had calls from individuals claiming to be from telephone companies asking codes to do work on the network or to update their security).

It is also worth considering what kinds of calls you make; does your business need to be able to call premium rate or international numbers? If not, consider call barring features so if your network was compromised, it would be harder for extensive call charges to be built up.

At Deep Blue we take the security of our customers seriously which is why we partner with a number of developers and services to provide additional security to our customers. We use multi level monitoring systems to track call traffic volumes. These alert us and can even automatically apply out bound call barring should suspicious activity be found.

If phone hacking is something you are concerned about or if you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact one of our friendly support staff.

All that's left to say

All that’s left to say….

The Christmas jumpers have been worn, the festive call plans activated and our little Elves have now gone home. So all that’s left to say is…..

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year to all of our customers!

We will be back in the office on Thursday 2nd January ready to hit the New Year with a bang. Whatever your Business’ Resolutions are, Deep Blue will be here to help you and your business shine!

All that's left to say

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Our Christmas HO-HO-HOpening hours

Our Christmas HO-HO-HOpening Hours at Deep Blue

Monday 23rd December – 9am until 5pm
Tuesday 24th December – 9am until 12pm
Wednesday 25th December – Closed
Thursday 26th December – Closed
Friday 27th December – Closed
Monday 30th December – Closed
Tuesday 31st December – Closed
Wednesday 1st January – Closed

We will be happily back to work on Thursday 2nd January – 9am until 5pm

05da2fab-19fd-47e5-ba7d-02e89daf5317OUT OF HOURS

During the festive shut-down, EMERGENCY SUPPORT is available. Please leave a message on the number below and a member of our team will be in touch.

0333 240 9100

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UCI World Road Championships in Yorkshire

This is a reminder to all our Yorkshire based customers that the UCI World Road Championships will be taking place at the end of this month. From the 21st to the 29th September there will be road closures throughout Yorkshire to accommodate men’s, women’s and para-cycling events.

On the 21st and 27th of September, the action will be passing right by Deep Blue‘s very own home town of Wetherby!

Details of all the UCI World Road Championships routes and closures can be found on the Yorkshire 2019 UCI website. If you are affected by any of the road closures, or maybe just planning to pop out for a minute to watch the race, remember to plan ahead to make sure you don’t miss out on any important calls.

 

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ISDN Withdrawal – the key questions answered

In this article we answer some of the key questions you may have about the upcoming ISDN withdrawal and the wider closing of the PSTN.

What is the PSTN?

The Public Switched Telephone network or PSTN currently forms a large part of the UK telecoms infrastructure. It is made up of copper telephone lines, fibre optic cables, microwave transmission links, satellites, undersea telephone cables and mobile networks. It used for several functions, including the making of calls using analogue voice data and Supporting digital services such as ISDN.

Why is the PSTN being withdrawn?

According to Openreach:

‘the equipment which runs the PSTN is ageing and will reach its end of life by December 2025.  This means the analogue telephone voice services that are reliant on this network will no longer be available……. Spare parts are becoming out of manufacture and, additionally, many of the people who designed, built and operated the system are retired or close to retirement so skills are increasingly scarce.’

The current PSTN network will be replaced with a fibre and VoIP network.

What products will be affected?

The PSTN network currently supports a number of products which, when it is withdrawn, will no longer be available. The key one which will affect business customers is the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). Many companies have telephony systems which use either ISDN2 or ISDN30 channels to make and receive calls. Over 16 million lines and channels are affected by the swicth off and will need migrating prior to 2025.

When are the services being withdrawn?

Openreach plans to stop allowing the connection of new PSTN services, like ISDN, from September 2023. All connections will be finally switched off in December of 2025.

How will the switch off be managed?

This is still an ongoing discussion. Openreach are in regular discussion with Ofcom and the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA2) about this process. The Federation of Communication Services (FCS) is also involved in these discussions. As a member of the FCS, Deep Blue is part of the wider conversation about how the withdrawal will be managed for communications providers and their customers.

What alternative products will there be?

Openreach are currently in the process of introducing a range of new services alongside some of their existing ones to ensure internet access is available once the PSTN is discontinued. From there, call traffic will be handled as Voice over IP (VoIP). This basically means that your voice call is sent as bits of data via your internet connection. If you are using SIP trunks, Horizon or InBound then you are already making calls via this technology.

I’m using ISDN lines, should I make the switch now?

As always when big changes are happening, some companies use the uncertainty for their own gains. We have already seen customers who have received communications, both at their business and at home, implying their connectivity is under threat and they should move now before it’s too late! This, luckily, is not true. There is still almost five and a half years until the PSTN is deactivated so while it is something to start giving thought to, it is not a reason to rush to make changes.

There are, however, plenty of other good reasons to make the switch. Keep a look out for our article ‘ISDN to VoIP- is it time to make the change?’ coming soon. In it we will detail the many benefits of switching to a VoIP solution: like potential cost savings, resilience and features.

In Conclusion

Many companies are already taking advantage of digital services which will serve them now and after the switch off. For those that aren’t, there is plenty of time and plenty of options for them to make the move to. Openreach, the FCS and service providers like Deep Blue are all working closely to put plans and procedures in place to manage the switch.

Deep Blue customers can rest assured that we will be on hand to make the change as easy and stress free as possible.

Have more questions, want to get ahead of the crowd or keen to start taking advantage of VoIP for it’s many other benefits? Contact Deep Blue today on 0333 240 9100 or by email to theteam@deepbluetelecom.co.uk