The switch off is coming when the traditional analogue phone network
(the Public Switched Telephone Network or PSTN) will reach the end of its life
and newer digital technologies will take its place.
When you consider that 16 million lines and
channels will need to be migrated to alternative products it’s worth starting
to look at other options sooner rather than later.
Beat the rush!
We’ve detailed below some key facts on the switch off but let’s start
with the positives and all the benefits you could enjoy by switching now – in
fact we are confident that you will love the functionality of VoIP so much, that
you will wonder why you haven’t switched before now!
Use your existing numbers
Access from any device of your choice
Use your existing telephones (unless it is time for
Add or remove new
numbers and manage other users
Voicemail to email
notifications so you never miss a call
Saves you time/money
If all of this has got you thinking maybe your business is ready to take
the next step then speak to Deep Blue. We’ll go over all the details with you,
arrange a site survey if needed and give you all the information you need to
make the decision.
Call 0333 240 9100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Key facts from Openreach
Why is the PSTN being withdrawn?
According to Openreach:
‘the equipment which runs the PSTN is ageing and reaching its end of life. 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The PSTN Analogue Lines network currently supports a number of products which, when it is withdrawn, will no longer be available.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 switch 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When are the services being withdrawn?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 however in some areas this stop sell has already been rolled out.
Create a Bank Holiday call plan using the date and time control nodes to send calls where you need them, when you need them. Add in a Divert node to build additional destination numbers if your main destination is busy or unavailable. Use the ‘Schedule Activate Option’ so you can build you Call Plan in advanced, knowing it will activate when you need it to.
InBound Date and Time Control Nodes
These nodes allow you to set different termination points on different days and at different times (e.g. one for Mon-Fri 9am-5pm and one for evenings and weekends).When you add these nodes into a call plan two boxes appear, one called control and one called default. Click on the control box to specify certain days and times and then drag a destination node onto the box to specify your termination number. Drag a destination node onto the control box and any days/times not listed on the control box will follow this routing.
InBound Divert Node
This allows you to set alternative destinations if a destination
number is busy, not answered or suffering from a network error. Simply
drag a divert node onto a destination node and then add destinations for
each of the three options.
InBound Schedule Activate
Once you have built your call plan, instead of clicking Activate,
click Schedule Activate. In the window that appears specify the start
date and time for this call plan then click Done. Your call plan will
appear as if it is already active but if you go back to the call plan
list it will show your call plan with the date and time it is due to
activate next to it.
Just email details of the dates, times and forward number to email@example.com with the subject Bank Holiday Call Plan and we will set it up for you.
In 2020 the rule book has been torn up and we have all had to adapt and change in order to meet the unique challenges that have been thrown at us. As the year draws to a close, it’s time now to take stock, evaluate and start looking ahead to 2021.
While we hope 2021 will be different, there is still a lot we can take away from the last 12 months. Reflect on how your business has adapted, what changes you have had to make. What have you done well? What areas could be improved on? Where did you fail?
Do you plan on reverting back to pre-Covid working ways or will you be carrying forward some of the changes? Some level of home working has had to become the new normal for many of us. There are pros and cons to home working, both for the individual and for the company. A careful weigh up of these will be needed when deciding whether to continue with some level of home working or not.
Reflection should not just be limited to your company but also to the market you work in. How has that changed? Do you expect a post-Covid bounce back or a long term impact and how can that be managed? Should your focus next year be on driving for new business or retaining existing business?
Try to keep your analysis honest and accurate. While it’s fine to try and make predictions, try to avoid pre-conceptions because, as the last year has taught us, anything can happen.
Understand your market
Understanding your customers, their needs and the challenges that they face is important to any business. It should inform all areas of your business from stock and staff levels to marketing strategies. Even if you have a pretty clear idea of what your market looks like, after the last year it is good idea to re-evaluate how things may have changed.
Talking to your customers is a great way to keep a feel for the market and understand how businesses are doing. Who’s hurting and who’s thriving, where are people spending and where are they cutting back.
Make SMART goals
Whether it’s sales targets, consolidation or expansion plans, marketing strategies or any other plan, make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound).
You may decide that you want to improve your customer service, but an improvement will have different definitions to different people. This also is difficult to attain as improvement is something we want to strive for continually. Instead be more specific and measurable e.g. to decrease complaints by 20% or to increase your customer ranking from four stars to five.
By making your goals measurable you increase your chances of achieving them, and give your team the boost of being able to see things ticked off.
When planning your goals, make sure all the relevant teams are involved. A customer service goal for example, may need input from other departments as well. If delivery times are an area generating complaints then logistics need to be part of any plans. If people aren’t hearing about your latest offers then marketing need to join the discussion.
Actions and Tactics
The actions you take now will shape the future of your business so it is important that they not only reflect the current climate but tie in with your plans for the future.
With COVID restrictions still in place and looking to be around for a while longer yet, it is important that the actions we take now and in early 2021 are realistic. If you usually rely on and budget for face to face events like trade shows and expos, have a good think about how likely any of these events are to take place and be well attended. It might be time to invest that money elsewhere such as by increasing your online marketing or building a new website.
The last year has had a financial impact on many business and sectors. In the year to come, planning your budget will be more important than ever. While many businesses will be looking to make savings, it is important to not cut corners. Using the plans and goals you make will help in deciding exactly where your resources need to go.
Track your results
While conducting reviews are great, they can only tell you what is and isn’t working after the event. By tracking your results you can see how things are going as they progress and make tweaks and changes much faster.
If 2020 has taught us anything it is how to be adaptable. As we move into 2021, there is hope of an end in sight, of a return to normality but there will still be a lot of challenges to overcome before we reach that point. And even when we do come out the other side, somethings will still be different: just because it was the normal way to do things before doesn’t mean it was the best way.
We would like to close by thanking our amazing customers for their support and patience during an unprecedented year. As you can imagine, when the first lockdown was announced we had to help facilitate a lot of people in the move to home working in a very short space of time. It is only thanks to the patience of our customers and the hard work of our team that we were able to achieve this.
At Deep Blue we currently have funding to offset the cost of new Horizon hardware. Couple this with the Connectivity+ Voucher scheme and there has never been a better time to switch to VoIP.
Funding is available for both existing and new Deep Blue customers, whether you are currently on VoIP or not.
Making any type of change to your business can be a daunting prospect, especially in the current climate. This is why we have put together the following guide on the key points to consider and debunked some of the common myths around SIP.
What to consider
What is your company’s structure? Are you all based in one location? Or do you have multiple sites or homeworkers? How do these sites need to be managed?
With Horizon you can choose how you manage calls at different sites and adapt and change them whenever you need to.
How do each of your company’s departments operate? Are they desk based, out in the field or a bit of both?
Do you have a receptionist or gatekeeper?
Do some staff deal with calls from multiple departments or numbers? Do they need to be able to move in and out of these hunt groups?
With Horizon you can mix and match hardware and apps to give each staff member exactly the setup they need. A handset with side car for reception, laptops with video calling for training, seamless integration of desk phone and mobile app for sales.
The easy to use Horizon online portal allows you to manage your hunt groups at the click of a button. You can move staff in and out of Hunt Groups, re-route calls, add voicemail without the need for an engineer appointment.
The Weaknesses of your current setup
What does your current setup do well and where does it fall short? What are the issues that cause your colleagues problems? Are you missing functions you really need? Are you paying for extras that you never use?
Once you have identified what your main issues are, your Horizon system can be tailored to truly meet your company’s needs.
They say time is money and in business this is particularly true. Not only are VoIP systems like Horizon cost effective, they can also be setup quickly.
Our fastest turn around was for a company who found out their sales team needed to be able to record calls for compliance. They contacted us at 10am and by 2pm they had three sales staff making and taking fully compliant calls on Horizon.
What changes will you need to make over the coming months? Is your business impacted by seasonal peaks in call volume? Will you need to support staff in working from home as well as the office? Are you potentially going to need to move site due to changes in needs or the end of a lease?
We understand not everyone wants to get into making changes to their phone setup, which is why our support team is on hand to assist you in any tweaks you may need doing.
But for those companies where adaptability is key, Deep Blue provide full training on your Horizon portal so that you are fully in control of your calls.
Present different numbers for different departments. Move staff in and out of hunt groups in response to demand, for example if you are taking more calls due to a promotion. Schedule your calls to route differently at the busiest parts of the day. Feel fully in control with full call stats and analytics.
Still not sure if you want to change?
Deep Blue has secured funding for both new and existing customers to help offset the cost of your new Horizon system. For many businesses, this will make your new handsets completely free of charge.
The Connectivity+ Voucher scheme can also help if you need to upgrade your broadband connection to make full use of VoIP. Our post on the Connectivity+ Voucher scheme has more details.
If you have never used VoIP before you may have reservations about the service quality. Here are some of the key myths debunked.
The call quality is lower than that of fixed line
For many of us, our first experience of VoIP will have not been a good one. Tinny, distorted sound; delays, packet loss and that was if the call got through in the first place!
Early VoIP was subject to many limitations. The broadband connection it ran over, the hardware it used (often built in speakers and microphone on a PC or laptop), the software powering it.
But things have come a long way and modern SIP call quality is more than comparable to ISDN.
It will be expensive
Often the latest tech comes at a price, usually a high one. But SIP is a very cost effective solution. Unlike ISDN, you are not subject to the same engineer costs should you need to expand your system or make changes.
We offer Horizon bundles with inclusive minutes so that you can know what your bill will be each month.
Add in the lower upfront cost of SIP vs ISDN and the savings soon add up.
It is an unproven technology
SIP technology is trusted by thousands of companies, big and small, across the UK. Deep Blue have been running our offices off SIP for more than 10 years.
With the approaching end of life for ISDN, more and more companies are making the switch every day.
The Horizon development team are always working to expand and further develop the service. Taking on feedback from users to constantly improve the platform and it’s functions.
It will be too much hassle to change
Changing phone systems used to be a resource intensive process, often resulting in disruption and extended downtime. The migration to SIP is surprisingly easy and quick.
You can even run Horizon alongside your current system to keep downtime to a minimum.
At Deep Blue we manage the migration process for you, taking the hassle out of the switch to SIP.
Ready to make the change? Whether you are already on SIP and are looking to improve your system or are looking to jump from traditional telephony, our friendly team is on hand to help you get started.
Still not sure? Our knowledgeable team can answer any questions you may still have. We can also provide demos of Horizon so you can see what the service is like before making any decisions.
Contact us today on 0333 240 9100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone looks forward to the warmer months,
but in the business world it can be a balancing act between giving your
staff the time off they deserve while still giving your customers the
service levels they need.
Here are our top tips to becoming a summer sensation and recharging your batteries without compromising on service!
Prepare Your Customers Let your customers know in advance when you will be away, give yourself that time to really enjoy your break.
Put Marketing on Auto-Pilot Don’t
go completely dark on the marketing front so people start to wonder
where you are. Pre-schedule posts, blogs and other forms to stay
Set Your ‘Out of Office’ Decide
how often and when you plan on checking in, what date you will be
returning back to work and how you can be reached in an emergency (if at
all) and detail those Summer rules in your out of office announcement.
Intelligently Handle Incoming Calls Whether
you close completely or reduce your hours, let a ‘Virtual Office’ take
care of the day-to-day. From voicemail to call forwarding to
auto-attendants, your phone system has the capability to intelligently
handle incoming calls while you are away.
Deep Blue customers can log into our Knowledge Base to find assistance with setting these facilities or contact us for more information on a tailored system for your business
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 email@example.com
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Just imagine: it’s your first day in a brand new office. The desks are in place, the PCs up and running, customers have been informed – but your phones aren’t working. This is a major crisis for any company that depends on calls or the internet for its business.
If you’re moving to a new office, there are 101 things to organise, cancel, pack and arrange but your phone lines and numbers are one problem you can be totally relaxed about. Deep Blue is experienced in ensuring a smooth transition between locations, taking over the communication with Openreach and ensuring all your services move with you.
With a range of continuity options, project management and experienced support we take the stress (well some of it at least) out of moving office.
Just let us know when you are moving, where you are moving to and which lines and services you will need and we can do the rest. Any additional costs are quoted in advance and we will keep you informed of any engineer visits and installations. So if you are moving or adding new offices contact us today for valuable advice.
Telephone scams, which target both business and residential customers, are always a nuisance. Here are some top tips to help you stay scam safe:
Don’t get caught out
Don’t trust the number on the display
Scammers are able to present numbers to make it appear like they are calling from the company they are claiming to call from. A legitimate company will always be happy for you to end the call and call them back.
If you answer a call and it is an automated message giving you the option to press a key to call back: don’t!
You have no way of verifying what number you will then be connected to. This leaves you unable to verify if you are being connected to the organisation or company that the call claims to be from. You may also end up with a large bill – many scams use this method to route you on to a premium rate number which generates charges that go straight into the scammers pockets.
If you do decide to call a company back, ideally call from an alternative number
If this is not possible then it is best to wait a while before using your line to dial out. Scammers have been known to keep lines open so you think you are dialing out to the legitimate organisation, but instead are still talking to them. They have even been known to play dummy dial tones down the line.
Never allow these callers to talk you through installing anything on your computer
Deep Blue and many other companies do, on occasion, use remote desktop facilities to carry out work on customer’s behalf. We will never contact you out of the blue to do this. This is only ever done on a prearranged basis. If remote works are needed we will agree a date and time with you in advance and give you details of the engineer who will be contacting you.
Deep Blue will never call you asking for immediate payment over the phone
If an invoice should fall overdue we will send notification to the registered accounts contact advising them of this, along with details on how they can pay.
Deep Blue will never threaten to immediately cease your service due to payment or usage issues.
We always endeavour to work with our customers to resolve issues before they reach the point of having their service suspended. On the rare occasions that we do have to suspend a service we always provide written notice of this before it happens, along with details of how to prevent this from happening.
Use the resources available to you to Stay Scam Safe
If you are using a landline: make sure you have registered for TPS. This can’t stop all nuisance calls getting through to you but it can reduce the number. For customers on the Horizon platform, the blacklist can be used to block nuisance numbers. Check with your provider to see what kind of fraud protection services they have in place. At Deep Blue we work with our carriers to provide a range of added safety services on our lines as standard. These services monitor your call traffic and can alert us to any suspicious activity. They can even automatically apply temporary call barring to limit your exposure should you get hacked or scammed.
To discuss your telecoms, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0333 240 9100. If you would like to know more on how to stay scam safe, the Met police have a number of resources available like their Little Booklet of Phone Scams.