PSTN, ISDN, the “big switch off” – they’ve all been spoken about across the telecommunications industry, but the facts can often get lost in the furore.
We’ve compiled this useful blog to help you understand what’s really happening and what you need to do to ensure your business is ready to adapt.
What is the PSTN and ISDN switch off? The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has been in use in this country since 1876, so it’s understandably grown old and tired, and it’s becoming increasingly costly to maintain. Therefore, it needs replacing with new and modern technology, fit for the digital world we now live in. As a result, the PSTN will reach end of life in December 2025 and will cease operation after then. However, the PSTN supports several products from Openreach which are sold to businesses including Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) lines. Depending on the size of business you operate, you could have either ISDN2 or ISDN30 lines. However, at the end of December 2025, these fixed lines and services will be switched off and services withdrawn.
What are the key dates?
What do I do if I’ve got an ISDN line? 1876 was the year Alexander Graham Bell made the first-ever telephone call. Fast forward 143 years and technology has changed dramatically and the world we work in today is unrecognisable. Telephone services no longer have to rely on the ageing, and degrading, copper infrastructure from the past and instead services can be provided using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). However, for your new VoIP system to work, you’ll need a good quality internet connection so that your VoIP solution can run seamlessly. If you’ve currently got an ISDN line, before December 2025 you’ll have to upgrade your telephony.
When will Openreach start withdrawing services? We’re one of only a handful of providers that are actively involved in industry planning meetings regarding the PSTN switch-off so, rest assured, we’ll keep all of our customers in the loop. Openreach started trialling the withdrawal of services in two exchanges in September, the first being in its Salisbury exchange, Wiltshire. There is a second site, the Mildenhall exchange, Bury St. Edmunds, which will also begin trial shortly. Both sites are focused on a complete withdrawal of services by December 2022 with other exchanges not due to enter withdrawal until much closer to December 2025.
Will my broadband be impacted? If you currently have a broadband service that is supported on a single line, your provider will be in touch to migrate this to an alternative single order broadband. This means that your broadband will move to a single service with no line rental. If you’re using your line for voice you will be offered a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) alternative. If you already have an ultrafast fibre to the premise broadband product and do not use any voice services, you won’t see any changes as you’re already using new digital technology.
What happens in 2023? From September 2023, Openreach will issue a full ‘Stop Sell’ of new supply and there will be no new line installation for Single PSTN Lines or ISDN. Consumer rights during this period will still be upheld so line transfers will be accepted, providing there is no change to the installation when the line moves from one provider to another.
What should I do now? If you’re currently on an ISDN contract, you don’t need to do anything at the moment. But, be mindful that when your contract is up for renewal, you’ll probably need to switch to a hosted telephony solution. However, if you’re looking to upgrade and futureproof your business now, you’ll need to ensure you’ve got a business-grade broadband solution and you’ll need to assess your hosted telephony options to make sure you’re getting the most out of your services.
What happens in 2025? Your provider will strive to migrate all PSTN services to alternative solutions before the December 2025 deadline. However, if services still remain on the PSTN network, then they will be withdrawn in December 2025. If any businesses or consumers have failed to switch to alternative telephony, they will ultimately be left without service.
To find out more about Foresight Hosted Voice, visit our webpage or call us on 0161 738 1099 to discuss your telephony options.
VPN benefits for Businesses
29th May 2020
VPN benefits for Businesses
Small businesses have been popping up all over the world at a tremendous pace. In any area of today’s world, numerous small businesses are trying to make a name for themselves and compete with the big guns. They usually need to work harder and make their small investments count, as one wrong move can make all the difference between building an excellent reputation and going out of business.
Ensuring the data security of a small business is essential, as losing valuable information about your business or compromising the data of your customers may have dire consequences. Securing small business online data is key in today’s competitive environment. Here’s how to do it with a small investment.
Scenarios where small business data may be breached
Using an ad-hoc office. Many entrepreneurs and small businesses work from a coffee shop using free Wi-Fi. Open Wi-Fi networks hold a number of threats to data security.
Hiring remote workers. Having employees in different parts of the country, or even the world, is one important factor that can put small businesses at risk in terms of cyber security. Transmitting data online without proper precautions may lead to cyber attacks and data breaches.
Providing a free Wi-Fi hotspot. Customers often choose to visit a small business because of their access to free internet. If someone infects, sniffs or steals your customer data while using the unsecured Wi-Fi at your establishment, the reputation of your business will suffer.
A VPN service can be a solution in all of these scenarios.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or a Virtual Private Network, is an online security service that helps one surf the Internet securely and privately. VPNs connect a user to their desired website through an encrypted virtual tunnel. The connection is made via a remote VPN server; the user’s IP address is replaced with the IP address of the server, ensuring a private browsing experience.
The fact that all your online traffic is reliably encrypted means that no one can intercept your sensitive data while you are browsing the Internet. All you need to do is connect to one of available VPN servers, and you’re good to go. Good VPNs have many servers all over the world, making it easier for you to establish a connection at any given time.
How can a VPN help a small business?
The hallmarks of a VPN service are security and privacy. While privacy is not the absolute necessity for business owners, security definitely is. Entrepreneurs need to regularly communicate with their business partners or people working for them in far-off locations. The Internet is the preferred mode of communication, but we keep hearing about data breaches every other day.
Since a VPN provides a secure connection, it is an ideal tool for entrepreneurs looking to communicate remotely. The encrypted connection makes it safer for business owners to share sensitive data about their business over the Internet. It keeps the data confidential and safe from all prying eyes. A VPN also allows accessing all the usual online content while traveling, which makes it an even more valuable service.
Choosing a VPN that best fits your need is essential to how positive the VPN turns out for you. You should look for a VPN that:
makes it easy for you to connect with the people you want to communicate with;
is easy and straightforward to use and manage by both sides;
uses strong encryption protocols;
provides high-speed connections and unlimited bandwidth;
allows connecting to several devices under one account.
We believe NordVPN for business hits all these points with one of the strongest encryptions, focus on UX, great price point and the ability to connect up to 6 devices under one account. It will help you protect your small business from any kind of online cyber threat.
Best free video conferencing software: Zoom vs Hangouts vs Teams
29th May 2020
Best free video conferencing software: Zoom vs Hangouts vs Teams
There’s nothing worse than trying to conduct a meeting over patchy video conferencing software, with participants dropping in and out, or valuable time being eaten up by technical issues. Video conferencing is also a crucial tool for remote working, allowing teams and clients to remain connected to the business without face-to-face meetings.
You don’t have to shell out a fortune for business-quality tools though; there are numerous products that allow you to make multi-person video calls free of charge. For any teams still trying to use FaceTime and WhatsApp to keep in touch, here are the best free video conferencing options out there.
Best free video conferencing software: Zoom vs Hangouts vs Teams
The collaboration arm of Google’s app portfolio, hangouts is a relatively bare-bones tool compared with some rivals, offering little more than voice, video and text chats. Hangouts is fairly basic, leaving the file-sharing and collaboration elements to other Google apps like Drive and Docs.
Note that while paid G Suite subscriptions have access to a more fully-featured equivalent of Hangouts, with better central admin controls and a few additional features, the free service that comes included with personal Google accounts is even more stripped-back.
Screen-sharing and a built-in text chat window is about all you get in terms of additional features and the interface, while functional and user-friendly, doesn’t feature collaboration aids such as interactive annotation or hand-raising.
With a maximum limit of 10 participants and 720p video resolution, the limits on the free tier are reasonable, if not terribly impressive. You can adjust the settings to save on bandwidth costs though, which is a useful feature for those with shaky connections.
Maximum group call participants
Maximum video quality
Although Lifesize is perhaps better-known for its stellar video conferencing hardware, it also has its own cloud-based video conferencing app to support it. Lifesize is very much aimed at business users, so the interface is geared towards pre-booked meetings and intra-organisational calls rather than ad-hoc get-togethers.
The platform is designed around Lifesize’s meeting room conferencing systems, but it also works for fully remote video calls. You can start a meeting by calling someone directly from your contacts list, by scheduling a meeting with the calendar integration, or by starting a one-off meeting and sending a join link around.
The free version is quite capable, with 25 maximum participants, and no limits on meeting frequency or duration. The maximum video resolution of 1080p is also one of the higher offerings, although the Plus and Enterprise plans have access to 4K streaming. There’s also a centralised management console and a few key integrations, making it a decent solution for larger SMBs – provided you’re willing to wrestle with a somewhat involved interface.
Best free video conferencing software: Zoom vs Hangouts vs Teams
Windows 10: Microsoft issues urgent warning
1st May 2020
MICROSOFT has issued a stark warning to millions of Windows 10 users as the Redmond-based firm has spotted a worrying rise in malware targeting those who stream content online. Here’s what you need to know.
Microsoft has issued an important warning to users of its Windows 10 operating system – both personal and enterprise editions. The warning comes courtesy of the US company’s Security Intelligence team, which posted a message on social media telling Windows users to be aware of a new threat arriving via torrent downloads.
With millions of people in lockdown, it’s no surprise there has been a rise in the number of people trying to find ways to keep entertained – not to mention that watching content online without paying for a subscription is always going to be a popular option. However, along with the obvious legal issues of using torrent-style sites to get content to watch in lockdown, it seems there’s another reason to be wary of downloading files from unofficial websites.
According to the alert from Microsoft posted on Twitter, there’s been a rise in attacks using certain streaming services with Windows 10 users placing themselves at risk by downloading files in this way. The post states: “With lockdown still in place in many parts of the world, attackers are paying attention to the increase in use of pirate streaming services and torrent downloads.
“We saw an active coin miner campaign that inserts a malicious VBScript into ZIP files posing as movie downloads. The use of torrent downloads is consistent with our observation that attackers are re-purposing old techniques to take advantage of the current crisis.”
It may come as no surprise that cyber criminals are trying to cash in during the current crisis and it seems those using torrents sites are an easy target. Explaining more, Tanmay Ganacharya, director of security research of Microsoft Threat Protection told Cyberscoop: “Lots of people are stuck at home looking to fill time, and not everyone is going to watch only what’s available through [streaming] services.”
Adding: “Attackers use some popular movies as lures. And then they ensure that their malicious payload is part of the overall packages that a user ends up downloading.”
According to Microsoft’s latest findings, John Wick 3 and Contagion are some of the most popular movies being downloaded by users. And it is these popular Hollywood blockbusters that are being targeted.
As confirmed by Cyberscoop, typical attacks begin with criminals disguising a malicious file in the same .zip folder that includes a movie torrent. When an unsuspecting victim happens to open the .zip file saved from a piracy site, they also trigger a malicious text file. This then sets about trying to infect dangerous code into the machine’s memory.
Although torrent sites remain hugely popular, there’s always a risk and to be safe it’s always recommended sticking to official streaming and download sites.
“It is not surprising that people are searching for more illicit ways to get their hands on new content – but downloading or streaming from dodgy sites is still as risky as ever,” said Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET.
“These sites are rarely policed and they are very good at circumnavigating law enforcement attempts to shut them down. It is a clear and simple message that these sites must be avoided and aren’t worth the risk. It may sound free and easy at first but the truth is that using pirate sites could damage your computer and cost you more than the price of the movie itself in no time at all.
“Antivirus software is your best ammunition here – and any warnings when entering such sites must never be overruled.”
Password policy: updating your approach
27th April 2020
Advice for system owners responsible for determining password policies and identity management within their organisations.
Password policy: updating your approach contains advice for system owners responsible for determining password policy. It may be useful also for anyone developing or maintaining these services used by organisations.
The NCSC is working to reduce organisations’ reliance on their users having to recall large numbers of complex passwords. This guidance advocates a greater reliance on technical defences and organisational processes, with passwords forming just one part of your wider access control and identity management approach.
More specifically, this guidance will help you to:
understand the benefits and limitations of passwords
examine and (if necessary) challenge existing corporate password policies, and help update to a modern approach
understand the decisions to be made when determining password policy
learn how technical measures can reduce the password burden on your users
implement password policies which support the ways in which people naturally work
Internet Support | Hospitals | Doctors Surgeries | Care Homes | NHS
27th April 2020
Internet Support | Hospitals | Doctors Surgeries | Care Homes | NHS
Foresight are working closely with Talk Talk for Business to help support Internet Projects across Hospitals, Care Homes, Doctors Surgeries & other Response Projects.
The offer includes;
Orders that meet the criteria, specifically hospitals, care homes and emergency response projects (note for emergency response projects, we must validate this in advance)
Qualifying orders that meet the above criteria will receive 6 months free rental before reverting to your standard rental price for this service for the remaining months of the minimum term
3-year contracts only (FREE installation as standard)
Initially for qualifying orders placed before end of May 2020, but this may be extended
Any costs outside of our control such as excess construction charges will be passed through at cost
This free of charge period applies to the fixed rental element only
The discount will be applied as a billing credit
Bandwidth upgrades for existing services;
For qualifying existing circuits (i.e. specifically hospitals, care homes and those being used in emergency response projects), we can increase service bandwidths to the next increment free of charge (rental and one-off charges removed) for a 3-month period. By way of example:
– On 100Mbps bearers: 10Mbps to 20Mbps, 20Mbps to 30Mbps, 30 to 40Mbps, 40 to 50Mbps or 50Mbps to 100Mbps
– On 1G Bearers: 100Mbps to 200Mbps, 200Mbps to 300Mbps and where available 300 to 500Mbps and 500Mbps to 1Gbps
If more bandwidth is required, please contact Foresight and we will try to accommodate your request where possible
This is applicable for existing circuits where we can support without a cease and re-provide
Available until the end of May 2020 but may be extended
For operational reasons, we can only look at new requests, not revisit any previously agreed
At the end of 3 months we will be in contact and the circuit can either move to BAU pricing to reflect the upgraded bandwidth or we can revert to the original state without any additional charge
In order to take up the offer for either the new order or bandwidth upgrades, please contact your account manager with details of the order and customer that fits the criteria. Please remember that these offers are specifically for hospitals, care homes, doctors’ surgeries and those being used in emergency response projects. Any order will require pre-validation that the criteria is fulfilled prior to the order progressing.
TalkTalk Business have been working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) to help offer further support for Hospitals, Care Homes and COVID-19 Emergency Response Projects.
Microsoft Office 2019
17th April 2020
Recently Microsoft released the latest version of Office Home & Business 2019 and we wanted to make sure you knew all about it.
Office Home & Business 2019 gives your customers classic 2019 versions of their favourite Office apps. — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. This one-time purchase comes with a single installation for one PC/Mac for essential Office apps running on a Windows 10 PC or Mac1. It includes regular security updates too.
In addition to a familiar Office experience, there are exciting new features designed to meet the needs of people that regularly use the most popular Office apps:
• A Focused Inbox in Outlook, which separates your inbox into two tabs allowing you to focus on what is important while the rest of your email remains easily accessible on the “Other” tab.
• Funnel Charts, 2D Maps, PowerPivot, and PowerQuery enhancements to help identify insights, trends, and opportunities in your Excel data.
• A new built-in library of professional, high-quality icons and 3D Models to make your PowerPoint presentations more dynamic and exciting.
• Understand more of the world with Microsoft Translator. Translate words, phrases or sentences to another language with Translator available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
• Zoom2, which introduces non-linear storytelling while giving you the flexibility you need to maintain your narrative and Morph, which lets you create cinematic motion and transitions effortlessly between PowerPoint slides.
17th April 2020
Google warns of spike in coronavirus phishing emails
About £2 million is said to have been lost to coronavirus-related fraud in the UK alone
Google has issued a warning to users working from home during the lockdown about a rise in the number of coronavirus-based phishing attacks, many of which are being sent as emails.
The company stated Gmail blocks over 100 million phishing emails on a daily basis, but added that, as of last week, 18 million of these were now related to COVID-19.
Google assured users that their ML models have evolved to understand and filter these cyber threats and that they are capable of blocking over 99.9% of spam, phishing, and malware from reaching Gmail users. Emails suspected to be threatening are highlighted with a red banner warning the user that “this message seems dangerous”.
However, product manager at Gmail Security, Neil Kumaran, and lead security PMM for G Suite & CP platform, Sam Lugani, warned in the report that users still need to be on guard, particularly as some phishing attacks will attempt to pose as colleagues from other departments within their company.
The examples include phishing emails that target WFH employees, small businesses, as well as organisations impacted by the government-induced lockdown. The senders often impersonate authoritative government organizations like the World Health Organization, company clients, and even admin departments.
According to the BBC, about £2 million has been lost to coronavirus-related fraud in the UK. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned that “an increasing number of malicious cyber actors are exploiting the current COVID-19 pandemic for their own objectives”.
“In the UK, the NCSC has detected more UK government branded scams relating to COVID-19 than any other subject,” the report added.
Last week, NCSC director of operations Paul Chichester advised “the public and organisations (…) to remain vigilant and follow our guidance, and to only use trusted sources of information on the virus such as UK Government, Public Health England or NHS websites”.
This is why Businesses should be using Microsoft Teams
15th April 2020
Standard Chartered bans Zoom and Google Hangouts
The London-based bank says cyber security is a top priority
Standard Chartered has become the first major bank to ban the use of Zoom and Google Hangouts among its employees due to cybersecurity concerns.
In a memo seen by Reuters, CEO Bill Winters told managers not to use the popular video communication services, joining an array of companies and governments who have banned Zoom in the last weeks.
A Standard Chartered spokeswoman told Reuters that cyber security remains a top priority and that staff can use several authorized tools for audio and video conferencing.
Winters’ decision to warn employees against using Google Hangouts is rather unprecedented, as Alphabet’s platform for virtual gatherings has not earned the same reputation for cybersecurity issues as Zoom.
Zoom has been plagued by security concerns since it saw a surge in users following COVID-19 remote working boom. It’s been revealed that the company doesn’t use end-to-end encryption, despite specifically stating that it does on its website, while incidents of ‘Zoom-bombing’ have forced governments, businesses and schools alike to ban the use of the platform.
Last week, Zoom founder Eric Yuan told CNN that the company had “moved too fast” and should have done more to enforce password and meeting room security.
Neither Google Hangouts nor Zoom boasts the same level of encryption as more secure business-oriented communication platforms, such as Cisco WebEx or Microsoft Teams. Two employees who were not authorized to speak on the matter told Reuters that Standard Chartered uses the latter.
However, even the most secure platforms are not immune to security threats. The Cofense Phishing Defense Center recently discovered a new phishing campaign that aims to harvest WebEx credentials using a security warning for the application. The campaign has managed to successfully avert Cisco’s own Secure Email Gateway.
Why are VoIP Telephone Systems Popular – Advantages and Disadvantages
8th April 2020
VoIP Phone Services
Below is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of VoIP phone systems.
VoIP Phone Services | Advantages and Disadvantages: Overview
Using VoIP Services at Home
IP Telephony for Businesses
How to Switch to VoIP
Defining VoIP Phone Services
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or IP telephony is a modern technology that lets you make phone calls over Local Area Networks (LANs) or the internet. Although VoIP only recently became popular, it’s been around since the early 1970s.
All VoIP phone systems convert your voice into small packets of data. The recipient receives these packets over the internet. At their end, the receiver decodes the data back into your voice.
Related: How Does VoIP Work & How Does It Work?
VoIP Phone Services: Advantages
Being VoIP providers ourselves at Foresight, it would be fair to say we know a thing or two about VoIP. Here’s a detailed guide into its pros and cons:
Advanced features for small and large teams
Clearer voice quality
More flexibility with softphones
1) Lower Costs
The bottom line is vital for every business, large or small. So, you have to consider every cost-saving opportunity. One way companies can realize significant cost savings is by adopting a VoIP phone system.
On average, a landline phone system (ISDN OR PSTN) costs businesses £20 per line each month. This rate comprises local (and sometimes domestic) calls only. VoIP plans, in contrast, are available for less than £10 per line.
That’s right. Going by these figures means, VoIP can lower your phone bill by more than half of what it is right now.
It’s important to note that a shift to VoIP is not a guarantee that your phone expenses will plummet. Businesses differ, and so do their needs.
But what you can be sure about is that switching to VoIP will bring about considerable cost savings. Cost savings in VoIP come in two ways: direct and indirect.
Direct Cost Savings
When it comes to traditional phone service, a business incurs massive initial costs. Especially in the name of business phones and PBX hardware.
a) PBX Costs
A PBX (private branch exchange) is an on-premise physical piece of hardware. It connects many landline phones in an office and can cost a huge sum of money. We are talking tens of thousands of pounds — an amount you can amortize over several years.
You may argue that analog phones cost about the same as IP phones. The exact price will differ based on the desired features.
But, onsite PBX installations are a costly capital undertaking. It can go for anywhere between £500 and £2,000 per user. So even a small business with a handful of employees needs to invest in physical hardware.
VoIP networks do away with this need for extra hardware since a broadband connection powers the service.
To ease the transition in their phone system upgrades, such organizations could use a Session Initiated Protocol, known as a SIP Trunk. A SIP Trunk acts as a digital pathway for your voice services while maintaining existing phone hardware in your office. The key benefits of SIP Trunking include lower costs, easier to manage, and you can activate service instantly.
Technology leaders use SIP Trunking for adding new voice capabilities to an existing phone system.
b) Copper Wiring Charges
Broadband connections also do away with the extra wiring because VoIP networks allow both voice and data on the same channel. In IT and telecom circles, the correct word for this is full-duplex. It’s the ability to send and receive voice and data concurrently. Most VoIP desk phones need only one Ethernet to be connected to it.
Power over Ethernet (PoE) enables offices to be more modular with their office staff. Additionally, those offices won’t need to make changes to the building’s electrical wiring.
Going completely wireless? Professional VoIP service is also available as an app on your computer or smartphone. VoIP’s flexibility is a big win for entrepreneurs and enterprises alike.
By 2025 BT Openreach will cease to provide any new Analogue or Copper services. Foresight are ready to support any client who is looking to upgrade away from their current system
c) Calling Expenses
Direct costs also come in the form of the cost of calling. VoIP calls are cheaper compared to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or the traditional circuit-switched telephone network by a stretch.
A large part of this has to do with the drastic fall in data carriage costs. Initially, data was priced out of the reach of most small businesses.
Even for large organizations, users had to contend with capping on enterprise internet bandwidth and broadband. Today, however, internet speeds have improved while data costs have correspondingly taken a nosedive.
Statistics reveal that small businesses using VoIP can reduce their company’s phone bill by up to 60%. They can also save up to 90% on international calls.
That’s a substantial number we are talking about in any given year.
These savings go back to the abandonment of expensive ISDN (short for Integrated Service Digital Network) primary rate interfaces. Or even the dedicated lines associated with a PTSN system in favor of VoIP service. Companies that make long-distance calls outside of the UK enjoy VoIP’s lower costs.
Traditional phone service costs approximately twice as much as compared to VoIP. VoIP offers a significant benefit for businesses that operate globally.
d) Recurring Expenses
A VoIP service also enables businesses to cut other ongoing expenses such as taxes, repair and maintenance fees. VoIP providers usually roll these costs into subscription plans which, like in the case of Foresight, can cost as little as £5 per user per month.
All these costs, combined, make VoIP service an appealing proposition for growing startups and SMBs.
Indirect Cost Savings
Indirect savings are more difficult to quantify, but that doesn’t make them any less critical for your business. Below are some of the most common areas where organizations save money long-term.
a) Savings with Remote Work
Switching to VoIP lets employees stay connected to the corporate phone system while working remotely. This is thanks to the long list of VoIP phone features like call waiting, auto-attendant, instant video calling, conference calling, and others not provided by traditional phones.
Studies show that this not only can increase employee productivity, but it can also cut down on utilities and office space.
A typical business can save £11,000 per person per year by merely letting them work from home 50% of the time, according to a recent analysis by Global Workplace Analytics.
b) Add-On Features at No Extra Cost
You probably might be quick to point out that even traditional PBX supports remote working through functionalities like call transfer, group ringing, call queuing and so on.
In essence, these features are not inherent in a standard PBX system. Rather, they are add-on features that you have to pay for separately.
By comparison, VoIP phone services include many of these features at no additional cost. No need to pay extra for whatever feature you think could be useful for your business.
c) Repurposed Manpower
If your business relies on a secretary to handle phone calls and take messages, the auto attendant feature lets you repurpose that role at no additional cost. (An in-house secretary hired on a full-time basis pockets about £20K a year, which is not cheap.)
Of course, a secretary does make sense for companies taking a large number of walk-ins or large corporations with sizeable budgets.
However, smaller businesses may find it difficult to justify this kind of salary. But with the auto attendant feature a click away, you’ve just waived this cost.
2) Increased Accessibility
Cost efficiency aside, accessibility is one of the biggest benefits of VoIP for business. One distinct advantage cloud-based VoIP service offers is the ability to make calls from anywhere.
If you have a decent data connection, you can make and receive calls for your business. And when you’re unable to answer the call, you can direct calls to another person or get voicemails emailed to you. A noted benefit of VoIP is the ability to take your business phone with you with nothing more than a softphone app.
In an increasingly mobile workforce, remote accessibility allows your business to be flexible. Mobile employees can stay productive regardless of their location.
What’s more: VoIP adapts based on how your employees work. Employees don’t need to be physically present at the office. They can work on their smartphones and tablets from anywhere.
[The State of Work Productivity Report revealed65% of full-time employees are of the view that a remote work schedule would bolster productivity.]
3) Complete Portability
A VoIP number, also known as a virtual number, is completely portable. This means you can use the same number wherever you go.
For people who travel a lot, this should be more than welcome news. Better yet, in the event your business changes address, you can retain the same VoIP number.
4) Higher Scalability
Scalability is another of the many VoIP advantages that make it an attractive proposition for growing businesses. While this is an often-talked-about aspect of VoIP, what does it mean exactly?
Given the option, every business owner would prefer a phone system that grows in step with their business.
A VoIP solution does away with having to purchase expensive hardware or dedicated line as you grow. Think of all the possible scenarios here like you’re:
Prepping for a spike in demand during the holidays
Opening a new branch office
No matter what the scenario, toggle your preferences instantly without having to purchase additional lines or dedicated hardware.
5) Advanced Features for Small and Large Teams
With advanced features like auto attendant and call transferring, VoIP allows even a one-person operation to project the image of a larger company.
On the other hand, it can make a large enterprise feel more approachable. It’s all about making the best use of all the available features.
Let’s say you have a Manchester-based business, but you also serve clients in a far-away city like London.
By signing up with a VoIP provider like Foresight, you can get a telephone number with a Londonarea code, although you’re based in the North West. This makes customers perceive you as a local, even though you are not.
Similarly, the auto attendant feature can make you look larger than you are. For example, you could be a sole proprietor but still set up your auto attendant to sound like you are a company with multiple departments.
VoIP offers advantages over traditional phone systems with its multi-party calling capabilities. Organizations large and small often need a separate conference call provider that enables many people to join the same call.
Business VoIP providers include robust conference calling features built right into their service.
6) Clearer Voice Quality
When VoIP service first rolled around, one of its most significant disadvantages was its weak call quality. Calls would drop for no reason, the voice quality itself was bogus, and latency was the order of the day.
Today, as long as you have a fast and stable Internet connection, voice quality should not be an issue. VoIP calls tend to be crisp and clear, with no latency issues, lag, or call dropouts. We’ve all been on a miserable voice and video conference before.
The key to VoIP call quality is a robust connection with good bandwidth. Without this, it can be a nightmare, especially if you often find your office making concurrent calls. There’s always someone who calls in with a cell phone, and everyone else suffers through echos, delays, and background noise.
VoIP phones end those interruptions so you can focus on the meeting’s agenda. Innovations such as noise-canceling microphones and advanced audio compression enable VoIP phones to achieve superior sound quality.
7) Supports Multitasking
Along with traditional phone calls, VoIP allows you to send documents, images, and video all while simultaneously engaging in a conversation. So you can seamlessly hold more integrated meetings with clients or staff from other corners of the globe.
8) More Flexibility with Softphones
Despite the name, softphones are not hardware devices. Instead, they are programs installed on a computer or other smart devices like a tablet or smartphone. A good example is Skype, although enterprise VoIP providers like Foresight have their applications tailored particularly for business.
The upside to having a softphone for your business communications is manifold:
Frees up desk space
Cuts additional equipment costs
Allows for even greater portability
Enables the constantly-connected workforce
More than that, softphones allow you to be flexible. They give you access to features that support your remote work style.
9) Increased Security
Most people don’t care to spend more time than it’s worth to think about the security of their phone system. Phone system security is a big deal, especially for businesses. Demand for personally identifiable data (PID) has never been higher.
A typical entry point is to trick staff through fraudulent phone calls, typically known as social engineering.
VoIP can mitigate such security threats by leveraging the advancements made in IP technology including encryption and improved identity management. Hosted VoIP providers work around the clock to protect their networks, so you don’t have to.
Securing your VoIP system means you should work with a trustworthy VoIP provider that undergoes independent security audits, ensure staff practices healthy password habits, and configure automated alerts for questionable calling behavior.
Additionally, it is always advised to complete operating system updates consistently to ensure your business isn’t at risk through newer vulnerabilities.
VoIP Phone Services: Disadvantages
Everything that has an advantage has its disadvantages. VoIP telephony is not exempt from this party rule.
Here are the downsides associated with the VoIP service you need to be aware of:
Reliable Internet Connection Required
Latency and Jitter
No location tracking for emergency calls
1) Reliable Internet Connection Required
For starters, your VoIP service is only as good as your internet connection. If your network bandwidth is low, the service is bound to suffer.
VoIP doesn’t use as much bandwidth as you might expect. It’s essential that VoIP devices receive low latency on your network. Each device should have at least 100 kbps upload speed available. A good connection has less than 70ms ping and jitter, which measures the latency and stability of your internet connection.
The bandwidth your business needs will depend on the number of concurrent calls you plan on making. The best way to determine this is to run a bandwidth test on your current network.
Aside from speed, there are other connection issues any internet-based technology can face: latency and jitter.
When communicating online each message (whether it be email, video, or audio) is broken into bits of data called “data packets.” These packets are then reassembled at their intended destination to create the original message.
Latency and jitter are when these data packets either hit delays in transmission or get improperly re-assembled. These issues might not even be with your network; major internet backbones modify data routes to deliver traffic reliably, fastest path to a destination. These changes happen automatically with no involvement on your part.
Why latency and jitter occur
Poor Internet connection — VoIP requires more bandwidth than regular web surfing. So, if you find your Internet speed wanting, it might be a good time to have an honest conversation with your ISP.
Inadequate router – For VoIP service to run smoothly, it needs a specialized VoIP router. This is a router configured for packet prioritization so that it affords higher priority to voice traffic over data.
Insufficient cables – Ethernet cables come in a range of categories or power levels. For VoIP, it’s best to use a Cat-5e Ethernet cable or higher. Lower cables may not be able to operate at high enough speeds.
How to fix latency and jitter issues
Enable jitter buffering — This is easy to set up and comes pre-enabled with many of Foresight’s devices.
Opt for high-speed Internet — Contact your internet provider about available bandwidth options.
Upgrade ethernet cables — Use a Cat-5e or Cat-6 Ethernet cable on all VoIP devices.
Related: Foresight’s platform is designed to minimize the amount of jitter on calls.
3) Limited Location Tracking for Emergency Calls
Location tracking is the final con of VoIP. Because of VoIP’s portability and accessibility, it’s difficult for third parties to pinpoint where a call originates.
The calls come from an IP address with no GPS data or cell tower information to track. While 99% of callers don’t need this information, this does create an issue for emergency services like 911. You’ll need to communicate where you are in an emergency.
Using VoIP Phone Services at Home
You need a VoIP phone to connect to a VoIP service provider. You can do this through any of the following three ways:
Connect a dedicated VoIP to your wired ethernet of WiFi
Use your conventional analog telephone but with an analog telephone adapter
Install a softphone application on your computer with a microphone and speaker, or headset.
VoIP Phone Services for Businesses
Businesses tend to migrate from the traditional copper-wire telephone systems to VoIP systems for two reasons:
Since VoIP allows both voice and data to run over the same network and because it works with your existing hardware, it’s an attractive alternative for businesses. Even if you were to extend your VoIP lines, it’s still more affordable as compared to Private Branch Exchange (PBX) lines.
Today, VoIP for businesses include the following and is called Unified Communications:
Web conferences and more
Thus, VoIP can spur growth in both enterprises and SMBs, without much of a budget to work with.
Make the Switch to VoIP Phone Services Today
• Lower costs
• Reliable internet connection required
• Increased accessibility
• Latency and jitter
• Complete portability
• No location tracking for emergency calls
• Higher scalability
• Advanced features for small and large teams
• Clearer voice quality
• Support multitasking
• More flexibility with softphones
Looking at the pros and cons above, it’s clear that VoIP’s benefits far outweigh any drawbacks. At Foresight, we have been helping businesses transition from traditional phone systems to unified communication solutions.
We will leave you to focus on other important business aspects as we set you up for the new phone system, with minimal disruption.
What is Microsoft Teams and how does it work with Office 365
7th April 2020
Benefits Microsoft Teams
1. Productivity gains and enriched communication
The breadth of collaboration tools offered in Office 365 can often leave users disoriented. Teams increases productivity by making all your collaboration– conversations, chats, online meetings shared files, tasks, etc. available in one single app and one single interface. In addition to the widely used apps from Microsoft, you have a wide range of 3rd party apps that integrate into Teams so that your users never have to leave the Teams app to get their work done.
Since Teams is a newly developed application without any legacy, it enables a more modern form of communication out of the box– with support for likes, gifs, emoticons, live link previews, etc. that enriches your communication.
2. Better focus on your work
With Teams, you can easier focus your attention on work-related topics and prioritize your time better. Instead of spending time going through an inbox that contains messages from everyone about everything, Teams compartmentalizes information into channels. The channel only contains conversations, meetings and documents related to the topic of that specific channel. So instead of getting side-tracked with random email, or get stuck trying to clean up your inbox, you can focus your valuable attention and spend your limited time on the channels where you actually do your work.
3. Increased transparency
A big challenge for many organizations is keeping everyone in the loop and making everyone feel that they know what is going on. With Teams, this becomes so much easier. No longer do you have to worry about who to put on cc in an email or who to invite to a meeting. With Teams, you post your message in the relevant channel, @-mention the people you want to get notified and leave it for everyone else to read if they want, and by having meetings visible to everyone in the channel you increase transparency by enabling everyone in the channel to “pop-in”.
4. Seamless move to a digital workplace
There are so many business benefits of moving to a digital workplace in the cloud. Since Teams is a fully cloud-based solution, the move to the cloud is seamless. Being able to access information from anywhere on any device is a huge business benefit. In addition, with your workplace in the cloud, you can reap the benefits of big data processing and artificial intelligence to work smarter.
If you work in a multilingual organization, you can benefit from automatic translations of conversations.
If you missed a meeting you can easily tune in to the part of the meeting that is of interest to you by searching for particular words that were said in the video recording of the meeting – just to name a few.
5. New team members can more quickly get up to speed
In today’s agile workplace where we can easily source talent from anywhere in the world, getting people quickly up to speed is imperative. With Teams, you can quickly get new team members up to speed and engaged in the teamwork – no matter where in the world they are located.
Foresight Bring Dozens of Schools in to the Digital Age
7th April 2020
All of our partner schools that have closed already due to Coronavirus have opted to use Google Classroom to teach remotely. Here they give their top tips.
In this article, we concentrate on Google Classroom, which has proved popular with schools that have already had to close.
We asked some teachers already using the platform for their top tips.
1. How can it be used?
Google Classroom – This is where you put your announcements, lesson material and assignments. Files, videos, images and links can all be uploaded here. You can also mark work and have control over whether students have permission to comment or post.
3. Set up all teachers with class registers and data
It’s a good idea for school leaders to set up every teacher for Google Classroom using SIMs, says Freya Odell, a teacher of English at St George’s International School in Rome.
4. Offer training and planning time
“As soon as we knew the schools would close, we had in person training on using Google Classroom,” says Odell.
All teachers received a day of CPD on the different programmes, and then one-to-one support was provided for any teachers who needed specific help with setting up their classes.
The following day, lessons began.
“This gave everyone a bit of breathing space, and meant we weren’t all panicking about getting lessons ready straight away,” she says.
5. Check your servers
Anything you’re running from your school servers might require larger capacity than normal – make sure you’ve checked with your IT team that what your planning won’t overload the system.
6. Don’t over-complicate it
Jennie Devine, principal at St Louis International school Milan, which has been closed for three weeks, suggests less is more when teaching remotely.
“On our first few days we tried to put up videos, quizzes, worksheets etc – students found it tricky to navigate and they weren’t sure what order to do things in,” she explains. “We now try to aim for a lesson video (maybe two parts) and any other materials or quizzes attached to the lessons.”
7. Create a routine
Devine and Odell agree, you need to have a system and stick to it.
Odell suggests organising one folder per day per class.
She begins each lesson with a Google Hangout in the classroom area, and then students can ask questions on the Classroom Stream (see terminology in point 1).
Students can complete their work and post it in the Classroom.
“We can easily track who has and hasn’t done their work this way,” says Odell.
Devine adds that clear rules help avoiding repeated questions clogging up your notifications.
“You need to establish certain norms and behaviours. Comments should be regarding the work only, and they also have to read the previous comments before asking a question,” she says.
8. Take control with your settings
If you’re not careful, you can be crushed by the notifications – sort out your settings so you’re not being spammed with notifications every time someone comments on a document.
You also need to be able to switch off when you’re off – be strict with your working hours, and don’t let the laptop rule your life.
Too much screen time is not good for your mental health – so set ‘out of office’ on when you need to step away from the computer.
10. Be clear and realistic in your instructions
Not all students will have printers or paper materials at home, says Devine, so ensure your tasks can all be done without printing off any extras.
“I keep the tasks very straightforward,” adds Odell. “If students feel their tech abilities aren’t up to being able to edit the documents, then they use Google Docs and just share the link. I can comment directly onto their document when I feedback.”
If you don’t think that would work for you, another system you might want to try is setting up a separate assignment in Classroom for handing work in.
“I have personally found that having a daily assignment called “ATTACH work here” works well for my students,” says Devine. “Students can upload all of their tasks in one go, and I can see who has completed work.
“Otherwise, students start attaching work to video lessons and it can be confusing if there is more than one video.”
10. No faces in videos
All students should know to close their cameras when using Google Hangout with their teachers, says Odell. This should be communicated from the start, and all students should know to not show their faces when talking to teachers.
11. Share your logins
As per safeguarding guidelines, IT staff and leaders should share teachers logins, and no chats should be done on teacher’s private logins. Leaders should be regularly checking the content of messages.
Teachers should only communicate with students via the school-sanctioned channels, and students should also be told how to expect communications to arrive from their teachers, and to report any communication other than the sanctioned one to the safeguarding lead.
Grainne Hallahan is senior content writer at Tes
Dr Kershaw’s Hospice bring themselves into the Digital Age
17th February 2020
Dr Kershaw’s Hospice bring themselves into the Digital Age
Royton’s Dr Kershaw’s Hospice have partnered with local Oldham IT Service Company Foresight IT Services to help take them forward in today’s digital landscape with their IT infrastructure and online solutions to aid in their quest for NHS compliance.
Dr Cook, hospice board member, talked about how important it is to bring their IT infrastructure and support up to date to help assure Hospice patients and families that their information is controlled and guarded securely and that the running of the Hospice itself is not affected by poor and out of date equipment.
“Information Technology equipment is becoming a key driver in the running of the Hospice and we felt it was time to make a change by instructing Foresight IT Services to look after our IT provision. This was done to ensure we manage everyone’s information securely and cost-effectively”.
Foresight IT Services’ Director Craig Barratt, “We are so proud to be a partner with such a fantastic institution as Dr Kershaw’s which is close to the heart of so many people in the Borough of Oldham.”
For those interested in the detail, the new service Foresight will provide to Dr Kershaw’s include;
24/7 Flexible IT Support with both Remote and Onsite Support
Offsite Cloud Backup Solution for Confidential data using Microsoft Azure
For further details on Foresight IT Services call 0161 738 1099
ICT Equipment Funding For Schools – Leasing Solutions – News
7th August 2019
Compliant Asset Funding Solutions For The Education Sector
Funding new school equipment can be a challenge. Budgets in the UK’s education sector are becoming increasingly tight, and schools and colleges are looking to more cost-effective and innovative ways to fund school equipment.
Industry – Photography, Design
Location – Manchester Northern Quarter
Thomas Street Studios are a 30+ user Photography company constantly uploading and downloading client photos but this is taking literally 20-30mins per picture due to only having a basic 3MB Download/0.5MB upload ADSL Internet Connection.
We’re so proud to be named as Finalists at the fantastic Oldham Business Awards. Thanks to everyone involved in the business from the staff, our customers, our partners and parents who have supported us from the start.
Looking forward to the Awards night on Friday April 26th at Queen Elizabeth Hall, good luck to everyone on the night!
Foresight – In The Press
15th March 2019
Great news – we’re included in the latest edition of the business magazine Oldham Business Edge.
The article covers the history of how our business started and how we pride ourselves in the service we offer our customers!