Business Phone Systems and VoIP – A Simple Guide

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Hands up if you take your business phone system for granted.

If that’s the case, it’s time to take a look at what’s new in the world of business phone systems, what’s available and why they still matter.

Why do businesses need phone systems?

If you’re familiar with Cloud Computing, then you’ll already know about the ways it can save your business time and money. A Cloud Telephony solution such as VoIP can do likewise.

VoIP stands for ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ and is where calls are carried over the Internet and you don’t need a separate traditional phone line.

Advantages of Hosted VoIP

  • Considerably cheaper set-up costs, with a much shorter implementation time vs. a traditional phone system
  • Cheaper ongoing costs with no maintenance fees
  • No costly upgrades as all system maintenance and platform upgrades are included in the per user, per month cost#
  • Cheaper call rates, in most cases calls are inclusive of the per user, per month cost
  • Flexibility to add new users as the business grows with out expensive install installs or phone system expansion
  • Phone number flexibility, add direct dials and other geographical phone numbers to the system for free
  • Complete flexibility if you move premises, no need to change phone numbers or routing plans, simply plug in your Hosted VoIP handset at your new office and it will continue to work
  • Many advanced features to allow for future growth, like mobile applications, desktop integration and call recording

Unless you’re a sole trader with clients happy to contact you on your mobile, all businesses need a landline to meet customers’ expectations. Luckily, a business landline can help:

  • A landline gives your business credibility.
  • If you get a high call volume, you can use features such as call management and call hold music scripts to manage expectations and prevent the dreaded ‘no answer’.
  • For businesses with several employees that clients may contact directly, voicemail is equally important so that customers know they have left a message with the correct person and that their enquiry will be dealt with quickly.
  • Customers expect businesses not to be sharing handsets between employees but to enjoy instant call transfer when required.
  • Customers are used to their calls being recorded, which is very useful for business training or complaint tracking.
  • Most customers now expect businesses to have an up to date account of their relationship with them. Integration with a CRM system is now par for the course with many businesses and allows staff to see every client’s communication history with the company.


So how does your phone system stack up against that?


The Role of the Internet:

Access to high speed broadband has made it possible for businesses to put more and more of their business operations and processes online.

More Advantages…

  • All standard phone system features, hunt groups, call transfers, hold (with music), call waiting, call forwarding and much more
  • Use call recording for audit trails, training and compliance
  • Improve collaboration with instant group calls
  • Twin your mobile number, for a complete unified communication solution
  • Call Parking, allows you park the call and collect it on a different handset if you have to move desks during your call
  • Use Presence or Pre-set Availability Profiles to manage incoming calls
  • Scale up and down based on the requirements of your business
  • Use Call History to view all calls made, received and missed
  • Additional functionality including hot desking, desktop integration and inclusive call recording

Hosted or Not Hosted?

Hosted VoIP simply means that your calling capabilities sit on your supplier servers and will require an Internet connection to access them. Your supplier will handle all software updates and maintenance so that your organisation can simply take it for granted that it works with no system down periods.

On-Premise VoIP means that your business hosts the necessary hardware on an internal server and your IT department is responsible for the routine updates, software upgrades, regular maintenance, system backups and data monitoring.

For a more detailed review of your business phone system and whether VoIP is right for your business, give us a call on 0800 085 6845.



Network infrastructure services adoption on the up

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Network infrastructure services (NIS) adoption has increased as customers invest in IT transformation initiatives, leading to a 5.4% yr/yr rise in NIS revenue for benchmarked vendors, according to TBR’s 1Q16 Network Infrastructure Services Benchmark.

NIS segments grew in 1Q16 as customers shift focus to modern hardware and holistic business outcomes, it says.

Product-centric vendors maintained their lead over their services-centric counterparts, increasing their revenue contribution from 69.4% in 1Q15 to 70.4% in 1Q16.

The rise in open hardware and customer initiatives to gain holistic business outcomes from a single install are key reasons for this advantage.

However, as the market shifts to cloud-based models and vendor lock-in concerns increase, TBR believes services-led NIS vendors will, in the long term, challenge product-led vendors’ footholds, causing a shift in market share in favour of services-led vendors.

TBR believes the competition between product- and services-led vendors will transform into co-opetition as market consolidation intensifies.

For example, in 1Q16 Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) each announced deals to divest their respective professional services arms.

TBR believes Dell’s and HPE’s divestitures and the overall trend of market consolidation will bring about increased partner activity, as product-centric vendors such as Dell and HPE will require services-led vendor partnerships to provide customers with holistic business outcomes.

Consolidation is effectively leading to some vendors having a services specialty, creating co-opetition opportunities.

“NIS market consolidation is increasing, altering the competitive balance within the market,” said TBR Senior Analyst Krista Macomber.

“As product-led vendors such as Dell and HPE vacate the professional NIS market in favour of maintenance and deployment services, and customers increasingly desire more complex infrastructure, co-opetition will be necessary to address customer demands and stimulate revenue growth.”

According to TBR’s 1Q16 Network Infrastructure Services Benchmark, all NIS segments experienced growth in the quarter.

Maintenance services remained the top performing segment, growing 7% year-to-year, and contributed 50% of overall NIS revenue for benchmarked vendors, making it the largest NIS revenue contributor.

TBR believes as customers transition more of their businesses to modernised solutions, NIS vendors will have an opportunity to increase share of wallet with add-on consulting and outsourcing services, as complex and customised deployments will require more vendor-customer collaboration, and increase professional services’ share of NIS revenue.

Al Murooj Rotana increases guest satisfaction with updated Wi-Fi network

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Dubai-based Rotana Hotels sees guest satisfaction rates rise on back of 802.11ac wireless roll-out at its Al Murooj Rotana property

Prior to the implementation, the Dubai-based, five-star hotel regularly suffered wireless networkissues such as signal drops and fluctuations. The problem was growing worse because of the increasing number of guests, as well as their increasing bandwidth requirements.

The hotel’s management also began to worry about the security of the wireless network.

“With 900 to 1,000 guests using the network on an average day, we began to see noticeable performance issues,” said Renju Ramanadhan, cluster director of IT for the Al Murooj Rotana and Al Bustan Rotana hotels in Dubai.

“Further, as guests increasingly utilised video and multimedia rich applications, both the speed and security of the networkwere brought into question.”

To solve the issues, Ramanadhan attempted to simply upgrade the firmware of the hotel’s existing wireless controllers, in conjunction with increasing the number of access points.

However, with guest requirements becoming more demanding, these actions turned out to be stop-gap measures – the underlying infrastructure simply couldn’t keep up with the property’s Wi-Fi requirements, meaning the whole system needed an overhaul.

“We expected and wanted a basic requirement in today’s world – a very reliable wireless infrastructure to provide stable connectivity for all our guests,” said Ramanadhan.

The do-over

Other Rotana hotels had successfully implemented wireless systems from Aruba, meaning the Hewlett-Packard Enterprisecompany, along with a Rotana-trusted implementation partner, CADD Emirates, was the firm favourite to provide the network.

The implementation started with the hotel’s apartment tower, where Al Murooj Rotana deployed one Aruba 7200 series mobility controller and 450 access points. The team moved onto the rest of the hotel around 18 months later.

Here, the hotel installed an additional controller along with 750 access points. According to Ramanadhan, the second controller was simply installed for redundancy purposes.

“Although we didn’t see a single instance of AP failure in the time we ran Aruba’s system in the residential complex, we decided to invest in a second controller for redundancy. It was easy to do this as we only paid for the controller and didn’t have to purchase additional licenses,” said Ramanadhan.

In terms of the access points, Al Murooj Rotana opted for Aruba’s 802.11ac systems, the indoor AP205H units and the the outdoor AP275 access points.

The results

The roll-out of these hardware products, in conjunction with Aruba’s ClientMatch technology, which allows connected devices to transition between access points seamlessly, provided 100% wireless connectivity around the hotel – even in the lifts.

As for solving the security issues, the Aruba system allowed Al Murooj Rotana to segment its network. Guests now use a virtual network separate from that of the staff, so security to the core network is not compromised by guest devices. This means the hotel can accommodate business users’ security requirements.

The wireless network has also allowed Al Murooj Rotana to explore other services that weren’t possible on the old one. For example, the property can now offer guests a paid premium connection that provides guaranteed higher speeds.

Al Murooj Rotana is now one of the few hotels in the region running its IPTV through its access points.

“We stream substantial data, voice and high-resolution video through the access points, and yet the quality of service remains high,” said Ramanadhan.

Finally, guest satisfaction – the key criteria for the success of the implementation – saw good results immediately after the project was completed.

“Now that we have a reliable wireless infrastructure, we have seen the guest’s complaints about Wi-Fi reduce significantly,” said Ramanadhan.

“Guest satisfaction is key for a hotel and we have seen guest satisfaction ratings, analysed through the Rotana guest satisfaction survey, grow by 15% with the new wireless system. This is crucial for us because issues with Wi-Fi were dragging down the entire hotel score.”

To extract more value out of its wireless network, Ramanadhan has put plans in place to roll out services that can rely on the network.

A project to upgrade Al Murooj Rotana’s guest room management system is already underway. The hotel staff will also be provided with wireless handheld point of sale terminals in the near future.


Ingram Buy Comms-care

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Ingram Micro has announced that it has acquired U.K.-based Comms-care, a provider of technical services to the IT channel, for an undisclosed sum. Comms-care’s services include pre-sales support, configuration, professional services, maintenance and managed services designed to enable channel partners in delivering a cost effective total solution in the fast growing networking and data centre solutions markets.

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EU Blocks Three O2

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Credit Comms Dealer May 2016

The EU’s decision to block the acquisition of O2 by Hutchison under the EU Merger Regulation has been welcomed by industry bodies.

ITSPA and the Federation of Communication Services (FCS). Eli Katz, the Chair of ITSPA, stated: “If the deal had gone ahead it would have resulted in price rises, negatively impacting UK consumers.

“ITSPA feels that a competitive landscape in the UK telecom market is vital to provide the best outcomes for consumers and businesses. A reduction from four to three mobile network operators would have threatened this.

“The Commission was right to state that merger would have resulted in fewer MNOs willing to host virtual operators, consequently the damage to the MVNO market would have hindered innovation and competition, resulting in negative outcomes for UK consumers.”

FCS CEO Chris Pateman also welcomed the news. “We are pleased to see the EU has taken such a strong line on this merger,” he stated. “Hutchison’s proposed ‘remedies’ amounted to little more than a licence to re-arrange the deck chairs. They fell well short of what is needed to genuinely encourage innovation on anybody’s terms but the incumbent operators’. 

“The big issue goes far deeper than agreeing terms to merge two tentacles of what amounts to a four-armed monopoly. The mobile phone market in the UK – and indeed across the EU – needs some fundamental reform.

“To really drive innovation, encourage competition and deliver consumer value in mobile telephony requires the kind of wholesale competition we currently take for granted across the fixed line networks.  

“That’s something no merger enquiry will ever deliver by itself. It requires EU-level vision and Government-level commitment to push for the rights of consumers against the vested interests of corporate providers.

“The EU has tinkered at the edges with its welcome roaming commitments and price caps. But it’s competition, not bureaucracy, which will deliver sustainable consumer choice. And there’s no real sign of any willingness to deliver that big-picture view.”

John Colley, of Warwick Business School, is a Professor of Practice in the Strategy and International Business group and researches large takeovers. He is also a former MD of a FTSE 100 company.

Commenting on the news he said: “It comes as little surprise that the EU competition authorities have said enough is enough on the rapid concentration of the UK mobile telecoms sector.

“Following the merger of T-Mobile with Orange, subsequently purchased by BT, the industry was reduced to four players. The proposed merger of Three with O2 would have made it three players and the evidence from markets elsewhere shows that three players results in higher prices for consumers compared to four. In effect competition reduces and the consumer pays the price for that.

“It is clear that the merger would have substantially reduced costs in requiring less shops, marketing, administration, head offices and there would have been benefits in terms of reduced network operating costs. However, the reduced competition would have meant that Three/O2 would not have to pass those savings on to the consumer.”


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