5 reasons VoIP is better than traditional phone setups

5 reasons VoIP is better than traditional phone setups

What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, and even if you’ve never heard of it, you’re probably using it on a regular basis without even realising. If you use services like Skype, Zoom, or Facetime then you’ve definitely used VoIP! But what’s the advantage of switching business telephone communications to a VoIP system? Here are our 5 reasons.

#1 VoIP doesn’t break the bank

Comparatively, the cost of installing a VoIP phone system and the cost you pay on an ongoing monthly basis is a whole lot less than you would pay for a traditional phone system.

#2 You can access your phone system from anywhere

As long as you have a stable, reliable internet connection, you can connect to your phone network from anywhere.

#3 A VoIP phone system grows with you

You might have a traditional phone system with 12 lines, but what happens when you want to add more members of staff? It’s both expensive and complex to add new lines. With VoIP, you can scale your system at the flick of a switch, expanding to accommodate new users.

#4 It’s flexible

VoIP systems are incredibly easy to programme. It’s possible to make groups at the drop of a hat. This means that when the phone rings, you can choose whose phone rings, in what order – excellent if you want to make sure that someone always answers the phone to customers, a great way to create, not just happy customers, but raving fans!

Are your hours changing for a public holiday? You can easily record a message to reflect this and have it added. Do you want any voicemails to be sent to a particular email inbox? When it comes to creating your perfect phone system – the possibilities are endless!

Not only is the programming flexible, but using VoIP gives you the opportunity to access your network from anywhere with a stable internet connection. You could have a physical phone extension at your desk, and then soft phones on your laptop and mobile so you can take it with you on the go – also an excellent solution if you’re having to work from home – which many are at the moment.

#5 Better call quality

Gone are the days when you need to hold one ear shut, whilst squinting to concentrate on what the person on the other end of the phone is saying. The nature of VoIP means improved quality of voice.

At Crosstek, we’re all about offering helpful, honest advice, so it would be remiss of us not to mention the downsides.

The biggest disadvantage to VoIP phone systems, is that you have to have a steady, reliable internet connection in order for them to work properly. A normal broadband connection is usually ok, but you need to make sure that it’s dedicated only to voice – otherwise a big email or a particularly large download using the same connection could negatively affect your call quality.

This is easily remedied though. For small businesses we usually recommend two separate connections to avoid this happening, but for larger organisations we recommend leased lines. We’ve written about those here if you’d like to learn more about what they are and how they work.

In conclusion, VoIP is a great option for most if not all businesses. The features and flexibility it gives, at a much lower price point than traditional systems makes it a great solution for everyone from start-up businesses who are looking to seriously compete in their market, to well-established large businesses who need an option which allows lots of users, and the ability to scale quickly.

If you’d like to know more, or would like to chat about how a VoIP system could be tailored to suit your business, who you gonna call? Crosstek! Give us a ring on 01732 617788 or drop us an email to [email protected] and we’ll be happy to talk through it with you.

Everything you need to know about leased lines

Everything you need to know about leased lines

Everything you need to know about leased lines

You may have heard talk of leased lines before from IT providers, but been left non-the-wiser when it comes to knowing what they are, or what benefit they can be to your business. Never fear, at Crosstek we’re all about demystifying the world of IT for business owners to make the whole thing less daunting so without further ado, let’s talk leased lines!

What is a leased line?

In a nutshell, a leased line is a dedicated connection directly to the internet which is solely reserved for your business. In a world where poor connectivity is a huge barrier to business growth, it can be a great alternative to broadband.

How fast is a leased line?

How long is a piece of string? This is entirely based around your needs. It can be anything from 10mb, or as high as 1000mb (gigabit internet). It’s important to consider this from the offset as while some providers offer the ability to flex your bandwidth to meet developing need, not all do. With this in mind, if you predict significant growth in the near future it’s important to either take it into consideration when implementing your leased line, or choosing a provider who offers the flexibility you may need.

How much does it cost?

There are a few things which can affect how leased lines will cost to a business.

Firstly, speed. The higher the speed, the higher the cost. It’s important to be clear about what you’re looking to achieve so your provider can best advise you on the speed you need, that way you won’t find yourself screaming if you want to go faster! A small business of 10 people is going to require a lot less oomph than a 250-person business running across multiple sites, with complex cloud systems in place.

It also depends on your location. Implementing a leased line involves running a fibre optic connection from your business to the nearest exchange or carrier data centre. The further you are away from one of these locations, the more it will cost.

The setup of leased lines presents a large cost to providers, so if as a business you’re willing to offer a commitment and sign up for a longer contract, you will often find a reduction in your monthly payments.

What are the advantages of a leased line?

Speed

Leased lines are capable of running much faster than normal internet.

Call quality

It can accommodate phone calls with no loss of call quality. Perfect if you’ve been thinking about upgrading to a VoIP phone system.

No need to share

It’s a dedicated connection for your business, and your business alone. By not needing to share, you’re eliminating the uncertainty of lower speeds at peak usage times.

It’s reliable

It offers great reliability and support.

What are the disadvantages of a leased line?

  • Cost – While prices for leased lines have fallen in recent times, it’s still a lot more expensive than regular broadband.
  • A longer wait for installation – It can take up to three months to get a leased line in place.
  • Being a more complex process, the installation itself also takes longer than that of regular broadband.

Is a leased line better than broadband?

Yes.

It’s faster when it comes to download speeds, and perhaps more critically in a world where businesses are moving more to cloud-based working – sped up by the pandemic – it also means increased upload speeds. It also has greater reliability and better support for your own peace of mind.

If you’ve been struggling with connection speeds and you think a leased line might be the way forward for you, please get in touch with us. Either drop us an email to [email protected] or give us a call on 01732 617788 and we’ll be happy to go into a bit more depth as to how it could benefit your business specifically.

Can I divert my phone?

Can I divert my phone?

One question we get asked a lot, is ‘Can I divert my phone? It seems like quite a simple thing, doesn’t it? Just redirecting a phone so you can take calls on your mobile. Like lots of things in the world of IT though, it’s a bit more complex than it seems and the answer depends on several factors. Here are some of the reasons we might say yes or no.

You’ll need an onsite visit

Quite often, business phone systems take the form of a big box on the wall which is very much tied to the business premises with handsets owned by companies like Toshiba, Panasonic or BT.

It works by BT phone lines being directed into the box, and then routed from there to the desks that require them. It’s all very static, and often not connected to the network which is what requires an onsite visit rendering it impossible for us to simply divert your phones remotely.

Ageing phone systems

Time flies, doesn’t it? How easy the years pass. One day you’re getting a brand new phone system installed, and then before you know it, it’s decades old and no-one remembers how to use it! #

We said that a bit flippantly, but seriously, it happens quite often. Someone asks us if they can divert business calls to their mobile, and it turns out that the phone system is so old, there’s no one left working there who can remember how to manage it, and we’re simply unable to programme it for you. This has been a really regular occurrence starting with the first lockdown and people wanting to work from home!

Often these two obstacles mean that the only option is to divert everything at a BT level, but this means diverting absolutely everything, and quite often it’s only the calls for one department needing to be redirected to the mobile of a department head, or a similar request.

Sometimes we’re able to say yes!

We love those times. In fact, sometimes we’re not only able to say yes, we’re able to avoid the need for diverting entirely.

With a cloud-based phone system, you can use a handset or a mobile app in order to connect to your phone network from anywhere that there’s an internet connection. You can read more about why this is so great by reading our article on the technology here.

If you don’t have a good internet connection for some reason, then it only takes minutes to divert calls from your work phone to another number, or we can even direct it to a specific voicemail. Cloud-based phone systems are a known-entity, they’re kept up to date, and we’re on top of our knowledge, skills, and training. Want to divert customer service calls and support calls to separate numbers? Easy peasy!

If you’d like to know more about the possibilities cloud-based phone systems offer, give us a call on 01732 617788 or drop us an email to [email protected]. Don’t let something as simple as a phone, tie you down!

How much does IT Support cost?

How much does IT Support cost?

When it comes to looking for managed IT services for your business, one of the biggest things to consider is the pricing. If you’re not technical, it can be quite hard to understand what exactly it is that you’re paying for, and to determine what benefits you’ll be getting.

It’s important to ensure the company you’re going to hire is able to meet your unique needs. Even if you aren’t technical so are unsure of the solutions you’re going to need, make sure you have a list of things that are frustrating with your current IT setup, as well as an idea of future growth, or anything you’d like to achieve for example, building in the ability for your entire team to work remotely.

Benefits of hiring a specialist company to look after your IT

Cost saving

Who doesn’t want to lower expenses to increase profitability where possible? A good IT company will help you lower operational expenses and control your IT spend. By working with someone closely and talking through what you’re looking to achieve and any pain points you’ve been experiencing in your day-to-day operations, they’ll recommend what to put in place to meet those needs, and your IT spend can all be rolled into an ongoing, predictable monthly payment with no surprises.

Depending on the provider, having your IT managed may mean you won’t incur expenses for things such as licensing, training, or emergency repairs. This turns your IT spend into an operational expense which makes it much easier to predict and budget for in the long term.

Although every business is unique and might require a more in-depth quote, if your IT needs are basic or you’re looking for a ballpark figure for ongoing IT support, you can use our pricing calculator to give yourself an idea.

Experienced professionals

If a service provider employs highly experienced and certified specialist professionals, you’ll be benefitting from the knowledge of an entire team at the end of the phone. It’s like having your very own in-house IT department without the headache or expense of recruitment. This will give you more time to focus on running your business, and less time dealing with frustrating IT niggles.

IT Support pricing according to workstations

The more workstations you have, the lower the cost per workstation. A business with 10 workstations may be required to pay more per workstation per month, than another business with 50 workstations due to economies of scale.

It’s also important to note that depending on the company, you might encounter different types of fees. As one example, you might find one fee covering hosted workstations and another for workstation support. Hosted workstations might cover the payment for the cloud space and resources used, while workstations support might be payment for any technical issues that may arise.

IT Support pricing based on servers

Costs will differ significantly for server support, depending on whether your business uses a cloud-hosted server or an on-premise server. On-premise servers need regular maintenance and updates while cloud server support is usually easier to manage making support much cheaper.

Pricing for network devices

Routers, Wi-Fi access points, and networks are the less-sexy-but-critical components of any IT setup. Whichever IT Company you’re talking to, ensure these are included in and covered by your support agreement. The cost of support for these varies depending on multiple factors including age, usage, and status.

The cover levels

Another aspect which will affect the cost of your IT is how much coverage you need. Some businesses will by their nature only need 9am-5pm support, while for others 24/7 support may be critical. If you need a high level of coverage then you can expect to pay a bit more that organisations who only need support during standard office hours.

Onsite & remote support

Are you going to need onsite visits, or do you only need remote support? In most cases, remote support is absolutely fine as most faults can be fixed without the need for an engineer to pay a visit.

If you do need onsite visits, your monthly price will be higher for a more comprehensive package. This is a good thing to look out for, a good IT company should advise you of the best options for your business and not just try to convince you to pay for extra features which you may not actually make good use of.

The Service Level Agreement (SLA)

If you require a faster response time, it’s likely that you’ll pay more for priority support. If you aren’t sure what your needs are in terms of response times, this should be easy for an expert to determine when they carry out an IT audit for you.

The number of sites

Many businesses have a HQ, and a number of satellite branches. The cost for IT support in these extra sites can often be lower, as their IT needs aren’t as extensive as that of the main hub at the headquarters.

Ad-Hoc support vs monthly fees

The two main ways you can pay for managed IT support, are ad-hoc support and a monthly retainer. Although ad-hoc support might seem cheaper, and often is in the short term, it can lead to a mis-matched IT network which could lead to security issues or cause more expense in the long run with big expenses like the replacing of hardware taking you completely by surprise. Ad-hoc support allows the fixing of problems, but rarely is there an opportunity for someone to take a good look at the bigger picture and how all of your IT works together.

One of the main reasons monthly packages are so popular is that they offer the support you need at a fixed cost to you. You’ll also have someone keeping an eye on the bigger picture of your business IT, there to suggest tweaks and changes to keep you up-to-date and your IT a tailor-made fit for your business.

The number of users and devices

Depending on whether you’re choosing ad-hoc or monthly support, the number of users or devices in your organization will change how much you’re paying for a support package. Some IT companies determine the number of users by looking at the number of workstations, others use the number of active email addresses.

When you’re looking at a managed IT agreement it’s also important to make sure any other devices you need support for are covered by the agreement such as tablets and phones.

The main elements of ongoing IT support

Network monitoring

This involves an engineer actively monitoring a company’s network to fix issues before you’re even aware of them, eliminating any potential downtime.

Data back-up

It’s important to make sure you’re covered if hard drives are damaged. Many back-up solutions have cloud computing options which means you can ensure your data is accessible no matter what.

Email filtering and archiving

Spam filters are incredibly necessary to help eliminate phishing threats keeping your business safe. This also includes things like a constant backup of emails.

Service desk support

This might also be known as the Help Desk. It’s where you can log your issues ready for an engineer to have a look at. Some companies might outsource their help desk to third parties while others are kept in-house, this is an important question to ask if you’re looking for support.

Firewall

A firewall is an important part of your IT security. It’s a physical device that’s connected directly to an Ethernet port and they’re designed to filter out our block specific traffic so it doesn’t gain access to your network. Having ongoing support means you can have someone continually monitoring your firewall and making sure it’s doing its job to suit you.

Antivirus

Your antivirus is essential protection against malware and various computer viruses. It’s another crucial part of your security defenses, and it should be actively kept up-to-date to ensure you’re always protected as much as possible from updated threats.

Office software management

Some firms incorporate office management software to help digitize processes and streamline time during the workday for staff.

If you have absolutely no idea where to start, IT providers can help you by completing an audit of where you’re at currently, highlighting any potential risks when it comes to security or downtime, and then recommend the best course of action going forward.

 If you’d like us to take a look at your IT setup as it is at the moment, give us a call on 01732 617788 or drop us an email to [email protected]. Everyone is different, so we’ll make sure we’re recommending a service that suits you right down to the ground.

Security considerations when working from home

Security considerations when working from home

Having employees working from home since the start of the first lockdown back in March 2020 may not have been the disaster you were expecting it to be.

Are the spirits of your team high, productivity on the increase, and some people may even be enjoying themselves? Have you saved money on buying mediocre sandwiches and coffee on the commute? Have you gained time?

While it’s been a pretty horrible time for most of us in one way or another, one of the positive changes to have come out of the pandemic is this shift towards remote working, with 74% of businesses wanting to incorporate the ability to work from home going forward when COVID-19 is but a distant memory, according to a survey conducted by the Institute of Directors (IoD).

Is this you? Are you looking at ditching your overheads and having your team work from home indefinitely? Or are you thinking of offering part-time working from home opportunities?

Either way, there’s no time like the present in order to ensure you have thought of everything when it comes to technical considerations. It may have been a necessity up until this point, but employees working on personal devices presents a whole host of security vulnerabilities which could be easily exploited by cyber criminals.

Make security decisions for the long-term

 Nearly a year into the pandemic and with high infection rates across the UK, it’s clear that we’re in this for the long haul. With that in mind, don’t hastily make security decisions. Have a think about where you’re wanting your business to be in a few years’ time, and make sure that anything you put in place can cope with the development plans to save yourself some future hassle.

 Ensure members of staff have work laptops and aren’t using personal devices

 When your team started working from home, you expanded your network which needs protecting. If some, or all of them are using their own devices, then you’ve expanded your network and it’s now about as protective as a colander when you take into account the potential security issues of shared devices, out of date anti-virus, devices with no password protection – the list is endless. Giving them all a work laptop brings the network very much back under your control.

Think about implementing a VPN for secure remote access to your business network

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it allows users to access your network remotely in a secure manner.

 Look at long-term options for communication

 These are all things you should be bearing in mind, and if you’re considering implementing them in your business it’s well worth starting to look into now, before other businesses also looking to make the permanent change are also demanding the same hardware and/or services.

If you’d like us to take a look at your setup as it is at the moment, have a chat about your plans, and make some suggestions for maximizing your security when it comes to remote working going forward, give us a call on 01732 617788 or drop us an email to [email protected] and we’ll be happy to help.

How to store your passwords securely (stop writing them down!)

How to store your passwords securely (stop writing them down!)

With a large portion of the UK workforce still working from home, security best practices have undoubtedly been relaxed and with that in mind, it’s even more important to have good password hygiene in order to protect your business from threats.

 So, what kind of password storer are you?

  • Write all passwords in the same place
  • Have the same password for everything
  • Create weak passwords all in lowercase
  • Disguising your passwords as phone numbers
  • Write them on little scraps of paper you always seem to lose

If any of the above apply to you, you’re potentially compromising the security of your business in a massive way.

It’s understandable though. According to recent research from Nordpass, the average person has around 100 passwords they need to remember. But with the best practice when it comes to password creation being to randomly generate a string of letters, numbers and symbols for each application or piece of software you use both personally and at work, how on earth Is anyone meant to remember them all?

There is a secure solution to help you keep your password security tip top without you having to hammer the ‘forgot password’ button.

Watch our password manager video to discover how they work, and how using one will benefit you.