How Can You Find Faster Broadband Options for Your Business?

 

n Scotland, like the rest of the UK, a number of people are asking, ‘How do I find the fastest broadband in my area?’. Fortunately the chances of having access to broadband itself are high, with only one percent of the Scottish population not able to receive the service. However due to lacking infrastructure in some parts of the country, a large proportion of the population are currently unable to embrace the next generation of online access, the world of superfast broadband.

Improving the Superfast Broadband Scotland Has to Offer

New technology takes a long time to weave its way into people’s homes and businesses. It usually starts with pioneer buyers that purchase new technology at high prices. As the technology improves and comes down in price, we see it more and more. A great example, of course, is mobile phones. People originally bought expensive mobile phones the size of small bricks, and now we are at the point where there are more mobile devices than people in the world.

The UK government are 100% behind fibre technology, and are currently helping businesses realise the increased efficiencies of superfast broadband through the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme. For companies eligible for the £3,000 grant, upgrading business broadband no longer has to be delayed or postponed until the price falls. Thanks to the UK Government’s focus on it, we are already seeing significant improvements in the superfast broadband Scotland has to offer, resulting in over 220,000 Scottish homes and businesses able to access its increased speeds and benefits. However, the government is now warning that the £40m broadband grant scheme is rapidly running out due to a stampede from businesses looking to capitalise on the opportunity to install superfast broadband. Our advice? Take advantage of the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme while you still can.

Where to Find Your Broadband Options

There are lots of broadband comparison sites for businesses but they have a limited range of options when compared to business-to-business negotiation with a telecommunications company and we wouldn’t recommend them. Right now, the most important site for a business to check is https://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/ to find out if your business is eligible for a Connection Voucher. Once you know that your business is in a fibre broadband grant eligible postcode, the next logical step would be to talk to a local supplier for advice before leaping into any new business broadband contract. And don’t worry if your post code isn’t eligible for a Connection Voucher, you could still benefit from superfast broadband.

Why Bother With Superfast Broadband?

“For many businesses across Scotland and the UK, high speed broadband isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.” said Danny Alexander, The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, when he spoke in Glasgow recently on the subject. The governments increased investment in the broadband voucher scheme shows that it understands its importance to our economy, which is vital due to the number of benefits which it brings our businesses.

Significant operational savings can be made due to the increased business efficiency and productivity benefits that superfast broadband provide. This is especially true if you are one of the many companies using the cloud for data storage, or if you use cloud tools for shared workspaces / online collaborations. Sending, receiving and uploading files can now be carried out in a fraction of the time.

With improved broadband speeds you can conduct higher quality conference calling and media-intensive two-way communication with customers and clients, allowing you to enter new markets and save on transportation costs and the time staff are out the office. It means you can offer faster responses, less lag, and even a more sophisticated customer-relationship-management (CRM) system. You can even conference with your suppliers and staff via video messages whilst still conducting your internet heavy business. Even peak-time traffic shouldn’t affect your service, as long as you have a good host server and service relating to your business activities.

Have a look at the superfast broadband (FTTC) area of our site to view more benefits as well as further information on superfast broadband.

5 Ways to Interact Better with Customers

Having a real relationship with your customers is vitally important, so here are 5 great ways you can interact better with them.

  1. Make Interactions Easy

The first place to start is by looking at how interactions between your business and its customers take place. If they are messy and complicated, people are not going to have any interest in communicating with you, so make things easier.

When your customers have a problem, your team needs to be able to sort things out quickly, otherwise you might end up losing the customer forever. Let them file complaints in person, on the phone, via email or over social media. This variety of options makes the process easier for them.

  1. Train Your Staff in Basic Customer Service Skills

Every business needs to know how to deal with customers, but this is no good unless your employees know how to get the basics of customer services right too. If they don’t, you need to focus on training them so that they do.

You can send them away on a training course, or, if that’s too expensive, you can train them by yourself. It’s really not that complicated. There are certain questions and situations that arise when working in customer services departments, so make sure these areas are covered.

  1. Participate in Community Events

Talking to customers and people in the community isn’t something that should only be done when you’re trying to sell something to them. You should try to prove to people that you’re interested in being part of the wider community.

So, get out there and participate in all the different community events that bring people together and get people talking. It will improve your business too though. If people get to know your business and like you as a business owner, they’ll want to buy from you more.

  1. Keep People Up to Date

Customers need to be kept up to date with regards to changes that might be relevant to them. It’s a way of keeping them in the loop rather than shutting them out of things. It’s also a great way of reminding people that you’re still out there and open for business.

You can do this by sending out a weekly or monthly e-newsletter. To do this, you first need to build up a collection of email addresses. Ask people to submit their email address when they land on your homepage to collect as many as possible.

  1. Create a Blog

If you need to build up a community around your brand and attract new people to the business, you should start your own blog. You’ll be able to prove to people that you’re an authority in your sector.

All you need to do is make sure you’re creating blog posts that are filled with relevant facts that can engage the kind of people who are important to a business like yours. It might seem challenging at first, but you’ll get there.

Customer interaction is vital, so consider each of the above tips

Is A Leased Line Right For Your Business?

Fibre broadband is under the spotlight and for most organisations, it is fast and reliable enough to handle everyday business operations, high staff numbers and the most innovative online working practices.

So, how do you know when your business should be considering the next step up with a leased line?

What is a leased line?

 

A leased line is completely dedicated to your business. It is a dedicated high performance telecommunications network connection, which can carry voice, data and Internet traffic via a copper or fibre connection.  Speeds can go from 2Mbps to 10 Gbps.

What are the leased line facts you need to know?

 

Speed

  • The more users on a fibre connection, the more likely the speed will be affected. Broadband speeds are quoted as being ‘up to’ therefore, in best case scenario.
  • It doesn’t matter how many users are on your Leased Line circuit, your business will consistently enjoy the circuit’s top speed. A leased line delivers what it says it will deliver.

Bandwidth

  • Imagine bandwidth as a tunnel. It can get congested and grind to a halt. That can still happen with broadband.
  • With a leased line, the speeds are so high, and the circuit so dedicated that the congestion simply doesn’t happen.

Flexibility

  • With broadband, you sign up to download and upload speeds.
  • With a leased line, you choose your bandwidth at the beginning but you can change it to suit your business needs. E.g. Your business may have a particularly busy April period where you need additional capacity.

Reliability

  • With broadband, it’s impossible to predict a drop in connection.
  • With a leased line, it is not only less likely, but you are backed up on broadband as well as having the comfort of a Service Level Agreement including money-back targets on service availability, delivery and performance.

Security

  • A leased line is more secure in its own right because it operates as a point-to-point service with no others on it.

Cost

  • Cost depends on the distance between your premises and the service providers Point of Presence (PoP – an access point). The greater the distance, the greater the cost.
  • More bandwidth = more cost but you can vary it.
  • Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) and General Ethernet Access (GEA) are recent cost reduction measures you should ask about.
  • A leased line is typically more expensive to run but economies can be gained through good use of the connection with calls run over VoIP saving call costs, improved working practices and operational efficiencies.
  • Remember that when you are comparing the speed of a leased line with the speed of a broadband line, you are not comparing equals.

 

How do you know your business needs a leased line?

 

Internet Use

  • If your Internet connection is for email, surfing and website maintenance, broadband is probably enough for you.
  • Leased line will be of huge benefit if you have a remote workforce or offices accessing your network via the Internet, use the web to run critical business applications, use video conferencing etc.

Users

  • If you have more than 20 users, a leased line is worth considering.
  • If you also have employees or suppliers that access your network remotely, a leased line will be a great advantage.

Reliance

  • If your business cannot operate without Internet access and would lose money or credibility in the event of an outage, a leased line is definitely right for you. A service level agreement ensures your supplier would have a liability for lost revenue but most importantly, ADSL back up should ensure it never happens.

 

For a more detailed review of whether a leased line is right for your business, give us a call on 0141 404 8008.

A Simple Guide to Business Phone Systems and VoIP

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?

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 a number of 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.

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

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
  • No hardware to maintain/move/upgrade, as Abica will provide free replacements for faulty handsets for the lifetime of our agreement

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
  • Inclusive free calls to all UK Landlines

Hosted or Not Hosted?

Hosted VoIP simply means that your call 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 0141 404 8008.

Is Your Wi-Fi Security Up To Par? How To Stay Safe On Public Wi-Fi Networks

When online you are often as safe as you are cautious. Similar to the real world in that you can go your whole life without ever being mugged if you are careful about what you look like, what you carry and where you go. Or you could visit a rough neighbourhood wearing your Rolex watch. The same is true if you turn off your firewall and then use a public Wi-Fi network. Staying safe and engaging with public Wi-Fi security protocols on a public Wi-Fi network means taking the time every few months to see what new Wi-Fi security threats exist, and to then act to avoid as much risk as possible.

How Bad Can It Get?

There are varying degrees of being hacked. Having your systems shut down is bad enough, especially if a virus or malware has found its way through. More serious than that are your passwords or financial details being stolen and used. One of the worst things that could happen though is that the hacker sets up a backdoor to enter your system whenever he or she likes. He or she may gain access to every account you enter a password into, and even accounts that you enter with biometrics. The hacker could also see everything on your computer and the worst part is that you will know nothing about it. The hacker could sell off your passwords, accounts and financial details to the highest bidder without you even knowing.

Turn Off Sharing

It is recommended that you turn off sharing when you are on a public network. Turn your settings to private and people will have a harder time hacking you. Unfortunately there are still some users that don’t set up passwords so even non-hackers can gain access to their systems. Sharing is not a setting that pops up or riles up your virus checker though. If a program is chewing up your CPU power, then your virus checker may highlight it, but it is not going to mention your sharing settings. Change your settings if you are using public networks.

Turn Off Network Discovery

When you are turning your sharing setting to private, you can also turn off network discovery. It means that others can’t see your machine on the network, which in turn means you are less likely to be targeted. It is also known as “Stealth mode.” It is a good public Wi-Fi security precaution.

Use HTTPS and SSL If Possible

A number of regular website connections still use HTTP exchange, which is fine, but HTTPS and SSL are safer. Have SSL enabled, and if at all possible try to stick to websites that use HTTPS and you will increase your level of Wi-Fi security.

Consider Using VPN

VPN stand for Virtual Private Network. In simple terms, it passes all of your web use through a server that is somewhere else. For example, you could pick a location in Japan, and then as far as hackers are concerned, you are in Japan. This makes it more difficult for anyone trying to hack your computer. It also gives you added protection from the websites you visit because they will have a hard time tracking you down and figuring out where you are browsing from.

Turn Off Your Wi-Fi When You Not Using It

Chances are, hackers are going to try to crack your passwords at some point. It can be done with a computer that very quickly tries a large number of variations in a short space of time. If you turn off your Wi-Fi though, then they have a smaller window of time in which to crack your passwords.

What Impact Does The Latest Change to 0800 Numbers Have For Businesses?

Ofcom recently announced that 0800 and 0808 freephone numbers can now be called free from mobiles. At the same time, service providers and phone companies also have to make their access charges for the 084, 087, 118, and 09 business telephone numbers more transparent.

Good for the consumer

There are some 175-million business telephone numbers which could benefit from either the no-charge changes; or find their services more in demand when mobile subscribers know exactly what their costs will be.

From now on, instead of the small print saying, ‘calls from mobiles may cost considerably more,’ the service provider’s charge has to be shown (5 pence per minute) plus the phone company’s access charge (20 pence per minute). In this case, a call to the numbers using these tariffs would be 25 pence a minute. Clarity is also the name of the game when consumers receive their bills. From now on service number charges and access costs have to be clearly shown. Normal landline calls, or those made to standard 07 mobile numbers will be unaffected.

Ofcom believe that these changes will prove to be beneficial to consumers and in an increasingly competitive market, falling prices should result. Some mobile service providers are not particularly impressed with the changes though. UK consumers over a year make 250 million calls to business telephone numbers 084, 087, 09, and 118, spending over £900m.

The likely effects on business

With the massive increase in smartphone use across the UK, the changes implemented by Ofcom could have a beneficial effect for businesses using these non-geographic business telephone numbers (084, 087, 09, or 118).

The latest figures show that over two-thirds of the population now own a smartphone. Of those, 33% say their mobile is now their favourite tool to access the internet, with just 30% sticking with their trusty laptop. Much of this increase is attributed to the faster access available from 4G broadband, which saw a staggering increase in use from just under 3 million subscribers at the end of 2013, to nearly 24 million by the end of this year.

This increased use is occurring right across the age spectrum and as a result, business telephone numbers should begin to see an increase in usage from customers with the charges now being made clearer.

Companies using service numbers

For businesses using service numbers, changes to website and advertising material will have to be made to show the cost to the consumer of using each. There is no requirement to change the service numbers in use, however as changes have to be made to website and advertising material anyway, contacting your call provider to discuss rates and numbers is always an option.

Charges will be capped

While the 0800 and 0808 numbers will be free from mobiles and the directory-enquiries 118 numbers unaffected, other numbers will have a tariff cap. The 084 range will be capped at 7p, the 087 numbers at 13p and the 09 numbers will be capped at £3/minute as well as £5 per call (All figures include VAT).

A large number of businesses use the 08, 09, and 118 service numbers when making outbound calls, however at the moment, the new charges only apply to calls from consumer mobiles and private residential landlines. It is believed though that service providers may well extend the same pricing structure to business telephone numbers at a later date.

Use of these numbers, and how charges are displayed will continue to be monitored by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Phonepay Plus. Penalties for failing to comply with the new regulations can be found on their websites.

If you are concerned about the cost of using 08 numbers, contact us to find out more about our Non-Geographic Platinum numbers to carry unlimited call traffic for a fixed monthly fee.

Business Phone Systems Glasgow

Moving away from the days of analogue, Abica are improving the performance of phone systems for businesses in Glasgow through the use of VoIP solutions.

By working as a business partner and suggesting the best suited phone system for your business we will ensure you make the most of your investment. For example, if you don’t have a large in-house IT department to install and maintain new or additional hardware to support your new VoIP software, then Hosted VoIP is a good solution.

Abica will show you how to integrate the latest VoIP systems into your business in Glasgow so that you can make the most of them, whilst looking at ways to reduce your monthly phone bills. Cloud based and full of features, our business phone systems provide a wide range of business benefits including cost savings and increased productivity.

Further business benefits of using Hosted VoIP with Abica include:

  • Free calls: All your sites will benefit from free calls to each other.
  • Call abroad: If you have suppliers or offices overseas – a VoIP phone can be used to call them for free – they become an extension on the phone system.
  • Multiple phone numbers: Multiple incoming phone numbers, and the ability to differentiate between them. A VoIP system can have as many incoming numbers as you want, so you have a number for sales, a number for support, etc.
  • Plug and play technology: Handsets are pre-configured meaning they can be easily installed at any site where a live internet connection is present.

To find our more about any of our phone system solutions, you can call us on 0141 404 1219 or use the form shown and our team will get in touch.

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