HighNet, Scotland’s leading communications provider today announces a strategic partnership with Information Technology specialists Edinburgh Communications. The goal, to bring together the best quality business communications tools, backed with personalised IT services and proactive support.
HighNet and Edinburgh Communications, both with offices across Scotland are already planning a series of roll-outs across the UK and are excited to play a key role in delivering innovative and streamlined solutions.
Commenting on the new initiative Peter Branfield, Business Development Manager at HighNet said:
“We have a long-standing relationship with Edinburgh Communications, and we are really excited to be working alongside them to deliver this exciting next step.
We believe that this partnership will make a real difference to businesses of all shapes and sizes as it will let them streamline and take advantage of their on-site technologies through a single service provider.”
Ian Spooner, Managing Director of Edinburgh Communications said:
“We both currently help businesses improve efficiency and reduce costs, our clients see us as part of their team. Working together allows us to further personalise our services, delivering even greater value.
Our partnership with HighNet makes great sense, we realised the similarity in our approach through previous collaborations. For both of us, that’s allowing clients to focus on growing their business, the technology that helps make that possible is our responsibility.”
HighNet provides voice, mobile and data solutions which are backed up by their independent digital infrastructure, as well as 24/7 UK-based support.
Edinburgh Communications, a Cisco Premier Partner, are experienced network and IT specialists, delivering quality, affordable solutions to customers across the UK since 2014.
Contact HighNet or Edinburgh Communications directly if you would like to find out more.
We would like to confirm the latest service position following recent developments with our suppliers in relation to newly developed COVID-19 safe working practices.
We continue to accept new orders for all products and work closely with our customers and suppliers to ensure services can be delivered in a safe and efficient manner.
New Line and Broadband Orders
Openreach have recently lifted restrictions on engineers visiting customer premises which means that some appointed orders for lines and broadband services that had been pushed back to June and July can now be brought forward. This will be for a short duration provision visit only, where the job is considered low risk and when provision cannot be carried out externally, which remains the first preference.
Only lines that have relatively simple installation journeys will be eligible for installation at this time. Orders that are deemed to have complex delivery that would require additional engineering work or orders where Openreach feel that it would not be possible to gain access to the premises safely in adherence to their COVID-19 safe working practices will be excluded from this and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
If you have an existing order with HighNet at present, Openreach may contact you directly to try to agree an earlier installation date to complete the work required for the installation of your line.
During the UK lockdown, Openreach have only completed installations on Critical National Infrastructure sites. However, they have now confirmed that with immediate effect they will progress Ethernet installations on any sites that engineers can gain access to safely, not just Critical National Infrastructure sites.
If you have an open Ethernet order with HighNet at present, Openreach may contact you directly to arrange access and if they do so, they will ask a set of general questions for you to answer before they can schedule an appointment.
Any VoiP system (Horizon/Xelion) orders that had been delayed until a new line/broadband/Ethernet service could be provided, can proceed following installation of the line/broadband/Ethernet service.
If you have an existing order with HighNet at present for Horizon/Xelion our Order Management Team will be in contact with you over the coming days to determine what your current situation is and to make arrangements for your system installation to take place when you are available for this to happen.
This remains a fast-moving situation and we will continue to keep you updated as the situation evolves. In the meantime please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Order Management Team if you have a query on an existing order, or Katrina Macleod, Service Delivery Director, firstname.lastname@example.org 01463210021, if you would like to discuss any concerns with an existing order.
We are all navigating unchartered waters as business faces up to the impact of Covid-19. With many companies currently asking staff to work from home, many will be faced with finding ways of making a success out of homeworking.
All of our circumstances and how we live, and work are now different, and whilst many of us have some experience of homeworking, businesses are having to react quickly to keep up with this significant shift.
Like many companies, all HighNet employees are working from home and will likely be doing so for the foreseeable future. We have had years of experience of homeworking, so we are fortunate in that we are well set-up to be as prepared as possible. Our line of business helps with that too, with most team members very well equipped to use the required technology. We know from speaking to our customers however, that some businesses haven’t done much of this before, so we wanted to share some of our experience and let you know what helps us stay productive.
Here are a few of our colleagues, sharing their tips on what works for them:
Create a Permanent Workspace if you Can “The gamechanger for me in making the switch from working from home on an occasional afternoon compared to working from home full-time was down to creating a dedicated workspace in my spare room. Working from an iPad/laptop from your dining table or sofa is manageable when you only have to do this for a few hours on the odd afternoon, but it’s not a sustainable solution if you’re working from home any longer than that. After taking my office PC and monitors home and moving them into my spare room (and “borrowing” my son’s computer desk for the time being!), I now have a dedicated workspace. It really does make all the difference. Not only does it help you to get into work mode, if you have children it helps them to understand that when you’re in that work space, you’re at work – and hopefully will at least reduce the chances of replicating the infamous Robert Kelly interview with the BBC!”Katrina Macleod, Service Delivery Director
Don’t Start your Working day in your Pyjamas “I strongly believe in influencing your mindset by your body language and surroundings, so for me, getting ready for work as if I’m heading to the office is the first step. Wearing uniform and sitting at my desk puts me in a professional headspace that I can’t replicate while wearing the cosy loungewear that’s made for snuggling on the sofa – and yes, I know that because I definitely tried working in my ‘comfies’ on the novelty days of working from home, until it made me feel completely sluggish! Alongside the added productivity benefit, being dressed for work helps me keep a normal routine. I can finish work and put on those cosy pjs to help my mind find the balance between the work and life that’s all happening in the same four walls.”Rhiannon Siegel, Billing Manager
Use Video for Meetings “It’s a strange time for everyone at the moment and if you’re like me, working from home is still fairly alien. I’m used to the busy office environment, sat alongside my full team and always just a shout away from the rest of my colleagues. Having the capability to video chat is important for me as it helps create a sense of familiarity and normality in otherwise abnormal times as I can still have those face to faces with everyone I work with and feel just as close to them as though I were in the office.”Matthew Kelly, Internal Account Manager
Use your Garden for a Daily Break “When I’m working from home I have to make more of an effort to move away from my desk. When I’m in the office I move around a lot without even really realising it, whether it’s just to grab something off the printer or walk to ask a colleague a question. I’ve realised that moving from room to room on occasion doesn’t quite cut it, so weather permitting I try and take a few scheduled breaks outside. I’ll either wander around the garden (picking up a few weeds) or just sit out there with a cup of tea. I think it’s the fresh air, it seems to help clear my head and get me ready to start the next shift of work.”Karl Geddis, Senior Network Engineer
Set your Working Hours (where possible) “I really enjoy working from home, but when I’m doing it for more than a few days at a time I find it hard to wind down properly and the temptation is to just log on and do a little more. I find sticking to structured hours as much as I can helps define my working day. I work best in the morning, so straight after my breakfast and all-important coffee I have a good few hours of focused work before I break. I try and ensure I take a lunch break, as otherwise I’d keep going and run out of steam! So between 12.30pm and 1.30pm I’ll eat and maybe tick off a personal errand. The danger can be work and personal life start to blend, so I find it’s important that I schedule a stop time, it doesn’t always work but if I have the time in mind it helps me work towards it.”Brodie Wood, Senior Order Co‑Ordinator
Hopefully you find this useful.
Remember we are here to help, so if you have anything else that you would like to ask, or if you need a little support with your homeworking technology please just
get in touch.
The recent advances in the COVID-19 outbreak means many businesses are now taking steps
to enable their staff to work from home. But when employees work outside the office environment, they may encounter challenges that can affect their access to office systems and data storage.
Below you’ll find some suggestions and advice that could help smooth the transition to remote working for your teams and help maintain their home connectivity.
Check Connections and Router Location
A good place to start is checking the back of your router to make sure all your cables are firmly secured at both ends and that you’re using a microfilter, if needed. To get the best performance from your router, we suggest checking it has the clearest path possible to your computer (the fewer walls the signal has to pass through, the better) and that no furniture is obstructing it.
Use your Master Socket
Your master socket is slightly larger than any extension sockets in your house and can usually be found in your hallway or near your front door.
Turn Off and On
Try turning the router off for 10 seconds and switching it back on at the mains plug, though you shouldn’t have to do this more than once in a 48-hour period.
Reduce Video Streaming
Try turning off any devices not in use (streaming boxes, games consoles, computers etc.) to improve performance.
Try a Wired Connection
Most routers come with an extra ethernet cable already, so if you need a more robust connection, connect your computer directly to the router.
Reduce Signal Interference
Signal interference can affect your Wi-Fi’s speed, so ensuring there’s no other broadcast technology (streaming devices, consoles, cordless phones etc.) close to the router can help.
Change your Wireless Channel
Wi-Fi routers broadcast on a particular channel and if your neighbours are using the same channel the signals can overlap, causing connections to slow down. Depending on your technical ability, you may want to speak to us to guide you through the process and improve your connection speed.
Don’t Forget to Disinfect Devices
Even if you’re the only user, it’s worth keeping on top of hygiene and maintaining a clean workspace. Antibacterial wipes or sprays are usually fine, but it’s always worth checking if the device manufacturer has any recommended cleaning instructions first.
Need more help?
Remember we are always on hand to support you, so if you’re having any problems or would simply like some advice please just give us a call or email us at email@example.com.
Bring your company and your customers closer together with Unified Comms.
As a Horizon customer, Collaborate offers you a fully integrated Unified Communications solution featuring voice, video, instant messaging and multimedia conferencing – all the tools to enable effective remote working.
We want to ensure you and your staff get the most out of Collaborate, so here are some useful videos which will tell you more about the application and show you how to utilise some of the great features.
Unified Comms Experience for your Business
Hosting a Conference Call
The Seamless Experience for External Participants
Supporting Employees Working on the Move
Setting up a Conference Call
Removing Participants from a Call
Learn more about how Collaborate can help you achieve your comms goals by contacting one our specialists at HighNet. You can get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In light of the ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, we have put together a list of questions and answers to help support our customers. Hopefully you will find everything you need here, but if you have anything else that you need clarity on please just get in touch. If you require a divert from your main phone line, please email email@example.com to allow our phone lines to be used for emergency faults only.
Q: I am a Horizon or Xelion customer, how can my staff work from home?
A: Working remotely couldn’t be easier with these hosted platforms, please see all the options for Horizon here, and for Xelion, you just need to download the mobile app to get going!
Q: I use HighNet SIP trunks, are there any products available to help support me?
A: SIP Trunk Call Manager is available as an additional bolt on to most HighNet SIP trunks. This gives end users the ability to control how their calls are routed to their DDI via a web-based portal. For example, if working from home they can login to the portal and divert all of their incoming calls to a personal mobile, find out more here.
Q: I don’t have a hosted phone system, what are my options if my employees need to work from home?
A: There are currently lots of options available to enable staff members to effectively communicate with colleagues from home, such as Microsoft Teams. However, if you require the full functionality of a phone system (hunt groups/voicemail) and the ability to make and receive external calls as if you were calling from your work extension, we currently have a hosted telephony solution known as Xelion available on a short term contract pay as you go basis – you can get this set-up by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What happens if my phone lines or internet becomes faulty during the COVID-19 outbreak?
A: If you require a HighNet engineer to attend your site, you will receive a declaration from our engineer to confirm that they have not, nor have anyone they live with, attending any red zones in the last 14 days or are suffering from any symptoms. If you require an Openreach engineer visit, here’s the precautions they are taking.
Q: What are HighNet doing to ensure my service isn’t affected during COVID-19?
A: Please follow this link to find our latest COVID-19 strategy.
Q: I would like to have the option for my staff to work from home, but we have no IT Support, what should I do?
A: If you don’t have any IT Support currently in place, get in touch with our team via email@example.com who can put you in touch with one of our trusted Channel Partners in your area.
In this article HighNet’s David Alldritt examines the increasing availability of full-fibre coverage for businesses across the UK, and discusses the key benefits and likely challenges that come with this.
Less than four years ago the UK Government realised that full-fibre for the whole of the UK is an essential component in achieving any kind of serious ambition with regard to our digital future. It has taken a while, but we’ve seen full-fibre coverage start to shift up a gear or two as further investment and further competition has come into the market.
CityFibre has just agreed a deal to acquire TalkTalk’s FibreNation infrastructure business, and Liberty Global is launching a new full-fibre network independent of the Virgin Media brand. BT Openreach is in genuine ‘fibre first’ mode in an effort to keep up. The pace of fibre build is now getting serious, with tens of thousands of homes and businesses being reached every week, and full-fibre availability has moved on from 3% of UK premises to about 12%.
So, the market is doing its bit, the pace of growth and change is now impressive, and Ofcom has just published its consultation paper ahead of the next Fixed Wholesale Telecoms Market Review (FWTMR).
This Review maps out the regulatory landscape which will be in effect from 2021 to 2026. During that period, we should see full-fibre available to the majority of all consumers and businesses. That’s just as well, because in 2025 the old telephony network switches off and all of our voice services will be running on VoIP. If you run a business and currently rely on ISDN (digital) or analogue telephony, you’ll be using something different by 2025 – and it won’t be optional.
At some point soon after 2025, Openreach will be looking to switch off all their legacy copper infrastructure. It makes no commercial sense to run a rump of copper-based broadband services such as Fibre To The Cabinet and G.Fast, when you’re operating a full-fibre network for more than 90% of your customers. Ofcom’s FWTMR looks to encourage competition in building and operating full-fibre services, whilst protecting consumers and allowing deregulation where appropriate. The Review also has a clear intent not to see rural areas on the wrong side of a digital divide, and outlines plans for how they intend to support that aim.
At the same time as this consultation, work is underway to introduce the UK’s regulatory framework to comply with the European Electronic Communications Code, which will come into effect in Dec 2020. This covers some key protections regarding contracts and supplier switching, and with the above changes underway those things will be extremely important.
Full-fibre connectivity is a great business enabler not only for voice services but for the reliable high-speed internet that makes it easy to adopt more cloud services on your desktop and across the whole spectrum of business software applications. It is kinder to the environment and has genuine benefits for productivity and profitability – for the purposes of this short article please take my word for it, or challenge me on here or offline and I’ll explain.
The land of milk and honey awaits! But it won’t be quite as simple as that. The UK still has millions of phone numbers to move over to IP services, and as the switch-off approaches there will be potential bottlenecks in the supply chain. Most organisations and individuals have genuine concerns about online security. Fibre builds can be disruptive to local communities. People can find themselves locked into contractual terms without a suitable upgrade path.
We want to fully engage with the businesses community on this one, so we are asking if you think your organisation is ready? Do you know where to start? Do you know all about it and want to influence the Ofcom consultation? Let’s make 2020 the year when we change up a gear and accelerate all of that – or we risk being left behind.
A QUARTER of a century of success and innovation is something to celebrate – even for a business that takes quiet pride in describing itself as Inverness’s best kept secret.
Led by father and son team Dave and David Siegel – with David’s daughters making it a third generation – telecoms specialist HighNet at the end of 2019 marked 25 years of bringing cutting edge technology to its customers in the Highlands and across the UK.
Now a well-established and highly regarded company with 50 employees across its two bases in Inverness and Glasgow and an annual turnover in excess of £12 million, David acknowledges that HighNet might not be widely known outside the business community, but once he explains what the company can do and the type of blue chip clients it works with, newcomers to the business are typically impressed.
“We have never, ever bragged about success,” David said.
“For us, it has always been about delivering a service and a product that is consistent and doing that to the very best of our ability. As a result, we create high quality sustainable jobs, and the area really needs those.”
As the business has grown, moving first to premises in Gordon Terrace and then Lotland Street before transferring into its Cradlehall headquarters in 2012, it has achieved a number of notable firsts for the area, helping the Highlands keep pace with communications technology.
“We were the first company locally to be able to compete with BT in installing telephone systems, the first to retail mobile phones in the area, the first to deliver ISDN equipped telephone systems and the first to offer alternative call rates to BT,” Dave said.
David added: “We were the first in Scotland and second in the UK to deliver the wholesale line rental service from BT. And the irony is that these have now gone full life cycle, from us introducing them to the Highlands, to being phased out by 2025 and be replaced by a completely IP [internet protocol] structure.”
Once again, HighNet is ahead of the curve when it comes to being ready for that change. While some businesses are still debating a move to an IP service, HighNet has been offering its customers cloud based IP provision for 15 years, having been one of the first in Scotland to offer IP telephony. It is these rapid changes in technology which keep the HighNet business fresh and interesting.
It is these rapid changes in technology which keep the HighNet business fresh and interesting.
“Every four years, our business evolves,” David said. “It’s not just a little bit, it’s a complete evolution. It definitely never gets to the point when it’s boring. There is always something new coming along. We look back at what we did when we started this business and it is amazing how far we have come – some companies when they are celebrating anniversaries put their prices back to when they started. If we did that, we would make a fortune! Phone calls were 8p a minute, they are now 0.8p a minute. Mobile calls were 25p. Now they are 2.5p. That’s innovation and competition for you.”
This is taken from an article featured in The Executive, The North of Scotland’s Leading Business Magazine.
Today the business world runs on data, and as the trends of flexible working, hot-desking and temporary work environments continue to grow, getting the best out of your data package has become more vital than ever.
As a business owner, it’s likely that you don’t have a lot of time, and just simply knowing that the right solution is available for your business needs, and offers value for money is probably all you need to know. We know there’s a lot of information out there however, and so today we will help by explaining some of the benefits you can expect from upgrading to a large data SIM product.
In our experience, many businesses either continue to use their current broadband set up because they just don’t know there is a superior alternative, or they make do with their current data bundle simply not realising the scale and value of SIM packages that are available to them.
We know that you want to take your business everywhere with you, so here’s some information to help you find out how you can:
A 4G service almost always provides a fast-reliable connection. A standard 4G network offers speeds that tend to fall somewhere between 15 and 20 Mbps with no slowing due to busy usage. For businesses who find themselves further from the local exchange or Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and experience poor speeds, they can run exclusively on business grade 4G and enjoy improved services. As a comparison Satellite usually reaches speeds of close to 15 Mbps, a range of 5 to 8 Mbps is fairly typical and in most cases, bandwidth will be slower during peak usage times.
Choosing a SIM only data bundle can significantly reduce your monthly costs. There are such a variety of data packages available that it’s very likely you’ll get much more data usage for less cost than a traditional satellite-based system. Short contracts mean there is no worry of finding out in a few months that you’re not on the right plan or network, and so you won’t be stuck with a bill larger than what you need – removing the risk of overpaying.
As streaming services, downloads and the use of real time applications become more important to everyday business, businesses are looking for reliable, fast connections. Latency – the measurement of time delay is often seen as one of the drawbacks of satellite, mainly because the bandwidth limitations can be frustrating for users, and the 4G network is almost always faster and superior.
Large data bundles are the perfect tool for temporary environments such as construction sites, office re-locations and exhibitions. It could be for a few months, or simply whilst a business is waiting to have an internet line installed. Extra-large data packages of up to 500GB can be offered as a temporary solution, something that can then be downgraded to a lower data package at a later stage to act as a back-up to a Wi-Fi network.
Short term contracts:
While many packages tie you in for a 24-month period, SIM deals offer much more flexibility with short 30 day contracts. This is perfect for things like temporary locations or whilst waiting on an Ethernet circuit being installed. It also means you can add or remove data depending on your needs, and take advantage of any special offers available at that point.
Tethering & Flexible working:
Tethering is broadcasting your phone’s mobile signal as a Wi-Fi network, allowing you to hook this up to a laptop or any other Wi-Fi-enabled device up to it to connect to the internet. This feature is key staying connected wherever you are, whilst also supporting flexible working and those who often find themselves out on the road. With tethering employees can literally work everywhere on all their devices via mobile data.
Ultimately, when it comes to data plans, the right size for you depends on how you use your data. At HighNet we have access to fantastic large SIM only data bundles, and our team of experts are always on hand to help businesses across the UK find the right one for them.
Latest figures from Kaspersky Lab’s DDoS Q1 2019 report show that there has been a significant rise in DDoS attacks. They compared Q1 of 2019 to Q4 2018 and found a staggering 84% increase, and this was particularly high in the number of attacks that lasted more than an hour.
Kaspersky has concluded that these statistics back up their theory that hackers are evolving their techniques and launching longer attacks which have even worse consequences.
As hackers exploit new techniques to break into systems, DDoS has become one of the key attack methods used, and so whilst cybercriminals have access to an ever-growing range of tools to target and interrupt business operations, this ever-growing threat remains.
What is a DDoS Attack?
A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack has fast become one of the most powerful threats to the internet. It is used as an attempt to make online services unavailable by flooding the intended target with high volumes of traffic from various sources. Put simply, hackers will try and push more traffic to an organisations server than it can handle, causing their business to become offline and often stopping business critical systems from working.
DDoS attacks range from small to large-scale and can cause real interruption to business operations, often resulting in lost revenue, data, and reputational damage.
Some warning signs could indicate a DDoS attack has taken place:
– An abnormal spike in traffic
– Large amounts of spam emails
– Internet disconnection
– Inability to access a particular website
‘Always On’ and DDoS Mitigation
As the volume, frequency and sophistication of DDoS attacks increases, the need for better network visibility and protection has grown. This has led to ‘always on’ detection and mitigation being a vital form of protection to ensure uninterrupted internet access in the event of an attack. Other alternative defences, such as DDoS blackhole routing and diverting traffic to services in the cloud are not fast enough to cope with the pace of attacks and require the ISP to intervene (sometimes manually] and re-route traffic.
Protection models using an ‘always on’ model, work by detecting attacks on the edge of the IPS’s network, removing the malicious traffic and allowing full internet access and normal business operations to return. The biggest benefit of ‘always on’ is that protection happens all the time, whereas other models are for limited durations, and happen only when an attack has been detected.
At HighNet, we have detected and mitigated scores of DDoS attacks, so we know the pace at which these can happen and the effects they can have on businesses of all sizes. We can also see the trend for larger-scale attacks happening, reinforcing the Kaspersky Lab research.
Companies should remember that DDoS is often used as a distraction attack, and so whilst IT teams put their efforts into defending that assault, attackers could be swiftly pushing their attention to another business-critical system. Our biggest piece of advice to our customers is to ensure that ‘always on’ protection is something that their internet service provider offers, otherwise it will leave them more vulnerable to an impending attack.
If you’d like to find out more our team of experts are always on hand.
It’s fantastic news for Inverness, as it is confirmed that it will become one of the next in the UK to join the ‘Gigabit City Club’. Set to form part of the next phase in CityFibre’s £2.5bn investment plan, full fibre infrastructure is coming to the capital of the Highlands.
This exciting announcement takes the current project from delivering only to public sector sites, to building a large-scale fibre to the premises network to provide Gigabit Broadband for thousands of homes in and around Inverness, and full-fibre Gigabit connectivity to businesses too.
What is a Gigabit City?
Gigabit Cities have been designed to fully future-proof local business, government, health and education sectors and homes with state-of-the-art digital infrastructure.
Across the UK, the rise of new technologies and cloud services are radically transforming the way we live and work and so government, businesses and citizens are increasingly aware of the importance of digital infrastructure. As our everyday lives become more reliant on bandwidth and our homes start to fill with connected devices, only a Gigabit City with fibres running into every corner will be able to keep up.
The benefits of full fibre connectivity are massive, and it will give businesses the confidence they need to grow and scale their operation. When complete, businesses in Inverness and the surrounding areas shouldn’t ever need to worry about poor connectivity again.
A Fully Connect City
CityFibre have already delivered this kind of network to Stirling, Aberdeen and large parts of Edinburgh and these cities are already starting to reap the benefits. A ‘Gigabit Steering Group’ set up by Drew Hendry MP, worked tirelessly to put forward the case for Inverness to become a Gigabit City. This group consisted of representatives from Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Inverness Chamber of Commerce, Scottish Council for Development and Industry, HighNet and CityFibre. It was the work from this steering group that gave CityFibre the confidence to invest in Inverness.
David Siegel, Managing Director at HighNet:
‘Everyone here at HighNet is absolutely thrilled to see Inverness confirmed as part of the CityFibre Gigabit City rollout. This is just a fantastic development for Inverness, and will bring so many advantages to businesses and homes across the city.
Hats off to everyone involved in pulling this together over the last few years, I know how much work has gone into it. Now, we can’t wait to help transform the digital future for local businesses across this wonderful city.’
It has been announced that ISDN networks will be switched off in 2025 in favour of IP voice services, with older systems being phased out from 2023. As more businesses start thinking about making the transition to newer systems, we found many asking the same questions about what it means for them. In this article, we answer the most frequently asked questions and provide some other useful insight into making the switch Plain Sailing.
A little recap – what is ISDN?
For many years, businesses across the UK have relied on ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) lines to connect their business phone systems to the outside world. When it launched in the late 1980s, ISDN lines represented a huge advance over previous analogue services for voice and data transmission. ISDN provided new functionality with direct dial numbers, options for number presentation on inbound and outbound calls, and a much better utilisation of the total number of lines available to the phone system or switchboard.
So, what’s the reason for the ISDN switch off?
Like most things in business, over time, the technology evolves and something new comes along. Heavy investment has been made into voice services, and as adoption of business-grade VoIP is growing rapidly, it no longer made sense to invest further in legacy ISDN networks.
Aside from being a more modern technology, VoIP has many advantages, not least that it is the best way to future proof your business communications.
It’s reported however, that as many as two million UK businesses are still using ISDN connections, so for these companies the time is right to start thinking about making the switch.
Frequently asked Questions
As a provider of hosted phone systems, we are already helping a number of UK businesses make the transition. Here are some of the most popular questions that we are asked.
Q. Does my business currently use ISDN?
A. You’ll know you’re operating via ISDN if you are not using a cloud based solution. We can always help you confirm this if you just give us a call on 0808 168 0000.
Q. I hear a lot about the year 2023 – is this the deadline?
A. It’s a gradual phase out, but many companies talk about 2023 as it will be from then that you will no longer be able to purchase any more ISDN systems. In 2025 ISDN will be turned off altogether. Why not find out when your contract is due to end or be renewed, as this could be the best time to make the switch.
Q. My phone system is quite new, will I have to replace it?
A. Many new office systems already support VoIP, so that’s the first thing that a potential provider would check for. If, by any chance it doesn’t, you have the opportunity to think about switching from a fixed on-premise phone system to a cloud hosted service. We always remind our customers of the many benefits from this option, such as cost savings from reduced calls charges and eliminating line rentals.
Q. Broadband services locally are not great, will the quality of calls be good enough?
A. To ensure a reliable cloud telephony service, your internet connectivity needs to be strong enough. If you’re in a poorly serviced or remote area, this could mean you experience poorer audio quality and a more unreliable service. It’s important that anyone trying to sell you a replacement can prove that it actually works all of the time. At HighNet, we operate our very own UK-wide internet network that’s specifically designed for business use. Why does this matter? It allows us to deliver next generation internet connectivity without compromising on quality or service delivery. We remove the reliance on dated network infrastructure to deliver a better service to you, all backed by our award-winning customer support.
Q. Is there any independent advice available to businesses?
A. Yes. You’ll be pleased to know that Ofcom’s rules mean that phone users must receive equivalent protections, however their landline is delivered. You can find everything you need here. This will help explain what changes are taking place, the roles and responsibilities of different organisations and the expectations of telecoms providers. You can also request any further necessary advice through this link.
Q. Will I be able to keep all of my phone numbers?
A. Absolutely, and once you have moved onto the VoIP platform there will never be any restriction as to where either the numbers or the customers are geographically located to use them. This flexibility means that your numbers can always move with you as your business grows, and is one of the real benefits of VoIP technology.
Q. Will there be much disruption to my business during the transition?
A. No, the aim is to configure, install and test the new system prior to moving any existing number cross. This means both evolutions of system are installed and operating at the same time. Numbers then deactivate from the old system and appear on the new, and the old ISDN lines cease at that point. Thereafter, all benefits of a VoIP solution are available.
Most businesses tend to do online research or call some cloud telecom providers to see what they offer. To make this a little easier, we recently pulled together our tips for making a smooth transition from ISDN to VoIP which can be accessed here.
Evaluating your long-term voice and data requirements and choosing a suitable partner organisation should make the ISDN switch-off Plain Sailing.
If you’d welcome advice tailored for the specifics of your business, the HighNet team will be happy to discuss options. We can help you to identify the perfect communications solutions for your current and future needs.
The way people communicate has undergone huge changes in recent years. Younger generations often send a text or an IM rather than picking up the phone but when it comes to doing business, speaking on the phone is still most people’s first choice. Being able to discuss options and talk things through is vital. That’s especially true when making important decisions.
That’s why any company’s telecommunications system is still a crucial consideration. It’s also why it’s so surprising more businesses haven’t already adopted a hosted phone system. These provide business telecommunications for the modern era. They can solve a whole host of problems that could be hindering a firm’s growth.
The following are five key examples:
Traditional phone systems don’t come cheap. A hosted phone system can save a company money in a multitude of ways. Firstly, there is much lower initial capital outlay required. Hosted systems can use computer cabling, for smoother and faster installations than older-style systems.
Maintenance costs are also lower. That’s because the infrastructure is managed at a centralised data centre. Firms don’t need to pay line rental for multiple phone lines, either. That means the ongoing costs of a hosted phone system can be lower than a traditional option.
Being office bound
Business is not always nine to five, and it can’t always be confined to the office. Hosted phone systems have a built-in mobility which old-fashioned alternatives can’t compete with. Secure mobile apps allow communication through a business number while using your smartphone.
A hosted system can also automatically route calls to your mobile when required. It’s not just about talking on the move, either. Hosted phone systems can also let you receive calls to one business number at multiple sites. Grouping all communications in one place improves productivity, making business quicker and simpler. It also saves time – and every business would welcome more time…
Relying on out of date infrastructure
Traditional systems rely on what is often a very old infrastructure. It’s surprisingly vulnerable to a range of problems that can lead you to suffer costly outages. They include storm damage, vandalism and simple hardware failures.
A hosted phone system is far more reliable, particularly with improved fibre optic broadband connections. It can help make any firm’s communications futureproof. That’s critical if you want your business to survive changing times.
Lack of space
Property’s not cheap. Space is at a premium in many offices. A hosted phone system is ideal for any firm with limited room. Such a system requires little on-site equipment. As well as saving money on maintenance, that also saves space.
In fact, a hosted phone system doesn’t even need traditional phone handsets if you don’t want them. Softphones are software programs that can be used instead. They let you use a PC in place of a phone, replacing a handset with an on-screen console.
Traditional phone systems are difficult to scale. If you develop new requirements, it can take lots of time and expense to update a system to cope. With a hosted telephone system, it’s much simpler.
You don’t need to have new phonelines installed. You won’t even need any physical changes to your workplace. What’s more, a hosted system can be scaled to accommodate extra features. These might include multimedia communication, or extending the system to an extra location.
If you are keen to find out more, you can download our Hosted Phone Systems Buyer’s Guide here.
Otherwise, we would be happy to guide you through the packages we offer, justclick here for details on how to get in touch.
Highland Council have announced that over 150 public sector sites across Inverness, Fort William, Thurso and Wick, including schools, libraries, offices, hospitals, health centres and university campuses, will be able to access future-proof gigabit-speed services thanks to a new full fibre network, to be constructed by CityFibre. The intention is that this infrastructure will be just the first step in providing Gigabit internet access to businesses and homes in Inverness and beyond.
For IT boffins like us it’s exciting news but what does it mean in practice for your business?
Gigabit is the next generation of connectivity and it’s going to provide hyperfast, scalable and reliable speeds to your business. It will give you the confidence you need to grow and scale your operation right here in the Highlands, without worrying about poor connectivity.
The benefits of full fibre connectivity are massive. To put the speed difference in some kind of perspective, where a standard broadband connection might offer 20 – 100 Megabytes per second, Gigabit will offer 1,000 Megabytes plus. That means your ability to download, stream and run enterprise-level apps in the cloud will all be improved tenfold.
It’s not just download speeds though, one of the biggest benefits of Gigabit connectivity is the greatly enhanced upload speeds. Slow upload speeds are one of the most common problems for business users and prevent the seamless use of some of the most common cloud-based apps (think Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce, Office 365 etc – basically any app that involves the uploading of large files to the cloud).
It’s also a future-proofed technology that is about way more than supporting the needs of today’s businesses. It will help power the technologies of the future from automation to smart manufacturing and the Internet of Things.
When will it be available?
It will be some months before the new public sector infrastructure built by CityFibre gets fully up and running, but that’s where HighNet has a trick up its sleeve! We have been investing heavily in the local network infrastructure for many years and can already offer full-fibre Gigabit connectivity to businesses in Inverness and the surrounding areas. Having been the anchor partner for the CityFibre Glasgow rollout, we’ve seen first-hand just how transformative hyperfast, full-fibre internet connectivity can be for local businesses and we can’t wait to launch the service in our hometown.
And the best bit?
All SME’s are eligible for the Gigabit Voucher Scheme. HighNet is a registered supplier of the government scheme, which can provide businesses with up to £2,500 towards the cost of full-fibre connectivity. This funding makes the upfront investment required negligible and gives you full-fibre connectivity at a surprisingly low monthly cost.
For those working in the hotel industry, excelling in customer service is part of everyday business, but pleasing customers can be hard, especially in today’s market. As technology advances, customers’ expectations have risen, and it doesn’t look like that’s about to slow down any time soon. The concept of brand loyalty absolutely still exists, but it is something much more difficult to achieve than in years gone by. Why? because now, when there is an alternative, customers no longer hesitate in switching services if something doesn’t quite meet their list of demands.
For hotels guests, take things like complimentary Wi-Fi. This is no longer seen as a luxury and in fact, recent research by hotels.com revealed that reliable guest Wi-Fi tops the list of desired amenities, sitting above on-site parking or even a free breakfast! To ensure the best customer experience, hotels need to pay extra attention to these details alongside the overall needs of their customers and aim to fulfil them. Hoteliers will be well aware that slow or non-existent Wi-Fi is one of the most common reasons for leaving a negative online review, and these reviews matter. Research shows us that 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. These statistics only get higher amongst the younger generations, meaning it’ll have even more impact in the future.
So, in the age of consumer reviews and digital word-of-mouth, hotels are turning to their telecoms package as a way to optimise their customers experience and improve these all-important customer reviews. Upgrading a hotel telecoms infrastructure can seem like an upheaval, and this is one of the key reasons that many might delay implementing something new. However, with effective planning, it needn’t cause much, if any disruption to hotel staff or customers alike. Gone are the days of hours of down time; now the new and the old can run alongside each other, so staff see minimal disruptions and guests remain blissfully unaware.
The benefits from having guest Wi-Fi, and the latest phone system technology are very likely to support a positive customer response, and here are a few of our other top reasons that a hotel should look to upgrade their telecoms package:
– Powerful Guest Wi-Fi
– Cost Savings
– Future-Proofed Cabling
– Device Charging Points
– Enhanced Star Rating
– Government Funding Support
And, it’s something that hotels will have to do soon anyway. ISDN is a legacy network technology that is still used in many hotels today and a gradual phase-out of the technology has been announced, with complete switch off of all ISDN services by 2025. If your hotel phone systems use ISDN then there couldn’t be a better time to switch to a more low-cost, reliable and scalable solution, hosted in the cloud.
By choosing HighNet as your hotel telecoms provider, you can be certain that any technical complexity will be taken care of by our highly-skilled staff, allowing you and your guests to just relax and enjoy the benefits.
The momentum driving the replacement of traditional phone systems with cloud communications – also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) continues to gather pace, with buyers increasingly turning to hosted systems rather than investing in traditional hardware.
Like most technologies, office phones have evolved greatly in recent years, and because of the benefits that come from hosted phone systems, it is estimated that by 2020 almost all business phone communications will take place this way.
If you have just started taking a look at what a cloud solution could offer your business, you will almost definitely be met with lots of advice and confusing terminology, and this is the key reason behind the creation of our customer friendly buying guide. Selecting something as integral to your business as a hosted phone system is a big decision and to help with this we have reviewed the features and benefits, and summarised the key considerations for your cloud system implementation.
Our Buying Guide goes into a lot more detail, but here’s a snapshot of what you can expect:
What are Cloud Communications?
Simply put, cloud communications provide a range of communication resources such as voice, internet, email and data which are all delivered over the internet. The cloud provides a hosting environment that is flexible, immediate, scalable, secure and readily available.
The Advantages of Cloud Communications?
We outline these advantages in detail, but here is a quick look at some of the key differences a hosted system will bring.
Improved customer experiences
Purchase Considerations and Tips
One of the best things about a cloud based system is the number of benefits you get from using it, but when it comes to choosing the hosted telephony system that is right for you there is a lot to think about.
Here, you can find some useful insight into what you should consider to ensure your transfer to the cloud is a smooth one.
What to expect from your provider?
Fixed desktop and mobile together
Understanding the costs
Ease of management
If you are keen to find out more and take advantage of the information we have put together, you can download our Hosted Phone Systems Buyer’s Guide here.
We would be happy to guide you through the packages we offer, just click here for details on how to get in touch.
Mobile has long been firmly established at the centre of business communications, with smartphone capabilities such that almost any business-related activity can take place anywhere. Latest figures show us that almost three quarters of businesses now actively support a mobile, flexible workforce, and so it is no surprise that these devices are an essential driver behind that trend. The ability to stay connected has contributed to an improvement in workforce efficiencies, and instant communication tools like video calling on mobile has led to improved customer and colleague interaction.
Despite the obvious benefits, mobiles are generally designed for each individual user, and with that comes a few limitations. Working in isolation from the businesses phone system means mobile users can miss out on some of the features offered by an office desk phone; things like reception services, call recording and access to a larger directory.
How can Connect help?
Connect, is a product that simply integrates your business mobile phones with your office phone system, allowing landline, mobile and laptop to work together as one communications package. Companies who use Connect, find that by streamlining their business communications, they can provide their staff with the ultimate flexibility to work wherever, but with optimum access to important telecoms features.
Connect stands out from other services because of its flexible nature; adopted incrementally and only paying for what is needed, makes it an ideal cost-effective companion for all businesses large and small.
Our whole team have been using connect for a number of months and these are a few of our favourite features:
1 – Call Recording
All calls can be recorded whether you are in the office or on the move. This has helped us with our staff training, and quality assurance needs. In addition, it is great to get a complete picture of the business communications and call stats, as all calls to and from mobile are now included in our reporting.
2 – Local Presence
It has been extremely beneficial to present the business landline number from our mobile phones. Many of our customers see real value in dealing with a business who has a local presence, so by presenting a local number we have found that calls are far more likely to be answered. We no longer need to hand out mobile numbers to external contacts, as calls to the landline can be answered wherever we are.
3 – One Voicemail for all Calls
We no longer miss any voicemails. Connect has removed the need for two separate voicemails across fixed and mobile, allowing us to listen and respond from wherever we are working. We are already reaping the rewards of an improved customer response time.
4 – Improves Internal Communications
Providing our employees with the same tools and features on any device has really helped our internal communications. The same dial plan, extension numbers and advanced call features are all available on the mobile devices and that means anyone can easily reach the right person wherever they are.
5 – Easy to Use
The good news is, that in the likely scenario that you already use a mobile phone, Connect functionality will be almost no different. Calls are made in exactly the same way and because it doesn’t use up data, and there is no requirement to use the APP, it has offered us a simple, low cost solution to integrated communications.
If you are a business with employees who are regularly out of the office, you will undoubtedly find Connect a great asset. Connect brings all of the benefits of a landline to mobile, it makes flexible working more than just working somewhere else; it creates the mobile office.
Find out howto enhance your communications easily with Connect.
One of the key trends in the business world at the moment is how organisations are better connecting their workforce with the customer experience. In today’s customer-centric environment, the demands are greater than ever and so more and more businesses are striving to maximise their customer service potential. For most, this often means equipping their workforce with the technology to operate at their best, adding tangible value to both the business and customer.
Connecting the workplace with the customer experience heavily comes down to making life as easy as possible for both parties to interact with each other. It is now widely believed that staff mobility will be the key to successful businesses of the future, with many organisations already firmly on this path. Telecoms is an important decision for any business, and if it’s flexibility and growth that they are looking for, cloud systems, such as hosted telephony offers a surprisingly easy way to support this.
What is hosted telephony?
You might hear people use terms such as ‘cloud-based’, ‘hosted voice’, and ‘VoIP’, really, these all mean the same thing. For our purposes, we talk about hosted voice. In simple terms, this means using the internet instead of a physical telephone line to run your business telephone communications. So, whilst the headsets, mobile phones and other traditional products remain the same, the actual calls themselves are made over the internet, and everything technical is managed inside a cloud service. Because your phone system lives in the cloud, it can be used anywhere and it is this flexibility along with countless other benefits that are contributing to the growth in hosted telephony.
Why are more businesses switching to hosted systems?
In the digital age of instant information, constant availability and easy to use systems, customers have become the most demanding they have ever been and this has undoubtedly put pressure on businesses to enhance their communication tools. The flexibility offered by hosted systems has therefore been gathering pace in recent years, and this has also been helped by the availability of more powerful and affordable internet capacities.
As customers have grown to expect a service that caters specifically for them, businesses are looking for ways to ensure they achieve this, and, because one of the first interactions between a customer and a business is often over the phone, a more personalised service is certain to boost that relationship. This is where hosted telephony systems can make a huge difference, as they are specifically designed to enhance customer and employee accessibility.
Enhancing the customer relationship is often about giving them more control over their own experience.
Hosted phone systems will help this by
Automating the voicemail
Customers can be given an alternative message, with other contact methods.
Customers have more control to route their calls to the correct department.
Smarter call routing
Incoming calls can be routed to the next available extension.
Calls can be diverted or twinned with employee mobiles.
Call abandonment rates will be minimised causing less customer frustration.
Improved internal efficiencies
The workforce will be mobilised by quickly and easily routing calls to mobile destinations via their desktop number.
A complete view of the entire company network can be easily accessed to assess resource availability.
If you are looking to improve your customer service and mobilise your workforce, contact us today to find out more about our hosted voice packages.
For many years, businesses across the UK have relied on ISDN lines to connect their business phone systems to the outside world. In the 1990s, ISDN lines (Integrated Services Digital Network) represented a huge advance over previous analogue services for voice and data transmission. ISDN provided new functionality with direct dial numbers, options for number presentation on inbound and outbound calls, and a much better utilisation of the total number of lines available to the phone system or switchboard. ISDN also provided significantly improved data speeds compared to dial-up modems.
The world has moved on, and ISDN for data transmission has been replaced by broadband and Ethernet, with their much faster speeds and affordability delivering a winning combination. New technology has also impacted the evolution of voice services, and business-grade VoIP has become widely available, so its adoption is growing rapidly.
As a consequence, Openreach has recently announced that a gradual shutdown of PSTN and ISDN networks will begin in 2020, and this has caused some alarm among companies who like to maintain their familiar ways of doing things. In 2017 over two million UK businesses were still using ISDN connections, so for these companies the clock is ticking.
The end of the road, or a bright new future?
Companies retaining ISDN lines for voice calls are missing out on features like real-time call analytics or remote working, where employees can appear to be at their desks from anywhere in the world. VoIP is endlessly scalable, and numbers are portable away from the local exchange, whereas ISDN is inherently limited. The flexibility of VoIP makes it much easier to cope with business expansion, spikes in call activity and office moves. VoIP also enables full integration with other business systems such as email, CRM and other software packages, which all helps to drive productivity and adds competitive advantage.
The switchover to VoIP is being supported by the efforts of public and private enterprises to install full-fibre connectivity, enabling clear and reliable voice calling for businesses of any size on a ‘converged’ fibre connection that also provides high-speed internet access. Having one high-speed, high-capacity connection can be much more efficient and cost-effective than ISDN lines and separate internet access. Options are also plentiful for building additional resilience with VoIP, safeguarding business continuity and coping with the unexpected.
Openreach’s phased closure programme means now is the time to start thinking about making a change for the better. These are HighNet’s tips for making a smooth transition from ISDN to VoIP and hyperfast internet connectivity:
1. Investigate when your existing ISDN contract ends. Although the switch-off begins in 2020, BT won’t turn its ISDN networks off entirely until 2025. Your contract is almost certain to end before then, which may represent a good time to transition.
2. Learn the benefits of full fibre. These include line rental savings, and much better reliability than the old copper infrastructure. More bandwidth benefits firms who use cloud-hosted software. Early adoption could even provide a competitive advantage over rivals.
3. Research service providers. Many firms have found HighNet’s business connectivity solutions ideal for their needs. Our Gigabit services are fully future-proofed, while we also provide scalable hosted telephony, and for on-premise phone systems provide SIP Trunks to directly replace ISDN.
4. Plan for the future. This is not only the time to consider the possibility of relocating offices, expanding abroad, and so forth – it is the time to develop that roadmap to a more digitally-enabled future. Part of that long-term business plan should ensure any internet and voice services will be capable of supporting you in every way you need.
Evaluating your long-term voice and data requirements and choosing a suitable partner organisation should make the ISDN switch-off plain sailing. If you’d welcome advice tailored for the specifics of your business, the HighNet team will be happy to discuss options. We can help you to identify the perfect communications solutions for your current and future needs.
Businesses across the UK are benefiting from the government’s commitment to the vision of a full-fibre Britain.
Thanks to the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, vouchers can be used by small businesses to contribute to the cost of installing a gigabit capable connection. Under the scheme, business owners can now claim up to £3,000 against the installation of a connection. It is also possible for businesses to combine vouchers to purchase gigabit supply – which can be particularly beneficial when offices are located far from an exchange box.
The scheme is not just limited to businesses though. Residents too can receive vouchers worth £500 as part of a group project.
Fibre Broadband Connectivity
Registered government gigabit broadband supplier, HighNet, was recently able to set up a full-fibre broadband connection with gigabit capable speed for a 39-bedroom guest house, Bauhaus Hotel and Kitchen, in Aberdeen.
Previously working from a standard copper connection, guests at the hotel (90% of which are business customers) were experiencing download speeds of less than 100 megabits per second (Mbps).
Poor connectivity wasn’t just affecting guests either… crucial links to the hotel booking system were negatively impacted by the meagre download / upload speeds as well.
Taking advantage of the Gigabit Voucher Scheme, hotel owner Brian Brechin was able to use £2,065 of funding towards the installation of a full-fibre broadband connection from HighNet. The Bauhaus Hotel and Kitchen now enjoys vastly improved connectivity of up to 200Mbps across the entire premises, for less than they were paying before.
To find out more about applying for a voucher, get in touch with the award-winning customer support team at HighNet to see how both your business and customers can benefit from better connectivity.
Two of Scotland’s leading companies in the telecoms and IT sectors have confirmed a new strategic alliance which will see them deliver enhanced connectivity solutions for businesses in Edinburgh and the wider UK.
Icelantic, based in Edinburgh and HighNet, which has offices and a presence across Scotland, are set to provide IT, voice, data and mobile solutions to businesses which are founded on a superior security platform that protects against increasing global cyber attacks, backed up by a multi-million pound digital infrastructure built by HighNet.
Together, the companies have thousands of customers all over Scotland and in UK cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and London. Their workforces add up to nearly 100 staff and HighNet is currently recruiting on a number of levels to cope with demand.
Duncan Reid, co-founder of Icelantic said: “Cyber attacks are dangerous and one Edinburgh hospitality firm lost £150,000 due to a computer virus that manipulates on-line banking. So it is a serious issue.
“However, we believe that top level security should be the norm, not the exception. That’s why we’re delighted to announce this strong alliance with HighNet which makes great sense, especially as we have similar approaches to delivering for customers. We are both determined to supply secured IT and connectivity, but we also want to help businesses grow, increase revenue and save costs by delivering innovative and flexible solutions.”
David Hogg, head of sales at HighNet said: “We are extremely pleased to be announcing we will be working in close alliance with Icelantic in Edinburgh and further afield. Our joint delivery will see us providing customers in a wide range of business sectors with IT and connectivity solutions that take advantage of new developments in digital and gigabit technology which save costs and increase speed.
“This enhanced approach to strategic alliances is how all channel partnerships can work and we will look to our partners elsewhere in the UK to build similar routes to market.”
Icelantic is owned by Duncan Reid, Simon Forrest and Neil Grant, and was set up in September 2000 to look after servicing SMEs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The company has grown considerably since then and is particularly adept at meeting the needs of businesses who can’t justify the expense of supporting and managing a large IT staff but who still require reliable, secure, high-performance information systems. The company has the experience and expertise to design and support IT solutions at every level.
HighNet provides voice, mobile and data solutions which are backed up by their independent digital infrastructure, as well as 24/7 UK-based support.
The two companies are already planning a series of new developments, leading with tourism, that will take place over the coming months in Edinburgh and in other parts of the UK.
An online security shield used to protect some of the largest global enterprises from cyber attacks is now being deployed by a leading telecoms provider to safeguard its business and domestic customers.
HighNet is amongst the first telecoms companies in the UK to use the service which has helped eliminate attacks against major government agencies worldwide, as well as leading financial services, pharmaceutical, educational and internet organisations.
The action is needed to combat a growing number of cyber attacks aimed at gaining entry to customers’ computer systems and potentially disrupting or even shutting down business.
Criminal activity, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against businesses, doubled during 2017 and included a high-profile breach affecting the National Lottery.
A UK Government survey also showed that just under half (46 per cent) of all UK businesses identified at least one cyber attack during the previous 12 months, rising to two-thirds among medium-sized firms (66 per cent) and large companies (68 per cent).
HighNet, which manages more than 20,000 business lines across the UK, has installed the new security software as part of a £6.5 million investment in its network.
The system spots when an attack is starting and stops it entering the network, then sends an email alert to HighNet’s engineers.
DDoS attacks involve a network of compromised computers, known as a ‘botnet’, which flood an IP address leaving legitimate traffic unable to get through.
Cybercriminals can use DDoS attacks to cripple a firm’s services, or possibly extort money from a target. They can also be deployed to distract security and IT staff while malware, or malicious software, is installed or data is stolen.
An attack can involve thousands of devices, with everyday objects connected to the internet including webcams, security cameras, TVs and even fridges, vulnerable to being used in a criminal attack if they are not secure.
Duncan Kennedy, HighNet’s network architect, said: “There are a number of attack strategies that are employed, but the most basic and common one is to swamp the target with traffic so that it’s too busy to deal with legitimate business requests.
“It’s like having a shop in the High Street and thousands of people come and jam up the doorway, meaning your customers can’t get in.
“But our ethos is to ensure security, peace of mind and plain sailing for our customers’ telecoms. That’s why we are using world-class, highly sophisticated anti-DDoS protection which stops an attack getting through.
“This acts like a security shield and stops the bad traffic coming in. It’s a very important investment in our network infrastructure.”
HighNet’s new system blocked an attack every couple of days for the first two weeks in January and during the month stopped one of the biggest cyber attacks so far on one of its customers.
“This was a sophisticated, multivector attack targeting a customer in Aberdeen, and was of sufficient bandwidth to have had a serious impact on their business”, said Duncan. “Most attacks we see are much smaller than this example, but in recent weeks we’ve started to see, and block, more of these high bandwidth attacks.”
Conventional firewalls offer little or no defence against DDoS attacks, he said: “Because the first D in DDoS stands for distributed, you can’t easily install a firewall rule or something similar that will stop this kind of attack.
“Firewalls are designed to block bad traffic from single sources, whereas a DDoS attack is the combined effect of thousands of devices swamping a target, usually with what is otherwise legitimate traffic.”
Duncan advised people to be more security conscious in the age of the ‘Internet of Things’ when many devices are connected online.
“In terms of stopping your own kit being used, or being taken over to participate in cyber attacks, you should be aware of some basic network security points. Don’t just plug in TVs or other appliances to the internet without changing the default password, for example.”
Other tips for securing your devices:
Make sure all your passwords are secure
Make sure the software on devices is up to date.
Only connect devices if you plan to use that functionality (eg don’t connect a TV to the network if it’s just going to show broadcasted channels)
If you don’t need it, turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on your router and IoT devices.
HighNet has also been successful in tackling a number of voicemail fraud attempts on customers.
Voicemail, or dial-through, fraud is a growing problem in the UK, costing businesses £953 million annually – making it bigger than credit card fraud. It can cost companies upwards of £1,000 per day and potentially thousands of pounds during a holiday period.
It occurs when criminals target phone systems from the outside and use them to make a high volume of calls, typically to premium rate or overseas numbers.
Hackers can obtain access to a business’s call-forwarding system via its voicemail if security passwords have either not been set or are not strong enough. They can then call an extension which has call-forwarding enabled, directing the call to the premium-rate number, with the revenue for those calls being received by the fraudsters.
HighNet has revealed that in the past year its security systems have intercepted eight fraud cases – involving numbers from Morocco, Cuba, Liberia, Togo, Tunisia, Albania and Bosnia – potentially worth around £100,000 in total.
Instead, the total cost was limited to £2,327, with some of the victims escaping without any financial loss due to the level of protection they have.
Leading Scottish telecoms company HighNet has been declared Constituency Responsible Business Champion by an influential UK Parliament group.
The award is recognition for its work in the community, as well as its working practices which benefit both employees and customers.
The announcement comes as part of Responsible Business Week (23-27 April) which commends companies from around the UK for their high standard of business practices.
The All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group (APCRG), which has provided the award, was created to highlight and reward companies for responsible business practices which go beyond mere compliance with legal and contractual obligations to support their local communities.
As a constituency champion, HighNet now qualifies as one of the Scottish representatives that will also take part in the national award event which the APCRG will host at Westminster on 4 July. This will see constituency champions from around the UK compete for the national title. HighNet was nominated for the constituency of Drew Hendry MP (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey).
HighNet was recommended to the APCRG by Drew Hendry MP because of the company’s success in supporting local charities and youth projects; working with the University of the Highlands and Islands to introduce young people to careers in telecoms; supporting the region’s media awards through sponsorship; implementing a green energy programme for its vehicles and office practices; setting up an online HighNet Academy for the training of its apprentices; and breaking the industry norms on the recruitment of young people and women.
Said Mr Hendry: “HighNet is implementing ground-breaking practices which make it an excellent example of corporate responsibility. The company thoroughly deserves its nomination and title of Constituency Responsible Business Champion.
“I’m sure HighNet will be well regarded at the national award ceremony in July. Its work with young people, the success with inclusivity and its care for the environment are all worthy of recognition.”
David Siegel, managing director of HighNet, said: “We are delighted to receive this award. Corporate responsibility is very important to us and it touches all areas of our business. Our ethos is to deliver plain sailing in everything we do, which translates into smooth and easy progress. That is made possible by giving proper care and attention to our corporate responsibilities.
“At present, 48 per cent of our workforce is aged 29 or under and this financial year alone we recruited six apprentices across the business who are currently undergoing admin and IT apprenticeships.
“The norm for levels of women working in our industry is 25 per cent, but at HighNet it is 39 per cent. We’re also implementing a green energy programme for our company vehicles which will see us use hybrid technology and create electricity charging points at our Inverness head office.
“We look forward now to also attending the national award event and continuing our commitment to corporate responsibility.”