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.
 
The practicalities
 
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:
 
High costs
 
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.
 
Poor scalability
 
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, just click 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.

  Visit our website for more information and to register your interest

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.

Contact us today if you’d like to find out more.

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:

 

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.

 

We outline these advantages in detail, but here is a quick look at some of the key differences a hosted system will bring.

 

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.

 

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 how to 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

 

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.