Is your telecom’s supplier too expensive?

With ISDN switch-off on the horizon, it gives you a chance to look at new technology and a proven way to cut business costs.

If you’ve had ISDN for several years, then you might be taking your phone system for granted and may not consider it important to look for alternatives. Well now is the time you should go out and take a look! By moving to SIP Trunks, you can switch to the best communications suppliers, get the best service for your business, and save a lot of money in the process.

What are SIP Trunks?

SIP Trunking is an established technology that uses Internet to route telephone calls. ‘Channels’ act as ‘virtual-lines’ in a broadband service, to carry your calls, and allow you to:

  • Reduce call and rental costs considerably (in excess of 50%)!
  • Build a flexible phone system that can be adapted to help you as your business changes.
  • Future-proof your telecom’s to reduce costs long-term.
  • And to remove those costly ISDN lines!

Why aren’t I being offered SIP Trunks by my existing Provider then?

Your existing telecom’s provider may have a SIP Trunk product, but might not be promoting it. The reason is that;

  • They have invested a lot of money into ISDN and want to keep customers on it as long as possible.
  • They earn more from an ISDN customer than they do from a SIP Trunk customer!
  • They may not yet have the expertise and experience with VoIP and SIP Trunks.

Why doesn’t my existing provider cut my bills?

There is no incentive for a telecom’s supplier rooted in ISDN, to get you off ISDN and onto SIP Trunking – as that reduces their margins. Fortunately, there is now widespread deployment of SIP Trunks, and there are telecom’s suppliers who are interested in providing you with the right product rather than just protecting their income.

What do I get if I move to SIP Trunks then?

You’ll get a lot of benefits to do with cost and flexibility;

  • SIP Trunk channels are cheaper than ISDN channels, and call tariffs are lower.
  • There are no charges for supplementary services like addition of DDI numbers and Caller ID.
  • The number of SIP channels you have can be increased or decreased in minutes – and deployment of the service day-one, has lead-times of less than 4 hours.
  • SIP Trunks are portable to give the same service through a different broadband service, at a different location – so Disaster Recovery is simpler and faster.
  • SIP Trunks can be connected to literally hundreds of reputable IP-PBX systems and gateways.

Contact us at Foxhall Solutions – 01787 228402 – to talk about reducing your business costs!

ISDN switch off … Why is VoIP better?

BT have announced plans to carry out an ISDN switch off by 2020 – and phase out the network entirely by 2025.  BT Openreach provide telecom’s services to around 27 million UK homes and businesses.  Their alternative to ISDN is ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ [VoIP], served up as a hosted offering under long-term rental contracts (BT ‘Cloud Voice’ & ‘Cloud Phone’).

Why is VoIP better than ISDN?

VoIP is a newer, proven and more flexible technology, but that aside, there are some real advantages to moving your business telecom’s to VoIP:

Cost:  ISDN is more expensive to install, rent and make calls on. SIP Trunk channels are configured in new or existing Broadband Internet services, and are typically £3 to £4 per channel per month. There are no SIP channel ‘installation’ charges for your new VoIP system (or when you add more channels). Call tariffs are low for both domestic and International destinations. SIP Trunk channels can be set up for you in ‘minutes’ rather than the months you wait for ISDN lines – making your business more effective, faster.

Reliability:  Faults on ISDN lines are often quite slow to fix. VoIP faults can be detected, diagnosed & repaired much quicker. In addition, it’s now easy to have SIP Trunk services from different suppliers so that connection problems with one carrier can be by-passed using another, while issues are sorted. SIP Trunk services are also very much easier to move to another premises for Disaster Recovery. Replication of Trunk-line services at another site, on another broadband service, can be done in minutes.

Portability:  ISDN can be very restrictive and won’t allow you take your numbers with you when you move your business. I’ve even seen this happen when the lines are coming from the same exchange! Direct Dial Inward [DDI] numbers associated with your VoIP SIP Trunk channels are 100% portable, and can move with you – even to another country!  Unlike ISDN, VoIP numbers can have any geographical prefix so that you can show a national or International presence in your advertising.  VoIP Phone systems also allow us to present an extension’s Direct Dial number as its outbound Caller ID, making it easy for customers & suppliers to call you back (ISDN will present the same single ‘base’ number for all outbound calls).

Scalability:  New Direct Dial numbers and SIP Trunk channels can be added to (or removed from), a VoIP system in minutes. This means you can be flexible enough to change your business telecom’s capacity and costs, to meet your needs as they evolve, rapidly and at low cost!

What do I need to do to get ready for this?

The sooner you plan to migrate away from ISDN the better – both from a practical “don’t get caught when it switches off!” point of view, as well as from a ‘cost-of-ownership’ angle. Every year you rent ISDN lines, you are paying a major percentage of the cost of a new VoIP phone system! It makes no sense to wait, as all the benefits are right here for you right now …

If you are opening a new office, or moving to new premises, then there’s the same argument. It only makes it more expensive and takes longer to get your services connected, if you order ISDN lines.

Migration to VoIP is not complicated for most businesses, and can even be done without disrupting existing business telephones.  Here at Foxhall Solutions, we remove the hassles and provide; the line, broadband, SIP Trunks, DDI numbers, number porting, Phone systems, phone-sets, installation, commissioning, user training, ongoing support – and itemised monthly call-billing for your new phone system.

Contact Foxhall Solutions at 01787 228402 to talk about moving away from ISDN to a flexible and cost-effective telecom’s solution.

 

What are my options when ISDN ends?

With the end of ISDN in sight, you may be worried that you have to junk your Digital PBX – and all the extension phones that go with it – and buy a whole new VoIP telephone system.  While there may be very good reasons for doing so, that’s not your only option …

Our partner – Yeastar – have produced a range of ISDN gateways designed to interface Basic (2-channel) and Primary Rate (30-channel) ISDN services into their S-Series IP-PBX appliances. This usually allows us to connect ISDN lines along-side VoIP SIP Trunk services (e.g. where the broadband is not reliable). However, the reverse is also true … These gateways can ‘flipped’ so that an ISDN port on a Digital PBX can be connected to the gateway, and then the gateway can be connected to Cloud-based SIP Trunk services through Broadband, provided by an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP).

We have four Gateways available:

For larger companies, the TE100 will interface a single ‘Primary Rate’ ISDN30e [E1] service allowing provision of up to 30 channels to carry external calls to and from the PBX. The TE200 terminates two E1 services from the PBX, allowing up to 60 channels for external calls.

For smaller businesses, a TB200 gateway will interface two ‘Basic Rate’ ISDN2e [BRI] services allowing provision of up to four channels to carry calls, while its big-brother, the TB400 will interface four ISDN2e services, allowing connection of up to eight active SIP Trunk line channels.

What are the advantages?:

First of all, this requires no changes to your existing Digital PBX or the extension phones supported by it. The gateways aren’t cheap, but they don’t incur monthly rental, and are nowhere near the combined costs of a new phone system, new handsets and associated user training.

Literally hundreds of SIP Trunk channels can be delivered through a low-cost FTTC/VDSL broadband service, or on a small portion of your existing leased line DSL. It’s therefore possible to dramatically reduce the number of lines and overall costs for voice and data connections to the outside world.

The costs associated with rental of SIP Trunk services are orders of magnitude lower than for ISDN. A recent costing exercise showed us a 25% reduction in set-up / hardware costs over ISDN30e, and an ongoing monthly reduction of 80% in ‘line’ rental charges over the ISDN30e. Your existing DDI number range can be ported to an ITSP’s SIP Trunk service (the process includes the ‘cease’ of the ISDN lines), and after that your monthly costs are only for SIP Trunk channels and outbound call minutes. There are no additional charges for caller ID and DDI numbers – but these are active, included and provided as standard SIP services. A typical SIP Trunk channel rental is just £4 per month – while a typical monthly rental for an ISDN30e channel, is £28 (plus CLI and DDI services). Connection charges for SIP Trunk channels are £zero! – in comparison, ISDN30e connection charges are around £105 per channelThis means that ROI time for the gateway purchase is quite short when compared to your monthly ISDN service charges!

With some modern digital PBX systems, it is possible to terminate Internet and SIP Trunk services directly at the PBX itself … However, when doing so, be aware that some system manufacturers (e.g. Avaya), require you to purchase licenses to interface and support calls on SIP Trunk channels. Installation of a Yeastar gateway makes no change to the ISDN line termination on the Digital PBX and therefore you have no redundant line interface cards, no inbound and outbound route re-configuration, and no SIP license fees to pay.

Get in touch with us at Foxhall Solutions, to talk about how you would like to move on from ISDN, and reduce your operation costs … 01787 228402

Hosted VoIP v’s SIP Trunking … debunking some common myths

With phase-out of UK ISDN services by 2025 now a reality, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is way past being considered a ‘fringe technology’ with Hosted VoIP and SIP Trunks being the practical and proven successors to that aged, expensive and inflexible telecom’s service.

When you look for a new VoIP telephone system, you’ll see two types of ‘supplier’ proposals;

Hosted VoIP

Hosted VoIP provides phone-sets at your office, with the ‘intelligence’ behind the call-connection and routing in a Media Server in a data centre out on the Internet. Your on-site phones will use your computer network and broadband to get to that ‘Cloud’ Server, and it’s the hosting company who is responsible for routing calls onward to local, national, mobile and International destinations using carriers of their choice. Examples of this are BT’s ‘Cloud Phone’ and ‘Cloud Voice’.

On-Premise IP-PBX

The alternative is to have your own VoIP Server (IP-PBX) – as part of your computer network at your office (e.g. 3CX or Yeastar). This server can support local phone-sets, as well as analogue, ISDN and SIP Trunk [VoIP] channels in an Internet connection. SIP Trunks are virtual lines carrying phone calls within a broadband Internet connection. The SIP trunks are hosted on an Internet based Media Server, but in this case, the Server simply routes calls to and from your IP-PBX which carries out all of the internal & external call routing. It’s up to you which carriers you choose to give you the best call rates.

“When I was a lad …”

You may remember ‘Centrex’ and BT’s ‘Featureline’ services. The idea behind these was to have a phone on each company desk, with a line connecting it back to a centralised exchange that provided the kind of features you’d expect to see from a private ‘switchboard’ e.g. extension to extension calling, conferences and call transfers. We sold a lot of PBX systems against this, simply because the typical business scenario (and it’s still the case), is that the number of simultaneous calls you need to connect, is a lot less than the number of extension phones you have on company desks! It’s only in Call Centres that you’ll see a need for a similar number of trunk lines as extensions! For that reason, Centrex systems were expensive to run because customers were renting a lot more lines than they needed to support their calling needs.

So – Here’s some reasons why Hosted VoIP may not be the ‘cheap’ option its presented as:

Hosted VoIP is presented as cheap to set-up, due to the capital cost of phones and network hardware being wrapped-up in the monthly per-extension (“per-seat”) rental. This may appear to be the case; But, in most installs we see that Capital Expenditure over the first 12 months for a Hosted VoIP system is much the same  (if not more), as a project quote for outright purchase of an on-site IP-PBX solution. The big difference between the systems being that in subsequent years, the running costs of the IP-PBX will be orders of magnitude lower due to the low rental cost of SIP Trunk channels, and extremely competitive call tariffs – while with a hosted solution, you just keep on ‘buying’ that system year after year.

Some Hosted VoIP system suppliers will not take your existing computer network into account, and will simply provide phones to plug into existing network switches and use your router to get to the Internet. This is ‘cheap’ because it removes any need to purchase networking hardware … But, when voice and data need to co-exist on a network, there does need to be some basic engineering done to accommodate that! If your network has not been engineered to support VoIP, then you risk poor call quality and loss of customers. This is an important consideration for both Hosted and on-premises VoIP systems. Some hosted VoIP suppliers may set up a second ‘separate’ network supporting your phones, and their Internet access. While this removes voice and data network issues, it also removes a lot of the cost benefits of being able to use a single large-bandwidth broadband service for Internet and telecom’s access, and removes ‘computer integration’ [CTI] features allowing your phones to work with Company contacts databases and CRM systems.

Hosted VoIP solutions lack the ability to provide Hybrid line systems. Where broadband is not available as a high-speed fibre service, it may be more reliable to have an on-premises system using SIP Trunk services that are backed up by analogue or ISDN lines. If you discover that your broadband is not as reliable as you thought, an IP-PBX may be fitted with ‘Gateways’ for alternative legacy analogue/ISDN line services, but hosted VoIP systems cannot provide this. They also make it expensive to rent ‘specialist’ extensions like door-entry units, Reception area extensions and Conference phones that provide a useful service but carry a lot fewer calls per month than e.g. the sales department extensions.

Hosted VoIP platforms provide onward connection to local, national, mobile and International services through carrier partners under service and tariff agreements with the hosting company. Therefore, the call tariffs are set by the hosting company, and you – the end user – have no ability to choose an alternate carrier to give you better rates to frequently called destinations. On-site IP-PBX servers can terminate multiple SIP Trunk service providers, and the IP-PBX can be configured to ‘Least-Cost-Route’ calls through those SIP Trunk groups based on the number dialled e.g. if you want services from a VoIP Carrier giving a better tariff to UK mobile numbers, then a SIP Trunk group can be added and calls commencing ’07’ can be dialled out that route. Recently, I was able to order and add a multi-channel SIP Trunk group & DDI numbers to an IP-PBX platform for one of my customers, providing them with a very large reduction in monthly call charges to mobile numbers – in less than an hour!

Hosted VoIP service providers must have longer-term contracts to ensure that they cover their investment in the central equipment and to cover the phones and network equipment they ‘gave’ you at the start of your contract. For this reason, you’ll see contract periods for Hosted VoIP that are three to five years, while SIP Trunk service prices are still very attractive with 12 month contracts on line and broadband, then monthly contracts on SIP Trunk services. Despite all the hype about ‘hosted’ being the cheaper option, this means that in real terms, your Hosted VoIP solution could cost you four to five times as much as an on-premises IP-PBX at the end of that five year contract!  A good revenue generation model for Telecom’s companies, but not cost-effective for the customer – i.e. you!

Some popular myths busted! …

On-premises IP-PBX systems WILL support remote office and home office extensions just as well as Hosted VoIP. Having an IP-PBX server doesn’t prevent or complicate remote working.

On-premises IP-PBX systems do NOT require on site networking and software management expertise to run. Modern systems run on platforms requiring minimal hardware maintenance with full remote support facilities included – so that when needed, the system vendor can make the changes that the customer requires from anywhere that allows him or her, Internet access. Hosted VoIP support is exactly the same … After all, your supplier doesn’t ‘live’ in the data centre do they! …

Just like hosted systems, it is quite straight-forward to carry out automated back-up of on-premises IP-PBX equipment, and to provide alternate hardware if there is an IP-PBX system failure. In the case of 3CX, we could even use a Windows 10 laptop while server hardware is repaired or replaced.

IP-PBX systems are typically much better integrated with your Local Area [computer] Network, and therefore, deployment of utilities to integrate PC desk-top directory and CRM app’s is much easier. While this feature is low on the list for purchase of a new VoIP system, we often see this as something that users enthusiastically adopt as they get used to the facilities provided by their new phones.

Pre-paid calling plans are VERY rarely of advantage to the customer. Low cost call-tariffs with billing by the second usually provide the most cost-effective billing for your outbound calls – Unless you are an out-bound call centre!

IP-PBX systems are just as scalable as hosted VoIP systems, allowing massive amounts of growth in lines and users without needing to replace central equipment.

And IP-PBX systems are just as secure as Hosted VoIP … In fact, a server supporting hundreds of telephone systems is more of a prize for a hacker to crack, than a single system.

 

Contact Foxhall Solutions at 01787 228 402 to discuss your best options for a cost-effective upgrade from ISDN services …

BT announces the end of ISDN

ISDN switch-off has been announced. BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson has set a date of 2025 to switch off the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) networks.

It might seem a long way off – but with millions of subscribers to migrate and little further investment in the existing ISDN likely to take place, switching to more sophisticated SIP technology should be a priority for businesses. Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) is a data communications protocol ‘standard’ designed to support the features required to set-up, handle and clear-down Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls on Local and Wide Area TCP/IP data networks.

While it sounds like a job for the telecoms department, an industry survey* in 2016, revealed that 52% of IT managers also have responsibility for telecoms. The same survey revealed that 67% of IT managers don’t know what SIP is, despite its status as the next big shift in telecoms.

SIP trunking is a very cost-effective, powerful, scalable and highly flexible solution that helps businesses to streamline their communication costs and resources. Its key features are the removal of physical phone lines – replacing them with ‘virtual line channels’ in an Internet connection, and reducing the restrictions around call capacity and location. The fact that it uses ‘virtual’ phone lines rather than physical wire pairs, means SIP is highly scalable and  – depending on the number of ‘lines’ used – we’ve seen monthly call and service charges typically 40% to 80% cheaper than traditional ISDN lines. It also makes it easier to increase, and decrease the number of ‘lines’ for your business needs, with very short lead times (< 24 Hrs) – and very low connection fees!

But it’s not just the cost savings that make SIP such an attractive proposition – it also offers a level of flexibility that traditional ISDN simply can’t compete with. As workforces continue to gravitate towards flexible working, the demand for remote office and mobile solutions are only going to increase in the coming years. SIP enables employees who are working remotely to have internal and external calls made to their desk-phone automatically delivered to their smartphone or PC, without incurring any forwarding charges. The same is true if a line is busy, or if an office is hit with an unforeseen event – e.g. a local network failure, severe weather or fire damage. SIP trunking minimises these problems, allowing a business to adopt a very flexible Disaster Recovery strategy, and keep working through most eventualities.

And let’s not underestimate the importance of that. The industry survey* also found that for 63% of respondents, it would take less than two hours of being unable to make or receive calls before a business suffered reputation or financial damage!

Of course, not everyone likes change – and ISDN has undoubtedly been a robust and reliable technology. However, bear in mind that during this phase-out of ISDN, BT’s investment in the technology will also diminish – making it less reliable over time.

So – with the switch to SIP inevitable, what should organisations consider before making the move? As with most things in life, it’s all about selecting the right partner. Businesses should do their research and try to find a provider that has its network, data centre and connectivity all under one roof. It’s only when something goes wrong and customers realise they have account management with one company, connectivity with another and a data centre on the other side of the country that things become a real headache. Before committing to a contract, they should make sure they know where every aspect of the solution is being housed – and try to pick one that has an end-to-end service.

There are six steps to switching to SIP:

  • Ensuring you have capacity [bandwidth] in your Internet connection
  • Setting up the phones and call routes
  • Putting a Disaster Recovery plan/strategy in place
  • Planning system migration & porting existing numbers
  • Testing the set-up and call routing
  • and securing the system from external attack.

Of course, we at Foxhall Solutions can assist with this process and introduce our Internet and Carrier partners to provide a reliable and easily supported telephone system solution. Contact Us now to talk about how we can reduce your costs and increase your capabilities to work with your customers, suppliers and staff.

*Sourced from Neil Armstrong, director of business services, Timico

What to ask before Buying a new Phone System

Selecting the Right Phone System for you …

You have probably heard about VoIP, but might not understand how it applies to a new phone system for your business? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone! Although it’s a well proven technology (in use since 2004), and the benefits of its use are accepted, it is something that you may be nervous about, simply because to you, VoIP is an ‘unknown’.

As with everything in your business, there are a few questions that need answering before you go setting budgets and short-listing systems. Here are seven questions that will help you select the right phone system for your business:

  1. What type of phone system best fits your business?

While there are a lot of VoIP system manufacturers out there to choose from, they may be broadly split into two ‘types’;

You may suit a ‘hosted’ VoIP system, where the phones are at your offices, but the central equipment that makes the connections to the fixed & mobile phone networks, is off somewhere on the Internet, and uses Internet to connect the extensions to the central equipment.

Or – you might be better suited to an on-site system, where some sort of ‘server’ is acting as the controller for your phones, and connecting your calls to a ‘carrier’ who has responsibility for onward connection of your calls to fixed and mobile networks. In this case, the Internet is used to connect your ‘trunk lines’ (SIP Trunk channels).

Have a look at this article to find out more about the two types of VoIP systems …

There are pro’s and con’s for both systems, but in general, we have found that on-site systems have a lower cost of ownership, and provide a lot more flexibility in regard to integration of different carrier services and line types. It is notable that for both types of VoIP, you do need to ensure that the phones are plugged into a computer network that is designed to support VoIP traffic and give it priority. That means, if it’s done properly, hosted VoIP is not necessarily the cheaper option!

  1. Why are you looking for a new phone system?

Besides the basic fact that you need to make and take phone calls, what are the most important things that you are looking to get from your phone system?

Apart from how they are marketed and how their features are licensed & applied after the initial system sale, most VoIP systems are much the same. For example, it’s useful to know that if you want voice-mail to be available on other than the receptionist’s extension, you’re not going to have to purchase more hardware and/or software to do so …

This is why it’s important to have some ideas about how you want your incoming calls to be handled by the new system. VoIP phone systems are a lot more flexible than what you might be replacing, so don’t be afraid to ask about things like; voice-mail for all extensions, using e-mail to get voice-mail to people, integrating mobile phones into the system, automatic switching between in and out-of-hours, holiday schedules, using Microsoft Outlook contacts as your phone book … etc.

Use your imagination and ask about your ‘nice-to-haves’ – as you may be pleasantly surprised!

  1. Will your phone system integrate with other business systems?

One of those nice benefits you hear about is the ability for a VoIP phone system to integrate with other business systems like your CRM or ERP platform – so you can dial out from a customer record, or screen-pop a record when a call comes in. Some systems offer API’s for integration with certain software, some need 3rd party applications, and some don’t offer this capability at all.

You should ask your vendor which business & CRM systems can integrate off-the-shelf, and which require integration with your new VoIP system when you are being presented with a solution.

  1. Will you be deploying, maintaining and supporting the phone system yourself?

If you have capable IT staff, chances are you will be able to carry out a lot of the deployment and maintenance of the system yourself. You may also want to look at some form of first-line system support training as part of the project package. If you do not have IT staff you might want to consider a Support Agreement with a service level agreement that reflects how critical your phones are to your business.

  1. Who will be providing your voice service?

VoIP systems can be extremely flexible in using the services of different ‘carriers’ to provide you with the lowest call tariffs to different local, national and International fixed and mobile services.

It’s important that you also investigate and short-list VoIP carriers along with your short-list of systems. If you are going to be using VoIP ensure your VoIP provider is compatible with your phone system, and – yes, I’ve seen it happen before – please avoid purchasing your VoIP carrier services before you decide on your phone system. Although ‘SIP’ standards allow connection to almost any carrier, there may be very good reasons to go with one ‘Telephony Internet Service Provider’ for Internet connection and VoIP services, rather than another.

In most cases, VoIP systems use Internet connections to carry phone calls. However, in some instances, you may be restricted to using ‘traditional’ ISDN or analogue lines. This does not mean that you can’t use a VoIP system, but we do have to take this into account as ‘gateways’ will be needed to connect these line types.

  1. What is the total cost of ownership?

You love the fact that VoIP can save you money, but will it? You need to look at the total cost of owning a VoIP phone system.

Buying purely on price will get you into trouble! More reliable, expandable systems do tend to cost more per-user up-front. However, the savings you will see in the long run (from lower monthly service costs, least-cost-routing and better call tariffs), make it worthwhile. As your business evolves you will want to add users to your system, so find out how easily the system can be expanded, (or contracted), changed and upgraded as new features and technologies are released.

  1. What do your users want?

Even if it is last in the list this is very important for you to consider. Each user or employee type has different needs that you need to meet.

Prior to purchasing a system you should ask each of them what they would like to be able to do with their phone – both while they are in the office, and when they are out. This will allow you to align needs with benefits for a particular system. It might be that you need something different for a Reception phone, and/or DECT cordless extensions …

An artist will always paint best when they select their own palette & brushes!

Does that make sense?

If you follow this advice and walk through each of these steps you are going to find other questions you will need answered. But that’s the point – you need to go through the proper steps to make sure that you are selecting the right VoIP phone system.

With our background – including mission critical telecommunications for Civil Aviation and the City of London, Foxhall Solutions will use our voice and data expertise to provide you with a new phone system – properly integrated with your existing network – with a load of features and benefits to help your business keep in touch with your staff, suppliers and customers.

Use our Contact Us page, or call us at 01787 228 402 and we’ll show you how we put the Comm’s in Commerce!