Nice Feature – 3CX HotDesking

3CX have re-introduced ‘HotDesking‘ in an integrated, easy-to-use form, with service pack 2 of 3CX version 15.5  (for those systems with 3CX license keys supporting the ‘Pro’ or ‘Enterprise’ versions only however).

What is HotDesking?:

HotDesking allows phones to be ‘pooled’ for use by staff so that one physical phone can have several different extension profiles applied to it. This means that depending who is using the phone at the time; they may be a member of a different call group or queue, have a different outbound Caller ID, be a target for different incoming calls for Direct Dial numbers, and have a different set of internal and external DSS keys to make calls to their primary contacts.

This feature may be applied to as many users and phones as you want, and is perfect for situations where e.g. you have staff in a sales team needing a live phone when they call into the office between customer visits. In essence, it means that you may have more extension numbers issued than you have phones!

How does it work?:

Previous versions of 3CX combined the configuration profile of the phone with that of the extension user. HotDesking allows us to designate extension users who have HotDesk permission, and configure phones to be members of a HotDesk pool in two separate configuration modules in 3CX Management.  Using a simple dial-pad sequence involving a feature code, the extension number, and a PIN – a HotDesk user prompts the phone to carry out a provisioning download, which will push their pre-configured profile into that phone and make it active. Some phones do this faster than others, but this ‘provisioning’ usually takes less than 30 seconds.

When the user is finished with the phone, they simply press a ‘Logout’ button which dumps their profile, and sets the phone back to a ‘dumb’ mode awaiting a new sign-on.

This is definitely not a feature for all 3CX installs, but where you need flexibility to accommodate part-time and remote workers who visit your office, it is an ideal way to provide a bespoke phone for that user, rather than trying to provide pool-phones set up for one-size-fits-all!

Give us a call at Foxhall Solutions – 01787 320402 – to talk about how HotDesking could be a benefit to your business …

ISDN switch off … why is VoIP better?

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

How is VoIP better than ISDN?

VoIP is a newer 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 upon. SIP Trunk channels are typically £2 to £3 per channel per month with no installation charge with your new system, or when you add more. Call tariffs are low for both domestic and International destinations. SIP Trunk channels can be set up for you in ‘hours’ 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 diagnosed & repaired much quicker. In addition, it’s now easy to have SIP Trunk services from different suppliers so that problems with a carrier can be by-passed using alternate call routes.

Portability:  ISDN can be very restrictive in letting you take your numbers with you when you move your business – even on some occasions where the lines are coming from the same exchange! Direct Dial Inward [DDI] numbers associated with your SIP Trunk channels are 100% portable, and can move with you – even to another country!  Unlike ISDN, VoIP hosted DDI 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 DDI number as its outbound Caller ID, making it easy for customers & suppliers to call you back – where ISDN will present the same single number for all outbound calls.

Scalability:  New DDI numbers and SIP Trunk channels can be added to a VoIP system in minutes. This means you can be flexible enough to change your business telecom’s to meet your business needs as they evolve, and at very low cost!

So – 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 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, 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 draws out timescales if you order ISDN lines.

Migration to VoIP is not complicated for most businesses, and can even be done without disrupting existing telephone services.  Here at Foxhall Solutions, we can provide the; line, broadband, SIP Trunks, DDI numbers, number porting, Phone systems, phone hand-sets, installation, commissioning, user training, ongoing support and itemised monthly 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.

 

“MP’s will lose their landlines …”.

“MP’s will lose their landlines as national copper shortage means suppliers can only offer Skype”.

This was a headline article in the Telegraph printed on July 7th – illustrating just how much is NOT known about modern Voice over IP [VoIP] phone systems. I felt that this article was bereft of accuracy – I had to comment …

The article tells us that “the traditional copper-wire telephone network is to be phased out of Parliament entirely …” The first thing to note is that VoIP phone systems use cat.5e and cat.6 copper networking cabling – just like computers do. 305 Metre boxes of cat.5e cable are still readily available and priced similar to what they were 12 months ago [what copper shortage?]. For many years now, businesses have been cabling cat.5e outlets for both computers & telephones and using adaptors where the phone-set has the old-style BT plug on it. So – despite what we are told, the death of copper cabling is not yet on the horizon.

“MP’s and peers will use the Skype internet telephony service …” That’s interesting! Skype has grown as a peer-to-peer communications tool, using PC’s to switch calls between parties across the world wide web and due to several key service outages, has had to grow up from the original peer-to-peer model, into the full client-Server system it ‘so didn’t want to be‘ when it was conceived. How long should we wait for the first news of security breaches when somebody intercepts a Government call at their PC?  The article goes on to tell us that “officials believe the new system will provide ‘equivalent’ levels of protection against eavesdropping …”   There are many ‘secure’ Phone systems available that are capable of encrypting VoIP calls – but that’s not the normal mode for Skype! These VoIP systems are also designed to provide call flow management so that incoming calls can go to departments rather than trying to find individuals – as well as providing a full suite of audio and video-conferencing as promised by Skype. If there was ever a case for having a secure on-premises phone system solution rather than putting every private ‘internal’ call across the Internet – then you’d think that this would be it!

Hosted Skype extensions for the Government – What are they thinking?

“BT is planning to phase out its traditional telephone network across the country by 2025 – replacing the system with VoIP which uses fibre optic cables”. BT’s core switching services may go VoIP by 2025 and be on fibre-optic back-bones, but there will be a lot of copper lines out there delivering broadband services to both homes and businesses. It’s been difficult enough getting to deployment targets for high-speed broadband – so – is getting fibre to every home & business by 2025 a reality?  Your broadband service [on a local copper line] is going to remain a very cost-effective replacement for your ISDN and analogue phone services for a long time past 2025!

“There had been a failed procurement with no bids received for supporting a copper-wire system, showing that there was no longer any alternative to a VOIP system.” This is also interesting – We sell a lot of VoIP phone-sets and currently, a VoIP phone with a fibre-optic interface is pretty rare! [and if you can find one, it will be very expensive!].  The phones we use will typically have two RJ45 data sockets on the back, to allow connection into computer network using ‘copper’ cat.5e or cat.6 patch-cabling. The phones have two connections so that if you only have one network data socket at your desk, you can cable this to the phone, and then from the phone to the PC – and that will provide ‘copper’ access for both network devices.

In summary, VoIP systems do use network cabling based on copper wire pairs. VoIP systems currently use ‘gateways’ to interface analogue and ISDN telephone lines, as well as connecting VoIP SIP Trunk services – so it is possible to use your current lines and numbers along-side additional SIP Trunk capacity to take advantage of lower ‘line/channel’ costs and cheaper call tariffs. Those legacy line interfaces can be phased out between now and 2025 – and replaced with SIP Trunk channels without requiring any phone system or handset replacement. You can also ‘port’ your numbers from the analogue and ISDN lines to SIP Trunk services without disruption. A VoIP phone system is not a radical system change that you are forced into, it’s a natural technological progression integrating with new and existing services, on existing network cabling & hardware.

About the only thing the Telegraph gets right, is that VoIP is now the standard for telephone systems.

Give Foxhall Solutions a call at – 01787 320402 – if you’d like to get the full story about a future phone system for your business.

Should I give up my landlines and use mobiles instead?

Last week, a story broke that “Accountancy giant PwC is doing away with landlines at office desks” and using “more efficient” mobile phones. We ask – ‘Is this the start of a new trend?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story also told us that ‘landline usage was falling rapidly’.  This may be the case, but not because they are being replaced by mobiles! Legacy landlines (fixed analogue and ISDN lines) are being rapidly replaced by VoIP channels in broadband Internet services. These ‘SIP Trunk’ channels are much easier & faster to provide and are a fraction of the rental cost of analogue or ISDN lines. Other reports out there will tell you about the meteoric 18+% cumulative annual growth rate in the global SIP Trunk market! In the business world, landlines are being replaced by SIP Trunks, definitely not dropped!

The landline is far from dead! It’s still there but in a much more flexible and cost-effective guise.

The big question though, is how can mobile phones be ‘more efficient’ for a company than having extensions off a telephone system? Let’s look at some of the facts that you’ll need to consider if you are thinking about dropping your ‘landlines’ and going ‘all-mobile’ …

Capital costs:

The central IP-PBX component of modern phone systems for SME’s, will usually cost less than a single Apple iPhone! High-end VoIP feature-phones (e.g. our Yealink T46G or Fanvil X6), also cost a fraction of an iPhone, and a lot less than other mainstream Android devices. So junking your phone system and replacing it with ‘company’ mobiles, is not the cheaper option. If you’re talking to someone who suggests that it could be, then please give us a call!

Ongoing service rentals:

Monthly rentals on mobiles are much higher than monthly rentals on SIP Trunk channels. SIP Trunks are around £3 per channel per month, and because typically you need a lot less trunk lines than extensions in a phone system, the ongoing cost of ownership for a VoIP IP-PBX system is VERY much lower than for mobiles.

Costs of ‘Internal’ calls:

If you use mobiles, all internal and external calls will be at mobile tariff rates. You may have a calling plan, but, be assured that it’s not ‘free’ when you call a colleague – it’s simply pre-paid!  However, a modern VoIP phone system will allow you to make true zero-cost calls to colleagues in your office, or at branch offices as these calls are going via local network and Internet, and not through metered cellphone or PSTN routes.

Remember too, that when you go mobile, customers will be calling you at 3 to 4 times the tariff rates of calls to your competition. This is because a call to a mobile is still more expensive than a call to a landline number!

Call routing to help your customers:

Modern phone systems include a lot of very useful centrally managed call-routing features such as; call groups, queues and centralised voice-mail. This allows us to have single direct dial numbers into departments in ways that remove frustrations for the caller. Call routing plans add huge benefit to the PBX, making phone systems what they are and taking up the major planning and configuration phases in a system install. With mobiles all acting as stand-alone devices, it’s either very difficult or just plain impossible, to route incoming calls in ways that take staff holidays, meetings, availability etc. into account and make it easy for your customers to get through to somebody in a business unit who can deal with their enquiry right now.

Security:

Security also needs to be considered. Phone systems have various ways of presenting customer contact lists for dialling at the desk – but typically, this information is kept locked away with the phone system in the ICT room. With cellphones, that customer database must be kept on each mobile and therefore is open to abuse if the mobile is stolen, lost or may even be cloned by staff considering a position with your competitor!

Some other practical issues:

  • Calls are more ‘stable’ and better quality on a desk phone / landline.
  • Desk-phones don’t leave the building (good luck keeping track of a cellphone inventory!).
  • Desk-phones won’t lure users off into Facebook or Instagram.
  • Something to think about – Will a company cellphone policy push staff into carrying two mobile devices; their own and the business phone?
  • The jury is still out regarding the health implications of keeping a cellphone next to your head all day …
  • Batteries don’t die in a desk-phone (and yes, it’s easy to back-up a phone system with a UPS in case of mains power failure).

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t anti-mobile here. We have the 3CX and Linkus app’s that we can load onto iOS and Android cellphones to extend the benefits of flexible and low-cost VoIP telecom’s out to mobile devices. This approach makes the app’ on the cellphone a managed part of your business phone system – including its call routing plans – with zero-cost internal calls.

There are a lot of very good arguments as to why mobiles should be integrated WITH your phone system, but we think that you need to plan carefully if you are considering using mobiles INSTEAD of a business phone system.

Contact us at Foxhall Solutions – 01787 228 402 – to talk about the future of your telecommunications in these very interesting times …

VoIP across the Factory floor

We recently installed a Yeastar S20 VoIP phone system for a local Precision Engineering company (after BT got to their business park at long last and upgraded them to Fibre broadband).

This allowed us to reduce the number of BT lines they have down to just one –  and provide a flexible approach to how they make and take calls. Due to the ‘factory’ nature of the site, there are staff working milling machines on a noisy production floor. This provided some ‘interesting’ features that we had to replicate from the old Panasonic PBX system we were replacing.

Staff are often nowhere near their phones, so there needed to be a way to ‘Park’ a call and alert the staff member that there was a call waiting for them. We also needed a way for staff on the production floor to actually hear the phones ringing over the sound of busy lathes and milling machines.

Algo_8186_PAWe combined the features of the Yeastar S20 phone system, and the Fanvil X4 phone-set, with a new product, the 110dB Algo 8186 ‘Paging Speaker’. This Paging Speaker was mounted up high on a wall at one end of the production floor, and simply needed to be cabled back to the network like any other phone on the system. It was set up with a ‘paging’ number, and a ‘ringing’ extension number and replaced an entire ‘black-box’ PA system under a desk feeding an old horn-speaker up on the rafters.

When a call comes into the company, it rings on all phones – including the Algo speaker – and can be answered at any extension phone. If somebody needs to be tracked down for the caller, the call can be parked by pressing a button labelled ‘Park 1’. The ‘Park 1’ key then goes from green to red on all phones, to indicate it’s in use. Parking the call puts the caller on hold and releases the extension so another call can be made [using another labelled button] to a ‘Paging Group’ consisting of all the phones in the system including the Algo PA speaker. The phones & PA all auto-answer and a request for “John Smith to take the call on Park 1” can be PA-broadcast across the company and production floor. John Smith then just needs to go to any phone and press the red-lit key labelled ‘Park 1’ to pick up that call.

We often make it possible to simplify a customer’s phone system when we install a VoIP IP-PBX and introduce new and easier ways to do things. But, in this case, we also had all the tools to replicate a well proven solution and keep staff in contact with callers.

Get in touch with us at Foxhall Solutions, to talk about your phone system needs, and reduce your operation costs too! … 01787 228402

What are my options when ISDN ends?

With the end of ISDN services 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 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 and primary rate 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 over’ so that the ISDN port[s] 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 don’t incur monthly rental, and are nowhere near the combined costs of a new 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 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 £3 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