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CLOUD AND CONNECTIVITY
Is a cloud-based phone system right for my business?
Cloud systems offer benefits to all businesses, but especially for small and medium-sized companies. They save your IT team from having to manage telephony, freeing them up to focus on higher-level activities. In effect, your cloud vendor becomes your telecoms expert. It’s also easier to budget because you receive a single bill from one vendor rather than having to deal with several different suppliers. And it’s simple to flex your requirements up and down. If your business grows, new users can be added to the system just by changing software settings. Plus, cloud software will always have the latest features and security updates.
What features should I be looking for in a new phone system?
New systems enable you to communicate more efficiently with colleagues and customers. They can adapt to the way you work by routing calls to the device you’re using at any given moment, whether that’s your computer, phone or in-car system. What’s more, these new features can integrate with your existing systems, providing even more benefit. For example, your CRM can integrate call histories and customer data, your calendar can let colleagues know if you’re available, and desktop-sharing simplifies collaboration with remote workers. While some of these features were available on older phone systems, using them was fiddly or long-winded. New equipment is more intuitive, allowing you to really make the most of them.
What’s the difference between public and private cloud?
Private cloud is when your comms system is running in a data centre that you have control over. Typically, you’d manage it in partnership with your comms provider. A public cloud, in contrast, is ‘multi-tenanted’ because you share a data centre with your provider’s other customers. Being public means you have no direct control over how the data centre is run.
What type of cloud deployment is suitable for my business?
Each has its pros and cons, as discussed in our article Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud: What’s The Difference? In general, organisations that value security and control above other factors opt for private cloud. Other benefits of private cloud are that you don’t have to wait for your provider to install software updates and bug fixes, and you’re not limited to a particular set of features. On the other hand, public cloud is cheaper because the provider manages all the software and hardware. Plus, it’s generally quicker to add new features and to expand capacity as your needs change.
What’s the difference between ISDN and SIP? Should I be moving to SIP?
ISDN is an established, trusted technology that’s been around since the 1980s and which plenty of businesses still rely on. Despite what you may read elsewhere, ISDN will be with us for a few years yet. Whilst BT intends to switch off ISDN in 2025, we still source ISDN lines and equipment and are happy to supply them to you. That said, there are benefits in moving to the newer technology of SIP trunking. For starters, SIP channels and calls are cheaper than ISDN. It’s also quicker and easier to flex your requirements up and down because SIP uses virtual lines rather than physical wires. Increasing the number of lines as your business grows is a simple matter of changing a software setting. You can also receive calls from different area codes (eg 0117 for Bristol and 01225 for Bath) in the same physical location. In addition, SIP is tailor-made for unified comms as a service (UcaaS). Unified comms integrates telephony with other means of communication including instant messaging, email, voicemail, audio and video conferencing.
In short, no. If you’re currently using ISDN and you’re happy to carry on using it, you won’t have to do anything just yet. It’s true that BT has announced its intention to switch off ISDN networks in 2025 and that vendors will stop selling compatible products at some point. But for the foreseeable future, we’ll continue supplying ISDN lines and equipment. That said, if you’re looking for a long-term, future-proof solution, there are clear benefits to switching to the newer technology of SIP trunking.
What are the benefits of taking connectivity and telephony from one supplier?
If you need a new phone system that works with your existing infrastructure, we can provide it. However, in many cases we manage everything for our customers, including their internet connections and infrastructure. The benefit in allowing us to do this is that it reduces downtime if something goes wrong. Our support team has years of experience working with network infrastructure components like routers, firewalls, local area networks and WiFi. If there’s a fault somewhere in the system, we’ll be able to find and fix it more easily.
As with everything in life, you get what you pay for. Cheap equipment is simply more likely to break down. If you experience downtime, you could end up losing customers and paying out more to fix the problems. That’s why we give you peace of mind by only partnering with trusted technology providers like Mitel, Gamma, StarLeaf, Huawei and AudioCodes. These leading brands are constantly introducing new innovations to make your unified comms system more efficient and effective. And because we offer expert support for their products, you’ll get the best value in the long run.
How much time do you need to install a hosted phone system?
There’s no hard and fast rule. We’ll sit down with you to discuss your requirements before giving you a quote and a timeline for the work. To install a hosted system from scratch, we typically require several months’ notice. In the past, we have installed systems in just a few weeks for customers with an urgent need. The timescale depends on a detailed understanding of your circumstances, so we never make promises we can’t keep.
Yes, and we recommend you ask for one of our highly regarded demos before you buy. We love to visit potential customers and explain how the latest technology makes you more efficient, from instant messaging to calendar integration and automatic call routing. In the past, we’ve found it helpful when everyone who attends these sessions makes a note of the features they would find most useful. We get to better understand how your current systems work before we make recommendations. This can then form the basis of a wishlist for your new system.
There’s no fixed length of contract. For cloud-based systems, the typical length of a contract is 3 years. However, we want you to be sure you’re making the right decision. If you prefer, we can supply solutions on a shorter timescale so that you can determine if they’re working effectively. Above all, we see the contract as much more than a piece of paper: it’s a working partnership. With our ongoing technical support and regular service reviews, we forge strong partnerships with customers over many years to help their businesses succeed.
Do you provide training on new installations?
Yes. Training is a great way of ensuring you get the best possible return on your investment. Our training department shows users how to make the most of new handsets and software, allowing them to be more productive and efficient when the system goes live. We pay particular attention to the needs of key users like operators and receptionists, who often become the best advocates of new productivity-boosting features. They spread the message, helping to reduce resistance to change and increase the uptake of new features throughout your business.
Why do you include support in your packages?
If you’re like most businesses, your phones are critical to your success. That’s why we do our utmost to make sure that they’re always working. If you encounter difficulty, you can rely on us to put it right. We don’t contract out support to another company – we have our own in-house team. So when you call Blackstar, you’ll be able to speak to an experienced engineer who can help to resolve your issue. And because we only employ tier 3 engineers, you won’t have to wait for someone more experienced to call you back.
What sizes of businesses do you work with?
All sizes, from small, owner-managed businesses with a handful of staff to large companies with hundreds of employees. Whatever your challenges, we provide solutions that can meet your needs both now and in the future. Take a look at our case studies to see how we’ve helped organisations with very different requirements. For example, when Gloucestershire College needed a more reliable solution for handling incoming calls, we stepped in to provide one in just four weeks. And when children’s charity Jessie May was expanding its office, we upgraded its phone system with minimal downtime.
What support do you provide?
Our support service is staffed with tier 3 engineers who have decades of experience in the industry. We carry out all engineering work ourselves so you can be assured that any problems will be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. But we’re not just here for when things go wrong. We visit clients in person every few months to find out what we’re doing right and areas where we can improve. We take the opportunity to ensure that our solutions are performing in the way you need them to and to introduce you to new technology you might find useful.
Can you integrate webchat with telephony in my contact centre?
Yes, and not only web chat but also email, SMS, social media and voice. Our technology allows you to switch customers seamlessly between these different forms of communication, allowing you to engage with them using their preferred method. We work with many large call centres across the UK and pride ourselves on the great reputation we’ve built up in the sector. Our engineers have 25 years of expertise in the technology and a proven track record of implementing it so you couldn’t be in better hands.
How quickly can I get a new range of numbers?
A few seconds is all it takes to assign new phone numbers on a cloud-based system, so you can get a new set almost immediately. But if you want to take your old numbers with you when you move office, for example, you need to allow a little longer. Typically, it takes around 20 working days to move numbers from one system to another.
Will you check the existing infrastructure before installing a new phone system?
Yes, we’ll make absolutely sure that your infrastructure is capable of handling the demands placed upon it by our solutions. It’s part of our QoS (quality of service) pledge. The latest cloud and unified comms (UC) systems rely on having sufficient bandwidth and compatible software to provide features like video and VoIP (Voice over IP). We discuss your existing infrastructure in detail before giving you a quote but, just to be sure, we’ll carry out a health check on your existing systems before we install anything.
Do I need an SBC (Session Border Controller)?
Yes, and we provide one as part of our package for every customer with SIP trunking. An SBC is part-firewall, part-router. It helps protect your network against hackers and ensures that your system works seamlessly, acting as a translator between different SIP standards. We supply the most up to date SBCs with the latest technology, enabling you to use Microsoft Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams on your system.
When will ShoreTel 14.2 become end of life?
The end of life for ShoreTel 14.2 software is 30 September 2020.
This will give ShoreTel customers more time to migrate to MiCloud Connect.
Find out how we helped previous clients migrate here.