What would happen now if your business had a power cut? What would happen if floods hit your offices? Key staff were ill? No matter the size of your business, when systems go down, the consequences will always be the same and customer service, reputation and profitability are all put at risk. According to EMC Corporation, 60% of UK businesses have suffered from downtime in the past 12 months, at a cost of £10.5 billion per year. And according to the Business Continuity Institute, telephony is one of the most at-risk areas, with unplanned IT and telecom outages amongst the top three threats businesses face.

Many businesses only think about putting a recovery plan in place after a disaster has already occurred which can be a very costly approach. The best way to protect your business against disaster is building ‘business as usual’ resilience. To ensure voice availability 24/7, you can put several preventative measures in place, from increasing resilience in your infrastructure to effectively managing inbound call routing.

So, where do you start? 

Firstly, you need to choose the right solutions to support your business. Make sure the products you choose are inherently resilient, flexible and easily scalable. Traditional technology is dated and can leave your business at risk unnecessarily. Next generation alternatives to ISDN such as hosted telephony have built in business continuity features. Whether it’s a firewall to protect against cyber threat, automatic failover in the network to a secondary location or the ability to easily create and manage call routing plans in the event of bad weather closing one your sites. Choosing the right solution can help save your whole IT team a lot of stress, along with protecting the productivity of your business.

Determine what’s crucial

They’ll be various levels of reaction required depending on the interruption – best bet is to acknowledge these scenarios first. For example, if your receptionist can’t get into the office due to sickness or weather conditions, you’ll want to redirect your switchboard calls to somebody who can take them. This is completely different to the process you’d need in place if one of your sites was entirely unreachable due to a fire or flood.

Prevent, protect and detect

With 55% of disaster-related downtime stemming from hardware failure, virtualisation opportunities can reduce your degree of risk. Cloud-based solutions such as a hosted phone system can simplify your telecoms environment so that it is easier to manage. A cloud solution allows you to use your resources efficiently, with no need to continuously upgrade hardware. Numbers are hosted in the cloud meaning they can remain available regardless of whether or not the office is accessible. It will also allow you to grow your telephony with your infrastructure, which in turn protects your organisation against failure due to outdated technology.

Plan and communicate

For your disaster recovery plan, it’s important to define the key roles and responsibilities that backup personnel will play. This needs to be communicated to the whole organisation, and account for the possible lack of telephone or internet availability. When things go wrong, clear communication will be critical in ensuring processes are being followed as planned. This will prevent panic among stakeholders and ensure that recovery is carried out efficiently.

Test, test, then test again

Full disaster recovery testing is important, but despite this, only a minority of businesses test their plans regularly. This worrying attitude towards risk can mean businesses only realise if their plans work during an actual incident of disaster.

Talk to your provider

When it comes to disasters, not everything is out of your control. Choosing a voice provider with a resilient network can help. A provider that owns their own network will have more control over the network architecture and be more active when it comes to ensuring high levels of availability. When things go wrong, clear communication will be critical in ensuring processes are being followed as planned. This will prevent panic among stakeholders and ensure that recovery is carried out efficiently.

It is common knowledge amongst telecommunications experts that ISDN is a dying technology. Indeed, BT intend to switch their ISDN network off entirely in 2025 and the consensus is the technology will be as good as gone within five years. But this traditional system is still being used by many businesses.

ISDN is a communications network that relies heavily on physical infrastructure, specifically copper wiring. It came to prominence because it provided the opportunity to transmit voice and data over the same lines. However, because of its reliance on physical infrastructure to manage calls and additional functionality via a PBX (or multiple), this takes up space within business premises and requires resource to administer and maintain. Similarly, it is hard to add and remove new lines to an ISDN network because it requires the physical addition and removal.

How a hosted alternative can benefit your business

Hosted telephony is a complete business phone system, delivered over the internet and provided by a host and/or telephony company. It is a complete communications service that provides a range of fixed and mobile telephony capabilities via an easy-to-use web portal. It allows you to manage your calls whilst enabling your employees to maximise their productivity.

The key benefits for SMEs are:

Cost
Minimal capital outlay due to no onsite hardware and extremely competitive on-net rates over a business grade network.

Greater control

Take complete control of your phone system with an extensive range of call handling and management features, all operated through an easy-to-use web interface. Ideal for home workers or multiple sites.

Improving customer service
Enhance the service you can always provide to your customers with dynamic call handling, pre-recorded messages and seamless transfers at the touch of a button.

Reliable and secure
We provide full support including training, number porting, provisioning and UK-based assistance giving you complete peace of mind.

With a recent survey revealing that ‘managing growth and change’ is the second biggest concern for SME business leaders, it’s clear that, while this issue is top of the agenda for smaller businesses, many have concerns about making it happen.

And it’s hardly surprising. From securing funding to practical measures like finding new premises, a lot of complicated strategising goes into growing a business, and SMEs can have limited resource to achieve this with. As a result, they often need to find ways to do more with less. But this shouldn’t be a case of trying to overstretch staff – a better approach is to address the tools available to work with, like their communications platforms.

Hosted telecoms are one solution that can be invaluable for businesses looking to grow. Here’s why:


Increased reliability

Small, growing businesses need to always be available to their customers, whether via mobile, landline or desktop. That’s why many SMEs are increasingly relying on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for the reliability it offers. In comparison to traditional phone lines, VoIP is less open to network breakdowns, meaning it’s a solution business can really depend on.

But VoIP (not to mention an increasing array of other critical business platforms) can only work effectively with robust data services in place to back it up. Which means a hosted voice and data solution from a single supplier could be the most reliable solution for your business – and with a single SLA in place, problems can be resolved quickly should anything go wrong.

 

Hosted telecoms offer simpler setups and streamlined costs

SMEs have a lot to juggle. Marketing, chasing clients, sealing deals, providing great service – and all with limited time and budget. When you add implementing a growth strategy into the mix, resources can be seriously drained. That’s why SMEs need telecoms solutions that are easy to manage and simple to maintain, leaving staff free to focus on other business priorities. This is exactly what hosted telecoms can provide. Only dealing with one provider (and one SLA) for various services is simpler and less time consuming.

A hosted service can also help to reduce costs, and not just by removing expensive, inefficient legacy infrastructure. Working with a single provider means reducing the cost of managing separate networks, helping your business to make valuable savings that can be reinvested elsewhere.

 

Hosted telecoms are more flexible

Flexibility is one of the key advantages smaller businesses hold over their larger competitors – and maintaining this agility is vital to growth. To expand, SMEs need to be able to adapt quickly. Hosted telecoms can help with this on several fronts, such as supporting a mobile workforce. Smaller teams often can’t afford to be glued to their desks, so you may need hosted telecoms your staff can access from anywhere.

A hosted service is also flexible enough to scale as needed. Investing in more infrastructure is often vital for growth, but when budgets are tight, it can be difficult to commit – especially if you only want to trial the extra capacity, or just need it for a limited busy period. A hosted package can be scaled up and down in response to your needs. Meaning, whichever way the wind blows for your business, you can increase your capacity or reduce your spending as needed.

 

Supporting growth with hosted telecoms

Expanding your business carries an inherent risk, so managing growth and change will always be a business concern for SMEs. But while growth brings challenges in its wake, hosted telecoms is one way of making business operations smoother and simpler, so it’s worth exploring this as part of your expansion strategy. With the time and money saved from working with a single supplier, not to mention the improved reliability and flexibility of the service, SMEs could see a real difference in their business performance – making growth less of a concern, and more of an exciting opportunity to be chased.

Do your workers typically spend 20% or more of their time away from their primary workspace? If so, they are defined as mobile.

Not powering your mobile workers with the right tools to be productive can damage your business. In today’s ‘always on’ world, enabling mobile working is an increasingly vital strategic objective for any business that wants to be successful and grow. And with the following statistics, it is clear to see why mobile working is becoming the norm:

Enabling mobile working can bring huge benefits for your business. But it’s important to consider all the key issues, so it works for everyone.

Flexibility is key

Being able to communicate effectively and maintain productivity no matter where your workforce is stationed is the key to competitiveness. That means employees having easy access to the information, contacts and tools they need – wherever they happen to be working.

Attracting and keeping staff

Attracting and retaining employees is an ever-present challenge. The solution increasingly lies in being willing and able to meet their desire for flexibility and choice in where and how they work. A significant 68% of employees believe it is either highly important or relatively important that their employer be a leader in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) adoption.4

Being responsive to clients

Attracting and retaining clients is all about immediacy – getting through to the right person first time, receiving rapid responses to requests for quotes, and being able to communicate outside of office hours.

But, enabling mobile workers to be effective is about more than simply equipping them with a smartphone. Without the right tools, mobile working can have a negative impact on employee productivity. For example, 64% of employees cite poor user experience as the reason for rarely using enterprise mobile apps5 and other common complaints about mobile working include lower job satisfaction, feelings of exclusion and frustration at the inability to perform.

If your mobile workers are lacking in enthusiasm and are not receiving the essential support they need to be efficient and effective, the knock-on effects for your business will quickly also become apparent. Common complaints about mobile working include:

Poor service delivered to clients

This is particularly a problem because mobile workers often can’t be easily contacted when they need to be, or they don’t have the right information at hand to deal with a client’s issue.

Important decisions delayed

When key people are away from the office, or poor decisions are made because people don’t have access to complete information.

Increased risk of security breaches

Commonly because employees end up using non-approved consumer apps to communicate or to store information, as it’s simply easier.

Loss of valuable information

This becomes an issue when an employee leaves and company data or contacts are stored on the worker’s personal phone.

Why you need to step up your mobility approach

We all know business is becoming more and more demanding – increased competition, greater workloads, fewer resources, reduced budgets. The demands of the modern business world mean you need to step up a gear to stay ahead. The following example illustrates how modern hosted communication solutions offer significant advantages to any business with mobile workers.

Being accessible to your clients

The call is from a prospective client who has a requirement for a very large order. It’s a rush job and time is of the essence. It is 5pm but they quickly make a call to a possible supplier, Sam. The client dials Sam’s single number (which works across her landline and mobile). The call is immediately routed through to her by the hosted communications solution that her company recently bought, which knows she is currently mobile. She is quickly able to recognise the importance of the call and greet the client accordingly.

Stay in touch with colleagues on the move

After discussing the details of the proposal on the phone the client has a number of questions that Sam will need to speak with their colleague about. Sam has the company dial plan available on her mobile and simply selects the single number for her colleague, who recognises this as a business call and answers immediately. Sam discusses the prospective client’s questions and gets all the answers and information back to the client with ease.

Keep communication simple

The client then asks Sam to join a conference call with the Head of Purchasing, who is in the office for another hour and then on leave, and wants to talk through the terms of the contract. The client emails the conference call meeting invitation to Sam, and the conference details appear in her mobile inbox. With all the information available she simply dials in from her business number and joins the call on time.

Enabling effective mobile working

After the conference call, a new call comes through to the inbound sales enquiry number. As Sam is using a converged communication solution, hunt group calls are routed directly to her mobile. She can see that it’s from an unknown person, calling into the sales enquiry line. Sam prepares for a moment before engaging with a hot new lead.

In each scenario the client gets the quick and efficient response they need. Sam arrives home in a fantastic mood. She is awarded the contract and has a brand new prospect to get working on. The tools she has been provided with by her company have supported her and aided her success. Hosted communication solutions are built with mobile workers in mind and can help to transform the mobile working experience – delivering significant benefits for both the business and employee and as a result, they’re fast replacing the traditional PBX in many workplaces.

By adopting this smart solution, it can help your business unleash its full potential, delivering higher productivity and responsiveness, increased employee morale and engagement, improved collaboration, better client experience, lower risks of security breaches and loss of valuable information and lower operational costs.

1GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com
2ZK Research
3Global Mobile Workforce Forecast, 2015-2020, Strategy Analytics, 2015
4Mobility and the Future of Unified Communications and Collaboration, Ovum Dimension Data, 2013
5The State of Enterprise Mobile Security”, Forrester, 2014