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First Office Systems Ltd
14-16a Albion Road
Kent TN1 2NH
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Business Telephone Lines and Call Packages
As a business owner or manager, you may be confused about which type of business telephone lines you need for your offices. If you trawl the internet, you will probably end up very confused! Look at your existing phone bill and you may still be none the wiser!
If you are moving offices, you may be even more 'at sea' about what to do (reading our section below about moving office is A MUST).
What we are about to say may shock or surprise you - however, nonetheless, it is 100% the position with Telecommunications in the UK in the majority of cases:
The call or line product you use in the UK is the same regardless of the provider. The only differentiators are:
1 - Who you buy it from and have to deal with for billing and service
2 - The price they charge you (or you negotiate with them)
In other words, for the majority of organizations in the UK, the end supplier is normally always BT Openreach. BT Openreach merely sell their line or call product 'wholesale' to many hundreds or even thousands of resellers and this is what gets sold onto you, the consumer, with a profit margin added - that's it. It really is as simple as that and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Now there are 2 main exceptions to this rule and these are as follows:
1 - Customers of cable companies (eg Virgin Media)
2 - Organizations that use VoIP or SIP based services (getting more and more popular)
Choosing the right package
We will take time to talk to you about your business/organization and recommend and deploy the correct telephone line and call package for you – we will also ensure that your telephone tariff is ultra-competitive (and continues to remain competitive) and that you will receive excellent service levels – you can rest assured that you will receive quality and value for money.
Not only that - unlike the majority of companies, when there are wholesale rate reductions announced by BT Openreach, we notify you and recommend a rate review at the earliest opportunity. This ensures you benefit from competitive rates continuously - most telecoms suppliers 'take their chances' and only recommend lower rates if you ask them or threaten to leave!
Business Phone Bill Review
We will analyze your current telephone bill and also attend site to identify what phone lines are being used for what purpose - a Health check in other words. Sometimes just by performing this simple task we have saved customers thousands of pounds! We have also designed a free guide for you to help you reduce your phone bill - click here: Reduce my phone Bill
We will recommend a carrier that is best for your business and not best for our pockets! Also, we will not recommend long-term contracts and bundled packages – just transparent good value products.
Changing Line Supplier
Moving from one supplier to another is normally very straightforward and seamless, without disruption (remember, as stated above, the product you use is identical). It is very important you check that, before moving to another provider, you are satisfied that you are free to move without penalty (ie not under contract) and that you have provided the correct notice to your existing supplier. Other than that, we manage the process for you so you do not have to worry.
Moving offices - Things you must know
In our Telecommunications Division, one of our main job functions is to manage office relocations for organizations like yours and we have been doing so for nearly 20 years - so you will be in good hands.
We micro-manage your line orders from start to finish and we know all the pitfalls and insider information to ensure your relocation is done on time and within budget. Telecommunications services can take longer than you might think to organize and if you have no experience in this field, you can make lots of problems for yourself and your whole organization - it really is a specialized subject and one we have massive experience in - just read some of our testimonials.
Here is a list of some of the main aspects we will deal with for you:
1 - Retain your published numbers - yes this is now possible in most cases.
2 - Research on line your intended location and provide feedback on what is achievable in terms of phone lines and internet connections and estimate timescales
3 - Order and Micro-Manage surveys and connections, end-to-end with 100% accountability and continued updates keeping you informed
4 - Recommend which types of services and best suited to you - phones and internet connectivity
5 - Relocation of existing telephone system or supply of a new one if preferred
6 - Office cabling - Structured cabling for phones and computers (Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a and fibre)
7 - Office Fit-Out - we introduce you to our specialists in our other division in Office Refurbishment
8 - IT Relocation - we will refer you and liaise with a qualified IT support company to assist (or liaise with your existing suppliers)
Note it takes a minimum of 1 month to install any reasonable telephone and internet service. Therefore, orders should be placed as soon as reasonably possible. BT Openreach often have periods where normal lead times do not apply due to resource issues so please always check with us regarding your situation at the time.
Types of Telephone Lines
Here is a brief summary of what is available. Note the lead-times are the same for everyone in the UK so don’t be misinformed by eager sales people!
Please see our Internet page regarding types of internet connections plus a lot more detail on things you should know.
Analogue telephone lines
You will probably need at least one of these for your broadband connection. Lead-times are 6-10 working days (plus allow another 6-10 days for the broadband lead-time).
If you are having a very small basic telephone system, you could also use multiple analogue phone lines for your main connection for voice calls, although this is quite unusual these days.
BT offer feature lines, which are analogue phone lines networked together at the BT exchange so you can transfer phone calls between them without having a proper telephone system. These are OK for ‘start-up businesses’ but are normally ‘out-grown’ and expensive once you need more than 3 or 4 extensions.
Digital telephone lines
We would guess that 90% of businesses have digital phone lines these days (ISDN2e or ISDN30). With digital lines you can see who is calling you (Caller ID) and you can allocate lots of numbers for different things (Direct Dial). You can also transfer, conference or divert incoming telephone calls to external numbers.
Lead-times are nearly always one calendar month (it is sometimes possible to order ISDN2e without DDI and get it installed within 2 weeks).
It is now possible to use broadband (or leased lines) or your existing data network for voice calls. This is quite a new area of technology but we have been installing a lot of these types of connections for businesses - particularly where an organization is moving premises. We have installed SIP and VoIP for quite a few customers - it is CRITICAL that you are advised properly to avoid disappointment. One thing is clear – VoIP DOES NOT NECESSARILY SAVE YOU MONEY!! It is very useful for certain businesses – we suggest you talk to us.
SIP trunks offer much better flexibility than ISDN as everything is instant and you can point your numbers and trunks anywhere instantly.
Many of our bigger customers now use SIP for inbound so they get the better flexibility for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery reasons and use ISDN for outbound. As they have 2 different connections, the chances of them losing service is vastly reduced and they reap the benefits - call us for advice! We know our stuff!
We use Gamma and Voiceflex for SIP. These 2 companies are market leaders in this field and were early adopters and entrants to the UK market place. However, there are now a lot of smaller 'niche' players. We feel it is better to stick with the market leaders due to the resiliency of their networks - RESILIENCY AND RELIABILITY IS KEY when it comes to SIP and VoIP.
Hosted IP Telephony
You can now have a telephone system hosted for you (known as hosted PABX or PBX). This means you no longer need a telephone system on your premises. We can offer hosted solutions and they can be worth considering in certain circumstances. However, you should not consider a hosted solution just to save you money – we suggest you talk to us.
We offer our own hosted system called Horizon. This is brought to us using Gamma who are the main channel only supplier of services in the UK. Gamma use the industry-leading Broadsoft platform (this is essentially the telephone system platform in the 'cloud' which provides the functionality and features.
The telecommunications market in this country is extremely difficult to understand and very fragmented. Years ago it was simple – BT was the only option. Then Mercury came on board and were able to undercut BT substantially (not without major issues on some occasions).
In the last 10 years it has changed beyond recognition. BT has been forced to break itself up. BT Openreach is the company that own and maintain all the telephone exchanges, the infrastructure – this company operates all the BT engineers who install the phone lines and resolve the faults.
When a customer rings BT, they are now ringing BT Retail – these people take orders and nowadays they normally put customers straight through to outsourced sales companies called BT Local Business. These people are private franchisees who are highly targeted and mainly office based. Their job is to maximise sales and revenues of BT products and often they are targeted on obtaining long-term contracts, which is certainly often not in the customer’s best interests! Orders are placed and then issued and managed by other parts of BT (sometimes from overseas call centres).
We are BT Indirect Channel partners and can place orders direct with BT if required although most of our business is done through Adept Telecom.
Public Telephone operators
These are big carriers such as BT, Cable and Wireless, Talk Talk, Energis, COLT, etc. These companies actually have licenses to physically switch phone calls around the UK and beyond.
They will have their own networks (i.e. cabling) to varying extents but in almost all circumstances, when you order phone lines from these companies as a small business customer, whilst you are paying them for installation and rental and you are communicating with them directly on all matters, they will be buying the services wholesale from BT Openreach who in turn will install and maintain them.
These resellers are BT Retail and BT Business' main competitors.
These are facilitators. They don’t actually move calls around – instead they buy minutes from one or more of the PTO’s above and re-bill them to you. Alternatively, they may also sub-contract their services or offer distribution and branding to companies like ourselves.
We recommend Adept Telecom who are one of the big 10 resellers in the UK. We use them as they offer good service levels and are good people to do business with.
The service you might receive from these companies can vary enormously. Some resellers you may come across include Daisy, Chess, Alternative Networks, Extel....Generally the bigger the reseller, the less personal the service.
Examples are Virgin Media (formerly NTL Telewest, Eurobell), SKY, Tiscali.
Our opinion … great for home broadband and TV packages – for your business … think again! There are some exceptions – for example Virgin Media can offer real value if you want pricing on leased lines or MPLS networks – these are dedicated internet connections with high speeds and service level agreements and these days are normally out of the price range of many small businesses.
Where does this leave First Office Systems?
We offer a choice of all of the above depending on what is best for the customer. Furthermore, we regularly review our customers’ packages ensuring continued competitiveness and value for money.
Call us for a chat or more information.
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20th May, 2013
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