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Author Archives: Matthew Weste

The end of ISDN: 3 steps for a smooth transition

With the completion of the NBN rollout, legacy phone systems, such as ISDN and frame relay, will be completely cut-off. We’ve known about this for some time, but many businesses remain on these legacy systems as we approach the final cut-off date.

And it’s easy to see why, particularly for small and medium enterprises that don’t have dedicated IT or telephony teams to evaluate options and ensure the rollout doesn’t get in the way of your business. While it’s likely been on your radar for a while, in the midst of business as usual (not to mention devastating bushfires, floods and pandemics!), it’s easy to put off something that won’t have an impact for a few years to come.

But we are reaching crunch time. However, the good news is that it doesn’t need to be a headache for you or your business if it’s done right. Here are three steps for a smooth transition from ISDN.

#1 Take action as soon as possible  

With rolling disconnection dates up until June 2022, if you haven’t made the switch, it’s important to make it a priority now. If you make the switch after ISDN has been cut off in your area, you may encounter several additional issues with your transition and may even risk losing your existing business phone numbers.

The good news is that there are many benefits for your business beyond just ticking a box. Installing a modern phone system really enables communication and collaboration anytime and on any device – something that has really come to the fore in the last twelve months. With remote and flexible working only set to grow, these systems future-proof your business, so it makes sense to use this opportunity to invest in the right tech.

#2 Understand what is happening and your options

Essentially, you are switching from an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), which uses a circuit-switched network to transmit and receive voice and data, to Session Integrated Protocol (SIP) Trunking, which uses the internet for this process instead.

While telcos will often make this sound complicated, what it boils down to is essentially moving from an old school network to a cloud-based one, a process we’ve done for almost every aspect of our businesses at some point.

When it comes to making the cutover, you have a couple of options, bearing in mind that which options are available to you will depend on your current phone system and your future needs:

  • Installing an ISDN to SIP Trunking converter: This is essentially a gateway device that physically sits between your NBN fibre and your current phone system. It will allow you to continue using your current PBX system, but it’s not a great long-term fix; it’s best used when you need a quick, interim solution.
  • Migrating to a cloud-based phone system: This is where you will move your entire telephony from your legacy system to a fully online system. Depending on your business needs and your budget, these modern phone systems can help you with every aspect of your traditional telephony, along with a host of collaboration tools for your team and your customers. You’ll no longer need desktop handsets as calls can be made from a PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device using your company plan – it really is the freedom to work anywhere.

#3 Find the right partner for your business

This is a critical step in your rollout. There are a few options when it comes to switching from ISDN, and the right partner can really help you navigate and evaluate these to make the right decision for your business.

Some key questions to think about when deciding on the right partner are:

  • Do they offer a range of technologies? You want a supplier who can support your business needs and your budget, so look for one that works with a range of technologies rather than trying to make you fit with their preferred tech.
  • Do they start with your needs? Your supplier should start by understanding what you want and need out of a system and then find options to match – not the other way around.
  • Do they have their own infrastructure? A supplier with their own infrastructure can act as your single source of telephony services, so you won’t need to act as the middleman between service providers. Otherwise, it can be extremely difficult to identify and resolve issues as each provider only plays their own small part, and no one is taking overall responsibility for your system. It can also make it hard to monitor and control costs with billing for each part of your system coming from a different supplier.
  • Do they speak telco language – and yours? Look for a supplier who can explain things to you in the language of business. Telecommunications is full of acronyms and jargon – but it shouldn’t be up to you to understand this. It’s not your line of work, and you likely don’t expect your customers to understand your industry jargon – so don’t put up with a supplier who won’t speak your language.
  • Do they have local support? With so many tech and telco companies going offshore for tech support, finding one with local support can feel like a needle in a haystack, but the search is worth the effort! Your phone system isn’t something you want to play roulette with, and a local support team will pay for itself ten times over if you ever encounter an issue.

Get in touch with Cloud Earth to find out how the right partner can make the end of ISDN a breeze and future-proof your business.

 

5 tips to get the most out of Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams has become a critical tool for many businesses in today’s landscape of remote working. In fact, it reached 44 million daily active users at the height of the pandemic in April 2020, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a fantastic collaboration tool that really can make it easy to do your job anytime, anywhere, but many users aren’t making the most of the system. So today, I wanted to share five tips to get the most out of your Teams platform.

#1 Share and collaborate with external users

This is one of the core benefits of your Teams platform. You can converse, collaborate and connect with anyone – inside or outside your organisation. You can add guests to meetings, chat groups, calls and even share files.

Although Teams is one of the most widely used and leading platforms, some organisations are still using others, so it’s handy to be able to bring them in to your meetings on one platform. And there are more and more tools becoming available to enhance this. For example, there is now a Microsoft Teams calling app that can be used on the Slack platform, and Teams users can now screen share with Skype for Business users, enabling even greater collaboration with your network.

#2 Boost productivity

When it comes to making your workday more productive, there are a ton of ways you can use Teams to get more done, and many of them are underused. Here are just a few to get you started.

Move conversations and all attachments from Outlook to Teams (or vice versa) at the touch of a button. There can be times when it’s better to use email and some prefer this for one-to-one communication. But it can become annoying when you need to bring others in (remember reading through long email threads, complete with missing attachments, to get up to speed on a project?) Now, you can use the “Share to Teams” button on your Outlook to move it all to the group you need to share it with instantaneously.

Set up tags to communicate easily. Another great and often underused feature is the “Tags” function, which makes it simple to communicate quickly and effectively with a group based on any shared attribute. You can use Tags to direct a message to all people in that group (for example, all of your team leaders) or use the Tag as an “@mention” to ensure everyone in that group is notified of a message.

Activate the Teams app so you can collaborate anywhere. With the same interface as on PC or MAC, the app really makes it easy to get things done anywhere.

#3 Integrate your bots and business apps on one platform

Microsoft Teams has an open source code, meaning that any developer can build custom apps or integrations with existing apps, so Teams really can become a hub for all your business apps. These integrations are particularly handy when it comes to your project management apps, like Wrike or Trello, because the two systems work together, meaning your conversations and your tasks are in the one place.

There are also a range of bots you can use on Microsoft Teams that boost productivity and create connections between platforms. Bots can be used to do almost anything in Teams, from kicking off workflows or keeping track of team tasks to taking polls and congratulating staff, or even answering natural language questions about sales or customer usage. If you haven’t explored how bots can help you make the most of Teams, it’s something worth checking out.

#4 Use Teams for all your business calls

You’re probably familiar with Teams calling, but what you may not know is that you can replace your business phone lines with Teams Direct Routing, and it’s cost-effective for businesses of all sizes.

It means your team can make or receive business calls, anytime, anywhere in the world through their Teams app on any device, laptop, tablets, mobiles, which is perfect with so many businesses continuing to work remotely. There’s no need to upgrade hardware and it’s simple to install, maintain and use, so if you haven’t investigated it, it’s worth taking a look.

#5 Activate security features to protect your data

Microsoft Teams has the highest level of compliance and security features, but there are a few things you need to think about to ensure you have the right protection in place, particularly when you are giving access to external users. Here are just a few things to consider:

Can guests access more than they should? To get the most out of your Teams platform, chances are that you are collaborating with external clients, suppliers or other users. But how much access are you giving them? Are you checking your guest register regularly to make sure you remove people you no longer want to collaborate with? Microsoft has a ton of tips to make sure you are getting this right.

How are you managing apps? With the wide range of third-party apps available on Teams, it’s a good idea to think about how you want to manage these. Some organisations will choose to restrict and control the apps available to team members and this can be a good idea because the data collection or privacy policies on these third-party apps may not be aligned with yours. You can set the types of apps you want to allow your team to use in the Teams Admin Centre.

Are your settings allowing uninvited guests into meetings? While Microsoft Teams does have tight security features around meetings, it’s also important to make sure you have the right settings. If someone does gain access to a meeting link, they can join the meeting if you don’t have the right settings. Here’s how to check your settings.

Remote working is here to stay, so what does that mean for your business phone system?

In March, when businesses had to adapt to remote working with little or no time to prepare, those who were still using traditional phone systems had an even bigger challenge: How to keep in touch with staff, customers and suppliers at a time when regular communication was critical.

Businesses who had already implemented internet-based systems found themselves a step ahead. If you haven’t yet made the move to an internet-based phone system or need a new one, there are many reasons Microsoft Teams calling just might be the solution for you.

Your technology should be an investment

A common band aid solution when it comes to remote working is the old “forward the desk phone to mobile” approach, but this has its own set of problems. From varying mobile reception to staff using personal devices with different levels of functionality and security, this can quickly become a minefield.

In a recent survey, 51% of Australian employees said they were using personal apps, like WhatsApp, to communicate with their colleagues remotely. Alongside the obvious security risks of sharing business information on these platforms, there’s also the productivity cost and confusion of multiple communication channels. Who needs it?

Many businesses looked to set up all staff with company mobiles at short notice to address these challenges, but I would argue this isn’t the best investment of time, money or resources. It might have seemed like a good short-term option, but the best technology investments are typically those that increase output or productivity, improve the customer experience and make it easier for your people to do their jobs over the longer term.

And this is where Microsoft Teams calling really comes into its own.

No disruption, no downtime

If you were to replace your phones with another desk-based system, set up could take weeks – or even longer if you are in a state still under restrictions. An engineer may have to come to your office, possibly multiple times, install new cabling, a physical box on the wall, new phones that your staff will need to get familiar with – the list goes on.

With Microsoft Teams, you can be up and running in a tenth of the time, with no physical site visits and no disruption to your business-as-usual. It’s also more cost effective; no hardware, simple monthly plans that scale with your business – it just makes sense on so many levels.

Your solution should increase productivity

One of the real benefits of Microsoft Teams calling is that your team are likely already familiar with the interface and can use their existing Microsoft account. This might seem like a small benefit on the face of it, but essentially it means little to no time spent training, your staff are already comfortable with the existing features and that makes adding call functionality simple.

It also means no time wasted setting up new accounts and remembering new passwords, a surprisingly significant productivity drain, estimated to cost large companies around $USD 5.2 million annually.

And whether or not they are in the office, your team use the same application with the same features across desktop, mobile or tablet making it even easier. For me, I’m on the road a lot, and with Microsoft Teams it works brilliantly with my car Bluetooth.

Collaboration should be easy

In a digital world, communication and collaboration should be easy, but that isn’t always the case when working remotely. For me, the answer lies in getting the right tools to your team members.

Something I personally really like about Teams calling, when it comes to collaboration, is that I can see when other people are around or when they are in meetings. It means I don’t waste time trying to track down someone who isn’t available anyway.

Another thing I love is that when I am on a call, I can see when another call comes in. So, if I am talking to a colleague and a client calls, I can quickly end or park the internal call and speak to the client when they need me.

Security is key

We all remember the debacle earlier this year, when the security of online teleconferencing platforms was called into question. Some companies decided not to use them altogether – and if your clients were among those to put a ban on the service you were using – this was a whole new headache.

You, your suppliers and your customers should have the peace of mind that your conversation is private and secure, and Microsoft Teams really brings it in this department. With advanced security capability, you can have secure conversations wherever you are – in your hotel room, on the road, or even at Friday drinks. The team really can stay connected securely anytime, anywhere.

The benefits of a global leader with local support

When you work with the right partner, like Cloud Earth, you get all the benefits of a global leader (Microsoft), with a local support team (Cloud Earth). We own and run our infrastructure, so we can identify and manage any emerging issues before they become a problem for you. And if you do have a query, you won’t spend a lifetime on hold. You’ll get to a local expert who understands the product and the Australian business landscape.

It’s something we really pride ourselves on at Cloud Earth. Our team has so much expertise, having worked in the industry and with the product for such a long time, it means you really have the support you need to focus on what’s most important – your business.

If you are looking for a phone solution that will move with you, and you’re interested in seeing what Microsoft Teams can do for you – get in touch. I’d love to show you first-hand the difference it can make to your business, your team and your customer experience.