Thursday, 22 September 2016

Traditional phone systems? Pah, no match for Cloud Communications!

If you are in the process of sourcing a new phone system for your business and are completely bamboozled by what’s available and what to choose -  Traditional -v- Hosted, then please read on.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
When thinking about a replacement system here are some compelling points you should consider before signing up to any system and hopefully will help with your decision making process!
  1. Scalability

With a traditional premises based telephone system, you initially purchase the hardware and software upfront and this means you have to gauge how much capacity is necessary, now and for the future.  Ultimately, if you are going through a quiet patch or your business is seasonal, you can’t scale down, so are paying for lines and services that are not in use.  However, with a hosted system, it is simply a case of adding or taking away extensions and services when demand dictates.  This is especially important if your business is growing, as you are only paying for what you need now.

  1. Features

Generally a premises based telephone system costs more than a hosted system and generally delivers less in terms of functionality unless expensive bolt-on modules are added.  We’d say this is probably one of the main reasons that business communications are moving rapidly over to hosted telephone systems.  With features such as; easily accessible call reporting, voicemail to e-mail, compatibility with CRM software using TAPI or API integration for click to dial and screen popping,auto attendant, call queues and cascading.  All these features can be relatively easily implemented to create a bespoke system for your exact needs.  Making such alterations/changes to a premises based PBX are either impossible or take a long time to configure and at additional cost too.  So, now every small or medium business can benefit from sophisticated features that once only the larger companies could enjoy, plus the system can be tailored EXACTLY to your needs and changed with very short notice.  

  1. Business continuity

If business continuity is important to you (and why wouldn’t it be!) then a massive benefit of a hosted telephone system is that you can easily divert calls from your business to other phones and locations easily if disaster strikes.  You can divert to a mobile(s) or another landline(s) or both,  just to keep your business moving along.  With a traditional system, it can take several hours to divert and also to take the divert off once everything is back to normal.  Of course, with a traditional telephone system, you can only divert the lines to one number, whereas with hosted phone system you can divert to any number of devices. Infact, with a hosted system, you can set up an automatic divert so that calls instantly fall over to another phone if your data connection goes down or there is a fault on the line.  

  1. Control

If you have several sites or offices or occasionally work from home, then a hosted solution gives you the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere, providing you have a data connection . This data connection can be broadband, 3G or 4G. You simply plug your own extension in, and the phone acts exactly as it would on your own office desk!  This particular feature is practically non-existent with a traditional system.

  1. Capacity

One distinct advantage  with a hosted phone system over a traditional system is that you can make numerous concurrent calls at the same time, whereas with a traditional system you can only make and take calls over the lines you have. A broadband connection with a 1 Mbps upload speed is equivalent to 10 lines.

  1. Future proofing

Having a system that is easily upgraded with the current release of software is really important, bringing any improvements and benefits to you instantly.  Comparing this to making upgrades to a traditional system which take time, and an engineer to sort out, adding extra cost.

A current benefit is SIP forking which means you can link your desk phone and mobile phone, so any incoming calls can be taken on either.  

There you have it, game set and match to cloud communications!

Tina Bricknell for
The Merlin Team

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

5 reasons why high quality network cabling is so important

Network cabling and it's installation is critical to the operation of every business.

Well, every business that has a computer system connecting to the internet, to one or more private intranets and to other peripherals such as a telephone system, printers, scanners etc.

Network Cables by Hywards.jpg
image courtesy of Haywards
It’s imperative that the wiring used for connectivity is of the highest quality and it meets current standards.

Upgrading your wiring really is an intelligent move in order to futureproof your business.   It’s also important that you choose a network cabling provider who really knows what they are doing.

  1. Reliability

Can you imagine if your systems failed one day?  Most companies totally rely on their internet, intranet or extranet, so no system means your business crashes and your customers won’t thank you for that!  We don’t need to spell it out, but any disruption is going to cost you.

  1. Cost

Yes, it will cost you to ensure your network is the most reliable it can be.  Don’t think you can cut corners by employing an electrician, you really do need an expert in this field.  Use a company with plenty of experience and great customer support.  Check their client portfolio and even ask for references.  Choose someone local to you, so they are on hand if you have problems.  Also check to ensure the engineers are accredited and can guarantee the work carried out.

  1. Crosstalk

This is the interference of an electrical signal from one wire or cable to another adjacent cable or wire.  Often the effect is manifested because of installing cheap cabling!  Crosstalk can cause many problems, including delay, slow network speeds and data errors.  

  1. Signal Attenuation

Quite simply, your signal can degrade or be lost over the distance of a lengthy cable, this is why buying the correct and best quality cable in the first place is so important.  

  1. Signal to Noise Ratio

If you have a poor SNR it can cause interference which can create network instability and speed issues.  You need the lowest ratio possible for the best quality network.  

So, if you value your business, we say do it once and do it right! 


Friday, 19 August 2016

Happy Birthday Merlin!

image courtessy of digialart

Merlin are 9 years old this week!

Naturally we are very proud and incredibly thankful to all of our loyal clients. 

Also very pleased to say, that the majority of our very first clients are still with us, which hopefully is all down to great products, system reliability and great customer service.

Although our client base has grown tremendously over the past few years, we have grown too.  Taking over a company in Norfolk has expanded our products and services, yet we still maintain the vision and values we set out from the beginning.

On our journey we have learnt a tremendous amount as well.

One very important fact is that "one size does not fit all".  Every business is unique.  Every network is different, and it's our job to ensure we support each and every need and requirement.  Luckily, because our systems are so flexible, we can and do provide a bespoke service.  Often a few small tweaks, or adding an additional function to a system can make a huge beneficial difference to a clients business.  

Our mission is still to be as transparent as we can and not wrap charges up into packages that make money for us, rather than the client. This works fine for most of our clients and they are very happy to buy from us because of this, but there are some that actually want a package because they know just how much their invoice will be at the end of the month.  Some clients actually think they really will get a better deal with a package.  It's just the psychology of a bundled up deal!

Many clients also have a preconceived idea that their telecoms will be cheaper if they buy into a longer contract term.  Often as not, this is not the case (Telecoms are a commoditised industry)  - it just makes it very difficult or expensive to move if you aren't happy with your provider.  We have noticed a few telecom companies have taken our lead and now offer a 30 day agreement.  We are very pleased to have been a pioneer in that direction. 

One last mention will be to the fantastic team of business partners who work with us.  We are very lucky to have formed some great relationships with a handful of IT companies who really work like we do; have the same principles and will bend over backwards to make something work for our clients.  They all have the same “can do” attitude, which is refreshing. We'd have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone.  

Finally, we’ll have a toast to all our clients, because we really couldn’t do it without you!

Cheers and thanks to each and every one of you.

Tina Bricknell for

Friday, 29 July 2016

Broadband outage! Do you have a back up plan?

The B.T broadband outages that occurred last week,  just highlighted a couple of points that we thought we would share with you.

Most of our clients use a hosted VoIP telephone system and when broadband was affected last week, some experienced no internet and/or poor call quality for a period of time.

The beauty of having a Merlin hosted phone system, meant that calls were quickly diverted to either a  mobile, another analogue line or another branch instantly, which gave our clients business continuity.

Clients that were affected at the time asked us what options existed to minimise the impact of such an occurrence in the future. 

We advised  that maybe it would be worth their while installing a second broadband  connection (using  an alternative carrier) so that if such a nationwide outage occurred again, they would have complete continuity for their business, as internet traffic or voice traffic could be routed to the unaffected connection.

If your business cannot function without the internet, then just imagine and quantify the monetary loss you might experience if you were down for a day. For example, staff sitting around with nothing to do, deadlines to
meet, possibility of payroll to run, end of month to deal with and missing new business opportunities.  As you can see, the cost of installing another line and broadband and the annual rental could easily be justified in a one day outage.   Added to which is the ongoing benefit of being able to use one connection for internet traffic and one for voice traffic which will give you improved performance in the long run.

To future proof  your business from the vagaries of  outages, then consider fitting another connection  for total business continuity when disaster strikes.

The Merlin Team