Friday, 13 December 2013

Mobile Calls



The Cost of Stolen Mobiles is to be Capped

Bringing you relevant updates from around the industry, this article was sourced online via The Register.

A new agreement between government and service providers means that by 2016 UK mobile users will be protected from thieves running up massive bills.

EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have all agreed to put a cap on the amount that customers will have to pay on phones that have been reported lost or stolen, in a similar way to the £50 liability ceiling on debit and credit cards, although the amount for the mobile cap hasn't been announced yet.

The service providers have also agreed not to hike prices in the middle of a contract and to work with the government to eliminate roaming charges by 2016.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said "Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are being blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise."

"We are ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own."

If phone companies want to raise prices in the middle of contracts, they will now have to give customers the option of ending the contract without any penalties if they don't want to accept the hike.

Merlin

Monday, 9 December 2013

VOIP Just Makes Sense

Merlin Telecom is part of the positive telecoms revolution to improve service provision, system features and reduce costs. We aim to bring you all of the leading insights that will help keep your business benefitting from all of the savings and new features and share with you here why businesses of all sizes are switching to voice-over-IP (VoIP) in droves.

Simply, the infrastructure which supports the traditional analogue telephone services are on their last leg, with future plans underway to switch to VoIP industry-wide. So just like it now is hard to take photographs with film, not too many years from now it will be hard or impossible to call with traditional phone technology.

VoIP currently represents a $32.11 billion industry worldwide, and has a projected compound annual growth rate of 7 percent over the next four years.

Here are five reasons why:
  1. Efficient call routing. VoIP is digital, which means several things. First, it can leverage compression. This means it only uses as much bandwidth as it needs, not a full line like analogue phones. Second, several calls can simultaneously use the same wire. This efficiency translates into cost savings. VOIP costs up to 80 percent less than similar landline services.
  2. Unlimited long distance calling. It is hard to beat a cheap flat rate for national calling, and that’s exactly what VoIP offers due to its foundation as data packets that run over the Internet instead using the traditional telephone network. More than anything else, businesses are switching because it just makes sense from a cost perspective.
  3. More features. Along with price, businesses have discovered that VoIP comes with a plethora of features baked into calling plans. These include universal features for free such as voicemail and call waiting, and they also include more VoIP-specific features such as the ability to place and receive calls from anywhere in the world.
  4. Cheap international rates. While VoIP usually delivers unlimited national calling for one flat rate, it also offers exceedingly low international rates. That’s because while it is no small feat to connect a call from one point in the world to another, it is substantially easier (and therefore cheaper) to send these calls through the Internet. The lowest international rates are those that come through VoIP solutions.
  5. Less hardware. With VoIP, telephony can be a hosted service. This means no closet stuffed with telephone hardware, no maintenance, no upgrades and wasted space. One of the most underrated benefits of VoIP is its ability to make business telephone networks a turnkey service.
With such compelling information, backed with the service guarantees and the culture of customer care which gives you as much flexibility as possible, Merlin Telecom are here to help you optimise every aspect of your business communications and leverage cost reductions as the technology evolves.

Contact us for more information on 0800 877 8810, or info@merlin-telecom.co.uk or visit www.merlin-telecom.co.uk

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

VoIP Telephony

This blog is one we like because it sets out the key differences and considerations when choosing your business VOIP phone system. We’ll help guide you through the specifics for your own business in a way which gives you a very straightforward like for like comparison and show you the benefits for your business.

Reference : Understanding VOIP Pricing 

Telecoms pricing has always been something of a mystery to many – with so many tariffs, charges, rates and acronyms for add-ons and extras that are not always clear.

Similarly with VOIP – the cost of data and connection charges can vary enormously. So asking how much a given system costs is pretty meaningless. Understanding how the various models work, as well as their advantages and disadvantages, is far more useful, as you can then calculate how much you would spend on each type of solution over a given time period under given circumstances. Importantly, it will help you understand the full range of benefits that each has to offer.

Premises VoIP is similar to traditional premises systems of the past. You buy, install and operate a complete phone system including call-handling (PBX) and end-user (phone) equipment. You can use your own staff to handle technical tasks, or use an outside firm or the vendor itself via a service contract.

But premises VoIP also differs from the traditional premises model. Traditional PBXes are expensive pieces of specialized hardware. The more users you want to support, the more you have to spend on hardware. IP PBXes, by contrast, consist of sophisticated software running on relatively cheap hardware, often generic servers or appliances. Adding users thus doesn't require big spending on more hardware. But IP PBX vendors still want to make more money when they support more users. Thus their tendency is to sell per-seat licenses, keeping revenues rising in proportion to user numbers. Bundling phones in the per-seat price also supports this revenue/user link.
  • Advantages of premises VoIP:
    • Once purchased, all you pay for is maintenance, upgrades, support etc.
    • Security: You have physical control of the equipment and data, including voice mail messages 
  •  Disadvantages of premises VoIP:
    • Major upfront expenditure
    • You are responsible for equipment management, maintenance, upgrades etc.
With hosted VoIP, your phone system runs on equipment in the provider's data centre and you pay a recurring monthly fee per user or some other measure to the access to use the system. The fee covers not only PBX call-handling functionality, but also the cost of inbound and outbound calling. Hosted VoIP offers more pricing variations than premises VoIP. Many providers include desk phones in the monthly fee, but others have you buy the phone separately. Some charge per user, some per extension. This may be an important difference if you have a lot of extensions that see little use, such as in reception areas or loading docks.

Some providers charge only for minutes of inbound and outbound calls, focusing on the telecom rather than the call-handling part of the hosted package. And some even charge by bandwidth: You can have as many calls for a fixed fee as your IP connection (which may be bundled with the service) can support.
  • Advantages of hosted VoIP:
    • No upfront expenditures
    • Flexibility: It's easy to add users by paying for more seats
    • No responsibility for maintaining system, keeping it technically up to date, etc.
  • Disadvantages of hosted VoIP:
    • You have to keep paying monthly fees forever
    • This could become the more expensive option in as few as one or two years
Another possibility is an approach one might call premises-based hosted VoIP. In this case, the hosted service provider installs its equipment in the customer's premises, retaining ownership of the equipment, as well as managing and maintaining it. This method could make sense for the provider if the customer's call volume merits a dedicated IP PBX. It could have both benefits and drawbacks for the customer.
  • Advantages of premises-based hosted VoIP:
    • The usual price and flexibility benefits of hosted VoIP services
    • Call handling and data on premises
    • Quality: Calls don't travel over the public Internet between employees' phones and the IP PBX, as with traditional hosted VoIP
  • Disadvantages of premises-based hosted VoIP:
    • Takes up space at customer's premises
    • Pay forever
There are so many different options, it’s a case if knowing up front what you really want, and then finding a supplier that you can trust. We careful of contract arrangements that don’t give you flexibility to grow and change and you need to.

You can discuss any of the above with us at Merlin Telecom on 0800 877 8810 or email us info@merlin-telecom.co.uk

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

VoIP is Great, but Mobile VoIP is Even Better


Keeping your phone system up to date is essential to keep benefiting from the technology developments and costs efficiencies that are important to every business.

There a number of reasons why businesses are turning to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). It offers a streamlined approach to communications and if the system is managed offsite by a proven vendor, the responsibility and stress associated with maintaining the system goes away. If the system doesn’t support mobile VoIP, however, the full intended benefits may be out of reach.

To realize the intended benefits, VoIP routes calls through the existing Internet connection, avoiding the traditional phone lines installed more than a century ago. VoIP has been available for a few years now, yet it is only in recent months that enough bandwidth has become available to push more businesses toward VoIP instead of traditional telephony.

Some of the benefits associated with VoIP include hyper-efficient call routing. Where traditional landlines can only handle one call at a time and the entire bandwidth was consumed even if both parties were silent, VoIP only sends data when there is data to actually send. Plus, this data is in small data packets which take up very little bandwidth, resulting in much lower phone bills.

Unlimited local and long distance calling is another clear benefit of VoIP, but it is also one of the key reasons professionals are turning to mobile VoIP. Users can easily avoid the additional charges to their mobile plans if they can leverage applications across available bandwidth - especially helpful when traveling overseas where roaming charges and international rates can quickly kill the budget.

The calling features available with a VoIP connection, both in the office and on the road, are a clear perk for this online communications option. The traditional landline would offer many of the same perks, for an added fee. With VoIP, users enjoy access to a wide range of features without adding to the monthly cost.

As communications remain an important focus for all companies and mobility demand continues to grow, implementing a VoIP system that also supports mobile VoIP is a great next step towards efficiency and low cost connections.

http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/mobile-voip/articles/360288-voip-great-but-mobile-voip-even-better.htm

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

What is BYOD?

Bring Your Own Device - or bring your own disaster?

BYOD is a term given to describe the growing trend of employees using their own personal smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices for work purposes and according to a recent statistics, “BYOD” is not on the radar for around 40% of companies but experts are warning against a dangerous lack of vigilance.

The risks of infecting systems and networks a massively increased with the integration of un-checked devices. "Whether they are ambivalent or embrace the principles of the BYOD movement, a company needs to protect itself from the fall out that can impact them through their staff using BYOD," employment law expert Edward Goodwyn of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said. "Employees are using their own devices and bringing them into work regardless of their employers' views. As such, employers should either consider prohibiting BYOD for work, access to their system or their clients' data, or they should apply sufficient controls to protect them and their clients."

More than 40% of companies do not consider the 'bring your own device' (BYOD) trend to be on their agenda, according to a survey of IT leaders.06 Nov 2013

However, just over 25% of those surveyed expressed positive views about BYOD and said that their employer had embraced the "craze". "Where this balance lies ultimately will depend on the organisation’s corporate culture but employers should be very careful about a BYOD free-for-all," he added. "Organisations should consider implementing a well balanced policy to include the use of BYOD. It should deal with issues such as the security of individual devices, what functions staff will be allowed to perform using their own devices and the range of employees they wish to give those usage rights to. Equally, the policy should clearly set out what the sanctions are if the employees breach the policy."

The proliferation of non-Windows hardware and other employee-owned devices attempting to connect to the corporate network is seemingly a cause of great concern for many IT managers.

At the beginning of March this year, the UK's data protection watchdog published new guidance for employers on BYOD. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) stressed that organisations should remember that they are duty-bound to look after the personal data they are responsible for under data protection laws "regardless of the ownership of the device used to carry out the processing".

Companies must ensure that devices used for work purposes are password-protected, and that data is encrypted when being transferred as well as being stored, it said.

Read the original article here : BYOD 'not on the agenda' at 40% of companies but expert warns against ambivalence

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Many Cost Savings of Straight-to-Voicemail - Another Reason to use VoIP

Basic business telephony solutions are great, and continue to do their job, but there are circumstances in which your business will outgrow that solution, and it might just be time to upgrade.

Here are some signs that it’s time for something more advanced. Since the telephone is something we take for granted, this probably won’t be on your radar until the shortcomings are truly glaring and impossible to ignore.

An example might be the number of messages your receptionist is taking, if you have one. If written messages keep piling up, or voice calls are being managed by sending email or chat alerts to employees, then VoIP can save much unnecessary effort.

VoIP can offer a “straight to voicemail” function, so that if you know somebody is out of their office, the voicemail is doing the effort of the message-taking, not anybody who’s being paid by the hour.

Of course, this manual task is a standard feature of most systems – namely auto attendant – but most don’t have a switched system and make do with a live receptionist.

Straight to voicemail is also advantageous if the person being asked for is on another call. The reflex response for many phone operators when they see the red light beside someone’s extension to show they’re on another call is to take a message for them. This costs money. By deferring the call over to the person’s voicemail, they’ll see the alert for the call on their desk phone as soon as they get off of the call they were just on.

Another example is for employees who frequently receive telemarketing calls. Despite your reasonable efforts to block these intrusions, some manage to keep getting through. Sometimes the receptionist can tell from the call display it’s a telemarketer, or even from the first spoken words once answering the call. Either way, those calls can go straight to that person’s voicemail. You benefit on both ends, as the call does not waste the employee’s time as well as making the receptionist’s job easier to manage.

Speaking as a former telemarketer, I can tell you the easiest way to get rid of someone like me is to send my call straight to voicemail. Telemarketers don’t leave voicemails. If I was a caller with a more productive purpose, I would be more likely to leave a voicemail.

To assess just how useful this specific function might be, try sitting down at your reception desk for an hour, and take a minute-by-minute report of how the receptionist’s time is being managed. Then, take note of the circumstances in which you think some time could have been saved by using the straight-to-voicemail feature.

Reference: http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/voip-news/why-straighttovoicemail-is-another-reason-to-use-voip-57668

Saturday, 9 November 2013

It’s Not Paranoia. People REALLY Are Out To Get You



Definitely one you won’t want to miss!

Sourced from our recent research activity, this is a MUST read for all businesses of all shapes and sizes.  We have summarised the key points of the article and you can find the whole piece here:   http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/21/data_security/

Your business, your users, your systems and your data all have value to someone.

You could be targeted because you have something that someone specifically wants, or because attackers are hoping to find bank account details or email addresses to spam, or because they want your computer power for a botnet.

Few companies have the luxury of being able to dedicate one or more members of staff to security, but there are some easy layers of defence that everyone should have in place.

Microsoft Windows 7 and below have this covered fairly well with Microsoft Security Essentials for anti-virus needs and Windows Defender for spyware. Windows 8 has Windows Defender built in and does both anti-virus and anti-spam ware.

One of the most common methods of getting something unwanted is via an infected USB. Blocking USB devices is of course is a great line of defence which needs to be well managed with your staff. 

Fear of phones

Mobile malware is the latest threat. Android phones are the worst culprits. iPhones, Windows phones and BlackBerrys are much safer.  Enforcing PINs or password on devices is the most basic level of protection and should be employed wherever possible.

Avoiding using free services such as DropBox – hacking is easy.  The rogue user is another danger area – the member of staff who leaves the company to work for a competitor and still has arrangements in place for company-sensitive information to be emailed to him. Similarly, the person who left but knew another person's password. Weeks after leaving the company he logged in via webmail and began abusing staff.

Flashing red lights and sirens should be going off by now!  Policies prohibiting sharing passwords with other staff members and a regular forced change of password help to prevent these situations.

Beware the mafia

Ensuring user- accounts are disabled as people walk out the door for the last time is a very small price to pay to avoid a potential high risk of damage.

It is also worth educating users with reminders and tips. It is obvious to us, but a random email asking for their login details will often have users happily clicking a link that goes to "http://yourcompany.russianmafia.com" and entering their company username and password.

An attacker who has targeted a staff member or company can do huge amounts of damage and companies of all sizes are at risk."

These are just some of the basic approaches you should consider to protect everyone. You want to be thinking about them now rather than when it is too late. ®

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