How can you use the latest FTTC fast broadband?
The latest fast broadband provides speeds of upto 40Mb download and 10Mb upload. These speeds could drastically change the way that businesses work and how home users interact with the internet.
A fast broadband connection, using FTTC, is cost effective at little more than most people pay for standard ADSL.
What services can I now use with FTTC Fast Broadband?
Once you have the new super fast broadband in place a host of new applications become real options for businesses. The applications below are just a few examples of what you can do with a fast broadband connection. The new FTTC Fast Broadband connections could also change the way that we work, being able to work from anywhere being a real option.
Fast Broadband and Online Backup
The massive increase in upload speeds means that services like Online Backup become a real option for Small Business. Previously the upload speed of a typical ADSL line was around 0.5Mb, so the increases to either 2Mb or 10Mb with an FTTC services, like BT Infinity, mean that for a lot of businesses online backup services will be upto 20 times quicker. Even at 4 times quicker, with the 2Mb upload throughput, Online backup is now a serious option for a lot of businesss.
Fast Broadband and Cloud Services
Cloud Services for applications like document management now become a real option for Small Businesses. The increase in upload speed makes scanning and storing documents in the cloud, with cloud services like Microsoft Office 365 (Formerly BPOS). The massive increase in download speeds also means that documents can be stored in the cloud and accessed only when required, rather than keeping a copy in the office.
Fast Broadband and Hosted VoIP
Small and medium size businesses have been able to run hosted VoIP over a dedicated ADSL line, supporting around 5 concurrent calls on a typical ADSL line. The advent of the additional bandwidth means that you can run significantly more concurrent VoIP users over a FTTC fast internet link. This expansion of users helps to keep the costs down as larger organisations no longer need multiple lines to support a larger VoIP community.
Using SamKnows for FTTC Availability Checking
To check if you are in a fast internet area take a look at our blog post, fast internet availability, and you can see when your area is due to be upgraded. You can also use the SamKnows service to see what connection speed you can expect from your new Fast Broadband connection.
The SamKnows website provides ADSL and Broadband availability checking http://www.samknows.com/broadband/broadband_checker
Once you enter, either, your phone number or your post code into the Broadband checker at SamKnows then you will be presented with a summary screen, like the one on the left.
The summary shows which options are actually available in your area. This summary will show all of the available connectivity types including FTTC, ADSL and SDSL from BT, along with the options from the independent ISP’s.
If you then click on the connectivity type, e.g. BT FTTC on the left hand side you will be shown the details of the speeds you can expect at your home or office. You will see both the minimum and maximum speeds that you can expect to receive from your fast broadband connection.
In this case you can see that we anticipate a minimum download speed of 28.4 Mbps and a minimum upload speed of 6.2Mbps. The upload speed is approximately 10 times what we currently achieve with an ADSL line.
If you are interested in getting the fastest internet connection for your home or business then talk to us at SystemAssure and we will will help you upgrade to FTTC Fast Broadband.
What is Outlook Anywhere?
Outlook Anywhere, also known as Outlook over http, allows you to connect to your Exchange Server when you are out of the office, without the need for a VPN. It is especially useful with using a laptop on the road, or if you regularly work from home.
Outlook Anywhere allows you to bring the Office to you, when you can’t get into the office. Keeping your business running in a safe, secure and timely manner.
How to Configure Outlook 2010 for Outlook Anywhere
To configure Microsoft Outlook to use the Outlook Anywhere facility just follow the instructions below.
Outlook File Menu
When you are logged into Outlook 2010 go to the File Menu and select the Info option, see left.
From here select the Account Settings Option
When you click on Account Settings the Drop Down menu below will be displayed.
Select the top option for Account Settings
Double click on the
Microsoft Exchange item the Change Account details, below, will be displayed.
Make sure that
Use Cached Exchange Mode
has been selected, otherwise Outlook will be very slow when online and you will not be able to review emails when you are off-line.
Click on the More Settings… Button to get to the next Screen.
When the dialogue box appears it will default to the General tab, see left.
You shouldn’t need to change anything in here.
In the Advanced Tab make sure that
Use Cached Exchange Mode
Ensure that the check box for data encryption has been checked. This will help to ensure that your data is kept secure.
Select the Outlook Anywhere box and then click on the Exchange Proxy Settings button.
The dialogue box below will be displayed, detailing the proxy options.
Exchange Proxy Settings
Enter the URL of your mail server name. Typically this will be something like
Select Only connect to proxy servers that have this principal name in their certificate. And enter:
Then press OK
Using Outlook Anywhere
Once this has been done you should be able to connect to your Exchange Server using Outlook without the need for a VPN. You will be prompted for your windows login credentials when Outlook goes to connect to your Exchange Server. Other than that you should be able to use Outlook Anywhere in exactly the same way that you use Outlook in the office, you will still get all of your email signatures and have full access to your Calendar and Contacts.
Now you know how to Configure Outlook Anywhere.
Why create an email archive?
There are a variety of different reasons why your business should have an email archive. These include:-
- Legal Compliance
- Performance improvement
- Protection of Your Intellectual Property
- Business Continuity
In general all of the above come down to getting a copy of your email into a secure location as quickly as possible after it is received, or sent.
Options for creating your email archive
There are different ways that your email archive can be created. These either involve you:
- Installing email archive software on a server in your office
- Using a hosted email archive provider
Local Email Archive
A local email archive will generally involve having an additional server, somewhere in the infrastructure. This server host the archive to ensure that data cannot be ‘lost’ by people deleting emails.
Your local archive should be on a separate server to your email server, ideally it should also be in a separate physical location. So for Small Business this isn’t a realistic option, the capital expense of a second server just to hold your archive would not normally be acceptable.
Hosted Email Archive
I would recommend that you use a hosted email archive. A hosted archive is a very cost effective solution as, most of the email archive providers, don’t require any upfront investment. You will get a highly performant email archive, you don’t need to worry about having to backup the email archive, you also don’t have to worry about scalability.
There are lots of options for Hosted email archive companies, but don’t forget that you are entrusting them with your information so don’t just choose the cheapest. The 2 options I would recommend are:-
If you want information about either of these please contact me via the SystemAssure website. Both Webroot and Microsoft offer free trials of their archive solutions and we can help you set these up and evaluate the best email archive product for your business.
Do we really need Business Continuity for Small Businesses? The snow and general bad weather, at the beginning of the year in the UK, meant that many people were unable to get into work for a while. Did you loose business as a result of the weather because you weren’t able to get the phones answered, you weren’t able to deal with email or were unable to get into the office for a while?
Whilst, for the UK at least, the weather conditions were unusual there are several other problems that can cause similar problems for your business. Most people think of the major disasters, like flood or fire but what about a power cut or your ADSL line being down.
There is no reason why you should loose business as with the technology available today you can have access to email, your phone system and even your PC in the office from almost anywhere that has Internet connectivity. So how can we provide Business Continuity for Small Businesses?
What does a Small Business Continuity Solution need to provide?
How does a Business Continuity solution work and what are the minimum services that it needs to provide? Think about the way that you do business on a day to day basis, do you recieve a lot of phone calls, is most of your customer communication via email?
Make sure that your primary ways of doing business are covered, typically the immediate concern is managing existing customers and prospects – i.e. Can we continue to ‘Do Business’ ?
So for 90% of Small Companies that is:-
- Send and receive email
- Answering the Phones
- Generate Invoices
Below are some of the methods that you can use to make sure that you have a business which can survive a disaster and have a viable Business Continuity plan in place.
email access methods
If you have a laptop, or webmail access, you have probably been able to keep up with your business email, even if you haven’t been able to get into the office. One of the big advantages of email systems is that, typically, you can get access to them from anywhere that you can get an Internet connection. That is certainly true of things like Hotmail, Googlemail or Exchange Online, where all you need is a web browser.
Most companies that use Microsoft Exchange, or Small Business Server (SBS), will also provide webmail access through Outlook Web Access (OWA). OWA allows you to send email and read your company email from any web browser, you can also look at your calendar etc, just as though you were using Outlook in the office. If you don’t have access to any form of company webmail then its worth talking with your IT department to see if they will set provide you access to OWA.
If you have a Blackberry, iPhone or Windows Mobile device (SmartPhones) then you can probably get access to your company email on that. In most cases it is a relatively simple task to configure SmartPhones to work via your Exchange Server and to send and receive your company email.
Don’t forget that if you send email via OWA or your SmartPhone and its going via your Exchange server then you will have a copy saved in your sent mail items and, if your signatures are applied on the server, then your email will get all of the correct footers, branding etc. that it would have if you sent if from your desktop machine in the office.
Hosted Exchange is now a scalable, cost effective solution especially for Small Businesses. Microsoft have entered the hosted market and offer Exchange Online, either on its own or as part of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).
In the UK you can get Microsoft BPOS for £6.71 a month, per user or just Exchange Online for £3.36 a month, per user. There is a minimum number of 5 users.
BPOS is a great way of providing a low cost, scalable, robust, enterprise grade, Business Continuity solution for small businesses.
Business Continuity and Phone Systems
If you use a hosted VoIP phone system, then you can easily make and receive calls from anywhere that you have an Internet connection. These calls will appear to come from the office number and will get billed to the office rather than your home phone number. So in the bad weather you can work from home and appear to be in the office. Even if the power is out in your office using a hosted VoIP solution means that your calls will still get delivered, as all of the redirection is carried out in the hosted PBX. If you have a softphone on your PC then the calls don’t even need to get redirected they just get delivered to your softphone.
If you don’t have Internet connectivity then its simple enough to make a phone call and get your calls re-directed to your mobile phone or home phone. There is no need not to be able to receive the office phone calls even if no-one can get into the office to answer the phone.
You can even use the Hosted VoIP solution to make sure that all of your calls still appear to originate from the office number, even if you are using your mobile to make the calls. What happens in practice is that our Hosted PBX calls your mobile, then dials the number you want to talk to – as soon as they answer the calls are connected. Its really simple to configure, in just 2 mouse clicks and is included in your base cost.
Call Me Now
Click on the Call Me Icon, on the left, and enter your phone number and we will call you right back to discuss your requirements. Call Me is a standard part of the Voiplicity phone system, so is something that you will be able to do on your website with just a few mouse clicks.
So we can provide Business Continuity for your phone system, from anywhere with Internet access.
As part of a Business Continuity plan we to need to consider what you would do if the office was destroyed. If you have gone done the route of Hosted Email and VoIP then you will probably be able to continue to ‘do business’, but what about all of your company records, customer details, contracts etc? How are you going to be able to access that information if the office no longer exists?
You should have off-site copies of your computer backups, after all there is no point in keeping your backup copy next to the server. At a minimum the daily backups should be held off site in a secure location. That could mean taking the daily tape home and keeping it safe, or using of of the many Online Backup services.
An Online Backup, or Hosted Backup, service will continually take copies of your data and ship it to a secure data center. Depending on the service you subscribe to this could be a continuous backup, or scheduled on a daily basis.
Most of the services allow for a local copy of the data and the off site copy. The local copy allows you to quickly restore files in the event someone accidentally deletes a file. The off-site, or hosted copies, are for disaster recovery / Business Continuity in case the office gets destroyed.
If you use Microsoft BPOS, Google Apps, or any of the other hosted services then your data is held in a secure data center. It will actually be held in multiple geo located data centers, so your data is secure. In this case you can continue to work and not need to worry about your data. You also have access to your applications from anywhere in addition to having a copy of your data.
One thing about Hosted Service and Online backup services, make sure that you select a vendor who will host your data in your country, or legislative area. The reason for this is that not all countries have the same approach to Data Security and Data Protection, so you want your data where it is covered by the same data protection laws as your business.
Remote PC Access
You can also use systems like LogMeIn, GoToMyPC or the functionality built into Remote Management Systems like SystemAssure that will let you access your office PC from a web browser. Typically this type of application will let you print on your local, home, printer and also copy files and documents between your office PC and your home PC. If you are a BPOS user you wouldn’t even need access to your Office PC, as all of you data will be stored within the SharePoint Online section of BPOS.
So whatever the weather, if its snow, floods or even if you want to sunbath in the back garden rather than go into the office there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do everything that you can do from the office. You can either do this will a combination of different applications that you put together yourself or let SystemAssure take the strain and do the work for you.
Business Continuity For Small Businesses
Yes it is entirely possible to provide your small business with a cost effective Business Continuity solution. By doing this properly you also increase the scalability of your business and also remove the need to ‘step’ investments in hardware as your business grows.
Planning Business Continuity for Small Businesses from day one can dramatically reduce your need for capital investment and also give you flexibility in work practices.
Need Assistance with Business Continuity planning?
If you would like assistance in designing and implementing a Business Continuity plan for your small business then please contact me through the SystemAssure Website.
Advantages of VoIP Phone Systems
One of the advantages of VoIP (Voice over IP) phone systems is they that differ from a traditional phone system in the way that they work, the costs involved and the flexibility of the system. The key things that you can do with a phone system, make phone calls, transfer calls, answer the phone etc. are exactly the same on VoIP systems as they are on traditional analogue phone systems. In most cases will will not be able to tell that the phone you are using is a VoIP phone, they look the same as any other phone and the call quality is at least as good.
Traditionally a business would have a Phone Exchange, sometimes called a PBX, and a number of phone lines. The phone lines would either be traditional Analogue lines, for a very small business, and either ISDN2 or ISDN30 for companies which need multiple phone lines. The PBX allows you to make internal calls, between people in the same office, and also to make and receive external calls. i.e. calls to your customers.
A VoIP phone system still uses a PBX, however this can either be in an in-house system, like a Cisco CallManager or an appliance like an Asterix system. The other way is to use a hosted, or cloud based, phone exchange. Using a hosted phone exchange allows small businesses to benefit from the features and facilities of enterprise grade phone systems, without having the capital expense of having to buy an exchange. A VoIP phone system runs over the Internet, typically over a dedicated ADSL line in a Small Business.
Advantages of VoIP Phone Systems
The advantages of VoIP phone systems, particularly Hosted VoIP phone systems, include:-
- High Quality calls at low cost
- Infinitely expandable as your business grows
- You never need to change or loose your phone number, even when you move offices
- You don’t have the capital expense of buying a PBX, this can save you hundreds or thousands of Pounds
- Simple to move offices, just pick up your phones and plug them into your new office network. No need to reconfigure anything or spend hours on the phone to BT
- You don’t have to decide how many external lines you are going to need
- Its really simple to include home workers in the office phone system, all they need is a broadband line. Now when they are working from home they could be sat at the next desk. You can see if they are on the phone, through the presence indicator, transfer calls to them (for free) and they can make calls that have the office number as the outgoing call line identification (CLI)
- Calls between multiple office and home workers are free
- If you travel – use a soft-phone on your laptop, or mobile phone, and all your calls appear to come from the office
- If you are working outside the UK, calls to the office remain free from your soft-phone, and calls to other UK numbers are just local calls that get charged to the office
- Never miss a call again
- Access your Voicemail from anywhere that has Internet access or get it sent to you as an email
- Click to dial – highlight phone numbers on a web page and call them directly
- Outlook Integration – quickly and simply dial your Outlook contacts
- Calls between other businesses using the same provider are, with most systems, free of charge. You only get charged when you go ‘off net’
- You can have calls ‘overflow’ between offices, where if one office is really busy their calls can be answered by one of the less busy offices.
- You can even have multiple numbers for the same office. i.e. An office in Cornwall having both a Penzance number and a London number.
- If you can’t get into the office, due to adverse weather conditions; or if the office suffers from a power cut you can receive you calls at home. Either through a ‘soft phone’ or an IP phone at home.
Limitations of the traditional Phone System
A traditional phone system has its own PBX and a number of phone lines.
- If you have a single ISDN2 line this allows you to have a total of 2 external calls running concurrently, after that any other customers calling in would receive an engaged tone.
- You have to estimate how many simultaneous, external, calls that will be taking place. This is quite difficult as you may be able to estimate the number of outgoing calls, but its more complex to estimate the number of incoming calls. If you get it wrong it can be expensive, either you are paying for lines that you don’t really need, or you are loosing business because customers get an engaged tone when they call.
- When you want to add more external lines you may also need to upgrade the PBX to cope with the additional lines.
- It is difficult to include home workers into the phone system.
- If you have multiple offices, calls between the offices can get expensive.
- Quick and easy to put a ‘Call Me Now’ button on your website, that costs the customer nothing, as a quick and easy way to help convert hot prospects.
Using the advantages of VoIP day to day
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to test the advantages of VoIP for your business. If you choose the right system you will quickly appreciate the advantages of VoIP for a small and growing business.
Advantages of VoIP – New Start-up
If you are starting a new business venture from home you need to project the right image from day one, so rather than using your home phone number or just using a mobile number get a VoIP phone system. Most homes have broadband already so all you need is a VoIP phone and a connection from a VoIP provider, like ourselves.
Starting at only £8.00 a month for business grade VoIP its a very cost effective route into ‘big business’ telephony.
Advantages of VoIP – Unified Communications
You can integrate your mobile phone into your VoIP network, so if you are near a Wi-Fi connection you can recieve and make calls as part of the office phone system. So getting hold of people is even simpler and can be free, rather than paying mobile phone charges.
- Get your mobile phone voicemail and your office voicemail delivered into a single, unified, mailbox.
- Review and play your voicemail from a web-page
- View your missed calls, phone contacts, voicemail etc all from a single web-page
- Redirect calls and setup ‘hunt groups’ from a simple web UI
- Call Me Now – button on your website
Advantages of VoIP – Growing Business
As your business grows and you either take on people working from home, or get an office you can expand your VoIP phone system. If you are moving into an office you will appreciate the advantages of VoIP when all you need to do is provision Broadband in the office and plug the phones in – your calls will now appear in the office.
When you need to add more people to the business its almost as simple as plugging in an additional phone. You will never outgrow a Hosted VoIP solution.
Advantages of VoIP – Cost Control
- If you have multiple locations, either branch office or home workers, then all of the calls between your locations are free.
- All calls appear on the main office bill, so no more having to apportion parts of home phone bills.
- If your customers or suppliers use the same VoIP provider calls to them are free as well.
- There are no sudden step costs, like having to upgrade the office PBX once you get past 50 users.
Advantages of VoIP – Flexibility and Mobility
- If you need to work away from the office you can simply use a softphone on your desktop computer. Provided that you have internet access then you can use the phone system as though you are in the office. So you could be in:-
- A hotel room
- Working abroad
- Sat in Starbucks
- Quickly ‘spin up’ a branch office when you need to. Either as part of a new Business Venture or as a ‘Project Office’ on a customer site as part of a larger piece of business.
Can I Run VoIP?
To check if your network is suitable for running VoIP you should run a set of network tests. Follow the links to Speed Tests and Ping Tests in other posts on Computer Spot in order to find out if your network is suitable for VoIP.
These two tests will check if your broadband has the capacity to run VoIP and will also check the Internet Quality Test of your Broadband. The Ping Test, or Internet Quality Test, is the really important test if you are considering running a VoIP phone system.
There is no point in using VoIP if it sounds like a bad mobile phone connection. There are a lot of VoIP providers out there and not all of them offer Business Grade VoIP. So make sure that you select a provider who offer Business Grade VoIP, with all of the features and advantage of a large business PBX. Then your business will experience the advantages of VoIP.
You should now understand some of the advantages of VoIP for your business
Where Can I get a VoIP Phone System?
As part of the SystemAssure solution we offer a hosted VoIP Phone System. You can find out more about the advantages of VoIP for your business on the SystemAssure VoIP pages. The hosted VoIP phone solution we offer is Business Grade and is cost effective for single users through to companies with hundreds of users. So call us today to find out more about the advantages of VoIP for your business.
What does a UPS do?
A UPS, or Uninterpretable Power Supply, is more than just a big battery that cuts in if you get a power cut. There are 2 different types of UPS, online and offline, the most common type is an online UPS which is what we will talk about. Typically a UPS is purchased for a Server to protect it from power failures, but they do more than that. An online UPS will:-
- Power your Computer for a period of time if the mains fails
- Once the UPS battery hits a certain level it can, gracefully, shut the server down
- Smooth out Power fluctuations
- Protect your server, or computer equipment, from over voltage.
Item 1 is the one that most people think of when buying a UPS, however most UPS are only capable of powering a server for about 10-15 minutes. This is enough to cope with those annoying glitches but a typical UPS isnt designed to keep your business running in the event of a power failure. In large data centers UPS are typically employed to keep systems running whilst the generators start and get up to operating speed. In a small business the role of the UPS is primarily 3, 1, 2, 4 from the list above in priority order.
What does a UPS Do?
Smooth out Power fluctuations and present your equipment with a ‘clean’ supply of a fixed voltage and frequency. The nominal voltage in the UK is 230 volts +/- 10% (207-253 volts) at 50Hz. This is the Harmonised European Voltage and has been in place since 2003. An online UPS smooths out power fluctuations by taking the mains input voltage converting it to 12 or 24 volts to power an inverter which then produces a regulated 230 volts at 50Hz.
Power the computer if the mains fails – what this means in practices is if the mains supply is outside of the 230 volts +/- 10% (207-253 volts) at 50Hz range then the UPS will:-
- Stop accepting the mains input voltage
- Power the device from the battery, via the inverter, to produce the clean power
- If power returns to the acceptable range it will start accepting mains voltage again and charge the UPS battery
Graceful shutdown if the battery level falls below a specified limit. This is designed to protect the data on your computer systems by ensuring that you don’t run out of battery power and effectively ‘pull the plug’ on your server. If your server takes 5 minutes to shutdown you would want to make sure that you had at least 10 minutes of power before you started the shutdown process. e.g. Assume that your UPS can power your server for 15 minutes:- If after 2 minutes of running on battery the power comes back then the shutdown process will not have started and the system will continue to work as normal. The battery will also start recharging. If you get another power failure this time it lasts for 5 minutes, at this point the UPS will issue a ‘Shutdown’ command to the server. This is exactly the same as you doing this from a computer menu or command line, once the process has started it will run to completion even if the power comes back again. This makes sure that the applications are shutdown cleanly and you are very unlikely to loose any data.
Over Voltage Protection Over voltage is less likely to happen than under voltage or a power failure, however the process is the same as for a power failure.
What does a UPS do?
So now you hopefully know the answer to the question, What does a UPS do?