The Telecom Zeitgeist

Commentary from Datasharp Telecom, one of the leading independent telecoms companies in the UK focusing on emerging technologies from within the telecommunications sector. VoIP, IP telephony, PABX, hybrid IP systems, hosted solutions, convergance technologies.

Monday, July 26, 2010

We have sent out many warning of potential hacking risks in telephone systems, but one of our clients still got caught last week.  Their telephone system was hacked and used to make hundreds of calls to premium rate numbers in Eastern Europe.  The unfortunate thing is that if this happens to you, you are left with the bill.  Thousands of companies are caught every year - PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THEM.

If you are unsure how to make your system safe, please give us a ring.  You can chose to make that call, but it may save you making a lot of others you don't choose to. 

Basic Things You Can Do
If you have voice mail boxes - change your passwords from the default.

Ensure your system is programmed to bar non-essential premium and international numbers

If we supply your lines and calls, use our free 'E-Alerts' facility to alert you of any unusual call patterns.

Check your online billing regularly to check there is nothing unforeseen.

Things We can do for you

We can supply an anti-toll fraud solution to prevent phone hacking. This can be a solution that sits between your phone system and the lines or a PC based solution that talks to your phone system and checks its operation.  Both act as Firewalls and stop toll fraud dead.  Toll fraud solutions start at £500 plus installation, which can be less than the cost of one hack.

RING US ON 0203 326 1010

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Blackberry or Mistletoe this Christmas?

A recent survey claims that 77% of smartphone owners across both the public and private sectors say they will be checking their smartphones over the Christmas and New Year period, and 66% will do it every day.

The most common reason they gave for checking their phone was dedication, with 45% claiming they will keep their smartphone on them at all times in case something important crops up.

26% said checking emails is a habit they are unable to break, while 11% admitted they will be more concerned about impressing their boss in the hope of a New Year promotion or bonus.

Just under half of the respondents to the survey are predicting that their obsessive smartphone checking will cause a row with family members this Christmas, with 58% packing their phone charger before taking trips to see friends and relatives.

The top five tips for switching off this Christmas are:

1. Leave it at home – If you know that you aren’t going to be needed for anything, leave your Smartphone at home when visiting family and friends. If you don’t have it on you, it won’t interfere with your plans.
2. Switch it off – If only for an hour or two, switch off your smartphone to avoid arguments and to have a bit of time to totally relax.
3. Out of office – Set up an auto-response to let people know you’re out of the office. If you don’t get back to them straight away, they won’t start chasing you.
4. Make your absence known – Let colleagues and clients know what days you will not be working, so they are less likely to contact you during your leave.
5. Silence is Golden – Switch your handset to silent, not vibrate or loud mode. If you get a call or an email, you won’t know and won’t be tempted to answer or read it.

You never know - If you switch off your Blackberry, you might even find the mistletoe is more fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to choose a telephone system

If you operate a small office or store that needs just a couple of phone lines, a standard POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) setup is often sufficient. Add several more employees, however, or move to a standard small-office environment, and a more sophisticated solution makes sense.

There are many options available today, and your choice will depend on how many sites you have, how many extensions you need and how many calls you need to make and take.

On a basic level, you'll want a separate extension and phone for each employee who uses a phone in that office. Accepting that, what kind of service and equipment should you get for your business? Here's how to figure it out.

The fundamental thing every phone system has to do is give you a dial tone or ring if a customer is trying to call you. That sounds an obvious – even stupid- thing to say, but how you and your staff make and take calls can actually have a huge effect both on staff morale and productivity. If you make a lot of calls, seconds wasted making or taking every call can become frustrating and a real time waster. You need to think about how incoming calls into your business are going to be handled and who are going to be allowed to make calls out.

You need to consider your current business needs and what the telephone system has to do to meet them. Some of the questions you may need to ask are.

  • How many external calls do you need to make or take?
  • How many inter-site calls do you need to make?
  • Would conference calling (including internal, inter-site and external calls) be cost effective?
  • Do you need individual voicemail for some (or even all) employees?
  • Do you have a contact centre (a group of people tasked to take incoming calls)?
  • Do you have ‘road warriors’ and want some kind of mobile solution (such as a BlackBerry or other smart phone) for them to take on the road?
  • Do you have ‘home workers’ and want calls routed to people in remote locations?
  • Do you need individual fax handling for each, or some, of your staff?
  • Do you need the phone system to integrate with a CRM package (Customer Relationship Manager Software such as Goldmine)?
  • Do you need the phone system to integrate with Microsoft Outlook?

Then you need to look at your business plan and see where you think you will be in three and five years. No-one wants to buy something that will need replacing in a few months, so these may be important issues for you to think through.

The bigger you get, the more other features may become important to you.
Auto-attendant: This frees you or your staff from answering the phone every time it rings. You can put in messages for business hours, any directions or instructions, and route incoming calls to the right employees. Equally important, when customers hear a computerized system with options, it can make them feel like they've reached a larger business.
Conferencing: If you have a lot of phone conferences, you might find it more cost-effective to have your own teleconferencing capabilities.
Call hunting: If one employee doesn't answer the phone, the call will automatically forward to another person (or group of people) instead of going directly to voicemail.

Home office workers and field salesmen and engineers can also benefit from business phone systems. Just because you're out of the office, it doesn't mean you need to be out of reach. A good basic business system can let you schedule auto-attendant features in case you're away, forward your calls to your mobile phone, and route incoming fax transmissions (even through the auto-attendant system). Some can allow home workers to dial into the main telephone system with a free call over a broadband line, and the main telephone system will then automatically connect them to the extension or external number they are dialling, meaning no more telephone expense accounts.

Once you've determined your needs, you'll also want to decide on the type of service. Here are some of the options:

Hosted VoIP solution with the system being remotely hosted so that a user can access it from anywhere in the world by plugging in a phone to a high speed internet connection to make/receive calls. Our own Datasharp Hosted Service offers quality of service and significantly reduced call costs.

Pure VoIP solution where the system provides IP down to the desk with IP phones or soft phones. External calls can be made via ISDN digital lines and/or SIP trunks. Our iPECS systems are ideal small to medium business pure VoIP systems, and our Shoretel solutions are perfect for medium sized businesses and above, or companies with multiple sites. The OpenOffice ME solution from Siemens is pitched at users from 10 to 150 users, so whatever your company size, we have a system for you.

Hybrid VoIP solution where a traditional PBX system is used with enabled VoIP capabilities. Calls are made/received over both traditional phone lines and a dedicated high speed internet connection. The Seimens HiPath 3000 series is a perfect, scaleable example of a hybrid system, and can be complemented with OpenScape Office software, to make a rugged, reliable phone system with all the software facilities your company needs.

The next thing you need to do is ring your friendly telecomm supplier on 0845 270 0881 and we will go through your answers with you and suggest the type of system for you. There is no charge for this advice. It is all part of our service. has more details.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Custard Creams can kill: Official

Jaffa Cakes relatively harmless, survey reveals

A disturbing probe into the potential for apparently innocent biscuits' ability to do harm has revealed that an astounding 25 million Brits have been injured while indulging in some light coffee/tea break snack action, with 500 victims requiring hospital treatment.

That's according to research outfit Mindlab International, which determined that almost a third of adults had been scalded by hot beverages while dunking, 26 per cent had choked on crumbs and ten per cent had broken a tooth or filling while getting their laughing gear round a biscuit.

Rather more seriously, seven per cent of Britons have dropped a biscuit tin on their foot, three per cent have fallen off a chair reaching for vital nourishment, and an equal percentage have poked themselves in the eye with a biscuit.

Seven per cent admitted to have been bitten while feeding a tasty biscuit morsel to a pet or “other wild animal”. The most extreme example of biscuit-related mishap, however, was the case of the man who got stuck in wet concrete after wading in to retrieve a stray biccy.

Mindlab also carried out a "Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation" (BITE) to determine which was Blighty's deadliest biscuit. Mindlab International director Dr David Lewis explained: “We tested the physical properties of 15 popular types of biscuits, along with aspects of their consumption such as ‘dunkability’ and crumb dispersal.

“Then one of our mathematicians correlated these findings with research data and responses from a nationwide survey of 1,000 adults.”

The chilling result is that the public would do well to eye the Custard Cream with suspicion, since it topped the list with a BITE risk rating of 5.63. That's compared with 4.34 for your common-or-garden Cookie, in second spot, and 4.12 for next-placed Choc Biscuit Bar.

Those of you who like sucking a Ginger Nut will be relieved to learn that they're relatively risk-free, rating 2.99 in ninth place. Anyone not wanting to chance their arm should stick to Jaffa Cakes, since they bottomed the list with an almost harmless 1.16.

Mike Driver, marketing director for biscuit manufacturers Rocky, which commissioned the survey, concluded: “Working with biscuits every day, we’d long suspected they’re not as innocent as they look - and we were right."

Here's the full biscuit risk rating listing:

* Custard Cream: 5.64
* Cookie: 4.34
* Choc Biscuit Bar: 4.12
* Wafer: 3.74
* Rich Tea: 3.45
* Bourbon: 3.44
* Oat Biscuit: 3.31
* Digestive: 3.14
* Ginger Nut: 2.99
* Shortbread: 2.90
* Caramel Shortcake: 2.76
* Nice Biscuit: 2.27
* Iced Biscuits/Party Rings: 2.16
* Chocolate Finger: 1.38
* Jaffa Cakes: 1.16

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ofcom bans 0870 revenue sharing

August 3, 2009

Companies with an 0870 helpline will no longer receive a cut of revenues generated from customer calls.

Under new Ofcom rules, effective from 1 August 2009, revenue sharing for 0870 numbers is now illegal.

In addition, companies will have to inform customers exactly how much their 0870 number costs to dial.

Ofcom set up the ban in a bid to bring the price of 0870 calls down to the same rate as geographic numbers.

UK-based cost consultants, Expense Reduction Analysts, said companies that previously used an 0870 number to generate revenue will lose out.

“The Ofcom ruling effectively spells the ultimate death knell of certain revenue sharing calls,” said Nigel Rosehill, ERA’s head of communications.

“For example a company that has been receiving 100,000 call minutes per month via its 0870 telephone number would have generated some £36,000 a year on a rebate of 3p per minute.

“From the 1st August they could be charged £36,000 instead for receiving the same amount of calls on the same number – a difference of £72,000 on the bottom line.”

Network technology provider Opal echoed ERA’s concerns.

“If a business keeps its number then it will lose the revenue it generates,” said Geoff Wilson, Opal business development director.

“This needs to be replaced somehow, either by cutting costs in other areas of the business, stealth charges to the consumer, or by the business simply absorbing the costs.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

eBay to divorce Skype on Wall St

Hangs up on Web 2.0 telco dream

eBay plans to spin off Skype sometime in 2010, having failed to turn itself into a Web 2.0 telecoms hybrid.

eBay said today it's targeting an initial public offering for Skype in the first half of next year. The IPO idea follows recent rumors that Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis were rounding up private equity partners to buy back their firm for $1.7bn. The IPO might also be a scheme for eBay to drive up the bidding price and make some of its money back.

The company has been looking for ways to offload its VoIP outfit since at least the beginning of this year, if only it could find someone willing to pay the right amount.

eBay's chief executive John Donahoe today cited "limited synergies" between the online auction house and VoIP engine, adding he thinks Skype will do better as a stand-alone publicly traded company. Donahoe said he's spent a year meditating on Skype's fate since he replaced Meg Whitman as CEO in April 2008.

Whitman is now campaigning to become governor of California based on her "solid" achievements as a business chief whilst running eBay.

The original bright idea behind Whitman's $2.6bn purchase of Skype in 2005 was to blend a communications unit inside its shoe, automotive and Star Trek memorabilia storehouse.

It was the kind of un-baked thinking that Silicon Valley championed as the very epitome of "rational exuberance". That is the opposite of the "irrational exuberance" of the dot-com era. Loosely translated: enthusiasm, without the crazy.

Four years later, eBay has been unable to logically integrate the technology into its core business. Turns out crazy is still crazy, no matter how rational it might seem during a tech bubble.

In 2007, eBay was forced to eat a $900m charge based on the decreased value of Skype.

eBay said Skype's 2008 revenue was $551 million, up 44 per cent from 2007. The company also expects to top $1bn revenue by 2011.

Perhaps the company is hoping an IPO announcement set for the distant future could work out two ways: either it gets investors excited about making Skype a separate firm, or it will urge those thinking about buying the company outright to reach a little deeper into their wallets. ®

Friday, May 08, 2009

Carphone buys Tiscali UK for £236m

Carphone Warehouse is set to become Britain’s second largest broadband provider after it agreed to pay £236m in cash for the UK assets of Tiscali, the Italian telecoms group.

Carphone said it would be funded by its existing debt facilities and would raise its earnings earnings per share by 10 per cent in the current financial year to March 2010.

The move will also see Carphone move ahead of Virgin Media to become the UK’s second largest broadband supplier behind BT. It is currently third with 2.7m customers at December 31, according to Enders Analysis, the research group, but ahead of British Sky Broadcasting in fourth. Tiscali, the country’s fifth largest broadband supplier, has 1.7m customers but has been losing customers.

The news sent Carphone shares 12p or 7.6 per cent higher to 170p in afternoon London trading while shares in Tiscali, which also announced plans for a capital hike of €210m, were 3.7 per cent higher in Milan at €0.4465 in Milan.

A deal for Tiscali UK has been widely anticipated by investors fearful that it lacked the economies of scale to survive in the Italian and UK broadband markets.

But Tiscali has come under pressure in the last year to sell its UK assets to reduce its onerous borrowings. At €601.1m ($792m), Tiscali’s net debt is more than three times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. The uncertainty has meant the shares have lost more than 80 per cent in value in the last 12 months.

Carphone made an informal offer of £550m in May last year, but it was rejected. Tiscali subsequently entered into exclusive talks with BSkyB over a sale but talks were called off in March with the parties unable to agree a price.

The deal is set to give Carphone around 25 per cent of the UK residential broadband market. Analysts at Citi argued that anything below £250m meant Carphone was getting the 1.8m customer case cheaper than it could otherwise acquire customers in the domestic marketplace.

“Given UK broadband penetration is about 65 per cent, mergers and acquisitions is the only way to grow the customer base in bulk,” Andrew Lee, analyst at Citi, told clients yesterday.

Analysts have also pointed out that the scale of the customer base would give Carphone in a stronger negotiating position with BT on wholesale fibre rates if fibre optic-based broadband services became an important service in the UK.

Tiscali said the deal had helped it agree the key terms of its debt restructuring plan. In addition to the proceeds from the sale of Tiscali UK, it will also raise up to €210m to strengthen its capital structure.