How can my Office staff and I work remotely?

Today I’m going to answer the question, “How can my office staff and I work remotely?”

So the reason I’m covering this now is because as I speak, it’s the 26th of March 2020, it’s Thursday. On Monday this week the UK was in full lockdown because of COVID-19. So with us being in IT and Telecoms, we spent the past 10 days, 12, 14 days just dealing with customers, getting their staff working at home remotely, whether that be in terms of telephony or computing. So I’m going to cover a few things today to help you out, hopefully.

Internet Connectivity

So the first thing I’m going to talk about is the internet connectivity that you’re using. Let’s just talk about your office internet connectivity for a moment. A lot of organizations have been getting away with using normal broadband, that’s copper broadband, or even fiber broadband, which is a bit faster or a lot faster, and spending sort of £20, £30, £40 a month by doing so, plus the line rental.

Copper and Fibre Broadband

It’s been a bit of a false sense of security for a lot of businesses really, because as people moving towards using the internet more and more with cloud based services and streaming and such like, those kinds of connections have really slowed down. What’s more, a lot of businesses and organizations are using consumer type broadband like BT Infinity. So if you’re a small organization, it’s always best if you’re going to stick with what we call a traditional broadband connection, really it has to be a fiber connection, and not everyone can get fiber, and we can tell you whether you can or not. You need to be using a business only type broadband. The benefit of which is that it’s only going to be used by businesses and not by all and sundry, not by kids going onto their PlayStations and streaming Netflix and Disney Plus and all the other things that get streamed.

Leased Lines

If we’re talking about somebody that’s perhaps more up for spending more money, what we call a leased line has become more and more affordable now. So a leased line is not a broadband connection as you would have at home, it’s a proper private connection, more often than not delivered via direct fiber into your premises. If you compare it to a fiber broadband, which the maximum speed you get is 80Mb download, 20Mb upload, and you could be getting a lot less than that even with fiber, depending on how far your premises is from your green cabinet at the end of the street, if you compare that to a leased line, a leased line is going to give you around about 100Mb up and down, which is totally yours, you can have a 1000Mb up and down if you want to too, if you want to pay a bit more. But the point is that it’s totally yours, it’s guaranteed speed all the time, it’s not shared by anybody, and if there’s a problem with it, it gets fixed really quickly because there’s a service level agreement on it.

Leased Line Costs

The affordability of leased lines has come down a lot in the last few years. They tend to start now about £200 a month. And bearing in mind that is still quite a bit more than the broadband, it can be paid for by doing other things, which I’ll come onto. So leased lines are definitely becoming much more affordable, much more accessible. What’s more, the government is paying up to £2,800 worth of subsidy towards the costs of putting fiber into your building, which generally means that 85% of businesses will find that there’s no additional costs of putting this in. So if you want to look at what you can do with regards to your office connection, you might be pleasantly surprised. And if you do want to do that, all you have to do is get in touch with us with your address and a landline phone number on the site. And that applies to home as well. And we can tell you instantly what you can get and what it might cost, how long it might take.

Using a Proper Business Broadband versus a normal Consumer Broadband

If you’re talking about now moving people to work at home remotely because of the COVID-19 thing, and many people are right now of course, of course at home you’ll probably be using a consumer broadband, maybe Virgin or Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, BT Infinity, Utility Warehouse, all sorts of suppliers. The problem with that is that it’s just a public internet connection, you’re sharing it, they’re probably doing traffic shaping, which basically means that when the network gets busy, everyone’s speed just goes down. You know, kids come home from school when they were at school, at half three, four o’clock, everything just goes slow… So if you are going to be working at home, you’ve got core staff that you want to send home, maybe consider having a proper business broadband put in for them, which probably won’t cost them anymore or cost you any more, but it will be significantly better.

Quick Fixes to Home and Remote working

So if we talk about the actual remote working solutions that you can deploy in your business. If we talk about voice for example. So a lot of the people have been phoning us up and contacting us over the last couple of weeks because of the virus outbreak saying, “I’ve got people in the office. I need to get them working at home in terms of their telephony, how can I do that?” So there are various different ways of doing it. The good news is if you need to transition to this really quickly because of this virus, you can do it, and we’ve done it for customers and even non-customers, and I’ll talk to you about how we do that. But going back to basics, of course you can just divert your phone lines to your mobile.

Simple ISDN and Analogue Phone Line diverts

If you’ve got ISDN connections or an analog line at home or in business or whatever, you can phone your supplier up, say, “I need to divert my calls.” They might take a few hours or a few days. You might have to pay extra. You might have to pay extra charges every month. You will definitely have to pay the onward portion of each call probably at list price. So it’s going to cost you money. The other thing is, if you do have an ISDN connection at home and you do divert your calls, you’ll be diverting all the numbers to one single number, which is better than nothing obviously, but it just means that if you’ve got lots of people with direct dial numbers and different group and departmental numbers, all of those calls are going to divert to one single number.

Diverting to a Telephone Answering Service

One option could be to use a company like officefront.co.uk, who answer your calls on your behalf, so you could divert them all to them. They could take your calls, they could then email your members of staff with the messages from your callers, and then you could service them that way. So that’s a basic way of doing things. And that might work for you.

Using your Phone System to Divert different numbers or handsets to different locations

If you do have a reasonably good phone system and a reasonably good supplier, then you can say to them, “Okay, I want to divert this handset, I want to divert that handset. I want to divert these to different numbers. I want to divert my main number somewhere else. I want to divert the accounts number somewhere else, a sales number to somewhere else.” That can be done. Problem with that is, the calls are coming into your ISDN and then diverting off through the phone system. So for each time that happens there’s two calls or two lines in progress. So if you’ve got say, eight lines, which a lot of small businesses might have, or an ISDN30, for example, you’ve only got to have four calls doing that and you’re busy down, the fifth call is going to get engaged until those lines become free. So although that’s an option, it’s not brilliant.

If you have a SIP Trunk to do the diverts…

Some of you might have phone systems that are more modern. You might have something called a SIP Trunk. A SIP Trunk is an internet based phone line. So it’s a phone line that goes on your internet connection rather than an ISDN connection. That is better because you should be able to call your SIP Trunk provider and say to them, “I want to divert this number there, this number there, this number there, this number there, this number there,” and so on. So it’s more functional, and you haven’t got that line capacity problem because the diverts are being done at the network level by the SIP Trunk provider. So that’s a possibility.

UTOPIA – Using a Hosted VoIP Phone System

For those of you that are in a good position where you’ve already migrated to a hosted VoIP solution, so that’s a hosted phone system sometimes called an internet phone system, this is where you’ve removed the premises based control unit and the ISDN out of your office, and instead you’ve migrated all of the numbers to a hosted phone system, and you’ve then deployed handsets that have to basically find an internet connection wherever they are and connect to the hosted phone system. For those of you that are in that position, this is going to be really a lot easier. You can basically get your staff to pick their phone up, give them a power supply or a power injector, go take them home, those handsets, plug them into their routers, plug them into the power, and they should work. Not always instantly. Sometimes there’s a router setting that needs changing, but it will work.

Using Instant Soft Phones

For those of you that don’t want to give your handsets out to your staff, you can just say to them, “Go home, check your email. We’re going to send you an email with a bit of software as a download. It will have a username and password on it. You log into it and then that puts an application onto your laptop, which essentially is pulling your desk phone off of your desk and putting it onto your laptop.”

So for instance, me, I don’t have a desk phone. I just have my laptop with my software on it. If someone calls me, it rings, I answer it, I speak into my laptop, I transfer the call to another member of staff, I conference with other members of staff, I can put them on hold, do all the normal functionality that I get with a desk phone. So that’s a good option. And when I dial out, I can click and dial from my contacts. I have all my call history, I have all of my functionality that I normally use on my desk phone. I can click and dial from Outlook perhaps. I can click and dial from my CRM system. I can even hover over a webpage with a phone number and click and dial from that. So that’s a really, really good option.

Using Instant Smart Phone Apps

And also I’ve got a Softphone application on my smartphone, which does the same thing. So it pulls my desk phone onto my smartphone. So I could be in Kuala Lumpur, it doesn’t matter. As long as I’ve got a 4G connection or a wifi connection, then I can work on my Softphone as if I was at my desk, which is obviously very, very useful indeed.

Using your home landline as part of your phone system – Remote Office

And there are a few other things you can do with telephony. You can specify that you’re going to go home and use your landline at home as your calling number and your called number. Bit more clunky, but it’s possible, and not all systems would do that.

Instantly Transition to Home Working Regardless of your current Phone System

So with Voice it’s really, really easy, within literally a couple of seconds, if you’re using a phone system in the office and you need your staff to go home, regardless of how old your phone system is, we can do it, we can do it, literally within a few seconds we can have that set up and emailed to them. And we can send out the number from their soft phone, which is your normal main published number. So when they’re calling your customers it looks and feels like they’re calling from your office because they’re getting the office number when they pick up the phone. So that’s a really good way of doing it.

How to Use Computing and Home Working

We’ll come back to Voice in a second. Just going on to computing. If you’re normally sat in an office and you’re accessing a server, which some people still are, some people aren’t, they’ve moved away, probably a good thing, but some people are still accessing servers, and you want to work at home, your IT people, or we, or your IT department, whoever it is, they can set up what we call virtual private network. So a home user can log on to a virtual private network and they can access files on the server as if they were sat in the office on their computer. That can be done. It is a security consideration, because we have to set up VPNs for people, that has to go through your firewall, takes some setting up, takes your IT department to do it. Sometimes you get queries, “My VPN’s not working, blah blah blah.” So that’s possible.

Remote Desktop

Another way of doing this is we can set up a remote desktop session. So similarly, we can set up a remote desktop icon, which they click, that then logs them on through your network firewall and router into your office and onto their machine, their PC. So the PC has to be on, which isn’t always the case, but if their PC is on, they can do that, and they can work almost pretty much as if they were sat at their desk. Not exactly, but pretty much.

Using Terminal Services from Home

Some businesses will have something called terminal services, which lends itself already to this kind of thing. Some businesses will have a hosted desktop type solution, which again lends itself to this kind of thing. A lot of businesses will still be accessing servers. Why they’re doing it is just a matter of they haven’t got round to it or they haven’t thought it important enough to prioritize it, or there may be a good reason why they have kept a server in the office. Sometimes there are some good reasons. But even so there’s a very good argument for moving most of their stuff off of their server so that their people can work remotely and still retain their server for whatever it is they need it to do. But anyway, that’s a bit of a hybrid solution, which sometimes is good for people, and we can talk about that.

Making Your Workforce Agile

So that’s all about making your workforce agile. It can be done. It’s pretty easy to do. You need to know what you’re doing, you need to deal with people that know what they’re doing. And yeah, in a nutshell, that’s pretty much it.

The Benefits of Using Microsoft Office 365

I’m going to talk about now Office 365, which is a Microsoft product, which if you haven’t moved to Office 365 and you’re a small to medium size organization, you really need to be thinking seriously about doing it. There’s a lot of good reasons to do it. It can be done, depending on how much is involved, how much work is involved, can be done in a few hours seamlessly. Most of the time we’re migrating people from servers and from email based servers in their office, and we’re migrating all the data over a weekend to Microsoft’s cloud, so that when their people leave on Friday and come in on Monday, they’re working, zero disruption, so it can all be done.

Work From Anywhere and from Any Device

The benefits of Office 365 are numerous, and I’m not going to list them all now, but I’m going to tell you some of them. Firstly, you can work from anywhere. So we can set up something called SharePoint, which is part of Office 365… And let me just be clear, Office 365 Business Premium, which gives you pretty much everything I’ve spoken to you about is £11 a month per user, it’s nothing really. So going back to SharePoint, SharePoint is part of Office 365, so we can set up a SharePoint folder architecture for you so you can have all of your admin, your customers, your financials, everyone can have different access and privileges to different folders, so not everyone can see the same thing. And in there you can store of your files that you would normally store maybe on your computer normally or on your server in your office, that’s all stored on that virtual folder architecture in a logical manner, so it’s nice and clean, and everyone can access it given the privileges of course, and you can store all your customer data and everything in there.

OneDrive

If a member of staff wants to, they can still retain a My Documents type situation on Microsoft Office 365, which is like a My Documents on Microsoft’s cloud, so it’s not on their local machine, but it is on the cloud, and because it’s on the cloud, like all of the SharePoint folders and files, they can access it from any device, anywhere, from any location, as long as they have an internet connection. It’s called OneDrive.

The Ease of Migrating to Office 365

So that’s definitely doable. And as I say, we can do that really quickly for customers. We don’t really have to often involve their IT company. Sometimes we have to deal with their domain logins and stuff like that, but it can all be done seamlessly. Come in on a Monday morning, having left on a Friday, everything’s set up. Obviously there’s some cost to do that because it’s our engineering time and knowing how to do that. It doesn’t cost you as much as you might think, but the benefits really are fantastic, because you don’t need necessarily a server in the office anymore. You haven’t got to upgrade that tired old server. You haven’t got to keep it up to date with software levels, software patches, Windows updates. You haven’t got to upgrade it to a new level of software. You haven’t got to pay to have it supported, maintained, backed up. All the backups can be sorted. Cloud-based backups. All the virus software can be put on the local machines very, very easily.

Collaborate Easily with Microsoft Teams

Also with Office 365 you get something called Teams. Teams is sort of a derivative of Skype. Skype is kind of old now. Teams is Skype for business. That’s a fantastic product which comes free with Office 365, we use it internally for all of our chat, so all of our people are on different chat threads, we know exactly what’s going on. Rather than emailing someone, asking them a question, phoning them asking them a question, we can just chat in our threads, and they see it instantly on their smartphone or on their laptop. People get involved in conversations about customers. It means you can just answer customer problems back, queries are instantly answered, because people have the answers, or if they don’t have the answers, they can look stuff up on their SharePoint drive or point people to their location of those files or folders that they’re looking for. So it really is very, very good indeed.

Get all the Latest Office Software with Office 365

So I’d definitely say if you haven’t looked at Office 365, look at it. You’re going to get all of the latest Windows Office software, so you’re going to get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, all of that normal stuff that people use. It’s always going to be the latest up to date software. Bearing in mind that Microsoft are always bringing out new features on their software, and all these new features are coming out regularly, and they’re all designed to make people more efficient, make things happen more quickly, make things more professional. It’s a no brainer, seriously.

Office 365 only costs £ 11 per month

If you’ve got users that don’t need all of that and they just need email, because all the emails are done within Office 365, they don’t need potentially the Word and all that kind of stuff, you can just pay a lot less per month and just give them web access to their Office 365 email account. So you can mix and match these kinds of things. So Office 365, definitely worth looking at. It’s £11 pounds and you get a lot of stuff. You get advanced threat protection from your emails, cuts out spam. It automatically uses artificial intelligence to sort your inbox into stuff that’s important like focused emails and other which it deems to be less important. Sorts out your junk mail, spam. It’s very good. If somebody goes in and deletes a lot of data because a disgruntled employee, you can always get it back. It stops data loss, always has backups of files so you don’t lose stuff. It’s all in Microsoft’s cloud, so it’s as secure as it’s going to be. They have all the ISO accreditation’s and what have you. You can also do additional backups of that data if you want to.

How Office 365 makes Cyber Essentials Certification easier

You can also pay for other services on top, which may not be necessary, but the other thing it does do is… We’re Cyber Essentials certified. For those of you that don’t know, Cyber Essentials is the government’s benchmark for making sure your organization is protected from cyber threats and all sorts of nasty things that are out there. So Cyber Essentials, we’re certified for. If you have Office 365, you’ve already ticked a lot of the boxes that you have to tick for Cyber Essentials. So it’d be really in everyone’s interest, every organization should really be Cyber Essentials certified. It costs £300. For an extra £100, you get cyber insurance. And it’s basically a self assessment questionnaire that you tick. We can do that ticking for you, and we can tweak things and make it all secure for you so we can take you through the whole process. It’s a good thing to put on your website, it’s good USP when you’re serving your services. You can say to your customers, “We are Cyber Essentials certified.” And we can also add in things like GDPR into that mix.

Cyber Essentials Plus for working with Government Contracts

And if you’re dealing with government departments, you have to have Cyber Essentials Plus, which is all of what I’ve described, plus you get penetration tested, so you will get people dialing into your network to test that your network is secure, and then they’ll do a report, and then they’ll give you a tick if they can’t get in, basically. And that’s an annual thing that you have to do.

Hosted VoIP Telephone Systems

Anyway, gone off piece a little bit, so yeah, we’ve covered Voice, we’ve covered IT. Just talk a little bit more about VoIP. So I mentioned, going back to business internet connections, that people are paying more for more expensive connections. The reason why they can do that is because if they cancel their ISDN and migrate with their numbers to VoIP, if they ditch their phone system so they don’t have their maintenance costs, when they’ve canceled their ISDN and they don’t have their line rental, they don’t have to buy for call charges, they don’t have to pay for direct dial on numbers, caller ID and all these peripheral services, they lose all of those costs and they replace it with just a £15 pounds, in our case, monthly charge per user for hosted telephony.

How to Transition to Cloud and Pay Less

We can do a bill analysis for you, which shows you your before costs, this is what you’re paying now, and shows you your after costs, this is what you’d be paying if you went to hosted telephony. And believe me, you’d be very surprised and probably pleasantly surprised at what happens, because quite often you can move to hosted VoIP telephony and you can actually be better off per month.

Why Hosted VoIP is a NO BRAINER

So I’m going to give you a new phone system with loads of new features, free handsets, if you sign up for 3 years. I’m giving you all this stuff, and you’re actually going to be spending less. It’s like a no brainer. And I know it sounds too good to be true, believe me, in the majority of cases, that’s what happens. You have some one off costs, because we have to be paid to set it all up, and there’s some costs there, and you might need a router and a switch, but really, it pays for itself, believe me. There are some cases where it doesn’t pay for itself and you might be paying more. Not that many, but it does happen.

Extra Benefits of Hosted VoIP

But when you factor in the fact that you might be getting extra functionality, much better resiliency, redundancy, remote working facilities, things like call recording, contact center, call management information to show when your busy times are, who’s making what calls out of your office, all of that stuff, it all really does become a very attractive commercial proposition and an operational proposition.

Quickly Ascertain Before and After Costs for a Business Case

So how do we do that? How do we do it? Well, we basically do a bill analysis before and after. We can do this for IT as well. And we just show you what the commercials are. And if you want to go for it, we’d come to see you, or at the moment we’re in COVID-19 lockdown, so we probably won’t come to see you, but we can do the bill analysis, and we would then manage the whole process for you. All of your phone numbers would be retained. If it’s IT that’s migrating to the cloud, all of your email addresses will be retained, and all of your old emails that you had for various staff members, you’d still see them when you migrate. So it can all be done, it can all be done.

How To Transition to Cloud Instantly

A lot of businesses have been saying, “How can I transition to this now? I’ve got to send my staff home, I really have to send them home now. How can I do that? And can I do it?” And the answer is actually yes, you can do it. Depending on the IT side, how much data’s involved, within a few hours we can set you up with SharePoint site, and we can migrate your data. If you’ve got a lot more data, it might take longer, we have to do it over a weekend, but it can be done.

Transition Instantly Regardless of Your Current Phone System

In terms of Voice, if you’re sat there now, you’ve got an old phone system, and you need to send your staff to work at home, we can do it. We can send them an email. Within a few minutes they’ll have an email with a software download, a username and password, they’ll log on, they’ll be making calls. There’ll be sending out the normal office number so it looks and feels like they’re in the office, and you can divert your inbound calls to them. And we could make it feel like a hunt group, so it’s calling lots of different people. It can be done literally within a few minutes. It might take longer than that because you’re going to have to get your provider to divert the calls. That’s the old delay of dealing with pretty rubbish telephone providers, many of which are rubbish, to be fair. But it can be done.

How to Migrate to The Cloud RIGHT NOW

So I do hope that’s of interest. I do hope that’s useful. If you’re sitting there thinking, “I need to get my staff working at home efficiently. I need it done now. I didn’t do it and I have been regretting it, and now I’m really regretting it.”

I hope you think we have answered the big question –

How can my Office staff and I work remotely?

Please get in touch with us. You can call contact us on 01892-578666.

You can email us at helpme@tecwork.

Just have a look at our website, and that’s www.tecwork.co.uk.

And get in touch. And we know what we’re doing,

I’ve been doing this 25 years.

We offer wow-factor service. I hope that’s been of use to you.

Please get in touch.

Have a good day, and stay safe.

Working from home and remotely using Hosted VoIP