Telecoms for a new business

“So I rang up British Telecom, I said ‘I want to report a nuisance caller’, he said ‘Not you again’.” – Frank Carson


So you’re setting up a new business and you want to talk to your clients?

Easy enough isn’t it?  You just put in a phone line, maybe include a broadband deal so you can access the internet, and away you go… you have your new number which you can advertise and you have internet access which, for many start-up businesses is the way forward.

But what about as you grow?  2-3 members of staff down the line you may need to start thinking about getting another line as you risk customers not being able to get through because it’s engaged.  Sounds frustrating, doesn’t it?  Here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be and if you approach telecoms with an awareness of your options from the beginning then you can avoid the pain later on.

Picking a telecoms supplier

For starters, find a company that you’re happy to use!  BT is always the brand that springs to mind and that’s because they are the biggest of all the suppliers in the market … but there are so many smaller, more local companies that can do the same thing and often do it a lot cheaper for a better service.  Although you do have to be vigilant, if something seems like it’s too good to be true it usually is and can cost you in the long run.

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Always make sure you go for a business provider rather than a consumer provider.  Although they both essentially do the same thing, you will get better support on a business contract than you will on a consumer one – it’s worth paying a little bit more for this level of support.

Then there’s your internet access.  Always ask yourself how critical is the internet for what you plan to do and what are the implications if it were to go down?  These days internet is crucial for most businesses but you must balance need with cost.  Unless you have money to burn at start up, spending several hundred pounds a month on a “Leased Line” just isn’t an option so your next bet is to hope that fibre broadband is available where you are.

Telecoms system – your choice

Then there’s your phone options…. Things are changing in the network meaning that all your calls will be going over the internet by 2025.  This will leave you with 2 choices:

Onsite System Option: An onsite phone system which connects to the internet to make and receive calls via handsets on your desk.  The plus side of this is that you physically own the system and can class it as an asset (Although this depends on whether you purchase it outright or on a lease).  The downside is that you’re introducing a single point of failure to your business … if your internet goes down, so do your phones – you can put come contingency planning in place but this usually means that you have to speak to your service provider to sort it.  Additionally, whenever you want to expand further it can mean engineer visits, additional equipment and ultimately additional one off costs.

Hosted System Option: A Hosted telecoms solution where you still have a phone on your desk, but the actual solution is based in the internet.  The plus side of this is that even if your internet connection goes down the solution is still working and instant diverts which are usually put in place when the system is commissioned kick in straight away. In addition to this, you can also pay extra for apps which allow you to take your extension/phone anywhere with you either through a laptop or as an app on your mobile. As a hosted solution is based on a monthly licence fee, there are very rarely extra charges to expand other than that of a new licence itself. Although you do need to make sure you have a big enough Data Switch (the piece of equipment that provides ‘ports’ for internet connections) in place to handle the number of handsets you need.

Telecoms capacity – be aware

In the early stages of your business, you can more than likely get away with having between 1-3 extensions (on either of the above options) on the same broadband line that you use for your normal internet traffic (Fibre would always be recommended here).  Anything beyond this would need either a voice assured connection (which will always guarantee the call quality over the line) or, if fibre broadband isn’t available, separate broadband lines – one to be used solely by your computers, the other for your phones.  That way you can get the minimise the risk of bad phone calls taking place.

There are a couple of other elements that you would need to consider the larger you grow but by this point, you should already have a provider that is ready to pre-empt these issues for you.

Take references before doing anything with your telecoms

Ultimately, before you do any deal with a telecoms provider get referrals from them – preferably from within the same sector that you’re working in or from other start-ups that they have helped get off the ground … and speak with them.  That way you can build your confidence in them and ensure you’ve picked the right choice for your new business.

Before you do any deal with a telecoms provider get referrals from them – preferably from customers within the same sector that you’re working in or from other start-ups that they have helped get off the ground … and speak with them to build your confidence.

Blunt telecoms thinking from Yorkshire Powerhouse
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