Upgrading A System
Eventually your existing phone system will need to be upgraded. This will be due to failing reliability or the requirement for functionality not presently available.
This section aims to give you unbiased information as to the merits of each system to allow you to make an informed decision.
We would always recommend that you give an 8 week lead time for a system upgrade in order to understand what systems are available to you, as well as planning any hardware installation that may be required.
There are effectively 3 main options for a phone system:
- PSTN Multiline
- ISDN2 or ISDN30 increases or an installation
- VOIP provisioning
A PSTN multiline conversion is where you pay to have 1 main line carrying additional auxiliary lines. In this scenario you will have a main number, which if engaged when a customer calls in, will call the next line in the chain. There is no limit to the number of lines you can have. You can also call out from these auxiliary lines if your main line is in use. **Note: you will pay a line rental per line / auxiliary line**
A downside to multiline is that you cannot pickup or transfer between lines, nor can you setup calling rules (what phone rings when and why). This is not a recommended setup for most businesses needing a system upgrade.
ISDN (integrated system digital network) is a chosen method of many businesses who require multiple lines. There are two types of ISDN:
The principle functionality for both are the same, however there are differences in installation prices and policies:Principles and policies for both ISDN2 & ISDN30
- You must buy lines (or channels as they are referred to) in bundles of 2 at a time
- There are minimums and maximums to the number of lines you can have
- There are installation charges
- You may choose to buy direct dial numbers for each phone (40p each per month)
- The contact lengths are typically between 3 and 5 years
- You must buy additional hardware (a PBX)
- You will need a maintainer for your PBX
- You may need to consider insurance
- Call recording does not come either as standard or a bolt on.
Further to the above, BT Openreach must always survey your exchange to ensure it has capacity for the additional lines (they usually do). BT’s standard service level agreement for a new ISDN (whether it’s brand new or just adding an extra one) is 90 days. This cannot be negotiated.ISDN2 Specifics
You must have a minimum of 2 lines (so two sets of line rentals) and can have no more than 8.ISDN30 Specifics
You must have a minimum of 8 lines (so two sets of line rentals) and can have no more than 30.
ISDN2 or 30 once paid for and installed does offer a feature rich environment. You can agree calling rules and options (“Welcome to ABC LTD, press 1 for sales” etc); features such as picking up other lines and transferring all come as standard. There is a fair bit of setup required, and a maintainer is an absolute must as this will need to be programmatically configured.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of ISDN is that you can have more handsets than you do lines. We provide an example below:
You have a 10 seat office, and everyone has their own phone with a direct dial number.
Your ISDN2 has the full 8 channels active
In this scenario, a maximum of 8 calls can be made or received (or any combination thereof) at a time. Each person with a phone can make or receive one of those calls.
If all 8 lines are in use, and the 9th person tries to make a call out, they will get an engaged tone. This would be the case for someone calling in too.
This works well where you have more workers than you have calls being made or received, but not so well for businesses who have a high phone dependency (a call centre as an extreme example).
The main consideration when adding any new lines, whether it is 1 or 100, is: “What is the capability of my broadband connection?” Capability does not just mean upload and download speed; it means the consistency of your line (does the internet drop all the time?).
Worries over this tend to be the number one concern for businesses considering VOIP (or SIP). Problems with VOIP rarely stem from the carrier (us), just as they rarely stem from analogue carriers actual hardware (your phone).
In this example, your broadband connection is to us what a copper phone line is to BT: if you don’t have a sufficient quality line, your quality will suffer. Not because your supplier is poor, but because what they are being forced to use near the customers end is (old wiring or poor connectivity)
There are now two paragraphs below which will help you make informed decisions:
We would urge you to review our section on broadband carriers and types. This is a highly detailed, impartial and informative guide which may help your business whether you use Saffwood or not. If you would like to call us to discuss options, then please do so on 0845 241 1008. Saffwood has agreed preferential rates for all forms of business broadband and we can help you save money.
Understanding how many lines you can add with your current setup is simple. Visit an independent speed testing site such as www.speedtest.net
Once you have your speed test, you will be left with 3 figures:
MS – relates to “lag time” or “latency”. An example of latency is clicking search on a webpage, and seeing how long it takes for the website to realise you have clicked. You should be no more than 50MS of latency on a standard ADSL line.
Download – the most commonly referenced element of broadband. A good example of download is how quickly a webpage loads or responds once it realises you have clicked something (i.e has got passed the “Lag”). Another example is downloading files, movies or streaming.
Upload – The opposite of download. If you are loading a file to a website, or emailing out a file, your upload will come into place.
Again we would urge you to read our broadband guide at this stage, or call us to discuss any questions you have.
Now that we have a clear understanding of latency, download and upload, you can apply these figures to how many lines you can have on VOIP.
If you have less than 50MS of latency you are in a good position. If it’s more, you may need to consider a better broadband connection.
When you make or receive a call over VOIP, it uses 100K of bandwidth (bandwidth is your download speed for calls coming in, and upload for calls going out).
There are 1,000K to a megabyte (MB), so if you have an download speed of 5MB (or 5,000K), you could handle 50 inbound VOIP calls on one connection. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not, but it is only half the story.
Your upload speed will always be much less than your download in the vast majority of cases. Again the same mathematics apply:
If you have an upload of 0.6MB (or 600K) you can make up to 6 outbound VOIP calls.
So as you can see, the scalability of your VOIP system will be dependent on your upload speed. Most suppliers of broadband cap your upload speed at 1MB. You can increase this by taking more suitable broadband connections with faster speeds and low contention ratios. Some business may choose to take out a new broadband line just for VOIP (this is called load balancing).
Whatever your speed tests, we recommend you do two things: call us with the results, and arrange a free test of VOIP
Depending on how many lines you are increasing from and to may alter on what solution we recommend for you in the end. We’ll always follow a rigorous process with any provisioning of additional lines which includes:
- Gathering of your requirements
- Assessment of current broadband
- Proposal of solution
- Implementation and testing
- Ongoing care
Depending on the complexity of your requirements, we may elect to undertake some of the above either face to face or over the phone. In either circumstance we can take professional ownership of setting up your system and full training. This will allow you to concentrate on other aspects of running your business.