Introduction

As technology advances, so do the options available to us. With the recent end of BlueJeans, users are now searching for suitable alternatives to fulfil their virtual communication needs.

In the rapidly evolving digital communication landscape, video conferencing platforms have become essential tools for businesses, educational institutions, and individuals.

One such platform that gained popularity over the years was BlueJeans, known for its user-friendly interface and reliable features.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons behind BlueJeans’ discontinuation and delve into some of the top alternatives currently making waves in video conferencing.

The Evolution of BlueJeans

BlueJeans emerged in 2009 as a pioneer in the video conferencing space, offering a seamless way to connect with colleagues, clients, and collaborators across distances.

They also boasted a few firsts. They were the first to connect to; integrate with Skype Rooms and with Facebook Live, enable desktop, mobile and rooms systems in one meeting and first to provide interactive large events.

The simple user interface and robust features quickly gained favour among businesses and organisations of all sizes. With features like screen sharing, video recording, and integrations with other collaboration tools, BlueJeans addressed the growing demand for remote work and virtual meetings.

However, the tech world is known for its rapid changes and fierce competition. As giants like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet entered the scene with their feature-rich platforms, BlueJeans faced an increasingly competitive landscape. This, coupled with evolving user expectations and demands, likely contributed to the company’s decision to discontinue its services.

In an email to BlueJeans’ service members on August 8, Verizon (owner of BlueJeans) announced that the product is being ‘sunset’, meaning the end of an era for BlueJeans. They attributed the end to an evolving and volatile market.

EMEA and APAC boss Joe McStravick broke the news on LinkedIn, saying:

“I want to thank all my amazing friends, colleagues, partners and customers who have reached out to check in on me and the team over the last 48 hours. It means a lot.

This outcome is different from the team, who are some of the best I have had the honour to work with, and if you are looking for incredibly talented individuals, please reach out on this post, and I will connect you with outstanding talent.

The first phase of the sunsetting is that BlueJeans Basic and free trial offerings will reportedly be discontinued as of August 31, 2023, and customers’ access to the services will be halted. Customers can still access those services until this time. All paid-for subscriptions appear to have been removed from the BlueJeans website.”

There is no news on whether enterprise customers are being restricted after the deadline. We’ll share this once we know more.

BlueJeans was a massive acquisition for Verizon, the American telecoms giant. Verizon acquired BlueJeans in Spring 2020, at the height of the pandemic. Verizon paid a reported $400 million. The main reason was to compete with Zoom, Teams and Google when the video conferencing market was booming.

BlueJeans joins a list of video conferencing companies that have struggled in 2023.

LifeSize filed for bankruptcy on May 23, with buyer Enghouse interested in purchasing and UK-based video conferencing company and StarLeaf which fell into administration in June 2023.

Reasons Behind the End of BlueJeans

Failure to monetise BlueJeans: The challenge for standalone video providers is how to monetise their product when video conferencing is bundled into most unified communications and collaboration software. Plus, many users are happy with the free version, making it difficult for users to pay for extra features. This is the key reason Verizon wasn’t mentioning it in investment updates. It wasn’t making money!

Increased Competition: As mentioned earlier, the video conferencing space has seen a proliferation of platforms, each vying for its market share. Established giants and newcomers are constantly innovating and introducing new features and functionalities to attract users. BlueJeans’ relatively tiny market share (0.1%) and resources made keeping up with the competition challenging.

Evolving User Needs and a changing landscape: The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifted how people work and communicate. Video conferencing platforms became lifelines for remote work, online education, and virtual social interactions. But users began to seek platforms that facilitated communication and offered additional tools for collaboration, external calling, project management, and document sharing. Also, cloud phone systems such as 8×8, RingCentral, Teams, Unify, etc., have video calling built into their platform. They were negating the need for another software platform for video calling.

Oversaturated market, waning interest: The boom of the video conferencing industry in 2020 is starting to take its toll. As mentioned, we’ve already lost two companies in 2023, with BlueJeans being the third. When there are too many companies and not enough interest, something has to give. “Zoom fatigue” and a shift back to the office or hybrid working are to blame. “Changing market conditions in a post-pandemic landscape” was the reason BlueJeans gave for their unravelling. The surviving companies provide additional solutions, E.g., Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom.

User Experience: User experience can make or break a platform in the competitive software world. The ease of use, intuitive design, and consistent platform performance influence its adoption. Some users faced difficulties navigating BlueJeans or experienced lag. This could have led to dissatisfaction and a search for more user-friendly alternatives.

Verizon Lost Interest: According to The Register, BlueJeans didn’t get a mention in their Q1 or Q2 2023 earnings calls. For the new Verizon Business CEO, Kyle Malady, the focus was to “drive sustainable growth in mobility and deliver on the revenue growth opportunities within fixed wireless, 5G private wireless and mobile edge computer solutions.” No mention of collaboration.

Woman using BlueJeans, end of BlueJeans

Top Alternatives to BlueJeans

Microsoft Teams: Part of the Microsoft 365 suite, Teams combines video conferencing with document sharing, collaboration, and project management tools. Its deep integration with Microsoft apps makes it a powerful choice for businesses already invested in the Microsoft ecosystem.

Zoom: Undoubtedly the most recognisable name in the video conferencing sphere, Zoom offers many features, including breakout rooms, virtual backgrounds, and cross-platform compatibility. Its popularity has led to widespread adoption and a thriving ecosystem of integrations.

Cisco Webex: With a focus on secure communication, Webex offers advanced security features alongside video conferencing capabilities. It’s suitable for businesses that prioritise data protection and confidentiality.

GoTo Meeting: Known for its reliability and ease of use, GoToMeeting offers features like drawing tools and keyboard and mouse sharing, enhancing collaboration during meetings.

Google Meet: Integrated with Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), Google Meet provides a seamless experience for users familiar with Google’s tools. Its real-time captioning and easy access for Google account holders make it convenient.

Unified communication platforms: Most cloud-based phone systems include video within their solution. Consider companies such as 8×8, RingCentral, 3CX, Gamma Horizon Collaborate, Unify, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco. We’re finding that more companies are opting to have their communication and collaboration solutions in one place. This is why many companies are opting to use the video capabilities that come with their UC provider.

Choosing the Right Alternative

With the end of BlueJeans, a decision on alternative video conferencing platforms should be based on a thorough assessment of your organisation’s needs and priorities.

Here are some factors to consider:

Features: Evaluate the features that are essential for your organisation. Do you need breakout rooms, recording capabilities, or integration with other tools?

Phone system integration: Consider how well the platform integrates with your existing phone system. A seamless integration with your phone system means users don’t need disparate systems for your communication needs.

Security: Prioritise platforms with robust security features, including end-to-end encryption and privacy controls.

Scalability: Ensure that the chosen platform can accommodate your organisation’s current and future needs as it grows.

User Experience: A user-friendly interface and reliable performance contribute to a positive experience for all participants.

Budget: Different platforms offer varying pricing models. Compare costs and features to fit your organisation’s budget best.

Conclusion

The end of BlueJeans marks a significant shift in the video conferencing landscape. As technology continues to evolve and user needs evolve with it, choosing the suitable alternative becomes paramount. Whether it’s Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or another platform that aligns with your organisation’s requirements, the plethora of options available ensures that you can find a solution that suits your virtual communication needs.

Standalone video conferencing providers are finding it more challenging to compete with unified communication and collaboration tools (Microsoft Teams, 8×8, RingCentral) that have video conferencing tools built into their software.

Remember that the right choice isn’t just about replicating the features of BlueJeans but also about embracing the potential for enhanced collaboration, security, and user experience that these alternatives bring to the table.

This is where Croft can help. Our specialist team can meet with you and understand these requirements and suggest a suitable platform. This takes the guesswork and time out of researching alternatives yourself. Lean on our expertise.

Our team can provide you with a demo to help you understand more about the video conferencing solution you require and get the various stakeholders invested.

If you’re using BlueJeans, you’ll want to look at alternatives soon. Contact our team to book a meeting.

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a third-party IT company. Either in place of an in-house team, or to support them, an MSP takes charge of all day-to-day IT operations for its clients – in effect acting as an outsourced IT department. In this article we’ll answer all the questions you might have about managed service providers: What is an MSP? What do they do? And what are the advantages of hiring an MSP rather than managing your IT in-house?

What do managed service providers do?

Managed service providers take long-term responsibility for a whole range of IT services, rather than just being hired for one or two single tasks. The role of a managed service provider can include taking care of:

Do managed service providers work onsite or remotely?

That depends on your service agreement, but in general MSPs will work both onsite and remotely, depending on your needs. At Croft MSP, providing value for our customers is one of our key priorities. That’s why we offer managed IT services that are highly flexible and adaptable to your business goals, with IT support available on your premises or remotely as required.

What are the benefits of using an MSP?

There are many benefits of using a managed service provider for your IT needs:

Croft MSP providing IT support through a phone call

How much does it cost to hire an MSP?

MSPs are usually hired on a long-term basis, charging monthly for their services. The price you pay will depend on your exact service level agreement, the level of specialism involved, and how many hours of work you require every month. 

In general, for small and medium sized organisations, a managed service provider is likely to be more cost-effective than employing a full-time in-house IT team. Having an MSP on hand for all your IT needs is also less expensive per hour than hiring a third-party IT company for one-off jobs here and there. 

Without IT support, a cyber security breach could be hugely costly to your business. The average cost of a breach within a business in 2022 (in the UK) was £1200, with the figure increasing dramatically as the size of the business grows, according to Statista. 

Managed IT services from Croft MSP

At Croft MSP, we provide a comprehensive suite of IT services, easily adaptable for every organisation. With a dedicated account manager acting as a single point of contact, you’ll be able to get in touch when you need us, with fast and responsive support as standard.

Want to find out more? We’d love to hear from you. Just contact us today with your enquiry.

The Croft family is expanding! We’re delighted to announce the acquisition of Diacom Networks, an IT and telecoms company with 30 years of industry experience. 

Based in Coalville, Leicestershire, Diacom Networks is a value-added reseller working with businesses of all sizes. They combine a wealth of technical experience with exceptional customer service. The company’s services include the design, implementation, management and maintenance of secure and efficient IT infrastructure solutions. 

Joining forces is great news for Diacom’s customers, enabling the company to offer a wider range of communication products and services. Existing Diacom clients won’t have to do a thing – they will continue to receive the same great service they always have.

Diacom Networks Managing Director Steven Harrison said: 

“After looking for several months for a way of developing Diacom Networks Ltd, I was introduced to the Croft senior management team via a mutual contact. The following meetings were very positive and encouraging. It felt like a good fit for my personal goals my business and my customers moving forward. A direct hit on what I was looking for. The ability to have increased resources available, but also continue to work with my customers.

I am very pleased to say that, as of the end of September, I am now part of the Croft team. I am looking forward to working within the business to bring exciting opportunities to my customers.”

Croft CEO Mark Bramley said – ”We can’t wait to benefit from the technical knowledge, skills and experience that the team at Diacom will bring to Croft. We look forward to welcoming them on board.

Don’t miss out: follow us on social media for the latest Croft news and updates.  

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Cyber security is quickly becoming a vital topic of which every business and employee needs to be aware. From phishing emails to identity theft, it can happen to any business at any time. However, cyber security buzzwords can be confusing, especially if you don’t understand the different terms used. To give you a head start in becoming more cyber safe, we have listed below the most common cyber security keywords and their definitions, helping you and your business gain a deeper understanding.

Common cyber security terms

Cyber security refers to the processes and methods of defending your network and devices from data breaches and other cyber attacks.

Here are some common cyber security terms used that you should familiarise yourself with:

  1. Bad actor. A hacker, hacktivist, foreign intelligence, employee (current or ex), industrial competitor, or cyber criminal who has bad intent.
  2. Feature. This is an intended function or item of functionality that can be misused by an attacker to breach a system. Features may improve the user’s experience, help diagnose problems or improve management but can also be used by an attacker.
  3. Perimeter. The exposed elements of your network, computers, software, and systems.
  4. Attack surface. This includes the perimeter as well as real-world targets such as your offices, users, and users’ home devices. Any area that can have pressure or be attacked.
  5. Vector. The attack vector is the method of delivery or route taken to exploit a vulnerability and hit the attack surface. Typically resulting in a breach and access within the perimeter.
  6. Dwell time. This is the amount of time a breach goes unnoticed within the perimeter. In 2019 in EMEA this was 54 days, imagine the damage that could be done within that time frame.

Computer infected by a virus

Common cyber threats

There is a wide range of ways a bad actor could obtain your confidential data. Below we list some of the most common methods that you need to be aware of:

  1. Breach. The successful intrusion within your perimeter by an actor.
  2. Phishing. Involves sending a large group of people urgent emails that pressure them for sensitive information or access.
  3. Ransomware. A type of malware where the attacker encrypts or locks away sensitive data and threatens to deny access or publish it until a fee is paid.
  4. Spear Phishing. Is sending emails to targeted individuals that could contain an attachment with malicious software or a link that downloads malicious software.
  5. DDOS. Distributed denial of service attacks involves flooding servers or internet-connected devices with information to overwhelm them.
  6. Flaw. An unintended vulnerability. These can be the result of implementation and can go undetected for a prolonged period and are often difficult to remedy.
  7. Water holing. Typically a fake website or compromised legitimate website is used to exploit visiting users.
  8. Supply Subversion. Attacking equipment or software during manufacture or delivery.
  9. Bot Net. Networks of unwittingly hacked computer devices are used for all types of attacks like DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service).
  10. Scanning. Methodically attacking wide swathes of the internet at random.
  11. Vulnerability. The flaw, feature, or item is exploited to achieve the bad actor’s goal(s).

A business laptop that is secured from cyber attacks

Cyber security tactics to get you started

To help navigate the growing cyber threat surface you need to understand the different ways that you can secure your business.

  1. Employee and User. A computer or system that has been carefully designed to minimise the vulnerabilities of cyber attacks. Unfortunately, these security efforts can be easily undone. Users are a significant source of vulnerabilities, they make mistakes like using easy-to-guess passwords, leaving their device unattended, and exploiteor be pressured into divulging information, installing software, or taking other bad actions.
  2. Endpoint Security. Protects entry points of end-user devices such as laptops, mobile phones, or desktops, from being breached and exploited by a bad actor.
  3. Password Management. A set of rules and processes that need to be followed to manage and store passwords securely and prevent a data breach.
  4. Dark Net Monitoring. The processes of checking and making sure that no personal or confidential information is accessible online or is sold on the dark web.
  5. Data Backup. A copy of your files and important information is stored in a secondary location in case of equipment failure or corruption.
  6. Firewall. A security system that monitors all incoming and outgoing network traffic and can filter it.
  7. Intrusion Prevention. Source and implement the right software for your business, to detect and protect against unwanted intrusions. Preventing possible cyber attacks.
  8. Proactive Threat Hunting. A fundamental cyber security practice. A Process of searching through your network detecting any suspicious activity and responding to cyber threats.

Did you find these cyber security terms helpful?

The keywords we listed above will ensure that you are in the know about the cyber dangers your business faces each day. Unfortunately, the list of cyber security threats is forever growing. But, being aware and having a clear understanding of cyber terminology is the first step in ensuring that you and your business are up to speed on security.

There is no one size fits all strategy in keeping your business safe. Each one is unique in the way it operates and functions. Without a bespoke solution, you run the risk of data theft, downtime, or even damage to your reputation, but we can remove that headache for you.

Our team of experts will provide you with tailored security solutions that will give you peace of mind. Consult with us today and find out how we can support your business with managed cyber security services that align with your distinctive business needs.

As technology evolves the percentage of time we spend online is rapidly increasing- and that goes for our children too.  Research by children’s technology firm SuperAwesome found that screen time went up by over 50% during the pandemic. Of course, some of this can be attributed to remote learning, but the remainder represents the general trend of the global population spending increasing amounts of time using the internet.

When it comes to children’s screen time, the main offenders in the streaming world are Netflix and YouTube (according to the same research), and in the gaming sphere, Roblox. Social media apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok are also incredibly popular, with many older children using these to stay connected with friends.

How can you be sure your child is safe online?

It’s impossible to monitor browsing 24/7 — particularly for older children and teenagers. But there’s some advice you can share with them, as well as some practical actions you can take to make their browsing safer.

Remind your child to never:

Finally, remind your child that if they’re in ANY doubt, always check with an adult.

It’s a good idea to have a chat about internet safety in general, explaining that people can be anyone they want to be online, and that ‘stranger danger’ exists on the internet too. Reiterate that if they’re talking to someone online who is making them feel uncomfortable, they can end the conversation, or ask an adult for help. This is particularly important for online games like Roblox, where users can ‘friend’ and chat with other users.

It’s also a good idea to warn against posting photos of themselves online and having the privacy settings on their accounts set so they’re not publicly viewable. It’s a difficult line to walk as a parent, particularly with older children, tweens and teenagers who may feel pressured by their peers to have various social media accounts.

Croft Heart Tech Appeal child working on laptop

Practical internet safety tips

It has become the norm for children to have laptops, smart devices and other smart devices before even reaching secondary school. As a parent you’re in an awkward position between looking out for their safety and not wanting to differentiate them from their friends.

One of the best ways to increase safety for your child online is installing a quality router with a filter. Examples include Circle or Google Wi-Fi. You can also set parental controls on a number of apps and browsers. The filter is hardware based, and something that Croft can provide.

After installing this hardware, you can monitor browsing activity 24/7, with the benefit of constant reporting and filters across devices. If your child is using a mobile device remember to leave the age filter in place and consider setting up either Apple Screen Time or Google Family Link. Both of these will allow you to manage the device and control what it can access.

Talking to your child about internet safety is important, but as a parent you need to put the effort in too.

If possible, restrict your child’s internet use to a device in a family room, so you’re aware of what they’re doing online. Again, this may be more difficult with older children who want their privacy and independence!

Google’s Be Internet Legends scheme is a fantastic initiative for parents and children, helping children to become internet savvy in a safe and confident way, through online games, downloadable resources for teaching internet safety, and more.

Finally, a word about cyberbullying. If you suspect your child is a victim of cyberbullying or ‘trolling’ online, it’s important to step in and act as soon as possible. This is as serious as any other form of bullying — sometimes worse as the victim can’t get away from the abuse, and it can have a devastating impact.

We’re spending more time than ever online, both for work and for recreation. As such, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the issues of data harvesting and how your personal data is being used online.

The biggest problem with data harvesting is that a small group of companies entirely dominate the industry. Users are utterly unaware (or utterly uncaring) of the risks of being exposed to the curated version of the internet that these data-rich big tech companies promote.

Your personal data’s journey

So, what do you understand by the term ‘personal data’? You might think of data as addresses and contact numbers, banking details, health records, and so on. This is correct, and data like this makes up the most sensitive information stored online.

However, it goes further. Your personal activity also counts as data. Think browsing activity, social media posts, location data, search-engine queries, even what you ask your Alexa or Google Assistant. This reveals a lot about you and is usually monetised in ways that personal details are not.

There are other kinds of data collection that you might not even know about. For example, did you realise that some companies analyse the way you type or use your smart device? Biometric data like facial recognition is also used to collect information, something that Facebook and Instagram were both in hot water over last year.

Sometimes data is given willingly by users, but too often people don’t understand the specifics of what is being given up when they tick a consent box. The finer details are part of a hard-to-read service agreement that’s often overlooked.

Many apps use your location to target you with custom advertisements, but they don’t make it clear that your data might then be sold to a third-party so they can analyse the local shops or businesses you visit.

You’ll be aware to an extent that you’re being tracked. After all, the same advertisement following you from web page to web page is a bit of a giveaway. But few people realise companies aren’t just analysing clicks, but also the exact movements of a user’s mouse.

The adage ‘nothing in life is free’ is a good one to bear in mind here. The way companies see it, you’re receiving something in return for your data being monetised, by getting to use their app or services (Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps, etc) for free. You’re essentially paying for the use with your personal data, which is then used to target you with ads, in an ongoing cycle.

The engagement issue

A huge issue in data harvesting is the way it can influence the way you behave online in social spaces too. A prime example is the curation of your social media algorithms, showing you a systematised feed.

This leads to users being stuck in a virtual ‘echo chamber’ that manipulates thinking and social interaction, promoting polarisation and radicalisation on certain topics.

Although it’s not a new problem online we’ve seen many examples of the damage this can do during the pandemic and the social and political upheaval of the past year.

Engagement is far and away the highest risk issue online today. Again, this is something that most people are blissfully unaware of.

Data gathering for security

In some cases, data gathering for behavioural insight is required for security. This leads to an issue where a careful balance needs to be struck, and extreme care needs to be taken over the safeguarding of data collected for this purpose.

A prime example is in the hospitality and leisure industries, with establishments collecting, storing and sharing (if required) customer data for use in ‘track and trace’ during the pandemic.

We fully believe that as an individual you have the right to decide how your personal data is shared, to retain control over said personal data, and to be confident that it’s being used ethically.

Organisations and institutions have the responsibility to ensure that they’re using the correct methods for handling, storing, processing and sharing personal data, and doing this in a way that’s compliant with regulations.

We’re here to help

At Croft, we’re committed to ‘doing it with care’. For us this means doing the right thing, because it matters — and we care about why it matters. When it comes to the privacy and security of our clients, we treat this with the highest priority, because it’s part of our mission to care for our customers, care for our company, and consider the impact of our actions.

We’re honoured to have the privacy and trust of our clients. If we sound like we could be a good fit to help with your business communications and technology, then please get in touch!

Contact the experts at Croft on 01920 466 466.

Virtual learning, distance learning, online learning… whatever we call it, the principles of eLearning have been around for a long time. But what will eLearning look like in the future – and is it ever likely to fully replace traditional, face-to-face classroom education?

A brief history of eLearning

The word ‘eLearning’ means different things to different people. For some, that little ‘e’ is all-important: eLearning is defined as education using electronic media, such as videos and smartphone apps, inside the classroom or elsewhere. Others might say the concept of eLearning includes any kind of distance learning, letting people learn flexibly and at their own pace in any location. Either way, eLearning certainly isn’t new. The first computer-based training course was developed way back in 1960, while the Open University, offering home-based flexible education, was founded that same decade in 1969.

Over the years, with the introduction of home computers, online resources and smartphone apps, eLearning has become ever more accessible. Computers in classrooms in the 1980s and the launch of the World Wide Web in the 1990s signalled exciting new educational possibilities. By the turn of the century, electronic learning resources to support education for all ages were already widespread: the internet, though still in its relative infancy, was well established as a valuable research tool, and interactive CD-ROMs helped make learning more relevant and compelling.

Businessman engaged in eLearning via laptop

Today’s world: eLearning as an essential lifeline

Fast forward to 2020 and during the coronavirus pandemic, eLearning took on a new urgency. No longer a gimmick or novelty, it became an essential lifeline providing a continuous education to children of all ages who couldn’t physically attend school. The dangers of a ‘digital divide’, where children without access to laptops and WiFi during periods of lockdown might lag behind their peers, became all too apparent.

The Heart Tech Appeal

At Croft, throughout the pandemic and as part of our Croft in the Community initiative, we’ve been helping combat digital poverty to enable better access to an online education for children across Hertfordshire. We pledged to supply free mobile broadband to 100 families and teamed up with Heart FM to appeal for donations of laptops and devices.

In a future where eLearning is an integral part of everyone’s education, we hope these essential tools will be freely available to all.

Hertfordshire child home-schooling on latop thanks to Heart Tech Appeal

A turning point in the history of education

In future, the home-schooling that took place during the pandemic is likely to be seen as a turning point in the history of education, marking a ‘before and after’ in terms of the way the curriculum is taught and how students learn. It’s shown educators what is possible, what works and how learning might look in the years to come – as well as revealing important shortfalls. There’s more research to be done on the effects lockdowns have had on learning, and this is likely to uncover some essential areas where eLearning can’t be substituted effectively for face-to-face classroom teaching (or at least not yet).

New eLearning technologies

Nobody has a crystal ball, but we can catch a glimpse of the future of eLearning in the technology that’s already being developed and deployed today. These technologies are just beginning to be explored – but it’s likely we haven’t yet exploited their full potential. Tech-savvy educators using cutting-edge methods will pave the way for more mainstream use in the years to come.

Augmented reality and virtual reality

There’s a buzz around virtual reality in education: it’s a new and exciting tool that could (almost literally) bring any topic to life. Learning through experience – by visiting a historic site or exploring an object from all angles – is well known to be more effective than more passive education styles. And with AR and VR technology, this can become a (virtual) reality. In the future, it will enable students to visit the places they’re learning about or go back in time to discover what a period in history was really like to live through. In practical subjects like medicine, would-be surgeons will be able to practise difficult procedures virtually.

Young boy eLearning with virtual reality headset

Artificial intelligence

In the future, as always, human teachers will be central to learning but AI technology could play a valuable supporting role. Today, we use AI in simple ways: for example, with chatbots programmed to answer simple questions. In tomorrow’s world, the way we use AI is likely to be more subtle and complex. For example, if computers can learn about the needs and learning styles of individual students, they’ll be able to generate a curriculum that’s personalised and adapted to each learner’s unique profile. Artificial intelligence could even do smart things like suggesting improvements to course content, based on the data it gathers from actual pupil performance.

Artificial intelligence bot for eLearning

Learning management systems

One big shift during the coronavirus pandemic has been the widespread adoption of online learning systems like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams for home-schooling. These learning management systems have the potential to make life easier for both teachers and students and they’re likely to loom large in the future of eLearning. Marking – the bane of every teacher’s life – could in many cases be automated using an LMS, and the technology it uses could even enhance the quality of the assessment. For example, educators will be able to easily access patterns and trends in pupil performance that might not otherwise have been spotted and adjust their teaching accordingly. Meanwhile, students will benefit from having an archive of all their learning available in one place, including recordings of live lessons, so they can dip into it whenever they need to.

Young boy engaged in eLearning via desktop

eLearning trends of the future

The new technologies we use are influencing popular practices in education. Many of these are likely to be here to stay!

For example:

Learning tools with a purpose

In the early days of the internet, eLearning was often seen as a novelty and many resources developed simply reproduced printed materials into an electronic format. One expert said in 2001: “Most e-learning replicates the worst features of face-to-face instruction. So, it may be cheaper to ‘deliver’ knowledge over the Internet, but it will not be more effective.”

Today, and into the future, this remains pertinent. To be effective, the technology we use to enable learning needs to be user-focused, deployed sensitively to support students in their learning journey. It’s likely that many of the technological developments that will have the biggest impact on student success will be simple essentials like fast, reliable internet connections that enable better real-time interactions – so that the learning tools we’re already using can be deployed more effectively.

Teacher and student engaged in eLearning via laptop

Here are some of the most meaningful benefits to be had from eLearning in the future:

Connectivity for all

For eLearning to be successful, free access to the right devices and connectivity will be essential or the digital divide that was feared during recent lockdowns will become a reality.

Wondering how telecoms can support with your pupils or employee’s education and training? Get advice from our team of friendly telecoms specialists and make a plan for an eLearning-filled future.

Good record keeping is paramount for financial firms. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemichowever, many firms weren’t adequately set up for home working. In this extraordinary situation, it took time to put procedures in place to ensure that professional standards were maintained when staff were based outside the office.  

Now that working remotely has become the norm for most office-based roles, the FCA has laid down its expectationfor robust record keeping, including call recordingUnder the new regulations, firms will need to have the policies, procedures and technology in place to record all relevant communications (including voice calls) when working outside the office. This will help firms to ensure that sensitive information is treated appropriately and crack down on the potential for staff misconduct when working from home. 

What are the FCA call recording regulations? 

The FCA call recording regulations are as follows: 

  1. All voice calls must be recorded, including those using mobile phones. So, whether your staff are working at home, travelling for business or office-based, you’ll need to be able to provide recordings of every conversation.  
  2. Firms must monitor calls periodically. In addition to having the records in place, you must also listen regularly to ensure the quality of the conversations. 
  3. Policies and procedures for remote working must be in place and must be shown to the FCA on request. If you haven’t reviewed your policies and procedures since the first lockdown started, it’s important to check that they’re still fit for purpose and can be applied to home working situations. You might find that you have to add in some wording about the use of privately owned devices or certain apps. 
  4. You must offer training to staff on call recording policies and procedures. This will make them aware of the regulations, help them to understand their importance, and outline the consequences if they don’t comply. 

Woman dialling a number on a business telephone system

Getting the right call recording technology in place 

Compliance with the FCA regulations is a lot harder if you don’t have the right tech setup. This was the main barrier to most firms when the first lockdown was brought in and the reason why there has been some lenience in enforcing the rules. But the good news is, once you’ve implemented the technology, you’ll benefit from an integrated way of working that’s not only compliant with call recording regulations but also helps your workforce to collaborate remotely and get things done more efficiently. 

Croft’s Unified Communications solution gives all of your communications a home in one place. It’s based on Hosted Telephony, keeping records in the Cloud. So, emails, voice calls, instant messages and more can all be called up from one central record, meaning that there’s a complete file that can be accessed by everyone working on it. It doesn’t matter where you’re based – staff can log in from anywhere, ensuring that your business can continue as usual, whatever external constraints or surprises come your way. If you’re concerned about people outside the company gaining access to your records while staff are working remotely, you can protect the system with authorisation codes. 

Key features: 

Comply with the FCA regulations and support your staff to work remotely. Find out more about our Unified Communications solution or contact us for a free quote today. 

Ding ding! The Android and iPhone debate can get pretty polarised: like sports teams, most people tend to pick a side and defend it to the death. But what really is the difference between Android and iPhone – and which operating system is best for you?

Back to basics

First up, some basic information. If you’re choosing a mobile device today, the operating system you choose is pretty much an either-or. Don’t want an Android phone? Then you’ll have to go for an iPhone (and vice versa). Android is owned by Google, while the iPhone (plus the iPad and other gadgets that use the iOS operating system) is owned by Apple.

There used to be more diversity in the market, with contenders like Microsoft throwing Windows phones into the mix. These never really caught on however, and other older systems such as BlackBerry were swallowed up by Android.

Look and feel

Apple products are famed for their sleek, streamlined appearance. If looks (and design in general) are important to you, you might instinctively lean towards an iPhone. A joy to behold, the iPhone 12 is the latest example of Apple’s enduring design credentials.

The back of an iPhone placed on a desk

But all is not lost in terms of looks if you decide to opt for an Android model. There are plenty of beautiful non-iPhones out there, from the likes of Samsung, Motorola and more. In the end, it comes down to a matter of taste.

Usability

In the early days of smartphones, iPhones were unquestionably the easiest to use. Nowadays, their rivals have caught up, and it’s pretty much even.

Cost

If you’re choosing business mobiles, cost may be the deciding factor. Android will always beat the iPhone on cost, with phones available for every budget.

Two business men holding Android device

Hardware

From headphone jacks to handsets, your phone hardware is all the physical ‘stuff’ you use to make it work. In terms of handsets, there’s a far wider choice on Android – lots of different companies design Android phones, so you’re not limited to three or four options and you can buy something on a budget if cost is your main concern.

Cables are often an annoyance with the iPhone; Apple’s Lightning cables only work on iOS devices, so if you lose one, you’re stuck. As for headphone jacks, the iPhone has evolved beyond them, meaning that you’ll need to use wireless earphones (AirPods), or buy a special adapter if you want to plug your headphones in.

Man holding iPhone to connect to AirPods

Proprietary or open-source?

If you’re looking for a device that will support your other iOS applications, it’s an open and shut case: you need an iPhone. All Apple products are proprietary, meaning that they only work within the Apple universe – you can’t just rock up with an Android phone and expect access to Apple Music or iCloud for example. That’s part of the reason why the iPhone has inspired such loyalty since its launch in 2007: once you’re a paid-up Apple user, it’s difficult to go elsewhere.

On the other hand, Android is an open-source operating system, with apps that can be used on iOS devices. It comes from the Google stable, so includes Google Play Music, Gmail and Google Docs as standard – all of which can be installed on an iPhone if you later decide to switch. There’s lots more choice in terms of customising your phone and choosing how to use it – such as changing your launcher (the software that creates the interface design on your phone).

Person holding an Android mobile phone with a blue screen

Get help with your business phones

Need help choosing business mobile handsets? Get in touch! Contact the experts at Croft on 01920 466 466.

Want to go the extra mile to keep your clients happy? Technology is your friend. Make sure you’re using yours to its full potential, with these tips to harness your telecoms technology to improve customer service.

Use intelligence

No, not your brains (although you’ll need them too), but the data you collect about your customer service calls. If you’re using a Hosted Telephony system, you’ll have access to all kinds of statistics on how long you take to answer calls, how long the calls are taking, the location of the caller and lots more. For example, say you don’t have enough customer service agents to handle all the calls you’re getting: this will show up in the number of calls you’re missing when all operators are busy. Take advantage of these analytics to get an insight into how you’re performing, act on any trends you notice and monitor the results, so you can deliver a better level of service to your customers

Let people choose how they contact you

The beauty of today’s telecoms technology is that there’s a mode of communication to suit everyone. Make sure these are all available to your customers. While some people prefer to hear a human voice on the other end of the phone, others would rather interact with a virtual assistant on your website, or send a quick message on social media. Making use of all these different avenues – telephone, chatbots, social media, email and more – will ensure that customers feel comfortable contacting you on their own terms. And if you have a Unified Communications system to bring them all together, you’ll always have a record of your conversation history – no matter which format was used.

Woman using emails on a laptop and business mobile to contact customers

Create a diversion

Need to work from home during lockdown? Your customers need never know. By diverting customer service calls to business mobiles, you can ensure a seamless shift to remote working, without inconveniencing your callers.

Man working remotely in a cafe on his business mobile and laptop

Get the message

Sometimes calls get missed, so your voicemail system is vital to help you retain customers and offer the highest level of service. Make sure yours is set up so that you can dial in from any location to check messages on the move – that way, you’ll always be able to stay connected and respond promptly to your customers’ needs.

Keep a record

Nobody wants to repeat themselves. If you keep a recording of your customer service calls, that shouldn’t be necessary. Play back the recording if there’s anything you didn’t quite catch on the call, and keep it handy so that others can refer to it when dealing with that account. You can also use call recordings to review performance and help with training – helping all team members to develop great business phone etiquette.

Want to overhaul your phone system? Croft Communications can help. We can set you up with a business phone system to help you get the best out of your employees. Call us on 01920 466 466 or email info@croftcommunications.co.uk – great customer service guaranteed.