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.
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.
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.
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.
What is unified communications?
Implementing unified communications into a business is one of the best ways to streamline IT processes and halt any overlapping tech services. Before we get into its benefits – what is unified communications (UC)? Put simply, UC is a cloud-based system that connects a multitude of communication channels, such as messaging, video, file management and voice calling (through hosted telephony). Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) uses cloud delivery to offer a complete solution to communications within business.
Are you looking to find out more about Unified Communications as a Service? Here are 9 reasons why it could be a great option for your business:
1. Increasing productivity
Features such as team chats, hosted telephony phone calls and screen sharing means that team members don’t have to spend all that extra time switching devices to make calls or share information. As calls can be made on a laptop, as well as on phones, less time is wasted endlessly switching between devices.
2. Streamline IT services / process
Bringing together all of your necessary IT processes under one system will make life a lot easier for you and your team. Having one IT solution means that if there are any questions or problems about your communications – you and your team know exactly who to contact.
3. Reducing IT costs by being more efficient
Having different IT providers for different processes, such as voice call and video conferencing, means that you’ll probably inevitably be paying twice as much from an overlap in service. Streamlining these services means you won’t be paying twice for the same service.
Updating older systems also saves money in the long run. For Croft Communications’ hosted telephony solutions, we’ve found that our customers can save up to 60% in comparison to outdated equipment and traditional phone lines.
Also, HD conferencing calls means cutting down the need to travel to business meetings. Less travelling equals less time and money spent.
4. Strengthening the team while they’re working from home
Unified communications allows you to run your business from anywhere there’s a WiFi connection. This means that your team can stay connected and productive if they’re working from home.
File sharing, screen sharing and video calling ensures that teams can collaborate through one seamless system.
5. Improve customer service
With hosted telephony – which is a cloud based telecommunication service – you and your team can take and receive external or internal calls from anywhere.
As we’re moving into a time where many businesses of all sizes have adopted a flexible approach to working, it’s no longer practical to rely on an office phone. Traditional copper lines are also going to be switched off by 2025, meaning businesses will soon have to rethink their communications to ensure it’s future-proofed.
6. Enhancing your cyber security
As businesses are relying more on digital than ever, cyber assets have become more at risk to security threats, such as data breaches.
Choosing a variety of different communication and IT services for one business will make you more vulnerable to cyber attacks. As unified communication services are stored in a secure cloud based management system, your information is secured so that sensitive data is protected.
7. Creating a better relationship with your IT provider
Instead of dealing with multiple providers, using one contact for your unified communications solution will mean you know who to contact when you need them. This means that any issues can be addressed without jumping through hoops first.
At Croft Communications, we have Account Managers that look after each customer to support them through technical issues or answer any questions they may have.
8. Improve communication across different offices
Just like with teams working from home, one major benefit of unified communications is the seamless communication between workers in different offices.
As well as having the benefits of video calling, screen sharing and more – using hosted telephony means that teams can transfer calls between offices, record calls, use hold music and utilise instant messaging. Additionally, a cloud-based call solution means that unexpected events such as snow or floods won’t slow your business down.
9. Improving bespoke processes to suit your needs
Your unified communications provider should work with you to create a telecommunications and IT solution that works for your business. As your business grows, your telecommunications and IT solutions should grow with you.
At Croft Communications, we create bespoke IT and hosted telephony systems that are tailored around your business. That’s why listen to your requirements to understand what technical issues you’re trying to solve, and what communications your business needs.
If you’re looking to unify your communications or create a bespoke solution to telecommunications – please get in touch.
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:
- Give out their password, name, address, school name or any personal/family information
- Agree to meet anyone in person that they’ve met online
- Fill in a profile that asks for their name and address without asking you
- Download or install anything on your computer without your permission
- Never accept an invitation from, or reply to, someone who is unknown — even if you have mutual friends!
- Don’t accept gifts or offers from brands or influencers
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- Social and collaborative learning. We’re social animals and working with others has always been fundamental to the way we learn. Since the advent of social media, educational tools like online chats and forums have been second nature to digital natives – and they’ll continue to be a cornerstone of eLearning into the future.
- Adaptive and personalised learning. Good teachers have always adapted their approach to individual learners – and perhaps, in the early days of online technology, this wasn’t something that eLearning could replicate. But in the future, far from a one-size-fits-all approach, one of the strengths of computer-based learning will be its ability to offer different resources to every student, based on their own individual learning requirements.
- Simply put, microlearning is the practice of breaking up lessons into small chunks. Many people have already adopted this type of learning in their use of educational apps like Duolingo, spending just a few minutes every day building up their knowledge. As we grow to understand more about effective learning, microlearning could play a larger part in classroom-based education in the future.
- Everyone learns better when they’re actively interacting and having fun, so games and quizzes have long been a feature of every classroom. In the future, the gamification of learning (and game-based learning) will become more sophisticated, with virtual reality likely to play a bigger role.
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.
Here are some of the most meaningful benefits to be had from eLearning in the future:
- People will have more say in where and when they learn, with ‘hybrid learning’ (some in the classroom, some at home) likely to be a mainstream option. This should open up educational opportunities to a wider cross-section of the population.
- Unlimited resources. With electronic learning materials, there’s no limit to the number of books students will be able to access – there will no longer be any restrictions based on how much you can carry or store. Having virtual libraries available on tap will revolutionise the quality of resources open to students.
- New connections. Far from limiting social interactions, eLearning will break down physical boundaries and connect learners from all over the globe. Students of the future will learn valuable lessons from the experiences of their friends and counterparts all over the world.
- Reduced teacher workload. The idea of automation and artificial intelligence is scary: could it make educators redundant? In fact, what’s more likely is that with the technology to support them, skilled teachers will be able to spend less of their time doing repetitive tasks and dedicate their energy to delivering thoughtful and effective teaching.
- New subjects to study. With the rise of eLearning, perhaps the very subjects we learn will change. There’s likely to be a larger focus on topics like coding, which in turn will help young adults to develop new eLearning materials 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 pandemic, however, 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 expectations for robust record keeping, including call recording. Under 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Call recording as standard
- Records of all incoming, outgoing and missed calls
- Authorisation codes to protect your data
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Get help with your business phones
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com – great customer service guaranteed.
Are you ready for the next generation? The telecoms world is buzzing with anticipation as 5G finally makes its appearance. But what makes it stand out – and will it really change the world? We’ve listed some of the biggest differences between 4G and 5G mobile networks.
5G is faster
And that’s an understatement! 5G connections will theoretically be able to reach speeds of 10 gigabits per second – that’s up to 100 times faster than 4G. The difference this makes will be dramatic. Download times for a typical movie will reduce from minutes to seconds, and you’ll be able to do more things at once – great for multi-taskers. The super-speedy connection will also mean your phone can cope with higher-resolution images, so everything will appear crystal clear.
5G has lower latency than 4G
Say bye-bye to buffering! Latency is the delay you get between one side of a connection sending information and the other side receiving it (think of the pause you sometimes get in conversation, when TV reporters are talking via satellite). With 5G, latency will be around 50 times better than 4G, so everything will be as good as instantaneous. This means that anything you do in real-time that demands loads of data, from gaming to streaming, will work like a dream. Virtually zero latency is a necessary requirement for exciting new innovations such as self-driving cars, which will need to rely on real-time instant data exchanges in order to work safely.
5G has higher capacity
Ever tried to get through to a friend at midnight on New Year’s Eve? Although the 4G network is great most of the time, it can collapse under the pressure when too many people try to use it at once. This can be frustrating at the best of times but could spell disaster in emergency situations, such as terrorist attacks, where 5G’s capacity could make a life-or-death difference. 5G’s superior bandwidth capacity also holds tantalising potential for future tech. It means we’ll have the means to connect lots more devices to each other, paving the way for smart fridges, cars, street lighting and more, in a new technological era characterised by the ‘Internet of Things’.
5G isn’t as widely available as 4G… yet
If you’re choosing a phone plan in 2021, 4G will still be the norm. Only a limited number of handsets (including the new iPhone 12 suite) are built for 5G, and the network itself is still limited to a select but growing list of cities and postcodes. All this means that 5G is the expensive option, for now. If you’re excited by new tech and impatient to harness the super-fast speeds everyone’s been raving about, the option is there. But if your mobile needs are limited to business calls and modest data allowances, you’re likely to be happy sticking with your existing setup until 5G is firmly in the mainstream.
Say goodbye to slow connections and look ahead to a high-speed future, with these New Year’s Resolutions for 2021.
1. Embrace 5G technology
2021 will be the year that 5G makes it big. More 5G-capable devices (like the new iPhone 12) will be released and nationwide 5G coverage will bring this next-generation technology into the mainstream. What could it mean for your business? Lightning-fast connections (up to 100 times faster than 4G), increased data capacity and ultra-low latency will all make life easier, especially if you still have a large remote workforce. Going forward, these dramatically faster connection speeds could enable new and innovative business solutions such as 3D printing and the Internet of Things.
2. Adapt to a post-Brexit world
2021 will mark a new era for business, as the transition period out of the EU ends on 31st December 2020. Mobile phone roaming services – previously free in EU countries for UK residents – will no longer be guaranteed surcharge-free, so check your mobile phone contract carefully and contact your service provider if you are unsure. You don’t want to be hit with an unexpected bill next time you travel across the Channel or the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic. EU data and telecoms regulations, such as GDPR, will no longer apply in 2021, although the UK’s own Data Protection, Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendments etc) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 should ensure that there’s no difference to your obligations in practice.
3. Embrace video conferencing as a permanent fixture
Virtual events and video calls became routine in 2020, necessitated by the pandemic. And in many cases, that shift has become permanent. Virtual happenings streamed online were once a futuristic novelty, but now they’re here to stay. This year, ensure that you’re making the most of this exciting new environment. You can network from your office hosting publicly-streamed industry events, or give your employees the chance to attend gatherings all over the world – all from the comfort of their workstation. This year, you’ve got to make sure your broadband connection is up to the task!
4. Ensure business continuity
If there’s one thing 2020 taught us, it was that business continuity plans can mean make or break for many SMEs. If you dipped your toe into the world of remote working in 2020, 2021 is the year to formalise your remote working policies and procedures. Why not future-proof your business by moving over to a Unified Communications system that can work wherever you do? Reliable business broadband is also a must for companies with remote workers – home broadband simply won’t cut it.
5. Make the switch to fibre
As we ring in 2021, the impending 2026 copper switch-off suddenly feels a lot closer than it did. That’s the date when old-style copper phone lines will finally go extinct – and if you’re still dependent a telephone system that uses these lines, now’s the time to act. Get advice from our team of friendly telecoms specialists and make a plan for a fibre-filled future.