Newspaper Article

BT to switch off business phone network

 

Most businesses with more than a handful of employees use ISDN  telephone lines.  After 2020 BT will stop training ISDN engineers – and in 2025 it will switch off the ISDN network.  Businesses will need an alternative in place well before then so it is prudent to find out when your current telephone contract ends and start considering your options many months in advance.

“Old fashioned” telephone handsets send an analogue signal along analogue phone lines.  Modern telephone equipment can convert analogue voice signals into digital data “packets” which can then travel via the internet rather than telephone lines.  This technology is called “Voice over IP” (“VoIP”).  Because VoIP signals use the internet, anyone wishing to use a VoIP telephone needs a reliable and fast data connection.  A leased line or fibre connection is best – ADSL can sometimes cope with a couple of additional voice signals but this often results in poor call quality (upload speed is generally the limiting factor).

VoIP systems offer two main alternatives, with many permutations underneath.  Some companies might wish to retain their existing telephone system or switchboard (PBX).  If the system is not too ancient it can have additional circuit boards fitted to allow VoIP channels (called “SIP trunks”) to replace ISDN lines.  It is not necessary to have one SIP trunk per staff member, i.e. a company of 50 employees might have 20 SIP trunks as not every employee will use the telephone simultaneously.

The other alternative is to replace the physical PBX/ telephone system with a “virtual PBX” in the cloud.  This is called “Hosted VoIP”.  Employees access a web portal to configure the system which allows a huge range of functions (hunt groups, failovers etc).  Each user needs a VoIP handset which plugs into a data socket identical to that used by their pc.  In contrast to SIP trunks, each handset needs its own VoIP channel.  In most cases VoIP handsets arrive pre-configured and are “plug and play”.

There are many variations to the above and migrating to a new technology is an opportunity to consider how (and where) your staff will work in the future – do they need a fixed handset on a desk, or a mobile handset or headset ?  Will they work from home ?  What about video calls and conferencing ?  Integration with CRMs ?

For impartial advice on the above please contact me – even if your existing contract does not expire for some considerable time.  We can then diarise the project for a future date and plan accordingly.

 

BT to switch off business phone network

Tina Dulieu wins International Coaching Award

Tina Dulieu, of Coaching Dynamics, was delighted to be named winner of The International Coaching Awards 2015 as The Small Business Coach of the Year at a glittering ceremony in December 2015.

Tina said ‘It was a real honour to be recognised by my own industry’s professional bodies both in the UK and internationally for my work in helping businesses grow and be more successful.  I couldn’t ask for a better accolade and accepted the Award with pride.  My family were there to see me win, it was wonderful!’

Details attached and also at www.coachingdynamics.co.uk/news.

Tina Dulieu wins International Coaching Award

Do I need a for sale sign outside my property?

Newspaper Article:

With the internet now the leading method of property marketing you may well be asking yourself, “do I need a for sale sign outside my property”? As estate agents in Bishop’s Stortford, this is of course a question we are regularly asked and so we thought it would be a good topic for our latest blog post. Rightmove and Zoopla have of course now taken over as the market leaders in property advertising. The newspaper and shop windows are now outdated and people are turning to the internet to start their search for their next property. What about the for sale board though? Has this died along with other traditional property advertising methods?

Let’s start with a question – why WOULDN’T you want a for sale sign outside your property?

The main reason we come across, is that many home owners are worried that their neighbours will find out that their home is for sale and they’ll be the subject for gossip for weeks to come. It’s certainly a talking point when a new property comes up for sale in your street, I can’t help but hop on to Rightmove and check out the details whenever one becomes available where I live (that’s if we’re not selling it already!)

However, the truth of the matter is that regardless of whether you have a board up or not, your neighbours will know your home is for sale! How? Through our friends over at Rightmove and Zoopla is how. So many people I know are signed up to Rightmove’s property alerts for their local area so they can keep track of what’s on the market and check out the local property prices. Many of these people aren’t even considering moving home but they like to browse Rightmove out of interest. Even if a neighbour doesn’t sign up to Rightmove themselves no doubt another neighbour will fill them in, or perhaps a friend will mention “I noticed that there’s another house for sale in your street”. They will know!

 

Do I need a for sale sign outside my property? 

Let’s consider now – why WOULD you want a for sale sign outside your property?

If you’re selling your home then no doubt you’ll want to sell it for the best possible price, in the shortest possible time frame – everybody does! The way we see it is that all exposure is good exposure and if you really want to get your property sold, then having a board up outside can only be a good thing. We get 7% of all our enquiries as a result of boards outside properties in Bishop’s Stortford (and the surrounding areas) and whilst you may argue that’s a small percentage it’s still almost 1 in 10 of all our enquiries. It’s a potential extra viewing or two that you wouldn’t have had otherwise without someone having spotted your board. Sometimes people spot a board outside, like the look of the house and will make an enquiry whereas perhaps it didn’t appear on Rightmove under their search criteria and so often we find people end up buying properties that are totally different to their initial ideas!

Plus nowadays we’re using our revolutionary ‘brochure boxes’ so that passers-by can take a copy of the property details there and then as they’re passing, this is ever increasing the number of enquiries we gain from advertising by for sale boards. If you haven’t seen these already then take a look at our blog post ‘Bishop’s Stortford estate agent, revolutionary new idea’ –   The other benefit of these boards is that if the neighbours ARE aware of houses for sale, think about their network of friends and family who may be looking to move to the area. We all know networking works, so who better to sell living in your street than your own neighbours?

We advise all property owners to have a for sale board outside their property. It certainly can’t hurt and will give you that little bit of extra exposure that could be that extra viewing you need to get an offer. What have you got to lose?

What to read next? ‘Should I use more than one estate agent to market my property?’ 

Do I need a for sale sign outside my property?

Giving a TEDx talk

Newspaper Article:

I was thrilled to be auditioned and then chosen to give a TEDx talk this summer – and also delighted that I only had to travel to Chelmsford, Essex to give it!  Others flew in and travelled to the destination from the world over, whereas I just had to go 8 miles in my car.

These TED talks are globally famous (Technology, Entertainment, Design) for being ‘ideas worth spreading’ and have been delivered by the ultra-famous and the unknown.  My favourite TED talk is by Ken Robinson – check it out here http://www.ted.com/playlists/171/the_most_popular_talks_of_all.  

So the big question now is: do you have an 18 minute (max) talk inside you that’s original, factual and exciting?  If so, now’s the time to apply in readiness for next year: http://tedxchelmsford.com/tedxchelmsford-2016/

My own talk fitted in with my passion and business: The English Cream Tea Company (which delivers hamper boxes of afternoon tea and other treats, UK wide…and retails/exports preserves, teas and manners tips!!). However, you aren’t allowed to go on stage to deliver a blatant advert.  No commercial or website mentions allowed and you must have original slides or ones that are paid-for-use.  ‘Thems the rules!’  Here is my talk called ‘How Afternoon Tea Could Save The World’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaDquLlxDsI  

Around 8 speakers were chosen for the filmed event day although TED talks are filmed in many destinations worldwide (so you could apply to speak at other destinations).  Think about your Big Idea….encapsulate it in a paragraph for the application…and then work on your technique.  You’re not supposed to have notes with you and there is no autocue.  Yikes!  I would dearly have loved both of those, especially to remember the statistics I needed to quote. However, you are allowed slides and props – and I took an afternoon tea on stage with me!

So that’s my challenge to you.  I’ve done my (first?!) TED offering and found it to be exhilarating, adrenalin-filled and great for my credentials.  Now, surely, it’s your turn?  Can’t wait to hear and see what message you have for the world!

Giving a TEDx talk

Paying with plastic

The UK has £ 2.9 billion banknotes in circulation, made from a mixture of linen rag and cotton. £5 notes are used most heavily and only survive one year whereas £50 notes have a five year lifespan. Worn notes are shredded for agricultural compost.

Unfortunately, one in every 4,000 UK banknotes is fake.

In 1988 Australia became the first country to issue plastic banknotes. Mark Carney – current Governor of the Bank of England – introduced plastic notes to Canada during his tenure there as governor.  In March next year Great Britain will become the 23rd country worldwide to follow suit. In 2015 the Forth Bridge will celebrate its 125 anniversary, and Scottish Clydesdale Bank will issue a limited edition of 2 million plastic £5 notes featuring the iconic bridge.  In 2016 the Bank of England will issue a polymer £5 note featuring Winston Churchill.

The new plastic notes will be slightly smaller than the paper currency it replaces, and much harder to counterfeit.  They are constructed from multiple layers of a special polymer which enables security measures such as clear windows and 3D security markings to be incorporated into the structure. The polymer itself is made from a secret process involving highly specialised machinery which is generally unavailable. Special “metameric” inks are used which respond differently under certain light wavelengths. The notes are more expensive to produce than paper versions but are expected to last at least 2.5 times longer. And yes – they will survive an accidental trip in the washing machine. They will resist tearing except when cut, after which they will tear easily. They should be stored flat, as once folded they are creased for ever.

There are other benefits – dirt and other particles find it hard to lodge in the polymer’s super-smooth surface so plastic currency carries only one quarter of the bacteria of paper notes. Cocaine use in the UK is so widespread that every UK banknote tests positive for the drug within two weeks of issuance. The Forensic Science Service has stopped testing seized notes for the drug as it is no longer considered incriminating evidence.  Polymer notes might avoid this problem.

The new notes will be printed by De La Rue at its secure printing facility in Debden, Essex. De La Rue already prints 150 national currencies, and passports/identity cards for 65 countries.

Paying with plastic

Will you still be running Windows XP on May 13th ?

On Tuesday 8 April Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003.  Launched in 2001, XP had a projected 10 year life but in 2007 Microsoft decided to extend support until April 8th 2014.  From now on security patches will no longer be issued and hackers will form an orderly queue to attack vulnerable XP systems.  On the second Tuesday of each month Microsoft issue security patches along with technical explanations of the vulnerabilities these rectify.  Hackers are likely to use this information to reverse engineer unpatched weaknesses in XP – the next “Patch Tuesday” is May 13th.

Who still uses XP ?

  • 27% of the world’s pc’s
  • 75% of UK companies still have XP running somewhere in their organisation
  • 85% of NHS computers
  • 85,000 HMRC computers
  • 95% of ATM machines worldwide

Why haven’t all XP users upgraded to newer versions of Windows ?
XP has been around so long that many proprietary systems (factory production systems, booking systems, databases etc) require it to run.  An upgrade is therefore not a simple matter of paying a licence fee and installing a more modern version – the ramifications are far wider and more expensive.  Other applications are coded to run under Internet Explorer 7 which is incompatible with Windows 7 or 8.  Expensive hardware (such as ATM machines) often cannot interact with more recent Windows versions.  The problem is so acute that the government’s central buying dept – the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – is paying Microsoft £5.5m for one years’ extended security support for Windows XP/Office 2003/Exchange 2003.  This will buy government, the NHS and some charities and educational establishments more time to upgrade their operating software.
Another consideration is that Windows 7 – considered to be the closest ‘modern’ Windows version to the late lamented XP – will cease to receive mainstream support from January 13th 2015.  Extended support and security fixes – the type of support which has just ceased for XP – ends on 14th January 2020.  Users might be forced to leapfrog straight into 8.1, a very different animal.

Does this affect me ?
Do you accept payment by credit card ?  Financial services providers who continue to use XP without purchasing continued security support from Microsoft (approx. $200 annually per pc) are likely to be considered uncompliant with the requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).  The Information Commissioners office (ICO) has issued a warning to organisations that are uncompliant or fail to maintain secure systems are at risk of fines under the Data Protection Act.  Being well-intentioned offers no protection – the British Pregnancy Advisory Service was recently fined £200,000 for unwittingly failing to protect medical and personal information from hackers, despite the fact that no apparent harm resulted.  The ICO’s powers extend to criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

What can I do ?
If you are stuck with Windows XP, ideas to minimise your risk can be found here.  Microsoft has also issued some guidance notes, which can be found here.

Additionally – if you use Internet Explorer versions 6 to 11 – you should read this.

Will you still be running Windows XP on May 13th ?

Democracy in action

HEAR DEMOCRACY RING OUT – AUDIO RECORDING OF COUNCIL MEETINGS

Have you ever wished that you could hear local democracy in action, but haven’t been able to make it to a council meeting?  Now you can!  Uttlesford District Council is trialling the recording and posting of its public meetings online.

The recordings are made using the existing microphones and public address system in the Council Chamber at our Saffron Walden offices, so the quality is crystal clear, and just like being in the room.

You can listen to the discussions being streamed live, and re-listen to an archive of previous meetings at your leisure whenever and wherever you please.  When published on the website, the recordings will be indexed so that you can go straight to the agenda item that interests you most.

So far, the Planning Meeting of 12 March and Cabinet Meeting of 26 March are available on the site which will be streamed and published shortly after, so if you want to know what’s being said about local flooding or improvements to the Castle site, or monitor the progress of local planning applications you can do so from the comfort of your own armchair.

Archived recordings and the live stream, when available, can be found at http://audiominutes.com/udc

Democracy in action

Businesses display on the streets

Guidelines for the placement of ‘A’ Boards on publicly maintained highways, pavements and grassed areas in the District of Uttlesford.

The District Council through the Town Teams and Newport Business Association is actively working with local businesses to help develop and maximise business opportunities, and to some ‘A’ Boards are considered useful to promote sales for their particular line of business.

However, they can present a potential hazard, particularly to the disabled with mobility impairment, wheelchair users, people using pushchairs or mobility scooters and particularly to those with impaired sight.

Regrettably there have been a few incidents and rather than take the drastic step of banning ‘A’ Boards altogether, the District Council’s preferred option is to seek cooperation from retailers to comply with Essex County Council’s (ECC) Policy published in February 2013 (attached) for the placement of ‘A’ Boards and advertising material on publicly maintained highways, pavements and grassed areas.

The ECC Policy is common sense and, if followed, should minimise the potential hazard for pedestrians who are, after all, either existing or potentially new customers.
It is important to note that the responsibility for any injury caused to a third party by a business’ ‘A’ Board or other advertising material lies entirely with that business and not Essex County Highways or Uttlesford District Council. Businesses who wish to display an ‘A’ Board to promote their business are strongly advised therefore to have sufficient Public Liability Insurance for this purpose.

Uttlesford District Council reserves the right to revise these guidelines without prior notice should it become necessary.

For further information, please email or telephone Simon Jackson, Economic Development Officer, on 01799 510521 or 07977 246237 – sjackson@uttlesford.gov.uk

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Businesses display on the streets

Listen to Uttlesford District Council

Uttlesford ran a test of audio broadcasting committees. The proof of concept work went well and UDC managed to record the whole meeting and broadcast live on the web for the first 20 minutes. Below is a link to a web page where you can hear the recording and also see how the ‘jump to section’ part works.

http://audiominutes.com/udc

Let me know what you think: cllrrose@uttlesford.go.uk

Listen to Uttlesford District Council

Employees In Uniforms ARE Good for Business.

A recent study conducted in the U.S. by Harris Interactive revealed that of 65% of U.S. adults confirmed that a uniformed employee has a positive impact on their perception of a company.

When asked specifically about how the presentation of an employee impacted upon their perception of a company they responded that employees in uniform;

a) Improved the overall image of the company – portraying it as more professional than those who do not have uniformed employees

b) made the company feel a safer and more secure business

c) demonstrated that the company cared about its employees and its own image

 

Harris Interactive concluded that ;

‘Company uniforms are an investment that pays off. They speak volumes about a copany’s image, its service and safety protocols’

‘To select a uniform provider, it is important that you look for a partner who focuses on supplying; trusted brands, quality garments to suit both female and male body shapes, garments that are suited to your specific industry sector, in-house decoration facilities, fast turnaround, competitive (not the cheapest pricing) prices, a sample scheme and a flexible attitude’

Although the research was conducted in the U.S., we believe the principles apply equally across this side of the pond…..

As a trusted supplier to a number of ;SOHO’s, SME’s, PLC’s, Schools, Colleges, Universities, Professional & Amatuer Sports Teams and to the general public throught the U.K. we believe that Saffron Apparel Ltd has the right product mix and attitude to help your business Stand Out From The Crowd.

 

For more information or advice, please call 01799 542141 or email sales@saffronapparel.co.uk

Employees In Uniforms ARE Good for Business.