A full-fibre future: what the copper line switch-off means for you

From calls with our loved ones, to making a business agreement, the humble telephone is arguably one area of technology that’s integral to our lives, yet is so easily taken for granted. After all, we’ve all grown up with telephones and as such, they’re part of the furniture.

But in December 2025, telephony in the UK will change forever. Openreach – the infrastructure division of BT – will retire the old copper lines that have been at the heart of the UK’s telephony for decades. It’s a development that appears to be behind the scenes, but it has a very real impact on every household and every business.

How this affects you and your business

There’s obviously a lot of complex technical, practical and political discussion around this major change in the UK’s telephony. Essentially, the switch-off of copper telephone lines will see the withdrawal of two different copper-based telephone systems – PSTN and ISDN – with fibre-optic based internet telephony taking their place.

Broadly speaking, PSTN – or Public Switched Telephone Network – is the system that is used by most residential telephone lines. It’s also used by businesses too: if you have a security or lift alarm that’s linked to a phone line in your business, then you too use PSTN.

ISDN is similarly prevalent. It stands for Integrated Services Digital Network and is generally used to connect lines to a business telephone system, giving you the ability to provide a direct number for every employee or department.

Both PSTN and ISDN run through the old copper telephone network. And as such, when these copper lines are switched off, so too will the PSTN and ISDN services cease.

Why act now?

We appreciate 2025 seems a long way into the future. And particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and its massive impact on our professional and personal lives. But, five years is not a long time in business – and there are other, more immediate, factors to consider.

One of the most pressing considerations relates to Openreach’s decision to stop providing new PSTN and ISDN services at more than 118 UK telephone exchanges. As described in this article from ISP Preview, Openreach is already trialling this in Suffolk and Wiltshire – and is replicating this across the UK.

The article provides a full list of the affected exchanges. If you are served by one of them, do keep in mind that this does not mean your telephone service will cease, but rather, you may not be able to add new PSTN- or ISDN-based features to your existing telephone service, including features such as caller display, call barring, and the 1471 service.

Furthermore, this so-called ‘stop sell’ transition is due to be in place across the UK by September 2023. This means that after that date, nobody – whether consumers or businesses – will be able to buy or add new features to their PSTN or ISDN-based telephone services.

Given the ongoing trials by Openreach – and the September 2023 restriction of new PSTN and ISDN services – we are advising all of our customers to at least have an informed discussion about their telephone system. And while it might seem daunting, it’s actually a very simple process, and may bring some pleasant surprises…

How you can benefit from the copper line switch-off

Practically speaking, there isn’t a lot for you to do to respond to the copper line switch-off. We’ve explained what’s involved below, but before that, it’s worth noting some of the benefits of the change.

Essentially, our telephone lines will all eventually be run over fibre optics – the technology that already brings the internet into so many of our homes and businesses. You may see these kind of internet-based voice services referred to as ‘IP telephony’ – which stands for ‘internet protocol telephony’. And you’ll understand why VoIP – ‘voice-over internet protocol – is another term that’s bandied about in such discussions.

If you’ve ever made a call through an internet-based service, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype or WhatsApp, then you’ve already used a form of VoIP. This is particularly relevant to the past few months where many of us have been working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So whether knowingly or not, millions of us have already been using VoIP services to make and receive calls.

During this time, you may have noticed that these services bring with them a huge range of features that aren’t available through traditional phone lines. For example, applications like Microsoft Teams and Zoom feature video calling, screen sharing and recording. You may already have reaped the benefits of such features.

On a more personal level, smartphone apps like WhatsApp – which now has more than two billion users – have made internet-based phone calls a familiar concept, meaning it now only takes a few swipes to make a call to someone on the other side of the planet, only requiring an internet connection to do so.

If any of these examples ring a bell with you, then you can probably envisage the benefits of internet telephony. For businesses specifically, internet telephony can translate to improved collaboration, enhanced disaster recovery and business continuity options, better information sharing and a greater, richer, variety of call features. Internet-based telephony can also bring cost savings – and for home-based and mobile workforces, it often proves invaluable – which is particularly important in the post-Covid workplace.

How might your business respond to the copper line switch off?

So far, the copper line switch-off has tended to make headlines in industry publications rather than general media. And consequently, many businesses are understandably unaware of the changes ahead. Meanwhile, we’ve already spoken with many of our existing business customers about the switch-off – and in all cases, the first thing we say is ‘don’t panic – just be prepared’.

For those customers, and for you, responding to switch-off is relatively straightforward, involving three main steps.

Typically, the first step is an assessment. We would start by auditing your existing telephony estate, to confirm the lines you have across your business premises and work with you to identify what is connected to each of these lines. This audit would be carried out remotely and we might only need to work with you on site to assist with identifying the location of lines where the information you hold may be missing or out of date.

Once this audit is completed it will be important to review the various lines and understand the commercial implications of changing – and how those commercials will change with time. Don’t assume that you need to change all your lines immediately – your telecoms supplier should be able to discuss your various lines with you and agree the best course of action, both commercially and technically.

Next – the second step – is a simple hardware installation. If you decide to change to internet-based telephony and are happy with our assessment and recommendations, we’ll need to prepare your business for the switch from your copper-based telephony to fibre-based telephony. Practically, this means we’ll need to install a gateway in your business that converts internet voice to the format that will work with your existing handsets and hardware.

And here’s a really important point of note – you do not need to change your hardware to use internet telephony. Of course, if you do want to upgrade your handsets and perhaps even connect your PCs and other devices to your new IP telephone system, then we can help with that. But it isn’t necessary to do this to use IP telephone services: you can continue to use your existing handsets and other connected devices.

Finally – the third step – we’ll need to turn off your old telephony service and switch on your new IP telephony. Typically, this means your phone lines will be unavailable for up to two hours, but we’ve seen the switch happen in as little as 15 minutes. We can do this at a time that minimises disruption, and make the switch for you remotely. However, if you’d prefer to have somebody on site while the switch happens, we can be there throughout the process.

As you can see, as technology upgrades go, switching over to IP telephony is one of the more straightforward processes. And for all our customers, we’re very proud to give a truly consultative service: one that’s focused on finding your business the right solution, rather than cajoling you towards products and services because we have a sales agenda.

Next steps: what now?

If on reading this blog, you feel ready to make the switch – or you’re still not sure – then we can advise you either way. Of course, there is no obligation to make the switch now – and for our existing customers who are not ready to change to IP telephony, we’ve agreed with them to have a chat every three months as a gentle nudge. This might be the right option for you if you’d like to see a return to a little more normality before you make any commitments.
Whatever your circumstances, our voice and telephony experts can give you objective advice. You can call us on 0333 4002490 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk – or get in touch with me through LinkedIn, as below.

A final note: why are the copper lines being switched off?

This is an important question to ask for context. And as mentioned above, the rationale for the change is complex, touching on everything from advances in technology to economical reasons.

In broadest terms, as with all technology, the copper lines that serve the UK’s telephone network have a shelf life. And since the origins of these lines can be traced to the Victorian era, it’s fair to say that more than a century later, our copper telephone network is feeling the strain.

At the same time, the cost to maintain this copper network is increasing, as suppliers of parts and hardware are becoming scarce. Likewise, relevant knowhow is dwindling – training of engineers now tends to focus more on fibre-based voice telephony, rather than older systems. It all means that as time passes, running the copper telephony network will become more and more prohibitively expensive – and this expense will be ultimately passed onto customers.

Finally, consider the advent of smartphones. Certainly domestically, we are using our landlines less and less. For example, according to Ofcom, the amount of time we spent making landline calls dropped by a half between 2012 and 2017, while the amount of data we use through our mobile phones has increased tenfold in that period. This pattern has been mirrored around the world, and it suggests we’ve gone past the point of no return with our landlines.

One last point of note relates to industry terminology. You may see the phrase ‘wholesale line rental’ – or WLR – mentioned if you read further about this topic. For what it’s worth, it’s industry lingo and is of far less importance than the points covered in this blog. But if you need any further explanation, please call 0333 4002490 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk.

  • Peter Fisher is the Head of Network Services within the Comms South division at AdEPT Technology Group and has been in the industry for over 20 years. He has built up a wealth of experience in the various technologies available across both telephony and networking, making him well placed to offer insight and guidance to businesses, large and small. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Written by Peter Fisher

Head of Network Services

SIP vs PSTN – Key differences businesses need to know

For any business, efficient and cost-effective communication is crucial. As digital technology advances, more options have become available when considering methods of telephony. Gone are the days when a landline was your only option, although its reliability and familiarity means it still plays a part in modern-day business communication. However, more and more businesses are considering alternative methods to the traditional phone system. One such method is termed SIP which works by using the Internet, providing a virtual connection as opposed to the physical connection of a landline.

SIP vs PSTN

SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol, using the Internet to make voice and video calls from computers and mobile devices. It is one of the technologies challenging the previous dominance of PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Networks). PSTN is simply an industry abbreviation for traditional phone networks, consisting of the familiar phone lines, cables and transmission links. However, the copper cabling which forms the backbone of PSTN was not designed with today’s data traffic in mind, which now exceeds voice traffic in volume.

One of the main differences to consider between these two forms of telephony is PSTN operates on a one user per line basis while SIP can have multiple users per line. As SIP uses the Internet it means it removes the need for traditional copper wiring and merges all business voice calls and data traffic on to one network. To operate a SIP protocol you will require:

  • A SIP address used as a communication handle, which some providers can provide for free
  • A SIP client, a program which is installed on a user’s computer or mobile device
  • Sufficient bandwidth on your internet connection, particularly when considering video communication

Cost Implications

One of the primary attractions for businesses toward SIP is the potential to reduce the cost of communication. SIP uses the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) which treats voice signals in the same manner as other digital packets.. They are typically cheaper,  which makes SIP a tempting prospect, especially for businesses who have high phone costs through frequent international calls.

Any calls between employees will also be free as internal calls should not require any connection to the PSTN. Internet-based telephony is more efficient, which can see businesses which use SIP pay smaller charges per minute when calling clients with landlines and mobiles, while even long-distance calls will be cheaper as your connection time to the PSTN will be reduced. As SIP is installed over your existing Internet connection as one point of entry only instead of several analogue lines, it reduces the cost of incoming lines.

Scalability

Being able to easily increase communication capacity or have the flexibility to react to fluctuations in demand can have a significant impact when deciding on a telephone network. When you need additional capacity on your landline phone system it can often be weeks before the physical new lines are installed and ready for use. SIP is a virtual installation and when there is a need to increase capacity it is far easier and far quicker to scale up.

For any VoIP technology such as SIP, a business needs to ensure they have the bandwidth to cope with the voice and data traffic they send out over their internet connection. Yet the flexibility within SIP also means you can scale down just as quickly as you can scale up, allowing you to react to changes in demand such as seasonal fluctuations. With landline phones they may often be left at the same capacity even when there are reduced numbers of users, therefore paying for lines which are not being used.

A Range of Options

Until the arrival of mobile telephony, landlines were the unchallenged phone communication tool. The increasing demand for data traffic in a modern digital world has placed pressures on the PSTN for which it was not devised. However, traditional landlines still offer a reliable network where many years of expert knowledge has been built up, providing swift solutions to problems experienced. Yet the focus will increasingly be toward communication across the Internet and the plans for the Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) withdrawal gather pace.

SIP has many benefits, including lower costs and easier scalability. Although it requires greater bandwidth capacity there are further practical benefits to consider; such as SIP not being geographically dependant, meaning you can move premises to another location and keep the same numbers. Although for some the new range of choice can at first seem a little daunting, in a world where communication is so key for a business, time spent on installing the right infrastructure could see positive practical and financial rewards.

If you’re considering making the switch for your business, we are here to help and guide you through the process. Contact us today to find out how we can help you upgrade.

Written by Adam Barsby

What are the business benefits of digital transformation?

You’ve probably heard or come across the term digital transformation – it seems like the trending buzzword that is in every business forum. However, with all the hype and different interpretations, most people don’t know what digital transformation is or why it matters. In this article, we will explore what digital transformation means to a business as well as what the benefits of digital transformation look like for a business.

What is Digital Transformation?

The meaning of digital transformation will vary depending on the industry you are in. however, generally, digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies into all aspects of business operations. Put differently, it is the incorporation of information, mobile and computer technologies into the overall business strategy of a company.

Why Does Digital Transformation Matter?

Even if you are not well versed with the term digital transformation, you’ll understand that adapting digitally is more than an afterthought in today’s business environment. Digital disruptors are snapping at the heels of many industries and now more than ever, it is clear that only the businesses that progress their transition to digital transformation will remain relevant and competitive. Additionally, for maximum effect, the transformation must be weaved into the foundations and culture of the company and also championed by the leadership to the employees who also need to be skilled in the best practices of the digital age.

The majority of businesses that are looking into digital transformation are lured by the promise of its incredible benefits. So, what are the benefits of digital transformation to a business?

Benefits of Digital Transformation to a Business

Better Customer Experience

Every business craves to deliver better customer satisfaction. Digital transformation has transformed how companies engage with their customers through advancements in technology. In effect, companies are in a better position to fulfil customer needs and therefore provide a better and more consistent experience. Speed is an essential part of creating a satisfactory customer experience. Digital transformation empowers businesses to serve and engage with their customers quickly thereby improving their experience.

Improves Employee Skill Set

As mentioned, the success of digital transformation relies on employees being able to learn and understand the best practices of the digital age. As companies adopt new technologies, employees will need to update their skills to adapt to the changing environment. An increase in company employee skill sets consistently improves the quality of work, creates agility and better communication among all departments.

Encourages a Digital Culture

Digital transformation needs to be holistic and comprehensive. It covers a huge number of interactions, processes, changes, transactions, external and internal factors, technological evolutions, industries and more. This holistic transition radically changes the company culture and empowers employees to easily adapt to technological changes. In turn, this digital culture creates the perfect environment for increased productivity, employee creativity and also leads to innovation.

By its very nature, digital transformation encourages and requires employees to be continually learning and improving their skills. This helps keep employees agile and motivated.

Improves Data Collection and Analysis

Digital transformation data analytics tools that make it easier to monitor, collect and analyse consumer data to aid in the decision-making process. By studying consumers’ online habits, companies can enhance their business strategies and make more informed decisions.

Consolidates Process and Operations

Perhaps the biggest advantage of technology is in making it easier for businesses to connect with people. Digital transformation allows businesses to not only consolidate their workforce but also their entire architecture. Social media, project management and analytics are interfaced to better connect with the company’s target audience and satisfy their needs.

Increases Business Profitability

In most cases, and when successfully implemented, digital transformation affects other areas of your business positively. For instance, improving customer engagement and experience inspires customer loyalty. In turn, your loyal customers are encouraged to make more transactions and also refer their friends and family. This creates a self-sustaining cycle of growth and profitability.

Helps Stay Ahead of Competition

To survive in business, you have to be able to compete. To succeed in business, you need to be able to compete with or be better than your competition. As the world becomes more digitised, the competition will continue to grow and only those businesses that can adapt and excel in the new environment will survive. Through digital transformation, you are effectively placing yourself in the right position to take advantage of new technology and to continually improve your business for greater success.

The benefits associated with digital transformation in businesses are more than those listed above. For most businesses, they have derived more gains from their digital transformation process than they anticipated. While the process might appear like a challenge in the short term, the long term business benefits of digital transformation are well worth it. As a business owner or leader, digital transformation should be on your list of crucial projects to undertake. Contact us today, to learn more about how digital transformation can look in your business and practical advice on how to get started.

Written by Adam Barsby

The Top Advantages of Cloud Hosting over Traditional Hosting

Everyone is moving to the cloud. What does it mean to move to the cloud? How does cloud hosting work and is it better than traditional hosting?

In today’s modern business environment, every visionary business owner or leader is looking to cut costs and maximize efficiency. As technology continues to evolve, organisations and institutions are looking for new and innovative ways to manage their web hosting requirements. Cloud hosting, currently a popular buzzword, has become an effective and revolutionary method. Everyone is moving to the cloud. What does it mean to move to the cloud? How does cloud hosting work and is it better than traditional hosting? We will try and address these questions and help you make an informed decision.

What is Cloud Hosting?

In simpler terms, the cloud is an electronic structure that can store data across multiple computers. This data is then served up through networks such as the internet. In effect, these server farms act as one large storage, processor and space with your website data spread out across a cluster of multiple servers. This means that if one server goes down, no information or capacity is lost. This also means that all your data, applications, email or software are accessible anywhere on the go.

What are the Advantages of Cloud Hosting over Traditional Hosting?

Some of the benefits of cloud hosting are;

Increased Server Uptime

Your website’s performance is directly correlated to the server uptime. The system of interconnected servers ensures there is no single point of failure. If any server goes down or cannot take your request, another server from the cluster takes over by default keeping everything running smoothly. With  traditional hosting, however, any downtime or failure on your single server could result in extended downtime for your applications and website.

Cost- Efficiency

With cloud hosting, you do not have to worry about capital expenditure on infrastructure – providers handle that for you. Additionally, you only need to pay for the services and resources that you are actually using. In a traditional hosting model, however, you need to invest in infrastructure and also pay a fixed amount for services and resources regardless of whether you use them.

Increased Security

In the traditional hosting model, resources and CPU capacity on a single server are shared among multiple websites. Additionally, you need a private dedicated server to secure sensitive information which is costly.

Cloud hosting, on the other hand, comes with an established infrastructure with multiple layer security; data, network, application and physical security. Cloud service providers also provide secure and encrypted solutions, backup recovery, firewalls, identity management and data isolation and storage segregation.

Scalability of Resources

Cloud hosting makes it incredibly easy to instantly allocate resources in accordance with the emerging needs of a website or application. You can add or reduce resources like storage, bandwidth, RAM etc. from the available resources in the cluster of servers.

A traditional hosting setup has rigid specifications and limited resources. You cannot instantaneously ramp up resources if the need arises.

Independence of Location

Traditional hosting servers are tied to a fixed location. For this reason, you need to choose a server that is fairly close to you so as not to compromise your websites loading speed.

Cloud hosting servers, on the other hand, are available and accessible via the internet and with any PC or mobile device, from any location around the world.

Increased Group Collaboration

Through cloud hosting, employees can access and work on the same documents or applications from any location around the world. This increases flexibility in work practices and productivity.

This feature is not feasible in traditional hosting.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

The cloud hosting multi-server setup allows for data to be automatically backed up. This provides for a fast and easy disaster recovery feature.

In the single-server setup of traditional hosting, disaster recovery is not feasible as there is only one server that hosts your data and applications. For disaster recovery, you need to make special arrangements for backup.

Latest Technology

Cloud hosting takes advantage of the latest technologies. You can automatically integrate and customise your software applications based on your business’ needs and preferences. This includes software versions, server upgrades and processing power.

Traditional hosting does not allow you to automatically customise or upgrade.

Environmentally Friendly

  • Cloud hosting reduces an organisations carbon footprint by eliminating the need to maintain in-house servers.
  • Cloud servers are utilised to full capacity which saves energy and the environment.

If you are considering moving to the cloud, it is important to remember that cloud hosting is the newer technology and the trends are showing that it is the technology of the future. Therefore, sooner or later, irregardless of the many benefits that cloud hosting offers over traditional hosting, you will need to move to the cloud. With that said, the ability to scale your resources and only pay for what you require, whilst increasing collaboration and efficiency, are enough reasons to move to the cloud as soon as possible. Contact us today to switch to cloud hosting or speak to our experts.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is HSCN? All you need to know on the Health & Social Care Network for NHS

To restore and improve collaboration and efficiency, NHS Digital, in 2015 embarked on a plan to modernise NHS systems by migrating from N3 to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).

After several years of planning and a few setbacks along the way, the destination is finally in view. In August 2020, N3 will officially be switched off and all health and care organisations must have migrated to HSCN. For over 15 years, N3 has provided a fast and secure network to connect all NHS locations and millions of employees across the UK. However, as new and helpful technologies continue to pop up, N3 has struggled to incorporate them making it not fit for purpose in the long run. To restore and improve collaboration and efficiency, NHS Digital, in 2015 embarked on a plan to modernise NHS systems by migrating from N3 to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).

As the deadline comes ever closer for the full migration to HSCN, a number of organisations are still unaware of the full impact of these changes and how to stand to benefit.

So, what is HSCN?

In short, HSCN is a new data network for health and care organisations designed to replace N3. It is designed to enable greater and more fluid regional collaboration, increase reliability and provide flexibility for health and social care organisations. The network fundamentally transforms the sector by creating a competitive marketplace which gives customers the freedom of choice, as opposed to the single supplier contracts that have existed in the past. Health and social care providers can now choose their network connectivity suppliers from a competitive marketplace and in collaboration with other health and social care organisations. Ultimately, this is intended to level off service in the sector and result in far more cost-efficiency.

How Does HSCN Work?

HSCN is an interoperable network of networks provided by multiple suppliers who comply with open and common standards and acts as a single network provided by multiple suppliers. This allows health and social care providers to share information and access services regardless of their network supplier or location.

Objectives of HSCN

HSCN is a critical step forward in the push to realising the vision of making digital health and care services widely available over the Internet. By providing both private and public connectivity over one connection, HSCN hopes to;

  • Help health and social care organisations move to Internet and cloud-based architectures
  • Provide highly improved access to critical digital services relied upon by health and care but which are not currently available over the Internet.
  • Help health and social care organisations protect themselves against network-related cybersecurity threats.

HSCN is designed to support the delivery of key health and social care initiatives such as NHS England Five Year Forward View, National Information Board ‘Paperless 2020’, Sustainability and Transformation Plans and Local Digital Maps. In this regard it will help in the following ways;

  • Establish network arrangements that support integration and transformation of health and care organisations, flexible work patterns and regional collaboration.
  • Enable reliable, safe, efficient and flexible sharing of information among health and care services
  • Create a competitive marketplace for network services. In turn, this will improve customer’s freedom of choice, deliver better value for money and enable organisations to easily and efficiently access faster, better and cheaper network connectivity services.
  • Improve collaboration between health and social care services by encouraging sharing and reusing existing services and infrastructure as well as reducing duplication.

Benefits of Joining HSCN

  • Improved ability to send and receive secure data between health and social care services as well as better service and information sharing.
  • Cheaper network connectivity and services than N3
  • Standardised networks
  • Simpler network Information Governance requirements
  • Better access to NHS Digital’s national applications which makes it easier to share care plans, confirm NHS numbers and access Summary Care Records.
  • Facilitate working together of staff across health and social care organisations.

How is HSCN Different from N3?

N3 was primarily designed as a single supplier service for NHS providers to access national applications. On the other hand, HSCN is designed to enable multiple suppliers to provide connectivity services in an integrated and rapidly evolving health and social care sector.

HSCN features comprehensive security monitoring and analysis functionality. This provides the capability to detect irregular traffic volumes almost in real-time and for prompt resolution. However, even though these features improve network security, NHS Digital emphasises that HSCN should not be considered a secure network. For this reason, all health and social care organisations connected to it must perform their own risk assessment and employ their own security controls to protect the data for they are responsible.

If you have been putting off migrating to HSCN, this is the right time to finally make the leap. However, as with any new technology, it is important to identify your initial and long-term requirements for the transformation. As you take the step to a more connected NHS, we can hold your hand and guide you as we offer dedicated connectivity to NHS organisations from a Stage 2 Compliant provider. Contact us today to learn more.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Everything you need to know about digital education platforms for schools

This is one of our longer blogs – lots to cover. For a quick summary, click here.

When it comes to technology and Covid-19, discussion often focuses on the colossal changes that have been forced, at breakneck speed, on organisations.

You’ll have seen the stream of TV adverts featuring people on video calls, mirroring our own new ways of connecting in a disconnected world. You’ve no doubt encountered the various guides on how to make the best of remote working. And you’ve probably heard businesses talking about the radical steps they’re taking to protect their staff and customers.

In many cases, the dialogue unfolds in a way that suggests change is a new thing. But we all know that this is not the case.

That’s not to say the changes we’re all making aren’t profound. But rather, for many organisations, the pandemic has accelerated shifts that were already on the cards.

The education sector is a powerful example of this. Even though coronavirus is the most unwelcome of catalysts for change – and follows years of digital transformation in this sector – these organisations have responded amazingly.

Throughout the pandemic, our work for many schools – and organisations such as LGfL – has once again shown us that the desire to give every child the best opportunity to learn trumps every technical challenge posed by Covid-19. And despite the fact that those challenges have emerged with no notice and after years of budget restrictions.

This is why it’s worth explaining one of the most notable developments in remote education – the digital education platform (DEP). And why we’re encouraging you – an education professional – to take full advantage of the financial help that’s available for schools to adopt such a platform.

Before we explain how a DEP works, it’s worth noting that although these platforms have obvious benefits to schools during lockdown, they are extremely useful for life beyond the pandemic, when all students and staff return to school. Adopting one now – while Government funding is available to help with the setup – is an investment that will prove valuable for years to come.

What is a digital education platform?

As the name suggests, a digital education platform is an online ‘environment’ comprising applications and tools for the education sector. It’s used by teachers, administrative staff and students – and is designed specifically to accelerate digital teaching and learning for schools and is therefore a brilliant platform that can be used for remote teaching and learning.

A typical DEP contains tried-and-tested productivity software, such as those for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations – as well as email and calendar tools. No doubt you’re already familiar with such software.

For DEPs, however, these standard applications are bolstered with software for education. This includes virtual whiteboards; planning, assignment, marking and collaboration tools; and software to run lessons by live video as well as in-class lessons.

In short, these platforms are a collection of software and tools that all work together for education organisations and professionals – and the communities they serve.

Extra help in the wake of the pandemic

Due to the pandemic and its impact on schools, the Department for Education (DfE) is offering your school financial help to roll out a DEP.

In its announcement, the DfE detailed a number of schemes available to schools, For digital education platforms, the DfE explained the funding is available for setting up one of two free-to-use platforms, with grants of between £1,500 to £2,000 per school.

Notably, we are one of only a small number of accredited suppliers across the country to offer advice and services for both platforms, meaning we can give truly balanced guidance on which of the two platforms is the right choice for your school.

Meet Google’s G Suite for Education and Microsoft’s Office 365 Education

The two platforms that schools can get funding for are those from Google and Microsoft: G Suite for Education and Office 365 Education respectively.

In both cases, the platforms run from the Cloud, meaning you can use them through a standard internet browser – perfect for everything from a quick check of a document on a smartphone, or for a student to join a lesson on a desktop computer. And naturally, being browser-based and suitable for multiple devices, they are ideal for remote teaching and learning.

Here’s one example of how this might translate into the real world: As a teacher, you might plan your lesson and produce materials using the familiar productivity tools, as well as your school’s own curriculum materials stored conveniently in the same platform. Additionally, the Oak National Academy, in conjunction with the DfE, is providing 180 video lessons free each week, across a broad range of subjects, for every year group from Reception through to Year 10.

You would then run the lesson either remotely or in-class, using a presentation format, live video, or a mix of both. Based on the lesson, you could then issue an assignment to students, who would complete it remotely and return it through the platform.

You could issue the assignment in question-and-answer format created with the platform’s questionnaire tools. Or you might ask the student to submit a freeform typed document – or even a handwritten response using a device stylus. For more practical subjects, the student could submit multimedia formats of their work – for instance, a photo of their drawing, or a video of a musical performance.

Once these assignments are completed and submitted, you could mark the work using the marking software. These are tools that go beyond marking up documents with comments – they’re intuitive and interactive, and can be set up so the data flows to a spreadsheet tracking the student’s progress.

Some important features for teaching and IT staff

Notably, both Google and Microsoft platforms can be set up to use existing user accounts. So there’s no need to create masses of new online ‘identities’ for staff or students. This is often music to the ears of the school’s IT team – and those of us who are averse to creating and managing yet another online account.

Another crucial point about the platforms is that they are impeccably secure – and designed from the ground up to address schools’ concerns around safeguarding and student welfare. For example, while students can collaborate on a project under the watchful eye of a teacher, they are restricted from communicating with each other in the ‘open field’. This prevents the platform from mutating into a form of social media, reducing the possibility of distraction or online bullying.

If you like to customise, both platforms offer a huge range of options.

From an administrative point of view, access levels can be adjusted at a granular level – meaning documents or features can be restricted to specific classes, or staff.

Another way you can tailor the platform to your school is through app marketplaces. Both Google and Microsoft platforms can be enhanced with a huge range of vetted add-ons and integrations. For staff, this might mean ways to streamline work, such as automation tools. And for students, this might mean new ways to foster innovation and creativity, such as software coding or video editing tools. With the direction and expertise of teachers, these platforms could bring out the next Steve Jobs or Steven Spielberg in our young people.

A final point worth repeating is that the platforms are free to use. In the case of the DfE programme, funding is available to help with setting up the chosen platform. As technology projects go, this is a typically straightforward process, but there’s a few things of note…

How to choose your digital education platform and what next

There are three key steps to setting up a DEP:

1. You must first decide which platform you will use – Google or Microsoft. As mentioned before, we’re one of only five accredited suppliers of both platforms, so we can objectively talk through your situation and help you make an informed decision.

2. Once you’ve chosen your platform, you must apply through the official channels. In this instance, you can do it here, through The Key. As you work though the form, you’ll be prompted to indicate your partner – we hope you will choose AdEPT Education (part of AdEPT Technology Group plc).

3. Your application will come through to us, and we’ll get in touch promptly to roll out the platform – and we can do it all remotely, without having to step foot in your school.

In terms of payment, the DfE will issue the funds to your organisation once completion of the work has been confirmed, which must in turn be paid to your chosen partner.

A note for multi-academy trusts (MATs)

Digital education platforms are particularly beneficial for multi-academy trusts. Using one can bring together the trust community, pool resources and give students the opportunity to learn from staff that they would not ordinarily encounter. To help you set up a DEP, your chosen partner can receive DfE funding of £1,000 per school.

More information

One of the best places we’ve seen for guidance on digital education platforms is from LGfL, through its digital cloud transformation programme. The Key is also a good place to – we suggest you do so here, on the main page – and for some inspiring stories of how digital education platforms work in the real world, see the case studies.

How we can help

Having rolled out these platforms with more than 900 schools already, we’re also on-hand for impartial guidance. You can call us on 01689 814700 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk. If you email, please use the subject line ‘DfE funding’ as given the circumstances, we are prioritising these enquiries.

Summary

  • Digital education platforms (DEPs) are a collection of software and tools designed for schools.
  • DEPs are extremely useful for online teaching and learning, meaning they can be of great help during the pandemic.
  • In the wake of coronavirus, the DfE is offering schools funding to set up one of the two main DEPs: Google’s G Suite for Education, or Microsoft’s Office 365. Both platforms are free to use.
  • The platforms offer benefits long beyond the pandemic. We’ve highlighted some of the key features above.
  • In order to secure DfE funding for a DEP, you must use an accredited supplier. AdEPT is one of only a handful of companies in the country that is accredited to advise on, and set up both the Google and Microsoft platforms. We can help you make the decision with genuinely balanced guidance.
  • There are three main steps to setting up one of the DfE-approved platforms and getting funding. You must start here – but be sure to read this blog fully before you do.

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  • This blog was written by David Bealing, Managing Director of AdEPT Education, and Clive Bryden, AdEPT Technology Group’s Chief Technology Officer.

Written by David Bealing

Managing Director, AdEPT Education

9 Top Cyber Security Risks for Businesses

A host of new and evolving cyber security threats is keeping businesses and the information security industry on high alert. A survey conducted by the World Economic Forum shows that cyber attacks are the number one concern for executives in Europe and other developed nations. Today, cyber terrorists don’t just hack emails.

They can take down entire websites, steal sensitive information or corrupt entire databases with just a click of a button. From healthcare institutions to government facilities and online stores, no business industry is exempted from this challenge.

Now more than ever, it is important to be proactive in understanding the cyber security risks we face and also learn how to protect our businesses – large or small.

Here are the top cyber security risks for business today.

Social Engineering

Social engineering attacks use deception to exploit social interactions to gain access to valuable data. The criminals behind these attacks manipulate employees or associates into disclosing sensitive information or bypassing security measures. Social engineering attacks are on the rise and unfortunately, even the best cyber security systems cannot reliably stop them. The best defence is to educate your employees on the importance of following laid out protocols and to always be on the lookout for out of the ordinary conversations.

Third-Party Exposure

Many retailers use third parties for services such as payment processing. Unfortunately, using a third party vendor does not absolve you from the responsibility of a data breach on the vendor. Even if an attack originates from a third party, you are still liable and are legally required to notify regulators and your clients not to mention that the fines and penalties are very steep.

Patch Management

This is how many attacks start – outdated software. If you are not up to date with software patches, your company is severely vulnerable to any number of information security breaches. Attackers are actively looking for software vulnerabilities they can attack.

Cloud Vulnerabilities

Cloud services are now an essential tool for businesses of all sizes. However, this reliance on cloud services exposes businesses to a wide range of cyber-attacks including denial of service attacks (DoS) and account hijacking. No technology is completely safe from vulnerabilities and so a holistic approach is important in protecting organisations – including taking up insurance as a part of a cyber-risk management plan.

Ransomware

These attacks infect your network and hold your computer systems and data hostage until a ransom is paid. On top of the ransom, the business loses productivity and its brand image is severely damaged. Attacks like these have put 60% of companies out of business within six months of the attack. Mistaking Compliance for Protection

Meeting the adequate legal data compliance standards is not a substitute for robust cyber protection. It is not enough to meet the legal standards. Take proactive steps towards protecting your data as pertains to your operations. Legal guidelines are not tailored to specific operations and thereby are not sufficient.

Mobile Security Threats

Although mobile technology is a valuable technology, it can also expose you to potential cyber security breaches. Many organisations are now facing such breaches with most of them coming from malicious Wi-Fi and malware.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policies

Cloud services have allowed businesses to cut down on capital investments and to adopt solutions like the bring your own device trend. While this has been shown to increase convenience, flexibility, productivity and even morale, it also leaves businesses exposed to cyber security breaches. This is because personal devices can be easier to hack than company devices thereby giving attackers an opening to compromise data and breach networks. It is therefore important for you to review these policies and ensure that all your employees are adequately trained to minimise this risk.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT uses the internet to connect devices from all over the world. This allows for a network of devices that can send, receive and store data which gives individuals and businesses a lot of convenience. However, hackers can exploit this internet connectivity to steal data.

Outdated Hardware

Not all cyber security threats result from software. As hardware becomes obsolete it cannot support newer and more secure security measures which puts company data at risk. Therefore, it is important to monitor your devices and replace or upgrade devices that are out of date.

Additional Measures You can take to Protect Your Business from Cyber Security Threats

  • Identify risks related to cyber security
  • Establish cyber security governance
  • Develop oversight procedures, policies and processes
  • Identify and mitigate risks associated with remote access and funds transfer
  • Define and address risks associated with third parties and vendors
  • Have the ability to detect unauthorised activity

Cyber security threats are not slowing down. In any case, they are only becoming more complex and devastating. It is therefore imperative that business have to take active steps in protecting their data and networks through holistic measures anchored by a cyber-risk management plan. At AdEPT, we help businesses deploy a wide range of security measures including firewalls, end point security, BYOD policies and even cloud security policies and to make cyber security measures as intuitive as possible. We also deploy behavioural analytics and industrial grade encryption to protect you but we strive to make sure that all processes are and intuitive. Contact us today to learn more about our cyber security services.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

DfE Funding for Your Digital Education Platform with Google or Microsoft

Advice for schools on how to secure DfE funding for an Office 365 for Education or G Suite for Education platform

The DfE have recently announced additional funding to assist schools in moving to a remote learning solution during the Covid-19 lockdown. The benefits to your school of a secure Digital Education Platform will last long after the lockdown, and our advice at AdEPT Education would be to take the opportunity to enhance remote learning and collaboration now and for the future.

How can we help?

AdEPT have successfully completed over 600 schools’ migrations and are designated partners of the DfE scheme so we can help and guide your school’s transition.

What is a Digital Education Platform?

A Digital Education Platform is an ecosystem of tools enabling teachers, students, administrators, and parents to access the relevant resources they need for teaching and learning. By hosting it in the Cloud, your school’s users can access what they need, when they need it wherever they have an Internet connection without having to be on-site. Teachers can share information and set homework, students can access resources to assist in their learning, administrators can access critical data and information securely, and the whole school can communicate and share information better. Entire aspects of a school’s operation can be run digitally.

The benefits include increased efficiency and flexibility as well as a reduction in cost of maintenance of on-site hardware.

Where to get started?

AdEPT Education will be able to support you on every step of the Digital Education Platform journey, including consultancy on what is the best platform for your school (such as Office 365 or G Suite), migration from an existing platform and providing ongoing support and advice.

How it works:

  1. You need to visit either of the following portals
  2. Once in the portal, select AdEPT Technology Group Plc as your partner to help you set up your Digital Education Platform
  3. Schools in England without a developed Microsoft Office 365 or G Suite environment will be eligible for funding to help them implement a Digital Education Platform.

For more information, we’ve prepared a short guide, which you can read here:

Why AdEPT Education?

AdEPT Technology Group / Atomwide have 30 years’ experience in supporting schools across the UK in their IT and digital transformation. We are both a Microsoft Gold and Microsoft Authorised Education Partner and a Google Partner, now delivering over 600 school set ups enabling secure access to appropriate teaching and learning content for students both at school and home.

For schools using USO, AdEPT Education can also sync your existing USO usernames and passwords with Google or Microsoft to access G Suite and Office 365 services.

If you want a no obligation conversation about any of the above, we can walk you through it. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch and take advantage of this DfE scheme.

enquiries@adept.co.uk

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

What is Digital Transformation for Business?

Every keynote address, panel discussion, study or article related to how business can increase their efficiency or remain competitive and relevant in today’s world reiterates the same idea – digital transformation. However, it’s not clear to many business owners and leaders what digital transformation really means. Is it just another fuzzy tech word meaning moving to the cloud? How do you go about digital transformation? Do you need to design new job roles or hire a consulting agency? Is it really worth it? These are some of the many questions you might be having about digital transformation. This post attempts to answer them:

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation looks different in every organisation. Therefore, it is hard to pinpoint a clear definition that applies to all cases. However, in general terms, digital transformation can be defined as the holistic integration of digital technology into all aspects of a business with the aim of achieving fundamental changes in the manner in which businesses operate and deliver value to their customers. But, it is much more than just technology. It is also a cultural change that requires businesses to actively and persistently challenge the status quo, experiment often and to embrace the chance of failure. Understandably this is a new way of thinking that requires businesses to walk away from long-standing business processes and to embrace new practices that are still being defined.

There is a plethora of definitions and articles on digital transformation all taking a slightly different view. It is no surprise therefore that most business leaders and owners don’t know how to feel about digital transformation. After all it is just a hot mess. Or is it?

Why Does Digital Transformation Matter?

Businesses embark on digital transformation for different reasons. However, the most prevalent reason is survival. Moving forward, businesses that will survive and thrive are those that act fast, adapt quickly or chart new paths. Speed and agility are now business imperatives for organisations of all sizes.

What are the Benefits of Digital Transformation to a Business?

Although digital transformation is risky and expensive, the resulting benefits outweigh the challenges. Some of these benefits include:

Delivers a Better Customer Experience

Technological advancements have broadened the ways in which businesses interact with their customers. This allows businesses to provide a better and consistent customer experience. Speed is an important factor in creating satisfactory customer experience and digital transformation gives business the ability to serve its customers quickly.

Improves the Skill Set of Employees

The adoption of new technologies will require employees to update their skills to meet the changing environment. As the employee’s skills and knowledge increase, your company will achieve better communication between departments while also becoming more agile. On top of that, the quality of work will improve.

Promotes a Digital Culture

Having a digital culture and environment enhances productivity and allows employees to quickly and easily adapt to any technological change within the company. It helps them explore their creative side and promotes innovations through a process of continual learning.

Improves Data Collection and Analysis

With all the available data analytics tools and the ability to collect extensive data online, businesses can now easily, collect, monitor and analyse customers data to aid informed decision making. Businesses can now study and predict the online habits of their customers and further enhances their business strategies.

Enables the Digitisation of Products and Services

Customers want to have things done quickly and the company that has quick processes will naturally have more companies. Digital transformation allows businesses to convert tangible goods into digital goods thereby meeting the needs of their customers in a shorter time.

Increases Profitability

When successfully implemented, digital transformation positively affects all areas of business. By improving customer experience and shortening delivery times, businesses earn the trust and loyalty of customers which increases revenue. This general improvements also opens new markets and sales channels leading to more profitability.

Maintaining a Competitive Edge

Businesses should always aspire to have an advantage over their competitors. This is the only way to remain in business. Digital transformation presents a firm foundation from which new ideas and opportunities can be integrated into the business. This not only makes the business competitive in the present, but also highly adaptable and agile in the future.

What Next?

Digital transformation is your ticket to the future growth and success of your business. While digital transformation might be a challenge for most companies in the short term, the long-term benefits outweigh all challenges. If you are a small or medium business owner, digital transformation may just be the revolutionary strategy you need to break into the big league.

Contact AdEPT today to learn more about how digital transformation can help your business grow into the future. We have a dedicated team of IT professionals waiting to guide you step by step towards digital transformation. 

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Benefits of Using a Hosted Desktop Solution for Your Business

PCs, laptops, tablets and other computing devices have universally helped improve productivity in the office. However, these computers, software licensing and peripheral hardware all carry substantial costs. When you factor in maintenance and support, the costs accrue significantly. As businesses continue to look for solutions to help them be more efficient, productive and competitive, hosted desktop service is emerging as one of the leading solutions.

Hosted desktop service is an innovative and efficient way of thinking about computing hardware and software. Hosted desktop service, often referred to as Desktop as a Service (DaaS), is a shift from a personal computer being defined as a physical piece of hardware, to a model where any web browser, on any size of screen, becomes an instant gateway to your software applications, PowerPoint presentations, documents, spreadsheets, photos etc. with just an internet connection, your employees can access a cloud hosted virtual desktop environment from any device and thereby work from any location.

Using hosted desktop services can be the change your business needs to move to the next level. Small and medium businesses stand to gain the most from the benefits of using a hosted desktop service. Some of these benefits include;

Mobility – Work from Any Location

Hosted desktops allow business owners, managers and employees to log onto their own desktops from any location and using any device. Through the desktop environment, users can access their entire suite of business software applications including accounting packages, CRM database, files and data as well as emails. With any internet-enabled device, your employees do not have to wait to reach the office to work on urgent tasks. Additionally, you can engage professionals from around the world remotely on a temporary or contractual basis.

Cost Savings

Analysts, including Gartner, show that it costs an average of £1500-£2000 per person annually to supply licences and to manage and support a fixed desktop. A hosted desktop service can reduce this cost to less than £1000 annually thereby saving 30-50% of your annual IT budget. The provider provides the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and is responsible for security, storage, managing updates and data backup and related services. With no need for costly capital expenditure and a low fixed monthly cost, a hosted desktop service frees up your resources including time and money to focus on the core functions of your business.

Scalability

As businesses grow, their needs change. Additionally, businesses experience demand fluctuations throughout the year. Hosted desktops give organisations flexibility and make it easier to grow and scale their IT capacity up or down as the circumstances require. You can easily and quickly pay for more storage, applications or capacity when you need it. In essence, you only pay for what you use unlike in the traditional system where the majority of your IT capacity goes unutilised for extended periods throughout the year.

Increase in Productivity

Cloud computing has been shown to improve productivity by up to 20%. Hosted desktops facilitate seamless remote working from any location in the world which dramatically increases productivity. Additionally, it allows businesses to offer flexible working arrangements and schedules to their staff thereby keeping them happy which in turn increases their job satisfaction and productivity. In the long run, if your employees are happy, the bottom line will reflect.

Near 100% Reliability

Downtime is not only expensive but also very detrimental to an organisations brand image. With most hosted desktop provider promising 99.9% uptime, your business can always be open. Providers also use corporate-grade firewalls to secure customers data and offer 24/7 support and monitoring. If a server fails, the load is automatically taken up by another server to keep your applications live at all time.

Enhanced Security

Digital security is an increasingly crucial concern. After all, a single cyber-attack can result in more than £2 million to an average business in damages. In hosted desktops, data is stored in a central system which allows you to have more control on access and security. You can easily set rules, policies and restrictions to make sure that your data and applications are only accessed by the right people.

A Greener Business

Cloud solutions have been shown to reduce carbon emissions and energy use by more than 90% for smaller deployments and more than 30% in large companies. This is due to the fact that businesses using hosted desktops use fewer machines, have better equipment efficiency and do not have to maintain climate control rooms for in house servers or extra servers to handle peak data loads.

Are You Ready to Switch to a Hosted Desktop Solution?

These benefits show that it is not only beneficial to move to a hosted desktop solution but also critical for future growth and success. With the ability to leverage a part of this technology or make a holistic switch, you can tailor the solution to your needs and objectives.

Switching to a virtual environment is a huge change, both for your digital infrastructure and your employees. However, adept is here to help. With our team of highly experienced and knowledgeable IT professionals, we will help you evaluate your needs, objectives and available options then help you to tailor a hosted desktop solution within your budget. Contact us today to start the conversation on how we can help you move to a hosted desktop solution or any other managed IT solution.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager