Category

Business Mobiles

You no longer need to buy a dual SIM phone & here’s why

When dual SIM smartphones first hit the market some years ago, they came as a huge relief to users who had been struggling to cope with the logistics of having more than one mobile phone account.

In parts of the globe where network coverage is patchy at best, having two or more subscriptions with different networks is a way of ensuring that some form of mobile telecommunication is available at a given time. But this required users to buy separate handsets for each account (expensive), or use a single phone, and keep swapping out the Subscriber Identity Module or SIM cards (very inconvenient).

And for consumers simply wishing to enjoy the benefits of a free choice of networks, dual SIM phones were a cost-effective and logical solution.

But time and technology keep marching on – and the rise of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as a vehicle for telecoms delivery has brought a wealth of innovations in its wake.

Among these developments is virtualisation, or the creation and hosting of telecoms user profiles via software and cloud-based computing resources. And it’s one of the reasons why you no longer need to buy a dual SIM phone to expand your presence into different networks – and even into different geographical regions.

The Burner Option

Intelligence agents in popular TV shows and films are often seen buying (and soon afterwards, trashing) disposable cell phones so their calls and locations can’t be traced by whoever’s chasing them. These so-called “burner” phones have become a staple of this kind of fiction, and naturally they’re available on the street in real life, as well.

But burners also exist virtually.

Web applications like Jangl and Jaxtr appeared in 2005, allowing subscribers to exchange phone calls and text messages without having to divulge their personal or business phone numbers. Grand Central (which was acquired by Google and eventually became Google Voice) allowed users to create a single number that could route calls to multiple phones.

And in 2012, entrepreneurs Greg Cohn and Will Carter laid the foundations for what would eventually become Burner, an app which allows users to create temporary phone numbers that they can post on social media as their contact information, and use to receive and make text messages and calls.

A natural progression of this technology has led to the development of virtual phone number providers who spotted the opportunity to provide an invaluable service to legitimate businesses in the UK and beyond.

These services are able to allocate business phone numbers registered in the UK to mobile subscribers across the globe, creating an international presence.

The Dual SIM Dilemma

Advocates of dual SIM phones will give any number of reasons why they’re the best thing since sliced bread, including:

  • You can have two phone numbers on one device
  • You can get the best of both worlds, by using one network with competitive voice rates, and another with a great data plan
  • You’re more likely to always have a network signal of some kind
  • You can use one number for work, and the other for your personal life
  • You can insert a travel SIM (for a network that’s local) to make cheaper calls and avoid data roaming charges abroad

BUT…

  • You’re still limited to the capabilities of the hardware (phone and SIM cards)
  • All of these features (and more) are available from a virtual phone system
  • And there’s the “dual SIM” condition, which limits you to two networks

The Virtual SIM Alternative

A few years ago, a London-based company named Movirtu developed a system for generating virtual SIM cards, which may be used on shared or borrowed phones. Dialling a short USSD code is all it takes to contact a mobile network’s visitor location register (its subscriber database), informing the mobile network that a new number is now being used on the phone. Internet access isn’t required – just a connection to the mobile network carrier.

A couple of years ago, Movirtu was acquired by BlackBerry, which has packaged the technology into a solution that allows nine distinct phone numbers to be assigned to a single SIM card. The interface for this service is available as mobile apps for BlackBerry, Android and iOS, and is targeted at enterprise users looking to better manage their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) working practices.

The technology in principle has also been adopted by several virtual SIM providers, who use GSM connectivity and dedicated mobile apps to essentially “trick” a mobile phone into thinking there are one or more SIM cards installed – even if there’s no actual physical card in the device. These may then be provisioned virtually with numbers and services associated with any of the provider’s participating mobile carriers.

Multiple Advantages Over Dual SIM

Besides the obvious improvement on two whole phone numbers and (in some virtual SIM deployments) eliminating the need to even have a physical card installed, virtual SIM and virtual phone solutions have several advantages over the dual SIM alternative. These include:

  • The option to have different numbers for business, personal, voice calls, data services, and even roaming – all on the same phone
  • The ability to have different numbers to establish a local, regional, toll-free, or international presence. An example of this would be a service like Swytch, which gives subscribers a presence in the UK business arena through the provision of virtual UK business telephone numbers
  • The advanced feature sets, data handling, and Unified Communications capabilities of VoIP-backed virtual phone systems
  • Dedicated inboxes and call-handling options, making it easy to differentiate between phone numbers
  • The ability to create a clear separation between work and personal communications
  • The ability for enterprises to better manage their costs and billing, together with the allocation and management of virtual connections

Though the current state of technology hasn’t yet come up with a way of dispensing with single or dual SIM card slots entirely, there’s much to indicate that the future of telecommunications, like so many other aspects of modern life, is destined to be virtual.

If you’d like to stay ahead of the curve, and leave your dual SIM phone behind, get in touch with the telecoms experts at Swytch who will be happy to answer any questions and get you and your team set up with your new virtual numbers.

The benefits of moving your business telephony to the cloud

The on-site PBX (public branch exchange) type of phone system was fine in the age of the “nine to five” work day – when staff relied on business telephony largely consisting of desktop computers and telephones (and good old-fashioned pen and paper) to keep their communications and office tasks integrated and co-ordinated.

But we now live in a digital age, where business telephony in particular and communications in general demand instant access and real-time connectivity – in a working environment that’s expanded beyond the office or warehouse to include home-based, mobile, and remote staff using laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

On-premise phone systems may be stretched to cope with all that’s required of today’s expansive and fluid working environments. So, for this and other reasons, it’s beneficial to move your business telephony into the cloud.

An Advanced Office Phone System For All

Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP is a technology which converts voice signals into digital data that can be transmitted just like any other information over the internet. It’s also the medium which makes it possible for telecommunications infrastructure and its associated software to be located on remote and virtual servers in the cloud, rather than confined to the hardware and cabling of an on-premises PBX.

This means that the features of a hosted VoIP or virtual PBX system can be made available as data and applications from the cloud – so a complete business telephony system becomes accessible not only to users of office phones and desktop computers, but to anyone in an organisation with a device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.) that’s capable of connecting to the internet.

So, branch offices, franchises, remote, home-based, and mobile workers can all benefit from the same advanced features. These typically include call routing and forwarding, voicemail to email transcription, fax, auto-attendants (virtual receptionists), call monitoring, video conferencing, and instant messaging.

The Ability to Expand & Connect

A cloud-based business telephony system provides a centralised platform for the management of enterprise communications, with a common administrative console available as client software on users’ devices. So, businesses with a widely dispersed or global presence can easily link all of their centres of operations with a central hub.

This makes oversight much easier, and allows for centralised and automated billing. Lines and extensions may be added or removed via the administrative portal, in response to an organisation’s changing circumstances, or changes in market conditions.

Integrated Mobile & Applications

Cloud telephony deployments typically include dedicated mobile apps through which subscribers may gain full access to the system. Number portability is a common feature of these apps, enabling workers to associate their business telephone numbers with their mobile phones so that calls and text messages made from a device are perceived by customers and contacts as originating from an office – irrespective of the time of day, or where a worker happens to be.

Business telephony applications may also include visibility features like presence panels, which allow workers to keep track of the phone status of their colleagues and contacts (Unavailable, On a Call, etc.), and convenience functions like “click to dial” phone book entries.

The fact that voice and other types of data co-exist on the internet cloud platform also allows integration with office productivity applications and resources like document-sharing platforms and collaboration software.

Ease of Installation & Management

With a hosted VoIP solution, there’s no need for a big capital investment in exchange hardware or wiring. VoIP-compatible phones may already exist on your premises. If not, you may require a moderate spend on headsets and software for desktop or laptop “softphones” (which may be included in your subscription package), VoIP adapters for legacy equipment, or dedicated VoIP telephones.

In any event, installation should be a simple matter of setting up the software and plugging things into their correct sockets. A good service provider will be on hand with assistance – and the cloud service will also take responsibility for maintaining and managing your business telephony infrastructure. This responsibility should extend to updating any software or provided hardware when new versions become available.

A service like Swytch also empowers businesses to operate a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. The Swytch cloud-hosted platform assigns UK-registered business numbers to your workers’ mobile phones – and provides dedicated mobile apps and a user-friendly online dashboard for managing features, accounts, provisioning, visibility, and cost control.

Lower Costs & Time Savings

Routing voice data across the internet produces a significant savings in call charges for users of cloud-based telephony systems. Monthly subscription charges for hosted VoIP are extremely competitive, and enterprise savings of 50% or more annually are now standard, due to the low tariffs for long distance and international calls, and the free or very low rates for calls within the same network.

Simple set-up procedures, ease of management, and the streamlining of business operations through integrated functions also generate significant savings in time – which can be spent concentrating on issues related to improving your business.

Better Customer Service

Integration of business telephony with on-premises or cloud-based functions like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) empowers organisations to better co-ordinate their business processes, lines of supply, and points of contact with the consumer – thereby delivering a more satisfying experience to the customer.

Reassurance in A Crisis

There will of course be times when things go wrong, and incidents occur to disrupt or disable communications in your usual place of work.

But with your business phone system operating in the cloud, you can be assured that your service provider has put Disaster Recovery (DR) measures in place to redirect calls to a number that you designate (e.g. mobile or residential phone).

If you haven’t considered doing so yet, the benefits outlined above should give you reason enough to contemplate moving your business telephony to the cloud.

How to avoid data roaming charges with your business mobile

These days, a business mobile phone is likely to be your constant companion. As a business owner looking to expand your market base and make contacts in the globalised environment of today, you may be required to make trips outside your home country or even continent. Then there are those pesky holidays we must all take from time to time, to avoid keeling over from stress and over-work.

In all cases, you’ll likely be tempted to bring your mobile phone(s) with you – along with your associated business lines – just in case of that vital call, or that crucial email or text message.

The problem is, using your phone to access the internet via mobile data networks other than your own attracts “roaming” charges in overseas territories – and these can soon add up to a staggering sum, if you’re not careful.

Know the Potential Costs

Before you travel, take some time to gather due diligence from the internet and other sources on the current levels of roaming charges that apply in the areas you intend to visit.

Within the European Union (EU), data roaming charges are scheduled to be scrapped in June of this year – but in the meantime, an amended scale of charges still applies. And in the years leading up to 2022, a sliding scale of data caps will be in effect in all EU member states.

Of course, with Britain on the road to leaving the EU, entitlements to roaming charge reductions may be in a fluid state throughout the “Brexit” process – so if you’re a UK business traveller, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the political and economic ramifications during this period.

Territories outside of Europe will have their own rates and regulations to consider and fit into your travel plans.

Get Clarification from Your Provider

Empirical figures aside, there may be specific conditions applying to your business mobile account and network carrier. So, before you leave, make sure to contact them and get a detailed run-down of your phone provider’s stance on data roaming.

There may (for example) be special packages or surcharges you can pay for, to assure certain charge levels or data allowances in a given period. Your provider may also have special arrangements with partner and affiliate networks operating in the areas you intend to visit.

Queries and technical support may also be an issue while travelling, so be sure to ask about terms and conditions for these.

Choose Your Service Wisely

If you’re unhappy with your current levels of service and existing conditions for business mobile data roaming – or if your research turns up some better alternatives – you might consider opening an account with a different business mobile provider.

It’s a competitive market, and there are a lot of networks and options to choose from. Some careful shopping may reveal a package that’s more in line with your expectations.

Buy A Data Bundle

Having clarified the pricing issues and settled on a network carrier that you like, you now have the option of buying a data bundle. This may typically provide a fixed charge rate for mobile data use, or a capped data allowance. Again, some diligent shopping and consideration of the terms (what happens if you exceed the allowances, etc.) should reveal which package best suits the requirements of your journey.

Download Maps & Travel Data Early – Or Offline

Don’t wait till you get to your destination to stock up on guidebooks and travel maps. Do this before you leave (with the option to download relevant maps, documents and applications using your home network) – and take advantage of the various options for gaining access to the data you need offline.

For example, Google Maps now lets you save maps to your device for offline reference, and there are third-party travel apps with a range of options for offline use.

Check Your Default Data Settings

With your infrastructure and services settled on, your next job is to configure the hardware so that your business mobile consumes less data and doesn’t do anything sneaky behind your back. Here’s a check-list:

  • Make sure that automatic data roaming is switched off: Apple’s iOS and many newer model Android smartphones will do this by default, but it’s worth verifying for yourself from the Settings menus.
  • Deny apps the use of background data: This will ensure that the only applications capable of accessing the internet are the ones you’re currently using.
  • Disable automatic updates using mobile data: You may have to spend some time on this, as third-party applications may currently be configured to update themselves automatically, in addition to the native apps that make up your mobile operating system.
  • Set all automatic updates to Wi-Fi: If a nominal charge is made for Wi-Fi network use overseas, this will be considerably less than the cost of the mobile data stream.

Monitor Your Data Usage

You should have the means to record how much data you’re using on your business mobile on a real-time basis, to help manage costs and stay within any pre-set limits. This may take the form of a dedicated phone number on your network, or a data monitoring app – of which there are several available in the app stores, for no charge.

Use Wi-Fi If Possible

Typically, business mobile users aren’t charged anything for downloads or internet browsing done on Wi-Fi connections while roaming – though some hotspots may impose a nominal charge for connecting to their network.

Visit Mobile-Optimised Websites

Many (though arguably not enough) websites are optimised for mobile access, with pages and graphics scaled for rapid loading and reduced data use on smaller screens.

The mobile versions of popular sites may have a special prefix (e.g., mobile.PopularWebsite.com) or suffix (e.g., www.PopularWebsite.mobi), and you can specify these as you type the URL into a search box.

Disable Voicemail

Outside the EU (with its rate-capping policy), charge rates for checking voicemail while roaming are notoriously high – so you might want to consider disabling this function on your travels. Your service provider and the specific features of your device should give you the guidance you need on how to do this.

Get A MiFi

What’s a MiFi? Well, it’s a wireless modem which you can buy to set up a personal/ local hotspot for up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices. Using one can give substantial savings over local network data rates abroad.

Use A Local Network

Speaking of local (in the sense of “in country”) mobile networks, buying and installing a SIM card from a network carrier operating in your location can deal with mobile data use issues at a single stroke. Cards are typically sold on a time plan (e.g. 30 days) or “pay as you go” basis.

You will however need to “unlock” your phone from its home network, to do this. Contact your service provider to discover whether this is an option on your account, and the procedure to follow, if it is.

Use Virtual Phone System Features

If your business mobile line uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, or is provided by a cloud-hosted service, you may be able to take advantage of the features of a virtual phone system. For example, Swytch lets you assign UK-registered business mobile numbers to your personal phone – with business telephony features including a voicemail inbox, associated with each.

Messages and calls to these numbers can be forwarded to voicemail, and sent as sound file attachments to email – which you can download using Wi-Fi.

Use A Data Compression App

A dedicated class of mobile apps has grown up, addressing concerns about data usage, security, and privacy on Wi-Fi and mobile data networks. These apps may include a Virtual Private Network (VPN) option, for encrypting and securing your internet access. And for data roaming purposes, they’ll typically include a data compression function, for optimising data streams and compacting files in transit – which uses less data, and saves you money.

Switch Off Your Phone

If you’re on holiday, give some serious consideration to not using your phone unless you absolutely must — and make a conscious decision to narrow down the list of situations where you “need” your business mobile.

If you’re on a commercial trip, putting your phone into Airplane Mode (with access to Wi-Fi, but no cellular or data) is another option that will allow you to receive voicemail communications over Wi-Fi, and to toggle your data roaming access as you need it.

If your business mobile service employs a virtual phone system or virtual business numbering like Swytch, this option can free you from the anxiety of having to tot up excessive charges for data roaming.

Virtual phone numbers: the must-have tech for modern businesses

For start-up companies and SMBs, cost and resource management are paramount, with great importance attached to every labour hour or sum of cash spent. Business communications can be a cost-intensive part of the enterprise – and finding alternatives to the hardware spend, management and maintenance associated with a traditional PBX (private branch exchange) telephone system is a smart move.

Virtual phone numbers are a powerful option for modern businesses – and a must-have technology for many start-ups and SMBs.

What Are Virtual Phone Numbers?

A virtual phone system is one in which infrastructure and services are supplied via the internet, by one or more providers. These are hosted services, typically charged on a “pay as you go” or monthly subscription basis, using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, and delivered to clients via software and web-based consoles.

Virtual phone numbers are hosted in the cloud, rather than being tied to a specific smartphone, desktop handset, or computer system. For businesses, one or more numbers may be connected via hosted services to produce a complete virtual telecommunications system.

Providers will typically give subscribers the option of choosing virtual phone numbers from a range of different types – and it’s these options that help modern businesses to expand their reach and enhance their image in various ways.

Projecting A High-Profile Image

It’s not uncommon for single proprietor and start-up businesses to rely on the use of personal phones for running their office affairs. Virtual phone numbers allow the owners of smaller companies to assign registered business lines to their personal devices.

Calls made or received by customers and contacts appear to originate or terminate at work numbers, rather than personal or domestic lines – which maintains a more formal and professional presence for business communications.

Virtual numbers may also be obtained as a set of extensions to a central “corporate headquarters” business number – allowing even the most modest-sized enterprise to give callers the impression of having numerous lines, departments, or branch offices.

Collaboration & Unified Communications

The use of VoIP technology for the provision of hosted services and telecommunications presents virtual phone system subscribers with the opportunity to gain access to fully featured business telecoms suites including call routing, auto-attendants (virtual receptionists), music on hold, video conferencing, voicemail to email transcription, and other enterprise-grade telephony functions.

Use of the internet as the medium for service delivery also enables integration with multimedia and multi-format data sources, collaboration platforms, and office productivity applications.

Separating Personal & Business

A virtual phone number system allows users to create a clear distinction between their personal and professional identities, with a separation of individual and business accounts and data. This not only helps to preserve business confidentiality and personal privacy – it also empowers business users to achieve a healthier balance between their working and personal lives.

Anywhere, Any Time Access

Having a virtual business phone number attached to a personal mobile or residential line means that team members can receive calls, handle transactions, and make vital contacts regardless of where they are, or the time of day. This is an immense benefit for business travellers, sales personnel, remote workers, or those based from home. And as far as their callers are concerned, communications are being made directly with a representative of the company.

The cloud-based VoIP infrastructure backing up a virtual phone system ensures that the full functionality of an office telecommunications suite remains available to virtual number users wherever there’s a stable internet connection.

Location and time independence extends to the virtual telephone numbers, themselves. For example, a service such as Swytch makes registered UK business numbers available to its subscribers – so companies doing a lot of transactions in the UK and Europe can maintain a regional presence there. And with an internet-backed phone system offering low call rates, there are no exorbitant data roaming charges to worry about.

In places like the US, where regional economics and customer convenience are paramount, virtual phone numbers can give companies a competitive edge by allowing them to establish a presence in local markets and directories with specific area codes, or to offer customers low-rate or toll-free access to their services.

Easy Management

Using a hosted service for telecommunications provision and the allocation of virtual phone numbers puts the overhead and responsibility for infrastructure, management, maintenance, and technical support on the service provider. This allows subscribers to devote more of their time and energy to the growth and prosperity of their businesses.

On the client side, service management is readily achieved via dedicated mobile apps which give access to a web-based control panel, from which easy adjustments may be made to order new lines, configure telephony features, and allocate resources.

Cost-Effectiveness

And then there’s the money. By enabling subscribers to use their own devices for both business and personal applications, the need to spend on acquiring new hardware or infrastructure is eliminated.

In a thriving market, subscription rates for virtual telephone systems are very competitive. And the use of VoIP technology to route data across the internet contributes to a reduction in voice and data charges that typically sees enterprise savings of at least 50% over traditional telecoms set-ups.

With their cost-effectiveness, ease of management, and ability to empower even the smallest enterprise with an international and market presence, virtual phone numbers are a must-have technology for modern businesses.

 

 

 

How to manage multiple businesses with a virtual phone

Attempting to manage multiple businesses with separate revenue streams has long been a challenge in the life of the entrepreneur. Rather than concentrating on a single sector, aspiring business professionals may turn their hand to any number of different enterprises.

Corporation and tax laws within different jurisdictions may require the registration of several business names and entities, in order to accomplish this. For the business owner, this can equate to simultaneously having several business names, business addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers – and the need to somehow administer all of them.

One way of doing this is through the use of a virtual phone system.

What is a Virtual Phone System?

A virtual phone system is one whose telecommunications infrastructure – including tools, trunking, and the allocation of telephone numbers – isn’t tied to specific hardware or cabling equipment. Provision of resources and services takes place via data transfer and in software, with the internet as the medium of transmission.

Using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, service providers are able to deliver telecommunications capabilities from the cloud to individual and corporate users. These capabilities may include fully featured business telephony suites and the provision of one or more telephone numbers, with extensions.

The Benefits to Business Management

For entrepreneurs and multi-part enterprises trying to manage multiple businesses, the advantages of a virtual phone system are many and include:

  • Cost Savings: Instead of having to shell out for separate accounts covering several different companies, your virtual phone contract covers a single subscription, which is billed (typically monthly) for all the phone lines and services that you specify. As the virtual system uses VoIP to deliver those services, call rates (especially for long-distance and international communications) are drastically reduced – so much so that businesses on average report at least a 50% saving over traditional PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems.
  • Brand Continuity: If there are elements of your business which have already established a client base using a known set of phone numbers, email addresses, and named contacts, you can take these credentials with you to a virtual phone system. “Number portability” is a standard feature of VoIP-based telecommunications.
  • Business Continuity: Multiple business telephone numbers may be routed via the internet to a single phone (one that you designate), so that vital communications may be received at any time of day, and in any location. Separate caller IDs can be set up for each number you use, along with specific instructions on how incoming calls or messages to each number should be handled.
  • Establishing a Regional Identity: Virtual phone providers typically offer a range of options for selecting business phone numbers, including local and regional area codes, toll-free and international numbers. This is especially useful if you have a number of different ventures in specific locations, and wish to establish a local presence there – perhaps to give residents a lower cost business option, or to get ranked in a particular area by search engines.

A network like Swytch offers subscribers a choice of UK-registered business phone numbers – a great way to establish a presence in UK and European markets, for example.

How It Works

Though exact configuration details will vary from service to service, the basic procedure for setting up and administering a single-owner virtual phone system that allows you to manage multiple businesses goes something like this:

  1. Make your selection of business lines: Port over as many of your existing lines as you require, then choose from the local, toll-free, regional, or international numbers on offer. Designate a main contact number for each business.
  2. Set your designated forwarding number: This is the single line (or one of several, depending on the contract) to which calls from the various businesses on your account will be forwarded.
  3. Configure routing conditions from your business numbers to your main phone: Set calls from each of your various business lines to be routed to your forwarding phone. You may be able to draw up forwarding timetables for the different lines, so that each line will route calls during business hours relevant to its specific regional number.
  4. Set conditions for “after-hours” communications: Calls received outside of “normal” business hours may be routed to a voicemail box that you designate. Each business line may be configured with a “We’re currently not available” notice or a specific message with instructions for after-hours callers.
  5. Set up caller IDs for incoming calls: This is the way you’ll distinguish between which of your businesses is receiving a given call. You can also set up queues of calls on Hold, if multiple calls come in to different businesses simultaneously.
  6. Set up separate voicemail boxes for each business: Each of your businesses can have its own voicemail inbox. Depending on the service provider, this may take the form of a single voicemail account with recipient names set for each venture, or the addition of dedicated inboxes for each business name.
  7. Add customised greetings: You can set up custom greeting messages and on Hold announcements for the auto-attendant/virtual receptionist that receives calls for each business and for each voicemail inbox. This may be in the form of audio files that you upload to the service, or messages recorded directly from your phone.
  8. Configure your virtual receptionist to handle calls for each business: Some services will give you the option of setting up unique call-handling procedures for each business. So one venture might be configured to transfer all calls to you, in real time, while another takes voice messages.

Virtual Offices & SEO

A bit of a caveat, to finish. Some enterprises rely on virtual offices and virtual phones to boost their search engine rankings in different regions or cities. Having phone numbers local to each area is a great way to achieve this in theory, but care should be taken to register a unique, dedicated physical address (rather than a P.O. Box, shared, or virtual address) in each case.

Otherwise, the algorithms and search criteria imposed by the likes of Google and Bing may combine all the businesses associated with a shared address under a single listing – which defeats the purpose of having separate business entities.

If you would more information on how best to manage multiple businesses with a virtual phone, or would like to set up a virtual number for your business, get in touch with us through our online contact form.

Are business mobiles really the best solution for employees?

With so many employees embracing flexible working, are business mobiles the best way to stay connected?

There’s a growing consensus that desk or office-bound phone systems are no longer sufficient to keep organisations in touch – either with their own workforces, or with their networks of clients and contacts.

Despite the greater flexibility and coverage offered by the latest cloud and internet-based telecommunications options like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), the nature of today’s business environment – where increasing numbers of workers are based at home, on the road, or in remote locations – makes the use of mobile phones in some capacity more of a necessity than a luxury.

Knowing this, companies are then faced with the decision as to whether to allow their staff to use their personal phones for work purposes in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) situation, or to make an investment in issuing business mobiles to their employees. Here are some of the factors to take into account, in resolving this dilemma.

Freedom of Movement

When travelling on official business (e.g., to attend a conference, or as part of a sales run), workers in possession of a company-issued mobile device remain part of the enterprise telecommunications system and have access to its facilities while extending their scope of operations to reach customers and contacts in any location.

Members of an organisation who aren’t normally based in an office (such as home-based workers, or remote staff) may also be tied into the system if they are issued with mobiles which have been sanctioned by the business.

Increased Availability

Location-based freedom is one aspect of the switch to business mobile devices. Another is independence from time constraints.

Expansion into global markets, online commerce, and the prevailing consumer-centric culture which demands 24/7/365 service and support have all contributed to the demise of the “9 to 5” working day. Enterprise users need to be reachable at all hours, to field queries or to promote their businesses to existing and potential clients in any time zone.

There’s a caveat to this of course, in that always being available can eat into a worker’s time outside of traditional working hours and cause disruptions to their work-life balance (link to Swytch article) which can adversely affect their performance. And with a business mobile device in their possession, there’s always the temptation to use it for personal matters.

Greater Governance

This said, issuing company-approved mobile devices to employees does allow businesses a greater degree of control in several respects.

Consistency can be maintained in the choice of hardware and operating systems used – which makes the job of troubleshooting, maintaining, and updating systems a more streamlined process for IT divisions.

Application monitoring, accounting, and line provision may all be administered from a common platform. This allows management more oversight regarding data governance, performance assessment, and the auditing of requirements for industry or regulatory compliance.

Cost Management

Issuing business mobiles to employees also gives the enterprise greater scope for cost management – from the initial purchase of devices through to the various subscriptions available for voice and data.

Most carriers offer dedicated bundles and business plans to enterprise clients, which can result in big cost savings – and which set clear parameters for voice, data, and text usage to which workers must adhere. Knowing that their business mobile usage is subject to monitoring and inclusion on the company’s monthly phone bill tends to discourage personal use of company devices during working hours.

Rights of Ownership

Company-issued mobile devices can also clarify issues of intellectual property and data ownership, for information and contact data held on business hardware. This may become a contentious issue with personally owned devices when, for example, an employee leaves the company – and takes the client list they’ve managed to build up (or other resources) with them.

From the outset, there needs to be a clear demarcation of what information and resources are exclusively owned by the enterprise – together with a formalised policy on data usage and rights to business contacts.

Labour Laws & Compensation Issues

The labour laws of many jurisdictions require employers to give extra compensation (“time and a half”, overtime, etc.) to their workers for hours spent outside of certain periods of the day (typically based on traditional office hours). Use of company phones – including business mobiles – may qualify for this, and unless workers are exempt from these additional payments for some reason, business mobile use may impose an unanticipated strain on company budgets.

Safety Considerations

The legal jurisdictions of many countries have also imposed penalties for the use of mobile phones while driving or operating heavy machinery – and rightly so. Therefore, any accidents or fatalities caused while texting on a company-issued device in heavy traffic (for example) could have serious repercussions for the business.

Unless the business is prepared to shell out for a hands-free wireless microphone set for each device it issues – and impose a strictly enforced policy requiring headset use while driving (and even that may not be enough) – a blanket ban on mobile phone use when in control of a vehicle is the safest option.

The BYOD Option

BYOD or Bring Your Own Device is often viewed as the low-cost alternative to issuing company mobiles to employees.

While it’s true that BYOD relieves the enterprise of the financial burden of supplying hardware, there are still cost implications – such as whether workers should be reimbursed for use of their personal devices after office hours (and if so, how much?).

Data security is also an issue – in terms of corporate information being stored on personal devices, and possibly shared or transmitted to unauthorised third parties.

Intellectual property and sensitive corporate data may also fall victim to spyware or malicious apps installed without IT supervision.

Mobile Device Management (MDM)

Whether personal or corporate devices are involved, an effective Mobile Device Management (MDM) policy should be in place, setting rules for the storage and use of enterprise data.

A “white list” of approved mobile apps should be drawn up – and devices should be monitored to ensure that only those approved applications are being installed and used.

Clearly though, the more devices you have to manage, the greater the complexity and commitment in time and resources. The cloud-based Swytch network empowers businesses by providing UK-registered mobile business numbers which may be assigned for workers to use on their personal devices. Administration and management are co-ordinated from a central dashboard – so there’s MDM built in.

In Conclusion…

As for the question whether business mobiles are the best option for employees?

Smaller-scale businesses may find that a BYOD policy better suits their budget and human resources.

But larger enterprises having a bigger investment in their intellectual property, data governance, and regulatory compliance obligations will tend to benefit more from the increased control and oversight they get with company-issued devices.

Businesses at all scales can clearly benefit from a solution which enables workers to use their own devices, but with dedicated business phone numbers, and a centralised administration hub that allows for account management, provisioning, usage analytics, and greater cost control. The cloud-hosted Swytch network is such a solution.