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A review and overview of BT Cloud Voice

Robert Sturt March 2, 2017 2:54PM +0000

We're offering a 5% discount cash back on all orders placed via the BT Authorised Partner Channel

The Network Union won BT Partner of the Year 2016/17, we are an award winning BT Authorised Partner. More importantly, we're BT Cloud Voice experts.

In this review, we discuss the feature set but also some of the considerations you need to make prior to using Internet based cloud services.

* Financing is available for the entire Cloud Voice product, including desk phones, LAN switching and licences.

We're offering a 5% discount cash back on all orders A 5% discount off list BT pricing for Cloud Voiceplaced via the BT Authorised Partner Channel. Cloud orders are placed on our behalf directly by BT employed resources. All contracts are between your organisation and BT including billing and support. There are no contracts to be signed with the Network Union. There are no disadvantages to placing an order via the partner channel.

We provide a 5% cash back value paid upon install of your service. * This offer will run during 2017. If you wish to investigate ordering BT Cloud Voice, we'll arrange a face to face meeting, conference call or if you know what you want, you can simply let us know. We'll produce a proposal.

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What is BT Cloud Voice?

In this article, we'll describe the key features of the product but first, some statistics on the adoption of cloud based telephony and video services.

The telecoms industry is aware that traditional services such as ISDN-2 and ISDN-30 are in decline. As a partner, we do not see many new orders for ISDN based services due to the restrictive nature coupled with high costs vs. cloud phone based services.

  • 60% of UK Businesses are already using cloud-based applications
  • 86% of Businesses have one or more staff working from home regularly
  • 47% of firms have staff out of the office at least once a week

The BT cloud platform replaces on-site PBX hardware by moving the intelligence to the cloud (the BT network).

These newer technology services are classed as virtual - in this respect; you are no longer managing and maintaining the aforementioned hardware. This approach means features are continuously added and updated with new patches and enhancements deployed automatically.

The overall value proposition surrounds flexibility vs. your precise needs. The majority of businesses will require various licence types to fit the specific needs of your users. For example, some users will be office based, others will work out in the field or from home and require access via tablet or mobile.

There are new call bundle options including pay as you go to help manage costs and ease cash flow. Then there's the ability to grow, as your business size increases, cloud functionality can be added.

A massive reduction is cost, effort and management

The capability of cloud-based products also means the functionality is available on your desktop PC, your tablet, mobile phone or really any device running some of the more popular operating systems such as Android, Windows, MacOS and iOS.

The features and benefits of using the BT variant of cloud telephony

The network

BT operates one of the largest, well scaled public IP networks in the UK and on an international basis via BT Global Services. While this is not a particularly interesting fact in isolation, it is of benefit to cloud users because your traffic, for the majority of the journey across the Internet, will remain on the BT Internet backbone. The result? More predictable performance.

The Service

For all clients of Cloud Voice, a dedicated service hub is managed in-house by BT employed resources. The overall products involved in the deployment of the capability is detailed below.

  • BT Broadband - fibre-based Infinity or standard copper services
  • BTNet Leased Line - Ethernet services available as 100Mbps or 1Gbps options
  • The LAN switch - something new from BT, we're able to provide LAN hardware (more on this later)
  • The telephone hardware - a range of handsets (more on this later as well)
  • The application - designed to run on mobile, tablet and PC (including Mac and Windows

(All of the above is provided and supported via one support number)

Service and Support

One of the key product initiatives with BT cloud products was to ensure an end to end service ownership exists. With today's cloud applications relying on multiple elements (think LAN, Internet, hardware), it is important for any provider to support the end to end aspects of your service.

The service begins with a welcome call where each element of your product is discussed, how the product is configured and training on your product features.

All new customers are provided with a one hour call on how to configure and access the portal. Post this session; your team will be well positioned to use the service. Included within this session is how to use admin access which will enable the 100ft view of all users within your organisation. If a rule needs to be applied, admin access will allow you to deploy to all users at once.

If you end up stuck at any point, the BT service team will perform changes on your behalf at the cost of £10 per user.

Additional ongoing training

To maximise the features and adoption of Cloud Voice within your business, BT provides some options for continuing education.

These options range from simple webcasts at the cost of £100 for each session to onsite training costs £650 per session. For those companies looking for something more flexible and ongoing throughout the year, BT offers a passport plan from £200 providing better value for money.

As we'll discuss, the product contains multiple base level features with optional add-ons. Clearly, understanding how to initially configure the service is of critical importance. BT recognise this and provide an initial onboarding call with dedicated support product specialists.

To ensure each element of Cloud Voice is joined up, the delivery and ongoing support are provided by a single team for the entire order journey.

  • Resources allocated within hours
  • First welcome call within 24 hours
  • 3 dedicated sites, one team answering calls

What will your business require to run Cloud Voice?

Essentially, a BT Internet connection, a call plan and compatible IP phone handset or the services are available via a client application.

A component of the sales process involves checking the predicted performance of your access. This test is undoubtedly important when using BT Broadband as an access method.

Current BT products are as follows:

  • BT Infinity Premium: 76Mbps / 19Mbps
  • BT Infinity Unlimited: 38Mbps / 9.5Mbps
  • BT Business Broadband: 17Mbps / 0.9Mbps
  • BTNet Internet Ethernet Leased Line: 100Mbps or 1Gbps with tiers, e.g. 100Mbps tiered at 10Mbps


Bandwidth, or lack of it, is one of the primary reasons cloud-based applications do not perform.

Each concurrent voice call over IP will require 100k per user. The rate at which bandwidth is consumed is dictated by a feature called the CODEC. Good voice quality is achieved typically when the G711 CODEC is used.

While this may be getting too deep into the weeds, the way to think about this is by using simple maths.

If your current Broadband is supporting 2Mbps upstream (for example), your connectivity would potentially support 20 concurrent calls.

Of course, this would only apply to a broadband which is not being used for any other application, i.e. Internet browsing.

Because Broadband circuits are often shared, BT configures QoS (Quality of Service) to prioritise your traffic outbound to avoid congestion issues.

Even with QoS, we recommend considering how much utilisation your Broadband circuit is being subjected to as this will dictate whether a standalone circuit is required.

With BTNet circuits, the bandwidth is much more plentiful and symmetrical (the same upstream and downstream speeds).

BT Cloud Voice vs. BT Cloud Phone

The main and most obvious different is the platform. The legacy Cloud Phone product used Ring Central as the intelligence behind the portal.

Cloud Phone includes calling packages which range from 500 minutes to mobile and landlines to 60000 minutes depending on your business size.

One of the restrictions of Cloud Phone was the inflexibility of the licences. Once your business has selected a particular feature licence, they were effectively stuck on that option as the system was not flexible enough to support different licences. We're not totally clear on why this restriction exists but presume this was a by-product of the need to integrate Ring Central with BT systems.

There is also more flexibility with the feature set. If a user required a couple of additional features, the product allows upgrades to be completed with ease.

BT Cloud Phone Pricing

Please view our product page for more information on pricing. 

The licence features - Basic, Connect and Collaborate 

BT Cloud Voice Features and Benefits

Above: Click to view the PDF.

Additional Add-ons

BT Cloud Voice Optional Add-ons

Numbers and number porting

DDI's are available within ANY geographical range and are not limited by location. With every licence, a number is required for hunt group, voice portal dialling and auto attendant. The cost for the number is low and set at 50p per month per number with the ability to purchase additional DDI's at a future date. The majority of numbers can be ported except 0800, 0845 and 0870 - BT manages the process.

The calling packages

All call minutes are shared across your users wth an easy to manage portal.

BT Cloud Voice Call Charges

Cloud Voice Handsets - the IP Phones (2017 prices)

  • Polycom VVX 301 - 6 programmable line keys with 3.2" backlit LCD display £106.00

  • Polycom VVX 411 - 12 programmable line keys with 3.5" colour LCD display £154.00

  • Polycom VVX 601 - 12 programmable line keys with 4.5" touch screen display £213.50

  • BT T41P Handset - programmable keys. HD sound quality. Loudspeaker with ports for a headset and PC. £106.00

  • BT T46G Handset - support for Gigabit connectivity, 4.5" TFT colour display, 27 programmable keys. HD sound quality. Loudspeaker with ports for a headset and PC. £154.00


  • BT T48G Handset - support for Gigabit connectivity, 7" TFT colour display, 29 programmable keys. HD sound quality. Loudspeaker with ports for a headset and PC. £154.00
  • Polycom Conference Phone - 12-foot microphone pickup with LED backlight display. £589.00
  • Cloud Voice ATA - Enables customers to use an analogue device on the BT cloud voice service.
  • DECT Small Office Mobility - TFT colour screen with a range up to 30 metres indoors and 100 metres outdoors. Supports up to 5 handsets per base.
     

LAN and Cabling

With the addition of handsets, your business will need to consider the LAN environment. BT recommend a minimum base of cat5e cabling. The most basic checks include ensuring there are enough free ports and there is sufficient capacity. All LAN switches should also support power over Ethernet.

Managed Routers

All BT Managed Routers are configured with QoS, prioritisation of voice is enabled. The latest BTNet routers are based on Cisco edge routers with Broadband supported by BT's own Business Hub 5. With the Business Hub, BT can enable to inbuilt Firewall functionality to secure.

For those of you considering BTNet or using a BTNet leased line, other Firewall arrangements should be made. Our experience with data networking ensures we have the ability to assist if required.

Some ports will need to be enabled to allow calls to flow through; these are all outlined within the welcome pack.

Conclusion

This is the first in a series of posts on the Cloud Voice proposition. We're happy to answer specific questions you may have, if you use Discuss, please leave a comment.

Finally, we can:

Provide you with account management to find and establish the best solution based on your requirements.

Complete a site survey where required.

There's a welcome to the service call with an interactive discussion to refine your purchased service.

Full user guides available.

The service is very user-friendly allowing you to upgrade, add licences and features.

Cloud Voice support is the UK based via dedicated help desk with experts.