Get switched on and ready for a better 2021

The need for fast and safe digital access has never been so important
The need for fast and safe digital access has never been so important

THERE’S been plenty to be alarmed about this year, but it does look like the damage caused by Covid-19 will begin to dissipate during the next six months and ‘normality’ – as we knew it – returns.

For many, both professionally and personally, this last year has been about keeping safe and staying apart, though it’s also been about getting more organised, leaving bad habits behind and looking at new ways to do things better. I think these will continue to be themes for the year ahead.

For local businesses, resilience will continue to be key. Innovation, adaptability and flexibility will be essential requirements to survive and thrive in a new, more challenging environment.

Engaging your employees and colleagues will be a priority like never before. Ensuring that you have the most productive people, with the right ideas, motivation and skills will be pivotal as business continue to transform though the greater application of digital technologies, a more lenient approach to working from home and a client or consumer-driven demand for more contact online or over the phone.

In recovery, slow progress just isn’t an option any more, particularly when businesses are now increasingly reliant on remote services. The need for fast and safe digital access has never been so important. In the UK, a survey by eFax found that 60 percent of IT decision-makers have already accelerated their speed of digital transformation as a result of the workforce disruption caused by the pandemic.

There’s no doubt that everyone is learning, and fast. Transferring data, video conferencing, remote calling, Microsoft Teams and the cloud are now central to business success – just like bricks and mortar have been before.

Regardless, change is coming. In many areas of Northern Ireland, Openreach has already started retiring older ISDN and analogue networks and are replacing them with new high speed internet lines which will drive the move to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) technology.

Earlier this month, Openreach claimed a UK first after starting to move Salisbury from cathedral city to a digital powerhouse by replacing all its old copper wires to a full-fibre network, with some 22,300 businesses impacted. Under its ‘stop sell’ policy, no business can order or upgrade copper-based broadband IP services.

With an estimated third of local businesses still unprepared for the ‘big switch’ and change under way, it will be important to act early to avoid being left behind. However, there should be no alarm. There are plenty of options that will give you the capacity and flexibility you need to adapt in an increasingly digitised world, and with cost-savings too.

One of the main benefits of VoIP for local firms is that it can be integrated easily within any existing IT infrastructure. It’s also easy to set up, giving all users mobility and the reduced need to travel, thus cutting expenses. VoIP, when combined with Microsoft 365, MS Teams and the Cloud, will also provide enormous, secure capacity to grow and can be easily scaled up to meet demand.

As you prepare for a new year and the new challenges and opportunities 2021 will undoubtedly bring, it’s time to stop the alarms and get better prepared.

With full fibre coming in fast and signing old copper wires to the history boots, it’s time to embrace the change, get ready and do things differently well next year.

As John F Kennedy famously said: “In a crisis, beware of the danger – but recognise the opportunity.”

:: Eric Carson is co-founder, owner and chair of Rainbow, Northern Ireland’s largest independent supplier of telecommunications services