Your questions answered

Recently an ICAEW member sent in a few IT related questions. Here I attempt to answer some of them. If you have any questions then why not send them to me and I will attempt to answer them.

Send your questions to mark.taylor@icaew.com This service is restricted to ICAEW members only and will be answered on a reasonable endeavour’s basis.

Are BT really switching off analogue phone lines soon so that my analogue phone system will not work?

Yes, but not for a while yet.

BT has the ambition to turn off analogue lines to premises by 2025. This is in-line with a number of European counties. However, in reality this will be very difficult to achieve for a number of reasons. Clearly cost is a big factor. Providing a digital connection to remote homes will prove very expensive and an uneconomic proposition.

Also, it is likely that mobile connections will begin to dominate. As both voice and data circuits are delivered over 5G and the future generations of mobile services to come. Fixed line usage will decrease over time. Again, not for many years to come. 

For the time being your analogue lines will continue to work. The time to transition will be when your line provider tells you to do so.

Should I buy a cloud based digital telephone system and what advantage might I get?

Before working for ICAEW I worked at an NHS doctors’ practice in suburban London. The practice had moved to an IP based cloud telephone system over the winter 2013/2014. When I started in the early spring of 2014 the system had been live for a few weeks and hence myself and he staff learned how to make use of it together.

The system was very extensive with a vast range of features. We made use of the feature that automatically enabled the phones at a set time, call recording, call handset groups and call forwarding.  The system also provided extensive statistics on call wait times etc. Vital information for a doctor’s practice.

The major concern was the possibility for the internet connection to fail. This happened twice during 18 months. On both occasions the fault was resolved quickly by the NHS managed network (internet) service provider. However, on both occasions the surgery had to make use of a very restricted fail-over service that was limited to just 4 incoming lines. This backup service made use of a secondary much slower internet connection.

Clearly there is a potential for the digital connection to the internet to be a single point of failure. In the 18 years of having broadband at home I have never lost internet connection during a time I have been using it. I may well have been fortunate.

Cloud based telephone exchanges provide a vast range of useful telephony services. Administration can be as complex or straight forward as you wish.  Voice over IP handsets provide excellent call quality. However, initial installation costs will be high (network switches, cabling and handsets). This will be offset with no longer having to maintain an on-premise telephone exchange. 

Is it viable to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 on an existing machine or do we need to scrap machines?

Moving to Windows 10 is now essential as Windows 7 support ends in January 2020.

If a PC can run Windows 10 will depend on the age of the PC. The Microsoft minimum requirements for a Windows 10 compatible PC can be found here.  However, these are very much the minimum specification. The Microsoft guidance makes it clear that some features will only work with more advanced PC configurations. The reality is that most PCs bought today will support these features. While older PCs may be able to run Windows 10 some features may simply not be available. One example would be BitLocker Drive Encryption that will only work on newer PCs.

Most larger enterprises will refresh their PCs every 30 months or so. For estates that are in less demanding environments a PC life of around 36 months or so would be sensible. My recommendation would be to replace any PC older than 3 years in preparation for Windows 10. 

How much do people pay for off-site backup?

Costs vary depending on the service being used.  The cost for off-site tape storage will probably be the highest. While a service like Dropbox for Business costs around £15/month per user for unlimited storage. Dropbox also provides a number of features beyond simple data backups and makes the service more like Office 365.

A Microsoft Office 365 subscription comes with 1Tb of storage for £10/month while Apple iCloud is £6.99/month for 2Tb. Other backup and cloud-based storage services are in the same price range.

The use of cloud-based software services should reduce the cost of backups significantly. As any data will be stored and protected by the service provider.

It is advisable to backup any off-line/local working files stored on PCs. The cost of cloud storage may not fall to zero but should be significantly reduced.

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