Merseyside Youth Association is a charity that has always put quality at the heart of everything it does, right down to ensuring that the communications it uses to keep in touch with its clients is top-notch. Switching to the innovative cloud-based ISTRA platform provided by Wrexham-based Pace Telecom has not only ensured excellent call quality, it has reduced costs and given the charity a flexible platform for the future. Furthermore, this gateway to easily introduce new and advanced unified communications features from the cloud, has also enabled MYA to get well ahead of the ISDN switch-off that will impact businesses across the UK and mainland Europe.
Established in one form or another since 1890, Merseyside Youth Association (MYA) is a charity based in the Liverpool area in the UK. Its aim to have a positive and lasting impact on the lives of young people in the locality, supporting them in a variety of practical ways to them learn and grow. The results speak for themselves: thousands of youngsters receive help from the charity each year, with over 90 per cent displaying greater confidence, over 75 per cent improving skills or becoming more active, two-thirds developing more creativity and over half increasing their employability. MYA also trains local organisations and professionals in area relevant to some of the challenges the region’s youth face, such as mental health awareness and disability equality.
MYA’s professional attitude stands out: to date, it has achieved ISO 9001, the renowned international Quality Management System standard, as well as the prestigious Investors in People Gold Award, placing it as one of the UK’s top employers.
Reliable voice communications are vital to the smooth-running of MYA, which employs around 75-80 people, who are in constant contact with their clients (whether youth, professionals or associations with which they are working). At the same time, like any charity, MYA needs to always be seeking ways in which to keep down running costs and that includes phone bills across the main office and two youth centres.
Up until recently, the traditional combination for businesses of an in-house PBX system and ISDN lines had served MYA well enough, but as Michael Hines, Technical/Communications & Support Services Administrator, says, ”Technology has moved on a lot, creating the potential for better quality phone systems that are easier to manage, are more flexible and reduce costs.”
“Around the time I joined MYA, Pace Telecom – who had installed our previous PBX system – suggested we made the transition to cloud-based telephony, which brings several benefits. It’s a lot easier to manage, for instance when there are staff changes, I simply log in to the web portal – from wherever I am - and simply reallocate a phone to the new user. With the old system, I would have gone down to the comms room to make the change.”
“Plus, because the new service uses SIP instead of ISDN, we instantly make cost savings, as ISDN is expensive in comparison. Using broadband for our calls saves money – we have made substantial cost savings since making the transition. The business model also means we can add or remove users as we need to, so we only pay for what we actually need.”
Wrexham-based Pace Telecom is a pioneering comms service provider in the UK and has adopted the Centile Telecom Applications’ ISTRA, which is a cloud-based unified communications (UC) platform. This provides service providers like Pace with the tools they need to quickly develop and deploy revenue-generating voice and data communication services, while giving end users the flexibility, cost-effectiveness and ease that cloud communications enables.
The platform is also a gateway to integrating voice with other business applications, as well as mobile services. However, even when just replacing standard voice services, cloud technology has powerful advantages, as MYA has discovered.
Plus, as Michael Hines points out, organisations across the UK and mainland Europe have a limited amount of time to find replacements for their existing ISDN lines. BT will cease to sell ISDN in 2020 and will turn off existing ISDN lines in 2025. “It makes sense to change to cloud and SIP now, so that there is more change to plan and get used to the cloud before the last minute.” As well as cost benefits, SIP provides greater flexibility and room for future innovation when compared to ISDN.
MYA found that making the switch from its old ‘on-premise’ ISDN based solution to the ‘in the cloud’ Pace solution was fast and simple. “There was virtually zero downtime and Pace’s engineers did all the work for us. Staff were on the whole not even aware of the transition, apart from some of them commenting on the improved call quality.”
“Reliability of the service is very good and if we ever have an issue with the broadband line, we make a quick call to Pace and they will instantly divert calls for us so that we don’t have any interruption to the service.”
For end users, the transition was invisible. Says Michael, “They were not even aware of the change, apart from some of them commenting that the call quality is better than it used to be. We have Yealink IP phones, which are great quality, and I also use a ‘softphone’ app on my laptop. The service includes call recording and voice message services and although we haven’t integrated the service with mobiles or with other business systems, it is good to know that’s something we could do in the future.”
Michael is himself quite technical, but he believes the system is easy enough for anyone to learn how to manage. “The interface for managing the system is very clear once you’ve learned how to navigate around and Pace were great at training, they didn’t just leave me to it. The Pace team are always at the end of the phone and can provide screen-sharing to walk through the system’s features. They are also very good at letting us know about when upgrades or changes are coming: it’s updated regularly, so we know we always have an up-to-date service.
Michael concludes, “The Pace team are very responsive and are great people to work with. The cloud service they have provided gives us voice services that are reliable, flexible, easy to use and manage and – very important to a charity – also help us to minimise costs without sacrificing quality.”