The club

West Kingsdown Boxing Club was founded in March 2017 by Head Coach, Mickey Bowden, a successful former amateur and professional boxer. For many years he has awaited the opportunity to ‘give something back’ to the sport and local community by opening a club for the benefit of the community in West Kingsdown. The club aims to encourage people of all ages, gender, and ethnic backgrounds to join the club, by offering boxing classes for all abilities.

Challenges faced

As a not-for-profit organisation, West Kingsdown Boxing Club relies on funding and the support of local businesses to cover its costs. When he started the club, Mickey saw the potential in the “Gym Room” in Kent’s West Kingsdown Village Hall, expanding the room to two floors to accommodate a 14’ boxing ring, punch bags, and plenty of room for training.

The project is now complete and West Kingsdown Boxing Club has a permanent home, but the club still needs all the help it can get to pay for boxing equipment and ongoing running costs.

“With the support of Croft, we hope to purchase new equipment to encourage more people to join, stay active, and otherwise engage with a worthwhile activity.”

Mickey Bowden, Founder, and Head Coach, West Kingsdown Boxing Club

Croft’s Grassroots solution

The club approached Croft Communications to take advantage of our Grassroots Initiative, a scheme open to UK sports clubs looking to raise extra funds. By taking out a mobile contract with Croft, the boxing club could benefit from great value telecoms services – and also rake in a regular stream of cash for the club, to help them fund their junior and senior sessions three times a week, plus men and women-only sessions on top.

The results: How the initiative has supported the club

It’s proven that boxing clubs offer a positive diversion from crime and antisocial behaviour, promoting discipline and respect. So with the funds to encourage individuals to join the club, stay active and build respect for the community, West Kingsdown Boxing Club has been able to make a positive and lasting difference in the village. At Croft, we’re proud to support the club to provide a place for people to go to keep fit and learn a new skill, with the possibility of competing.

Head Coach, Mickey Bowden, said:

“West Kingsdown Boxing Club is extremely grateful to the team at Croft for choosing to work with us. It’s great to work with an organisation that has gone above and beyond to support us and fully understands the grassroots ethos.”

Find out more

Are you a local sports club looking to boost your income? Croft’s Grassroots Initiative could contribute over £000’s each year towards your running costs.

Discover more about our cash reward scheme for community sports clubs, or contact our Director of Partnerships, Jon Poole, via [email protected] or 01920 449 201.

Want to find out more about West Kingsdown Boxing Club? Check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram under the handle @wkdbox.

As part of Croft Communications continued growth, we are delighted to announce our second acquisition this month of UK Independent Telecom Limited.

With over 15 years’ experience in the space, UK Independent Telecom provide unified communication solutions, building a trusted and loyal client base through their passion for exceptional and personalised customer service.

“We are looking forward to this next stage in the life of UK Independent Telecom. The merger will help expand our offering, helping clients future proof their communications, while maintaining our high levels of customer support” – Paul Clegg, UKIT Director  

Thanks to the merger, these loyal and valued customers will benefit from an even wider range of communication products, including super-fast broadbandhosted telephonybusiness phone systems, mobile solutions, fast and responsive IT supportthermal imaging cameras and more, without compromising on service.

Be the first to hear our latest news! Keep up with all the updates from Croft by following us on social media.

Croft Communications are excited to announce the acquisition of Boosh 365 Limited.

Boosh 365, a Vodafone Total Communications Partner, are known for their customer first approach, giving simple, clear advice on customers Telecoms, IT & Mobile Signal Solutions. As part of the merger, Croft are delighted to be welcoming Sara Rose and Gemma Bennett to the Croft Communications team.

“Gemma and I are excited to be joining the Croft team and the opportunities this merger brings. By joining forces, we will be able to offer our customers a wider range of products alongside an even better service.” – Sara Rose, Operations Manager

With a shared passion for personalised service and solutions that are expertly tailored to customer needs, clients can rest assured they’ll continue to receive a bespoke customer service that’s second-to-none.

Be the first to hear our latest news!

Keep up with all the updates from Croft by following us on social media:

Virtual learning, distance learning, online learning… whatever we call it, the principles of eLearning have been around for a long time. But what will eLearning look like in the future – and is it ever likely to fully replace traditional, face-to-face classroom education?

A brief history of eLearning

The word ‘eLearning’ means different things to different people. For some, that little ‘e’ is all-important: eLearning is defined as education using electronic media, such as videos and smartphone apps, inside the classroom or elsewhere. Others might say the concept of eLearning includes any kind of distance learning, letting people learn flexibly and at their own pace in any location. Either way, eLearning certainly isn’t new. The first computer-based training course was developed way back in 1960, while the Open University, offering home-based flexible education, was founded that same decade in 1969.

Over the years, with the introduction of home computers, online resources and smartphone apps, eLearning has become ever more accessible. Computers in classrooms in the 1980s and the launch of the World Wide Web in the 1990s signalled exciting new educational possibilities. By the turn of the century, electronic learning resources to support education for all ages were already widespread: the internet, though still in its relative infancy, was well established as a valuable research tool, and interactive CD-ROMs helped make learning more relevant and compelling.

Businessman engaged in eLearning via laptop

Today’s world: eLearning as an essential lifeline

Fast forward to 2020 and during the coronavirus pandemic, eLearning took on a new urgency. No longer a gimmick or novelty, it became an essential lifeline providing a continuous education to children of all ages who couldn’t physically attend school. The dangers of a ‘digital divide’, where children without access to laptops and WiFi during periods of lockdown might lag behind their peers, became all too apparent.

The Heart Tech Appeal

At Croft, throughout the pandemic and as part of our Croft in the Community initiative, we’ve been helping combat digital poverty to enable better access to an online education for children across Hertfordshire. We pledged to supply free mobile broadband to 100 families and teamed up with Heart FM to appeal for donations of laptops and devices.

In a future where eLearning is an integral part of everyone’s education, we hope these essential tools will be freely available to all.

Hertfordshire child home-schooling on latop thanks to Heart Tech Appeal

A turning point in the history of education

In future, the home-schooling that took place during the pandemic is likely to be seen as a turning point in the history of education, marking a ‘before and after’ in terms of the way the curriculum is taught and how students learn. It’s shown educators what is possible, what works and how learning might look in the years to come – as well as revealing important shortfalls. There’s more research to be done on the effects lockdowns have had on learning, and this is likely to uncover some essential areas where eLearning can’t be substituted effectively for face-to-face classroom teaching (or at least not yet).

New eLearning technologies

Nobody has a crystal ball, but we can catch a glimpse of the future of eLearning in the technology that’s already being developed and deployed today. These technologies are just beginning to be explored – but it’s likely we haven’t yet exploited their full potential. Tech-savvy educators using cutting-edge methods will pave the way for more mainstream use in the years to come.

Augmented reality and virtual reality

There’s a buzz around virtual reality in education: it’s a new and exciting tool that could (almost literally) bring any topic to life. Learning through experience – by visiting a historic site or exploring an object from all angles – is well known to be more effective than more passive education styles. And with AR and VR technology, this can become a (virtual) reality. In the future, it will enable students to visit the places they’re learning about or go back in time to discover what a period in history was really like to live through. In practical subjects like medicine, would-be surgeons will be able to practise difficult procedures virtually.

Young boy eLearning with virtual reality headset

Artificial intelligence

In the future, as always, human teachers will be central to learning but AI technology could play a valuable supporting role. Today, we use AI in simple ways: for example, with chatbots programmed to answer simple questions. In tomorrow’s world, the way we use AI is likely to be more subtle and complex. For example, if computers can learn about the needs and learning styles of individual students, they’ll be able to generate a curriculum that’s personalised and adapted to each learner’s unique profile. Artificial intelligence could even do smart things like suggesting improvements to course content, based on the data it gathers from actual pupil performance.

Artificial intelligence bot for eLearning

Learning management systems

One big shift during the coronavirus pandemic has been the widespread adoption of online learning systems like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams for home-schooling. These learning management systems have the potential to make life easier for both teachers and students and they’re likely to loom large in the future of eLearning. Marking – the bane of every teacher’s life – could in many cases be automated using an LMS, and the technology it uses could even enhance the quality of the assessment. For example, educators will be able to easily access patterns and trends in pupil performance that might not otherwise have been spotted and adjust their teaching accordingly. Meanwhile, students will benefit from having an archive of all their learning available in one place, including recordings of live lessons, so they can dip into it whenever they need to.

Young boy engaged in eLearning via desktop

eLearning trends of the future

The new technologies we use are influencing popular practices in education. Many of these are likely to be here to stay!

For example:

Learning tools with a purpose

In the early days of the internet, eLearning was often seen as a novelty and many resources developed simply reproduced printed materials into an electronic format. One expert said in 2001: “Most e-learning replicates the worst features of face-to-face instruction. So, it may be cheaper to ‘deliver’ knowledge over the Internet, but it will not be more effective.”

Today, and into the future, this remains pertinent. To be effective, the technology we use to enable learning needs to be user-focused, deployed sensitively to support students in their learning journey. It’s likely that many of the technological developments that will have the biggest impact on student success will be simple essentials like fast, reliable internet connections that enable better real-time interactions – so that the learning tools we’re already using can be deployed more effectively.

Teacher and student engaged in eLearning via laptop

Here are some of the most meaningful benefits to be had from eLearning in the future:

Connectivity for all

For eLearning to be successful, free access to the right devices and connectivity will be essential or the digital divide that was feared during recent lockdowns will become a reality.

Wondering how telecoms can support with your pupils or employee’s education and training? Get advice from our team of friendly telecoms specialists and make a plan for an eLearning-filled future.

Good record keeping is paramount for financial firms. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemichowever, many firms weren’t adequately set up for home working. In this extraordinary situation, it took time to put procedures in place to ensure that professional standards were maintained when staff were based outside the office.  

Now that working remotely has become the norm for most office-based roles, the FCA has laid down its expectationfor robust record keeping, including call recordingUnder the new regulations, firms will need to have the policies, procedures and technology in place to record all relevant communications (including voice calls) when working outside the office. This will help firms to ensure that sensitive information is treated appropriately and crack down on the potential for staff misconduct when working from home. 

What are the FCA call recording regulations? 

The FCA call recording regulations are as follows: 

  1. All voice calls must be recorded, including those using mobile phones. So, whether your staff are working at home, travelling for business or office-based, you’ll need to be able to provide recordings of every conversation.  
  2. Firms must monitor calls periodically. In addition to having the records in place, you must also listen regularly to ensure the quality of the conversations. 
  3. Policies and procedures for remote working must be in place and must be shown to the FCA on request. If you haven’t reviewed your policies and procedures since the first lockdown started, it’s important to check that they’re still fit for purpose and can be applied to home working situations. You might find that you have to add in some wording about the use of privately owned devices or certain apps. 
  4. You must offer training to staff on call recording policies and procedures. This will make them aware of the regulations, help them to understand their importance, and outline the consequences if they don’t comply. 

Woman dialling a number on a business telephone system

Getting the right call recording technology in place 

Compliance with the FCA regulations is a lot harder if you don’t have the right tech setup. This was the main barrier to most firms when the first lockdown was brought in and the reason why there has been some lenience in enforcing the rules. But the good news is, once you’ve implemented the technology, you’ll benefit from an integrated way of working that’s not only compliant with call recording regulations but also helps your workforce to collaborate remotely and get things done more efficiently. 

Croft’s Unified Communications solution gives all of your communications a home in one place. It’s based on Hosted Telephony, keeping records in the Cloud. So, emails, voice calls, instant messages and more can all be called up from one central record, meaning that there’s a complete file that can be accessed by everyone working on it. It doesn’t matter where you’re based – staff can log in from anywhere, ensuring that your business can continue as usual, whatever external constraints or surprises come your way. If you’re concerned about people outside the company gaining access to your records while staff are working remotely, you can protect the system with authorisation codes. 

Key features: 

Comply with the FCA regulations and support your staff to work remotely. Find out more about our Unified Communications solution or contact us for a free quote today. 

Ding ding! The Android and iPhone debate can get pretty polarised: like sports teams, most people tend to pick a side and defend it to the death. But what really is the difference between Android and iPhone – and which operating system is best for you?

Back to basics

First up, some basic information. If you’re choosing a mobile device today, the operating system you choose is pretty much an either-or. Don’t want an Android phone? Then you’ll have to go for an iPhone (and vice versa). Android is owned by Google, while the iPhone (plus the iPad and other gadgets that use the iOS operating system) is owned by Apple.

There used to be more diversity in the market, with contenders like Microsoft throwing Windows phones into the mix. These never really caught on however, and other older systems such as BlackBerry were swallowed up by Android.

Look and feel

Apple products are famed for their sleek, streamlined appearance. If looks (and design in general) are important to you, you might instinctively lean towards an iPhone. A joy to behold, the iPhone 12 is the latest example of Apple’s enduring design credentials.

The back of an iPhone placed on a desk

But all is not lost in terms of looks if you decide to opt for an Android model. There are plenty of beautiful non-iPhones out there, from the likes of Samsung, Motorola and more. In the end, it comes down to a matter of taste.

Usability

In the early days of smartphones, iPhones were unquestionably the easiest to use. Nowadays, their rivals have caught up, and it’s pretty much even.

Cost

If you’re choosing business mobiles, cost may be the deciding factor. Android will always beat the iPhone on cost, with phones available for every budget.

Two business men holding Android device

Hardware

From headphone jacks to handsets, your phone hardware is all the physical ‘stuff’ you use to make it work. In terms of handsets, there’s a far wider choice on Android – lots of different companies design Android phones, so you’re not limited to three or four options and you can buy something on a budget if cost is your main concern.

Cables are often an annoyance with the iPhone; Apple’s Lightning cables only work on iOS devices, so if you lose one, you’re stuck. As for headphone jacks, the iPhone has evolved beyond them, meaning that you’ll need to use wireless earphones (AirPods), or buy a special adapter if you want to plug your headphones in.

Man holding iPhone to connect to AirPods

Proprietary or open-source?

If you’re looking for a device that will support your other iOS applications, it’s an open and shut case: you need an iPhone. All Apple products are proprietary, meaning that they only work within the Apple universe – you can’t just rock up with an Android phone and expect access to Apple Music or iCloud for example. That’s part of the reason why the iPhone has inspired such loyalty since its launch in 2007: once you’re a paid-up Apple user, it’s difficult to go elsewhere.

On the other hand, Android is an open-source operating system, with apps that can be used on iOS devices. It comes from the Google stable, so includes Google Play Music, Gmail and Google Docs as standard – all of which can be installed on an iPhone if you later decide to switch. There’s lots more choice in terms of customising your phone and choosing how to use it – such as changing your launcher (the software that creates the interface design on your phone).

Person holding an Android mobile phone with a blue screen

Get help with your business phones

Need help choosing business mobile handsets? Get in touch! Contact the experts at Croft on 01920 466 466.

Want to go the extra mile to keep your clients happy? Technology is your friend. Make sure you’re using yours to its full potential, with these tips to harness your telecoms technology to improve customer service.

Use intelligence

No, not your brains (although you’ll need them too), but the data you collect about your customer service calls. If you’re using a Hosted Telephony system, you’ll have access to all kinds of statistics on how long you take to answer calls, how long the calls are taking, the location of the caller and lots more. For example, say you don’t have enough customer service agents to handle all the calls you’re getting: this will show up in the number of calls you’re missing when all operators are busy. Take advantage of these analytics to get an insight into how you’re performing, act on any trends you notice and monitor the results, so you can deliver a better level of service to your customers

Let people choose how they contact you

The beauty of today’s telecoms technology is that there’s a mode of communication to suit everyone. Make sure these are all available to your customers. While some people prefer to hear a human voice on the other end of the phone, others would rather interact with a virtual assistant on your website, or send a quick message on social media. Making use of all these different avenues – telephone, chatbots, social media, email and more – will ensure that customers feel comfortable contacting you on their own terms. And if you have a Unified Communications system to bring them all together, you’ll always have a record of your conversation history – no matter which format was used.

Woman using emails on a laptop and business mobile to contact customers

Create a diversion

Need to work from home during lockdown? Your customers need never know. By diverting customer service calls to business mobiles, you can ensure a seamless shift to remote working, without inconveniencing your callers.

Man working remotely in a cafe on his business mobile and laptop

Get the message

Sometimes calls get missed, so your voicemail system is vital to help you retain customers and offer the highest level of service. Make sure yours is set up so that you can dial in from any location to check messages on the move – that way, you’ll always be able to stay connected and respond promptly to your customers’ needs.

Keep a record

Nobody wants to repeat themselves. If you keep a recording of your customer service calls, that shouldn’t be necessary. Play back the recording if there’s anything you didn’t quite catch on the call, and keep it handy so that others can refer to it when dealing with that account. You can also use call recordings to review performance and help with training – helping all team members to develop great business phone etiquette.

Want to overhaul your phone system? Croft Communications can help. We can set you up with a business phone system to help you get the best out of your employees. Call us on 01920 466 466 or email [email protected] – great customer service guaranteed.

Are you ready for the next generation? The telecoms world is buzzing with anticipation as 5G finally makes its appearance. But what makes it stand out – and will it really change the world? We’ve listed some of the biggest differences between 4G and 5G mobile networks.

5G is faster

And that’s an understatement! 5G connections will theoretically be able to reach speeds of 10 gigabits per second – that’s up to 100 times faster than 4G. The difference this makes will be dramatic. Download times for a typical movie will reduce from minutes to seconds, and you’ll be able to do more things at once – great for multi-taskers. The super-speedy connection will also mean your phone can cope with higher-resolution images, so everything will appear crystal clear.

A business man browsing the internet of his business mobile device with reliable connectivity

5G has lower latency than 4G

Say bye-bye to buffering! Latency is the delay you get between one side of a connection sending information and the other side receiving it (think of the pause you sometimes get in conversation, when TV reporters are talking via satellite). With 5G, latency will be around 50 times better than 4G, so everything will be as good as instantaneous. This means that anything you do in real-time that demands loads of data, from gaming to streaming, will work like a dream. Virtually zero latency is a necessary requirement for exciting new innovations such as self-driving cars, which will need to rely on real-time instant data exchanges in order to work safely.

Loading screen on 4G iPhone device with lower latency

5G has higher capacity

Ever tried to get through to a friend at midnight on New Year’s Eve? Although the 4G network is great most of the time, it can collapse under the pressure when too many people try to use it at once. This can be frustrating at the best of times but could spell disaster in emergency situations, such as terrorist attacks, where 5G’s capacity could make a life-or-death difference. 5G’s superior bandwidth capacity also holds tantalising potential for future tech. It means we’ll have the means to connect lots more devices to each other, paving the way for smart fridges, cars, street lighting and more, in a new technological era characterised by the ‘Internet of Things’.

5G isn’t as widely available as 4G… yet

If you’re choosing a phone plan in 2021, 4G will still be the norm. Only a limited number of handsets (including the new iPhone 12 suite) are built for 5G, and the network itself is still limited to a select but growing list of cities and postcodes. All this means that 5G is the expensive option, for now. If you’re excited by new tech and impatient to harness the super-fast speeds everyone’s been raving about, the option is there. But if your mobile needs are limited to business calls and modest data allowances, you’re likely to be happy sticking with your existing setup until 5G is firmly in the mainstream.

Social media apps on iPhone 12 connected to 5G

Need help choosing your next business mobile solution? Want advice on the 5G network? Contact our team of experts on 01920 466 466 or email [email protected].

Say goodbye to slow connections and look ahead to a high-speed future, with these New Year’s Resolutions for 2021.

1.    Embrace 5G technology

2021 will be the year that 5G makes it big. More 5G-capable devices (like the new iPhone 12) will be released and nationwide 5G coverage will bring this next-generation technology into the mainstream. What could it mean for your business? Lightning-fast connections (up to 100 times faster than 4G), increased data capacity and ultra-low latency will all make life easier, especially if you still have a large remote workforce. Going forward, these dramatically faster connection speeds could enable new and innovative business solutions such as 3D printing and the Internet of Things.

The back of an iPhone 12 - a 5G capable device

2.    Adapt to a post-Brexit world

2021 will mark a new era for business, as the transition period out of the EU ends on 31st December 2020. Mobile phone roaming services – previously free in EU countries for UK residents – will no longer be guaranteed surcharge-free, so check your mobile phone contract carefully and contact your service provider if you are unsure. You don’t want to be hit with an unexpected bill next time you travel across the Channel or the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic. EU data and telecoms regulations, such as GDPR, will no longer apply in 2021, although the UK’s own Data Protection, Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendments etc) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 should ensure that there’s no difference to your obligations in practice.

3.    Embrace video conferencing as a permanent fixture

Virtual events and video calls became routine in 2020, necessitated by the pandemic. And in many cases, that shift has become permanent. Virtual happenings streamed online were once a futuristic novelty, but now they’re here to stay. This year, ensure that you’re making the most of this exciting new environment. You can network from your office hosting publicly-streamed industry events, or give your employees the chance to attend gatherings all over the world – all from the comfort of their workstation. This year, you’ve got to make sure your broadband connection is up to the task!

Video conferencing for a remote workforce

4.    Ensure business continuity

If there’s one thing 2020 taught us, it was that business continuity plans can mean make or break for many SMEs. If you dipped your toe into the world of remote working in 2020, 2021 is the year to formalise your remote working policies and procedures. Why not future-proof your business by moving over to a Unified Communications system that can work wherever you do? Reliable business broadband is also a must for companies with remote workers – home broadband simply won’t cut it.

5.    Make the switch to fibre

As we ring in 2021, the impending 2026 copper switch-off suddenly feels a lot closer than it did. That’s the date when old-style copper phone lines will finally go extinct – and if you’re still dependent a telephone system that uses these lines, now’s the time to act. Get advice from our team of friendly telecoms specialists and make a plan for a fibre-filled future.

Is your IT system on its last legs? It might be time for an upgrade. Switching to new technologies can be tricky, but here’s how to make it as painless as possible.

What is a legacy system?

A legacy system is one based on old technologies that are no longer widely used. Remember Betamax, cassette tapes, minidiscs and even CDs? They may still do the job they were designed for, but as the years pass, this becomes more difficult, because everyone else has moved on.

In the world of IT, systems can become outdated very quickly. These days, if your software is not connected to the Cloud, it can probably be classed as a legacy system.

Cloud based IT system

What’s wrong with keeping a legacy system?

Some legacy systems may still work well and if that’s all you’ve known; you might not see the advantage in upgrading. But as time goes by, your system will become more difficult to maintain. The software may stop being supported, meaning that problems can’t be fixed and security may become an issue. It may not work on newer operating systems and you’ll find yourself patching together workarounds in order to keep doing things the way you always did.

At the same time, the chances are your competitors will have seen the light. They’ll move on to newer, more efficient ways of working. If you don’t keep up, they’ll have a big business advantage.

The perks of upgrading

It’s not all negative. Migrating from a legacy system to a modern, Cloud-based IT system can be a real eye-opener and change the way your business functions. Connecting to a remote system on a server, rather than relying on software that sits on a particular machine, opens up all sorts of possibilities, making things easier, faster and more efficient. Hosted Telephony that works over the internet will save you cash, while the potential for remote working can help you to work flexibly and ensure business continuity.

How to prepare

There’s a lot to consider when migrating from legacy software.

Here are some dos and don’ts:

1.     Plan ahead

Schedule your migration during a quieter time for your business. It’s likely to involve some downtime and disruption – so if you’re an e-commerce retailer, you won’t want to do it in the run-up to Christmas.

Scheduling legacy software migration

2.     Get staff on board

It’s natural for people to resist change. You’re likely to need to sell the benefits of the switch to your employees, especially if it makes their life harder in the short term. Communicate the issues, listen to their concerns and explain why the transition will improve their work role in the long run.

3.     Keep your data safe

Whoever’s assisting with your migration, ask them how they will back up your valuable data and keep it safe as you move over to the new system. Get advice on best practices to ensure that your business-critical data is protected.

Make the move to modern technology with Croft

Get things done more efficiently with better modes of communication. Talk to Croft about your existing legacy systems and find out how upgrading to our business communication tools can help you save money, work flexibly and increase productivity.