Croft Communications are delighted to announce the acquisition of IC Group UK, a leading Professional and Managed Services provider of Voice and Data Solutions.

Formed in 1999, IC Group UK specialise in the design, deployment, and support of Communication and IT solutions.

With extensive experience and technical knowledge of cutting-edge technologies, Croft are thrilled to be joining forces, welcoming Daniel Purdy, and the IC Group team to the Croft family.

The merger takes our already strong relationship with Croft to the next level. We are excited by the opportunities this brings and to be joining the Croft team. By combining our range of skills, services, and knowledge, we will be able to better serve our customers, maintaining the top level of customer care they are accustomed to” – Daniel Purdy, Technical Director.

This merger will expand and transform Croft’s capabilities. With the enhanced technical knowledge and best in breed vendors, Croft are now expertly positioned to provide a truly complete range of Communications and IT services. With the addition of the Northwest Service and Operations Centre, our geographical presence is further strengthened” – Mark Bramley, Croft CEO.

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The Celebrity Golf Classic is an annual event hosted by Former England Rugby Captain and 2003 World Cup Champion, Mike Tindall, raising money for Cure Parkinson’s and the Matt Hampson Foundation.

This year the event was held at the Belfry Hotel & Resort in Sutton, Coldfield, and Croft couldn’t have been more thrilled to have sponsored the event, raising an astonishing £190,000 in total

Coming together to raise valuable funds for charity

On the day, celebrities and friends, including Fleur East, Ronan Keating, James Nesbitt, Oliver and James Phelps, Ian Bell, Dan Walker, Sir Kenny Dalglish and more, came together to play a competitive but fun round of golf on the 18-hole Brabazon Course, ending with a gala dinner, auction and entertainment.

James Nesbitt at the ISPS Handa Mike Tindall Celebrity Golf Classic 2021

Credit – Sean East Photography

Zara Phillips at the ISPS Handa Mike Tindall Celebrity Golf Classic 2021

Credit – Sean East Photography

Fleur East at the ISPS Handa Mike Tindall Celebrity Golf Classic 2021

Credit – Steve Pope Photography

Mike Tindall at the ISPS Handa Mike Tindall Celebrity Golf Classic 2021

Credit – Steve Pope Photography

The Speed Hole and Thousand Yard Challenge

Along with a round of 18 holes, many took part in the golf challenges throughout the course of the day.

Each team had to complete a hole in as quick a time as possible…

 

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… and individuals had three drives to total as many yards as possible.

 

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It was a successful day all round, with former English Rugby Union player, Austin Healey, winning with 42 points off 11.

The Cure Parkinson’s and Matt Hampson Foundation

Cure Parkinson’s advocates for world-class collaborative scientific research to find medical treatment to cure Parkinson’s – a charity very close to Mike Tindall’s heart, as his father was diagnosed in 2003. 

The Matt Hampson Foundation supports and inspires young people who are seriously injured through sport by sharing knowledge and experience. The organisation was set up in 2005 after Matt, an ex under 21 England rugby player, was tragically paralysed during training.

Channelling Croft’s love for sport into a charitable cause

Our Director Ben and CFO / COO Phil are both avid golf players and were delighted to attend the event and channel their love for sport into a charitable cause. As the key sponsor, all of us at Croft were thrilled to see so much money raised on the day and look forward to exceeding this in 2022!

Croft Director Ben Page playing golf at the ISPS Handa Mike Tindall Celebrity Golf Classic 2021

Credit – Steve Pope Photography

Croft Director Ben Page in golf buggy at the ISPS Handa Mike Tindall Celebrity Golf Classic 2021

Credit – Steve Pope Photography

Our sponsorship forms part of our wider ‘Croft in the Community’ work, including our Grassroots Initiative, aiming to raise cash for clubs in desperate need of financial help, providing an essential lifeline to many sporting organisations struggling to survive due to the impact of the pandemic.

The Comms Business Awards are an annual ceremony that aim to acknowledge those who build pioneering solutions, contribute to innovative projects, or nurture supportive workplaces. 

Organised by Comms Business, a market leading platform for high quality business coverage, the awards were judged by an independent panel of industry experts from a range of backgrounds including finance, recruitment and consultancy, who were all eager to reward genuine talent and innovation in business. 

The awards were presented at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on Tuesday the 21st of September 2021 and the team at Croft couldn’t be more excited to have been nominated in the Reseller of the Year – Enterprise category. 

Croft nominated for Enterprise Reseller of the Year 

This year, Croft were nominated in the Enterprise Reseller of the Year category. Given the challenges that businesses all over the country have been facing in recent years, the team at Croft are so proud to have been nominated for this award and recognised for our hard work. The winning business would be able to show high levels of growth and an expanding portfolio, as well as industry leading expertise. 

This year, there was a lot of competition, with seven other fantastic businesses nominated for the same award. Congratulations to the winners, BDR Group, who took home the award on the night.

The team at Croft were thrilled to have also been recognised as highly commended at the Inspiring Herts Awards 2020/21 earlier this month. 

Announcement of Highly Commended Inspiring Herts Award

Passionate about keeping communities connected

We are particularly proud of our hard work during the pandemic, working to keep businesses, schools, universities and hospitals across the country connected during these unprecedented times. 

We’re passionate about keeping communities connected and give back wherever we can, launching our Croft in the Community Initiative earlier this year. As part of the initiative, we teamed up with Heart Radio to combat digital poverty and enable better access to an online education for children across Hertfordshire whilst they were learning from home during the pandemic. 

 

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Thank you to Comms Business Awards for the nomination and all the other amazing nominees – Aerial Direct, BDR, Cobweb Solutions, Daisy Communications, Focus Group, Lily Comms and XLN! 

Since 2012, the Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards have been recognising and celebrating the expertise, accomplishments and amazing contributions that businesses and entrepreneurs have made within the Hertfordshire community. 

Organised by the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, the awards are a great opportunity for businesses across the County to demonstrate their performance and successes within the local community. 

Despite being postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, to celebrate the tenth year of the awards, the 2020/2021 Gala Dinner took place on the 9th September 2021 at Warner Bros Studio, Leavesden. 

Croft nominated in the Business of the Year, East Herts category

Given the importance of the awards within the local business community, the team at Croft couldn’t have been more excited to have been nominated for the Business of the Year, East Hertfordshire award. 

Inspiring Herts Business of the Year

The winning business demonstrates high levels of growth and a robust plan for sustainable financial performance, with the judges assessing: 

Congratulations to the winners, CHEXS, and despite the tough competition, we’re really proud to have been recognised as highly commended within this category – an absolute testament to all the progress and achievements we have made at Croft over the past year, including the launch of our Grassroots Initiative and Croft Rewards scheme.

The whole team has worked extremely hard this year to ensure businesses, schools, universities, care homes and hospitals across the country remain connected at all times. Whilst we currently find ourselves living in a strange world, we understand the utmost importance of regular and accessible communication. It is of our absolute highest priority to ensure everyone feels connected at this time and we continue to work tirelessly to provide solutions to all businesses and individuals in need.

Headline sponsors in the Business of the Year, Medium to Large category

We are also proud to have sponsored this years’ Business of the Year award for medium to large businesses. 

Herts Business of the Year Award

Congratulations to the winners, Kane International, and highly commended, Rayden Solicitors, that were recognised in this category on the night.

Thanks again to the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce and all the other amazing businesses that joined us on the night to celebrate!

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 Cassie Peasnell via [email protected] or 01920 466 466.

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.

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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.

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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.