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SMEs Tap Tech Potential in Face of Covid-19

There’s no getting away from it. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, revolving restrictions and ongoing uncertainty, businesses in Northern Ireland are fast adapting to a new way of working for the future, according to a study by Rainbow Communications, the region’s largest independent telecoms and IT solutions provider.

The survey of more than 100 of its leading SME clients demonstrates a growing reliance on connectivity, security and increased cloud capacity for staff, customers and suppliers, as well as greater demands not only for bandwidth but for new, more robust IT technology options to allow for greater agility, capacity and innovation.

“Covid-19 and its impacts have accelerated a renewed focus on telecoms and IT infrastructure that already existed but was certainly not anticipated,” Rainbow Communications Sales & Marketing Director Stuart Carson said.

“Until March, investment in remote working technology was an important, growing feature in future business planning but this ongoing crisis has shown that planning for the future has now become an essential part of business continuity and resilience.”

The survey showed that since the beginning of 2020, more than 80 percent of SMEs which have invested in their telecoms and IT infrastructure moved to access the cloud and a range of cloud services, giving all staff the ability to work from any location where they can get online.

Rainbow Communications said the number of companies investing in a secure leased line – a high capacity dedicated internet connection not shared with anyone else – had also doubled since March as the number of employees accessing remote working services jumped by 300 percent.

“As management and staff moved home, firms were quick to put in place secure integrated software solutions such as Microsoft Teams to support routine video conferencing, a chat function and file sharing which made doing business easy, safe and reliable,” said Stuart. “As weeks became months, more security features were added, security and remote data backups.”

Rainbow Communications said the impact of Covid-19 meant many SMEs moved forward their investment plans in telecoms and IT or were undergoing a significant business restructuring and adding new solutions to fit the new working environment and market demands.

A recent survey by Belfast Chamber suggested that about 35 percent of office staff were now working from home all the time, with the rest splitting the time between home and the workplace.  Only five percent had returned to their workplace full-time. Current government guidance in Northern Ireland advises working from home “where possible.”

“This crisis underscores the need for more flexible, resilient business models that allow staff, customers and partners to reliably and safely communicate in a way that works for every member of the team,” said Stuart. “The technology, which is easily and readily available now, also allows companies to scale up their telecoms and IT infrastructure in a way that can help in saving money while at the same time futureproofing for every eventuality.”

Working closely with companies across Northern Ireland, Rainbow Communications said the Covid-19 crisis was confronting companies with enormous challenges but that the value of operating a business remotely, or at least a proportion of staff, had been realised.

EY said in a recent report that remote working was an opportunity for companies to change their way of working sustainably and reap the benefits over the medium to long term. “Think of less office space, less commuting, fewer business trips and greater focus for employees.”

“SMEs and thousands of our micro companies remain the backbone of the Northern Ireland economy and are well versed in adapting to challenge, changeand risk. However, resilience remains a key strength and with forward planning, ambition and ingenuity, there remains plenty of opportunity ahead,” Stuart said.

Lockdown Success: Surviving & Thriving

Able to adapt and diversify, many business, including these local companies, have not only weathered a storm none of us saw coming, but have come out the other side stronger than ever with the help of targeted IT and telecoms support from Rainbow Communications.

Delap & Waller

Delap & Waller remains optimistic about the future. Working with Rainbow Communications, the company moved quickly to ensure its staff could efficiently and effectively continue their work remotely as part of a future-proofing business continuity plan which provided built-in flexibility for all staff, project teams and clients across the UK and Ireland. “Adapting quickly to the new world scenario, working with Rainbow, we prioritised our IT and telecoms systems to ensure they were resilient, secure and integrated and could provide capacity for growth. Incorporating Microsoft 365, a managed email service, superfast broadband and a hosted telephone system with full access for all meaning there’s no excuse anyone cannot be in touch no matter where they are,” said Director Ryan Scott. “The investment we’ve made in these areas has been a confidence in the systems we need to deliver our work and to grow in the months and years to come. Working with teams across the island of Ireland,

Delap & Waller continue to grow its business in all jurisdictions. More recently, the company won a place on Peabody’s £85 million consultants’ framework, joining several big-name firms to share in the UK housing association’s four-year investment plans.

Find Insurance NI

One of Derry City’s longest-established businesses, Find Insurance NI, has built a strong brand due to its reputation for delivering competitive commercial and personal insurance cover across Northern Ireland. The locally owned insurance broker employs over 35 staff and is recognised as one of the city’s best business success stories and one of the largest independent insurance brokers in Northern Ireland. “Delivering the best customer service is our number one priority,” said Managing Director Colin Mullan.

“Ensuring that we had solid, secure and reliable telephony systems in place to ensure we maintained that contact during lockdown and beyond was pivotal, which is why we invested in a new hosted VoIP and leased line connection. It meant all our staff could operate remotely with speed and reliability and ensure that our customers get the service they need and expect.” Colin said the new hosted phone system means employees can work from anywhere where there is an internet connection and that because the system is hosted by Rainbow Communications, few internal resources are required to maintain it. “It’s a simple solution,” said Colin. “It’s been easy to use with no need for specialized training, also giving us the capacity to grow.”

Caulfield Insurance

With branches in Cookstown, Draperstown and Belfast, Caulfield Insurance specializes in providing a range of insurance products for business and personal use. Founded in 1954 by John Caulfield in Cookstown, the family-owned business prides itself on its first-class personalised customer service and now employs more than 40 staff. “As a multi-site business, reliable connectivity and regular communication with our staff teams and customers is critical, which is why we continually invest in our IT and telecoms infrastructure,” Caulfield Insurance Associate Director Peter McVey said. “By installing a comprehensive suite of innovative solutions and additional IT support, we’ve added significant flexibility to ensure we can cope admirably in any eventuality. Our customers come first.”

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