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Whose Line is it Anyway?

By 27th May 2014No Comments

Alan Ford

Posted by: Alan Ford

No, not a throw back to that 80′s TV show but a genuine attempt to help organisations manage (and reduce) their telephone costs more effectively. Not many organisations can honestly say they know exactly how many telephone lines they have and what they’re used for.

What starts off as a fairly easy to control telecoms system soon grows with the addition of new staff, extra sites, new services and new technology. Long gone are the days of one line for fax, several lines for voice calls (we never even used to call them voice calls, they were just calls), a broadband link and perhaps an alarm line.

We now see data circuits carrying voice, ISDN lines working in conjunction with SIP trunks, leased lines carrying voice & data, fax to email and a whole host of data circuit/broadband options to choose from. It’s hardly surprising redundant lines and services are still in place and legacy equipment is still being paid for.

Before cancelling those services

(oops!) which may be surplus to requirements, you have to be certain it’s no longer being used by anyone or anything in your organisation. Yes, things use phone lines as well as people – think EPOS (electronic point of sale or chip ‘n’ pin) and even electricity meters in dark hidden away cupboards. Nobody will thank you for cutting those off to save a couple of hundred pounds a year. But if you’ve got 20 sites all with two redundant lines, now we’re talking money for nothing (back to the 80′s again) or more than £5,000 per year going to waste and not just for one year but every year until you take action. How long are you going to leave it … one year, two, five, forever ?

Here’s a  few tips on what you need to ask yourself  if you think you’ve got redundant lines :

  • Is it an alarm line such as a building alarm or lift alarm
  • Is the line used for banking (BACS, EPOS)
  • Does anyone answer when the number is called? If so, who answers it and where are they. It’s not unknown for organisations to be paying for someone else’s lines.
  • Are any calls made and if so, what type of call?
  • Have you got a BT socket which you can’t identify ? Plug in a phone and call the BT test number (17070)
  • Identify ADSL line numbers – if you’re not sure ask your ISP (internet service provider), they will know it.
  • Are fax numbers still being used – if so can the ADSL run on the same number?
  • Do you need a fax ? Can you translate the number into a fax to email number?
  • Do you have more lines than you need for voice calls ? If you’ve only got 10 staff in the office you don’t need 10 lines unless everyone is on the phone at the same time. The ratio of lines to staff depends on the nature of your business but 1 line for 3 people is a good start for a standard office environment.
  • If you have NGNs (non geographic numbers  – typically those starting with 03/08/09) what numbers do they point to ? Are these NGNs being used.

All this takes time and resource to find out. Do not expect your supplier to do this for you. There is no incentive for them, after all would you actively seek to reduce your own income and remove some of the services you supply to your clients? Thought not.

And one more thing before I go … don’t limit the audit to physical phone lines, look for unused ADSL and data circuits as well. I’ve found ADSL connections with no physical underlying line. The phone line was cancelled years ago but the ADSL trundled on and on and on and … I’m sure you get the gist.