Computer Related > Softphones Miscellaneous
Thread Author: Bromptonaut Replies: 26

 Softphones - Bromptonaut
My employer has tarried with the idea of replacing mobiles (or office landlines) with a so called softphone which appears to be an app or programme allowing a PC or laptop to be used as a VoIP phone.

It's now suggested that they will be mandated.

As somebody working at home (due Covid) and on relatively narrow rural broadband I'm concerned about (a) impact on speeds bearing in mind Mrs B's studies require heavy use and (b) how such things cope when, as is often the case, the internet goes down and the router takes ages to reboot.

Aside from the practicalities I am aggrieved that I am being directed to install this stuff on my own PC and impact (in whatever way) on my own broadband of which they haver had free use for 12 months. Although I'm told it only uses 100kb/s the troubleshooting suggests taking other users of the connection off line, stopping any streaming etc and optimising my router for VoIP.

I cannot do that on a household connection where other people are also working.

Does anybody have any views or relevant experience?
 Softphones - sooty123
Doesn't your employer provide laptops for you to work at home?
How are you able to work from home, I take it all the work is accessible to any computer?
 Softphones - smokie
Sooty when I stopped work over 5 years ago the major bank I was working for was starting a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. The plan was to stop having to supply and maintain expensive kit but they were going to "market" the convenience of not having to lug a laptop to and from work.

I don't think they planned to pay any allowance to people for use of their own equipment or line but I'm pretty sure the staff would have expected it. Whether it got off the ground I don't know, but us contractors had no choice - and most of us were absolutely fine with it.

Though I can see some potential problems for Bromps and others - maybe not as insurmountable as it sounds but still potentially there.

Their environment was completely locked down in a browser window, you couldn't save stuff to your local PC or use your printer. You had to start a VPN session to get access.
 Softphones - Bromptonaut
>> Doesn't your employer provide laptops for you to work at home?
>> How are you able to work from home, I take it all the work is
>> accessible to any computer?

When lockdown 1 started there were not enough laptops to go around and we were permitted, subject to not storing confidential data locally, to use our own machines so the service was maintained.

It may well be that I should have been given a laptop once they were available but somebody forgot. What I've got now works. A laptop would just be another object to juggle.

Work systems including case notes, webchat, call handling tool that routes callers to my mobile and all the guidance we need is on line.

Anything I need to save to facilitate it's being attached to case notes goes to a cloud location.
 Softphones - sooty123
I think the best place to start would be to speak to your boss, you can't be the only one with low speed broadband and others in the house wfh.
I think you might be struggling a bit as it's now the norm to use your computer as your work laptop.
 Softphones - Bromptonaut
>> I think the best place to start would be to speak to your boss, you
>> can't be the only one with low speed broadband and others in the house wfh.
>> I think you might be struggling a bit as it's now the norm to use
>> your computer as your work laptop.

I've emailed my boss last week about my reservations and also put a message in the staff forum. I don't have the technical knowledge to inform a reply. While my downspeed is in the order of 34mb/s my upspeed is only around 50mb/s and the rate is up/down like a fiddler's elbow.

The question is asked here because we've got a fair number of IT bods who will have a better feel for technicalities then I have.
 Softphones - smokie
OK well a slightly tech response then.

I don't think you will notice any significant change on your internet. However heavy your wife's work is, or your bandwidth usage for calls/video, most routers will manage and prioritise quite well. Even streaming video can get away with relatively low bandwidth, and your wife's heavy usage is likely to be, I imagine, up/downloading the occasional big file which might impact for a really brief time.

Of more concern to me would be the unreliability of your connection. It's one thing if a download fails, you can either restart or resume and just a bit of time is lost. But if you get disconnected from a call or streamed video conference you may not be able to easily remake the connection (though again most software will do it's best to put your back where you were after a disconnect).

The two speeds you quote in your post above don't make sense, but expect your upload speed to be considerably slower than your download speed - that's the way it works on public internet (as opposed to a private circuit of some sort). I've always found www.speedtest.net/ fairly reliable and for me it's reporting 221.04 Mbps download but only 20.94 Mbps upload.

If your internet really is up and down then contact your ISP to have them test it. You shouldn't have to put up with that really - though it did take Sky ages and ages and AGES to identify and correct a fault with her broadband.
 Softphones - Bromptonaut
Thanks Smokie.

I got the upspeed wrong by a factor of 10, it's actually approx 5mb/s.

I share your concern about reliability of the connection. I've had calls to commercial customer service lines where I lose the agent and get a disjointed voice telling me it's trying to reconnect me. Followed by the damn thing dropping altogether.

Would definitely have been suboptimal with one of today's calls; a chap who had very severe anxiety.
Last edited by: Bromptonaut on Wed 17 Mar 21 at 16:04
 Softphones - sooty123
> I've emailed my boss last week about my reservations and also put a message in
>> the staff forum. I don't have the technical knowledge to inform a reply. While my
>> downspeed is in the order of 34mb/s my upspeed is only around 50mb/s and the
>> rate is up/down like a fiddler's elbow.
>>
>> The question is asked here because we've got a fair number of IT bods who
>> will have a better feel for technicalities then I have.
>>

Yeah I get that, if it were me I'd look first at what is likely to be ok'd from your boss vs what you want. Then dig into all the techy stuff.

What would you, ideally, want in this situation?
 Softphones - Bromptonaut
>> What would you, ideally, want in this situation?

If we were in the office and they wanted to change the 'landline' on my desk to a softphone I'd not turn a hair. I've been in jobs that were IT enabled in one way or another since 1986; I just get on with it. Even big bang migrations like the one that first put non GUI green on black text screens on our desk was a challenge to overcome.

I'm now, by dint of the pandemic, a homeworker. Not choice but I'm OK with it. My workspace is in my home. I don't want to have to re-arrange with headphones connected to my PC where I'll tangle them. I feel, even if it will work as others re-assure me that my hospitality in being flexible about homeworking to start with is being abused.

If it suits me to stay as I am (and there's no saving for the employer as the softphone licence costs more than my SIM) I'd like that respected.

And as noted elsewhere, I'm also concerned about the impact on the service. I suspect bean counters are driving this issue.
 Softphones - sooty123
If it suits me to stay as I am (and there's no saving for the
>> employer as the softphone licence costs more than my SIM) I'd like that respected.
>>

Have they suggested that everyone will go over no opts, is the current way of working being switched off?
 Softphones - No FM2R
>> my hospitality in being flexible about homeworking to start with is being abused.

100%. You are now subsidising your employer and that is unacceptable.

I simply would not accept it without compensation in some form. And I mean the current situation, not the added abuse of Softphone.

I recommend strongly that you have a formal agreement with your employer about home working and associated expenses / implications. Electricity, space, broadband costs and anything else relevant.

You should factor in whether you find it an advantage or a disadvantage and whether or not you wish to do it. Your employer may not factor in your saved commuting costs unless he already pays for them, which would be a tax issue anyway.

Whatever agreement you make, it should be documented. I would have advised you a year ago that you had made a documented and limited offer to work from home during the apocalypse. I certainly recommend you do so now.

The agreement should be such that the Softphones, and whatever other garbage comes down the line, is allowed for and it should be equitable.

Do not ever subsidise your employer.

>>I suspect bean counters are driving this issue.

That, or a fairly stupid manager trying to be clever.

Last edited by: No FM2R on Wed 17 Mar 21 at 17:16
 Softphones - smokie
All very laudable but it won't fly.

I read on the Beeb a bit back that employers are starting to offer lower starting salaries to wfh employees.

I would ideally expect to be given the tools for the job and a contribution to (e.g.) internet costs but that won't always fly either. (Though it did suit me to not have a laptop and charger using up my desk space.) The company wanted us to use our own mobiles - again I preferred carrying one not two but I have one which can have two SIMS.

There is a already a modest tax allowance (£6ish a week) for working from home but I can't imagine any employer will make a substantial contribution to any costs other than providing essential equipment. Of course that may be different in a more traditional organisation where people expect allowances for this that and the other but I'd say it's pretty rare these days.

In the current situation many people would accept that it's not unreasonable to "swap" the convenience and lower cost etc of wfh for a small cost. Either that or find another job. Times aren't what they once were, and even employment tribunals tend to favour the employers more than they ever used to.
 Softphones - sooty123
I think the £6pw allowance was all the office/wfh people at our place have been offered. Although that's a case of claim it back from the tax man.

Although everyone is going to be given a laptop, regardless of what type of role and all the traditional PCs are being binned. Although you can just come into work as normal, with no problems.

I think the question of allowences for wfh came up, it was a we are thinking about it. Mind you the laptop role out is about a year behind schedule so no idea when it might be sorted.
 Softphones - smokie
No prob if you'd sooner not say Sooty, but what kind of company do you work for?
 Softphones - sooty123
>> No prob if you'd sooner not say Sooty, but what kind of company do you
>> work for?
>>
The government.
 Softphones - Bromptonaut
>> I think the £6pw allowance was all the office/wfh people at our place have been
>> offered. Although that's a case of claim it back from the tax man.

The £6/week allowance is what the employer can pay you for the expenses of working at home. It's a bit like mileage at 45p/mile or whatever it is now. They can pay you that without having to get involved in documenting the real costs.

We've been offered that but if I'm honest I've no extra costs.

We're both retired from our original career occupations but both doing other stuff. At least one of us would be at home so heating on. Broadband for surfing, streaming etc is on all the time whatever.

Working for a charity means £6/week paid to me ultimately coming from a front line to which I'm wholeheartedly committed.

It was suggested we claim from HMRC. In that case you get back the tax on £6; £1.20/week. That's not available to non taxpayers. Even the volunteer who, as a retired Headmaster, pays 40% tax would only get £2.40. Non taxpayers get diddly.
 Softphones - Bromptonaut
>> All very laudable but it won't fly.

You're right but with an 'Up to a Point Lord Copper' sort of reservation.

Clearly as an employee on 115% of National Living Wage I'm not in the same position as NoFM might be as a 'company doctor' who'd clear my annual earnings in a fortnight.

I can though adapt what he says for my situation (mutatis mutandis as my lawyer friends would say) and use what influence I have, or even push my luck and see how far I get.




Last edited by: Bromptonaut on Wed 17 Mar 21 at 21:41
 Softphones - No FM2R
>>>> All very laudable but it won't fly.

Of course it will. An equitable agreement needs to be reached, which reflect both bargaining power and strength of desire, and then it needs to be documented.

How else could it work?

>>I can though adapt what he says for my situation (mutatis mutandis as my lawyer friends would say) and use what influence I have, or even push my luck and see how far I get.

I had to Google the latin bit, predictably. Other than that I'd say you were spot on.

The obvious advice, which I am well aware is teaching you to suck eggs, know what you wish to achieve, know what you are prepared to accept, know what (if anything) you will die in the ditch for, understand your own value particularly with a view towards supply and demand, and walk in openly and clearly.

Just document the final agreed position, even if just in an e-mail, just to stop scope-creep or "misunderstanding" in the future.
 Softphones - Manatee
>>It's now suggested that they will be mandated

At some point they will wake up to the fact that they need a fall back and that some people they need on the grid can't comply. Might as well be you that wakes them up.

Dedicated 4G broadband with router? Will they pay the rent for it?
 Softphones - Falkirk Bairn
A son faced similar issues not with BB speed but Apple issues.

He has fibre, a good phone signal BUT his home computer is an I-mac.

He made the employer aware - laptop & 27" screen ordered by employer and delivered to his home - installed & now working.

The cost of internal changes & processes needed to allow access from an Apple was more than the cost of a laptop & screen. Employer is Australian so phone call cost was a big factor,
Last edited by: Falkirk Bairn on Wed 17 Mar 21 at 13:52
 Softphones - No FM2R
As Smokie says, it should have no material impact on the other usage of your broadband connection.

However, it will rely on the availability of your connection and that not only seems unfair but also fraught with potential problems.

What happens if your internet is down? Or you want to take it down because you're decorating or rearranging? Or your changing your router? Or any of a million other things. It seems unfair and potentially unworkable that you should take responsibility for your own IT presence.

What happens if you want to lend your PC, or someone else is using it, or you forget it somewhere? etc. etc.

Was it me I would flat out refuse unless they put their laptop in my house and they took responsibility for the reliability of my broadband connection.

Ultimately though it's how much you want to fight it or refuse it. I'd be b***** minded about it, but I quite understand that you may prefer not to be.

As for what it actually is, think using Skype, with or without video.
 Softphones - Bromptonaut
>> Was it me I would flat out refuse unless they put their laptop in my
>> house and they took responsibility for the reliability of my broadband connection.
>>
>> Ultimately though it's how much you want to fight it or refuse it. I'd be
>> b***** minded about it, but I quite understand that you may prefer not to be.

I think that's the nub of it. When the pandemic hit last year staff bent over backwards to keep the service afloat. That meant people using their own IT/Broadband and, in a lot of cases mobiles, based on goodwill. It's now lasted a year and become semi-permanent.

When I worked at home while a Civil Servant I had an encrypted laptop and connected to the office via what I assume was a VPN. It felt just like I was in the office. No local drive, everything straight to the server. Shared documents on the G drive personal stuff on H. Now I'm just working on websites, all https secure but not a VPN.

Actually, now I think about it I'm wondering if my own managers have got the wrong end of a stick. Moving at least a few hundred people from a model based on calls routing from a central number to mobiles to one where they route to a softphone number is a major IT migration. The mobile numbers cannot be re-used as softphone numbers, or not easily. As mine belongs to me, albeit they pay the SIM only bill, it's not going anywhere.

That involves significant updates to the call handling package - every call handler's number will have to be changed so that they can accept calls.

New call handling tools require training. If it were a 'big bang' change in an office, like when the Quango went from Windows NT to XP, we'd have floorwalkers to help folks who struggled. None of us are in offices we're all at home.

Because of the structure of a national organisation that is actually a federation of local outfits we don't all work for one employer.

No way it's possible in the timescale predicated.


>> As for what it actually is, think using Skype, with or without video.

That's pretty alarming.

 Softphones - Zero
>> No way it's possible in the timescale predicated.

Its actually quite a trivial migration technically and management wise, lots of tools exist for VOIP management and migration, which is why its cost effective. And as for the user, what's different to pressing the green button on your phone to pressing the green button on the screen with your mouse.

what will change is the fact the mobile gives you - well - mobility, you can answer calls while making a brew, or having a poo. if it were me I would get myself a Skype mobile handset and link it to my PC.

If you dont want to do it, just tell them your home internet is not reliable or resilient enough. They cant argue its not nor can they expect you to upgrade at whatever cost to yourself.

Phone up citizens advice, what do they tell you your rights are. ;)
Last edited by: Zero on Thu 18 Mar 21 at 11:09
 Softphones - Bromptonaut
>> Its actually quite a trivial migration technically and management wise, lots of tools exist for
>> VOIP management and migration, which is why its cost effective. And as for the user,
>> what's different to pressing the green button on your phone to pressing the green button
>> on the screen with your mouse.

It would be trivial in a large organisation - like the Ministry.

Less so in a small outfit that is actually a federation. Our telephony contractor is ours alone - offices in neighbouring towns with a different local set up have their own thing.

I'm fairly IT savvy as a user and I don't know how many hours I've spent in the last quarter century helping colleagues come to terms with stuff like pressing the green button with your mouse.

Had a couple of emails with our Head of Business Support who says whether I'm obliged to use one from 01-04 as implied previously is a conversation to have with my line manager. He is on leave until Monday. Apparently softphones are 'a funder requirement'. I've asked what authority my employer, never mind the funder have over my bandwidth; so far as I'm concerned my connection, my rules.

I'll happily settle for a 3 or 4G router and the laptop I should have had a year ago; the signal from the Three mast 200 yards away is brilliant.

Last edited by: Bromptonaut on Thu 18 Mar 21 at 18:13
 Softphones - Pezzer
We have a system such as this (although I very rarely use it now due to Zoom etc) and it is possible to configure it to re-route to your mobile. Once configured I would assume this would not be dependant on your home internet connection.

 Softphones - Bromptonaut
>> We have a system such as this (although I very rarely use it now due
>> to Zoom etc) and it is possible to configure it to re-route to your mobile.
>> Once configured I would assume this would not be dependant on your home internet connection.

That's more or less what we have now. The caller rings the advertised number, the call handling package identifies the agent who has been idle longest and routes the call to their number. Usually a mobile but in the office it's a 'landline' number.
Last edited by: Bromptonaut on Thu 18 Mar 21 at 10:51
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