Broadband: Google’s common questions answered

Broadband: Google’s common questions answered

Broadband is an essential service that has become part of everyday home and business life. It’s easy to forget that around 20 years ago few people had access to the internet, as it is embedded in so much of what we do. The arrival of Broadband changed how we communicate with each other and has improved how small businesses operate.

But where did Broadband come from? And have you got the best Broadband service for your business?  These are frequent questions asked of Google that we’ve got the answers for along with some others.

When was Broadband invented?

The internet was first introduced in the 90s through dial-up. This connection literally dialled in to a phone-line connection to allow users to access the internet and offered best speeds of up to 56Kbps. (As a comparison, our Fibre Broadband offers speeds of up to 76Mbps which is 76000Mbps[1]. More on speed measurement below). Internet users could mainly only access text with this type of connection or had to wait hours for a download. Dial up also meant you had to choose between using your phone line and the internet.

Broadband was introduced in 2000 and not only allowed one line to be split into a phone line and internet service, it also gave a much faster connection which revolutionised the use of the internet. With current speeds of up to 17Mbps with ADSL[1], there’s no more waiting for downloads. Users can watch videos, listen to music, send emails and much more with ease.

How is Broadband speed measured?

Broadband speed is measured in Megabits per second (Mbps) which essentially is the rate at which data is transferred via download or upload. The more Mbps you have, the faster your internet.

Users usually measure their Broadband speed from a speed test website, though this isn’t always a true reflection of the speed reaching your premises. As a provider, we measure our customer’s network speeds directly from the router as it cuts out any interference that might cause you to lose speed. If the speed at the source(/router) is as expected, it’s likely to be the environment that is affecting your speed. (See ‘Why does broadband speed fluctuate’ for ways to fix this.)

What Broadband do I need?

There are two main types of Broadband that are available from most providers: ADSL and Fibre.

ADSL Broadband runs through copper wires on the existing Openreach network. As most homes and businesses are already connected to this network it is a popular service as it is easy to switch to. This service is suitable for customers looking to use the internet for activities such as general browsing, using social media, file downloading and sending emails.

Fibre Broadband runs through the fibre optic cables that were installed in the 1980s. Our Fibre service also runs off the Openreach network. As these are newer cables, they can offer a faster connection with download speeds of up to 76Mbps. If your business relies on Broadband every day or if you’re looking to do things such as upload high-resolution photos and stream HD videos, Fibre could be the best choice for you – especially if your customers are using your WiFi too.

kinex offers Unlimited packages for both ADSL and Fibre Broadband packages.[2.]

Are Broadband and WiFi the same thing?

In a word, no.

Broadband is the connection from the socket to the network which allows you to connect to the internet. You can use Broadband directly to connect to one static computer if you wish.

Wifi is the next stage of the connection, taking it from the socket to a device or multiple devices via a router. A WiFi network uses radio waves to transmit and receive information across a network in the same way mobile phones, televisions and radios do.

Why does Broadband speed fluctuate?

With most Broadband connections, the speed you receive at the socket should be fairly static and you shouldn’t notice any difference.

If you feel that your Broadband speed is fluctuating, it is more likely to be due to your WiFi service and the environment.

Things that can affect WiFi signal include:

Physical environment – Your WiFi signal may struggle to get through physical barriers, especially through materials such as concrete and metal which your internal walls are likely to be made from. The more obstructions that your signal has to pass through will make it weaker.

Router position – The general rule is that the higher up you can place your router, the better. This prevents the radio waves from being blocked by the floor. If you have your router far away from your devices this can also weaken the signal.

Other networks and electronics – Other Wifi networks (such as your neighbours’) can cause interference with your own along with other devices including baby monitors, speakers and microwaves. To combat this, you might want to upgrade to a dual-band router.

Number of devices – The more devices you have connected to a network, the more bandwith they use. Are there any devices that do not need to be on the WiFi that you could turn off?

So, think carefully about the position of your router, whether you’ve got the right router for you and whether all those devices need to be using the WiFi. A few simple changes could make all the difference.

Can I get Broadband without a landline?

You can use your mobile data as Broadband which is known as 4G Broadband. There are devices available that pick up your 4G signal and distribute it as a WiFi network.

This is not as reliable as a fixed line as the signal has to get through your building to your 4G mobile router to get to the end user. Whilst this does give you the flexibility of having broadband without having a landline or paying line rental, it can work out as much more expensive.

Will Broadband work without a microfilter?

If your master socket has two sockets, you do not need a microfilter at all as you have one socket for your Broadband signal and one for your voice signal.

If your master socket only has one socket, your Broadband service will work without a microfilter, but it has its drawbacks. A microfilter is needed so that you can use your Phone Line and Broadband service at the same time. The microfilter splits any telephone calls from the data signal for the Broadband so there’s no interference. If your microfilter wears out, you can use Broadband directly from the socket but this does mean you’ll have to sacrifice your phone line in most cases.

What is Fibre?

Fibre is an alternative Broadband service available from most suppliers (including us!) which offers faster speeds because it is built on fibre optic cables rather than copper wires used by traditional ADSL Broadband. Our Fibre service can offer download speeds of up to 76Mbps rather than 17Mbps from ADSL.[1]

Though Fibre is often used by large businesses, Fibre can also be beneficial for the small business owner who relies on the internet to operate many devices such as a PDQ machine, computer, alarm systems and CCTV cameras.

Where will I find my Wifi credentials?

The WiFi name and password will usually be found on the base of your router. You’ll also tend to get a credit card shaped card in with your pack – keep this safe!

In most cases you will see the following terminology:

SSID: This is the name of your WiFi network.

Passkey/Password: Is the password you and your colleagues will need to join the network.

 

Looking to switch to Broadband provider who knows their stuff? Get in touch today.

 

 

The legal stuff

[1] Based on 10% of our customers on the network achieving this speed or faster. The actual speed you will receive is subject to line distance from the principal connection point to your premises and line quality. Speeds vary significantly by location. External factors e.g. internet congestion and premises wiring also significantly affect speed. Fibre is subject to exchange availability.

[2] kinex operates a fair usage policy for its Unlimited Broadband and Absolute Fibre. You will incur no additional charge or suspension of service as a consequence of exceeding any usage threshold. If kinex believe that your use of the service is adversely affecting the network (or any part of it) or other customers, then kinex may moderately regulate your usage.

 

World Water Week – What’s your Water Footprint?

World Water Week – What’s your Water Footprint?

World Water Week is an annual event run by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) that is dedicated to transforming global water challenges. It’s taking place this year from 27th-30th August.

Speakers and attendees come together from all over the world for a programme of seminars, sessions, exhibitions and press conferences. Seminars this year will cover a broad range of water-related topics from ‘Working towards being water positive’ as presented by IKEA to ‘Driving water transformation through the power of diversity and inclusion’ by Xylem to ‘Is asparagus to blame? A value chain review’ by Alliance for Water Stewardship (just a couple of our favourites). With a strapline of ‘It is more than a moment. It is a movement…’ the event organisers believe that water is key to future prosperity and that together we can achieve a water wise world. 

For those people (like us) who can’t make it to Stockholm, we thought we’d take a closer look at one of the key themes that is up for discussion – water usage in food production.

There’s lots of advice out there on how to reduce your water usage at home and in your business – see save water, save money in your business as an example. But there is less focus on the water usage that occurs every day just through our food choices.

31 World Water Week 2019 sessions are dedicated to agriculture, which is accountable for 70% of freshwater withdrawals. This focus comes as food habits across the world are becoming more water intensive, with large parts of the world eating more meat and cheese that need lots of water for their production.

What’s your Water Footprint?

SIWI feel that the first step in changing these trends is to raise awareness through the concept of water footprints. A water footprint measures the amount of water used to produce each of the goods or services we use as a consumer or that we provide as businesses.

Most people think about how much water they use from the tap. This is roughly 140 litres a day after drinking, washing, taking a shower, etc. You might be surprised to learn though that a single person’s water footprint could be as much as 5000 litres a day. This usage looks at invisible water – the water that is used to produce our food and everyday items such as clothing.

Alan Shapiro explains this in a bit more detail in his Ted Talk below:

You can calculate your water footprint – both personal and business – on the Water Footprint Network here.

Water in the supply chain

Invisible water used in the supply chain makes up the majority of our individual water footprints. In a comparison from the Water Footprint Network, beef uses 15415 litres of water to produce, eggs use 3265 whereas vegetables only use 322!

Water usage also accounts for the water that is discharged and often pollutes freshwater supplies, which is often the case in the making of clothes.

So how is asparagus to blame when vegetables are less water intensive to produce? The World Water Week talk will look at the water consumption the increasing agriculture in Peru is using to allow them to export the vegetable to the European market. On average, vegetables use a lot less water to produce than meat, though not all of them – for example a single almond takes the equivalent of two toilet flushes to grow according to Alan Shapiro. They are also most commonly grown in California which often suffers from drought! The journey that food has to make before it ends up on our plate can also have a negative impact on the environment, and a drain on water.

Where to start when reducing your business water footprint

The food and drink federation is keen to promote water efficiency in its industry, highlighting: ‘All of us, whether at home or in the workplace, share a responsibility to use water efficiently and with due regard to the needs of others with whom we share this planet.’ in its ‘Every Last Drop – Why water matters’ campaign.

This forms part of its initiative Ambition 2025 and aims to promote careful management of water usage to ensure the long-term sustainability of the food and drink manufacturing sector.

Its key advice, which can be applied to any industry, is:

  • Reduce the impact of water use along the supply chain – consider the water usage outside of your own business. How can you work with both suppliers and customers to encourage continuous improvement in their use of water?
  • Manage water in your operations – introduce steps to reduce water in your business. Why not try putting up our water efficiency poster in your business as a starting point?
  • Make water a boardroom priority – even if your ‘boardroom’ is just you! Consider how dependent your business and supply chain are on water and make plans to improve your business resilience.
  • What every individual can do to save water – saving water at home is just as important as saving water in the workplace. Remember the motto: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle at all times.

Download the full guide here to see how you can apply their tips and advice to your business.

Other ways to reduce your water footprint

  • Cut down your meat consumption – by making small changes to your eating habits you could save huge amounts of water. Alan Shapiro discovered that if he cut his meat eating habits down from once a day to once every two days he could cut his water footprint almost in half. Why not try Meat Free Monday to start with?
  • Consider eating more locally sourced foods – take a closer look at the labels on your food next time you do a shop, or why not try a local fruit and veg market instead? The smaller the journey the food has had to make, the better. (And it’s likely they’ll use a lot less plastic packaging too which is always a good thing!)
  • Become a Water Steward – the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) see businesses as key in supporting the sustainability of water and have developed a ‘water stewardship’ programme to help. Large corporations such as Coca-Cola have signed up, but there’s no reason why you can’t implement the good practice and lead the way for small businesses. Find out more about the framework here.

The consequences

According to WWF ‘practically all businesses depend on water – and they can no longer take this crucial resource for granted.’ By continuing to use water at the rate that we are today combined with climate change, the future of all businesses could be at risk. According to the Water Footprint Network:

“Until now, water has been treated as a free raw material. Today, companies are starting to realise that mismanagement of water can damage their brand, their credibility, their credit rating and their insurance costs.

Unless you know how much water you are using – and how much is available in the river basins in which you and your suppliers operate – it is impossible to know whether you are using it sustainably or whether your business could face water-related business risk.”

Not to mention the effect that running out of water could have on our everyday lives…http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PORXWiyQaNw

The risks of Under-Insurance

The risks of Under-insurance

Having the right insurance cover for your business is key (and something Unicom can you help you with thanks to our sister company The Insurance Octopus1). Something that many business owners do not realise is that it’s not just about having the right cover; having the right amount of cover is also vital. Failing to do so is called under-insurance and it is happening all too often.  

What is under-insurance? 

Under-insurance essentially means your policy does not have the correct amount of cover that’s needed. This can occur with both Home and Business Insurance.   

There are 3 common areas of under-insurance when it comes to businesses: 

Building and contents – As a business owner, your building is likely to be one of your most valuable assetsalong with your stock and contents. It can be difficult to estimate what it costs to rebuild a property, and many make the mistake of using the market value figure rather than the cost of a complete rebuild or replacement of your building, stock and contents.  

Business interruption – How long could you survive if your business was unable to operate? A scary thought, but the right cover can ensure you’re protected against loss of your gross income. An independent insurance broker like The Insurance Octopus can help you ensure you’re calculating the correct amount of gross income as insurers can have different definitions for this 

Liability  If something was to go wrong, there’s a chance you could have multiple claimants. The correct amount of Employers’, Public & Products Liability insurance will prepare you for this eventuality.  

Consequences of under-insurance  

Having insufficient insurance cover means that any claim will be insufficiently covered, so you may need to cover the damages yourself.  

One of the specialist panel of insurers for The Insurance Octopus, Aviva, has an interesting case study which helps put this into perspective: 

A hairdresser was carrying more stock than they had told their insurer they had. The figure they had provided was used to calculate the insurance cover. So when the business suffered a theft of more than £1,900 worth of stock, the owner found that the claim was covered but was based on an ‘average clause’ – i.e. it was paid based on the percentage of cover that was taken out rather than what the cover should have been. This left the owner underinsured by £900 and needing to find that money elsewhere.2 

Take a look at some more examples of under-insurance here. 

As per the Insurance Act 2015, if your insurer considers the misrepresentation a deliberate and reckless breach they could declare the policy void altogether – leaving you with nothing.  

Are you at risk of under-insurance? 

Getting your numbers right when you buy your insurance policy is key in protecting yourself against under-insurance. (You might want to think about using a professional valuation services to help.) 

Even if you felt confident in your sums at the time of taking your policy out, your business could be at risk of under-insurance for numerous reasons. Aviva have put together 10 different situations2 that could mean you are under-insured: 

  1. You haven’t had your building professionally valued for insurance purposes in the last three years. 
  2. You have altered or extended the property. 
  3. Your insurance cover has been based on the market value of the building when it should be based on what it could cost to rebuild your property. 
  4. You haven’t factored in costs for gates, fences or car parking areas in your calculations. 
  5. Your property is a listed building – the time and cost of repairs/rebuilds are likely to be far greater than for an unlisted building, impacting your business interruption cover. 
  6. You haven’t factored in the costs of professional fees such as an architect or surveyor. 
  7. You haven’t factored in costs such as site clearance or access – particularly where your business might need, for example, a crane or heavy plant to help with remedial work as a result of a claim. This could also add time that needs to be taken into account for your business interruption cover. 
  8. You are carrying more stock now than when you took out your insurance policy.  
  9. You are now VAT registered.  
  10. You have some new plant or equipment that you haven’t told your broker/insurer about. This could impact both the machinery cover you have and the business interruption you need – depending on how long it would take to source a replacement, if necessary. 

How to avoid under-insurance 

If you meet one of the above criteria then it’s time to review your Business Insurance policy, and our sister company The Insurance Octopus is here to help. The Insurance Octopus is an independent insurance broker dedicated to sourcing you the best deals on the market for tailored business cover and perfectly placed to help you avoid under-insurance. 

It has also put together some helpful guides on how to calculate your buildingsbusiness interruption and stock and contents cover.  

For bespoke advice for your business, get in touch on 0161 933 6570 today so one of the experts can assess your current insurance needs.  

 

 

The legal stuff 

1The Insurance Octopus is a trading name of TBO Services Limited registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 06489013. Registered office: Longley House, Longley Lane, Manchester, M22 4SY. TBO Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority Reference 498555. Verastar Limited t/a Unicom, registered number 3667643 and registered office Longley House, Longley Lane, Manchester, M22 4SY. Unicom and The Insurance Octopus are both trading names of companies in the Verastar Limited group. 

2Source: https://broker.aviva.co.uk/documents/view/commercialunderinsurance.pdf  

The Unicom guide to meter reads

The Unicom guide to meter reads

We understand that when running a business, you already have 101 things to think about (it’s one of the reasons we created our unique one bill solution) so we realise that reading your utility meters is likely to be low down on your ‘To-Do’ list.  

However, this simple task, which only takes a few minutes, is vital to make sure you receive accurate bills for your usage so you can manage cashflow. Whether, you have Business WaterGas, or Green Electricity we have put together a quick and easy guide that will help you with those all important meter reads.  

Why should I read my meter? 

We need meter reads to accurately bill you for your Unicom Utilities. When we receive your meter read, we use this to calculate your usage for the month. (You can check this out in more detail in our Understanding your One Bill blog.) 

If we don’t have your meter readings we’ll estimate your usage. This can sometimes mean that you may end up paying too much or too little. 

So, the more meter reads you provide, the more confident you can be that your bills are accurate. We highly recommend that you submit reads to us on the last working day of every month.  

The good news is, that whenever you submit an accurate meter read your invoice will be amended accordingly in the next billing cycle, so you will always end up paying for the services you’ve used! 

How do I read my meter? 

Meter reads…as easy as A, B, C.  

Business meters are no different to household meters and are just as simple to read. Whilst there are a variety of meter types available, the golden rule to remember is: we don’t need any numbers in red or after a decimal place. 

We’ve put below a guide for the different meter types and how you can read them.  

Electricity Meters

Electricity meters come in various models, and we’ve got a guide on them all to help you provide us with your Business Electricity usage.  

 

Digital – No button  

This is the easiest meter to read, all you need to do is read the numbers on the display before the decimal point from left to right. Nice and simple. 

For example, the meter read above is 122. 

 

Digital – With button 

Digital meters with buttons can vary. Again, once the meter read is displayed you’ll be reading it from left to right.  

 

  • Ampy: press the blue button to display the readings. These are the last 6 digits on the right! 

The meter reading here is 302711. 

  • Elster: press the orange button on right hand side to cycle through the display and keep pressing the button until you’ve read all of the display. 

The meter read above is 453988. 

  • Calmu (black meter): press the yellow button to cycle through the display, the left screen shows the reading information we need. 

The reading is: 655432. 

  • PRI Sprint Meters: Press the turquoise blue button on right hand side to display read. 

The reading is: 453988.

 

Handy hint: If your digital electric meter has two readings, these are read in the same way from left to right and ignoring any numbers after the decimal point or in red. We will need both to calculate your usage. 

 

Mechanical dials 

  1. Mechanical dials are read from left to right. The numbers underneath the dials represent their place value. So always start the read with the highest number underneath the dial and work all the way down to the lowest.  
  2. Any dials in red should be ignored.  
  3. Please be aware that some dials move in a clockwise direction and others anti-clockwise. 
  4. If the pointer is between two figures, always read the lowest of the 2 numbers. For example, if the pointer is between 4 and 5, the number you read is 4 (because your usage hasn’t reached 5 yet!) 
  5. When the pointer is directly on a number, for example 8, pay attention to the next dial to the right. If that dial on the right is between 9 and 0, you read 7 for the initial dial. If the dial on the right is between 0 and 1, you read 8 for the initial dial. 

Let’s look at some examples: 

  • 5 Dial clock meters –  

Meter read with last digit showing 1/10 – Ignore dial with 1/10 that is usually in red. 

Digit showing 0.1 – Ignore dial with 0.1 that is usually in red. 

Meter read is: 94694. 

  • 6 Dial clock meters –  

These work in exactly the same way as the above, just with an extra place value. Start your reading from the highest number above the dial and work your way towards the lowest.

Meter read is: 113489.

 

Mechanical Cyclonical Dials 

To read these meters you simply write down the figures that are displayed starting from left to right. The digits for your reading will be in the black boxes and separated by the decimal and red box. 

Here’s a 5-dial example: 

Meter read is: 7712. 

And a 6-dial example: 

Meter read is: 13426.

Gas Meter

The way to read a gas meter is similar to electric. They are all easy and quick to read! 

 

Digital 

Digital gas meters are either imperial or metric.  

  • Imperial – An Imperial gas meters has four main numbers. To read it, you should start off by reading the first four digits from left to right and don’t include any numbers in red.  

Meter read is: 7712. 

  • Metric – A metric gas meter has five numbers. To read it, you should take note of the first five numbers from left to right and don’t include anything after a space or decimal point. 

Meter read is: 18024 

Handy hint: If your digital gas meter has two readings, these are read in the same way from left to right and ignoring any numbers after the decimal point or in red. We will need both to calculate your usage.  

 

Dial gas meters 

When taking a dial gas meter reading, there are a few rules to remember to make it easier for you: 

  1. Ignore any red dials, ones marked ‘100 per rev’ and large dials  
  2. Start off by taking the reading from left to right 
  3. In the case that the pointer is between two figures, remember to take the lower number. If it’s between 9 and 0, record 9. If the pointer is directly on a number, check the next dial to the right. If that dial reads 8 or 9, then lower the reading for the dial on its left by one.  

Meter read is: 0140 

 

Cyclonic gas meters 

To read these meters you simply note down the figures that are displayed in the black box and don’t take the readings in the red box. 

Meter read is: 231. 

Water Meters

Your water meter is a little different to your electric and gas meters, the dial still records your current usage so taking your meter reading for water is important. 

Analogue 

If your meter is an older style, you’ll have black digits on the left and red on the right. For your meter reading, you only need to take note of the black numbers. Start reading the numbers in black from left to right as they show the number of cubic metres used. (Whereas the numbers in red only show the litres used.) 

Meter read is: 13. 

 

AMR 

Automated Meter Reading (AMR) meters have inbuilt technology to collect data from the meter and provide it directly to us so you don’t have to. But, you can use the data to monitor consumption and make savings. 

Meter read is: 22. 

Keeping an eye on your meter readings can help you monitor your usage. By regularly providing us with meter reads, you will always have an accurate bill which can help with your business cashflow. The easiest way to give us your meter reads is through your Customer Zone (try to do this by the last working day of each month). You can also send us an email to info@switchingon.com with your meter read or call our customer services team on 0161 946 4444. 

Unicom Mobile: brand-new and especially for you

As a small business specialist, Unicom understands that increasingly busy business owners are no longer confined to the traditional office environment. You’re out and about, being able to take your business with you wherever you go 

In light of this, we’ve looked at our Mobile service to see what more we could offer to our existing customers. The result is a brand-new offer launching 2nd July 2019. Unicom Mobiles are exclusively available to existing customers and now come with all of these benefits: 

Unlimited texts and calls 

All Mobile contracts now come with unlimited texts and calls as standard1 so you can keep in touch with your customers, suppliers and colleagues whilst on the go.  

Flexibility on paying for your handset 

We know that effective cashflow management is vital in your business, it’s one of the reasons why we created our One Bill solution (more on that below) and why we have created our new handset payment plans. 

You can choose to: 

  • Spread the cost of your new handset across the 24 months of your contract. 
  • Pay an upfront cost then pay the remainder in monthly payments. 
  • Pay for the handset upfront and benefit from a 10% discount. 

Robust network coverage 

The Mobile network we use is one of the best in the country. To see for yourself, put our Coverage Checker to the test. 

Keep your existing number 

Worried about losing your existing number? No need to be. Simply ask your current provider for a PAC and we’ll be able to port across your number.  

Call divert from your Unicom landline to your Mobile 

Just one of the benefits of having your Fixed Line and Mobile service from the same provider is our call divert service which allows you to divert callsinto your landline to your Mobile. Never miss a call again! 

Streamline another service onto your One Bill solution 

By streamlining another service onto your One Bill solution you’ll have one less provider to deal with, one less bill to manage and more time to focus on your business.  

One point of contact 

Not only will you have One Bill for your services, you’ll have one point of contact too. Should you need anything, our UK-based customer service team is on-hand Monday-Friday 9am-6pm. For anything outside of these hours, you can log on to your exclusive online portal Customer Zone.  

 

To find out more information about Unicom Mobile and see our great range of handsets visit our product page here. Or, if you’d like to speak to one of our friendly advisors about switching to Unicom Mobile call us today on 0161 465 6696.

 

1Restricted to a maximum of 99 distinct numbers, beyond this usage will be charged at the applicable out of bundle cost. 

2Monthly charge of £2.99 for call diversion. Call charges apply to diverted calls at the applicable out of bundle cost.  

Save water, save money in your business

Save water, save money in your business

Summer is almost here and with the rise in temperatures there is a risk that your water usage may also rise. Looking at how your business can save water during the summer months and continuing the good practice all year long is not only environmentally friendly – it will also save your business money. Unsure of where to start? As a leading Business Water provider, Unicom is here to help. We’ve put together some simple ways to get you started to save water and save money for your business.

Install water-efficient equipment

Your business might be much more water-intensive than you think. By installing water-efficient equipment you can minimise the amount of water your business uses every day. Take your taps as a starting point, you can purchase lever or mixer taps that will easily reach your desired temperature without wasting a drop. You could also invest in tap aerators which mix water with air to significantly reduce the amount of water used by as much as 50%.

Another place to consider is your toilet. For example, dual-flush toilets which offer a choice of how much water is used are crucial to decrease water consumption. Urinals can use a lot of water depending on how many times a day they’re being flushed. If your business is open 40 hours a week, up to 75% of the flushing happens when there’s no one there. You could save up to 60% of your business water charges by fitting urinal controls and avoiding out-of-hours flushing.

Review your water usage

When was the last time you reviewed your water usage? As a busy business owner, chances are you simply do not have the time. That’s where a water audit can come in handy. A third-party can carry out an analysis of your water usage and suggest areas where efficiencies (and savings) could be made. It’s also great for spotting any unknown leaks.

Water audits may not be suitable for every business, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t carry out your own review. A handy DIY check is to put a few drops of food colouring or even a dye tablet into your toilet tank. Then keep a look out for any colour in the bowl as this is a sign that your tank could be wasting up to 100 gallons of water a day. Remember to regularly check your taps for any drips. A dripping tap can waste up to 90 litres of water every single week.

Utiilse more of your water

It’s time to get creative – rather than watching water (and your money) go down the drain, think of other ways you can utilise it. Waiting for the tap to warm up or cool down? Try collecting the water in the sink and then use it for cleaning, watering office plants or even try storing it in the fridge for drinking (ideal for the summer months!)

Think about investing in a water butt to collect rainwater that falls onto your roof so that you can use it to water your office garden, crops and plants or even for car washes.

Not the owner of the building? Discuss ideas with your landlord to see how you can work together towards your sustainability goals.

Promote your water efficiency plans

You can’t achieve this water saving mission alone, so you’ll need all your colleagues to be on board. Consider running water saving initiatives starting with a promotional launch communicating the benefits to the business and the environment of becoming more water efficient.

Unicom is also here to help as your water provider. Ensure that you send us regular meter reads so that we can bill you for your actual usage, rather than an estimate of your usage. You’ll be able to compare your water consumption month-on-month by logging on to your Customer Zone to access your previous invoices online, or referring to your paper copy if you receive one. Track the progress and keep everyone updated and involved.

You’ll need to make sure that your water savings plan is not only in place but that it is followed through with continual promotion.

Understanding your One Bill

Understanding your One Bill

Unicom is part of the Verastar Group which proudly services 10% of the UK’s small business market. We take pride in being a leading essential services supplier and the only provider in the UK that can offer Telecoms, Broadband, Mobile, Gas, Electric and Water services on our unique one bill solution.

It is our aim to help our customers make efficiencies wherever they can whilst running their business and give them the gift of time. We do this by providing our customers with one point of contact and up to six essential services all on one bill. This means our customers can spend less time on admin and more time of the important things – running the business. (It’s part of our ethos – You run the business, we keep it running.)

How does the one bill solution work? 

As part of the Verastar Group, Unicom is a multi-service provider. We have our own supply licenses for Gas, Electricity and Water, and continue to sustain a strong relationship with our wholesalers for Fixed Line Telecoms, Broadband and Mobile. That means we have greater control over our supply chain giving customers excellence in product, service and customer care.

All essential services that a Unicom customer has signed up to are consolidated onto our one bill solution. Regardless of how many services a customer takes, or sites they may have, our in-house created bespoke billing system connects all their services onto one account – providing Unicom customers with one monthly invoice which is the output of 1000s of processes!

Understanding the one bill 

Our one bill solution simplifies all your essential business services into a document that is easy to understand and, more importantly, easy to manage. We’ve put together a simple guide on how it works.

The first page of your invoice will always be the Account Summary.

Here you’ll find:

  • Customer Services: Should you need to contact us, our Customer Services team is available Monday-Friday 9am-6pm on 0161 465 6655. You can also contact us via email or request a call-back through your Customer Zone outside of these hours.
  • Your Customer ref no: This is your account number. Please make note of it as you will need it in the event you need to contact us to discuss your account.
  • Invoice No: This will be used to find the latest bill (if needed).
  • Your previous balance: These are charges from previous bills.
  • Payments received since last invoice: These are payments made by yourself from the last bill.
  • Your balance brought forward: This indicates any outstanding charges from the previous bill.

At the bottom of the account summary section, you’ll find:

  • This includes your total discount of: This will include any discounts (where applicable) that have been applied to your current bill.
  • VAT: This is the VAT added on your bill (where applicable).
  • Total charges for this period: The charges for this billing period.
  • Total to Pay: The accumulated amount from the total charges of this period and the balance brought forward (where applicable).

Depending on the service that we supply to your business, your bill will include a breakdown of different charges. Below is a short guide on how to understand your Unicom bill according to your essential service. Simply select your services from the dropdown to find out more.

Telecoms, Broadband and Mobile Services

The Telecoms services section contains your premises address and your telephone number. It will also include a subtotal along with the relevant VAT Rate.

We bill in arrears. This means customer’s line rental is charged monthly in advance. For new customers on your first bill, call charges will be shown part-month in arrears and line rental charges next month in advance. When you sign up for Customer Zone, you can see a full 12-month breakdown of invoices during your customer journey with us.

Broadband and Mobile charges are the same. Rental charges are always a month in advance and any call costs in arrears. New customers for these services should note that from your start date your first bill will include 2 months charges then normal monthly charges. This means that if you start half-way through the month, you will pay for a month and a half.

There are a range of different packages that you can take advantage of to make savings for your business including:

  • Anytime UK Landline bundle – Unlimited calls anytime to all numbers beginning 01, 02, and 03.
  • 500 Mobile minutes bundle – 500 minutes to all UK mobiles for your landline. Use the minutes anytime, day or night.
  • Unlimited Broadband Package – Unlimited Usage, no additional usage charge.
  • Absolute Fibre Package – Unlimited usage, inclusive router and postage, and Dynamic line management.

Fraud Defender

To help protect our customers, Unicom has developed a service to detect and prevent fraud. Fraud Defender is a fraud monitoring service designed to monitor fraudulent activity on your fixed lines. It works by detecting unusual call activities on all types of telephone lines. Having Fraud Defender on your lines helps protect you from fraudulent activity by minimising the risk of financial damage and liability.

But why is this important to you? The Telecommunications UK Fraud Forum have estimated that fraud is impacting UK businesses by about £1 billion a year and this number continues to expand. Unicom’s smart Fraud Defender alerts us when it detects unusual call activity. We then investigate the usage on your line, and if there is unusual activity your telephone services are suspended to prevent further fraud from happening.

For the first 2 months Fraud Defender is free of charge. On your bill, Fraud Defender appears under ‘Service Charges’ with a credit for the first 2 invoices. Following that, Fraud Defender is an additional service that is charged monthly. The charge includes all sites and all lines on your Unicom account rather than cover just a single line or service. You can access Customer Zone’s dashboard to monitor and analyse suspicious activity.

Here at Unicom, we strongly advise you to protect your business from fraudulent activity.

International Calls

For those customers with international business ties, Unicom offers the International Landline Anytime pricing for international calls for both Landline and Mobile.

Mobile Services

Unicom offers a range of mobile handsets. From basic to smart phones, existing customers can choose a Business Mobile that suits your business needs.

All handsets can be used with our SIM cards. If your existing handset has been network locked, this means that only SIM cards from your previous provider can be used. In this case, you must ask your provider to unlock your mobile. If you want to keep the same number, you must request a PAC (Porting Authorising Code). Once you have this, Unicom can port your number over so you can carry on with business as usual.

Mobile Bill Limits

Ofcom, UK’s communication regulator, introduced a new Mobile Bill Limit as of the 1st October 2018. This is an agreed limit set by you (the customer) on the maximum amount, in addition to the core subscription price, that can be charged for mobile services. When the limit is reached, you can’t be charged more than the Mobile Bill limit agreed.

Ofcom has stated that providers are not required to offer a bill limit to customers who took out their mobile contract before 1st October 2018. However, if you do require a mobile bill limit, simply give us a call and we’d be happy to apply this for you.

Unicom offers an assortment of bundles that can suit your businesses talk, text, and data needs. So, if you are unsure about how much you will be using, an example of some of our bundles include;

  • 100 Minutes and 100 Texts
  • Unlimited Minutes and Texts + 1GB
  • Bundles of 1GB, 3GB, 10GB, and 30GB.

It’s worth noting that if you’re not on a data bundle and don’t want to use mobile data, you can turn off your apps on your phone as they can use data while running in the background. Connect to Wi-Fi where possible so you can browse and chat without using mobile data. For customers that may be going abroad outside of continental Europe, you should be aware that your mobile use won’t be covered by your bundle. Please refer to Unicom’s pricing schedule for more information.

Electricity and Gas services

Billing is done monthly, and we recommend that you submit monthly meter reads, to ensure that your invoices are accurate. We calculate your bill by using the previous month’s meter read which forms the start meter read of your next energy bill. If you do not supply us with a meter read, your bill will be estimated which may be higher than your actual usage. Once we receive an accurate meter read, we will more than happy to amend your invoice in the next billing cycle available. You can submit your meter reads through your easy-to-access Customer Zone.

In case of emergencies, provided on your statement is contact information for your local Electricity distributor. This includes their name, telephone number, and address. In case of an emergency, you can also dial 105 to get through to someone if you do not have this to hand.

Key terms you need to know when reading your energy bill:

  • ‘S’ Number: Your Supply Number, which is the ‘S’ symbol on your statement, indicates your supply profile as well as the Meter Point Administration Number (or MPAN).
  • Start/End Read: The start read will show the read taken at the beginning of the month, and the end will show the read at the end of the month. Some symbols you may see on your statement are:
  • C’: Indicates you have supplied us with a Customer read
  • E’: Indicates we have generated an Estimated read.
  • A’: Indicates we have gained an Actual read by visiting your meter.

For customers with Half Hourly meters, you will see the units used and an end date and will need to check your usage on Customer Zone. We will arrange to read all customer meters every 6-months but strongly encourage you to provide us with meter reads on a monthly basis if you can.

  • Units: The number of units used within a given period.
  • Standing charge: The standing charge is one per day for a total of the billing months calendar days.
  • CCL: This tax, known as the Climate Change Levy, is a tax on energy delivered to UK businesses charged by all suppliers, with the purpose to reduce carbon emission and increase energy efficiency. If you fall under the ‘De Minimis’ VAT threshold, there will be no CCL on the invoice. (More on ‘De Minimis’ below).
  • Rate: The agreed rate at the point of sale.

If you are a business that uses minimal Energy, it’s important you know about the ‘De minimis’ threshold as if your Energy usage is under 1000 kWh a month, you will be charged 5% VAT. Anything used above that amount and you will be charged at 20% VAT.

Gas Services

Similar information will be shown on your Gas Services, such as your supply address, charges from the monthly period, emergency contact number, and so on.

  • kWh: This is the number of kilowatt hours by the unit to show the Gas charge. This is calculated by your meter readings, correction factor, and calorific value.

Under ‘ How your Gas bill is calculated’, the units for the Calorific value, kWh, and Correction factor are used to calculate your bill.

Water services

Scotland water charges 

If you are based in Scotland, regardless of if your business property is vacant or not, you must pay a water, sewerage, and drainage charge. This is dependent as well on the type of property as you may only need to pay for drainage on certain properties (e.g. car park space).  

Rateable Value (RV) is set by the Scottish Assessors Associations (SAA) and used by the Central Marketing Agency for calculating drainage for your property when it is unmetered, and metered water is calculated by meter size. Sewerage, or waste, is calculated similarly as water. If you do not agree with your RV, you can ask the SAA for your RV to be reassessed, however, the value may increase or decrease. 

Your current Water bill may show two types of RV: historic and live. On 1st April 2017 the rateable value was updated. Following this update, the Scottish Government stated that charges were to be calculated using the most current rateable value from 1st April 2018 and was to be phased in over a three-year period. The Government expects that by 1st April 2020, that all water charges will be calculated using the most up-to-date rateable value. For this reason, your Water bill may show with ‘Historic RV’ and ‘Live RV’. For more information on Scotland Water charges for businesses visit here 

England water charges 

In England, Water charges are based on water usage plus a set charge if you’ve got a meter, and a set amount based on your property value set by the Valuation Office Agency. In some areas in England, water can also be calculated by meters squared. For more information on England Water charges for businesses please visit here. 

Depending on your region, you may be required to pay for water, sewerage and drainage regardless of if your business property is vacant or not.  

Other charges

Other charges 

There may be some charges that might occur outside of your normal services and may appear on your bill. These might consist of:

Card machine and security system charges

If your business uses card machines and/or security systems, you should be aware that both dial expensive numbers frequently throughout the day and night. These will cause call charges to accrue overtime which can be pricey. We recommend you ask your card and/or security supplier if they have a cheaper, alternative number for this purpose. If this doesn’t reduce the costs, you can add our Unlimited calls package which can be cheaper as we offer bundles to include external numbers. This does not include some call types such as Premium Rate numbers.

Line Restart

Sometimes a property may have no active Telecom lines. This is either because it is a brand-new property, the previous tenant transferred the numbers away, or a previous supplier may have ceased the line. The status of your property’s telephone line is important to know as our team can go through the necessary steps to investigate and help you.

Changing Addresses

If you plan on changing addresses, it is important to let us know your confirmed moving dates and exact details of the new address which should be registered with the Royal Mail. This information is helpful to us as it will allow us to plan a smooth transfer of your services. Moving can also have a cost because we would need to know if there is a working line at the new premises, if we would need to reconnect the line, or install a new one.

This information can be easily sent to us via your Customer Zone by filling out our moving premises tool. Our specialist Change of Address team will contact you to plan the transfer of your services after confirming the new details with you.

Itemised statements

Your bill will be part-itemised (for calls over 40p) for your convenience. However, we know some business owners are interested on having a full break down of their bill, so we can we can fully itemise your bill for a small charge (see our pricing schedule for full details).

With a fully itemised bill, you can view all the direct dials calls, date, time, etc. Normally Broadband is not itemised, unless you have a specific data-package or go over a certain data usage.

You can also see all this information through your exclusive Customer Zone account whenever and wherever you need it.

Late payment charges

Unicom aims to make payment quick and easy through our use of direct debit. However, if we are unable to collect a payment, late payment charges could apply to you. We will get in touch with you quickly to inform you of a missed payment, and we will provide you with a 7-day notice period. We will also send out SMS reminders, and a reminder letter in the post after 2 weeks. If there is an outstanding balance after 5 weeks, Administration charges may apply. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for further information.

Openreach engineer visits

Like most providers, Unicom uses the Openreach Network for our Telecoms and Broadband services. Openreach maintain Telecoms and Broadband lines in the UK. This means that they manage what connects your premises to the local phone exchange.

We can’t prevent faults from happening, but we can act fast to resolve them. Here at Unicom, we have a specialised team for technical faults. When there is a fault, our team will go through diagnostic checks to find the source of the fault. Some faults are easily fixable while others may require an Openreach engineer to visit the premises. Our team will go through the necessary steps and discuss any potential costs when booking an engineer visit.

It’s important to know that you are liable for the appointment charge if you miss any appointments. Engineer appointments are either morning or afternoon based.

Appointment times are:

  • Morning appointment: 8:00 to 13:00
  • Afternoon appointment: 13:00 to 18:00

Please note that the engineer can visit your premises between the hours stated above. That means the engineer can come at 10:00 on the dot, 10:12, or any time between the morning appointment times. It is important that you are at the premises until the engineer arrives.

On the back of your bill you will find information about our services, taking up further services, and contact numbers should you wish to discuss payments, closing or selling your business, or anything regarding your current services.

We know that by consolidating all your service and sites into one manageable statement gives you more time to look after the growth of your business. Our exclusive Unicom one bill solution aims to reduce the time you spend as a business owner performing admin tasks. Remember that your bill is easy to follow, understand, and can be found on your Customer Zone every month.

Top Tips to Troubleshoot your Business Broadband

Top Tips to Troubleshoot your Business Broadband

At Unicom, we aim to make our customers’ lives easier by providing everything you need to run your business, so you can concentrate on running your business. One of our most popular services is our Business Broadband where we offer speeds of up to 76 Mbps 1. We strive to provide a great service, though like any provider, we cannot prevent faults from occurring. We can, however, do our very best to help solve them as quickly as possible. If you experience any issues, as a starting point we’ve put together our Top 10 tips so you can troubleshoot your Business Broadband. 

 

  • Turn off your router: Double check your router is turned on. Sometimes restarting may fix the issue. Wait a minute then turn back on. It can take up to 5 minutes for everything to come back online. Do not turn your router on and off repetitively though, once or twice a month is the maximum we would recommend (to allow our Dynamic Line Management to find the best stable speed for your line). If you are having to reset on a daily basis, give us a call. Quick fix: Try turning your client devices (laptops, mobiles, etc) off and on again too. 
  • Check your cables: If they are disconnected, secure them and reconnect them. Check the lights on the router are on to ensure that the connections are being made. 
  • Wider area problems: First, go to the Openreach local network checker and put in your business postcode. You will be able to see if there are any issues in your area and when it will be fixed.  
  • Router position: Make sure your router is positioned in a location where the signal coverage will be the most effective, ideally in a central location. If your router is positioned close to windows it can make the signal weaker as the signal will be sent outside. Other items that could interfere with signal or weaken it are walls (especially thick concrete ones), doors, electrical equipment (i.e. microwaves), putting it inside cupboard or behind the tv.  Handy hint: If you’re at your desk for most of your day, why not plug your computer directly into your router to enjoy maximum speeds? 
  • Plug in: Try plugging your laptop or desktop directly into the router using a cable. If you can connect to the internet, you may be experiencing a wireless issue and we will need to look into your wireless settings. If not, you may have a router or line issue. 
  • Check if your landline phone is working: Plug the handset into the same socket your router is plugged into. Check there’s a dial tone and try to make a call. If the line is toneless, there may be a fault on the line which could be the origin of the broadband issues. 
  • Test the master socket: Your master socket is usually located at the point where the telephone lines enter your property. Test the socket by plugging a device (or even two) directly into the socket.  
  • Check the microfilter: If you use the same socket for both your Phone Line and Broadband services, your microfilter is the small white box plugged into your phone socketEnsure that the cables to the microfilter are connected properly. Also, if you’ve had the microfilter for a while, they tend to wear out so it might be time to get a new one.  
  • Look after your router: Similar to the microfilter, routers can suffer from wear-and-tear leading to connection issues. If you’ve had the router for a long time – it might be time to upgrade your equipment. (We can help you with this). 
  • Phone us: If you’re still experiencing issues and are unable to connect to the internet, give us a call and walk us through everything you’ve done. Our team will then be able to run some further diagnostic tests.  

 

The Legal Stuff 

1The fastest speed available on Unicom’s Absolute Fibre Broadband. Based on 10% of our customers on the network achieving this speed or faster. The actual speed you will receive is subject to line distance from the principal connection point to your premises and line quality. Speeds vary significantly by location. External factors e.g. internet congestion and premises wiring also significantly affect speed.  

Hosepipe ban announced in the North West

Hosepipe ban announced in the North West

UPDATE:

The work United Utilities has been doing to conserve water supplies and abstract water from other sources, combined with the help from customers in reducing their own usage, as well as the recent rainfall and slightly cooler temperatures means they are now in a position to call off the hosepipe ban planned for this weekend.

This decision has been taken in the context of the improved position in our water resources and not wanting to inconvenience customers for a moment longer than is necessary. However, the long range forecast from the Met Office is one of relatively dry weather into the autumn, so future restrictions are still a possibility if more rain doesn’t arrive and if there is a significant increase in demand.

They are continuing to step up our response with our leakage teams working 24 hours a day to find and repair as many leaks as possible. The operational teams are out and about much more than usual making interventions such as installing new pumping stations, pumping between reservoirs, bringing ground water sources into use and prioritising maintenance to help ensure supplies are not interrupted during this prolonged dry spell.

As you would expect, all water companies are working closely with the Environment Agency in monitoring the situation to ensure there is enough water in supply right across the region while balancing the needs of customers and the impact on water sources and the local environment. We are still urging customers to help by using water wisely where they can.


The UK is experiencing what is thought to be the longest heatwave since 1976.

Whilst many have been enjoying the high temperatures, the good weather has meant that we have had around half the amount of rainfall we’d expect to see between May and June, with dry conditions challenging water resources. A lack of rainfall to replenish the stocks and storage means that reservoir levels are low.  

As a result of this, United Utilities have announced a planned hosepipe ban for the North West – this will be in place from 8am on the 5th August 2018.

To help our customers get ready for the ban, Unicom have put together the key things you need to know.

What is a hosepipe ban?

A hosepipe ban allows water companies to temporarily restrict a range of water uses by customers during drought conditions.

Hosepipe bans primarily target domestic customers but also place restrictions on some non-essential use by business customers.

Who will be affected by the hosepipe ban?

The ban will apply to customers who get their water supply from United Utilities, with the exception of customers in Carlisle and the north Eden Valley where supplies remain at reasonable levels.  To see if your area is affected, please use the address checker: www.unitedutilities.com. 

Why is a hosepipe ban necessary? 

As we’ve already mentioned, the high temperatures and lack of rainfall mean that water is in short supply. So, how will a hosepipe ban help this situation?  

  • A hosepipe uses 540 litres an hour, as much as a family of four would use in one day. 
  • A sprinkler left running overnight uses as much water as a family of four would use in one week. 
  • A hosepipe ban can reduce water usage by 5-10 per cent (according to research by United Kingdom Water Industry Research). In the North West this would amount to over 100 million litres per day. 

The hosepipe ban will ensure everyone has water for their essential needs, like keeping hydrated and showering. 

How long will the ban last?  

The ban will need to be in place until there is significant rainfall and reservoir levels return to normal. Unfortunately, nobody can predict the weather but United Utilities will not have the ban in place any longer than is absolutely necessary.  

What does the ban mean for my business? 

As a business, you will be allowed to use a hosepipe if this is directly related to the use of water for your commercial purposes. There are restrictions on you using a hosepipe if not for those essential needs – so using a hosepipe to clean a path outside your business property, for example, would be covered by the ban. More specific examples can be found on United Utilities here 

What action will be taken if I do use a hosepipe? 

United Utilities have the ability to enforce the ban but are mainly asking for your support in saving water during this period of low resources. Failure to respect it could result in a £1,000 fine.  

What do I do if I think I’m exempt from the ban?  

If you think you should be exempt from the ban you need to either write to United Utilities at www.unitedutilities.com or phone them on 0800 107 8861. Any applications for exemptions must be received by 17:00 on 4th August 2018. 

Want to know more? 

For more information on the ban, how to save water and a full list of FAQs please visit www.unitedutilities.com 

Even as a business water customer outside of the United Utilities region, cutting down on your water usage during these high temperatures will be really beneficial to all water supplies. Look out for some more tips on saving water in your business coming soon. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out our money saving tips for water here.