Durham tech firm is on digital cloud nine after signing up to superfast broadband

Hawthorn based business takes on extra staff and wins £300k investment thanks to fibre broadband boost

IT services company Powerdial Services Ltd is expanding into new markets and taking on new sales staff after connecting up to fibre broadband as part of the Digital Durham broadband project.

Installing fibre has allowed the company, which provides IT services such as video conferencing and web based telephony for businesses, to boost their revenues, win new investment, expand into new markets and recruit new staff.

Managing director Paul Farn said the key to their success had been being able to place most of their business operations in the ‘cloud’.*

He said: “Having fibre broadband alongside other bandwidth technologies has allowed us to increase our use of Cloud Services for most of our business operational systems and applications. That on its own has protected the jobs of people here and gone some way to expanding our product portfolio, taking on new staff and increasing our revenues by 33 per cent.”

“We’re a communications business with customers all over Europe but we trade from a converted farm in a rural area. Without fibre access we may have had to move away from the East Durham area to somewhere with better connectivity. East Durham is an area of high unemployment so needs businesses to stay local and we’ve been here since ’93.”

Paul said the company’s fibre powered cloud based systems had also helped to raise investment funds of around £300,000 for growth in the last 12 months. “Investors can see the potential in cloud based businesses – the flexibility of being able to access everything from anywhere and grow without the expense of things like new premises and costly IT infrastructure.”

He added: “As a result we have been able to win new business in new markets like Digital Signage – this is a massive market and one where lack of good broadband connectivity previously held us back. Another growth area is browser based video conferencing.Having high speed broadband is crucial for selling these services to our customers as they often want to come in and see a full working demonstration. The expansion has meant we’ve been able to take on several more sales staff and we’re now looking to recruit more engineering staff as well.”

Having superfast broadband has also provided a huge improvement for Powerdial’s existing 20-strong workforce. Paul explained: “Everything we use – from our sales and customer services, to our accounts system is being moved into the cloud so it can be accessed remotely which means all our staff have the flexibility of working from home. Just recently our IT manager, who lives in Prudhoe, couldn’t get in because they’d closed the roads for the Tour of Britain bike race. Instead, because we have most of our operational systems now in the Cloud, he was able log on from home and access all our systems from his home computer.

“Another staff member is due back after having a baby but can only get child care for limited hours. Being able to work from home gives her the flexibility to work around that.”

“We’re also quite exposed to the elements here being within a few miles from the North Sea and we’ve been cut off by 4ft snow drifts before now. But the great advantage of having everything in the cloud is that if the office suffers a power loss or is not accessible because of bad weather the business can continue as normal, far easier than before.”

More than 70,000 homes and businesses are now able to connect to faster, fibre broadband thanks to the Digital Durham programme. This is in addition to the 260,000 homes and businesses that already had access to fibre as a result of BT’s commercial roll-out in the county.

On average, engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, are switching on 22 new street cabinets and making the new fibre network available to around 4700 more premises every month.

A second phase of fibre deployment is already planned to begin in July 2016. This will see a further £9 million invested in the programme area. It includes £2.82 million from the Government’s Superfast Extension Plan and £4 million from BT, with the remaining investment split between the local authority partners. An additional 29,000 homes and businesses will benefit as a result. By the end of the roll-out, 97 per cent of premises within the programme area will have access to fibre broadband.

Thousands of homes and businesses across the Digital Durham programme area have ordered fibre broadband and are now enjoying faster broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.[1]

It’s an ‘opt in’ service, but because the Openreach network is ‘open’, residents and businesses wanting to upgrade have a choice of fibre broadband providers, with more than 140 companies now operating across the UK.

The Digital Durham broadband programme is delivered by Durham County Council and BT.In total, £34 million has been invested by BT, Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Government funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and public sector partners in Sunderland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and the Tees Valley.

For more information about the Digital Durham programme please visit www.digitaldurham.org

[1]These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary