Connecting Businesses Case studies

Croydon businesses club together to get a superfast Christmas boost

A business park in South Cambridgeshire has received an early Christmas present for their tenants with over £20,000 of funding awarded to install superfast broadband.

The funding will help seven businesses based at Valley Court Offices in Croydon. The small businesses and landlord applied together to pool the funding from the Government’s connection voucher scheme.

Connection vouchers are currently on offer from Connecting Cambridgeshire’s Destination Digital project. The vouchers provide small businesses with funding up to £3000 per company to install superfast broadband.

The Croydon businesses will use the government funding to install their own dedicated broadband leased line, providing speeds of over 30Mbps.

Metechno, based at Valley Court, produce prefabricated bathrooms and their slow connection was making it difficult to transfer large files to their factory in Alfreton. Director Nicola Roope, said: “The additional speed will benefit the transfer of our design files. If the funding wasn’t available, we would have needed to wait until the business was more established.”

Granite 5 is a web design company with 11 members of staff based at Valley Court. They use a range of cloud-based software and encourage their staff to work from home, but their current slow connection was causing problems. Director Jill Davies said: “Through the new connection, we will become more efficient and hopefully that will show in our work and eventually profit margin. In the long term, it will help us to grow the business and enable us to take on more staff. I would recommend it to companies, especially in business parks, as you can club together and share the costs. It would have been too expensive to do this by ourselves.”

The landlord of Valley Court, James Brown encouraged his tenants to apply to the connection voucher scheme and pool the funding together. He said: “The benefits of the connection voucher scheme for Valley Court were obvious. It will be easier for us to attract new tenants with higher speeds and give us the edge on competitors”.


Small businesses pool Government connection vouchers for superfast broadband

Twenty small businesses have received government funding to install superfast broadband to a business centre in Cambridge.

The companies applied together to the government’s connection voucher scheme, which provides funding of between £100-£3000 to install superfast broadband to offices.

Through the new connection, businesses will have speeds of up to 50mbps upload and download.

The connection vouchers scheme is administered locally by Connecting Cambridgeshire, a partnership of local councils in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough delivering superfast broadband across the county.

The small businesses are all based in the same business centre at Sheraton House run by the national company Citibase. Nathan Carpenter, Centre Manager of Citibase Cambridge encouraged his tenants to apply together for the funding and get faster broadband.

He said: “The new connection will help us attract new customers and enable us to respond to existing tenants more quickly and manage the building faster.”

“It was easy to apply, the form was very straightforward and it was easy to get the tenants to agree to the new connection”.

OE Cam, is a management consultancy based in the Citibase building. Pam Wilson, Finance Director says: “All our IT software is based in the Cloud, so good broadband is absolutely essential. The new connection will save us time and improve our efficiency. We currently use mobile phones to speak with clients, but through the new connection we may be able to use Voice over IP (VoIP). This technology is cheaper and more reliable than mobiles.”


Peterborough business sees the light with broadband grant

A Peterborough business that supplies audio and lighting equipment for the events industry is now receiving the fastest broadband speeds available through a government grant.

Pearce Hire is based at Reynolds Industrial Estate in Peterborough. They applied to Destination Digital to get a £3000 government funded connection voucher to install a dedicated fibre line through the Peterborough CORE network. They can now reach 1GB download and upload speeds.

The business were previously using their old copper telephone lines to access the internet. They were getting speeds of just 9mbps download and 1mbps upload. The slow speeds were causing serious problems for the company and its staff and meant that only one person could use the internet at a time. Since the majority of communicating with clients is done through email and the accounts team use online banking, the slow internet created havoc.

They also have a dedicated company website and active social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. The internet is seen as an essential resource for the business.

Pearce Hire has seen immediate benefits from their new 1GB connection.

Shaun Pearce, Managing Director of Pearce Sound and Lighting said: “We can now all use the internet at the same time and get emails quicker. Most importantly, our staff can now work from home.”

“The cost of having fibre broadband installed was quite costly. The grant helped take the sting out of the overall cost and provide a much improved communication system, essential in today’s market. We are now looking in a VOIP phone system to utilise the benefits to the maximum.”


Superfast broadband proves to be ‘just the ticket’ for Cambridge United.

Connection Vouchers from Connecting Cambridgeshire have helped Cambridge United Football Club to install a new online ticketing system.

The club applied to Connecting Cambridgeshire’s Destination Digital project for a Government Connection Voucher, of up to £3000, to install superfast broadband.

It might not be immediately obvious why a football club needs superfast Internet access to support its interactive website, which is monitored from the offices at the ground, so that fans can buy tickets and merchandise online.

As the Abbey Stadium, where the U’s play, can hold almost 9,000 fans, being able to ‘score’ tickets online, reduces the number of people queuing at the ground on match day.

Andy Beattie, Cambridge United Football Secretary and Operations Manager, said: “The connection voucher for superfast broadband has enabled our customers to purchase tickets and shop items online thus reducing the amounts of cash collected within the business by 75% and making transactions quicker for our fans.”

Over 900 connection vouchers have been issued in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, improving the connectivity of businesses across the county.


Rydal Communications

Local registered suppliers have also benefited from the scheme by advising businesses on the best technology solutions for installing faster broadband from dedicated leased lines to fibre to the premise.

Steffan Dancy, Managing Director for Rydal Communications, said: “Using the Connection Voucher Scheme has allowed us to reach more customers who were initially hesitant in exploring the higher end internet connectivity options due to the larger upfront costs associated. It has empowered us to be able to explore improved business applications and new ways of working with our customers that may have not been possible without the connectivity. With telecoms moving more and more into the realm of IP and Cloud based systems, having a high speed internet service that is fit for purpose has become imperative in being able to move with the times. The broadband voucher scheme has allowed us to help our customers achieve this.”


Recognising the need for speed

A Cambridge research company delivering cutting edge speech recognition technology will no longer be held back by slow broadband.

Cantab Research Ltd recently moved to offices just north of the city centre to get the faster Internet speeds it needs to exchange large data files with customers in the UK and the US.

The expanding small business has been able to upgrade to a high speed broadband package installed with the help of a connection voucher from Destination Digital.

Cantab Research currently employs five specialist researchers and is recruiting more skilled staff to develop systems for indexing broadcast speech, transcribing voicemail messages, medical dictation and several novel applications of automatic speech recognition.

They work with range of companies, from small speculative start-ups to one of the largest ever deployments of automatic speech recognition – the SpinVox voice message conversion system – which has over 100 million users worldwide

Set up in 2006, the company is led by Dr Tony Robinson, who previously managed research on speech recognition at SpinVox/Nuance, SoftSound Ltd (now part of Autonomy/HP) and Cambridge University.

He explained: “We aim to offer the latest speech recognition software solutions and a more flexible approach to meet our customers needs. Our work involves moving a lot of big data files around so it is essential to have a decent Internet connection.

“As a small business, we found it really hard to find affordable offices with a high speed broadband connection. Being able to get a grant from Destination Digital helped us to pay for the contended line at our new offices, which means we can focus on developing the business further.”


Broadband review website ends online nightmare with faster broadband

A company running a successful broadband comparison website is one of the latest Cambridge businesses to reap the benefits of government funding to install superfast broadband to their office.

Genie Ventures recently moved to new offices on Carlyle Road in Cambridge, but have a slow 12mb connection using old copper lines. As the company run Broadband Genie, a broadband comparison websites used by over 2.5 million visitors, their current connection was slowing down their business and causing their 20 staff a headache.

They successfully applied to get a connection voucher through Destination Digital, the project from Connecting Cambridgeshire to help small businesses use digital technology

The main problems they encounter are painfully slow upload speeds and connection dropouts, which are a nightmare for a company that does most of its business online.

Rob Hilborn, Marketing Manager at Broadband Genie explains: “Good internet connectivity is vital, and it’s only going to become more important for businesses in the future, so the chance to get a better connection installed for free seems silly to pass up.”

“We’re an online business, so being able to connect to the internet is pretty important for us. It also doesn’t hurt to have a decent broadband connection when you run a broadband comparison website!”

The company recently moved all their files to Google Drive on the cloud, which enables them to securely store and share files from any location. It has been a huge success, but if the broadband goes down it has a huge impact on their productivity.

The company’s new connection will enable them to be more efficient, work remotely and share files faster.

Rob found that applying was simple and only took 30 minutes: “The turnaround time for putting in the application and getting approved was excellent – we got a response letting us know that our application had been successful within a few days.”

Rob says: “If you’re doing any sort of business online and suffer with slow broadband, then it’s worth signing up for the scheme.”


Cuttsy+Cuttsy

Growing communications agency Cuttsy+Cuttsy has been able to move to larger premises in South Cambridgeshire and install faster broadband lines with the help of a connectivity voucher from Destination Digital.

Mainly specialising in healthcare marketing, the Whittlesford-based company will be able to double its capacity in terms of space and business when it moves to Abbey Barns at Ickleton this summer.

The company is using Destination Digital’s connection voucher scheme to help with the installation costs of new leased lines to its new offices and will be looking into grant for digital products and services once it has moved in.

Company Director, Mathew Cutts, said: “Good connectivity is vital to our business, in fact we cannot move to our new premises until we have a leased line as our current broadband connectivity does not give us the speeds we need to deliver our services to our clients who are based all over Europe. We also run our VOIP phone system via our leased line which helps us cut down on costs of mobiles when travelling abroad.”

“The faster connectivity is going to help us build the film production side of the business as we need the bandwidth to transfer large files for approval.

Staff will also benefit says Mathew: “It will also help us keep cost down per employee and therefore make it easier to employ new members of staff and to offer more flexible working as our team will have secure access to the data they need to work.

“The scheme was really easy to apply for. Paul at Destination Digital was very quick to respond to our questions and helped us through the process. Our application was even approved on the same day,” he said.

Mathew is a member of a group of digital agencies called Agency Collective which has over 100 members and shared information about Destination Digital with the group.


Once Source Communications

One Source Communications assists businesses nationally and locally, with IT support, network solutions, web technologies and telecommunications.

The Peterborough-based company offers a no-nonsense, non-jargon approach when advising customers about their IT and telecom needs and finding the best solutions to help them keep up with changing technology.

It is one of the first businesses in Peterborough to benefit from the new Destination Digital business support scheme by securing a 40% grant to help to buy the expensive equipment and space needed to provide secure data storage offsite for itself and its clients.

Andy Cater, IT Manager, said: “We are a ‘one-stop-shop’ providing everything a small business needs on the IT side as well as connectivity to the rest of the world through phones and broadband.

He explained: “We always advise businesses to back up their data just in case anything happens and the safest way to do that securely is off-site, so we want to lead by example.

“We have been planning this for a while and being able to get a grant towards it has been the catalyst to push this forward for us and our customers.”

The company is also spreading the word among its customers about how Destination Digital can help them upgrade their hardware and get business advice to use digital technology more effectively.

“This is just what small businesses need to be able to move forward,” said Andy.


Destination Digital project helps to create new job

Kevin Stewart, Operations Manager at AV Engineering Services Ltd looks at new IT equipment with Engineering graduate Christopher Miller, who has been taken on as a result of the Destination Digital scheme.

A Cambridgeshire manufacturing company has been able to employ an Engineering graduate to support its technical team after using a Destination Digital business support grant to take its IT programme forward.

Christopher Miller has been taken on at AV Engineering Services Ltd is an established UK company based in Melbourn, near Royston, which produces high quality products for a range of manufacturers worldwide.

He says: “It’s a great opportunity to join AV Engineering and I’m grateful to them for giving me the chance to start my engineering career with a forward thinking and technology driven company I hope to repay their trust by helping the company develop and expand it’s operations.”

The company offers a complete manufacturing service at the cutting edge of plastics pressure forming, using techniques that can replace the high cost of tooling for injection moulding.

With 40 plus years’ experience working with the full range of thermo plastics, the company offers a versatile service from the concept stage, through design and production of the finished product to meet the needs of the customer.

Digital technology and the Internet are vital tools for the business supporting communicating, advertising and converting designs for its manufacturing processes using the latest computer aided manufacturing and design suite.

Kevin Stewart Operations Manager explains: “We have used the Destination Digital grant scheme to totally upgrade our IT hardware and security backup systems. Our company policy is that we continually invest in the latest technology, equipment and people to take us forward and seize every opportunity to maximise the benefits of today’s advancing technologies.

“I believe the additional benefits of upgrading our IT system will enable us to increase our capacity and improve customer service. It will also assist us in dealing more proficiently with our customers that are using cloud computing for their confidential design drawings and specification, together with providing our company with enhanced file and network security, increased reliability, centralised data storage and shared resources, virus management and centralised backup.

“This investment we will make the company more efficient in the day to day management of the business as well as being able to promote our products and services through the Internet as we are currently working with UK Trade & Investment in promoting our goods and services for the export market.”


Office block receives £60,000 in government investment for superfast broadband

Twenty small businesses have received government funding of up to £60,000 to install superfast broadband to serviced offices in Cambridge.

The companies applied together to the government’s connection voucher scheme. It provides funding of between £100-£3000 to install superfast broadband to offices in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.

The connection vouchers scheme is administered locally by Connecting Cambridgeshire, a partnership of local councils in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough delivering superfast broadband across the county.

Through the new connection, businesses will have speeds of up to 50mbps upload and download.

The small businesses are all based in serviced offices at Sheraton House run by the national company Citibase. Nathan Carpenter, Centre Manager of Citibase Cambridge encouraged his tenants to apply together for the funding and get faster broadband.

He said: “The new connection will help us attract new tenants and enable us to respond to existing clients more quickly and manage the building faster.”

“It was easy to apply, the form was very straightforward and it was easy to get the tenants to agree to the new connection”.

OE Cam, is a management consultancy based in the Citibase building. Pam Wilson, Finance Director says: “All our IT software is based in the Cloud, so good broadband is absolutely essential. The new connection will save us time and improve our efficiency.”

“We currently use mobile phones to speak with clients, but through the new connection we may be able to use Voice over IP (VoIP). This technology is cheaper and more reliable than mobiles.

Pam comments: “I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t apply for a connection voucher. Everyone is so reliant on broadband these days. I found the application process very simple and Citibase helped coordinate things.

Connecting Cambridgeshire’s successful Destination Digital project is being extended so that more businesses across the county can make the most of faster connections and digital technology to boost the local economy.

SMEs across the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough can now apply for Government connection vouchers of up to £3,000 to install superfast broadband and the scheme has been extended beyond March 2015.

More than120 connection vouchers totalling over £250,000 have already been awarded to companies in and around Cambridge.


Three Pillars Business Park makes the most of Superfast Broadband

Businesses in East Cambridgeshire are being urged to make the most of the arrival of superfast broadband by using digital technology to grow and compete in a global market.

High speed fibre broadband being rolled out under the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme has already reached more than 11,000 homes and businesses in the district, which would not otherwise be able to get it.

Over 40 new green fibre cabinets went live across East Cambridgeshire in the first phase of the roll-out programme to June 2014, with more to follow in forthcoming phases, which may use alternative technologies to reach rural areas.

Businesses in these areas can now upgrade to faster fibre broadband and also get help to make the most of the latest digital technology – wherever they are – through Connecting Cambridgeshire’s Destination Digital business support project.

Mark Read, Chair of Ely Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Three Pillars Business Park, Sutton, is delighted with the difference the faster speeds have made to his specialist supplies business Whizzle Ltd, which increasingly relies on online sales.

Whizzle Ltd supplies fixings and installation equipment for the tv aerial, satellite, double glazing and ceiling industries. Most of its sales are put through online through the website at www.whizzle.it. The company employs 10 people on site and four offsite.

Now, the company is applying for a grant to upgrade its hardware and getting free business advice through the Destination Digital business support scheme. Several other tenants on the business park are also looking to upgrade their digital technology.

Mark said: “We have seen a fantastic uplift in speed from around 0.5 mbps to nearer 40 mbps. Previously staff working from home had to work in near isolation from the office and colleagues but now internet telephony and a fast remote access to our server is opening up opportunities to offer more flexible working without the previous drawbacks.

“Wider access and use of the Internet by our customers also means we are increasingly competing in a national and international market place so we lose ground if we cannot get a good connection. The timesaving of having faster connections is another important factor when you also consider that all our sales orders are inputted online.

“It is a real barrier for businesses in rural areas if they cannot get a good broadband connection. At the Chamber we consider the provision of superfast broadband to be a “must have” along with any other utility one would expect to have access to and certainly prospective tenants at the Business Park are increasingly asking what speeds they can get. “

“At Whizzle, having overcome the connectivity hurdle, we can re-think our business plan to make full use of digital technology. I would urge other small businesses to get in touch with Destination Digital as soon as possible to find out how they can benefit from this fantastic scheme.”


Vision for online video to plug the digital gap

Cambridge Film Works is an award winning video production company with a vision to use the latest digital technology to help clients communicate through online television.

Set up three and a half years ago by Directors Adam Giles and Richard Millen, the one-stop service is based in the Old Police Station in St Ives, Cambridge, where they have converted the original Victorian cells into video editing suites.

Together they have a wealth of experience filming for organisations large and small including The University of Cambridge, Microsoft Research, NSPCC, National Maritime Museum and The National Trust.

Working with freelance crews, they have also produced film for broadcast, the web and live events, television series for National Geographic, documentaries for ITV and moving short films for channels Channel 4 and Sky.

Now, with the help of Destination Digital grant funding, the company is looking to develop online video tv channels to help their clients communicate cost effectively and securely with their staff.

Richard explains: “As video producers we are trying to plug the gap for where our videos go. The way we view videos and TV is changing rapidly. More and more people are watching digitally on laptops, phones and tablets. We want to help businesses to keep up with the technology.”

“Being able to get 40% funding from Destination Digital will allow us to invest in the web development expertise we need to help us to develop and test this idea. It’s great to have this opportunity and we hope it will benefit our clients big and small.

“We heard about Destination Digital on the radio and through networking. We found it very straightforward to apply for the grant online on the website and were impressed with the quick response.”


Connection voucher helps Cambridge start-up get going

Aptovis Ltd is a new Cambridge-based start-up company, which is developing a range of products for heat recovery to help businesses save money by being more energy efficient.

The company was set up in February 2014 by technology researcher Chris Moore who has the backing of several investors to realise his long-held interest in thermodynamics.

Chris was among the first to successfully apply for a £3000 connection voucher through Connecting Cambridgeshire’s new Destination Digital business support scheme for small businesses, which means he will be able to carry out his initial product research from home.

The Government funding means Chris can carry out data-dependent research by installing a 20 mbps leased line to his home-based office to speed up the Internet connections and allow him to use cloud-based services for back up.

Chris will spend the next 18 months developing a demonstrator that will work with any heat source and can be integrated into existing fuel burning products, such as a domestic gas boiler or a car.

Chris said: “Our mission is to change the way the world thinks about heat, to create great products that help us to waste less and to be the best source of know-how for heat recovery products.

“The waste heat by-product of fuel burning devices is the equivalent of throwing money away. Some waste is inevitable, but we can reduce the waste and deliver more useful energy in many different ways.”

“My work depends on having a decent Internet connection, so this was one of the main issues when I was deciding whether I could do my research from my office at home. Being able to get grant towards the connection charge has made all the difference.”

“It is expensive but it saves me having to rent an office to get better broadband, and I can get my phone, fax etc over the Internet as well.”


BlinkPipe

Destination Digital is also helping local suppliers of broadband enabled technologies, digital products and services to secure new business through the grants and business support scheme.

BlinkPipe was one of the first local suppliers to register for the scheme as its easy to use ‘just dial’ HD video conferencing for businesses is a good example of how the funding can be used to make better use of the latest digital technology.

Through local telecommunications partner, Convergence Communications, Cambridge-based company offers packages that successful grant applicants might want to purchase. SMEs can apply for a support grant of up to 40% (up to a maximum of £4,000) to help them buy digital products and services. Companies can also benefit from 12 hours of free consultancy.

Alex Nancekievill, co-founder of BlinkPipe, said: “This is a great opportunity for SMEs to improve efficiencies by introducing the very latest digital technology. Using video conferencing to interact with colleagues at different offices, suppliers and clients rather than wasting hours travelling between meetings is a tangible way of improving efficiency and output.”

Alex continued, “BlinkPipe combines the reliability and simplicity of a phone call with HD video, using customers’ existing telephone systems for voice, and sending video in HD over the internet at a much higher quality than that of a standard webcam. We’re delighted to be able to supply into the Destination Digital initiative and hope the available funding will encourage SMEs in Cambridgeshire to take advantage of this great opportunity.”

BlinkPipe was named in 2013 by Business Weekly as one of a number of important Cambridge cluster companies to watch, and has also been shortlisted for the publication’s ‘Small Business of the Year’ Award 2014. To see why BlinkPipe is different to all other video conferencing offerings check out its 1 minute explainer video.

Additional eligible products and services include: hardware and software, cloud computing, video-conferencing equipment, mobile apps, training courses, and broadband upgrade costs


Government Grants Helps Huntingdon Company Take the Stress off Designing New Products

A Huntingdon manufacturer has benefited from a government grant this month of almost £2000 to help invest in buying IT equipment to test new products.

Forward Composites are based on Clifton Road and design and create composites structures. They have used the funding to buy software and a laptop to test the potential strength of new products being developed.

The company were awarded the government grant from Destination Digital, a programme from Connecting Cambridgeshire (led by Cambridgeshire County Council) to help small businesses use digital technology.

Small and medium sized businesses in Cambridgeshire can currently apply to Destination Digital to receive a 40% discount off buying new digital products and services (up to £4000). A wide range of digital equipment and services are eligible including servers, broadband connections, data storage, website design and software.

The new equipment will create an additional revenue stream for the company and may lead to a new member of staff being employed.

Chris Caffyn, IT Manager for Forward Composites, said: “Stress testing certain products is essential and previously we had to outsource this process which was expensive. The Destination Digital grant has enabled us to buy the IT equipment to test products ourselves and keep costs down”

Small businesses in Cambridgeshire can also benefit from twelve hours free business support on using IT and digital technology to grow their company.


SOLCAMB Ltd.

Michael Moody is an entrepreneur, who set up SOLCAMB Ltd as a start-up company in September 2013 to provide businesses with bespoke software development solutions for desktop and mobile applications, and web services.

An experienced technology adviser, he is keen to use the free business support, the connectivity voucher and the 40% discount for digital products from Destination Digital to accelerate the growth of his home-based company in Sawston, Cambridgeshire.

Michael was among the first to register his interest in Destination Digital and has already met with one of the advisers to discuss how he can improve his business plan and help other small businesses to make the most of digital technologies.

He said: “I am very excited about Destination Digital because it can help me to target my business and develop a marketing plan. To design bespoke solutions for my customers I need a device for every platform, which is an expensive outlay, so getting a grant will help my money go further. For some of my clients the grant can make the difference between starting a project or not, and enables any project’s scope to be expanded using the fund.”

“The 40% matched funding will help us to fund our own investment into the hardware and software we need to expand our offerings. This includes purchasing servers to run our cloud-based solutions and obtaining mobile devices to develop, test and demonstrate our cross-platform mobile offerings.

“The connectivity voucher will help us to deliver business class cloud services on premises, which will reduce our overheads and enables new areas for us to compete in such as data synchronisation, CRMs and hosting.”


Better broadband will help home-based businesses thrive

Better broadband will help a growing publishing company in Great Staughton to use the latest digital technology for customers while remaining home-based.

Michael Chinnery launched Contract Publishing UK from a spare bedroom at his family home in Great Staughton five years ago and has seen it expand into the sitting room with two more employees.

Offering independent publishing services for independent and niche magazine publishers, the company provides design, pre-press, web offset, sheet-fed & digital print services. It also combines the latest technology to deliver customers’ content digitally with HTML5 capability digital editions, plus mobile and tablet App creation.

Michael explains: “We are approaching our fifth anniversary and are benefiting from all the hard work in the early years.  However, as we are growing the business, the broadband seems to get slower.

“As you can imagine in the publishing sector there is a big exchange of uploading customer files and downloading proofs for approval. We used to enjoy average download speeds of over 3Mb/s, but we recently recorded a download speed of 1.64Mb/s, and upload speed of 0.365Mb/s – uploading a typical set of proofs of 50Mb for a customer can take up to an hour!

“The personal benefits of keeping the business in Great Staughton have many rewards especially with a young family, and from a business perspective it saves money and improves productivity.

“We feel we will be able to continue running the business from our family home for another couple of years; however the broadband speed is an integral element to consider whether we can afford to remain in the current location.”


Vehicle servicing business may be driven away by poor internet connections

Mike Smith – Fleet Assist
Photo: Mark Heath www.markheathphotography.com

A UK-wide fleet servicing business based in Perry, near Huntingdon may be forced to move if its internet connections don’t improve.

Fleet Assist Ltd is unique in the UK, managing vehicle servicing and repairs on behalf of 27 car leasing companies.  Much of the work is done via the internet and involves thousands of transactions on behalf of 7,500 garages, with large amounts of data being uploaded and downloaded daily.

The company employs 21 people, many of them are local, and about a third of them live in the village of Perry.  Fleet Assist is currently bidding for two more large contracts and hope to employ another six people in the near future if successful.

Managing Director Mike Smith said: “The poor quality of Perry’s internet connection is having a serious impact and has resulted in the company being forced to make several compromises in the way we conduct business.  For example, data transfers are done after working hours once staff have left for the day, and customer requests are often dealt with offline.”

Giving employees remote access to site servers has proved impossible for the company, which has trialled alternative methods of connection, such as satellite broadband. However, this way of working is not seen as a long term, sustainable solution.

Mr Smith said: “Fleet Assist is an innovative employer and our future investment in real -time, on demand services for our customers is being kept on hold until a solution can be provided.  Unfortunately, we are even considering an imminent move to a town or city, possibly in another county, in order to access faster communications.”


Changing lifestyles mean more people are working and studying from home and they need better broadband access so they can all use the internet at the same time.

The Wilson family in Great Staughton are a good example of the difference that faster broadband will make to people’s lives – saving time, money and stress.

Kathy Wilson says: “We are a normal family running our businesses and lives from home but we face a huge disadvantage just because our broadband speeds are so slow.  We normally get a little less than 2Mbps, sometimes less than that.”

Kathy works from home as a chartered accountant and much of her work involves downloading data from clients and large Excel files from her member of staff, uploading tax returns, company accounts and corporation tax returns to HMRC, as well as company accounts to Companies House.

She explains: “I use accounts and tax preparation software, which is all supplied as downloads.  The updates often give an expected download time, but you can be sure that with our slow internet it will be several times slower than it states.”

Kathy’s 22 year old son lives at home and is doing a law graduate conversion course, which involves several hours a week watching online lectures.  After being at university he finds the 2Mbps painfully slow and it suffers from repeated stoppages.

Her husband is also due to start working from home in 2013 and needs to connect via VoIP and Citrix, which will mean extra internet traffic.

Kathy added: “We look forward to the success of the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign bringing us a much improved speed that will make our working lives so much easier and significantly less stressful in the VERY near future.”


Ready to expand – with superfast broadband

Founder of Method Creative, Kirsten Corrigan, South Cambridgeshire’s MP, Andrew Lansley, and Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Bates

South Cambridgeshire’s MP, Andrew Lansley, and Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Bates visit local company Method Creative to bolster efforts to bring superfast broadband to the area.

Method Creative is a growing creative agency with a portfolio of diverse international clients.  A recent office relocation to the South Cambridgeshire village of Cottenham has allowed the company to expand with the addition of three new staff and some exciting projects in the pipeline.

“While it’s hugely exciting to be growing at such a rate, we need the right technology to support this phase in our development to effectively compete with London as a regional agency,” says company founder Kirsten Corrigan.

“Decent broadband is a pre-requisite for a creative agency that needs to work with and transfer large image files every day.”   Supporting the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign as a Broadband Champion is a particularly relevant step for Kirsten, who also lives in the village and has access to better broadband from her home.

“The irony is that if I pop home during the day I can upload files much more quickly to client servers and that really isn’t conducive to running a slick operation! We really hope the campaign moves forward at the rate we require so our business can continue to thrive from our new office on the outskirts of Cambridge,” added Kirsten.

Residents and businesses in South Cambridgeshire are leading the charge to bring access to superfast broadband to the area by registering their demand. Andrew Lansley MP said: “This is excellent news for South Cambridgeshire and shows how strongly people feel about bringing high speed broadband access to the area.

“Telecoms providers generally offer good broadband coverage in urban and commercial areas, but this does not reach enough rural areas in the county, which is why I would urge everyone in Cambridgeshire to register to show where there is high demand for better broadband so we can attract investment from suppliers.”

Taken from an article in the South Cambs residents magazine. August 2012.

Watch our Interview with Kirsten Corrigan Here.


 

Poor broadband forces home-based business to commute

Mortgage and finance advisor Mark James has been forced to rent office space away from his home-based business in Grafham, near Huntingdon because the broadband is so slow.

This means he has to spend valuable time commuting each day to run JD Mortgage Services from offices at Wyboston Lakes, so that the company can use the internet to exchange large documents with clients.

Mark says: “The company couldn’t work without internet access; email is the life-blood of our business. Like lots of businesses, we would not be able to look after our clients and obtain new work with out an internet connection and a website presence.

“That’s why, after three years trying to work from home, we’ve been forced to rent office space in a different area. Quite frankly, the broadband speed in Grafham is impossible to work with and the business would have suffered.

“This seems stupid. I have to commute to the office each day when, with super fast broadband, I could work from home as I’d always intended when I moved here!  I could spend far less time commuting and much more time talking to my clients and doing work!

“I’d also save money on the cost of renting office space and fuel costs. The money I’d save would more than cover the small increase in costs if superfast broadband was available in my home village.

“It seems to me to be very important that suppliers know how hard we find things at the moment and hopefully the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign will ensure that rural areas won’t miss out on all benefits that superfast broadband brings.”


 Ready to expand – with superfast broadband

e-Go aeroplanes is an innovative Cambridgeshire company manufacturing new, light aircraft designed to go at 120 miles per hour – but it can only get ‘super slow’ broadband.

The small but growing company is based on a small industrial park in the village of Conington and is looking to expand. It needs faster broadband to benefit from using VOIP digital telephone systems and IP cameras so they can take their contact numbers – and customers – with them when they move to a larger site in 2013.

Chairman Malcolm Bird has looked into installing a leased line to improve their broadband speed and latency but has found it is far too expensive.

He says: “I am very keen to support the call for better broadband for Cambridgeshire.

The lack of capability is preventing us organising ourselves now and making our move transparent to our callers.”

Malcolm became aware of the need for businesses to keep up with the latest digital developments when a fire completely destroyed the company’s design and administration offices, where a team of designers had spent years developing their first launch product.

He recalls: “We looked on in disbelief at how fast a fire can take hold and run through a building. Luckily no one was hurt and as a result of our use of cloud based storage, we were able to send our design and admin’ staff home to carry on using their laptops and home computers the next day without any loss of computer data.”

“A few years ago, even if we had held offsite backups we would have lost days if not weeks or months of data. With the new cloud based archive, this aspect of the fire was almost irrelevant.”


 

Poor broadband affects students’ online learning

Dr Anabela Pinto-Poulton

Dr Anabela Pinto-Poulton lives in the South Cambridgeshire village of Orwell and runs Cambridge e-Learning Institute, an online education business,  from home. She needs a fast broadband connection to deliver live lessons and interact with her students in real time.

She says: “Recently, the delivery system I use has been constantly falling and disconnecting me because my internet is too slow. This is frustrating for the students who are paying to have a lesson and the lesson flow is constantly being interrupted by slow traffic.

“It is yet more embarrassing that some of these students come from developing countries where they have faster broadband in their villages than we have in the supposedly technologically advanced UK.”

Dr Pinto-Poulton comes from Portugal, where all the communication wiring was upgraded to fibre optics in the eighties, making the country’s internet networks far more advanced than the UK,

She added: “It is very sad that UK has been left behind as if it was still living in the pre-history of communications. Our internet is worse than in some developing countries.

“My business is suffering because I cannot provide more internet support or lectures due to the inadequacy of the broadband. This is not the way to promote small business and economic growth in this country.”