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Category: Business, Cloud Computing.

As any business owner will know, finding a process that can reduce costs, while increasing productivity, is the holy grail of opportunities. It’s true of any area of business, from transport, to working hours, to buying the milk for the teas and coffees. It’s certainly true when it comes to employing efficient IT services within your company.

So where does today’s topic of conversation, Office 365, and its range of cloud-based services, come in? Is this a sales pitch for an unnecessary service that’s just a repackaging of what you already have? Or is it different? Here at The PC Support Group, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the services we offer to our clients, so Office 365 makes sense to us because it offers you several key strengths, such as:

 

Less initial cost: you’ll be able to spread your outlay, with no need to invest in additional hardware like local servers, or to pay hundreds up front for Microsoft Office license/s, instead you can get it all online for a manageable monthly amount.

Flexibility of service: it’s much easier to add more or less to your service whenever you need it. Instead of needing to buy additional hardware or software, just increase the allowance on your monthly subscription. It’s also equally simple to reduce the allowance, compared to being left with surplus hardware or software. Very helpful during upsizing/downsizing and seasonal staff changes.

Flexibility of working: each staff member can access all of these services from multiple devices and locations. So whether all your staff are in the same room, or scattered around the globe, they can be equally connected and productive. This includes features like syncing calendars, working on the same document together and the latest video conferencing services through Skype.

Guaranteed updates: when you buy a physical copy of Microsoft Office, you’ll be left having to buy a new copy should a later version come out. With an Office 365 subscription, you’ll always receive the latest version of Office applications as well as any other cloud-based services.

 


What is Office 365 and The Cloud?

In short, making use of cloud systems, moving from on-premise physical storage and software to off-premise online storage and software, is the future. It’s where the majority of files, data and applications will soon be stored and accessed, with the Office 365 cloud services from Microsoft offering a leading option for any business to consider. Office 365 is a subscription service allowing you access to cloud storage (known as One Drive for Business) as well as online use of all the familiar Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint from any device or location.

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It’s estimated that by 2018, over 75% of businesses will be using
cloud storage as their primary source of data management

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By having your key data and applications stored on a centralised online location, backed by Microsoft’s infrastructure, security systems and staff, you’ll be highly protected. Additionally, you can control exactly who has access to each file and level of navigation, meaning you can strategically store certain data for different levels of the workforce. This is great for organisational efficiency and security, with each employee receiving access only to the exact files they need.

 

The key services in the Office 365 package

One Drive for Business – a cloud service for data storage, giving businesses the facility to not only store files, but allocate levels of access for users, with designated rights and privileges. Also provides a platform for collaboration – multiple staff can be working on the same document at the same time.

Microsoft Office applications – the latest version of all the familiar Office software such as Word, Excel & PowerPoint. Instead of buying a Microsoft Office licence for £150-300 to last a few years, you get it as a monthly subscription, giving access on up to five devices per user, including Apple devices.

Skype for Business – Interactive messaging and video conferencing through Skype’s Business edition.

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Microsoft say that over the past five years, Office 365 & cloud services

helped small & medium businesses to reduce their IT workload by 42%

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Additional cloud services available with Office 365

SharePoint – a more advanced document sharing & management system, with document flow and approval, sign-offs and systems. It really aids business processes and can help create entire systems.

Microsoft Azure – gives access to cloud file servers, on a per-second basis, at an increased/decreased server power as and when you need it. Ideal for when you need a lot of processing power.

 

The future of business IT systems

The beauty of Office 365 is you can build the exact package for your needs and the service is fluid enough to change with you with minimal fuss. It makes financial sense, keeps you at the cutting edge, offering elite security and support access. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to commit to moving everything into the cloud. It’s about mixing and matching cloud and on-premise IT to deliver the most effective solution for your business in terms of cost and productivity.

Given the PC Support Group’s key aim of combining business insight with IT knowledge, we’d love to speak to you in more detail to see if Office 365 is the ideal fit. We offer various IT solutions, and by working with a suitable IT partner you’ll be able to create the perfect solution in terms of cost, functionality, flexibility and security. Solutions that help you to move forward significantly as a company.

Please get in touch today if you’d like to know more about how using the Office 365 platform and its cloud-based services could help your business to take the next step in its productivity.

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Category: Business.

Award winning IT Support

As we all look forward to a prosperous New Year it’s worth taking time to recognise the achievements of 2015 and giving yourself a well-earned pat on the back.

At The PC Support Group we were pleased to win the “Service Provider of the Year” title at the 2015 Network Computing Awards. We’d love to tell you why too – but first of all, let us explain a little about us. There’s a point to this, read on…

• The PC Support Group specialises in providing “corporate quality” IT support to small and medium sized businesses throughout the Northwest of England. We have grown continuously and sustainably for nearly a decade and we now have hundreds of customers from diverse sectors

• We have achieved this success through our unique structure which combines advanced support technology with local, friendly, professional delivery to provide a flexible, high quality service at an affordable price. The unwavering focus of the business is to remove our client’s worries and concerns about their computers and anything that communicates with, runs on, or connects to them

• Our support technology enables us to monitor and manage all our client’s computers simultaneously and proactively work on them preventing problems before they occur – saving time and money. Most problems can be fixed remotely, often within minutes, but we also have engineers based in offices throughout the Northwest ready to visit clients when needed

• We don’t patronise our clients, we work with them to achieve their goals through technology, not despite it. And we don’t try to confuse with technical jargon. Our staff understand people and business, not just technology. The PC Support Group’s unique structure provides our clients with superb support and a level of service that is the envy of the industry

• The PC Support Group is also a member of the Apple Consultants Network and has qualified engineers ready to provide Apple Mac support and assistance with other Apple devices. The sheer scope, scale and quality of our offer to SMEs make us different from the rest. And it makes us the best.

That’s a lot to say – it’s a long marketing message! Certainly too much for Twitter’s meagre word count and anyway, with the information highway being fast and overloaded these days, your target market wants quick soundbites they feel they have the TIME to read! That’s where winning awards comes in and why it’s been so fantastic to win something just about every year.

What better soundbite than “Award-Winning IT Support” to encapsulate what you do and the fact that you’re excellent at it too?

Many of our awards have been won as a result of passing scrutiny by a panel of judges.  For example, being listed in the MSP Top 100 Managed Service Providers in the world, etc.

Those won by vote are just as useful.  We write to all our customers and contacts to tell them we’ve been nominated in the first place (we don’t always find out who has done so) and to ask them to vote. A legitimate reason to drop an e-mail, to remind people who we are and let them know we’re good enough for a nomination which, in itself is something to shout about – and the world of online social media gets to know about it too!

On awards evenings there is plenty to tweet about as the excitement builds but none to over-ride the joy of winning! What a great feeling going up to that stage to collect a smart glass trophy knowing that so many people have believed in your service excellence to vote for you in droves!

Now, if writing to tell everyone we were nominated is a very useful exercise – it can’t top writing again to thank them for voting and helping us win. It can’t top the new tweets, other online social media output, press releases, and a news item by the local chamber – complete with superb photos and, of course, the all-important winners logo. That smart trophy has taken its place with the others we have won down the years, and the logo is a permanent fixture on our website, our e-mails and all our marketing literature.

Indeed, from our latest corporate photos, the one we chose for our Social Media header was one of the team holding aloft all the trophies and certificates we have worked so hard for – from Excellence in Customer Service to being listed in the Top 100 Managed Service Providers in the world. Well, they say a picture paints a thousand words!

As we said earlier, nothing says you’re superb at what you do as quickly and easily as an award and we’re grateful to everyone who ever nominated us, voted for us, or judged us to be so over the years.

Spam Detection in Emails

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Category: Business, IT Processes, IT Purchasing, IT Security, IT Training.

If you’re in the habit of checking the news online you will have noticed that almost daily now there are reports of data breaches by attackers. Cyber security headlines are all too frequent and alert us to the skill and persistence of hackers.

Many organisations still rely on traditional security controls in the form of technology such as anti-virus software and firewalls, etc. to protect their critical assets but it is now clear that this is not enough. The increasing importance of employee security awareness is often overlooked with companies providing little or no basic awareness training.

Personnel and processes are often disregarded when it comes to improving security, partly because the security risk they pose to an organisation is difficult to measure and track.

These days, this a crucial issue with cyber security, but businesses that (very sensibly) put in place IT software security often struggle to get senior management to address a risk that they haven’t been able to quantify, or even prove exists.

The problem is that as the technical, on-line security of organisations increases, attackers are looking instead to a much weaker area: employees.

Read more »

The eBay Hack: Should you be worried?

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Category: Business, IT News, IT Support, Latest.

Ebay, the world’s biggest internet auction site, is the latest large organisation to be the victim of a cyber hack.

Blaming what they call an “Achilles heel” for the encrypted user information being taken, the company quickly advised users to change their password in order to prevent personal information falling into the wrong hands.

It’s thought to be the biggest reported hack ever in terms of the number of people affected (approximately 223m worldwide). Although it’s believed that financial data is not at risk, it’s still a major concern that data such as phone numbers and email addresses could be exposed to hackers.

So how does this news affect you, the eBay user?

Read more »

Work Smarter Not Harder

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Category: Business, Cloud Computing, Mobile Computing.

We believe that businesses of all sizes can start to work smarter and more productively by embracing the concept of remote working and really harnessing the power of technology.

Many companies have been reticent about using remote working, and it’s not really expensive or difficult to implement. Companies of every size need to evaluate where and how greater connectivity can improve their business

Having access to systems, files and emails whilst away from the office brings a range of business benefits and cost savings – from increased productivity and greater staff motivation to more effective use of time.  So, what can you do?

Enable your staff to work from anywhere…

An amazing 80 per cent of businesses report that employees do not have full access to business systems that would make their work easier and more efficient, including the technology to work away from the office.  The ability to work effectively from almost any location is one of the biggest changes happening in workplaces today and can increase productivity significantly.

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Broadband Fibre

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Category: Broadband, Business, IT Support.

If your business relies on the internet, then you need to ensure you have a broadband service that is dependable. Many small businesses simply look for the cheapest option and that usually translates to a broadband package designed primarily for residential use. Business broadband packages generally offer a more reliable and more secure service.

Choosing the right package can be daunting but many internet service providers (ISP) now offer exclusive packages that address many of the concerns about running a business online, or being reliant on the internet for information or communication purposes.

Here are some aspects you should consider before selecting a broadband package for your business:

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Category: Business, IT Support.

Here at The PC Support Group, we manage IT for hundreds of businesses and one thing that we regularly come across are business owners and managers who are frustrated that they don’t understand IT and so feel incapable of choosing a good IT support provider.

We often hear that they have been “blinded with science” and don’t know what to believe. Most have also had bad experiences with previous IT support providers too.

Of course there are no guarantees of a great service but there are some basic, non-technical, questions that any business should ask an IT support supplier before engaging them in order to improve the chances that they will perform.

This infographic shows 20 great questions every business should ask an IT support company when selecting a new support provider. You can see the full size image by clicking here.

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PC Support

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Category: Business, IT Support.

Asking the right questions can make selecting the right IT support provider for you and/or your business a much easier process. As an IT support business striving to provide a great service to our customers we love being asked tricky questions as we’re confident we can answer them. Here is a list of the questions we think will help you sort the wheat from the chaff.

1. Can you provide me with some reference companies to speak to?

Everybody knows that there’s no greater measure of a company’s ability to deliver than through referral so always ask for a number of references. You don’t have to call them all but if they can provide a few to select from it will instantly give you confidence.

And for those you do speak to, here are a few potential questions you could ask:

  1. Do they deliver what they promised?
  2. Are they responsive and easy to get hold of?
  3. Do they communicate well – letting you know what’s happening with issues?
  4. Do they stay within the projected budget?
  5. Would you use them again?

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windows7

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Category: Business, IT Support, Software.

Windows 7 burst onto the scene in August, 2009 and since then uptake has been gradual. According to analyst firm Forrester Windows XP still accounts for over 59.9% of market share for business use.

Windows XP was released in 2001 and is reaching the end of its life-cycle. In fact Microsoft has announced that it will discontinue XP support in 2014. Windows 7 has established itself as a stable operating system and can run the latest software, including Internet Explorer 9 (XP cannot run IE9).

If you are still running Windows XP (or the dreaded Windows Vista OS) here are a few reasons you should consider making the upgrade to Windows 7 Professional.

1.  Performance –Windows 7 was pitted against XP in 25 speed benchmark tests. Some of these tests included moving files, running various software, booting up, and shutting down. Windows 7 came out ahead in 24 of those tests.

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File Recovery

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Category: Business, IT Security, IT Support.

Keeping computers up and running is a fundamental requirement for any business.

Companies are starting to recognise the importance of having good data backup processes but this is only part of the picture. If there is a major incident, how quickly can the backed up data be restored to provide operational systems again? Many small businesses don’t know, and most lack an effective IT Recovery Strategy.

Whether you are a sole trader or running a business with thousands of customers, system failure can result in loss of crucial data, time, money and clients.

There are 4 main points to consider:

  1. Location – where can you continue to operate if you are unable to gain access to your regular office or if it is destroyed?
  2. Data – have you backed up your data to a safe place?
  3. Equipment – how quickly can you obtain new hardware on which to run your systems?
  4. Configuration – how quickly can the systems be set up again and who will do this?

Read more »