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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: Cloud Computing, IT News, IT Support.

With all the recent chatter around SaaS based deployment for software systems, it’s easy to forget that many small and medium business still haven’t made the transition to the cloud. The recent report from Software Advice, the online resource for IT help desk software, showed this was the case with only 32% of SMEs having moved their service desk software to the cloud. To learn more about why these business haven’t moved to SaaS, I asked some questions of Craig Borowski, the Market Researcher who conducted this survey and wrote the report.

  • What are some of the driving reasons that are keeping this 68% of businesses off of the cloud for their help desk? This is a great question and it’s one we at Software Advice are very familiar with. In our discussions, two broad reasons come up often. The first is simply unfamiliarity with the cloud, either general unfamiliarity or else unfamiliarity with the growing selection of SaaS help desk platforms. The second reason could be described as something like a corporate cultural inertia. These are companies that are just generally resistant to change. They might have been using on-premise help desk systems for so long, the prospect of changing to a new deployment model seems too risky or too foreign.
  • What is the biggest reason people are going to the cloud? It’s tough to single out one biggest reason because they tend to vary by industry and by company size. However, quite often, the reasons boil down to companies wanting to spend more time and effort doing what they do best, their core competencies, and less time and effort doing all that’s necessary to keep an on-premise system running, up-to-date and secure.
  • Did you find a correlation with those more familiar with the cloud being more comfortable with using it? There is certainly a correlation. Companies that have no experience with cloud software are more apt to exhibit a ‘fear of the unknown’ when trying to evaluate cloud versus on-premise systems. They raise concerns about data security, about downtime, about losing control of their platform. Meanwhile, companies that have used other cloud-deployed software very rarely raise these concerns when evaluating cloud help desk software. It’s an interesting dynamic and we plan to look into it in much more detail in an upcoming survey.
  • Do you expect more businesses to shift to the cloud in the coming years? And why or why not? Absolutely. The shift to the cloud has been going on for many years, longer than many companies realize. Moving forward, we can expect that as more companies realize the benefits of cloud deployment— cost reduction, better scalability, flexibility, security etc.— others will continue to follow suit. It’s very difficult to imagine going back to the world where all software is hosted locally.
  • What would you advise a small business thinking about going to the cloud? For small businesses, cloud-based platforms can be an extremely viable choice. An easy way to illustrate this point is by simply turning the question around. Why are you looking for an on-premise system? Are your reasons valid and justifiable? With this line of questioning, it doesn’t take long for the small business to realize that one of the main benefits of cloud software is that it can free them from many of the things that on-premise deployments require.

 

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Category: Cloud Computing, IT Security, IT Support.

Computer-Virus-2

93% of companies who lose data for more than 10 days file for bankruptcy less than a year later.*

This could be the sobering reality you face if you don’t take responsible, proactive steps in order to defend your livelihood against hacking and other forms of cyber-crime.

Beyond putting the right technology in the right place, let’s look at how you can mitigate against…

Phishing Emails

Promising special offers or making false claims about bank statements or tax records, phishing emails typically tempt between 60 and 90% of employees to ‘click here’, which can have catastrophic consequences for your business.

Action you can take:

  • Teach your employees to be vigilant for bogus emails and not to click anything they do not fully trust – banks do not send emails asking people to verify login details!
  • Carry out regular phishing assessments or “cyber-attack drills” by regularly exposing your staff to various realistic attacks but in a controlled environment.
  • Have in place a process to report phishing emails and who to notify in case they’re clicked purposely or by error; ideally to be carried out within 15 minutes.

Data Thieves

Encrypting your data ensures that if someone were to get their hands on your computer, they wouldn’t be able to easily access your files or get hold of your personal data.

Action you can take:

  • On certain versions of Windows encryption is a pretty simple process and on other systems there is software available to enable this.
  • Ensure all of your files including documents, photos, music, bookmarks and anything else you may need are backed up and readily available in case you become “locked-out” and are no longer able to access them on your computer.

Password Hackers

Last year ‘123456’ headed up a list of the 25 most common passwords. Choosing a password like this is the IT equivalent of putting out a welcome mat and leaving your key in the front door. Strong passwords are at least 8 characters long (longer is better!) and contain a combination of numbers, symbols and letters.

Actions you can take:

  • Don’t use the company name or even the name of the program you are using (e.g. Photoshop123).
  • Don’t keep your carefully-chosen words the same for all accounts. Think of something memorable but with different variations for each, and store them away from your PC.

Network Infiltrators

Free Wi-Fi or other kinds of wireless or shared networks in places like coffee shops, hotels, conference rooms and on public transport can be used by anyone – making them the perfect hunting ground for hackers.

Actions you can take:

  • Read the Terms and Conditions of wireless networks before logging on.
  • Think ‘safety first’ and turn on all the security protection open to you.
  • Don’t login to sensitive sites (such as your online banking) when using a public wireless network

Virus Spreaders

‘Code Red’, ‘Slammer’, ‘MyDoom’… Viruses so infamous they’re classed as the most destructive of all time. Specific viruses come and go but the key to surviving them all is the same – be vigilant. Protect yourself and your assets.

Actions you can take:

  • Keep your internet security software up-to-date and switched on at all times.
  • Apply the latest Microsoft updates to your Windows operating system as soon as possible
  • Install and apply the latest manufacturers’ updates for all your software programs.
  • Trust your gut. If an attachment, email or website doesn’t feel safe, it most likely isn’t.

The PC Support Group provides expert advice on all matters relating to cybersecurity. Contact us on 03300 886 116 to discuss your IT strategy, and how we can bring our world-class managed service provider benefits to your organisation.

*Source: National Archives & Records Administration in Washington

 

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Category: Cloud Computing, Customer Service, IT Support.

cloud

In today’s business world, you and your workforce need to be able to access your computer systems at any time in any place from any PC, laptop or mobile device.

You need the flexibility to match your IT needs to your business and the marketplace, and you certainly shouldn’t be investing in expensive server hardware or software for the privilege.

That’s why Cloud Computing makes absolute sense for any SME interested in a dependable IT solution that costs less when business is slow and only adds extra cost in line with your business growth.

Putting it simply, Cloud Computing means you can store and access the data and programs that are critical to the success of your business over the internet instead of your computer or company server. This includes your documents, emails, customer information, business applications and other assets.

If Cloud Computing with its flexibility, accessibility and affordability sounds like an IT solution you’d like to explore, here’s how you can master the Cloud for business in five easy steps:

  1. You Need Guaranteed Internet Connectivity: If you cannot connect to the internet, most Cloud Computing solutions simply won’t work. Since, in most instances, you use the Internet to connect to both your applications and documents, if you don’t have an Internet connection you can’t access anything. Also, web-based software can require a lot of bandwidth, as do large documents. If you’re suffering from a low-speed connection, it might take seemingly forever just to change from page to page in a document. If you cannot guarantee regular, sustained access to the internet, Cloud Computing is not for you. There are, however, some hybrid solutions that might be perfect for your business. Speak impartially to our experts at The PC Support Group about what your other IT options may better meet your needs.
  2. Transition to Microsoft 365: Microsoft Office 365 is a Cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft themselves. It brings together familiar Microsoft Office desktop-based applications with Cloud-based business email, shared calendars, instant messaging, video conferencing and file sharing. If you’re already familiar with Microsoft Office tools such as Outlook and Word, Microsoft Office 365 can be a smooth transition to using Cloud technology. One of the key benefits, especially if you’re a business that does not have an internal network, is the ability to share calendars; to message each other and to access the system via the web. If you already operate on an internal network you can still benefit through reduced support costs; reduced licence replacement costs; improved security and improved resilience. Learn more here.
  3. Define your IT Strategy: Cloud Computing is one of the world’s leading enablers for business. It brings overseas marketplaces closer to your doorstep; supports agile and paperless working, and makes running a virtual team a reality – saving you overheads like business premises and utility bills. Discuss how and where Cloud Computing will fit into the ‘bigger picture’ for your growth strategy with one of our experts who can explain and recommend options for all different sizes and styles of business and make sure that common pitfalls are avoided. At The PC Support Group we can provide various Cloud-based solutions and Non-Cloud solutions and so can provide you with the best independent advice
  4. Future-proof Your Business: Be careful when you’re choosing a Cloud Computing vendor that you’re not locking your business into using programs that are the exclusive property of their developers or publishers and bound by specific formats and licensing agreements. Also make sure that you can add and subtract Cloud Computing users as necessary as your business grows or contracts.
  5. Trust a Managed Service Provider: You’ve opted for Cloud Computing; you’re all set and ready to go. Now what? Too often, computing solutions are implemented and only revisited when something goes wrong. A Managed Service Provider will monitor your Cloud Computing set-up – taking pre-emptive action to mitigate against potential problems and ensuring your set-up continues to run at its optimum. Not convinced you need ongoing support? What would you have done if any of these IT disasters had befallen your company? The PC Support Group is proud to be one of the top 500 Managed Service Providers in the world.

Got a question about Cloud Computing for your business, contact us today.

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.

Read more »

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Category: Cloud Computing, IT Support, Mobile Computing, Software.

The PC Support Group Managing Director, Phil Bird, shares his 5 technology trend predictions for UK small businesses in 2013.

1. 4G will move up the business agenda

At the end of October 2012 the next generation of mobile telecoms was launched in eleven cities with EE’s 4G network. After the Ofcom 4G auctions at the start of 2013 other operators will start to roll out their networks and the new technology should cover 98% of the country by the end of 2014. 4G will offer true mobile broadband with speeds equal to or greater than fixed line. People will be able to work more ‘on the move’, able to access the internet and their business systems from anywhere. For small businesses this flexibility could be the key to increasing productivity and efficiency.

2. System monitoring and “self-healing” systems

In a tough market businesses need to think smarter and be more efficient. Key to this is moving to proactive IT support, where the latest technology allows you to work on systems before they go wrong, to send alerts flagging potential issues and to even create self-correcting routines. This is clever ‘new generation’ IT support helps deliver greater “up time” and drive increased productivity.

Read more »

Working Remotely

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Category: Business, Cloud Computing, IT Support, Mobile Computing.

In business you need to be there for your customers, come rain, hail or shine. Hours lost away from the office can mean missed deadlines, which can lead to lost clients. Your business needs to keep functioning and that’s exactly what remote working can deliver.

The ability to work effectively from almost any location is one of the biggest changes happening in workplaces today. Innovations in technology have been the greatest driver of this. 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.

Many companies have stayed away from remote working in the past, this is particularly true of smaller businesses that think it is expensive and difficult to implement. Ironically smaller businesses stand to gain the most from flexible working.

Read more »

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Category: Business, Cloud Computing, IT Support.

I was recently discussing some of my concerns about Cloud computing being viewed as a blanket answer to all IT issues with a legal friend (Geoffrey Sturgess from Warner Goodman Commercial) and he had some very useful and interesting views on the matter. I’m delighted to say he put his thoughts in writing. Here’s what he had to say:

“Whatever ‘cloud computing’ is, it is definitely here, or at least the numbers of references to it in the legal press or even in ordinary conversation would suggest it is.

In fact it has been here for a number of years.

Wikepedia says:
Cloud computing refers to the use and access of multiple server-based computational resources via a digital network,(WAN, Internet connection using the World Wide Web, etc.). Cloud users may access the server resources using a computer, netbook, pad computer, smart phone, or other device. In cloud computing, applications are provided and managed by the cloud server and data is also stored remotely in the cloud configuration. Users do not download and install applications on their own device or computer; all processing and storage is maintained by the cloud server.

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Category: Business, Cloud Computing, Mobile Computing.

Cloud computing is being talked about more and more and some are getting rather excited about it. This term is cropping up from technical seminars to the glossy magazines that come with your Sunday newspapers.

So what is cloud computing and how might it affect your business?

Cloud computing is a way of using computers where the computer resources (software and hardware) are provided as a service over the internet and are dynamically scalable and often virtual (i.e. not necessarily in one known place). What this means to users is that the information they use is stored on computers somewhere else (other than there local PC) and can be accessed where, when and how they want it.

Cloud computing customers don’t generally own the physical infrastructure on which the applications run and store the data. Instead, they rent usage from a third-party provider and then use the system as they need it, much as people use gas or electricity. The more resources they use (such as more users having access to an application or using more disk space for storing data) the more they pay.

This is a new term and is being hailed as a revolution with companies claiming to offer amazing cloud computing services.

The reality is that many businesses and home users are already using cloud computing without even realising it. Any business that uses an application operated by another company and accessed via a web browser is using cloud computing; any home user that uses a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace is using cloud computing.

The advantage of the cloud concept is that the information is held centrally (somewhere) and can be accessed from multiple locations using multiple devices.

So, should you jumping on the cloud computing band-wagon?

Read more »