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Author

Category: Business, IT Security.

Most business owners and managers are now aware that taking appropriate cybersecurity precautions is as important as paying the VAT on time. Those organisations that still don’t get it are issuing an open invitation to the fraudsters and criminals to make their lives a misery!
 
But did you know that, for a relatively modest investment, you can put in place some very effective, common-sense cybersecurity measures AND open up a world of new business opportunities in the process? “Great, how do I do that”, I hear you say!
 
Well, I’m a big fan of the government-backed, industry-supported Cyber Essentials accreditation scheme, because it can help your business in so many ways:

  • It’s a simple and effective way to ensure that you have essential security processes and measures in place to help protect your business from attacks
  • It gives you a clear picture of your current cybersecurity status, and a roadmap to add additional security systems and processes when required
  • Certification means that you will be recognised as having achieved a respected cybersecurity quality standard
  • It puts you in a position to go for the full Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation which pre-qualifies you to bid for many central government and public sector contracts, that would otherwise not be available to you
  • It’s a valuable, public symbol of your commitment to cybersecurity and data protection, that you can use with pride in sales and marketing communications to your existing customers, sales prospects and other stakeholders, adding weight and value to your offer.

In a recent report by CyberGuard, part of the OGL Group, 84% of accredited companies surveyed said that Cyber Essentials had “helped their business to win contracts”, with other respondents highlighting “the importance of the certification in reassuring their customers”.

So, if you don’t currently have Cyber Essentials certification then I would urge you to seriously consider it. Your existing IT support provider should be able to help and advise you on this (hopefully they have already) although it will need to be led by an internal advocate who is familiar with other areas of the business as well as technology.
 
We are a Cyber Essentials-certified business ourselves and work with senior managers responsible for achieving certification within our client base, providing a wide range of practical information, advice, and guidance, to help them with their Cyber Essentials programme and to complete their submission.
 
If you’d like to discuss your IT support requirements and how we can assist you to become part of the Cyber Essentials community, boosting your security and sales potential – call us on 03300 886116 and mention Cyber Essentials.
 
Phil Bird
Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: Cloud Computing, Data Backup.

There’s good news and bad news in the cybersecurity giant Symantec’s most recent report on internet threats. And it confirms a pattern that I’ve been increasingly concerned about in recent months, so much so that I wanted to share some important advice and guidance with you.

The good news is that, for the first time since 2013, the overall number of ransomware attacks is in decline. The bad news is that the volume of attacks on consumers is falling because attacks on businesses are rising, up 12% in 2018. Businesses are now the victims of more than 80% of all successful ransomware infections, with bogus emails the cybercriminals’ weapon of choice. 

And ransomware is very bad news indeed, blocking users from accessing their computers or files until they pay a ransom to cybercriminals. It’s all too easy where you or I could simply open an email attachment and innocently allow a crypto virus into our network regardless of whether you have anti-virus protection or not. The reason why anti-virus protection is not always enough is complex, but the bottom line is that the criminals can be a step ahead, spreading far and fast before the anti-virus protections have caught up.  The costs of recovery can be huge – and potentially fatal, especially for SMEs for whom the loss of data and interruption to customer service, for even a few hours, would have catastrophic results. So, first and foremost, think of backup solutions as an insurance policy.  In a nutshell, it’s vital that all of your valuable data is backed up in a safe and secure location, out of the reach of even the most determined thieves.

Symantec’s report reveals that a key reason that attacks on consumers is declining is because consumers are increasingly using mobile devices with their essential data backed up in the cloud.

And this highlights a key vulnerability for many businesses. Onsite backup can be just as vulnerable to the same infection as live systems. This is because once criminals have access to your onsite network they may also get access to your onsite backups. The answer is a secure and managed offsite backup solution.  First, ask yourself these key questions about your data and backup arrangements:

  • Do you know exactly what data you hold – about your customers, your employees, your business, your suppliers, your finances, your products and services?
  • How and where is it stored, and how is it secured?
  • Do you back it up, how, and how often?
  • What would happen if you suddenly lost access to your live data and onsite backups, whether through a ransomware attack, or a flood or fire in your office?
  • How long would it be before this became a serious issue for you – minutes, hours, days?
  • How often do you review your backup arrangements? As your business develops, and therefore your needs change, so will your data backup requirements.  Therefore, it is essential to periodically review your backup solutions.

Another worrying statistic: of 81% of ransomware victims confident that their backup would enable complete recovery, only 42% succeeded! So ACT TODAY and put the right backup arrangements in place, so when the worst does happen recovering your systems and data is possible.

If you’d like a backup review and an informal and confidential chat about your options to ensure you are protected adequately, call us on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com  

Si Albert

Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: VoIP, Business.

Don’t you think it’s amazing that today’s copper telephone lines in premises are the same as 150 years ago?

But all good things come to an end sometime, I guess. And that sometime is now! Big changes are gathering pace as the telecoms industry ditches its expensive and unwieldy legacy infrastructure to take full advantage of the tremendous benefits of cloud-based telephony or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).

Have you heard that next year, in 2020 BT will begin phasing out its old-style landlines and will then switch them off altogether in 2025? I was explaining this to one of our clients the other day and the reaction was “that’s OK, we’ve got plenty of time then”. Wrong.

The thing is, in business planning terms, 2020 is just around the corner. So, if you’re one of the millions of UK organisations still using ISDN, for example, believe me, now’s the time to make the move to the cloud.

Because even without the news from BT, the advantages of VoIP telephony are so game-changing for SMEs that it’s a no-brainer! VoIP allows you to make voice and video calls anywhere in the world, from any device – all you need is an internet connection.

Cloud-based telephony will transform your business communications. With VoIP you’ll get:

  • significant reductions in business phone line and contract bills
  • next generation technology that’s simple to transition to and easy to use and maintain
  • flexibility to use your own devices, keep the same number across all devices, add and remove users at speed and work from any location
  • access to the latest versions, updates and mobile working features
  • integration with your other business systems
  • a great phone system to boost productivity and agility, without ANY capital investment

I’m often struck by how many people are nervous about making the move – and we’re always pleased to be able to put their minds at rest. There’s really nothing to lose and everything to gain.  The only things you need to do is check your current contract (don’t accidentally fall into renewal) and then find a qualified supplier with VoIP experience.  I would strongly recommend one that doesn’t tie you in for any length of time, so you can easily change if your provider doesn’t deliver the service you need.

Here, at The PC Support Group, we deal with many of our clients’ combined IT and telephony needs so if you’d like to discuss your options, the benefits you can expect, and how we can help you to make it happen, call us on 03300 886116, contact us here or email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business, IT News, IT Security.

In recent months we have seen a significant increase in reports of major security breaches around the world, resulting in large-scale theft of data and cash, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the victims.

By the day, the tactics used by cybercriminals are becoming ever more sophisticated. 

1 in 6 UK SMEs have suffered at least one cybersecurity breach or attack in the last 12 months and those that were affected, 21% reported that it cost them over £10,000 and 11% said that it cost more than £50,000.

It just makes sense to protect the business you’ve worked so hard to build – and demonstrating that you have cybersecurity measures in place is increasingly essential for SMEs wishing to supply large organisations.

A small investment today could save your business tomorrow.

Here, at The PC Support Group, we have produced a Cyber Crime Security bulletin which highlights some of the key risks and the preventative actions that you could take which will help minimise the risks to your organisation as well as fulfilling your legal obligations.
 

If you’d like to receive your FREE Cyber Crime Security download, click here, email our friendly staff on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call us on 03300 886 116 for a confidential chat about your cybersecurity or IT support requirements.

Phil Bird
Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business, IT News.

How has 2019 started for you and your business?
Here we are nearing the end of February already – so are you on track to reach the objectives you set for this year in developing your company?

We want to help at The PC Support Group so I’d like to invite you to help to set the agenda for the next series in our programme of regular IT advice and guidance emails. Just let me know what your IT concerns, issues or fears are and we’ll use these to guide our information communications over the coming months.

For example do you worry about:

  • cybersecurity and how to guard against attacks?
  • how to keep up with the latest IT developments?
  • whether your people have got the right IT to provide a great service?
  • investment decisions – on premise, or move into the cloud?
  • your customers’ expectations from your IT?
  • what would happen if your IT goes down, for one hour, one day or one week?

Please let us know your top three IT-related concerns (which may or may not include some of those mentioned above) by emailing us at info@pcsupportgroup.com and we’ll take it from there.

What’s great is that you probably have similar IT challenges to many colleagues in our SME community, so hopefully, by helping you, we can also help other businesses too.

After all, by sharing useful information we’re supporting each other and helping make our businesses more efficient and profitable!

So, please send in your suggestions and, in the meantime, if you’d like to speak to us directly about IT or telephony support, call us on 03300 886 116, leave us a message here or email info@pcsupportgroup.com for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

An internet search on the business benefits of having happy employees throws up enough reading to last a lifetime! Hundreds of research projects tell the same story – that happy employees are great news for your business.

Happy employees stay longer, work smarter, are more committed, take more responsibility and are more productive and creative. They need less management, they support their colleagues – and customers love them because they provide better service because they’re, well, happy! In a nutshell, happy employees save you money and make you money.

Did you know that flexible working tops the wishlist for employees working in UK SMEs? In a 2018 study by financial advisers Drewberry, 42% of respondents desired flexible working arrangements above any other employment benefit.

So, what does flexible working actually mean? Flexible working is working outside a normal working pattern which is typically in the same place each day during the same hours. Flexible working is a way to work that suits your employees’ needs and may suit your business needs too.

Remote working is a type of flexible working which means working from anywhere and has become possible and a lot more common due to advances in IT.  With today’s technology, it’s never been easier to work away from the office – there’s a host of great, simple to use tools, such as Office 365, SharePoint, OneNote, Skype and many more – and, in the cloud, you can securely store and access everything you need to work 24/7.  In fact, remote working has resulted in 13% performance increase (Institute of Leadership & Management Research) – so it is a huge benefit to businesses.

So, if flexible working makes employees happy – and happy employees are gold dust, there’s no time to lose! If you’re considering flexible and remote working arrangements for your people, what are the key things to consider? Here’s what I say when our customers ask me that very question:

  1. Firstly, prepare a business case examining the pros and cons, analysing the costs and benefits of implementing flexible working in your business
  2. Decide how much flexibility and remote working that you want to introduce and what suits your business. For example, remote working will probably suit a small, client-facing consultancy business more than a mid-sized manufacturer
  3. Talk to everyone who you think is interested, or would benefit from being able to work remotely. There isn’t a one size fits all strategy
  4. Communicate your decisions to all your staff
  5. If you’re concerned about losing control or visibility of your people, then set ground rules, times when they will be in the office or available electronically and, most importantly, agree ways of measuring their productivity to ensure they meet their targets
  6. Talk to your IT support partner about the technology best suited for your needs, the most cost-effective way of introducing it and the training available to make the most of it

If you’d like to speak to us about successfully introducing or extending your flexible and remote working arrangements, call us on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

I recently came across a couple of situations when speaking with prospective clients that got me thinking. The first one was a business owner that was very unhappy with the service he was getting from his current IT support provider.   He had decided to move to us but then realised he was stuck in his existing contract for another year. He has since come to an agreement, so he can move.  The second was a lady I met who spent 30 minutes telling me why her current IT provider and infrastructure was holding her business back but has decided to stay with them for now because it is easier and see how it goes.

Don’t jeopardise moving your business forward because you think it’s too much hassle to move IT, provider.  Switching is usually quite straightforward.  Moving supplier can add value to your business beyond cost reductions by taking advantage of better talent, technology, processes, and innovation.

If you’ve decided that your current supplier is not right for you and your business, here are some things to think about before switching that will help a seamless transition:

Check your contract with your existing IT support company

Before you tell your current supplier you want to switch, make sure you are legally able to make the move.  A lot of companies tie you in for a year or more, require several months’ notice and even automatically enrol you into additional years if notice is not given. Even if you’re not ready to change now, make sure you know your contract terms before doing anything.

Pull together all your IT network documents

Make sure you have collated all IT documents that you can, so you can pass this on to your new IT support company and take backups of all your data if possible. If this is something you don’t have, ask your current supplier to provide it before giving them notice.  Examples of the documents that will help are your current website domain host, passwords to servers and other important systems, and information about where data is stored and backed up.

Do your homework on the IT provider you are switching to

The more information you can find about your new IT provider beforehand, the better chance you have of a great working relationship that will last for years and the more your business will grow.

To help, we have devised a simple guide with 20 key questions to help you choose the right IT support provider, once you have decided to switch.  Please feel free to download this here.

Check the new supplier has migrated systems like yours before

When changing IT provider, most problems are caused by the new supplier’s lack of experience in migrating cloud so check they have migrated other similar ones. Do they have a dedicated project manager and project team to ensure the transfer is planned and goes smoothly?

Always be open and transparent with your current supplier re switching

Communication is key, and any ethical company will want to make sure that their reputation is not harmed.  By being open and transparent you can agree on expectations before and during the transition.

So, if you have decided now is the time to switch to a better service, feel free to give us a call on 03000 886 116 or email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” I couldn’t resist a smile when I heard this yesterday because the person in the coffee queue in front of me could have been speaking on behalf of just about everyone working in an SME!

We all know that, with additional time, there’s so much more that we could achieve. Do you ever wonder what would you do with a few extra hours every week?

Today’s successful businesses are working smarter, not harder. They’re finding new ways to improve the productivity of their people – and technology is making it possible. Of course, every business is different and what works for one may not work for another. But I am totally convinced that those that embrace technology are the ones that are prospering.

And by technology I don’t mean the really techy stuff, I mean the easy-to-use, tools and systems that are available for all SMEs. I reckon that there are six key things (and there are more!) that you can do very easily that will free up priceless extra hours for you and your people – and improve efficiencies, team working and job satisfaction in the process.

You may already be doing some or all of these things, but here goes:

  1. The basics: A fast and reliable internet connection and an automatically-updated cloud computing platform will ensure that your business-critical tech is always on and doing what it says on the tin. Remember, downtime is a business killer!
  2. Switch to versatile cloud-based telephony: BT is phasing out landlines and with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) you’ll cut costs and improve your mobile working capabilities.
  3. Collaboration: Make it easy for people to communicate, share files and documents, work together and stay in touch – using Skype, SharePoint and shared calendars for example – encouraging faster, more efficient team working.
  4. Consider remote working: Once you’ve embraced collaboration this is the obvious next step. Statistics show beyond doubt that remote and mobile working boosts productivity by giving people more control over their working life. Happier, more contented employees are more productive, it’s a fact!
  5. Update your management tools: This list is endless. For example, there are loads of easy to use tools to track the time everyone is spending on daily tasks, giving you the data, you need to manage more effectively. The latest automated CRM systems are saving time and improving services too, speeding up contacts with customers and improving conversion rates. And apps like Evernote capture, organise and share project notes, so that everyone is on the same page and actions and responsibilities are clear.
  6. IT support: Being able to call upon expert assistance when you need it will ensure that you’re making the most of your smart tools and systems, that your basics are running smoothly and efficiently, and that you have help on hand if something goes wrong.

If you’d like help to boost your productivity and free up some of your time – call our team on 03300 886 116 or email them on info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

 

Thanks to the rise of cloud computing, smartphones and tablets the amount of paper in offices has definitely reduced.  However, most businesses can still reduce their paper consumption by a further 20% with some simple office policies.

Where once the idea of being able to access documents anywhere and everywhere was but a pipe dream, with the likes of Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, this is now possible with the tap of a button or click of a mouse.

This is not only brilliant for SMEs concerned with how much printing and the supply of paper costs a business’s bottom line but also people concerned with the environmental impact of offices filled with paper and wastage.   After all, everything that is printed has both an environmental and monetary cost.

From a corporate social responsibility point of view, going paperless makes absolute sense. Globally, it’s believed our paper consumption has more than doubled in the last 40 years, while ORS Group figures suggest that the average UK worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper annually – the equivalent of four boxes, which cost £40 in total.

From a financial perspective, better using resources and reducing waste can only ultimately do good things for your overheads. Whether that translates to pure savings or just enables an organisation to divert extra resources to add value elsewhere, it can offer real benefits.

So, think before you hit that print button and start 2019 with a fresh approach to help save money and increase efficiency whilst helping the environment with the following tips:

1)   Avoid printing emails where necessary

3)   If you must print, try reducing the number of copies

3)    Set your printer to default to double-side printing

4)    Use scanners or email instead of printing

5)    Recycle what you use and ask to use recycled paper

Date:

Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

I’m often asked: “should we store our data in the cloud or on our own server on our own premises?”.  Quickly followed by: “which is more expensive?”, and “which is more secure?”

Regular readers will know that I’m on a bit of personal crusade to help our clients – and anyone who needs assistance – to make more informed decisions, based on what’s best for their business.

So, let’s unpack this issue a bit because there are pros and cons with both cloud and on-premise data storage – and making the right decision for you depends on your own unique circumstances, your appetite for risk and what makes you feel most comfortable. Let’s start with the basics.

In a nutshell, on-premise data storage means:

  • using an in-house server, computers or other devices to store your data
  • purchasing your own hardware and software
  • regularly maintaining, upgrading and replacing your infrastructure
  • buying additional equipment if your storage requirements increase beyond current capacity
  • employing, directly or indirectly, specialist expertise to keep these assets fully operational

Advantages:
Security – by keeping your data within your own direct control, so long as you take sensible security precautions, it’s harder for hackers to attack.

Control – if you own the hardware, software and decide where the data is and who manages it then you are in complete control of every aspect of the system which may give you peace of mind.

Access – because you are not reliant on internet connection, all employees based at your site will always have access to the data, and if you are dealing with large files it can be faster.

Disadvantages:
Cost – buying, maintaining and regularly replacing your own equipment for the latest and best versions requires regular capital investment and ongoing operating expenditure.

Remote Access – unless suitable technology is implemented then remote access to on-site servers is often more complicated and slower than cloud solutions.

Meanwhile, cloud-based data storage involves:

  • using remote servers or hardware maintained by a third-party service provider
  • buying the use of specific quantities of storage space and bandwidth
  • accessing your data via the internet

Advantages:
Cost – cloud-based data storage avoids buying your own hardware and software and ongoing costs are often lower than the costs of maintaining your own systems.

Flexibility – you can access your data anytime, anywhere, all you need is an internet connection – and you can buy more storage space when you need it and pay less when you don’t.

Disadvantages:
Security – with flexibility comes increased risk. Data stored in the cloud often uses multiple providers, shared resources and may be more easily accessed by people outside your organisation. This can be reduced by using a private cloud, rather than a public cloud in which storage space is shared by many organisations.

Downtime – access to cloud servers is more susceptible to outages and downtime with it being reliant on the internet connection.

Tough decision? Well don’t despair as it’s just a case of going through your key business goals and drivers with your trusted IT advisor and they will be able to recommend the right solution for you. And remember, the solution doesn’t have to be one or the other, some companies decide that what is best for them is a dual approach or a hybrid data storage solution where primary data is stored on their own server with backup versions stored in the cloud.

If you’d like us to help you to decide what is the best option for you, leave us a message here or email us at info@pcsupportgroup.com and we’ll contact you back, or call our team on 03300 886 116 for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird
Managing Director, The PC Support Group