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Category: IT Security.

Did you know that the UK’s SMEs are on the receiving end of an average of 65,000 cyber attacks every day? Or that the average loss from a successful attack is £25,700, per business?

I was shocked when I read these statistics, published by insurers Hiscox. Perhaps the most worrying trend of all for me is the relentless growth in ever-more sophisticated phishing scams. Even IT experts and senior executives are being tricked by bogus emails in order to steal your personal info and login details, or get you to make a payment – or simply to corrupt your computers to disrupt your operations.

The bottom line is, while some scam emails are easy to spot, the majority look very, very convincing. If it looks like it’s from a trusted company, with branding to match, it could just as easily be from a cybercriminal.

And, as Hiscox and other surveys reveal, the consequences can be extremely serious. Your business bank account could be compromised. Confidential customer data stolen. Or even worse, your entire IT estate paralysed by ransomware. Make no mistake, phishing could kill your business.

The best defences are education and motivation. Share the problem with your employees and give them guidance, after all failing to spot these emails could ultimately impact their job security.  Helping them spot the dangers now could be the best thing you can do to protect your business.

“So how do I spot a bogus email?” I’m often asked.  Here are six things that I would share immediately with everyone in your business. Beware of any emails that ask you to:

  1. make an immediate payment – don’t pay without speaking with the person to check the request is valid. Do not check via email!
  2. enter your ID and password – check with your IT support provider/department that this is a genuine requirement before entering anything you’re not 100% sure about
  3. start paying invoices into a new account – phone the requester to check it’s a genuine requirement
  4. click on a given link – check with your IT support provider/department that this is a genuine requirement
  5. download something onto your computer – don’t download anything unless you’re 100% sure of it’s content. If you’re not – check with who asked you to download it or check with your IT support provider
  6. respond because your account is under attack, been compromised or frozen – there is often no compromise and these are designed to create a panic response. Don’t! Check with your IT support provider that the alert is genuine before responding or clicking on anything

I treat everything as potentially suspicious – sadly that’s the mindset we all need to adopt. If you’re in any doubt, do not open or click on any link or divulge any personal or corporate information, without first contacting your IT team or support partner.

If you’re concerned about your business’s vulnerability to phishing attacks, email info@pcsupportgroup.com or, leave us a message here and we’ll get back to you or call us on 03300 886116 or for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: IT Security.

Recent research by Verizon revealed that business owners and senior executives are 12 times more likely to be the target of a cybersecurity attack than any other employee – with SMEs the victims of 43% of all data security breaches.

For me, this worrying trend confirms what I have been saying to our clients for as long as I can remember: Effective cybersecurity has to start at the very top of your organisation – at board level – with clear policies, standards, roles and responsibilities that everyone understands, all backed by sufficient resources to make it happen.

It’s no surprise that top people are most at risk. They’re incredibly busy, on the move, working long hours, trying to achieve as much as possible every day – with the result that they are vulnerable to being caught off guard – and the cybercriminal only needs one mistake to pounce. And that mistake can be very expensive, not just in purely financial terms.

Executives also have onerous legal and regulatory responsibilities, with breaches likely to damage reputations, business prospects, careers – even an organisation’s very existence.

Surveys show that almost all SMEs are now aware of the business-critical importance of cybersecurity. That’s great – but now is the time to put cybersecurity at the heart of the way you do business, to protect everything you’ve worked for. Leadership is crucial, to reaffirm that cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, how we all have a vital role in the battle, and why it’s in everyone’s interest to become super-vigilant at work.

First, you and your senior colleagues must have a forensic understanding of all your key risks and vulnerabilities and how your data is gathered, managed and stored. You and your employees need ongoing training to guard against increasingly sophisticated efforts to trick you into revealing information which the skilled hacker can wreak havoc with. Discuss this with your IT provider and ask them if there is anything else you can do.

At The PC Support Group, we’ve developed a comprehensive, award-winning portfolio of services, solutions, advice, and guidance to help keep our clients – and their clients – safe.  We’re also Cyber Essentials-certified, having achieved the principal UK Government-backed cybersecurity quality standard.  Some of the services that The PC Support Group offer as part of our portfolio include:

  1. Security surveys and testing – to help identify and manage vulnerabilities
  2. Managed internet firewall protection – that meets the Payment Card Industry Security Standard (PCIDSS) compliance regulations
  3. Managed antivirus services – ensuring detection, protection, and removal
  4. Data backup services – keeping all your data in a safe and secure location
  5. Multi-Factor Authentication – for extra security in addition to usernames and passwords
  6. Data encryption – keeping data safe if your computer or smartphone is lost or stolen
  7. Email security diagnostics – to enhance your system’s security configuration.

Take the lead NOW and email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call us on 03300 886116 to find out how we can help keep your business safe and running smoothly.

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: IT Security.

In my last bulletin I shared with you my IT health check, designed to help SMEs to have a solid foundation of basic information about their IT infrastructure, systems and equipment. If you know what cards you have in your hand, it’s so much easier to play the right one, at the right time!

But there’s a natural follow up to an IT health check – a broader exercise, which will help equip you to deal with a nightmare scenario: How would you cope with a sudden crisis in your business?

By sudden crisis I mean, what would happen if your business:

  • lost all its data?
  • couldn’t use its core IT and telecoms systems and equipment?
  • suffered from fire or flood damage to its offices?
  • suddenly lost key members of staff – or a vital supplier?
  • was unable to access bank accounts or key management software?
  • was a victim of the theft of online, intellectual or physical property?

This is something that I continuously consider and review – to be as sure as possible that The PC Support Group could recover from any of these nightmare scenarios. I do worry about this stuff but what it makes me do is plan, and I think you know by now, that I love a plan!

Owner managers of SMEs work so hard, often for many years, to build up businesses that do great things – and provide prosperity and incomes for themselves, their families and their employees, and it really pains me to hear of events when all that effort goes up in smoke – sometimes literally.

Do you think you would survive and recover? Most importantly, do you have plans in place and resources in reserve to help you to deal with these challenges and emerge with your reputation and your business intact? If you do, your chances of making a full recovery are greatly increased. If you don’t, drawing up these plans and allocating adequate resources to cope with an emergency should be a top priority.

We have a series of free guides available about a range of business-critical issues and one is devoted to business continuity, with a six-step action plan designed to help you to prepare. The steps cover:

  • How to carry out a business impact analysis – to understand your risks and vulnerabilities
  • Assessing your current state of readiness – and identifying those areas needing attention
  • How to construct your plan – to ensure you cover all the bases
  • Communicating your plan – so that your team know what to do if something goes wrong
  • Reviewing, testing and updating your plan – because your business is constantly evolving
  • Recruiting external support – for specific expertise and to plug gaps in your plan.

This FREE, six step guide to business continuity is available now, just click on this link:

Business continuity for SMEs – how to survive a major emergency and recover in style.

If you’d like to have a chat about business continuity, or any other aspect of your IT and telecoms, email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call our team on 03300 886116 for an informal chat.

 

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group.

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Author

Category: Business, Data Backup, IT Processes, IT Security, IT Support, IT Training.

It’s a tough job running a business. It’s incredibly demanding, stressful and time-consuming – but, of course, when things are going well, it can be tremendously satisfying and rewarding too.

I hear these personal stories every day as I talk to customers, and I’m constantly learning lessons from these conversations too. One lesson came through to me loud and clear this week.

I reckon that prosperous businesses have some key things in common. And when it comes to their IT, data, and telephony, this boils down to getting the basics right. They’re on top of those absolute fundamentals, minimising their risks and maximising their chances of success.

Conversely, those businesses that don’t have a grip on these basics are taking some very big risks, missing opportunities and gambling on their futures – and the futures of their employees too.

So, this week, it’s back to basics! Of course, there are many things that have to go right to be successful in business, but I strongly recommend that you complete my IT health check. If you’ve got a handle on these essentials, then you’ve got good IT system foundations in place and you can build from there. To get a clean bill of health you need to be able to answer all 8 questions!

  1. IT services. Do you know exactly what outsourced services are you currently receiving from your IT provider and at what cost? Do you know the details of the contracts with these suppliers such as when you are tied in until and what notice period you need to give?
  2. Data storage. Do you keep records of all the types of data your business uses, and how you store, protect and use it? Have you assessed the impact of losing each type of data so you can manage and mitigate the risk?
  3. IT equipment. Do you have an up-to-date inventory of all your IT equipment, software, and devices?
  4. Security. What security measures do you have in place such as managed anti-virus, firewalls and multi-factor authentication (like online banking uses) Have you undertaken any of the Government-backed, industry-supported programmes such as Cyber Essentials, to ensure your business is doing all the security basics?
  5. Backup. Is your data being backed up? By who? How many copies are being taken and can you access those easily? Do you check that backups are being successfully completed? What about cloud file storage like Dropbox or SharePoint – these are not backups in their own right
  6. Disaster recovery. Do you regularly assess the risks should any aspect of your systems fail or be inaccessible? Do you have a disaster recovery plan? Just because a server is backed up does not mean you will have instant access to that data in the event of a failure; it could be days or even weeks depending on what plans you have in place.
  7. Updates. Is your operating system and software automatically updated or are you using old, unsupported tech, possibly with security holes waiting to be found?
  8. Training. Do you have measures in place to control how your employees use your IT so that they use it efficiently and safely? Simply training them on how to spot a spam email could save your business from a cyber-crime.

So, how did you get on? Do you feel in control, or do you need some assistance?  If you’d like to find out how we may be able to help your organisation to get the basics right, call our team on 03300 886116 or email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com for an informal chat.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: Customer Service, IT Support.

No one likes to be ignored. We’ve all felt that surging irritation when the waiter or sales assistant just refuses to catch our eye!

When I ask our clients about what’s important to them and what great customer service looks like for them, they always tell me how important speed of response is – and, sadly, how often they are let down by organisations whose responses are slow, inadequate and sometimes non-existent.

There are many reasons why slow response times become the norm in some service businesses. It may be that help desks are under-resourced, that systems are inadequate or that they’re hiding behind impressive-sounding SLAs that actually give them permission to respond slowly!

These excuses mask the real problem – and that’s to do with leadership. By leadership, I mean a total and unwavering commitment, from the top to great customer service – and then making good on this commitment by putting in place the people, skills and systems that ensure that the old “committed to customer service” chestnut is a reality.

In the IT support and service sector, responding quickly to a client that needs assistance is absolutely vital of course. Loss of data, systems and security measures, even for a very short period of time, can be very damaging and expensive – and in extreme cases – fatal. So, here are some golden rules that we at The PC Support Group keep at the heart of our own customer service ethos:

  • Make it as easy as possible for clients to speak to people who can really help – most clients calling us speak directly, on the first call, to an engineer with the skills to take immediate action
  • Train engineers to ask intelligent questions and listen – understanding the underlying issue and identifying the urgency of the fix is a real skill – the smallest piece of information about a problem can be significant and enable a fast solution
  • Respond quickly to requests – acknowledging their call straight away and confirming in writing that their query is being dealt with
  • Wherever possible act immediately – or for more complex cases, set accurate expectations about resolution. Be realistic, most of us can make alternative, short term arrangements once we have a timetable to workaround
  • Stay in touch – it is not enough to just fix things in the background. It’s important to keep clients informed on progress so that they are reassured and so we can work together to ensure the right solution is put in place in the right timescale
  • Maintain continuity – whoever responds first should own the issue and its resolution, no-one wants to be passed around from one person to another. If there is a need to escalate internally, it’s explained and agreed with the client
  • Lead from the front – all our clients have the names and numbers of senior management and can escalate to me if needed
  • Always check that the customer is happy with the solution and the outcome – and allow them to decide when the problem has been resolved to their satisfaction.

If you’re not happy with the response times from your current IT support company, email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call our team on 03300 886116  for an informal and confidential chat to see how we can help boost your productivity and keep your business safe.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: Windows 7, IT News, IT Security, Microsoft Office.

Windows 7 officially reaches end-of-life in January 2020. So, if you’re one of the thousands of UK businesses still using it, now’s the time to upgrade – or you could be issuing an open invitation to cybercriminals.

 

While your PCs won’t suddenly stop working, from January 14 Microsoft will stop updating or supporting your operating system, meaning that automatic security and bug fixes will end, making it increasingly costly to maintain and vulnerable to attack.

And you can guarantee that cybercriminals will be targeting Windows 7 users after January 14, because they know that their defences are down.

If you haven’t already, my advice is to start planning now to upgrade to Windows 10 and make the switch well before the January deadline. This way you’ll avoid any period where you’re not supported and the associated risks.

 

While Windows 10 isn’t right for everyone, there are many advantages of upgrading from 7 to 10:

  • It’s simple, with a minimum of disruption – in most cases, you can keep your files and software on your existing PC
  • Many programs you use will already have been updated to work on Windows 10, so you can just carry on as normal
  • Although the layout and interface is different with a little patience you’ll be able to transition and use it relatively easily
  • There are many great additional features and functionality on Windows 10 that will be a big help for your business, such as the Cortana virtual assistant and enhanced security
  • Support for Windows 10 is expected to run until at least 2025, so a small investment now will provide peace of mind for the next five years or more.

So, if you’ve decided to go-ahead and upgrade, here are just a few things to bear in mind:

  • You’ll need to calculate how many users you have and how many licences you need
  • While Windows 10 will run perfectly happily on most existing hardware, it may struggle on older machines, so now may be the time to upgrade some of your hardware too
  • Although as mentioned earlier, most software has been updated to enable it to run on Windows 10 you will need to check that this is the case with all the software you use before going ahead
  • Once you’ve established what you require, you’ll need to identify a budget and potentially look into financing options
  • Time, resource and investment will be required but upgrading will almost certainly bring productivity and business efficiency benefits, which will deliver a fast return on your investment.

If you’re still using Windows 7 and would like to discuss your options and find out how we can help you, leave a message here and mention Windows 7 upgrade and we’ll get back to you or call our friendly team on 03300 886116.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: Email, Microsoft Office.

Sending mass emails to contact groups (aka distribution lists) is commonplace in most businesses today as there are several benefits including saving time and therefore money; however, there are some cons to be mindful of before jumping straight in there.

We all know of someone who has had their email address used by a spammer.  One reason is when your email has been copied (cc) into a multi-addressee email – everyone who has been included can get access to your email address, including a potential spammer.

For confidentiality and security reasons, get familiar with the difference between copying email addresses in (Cc or Carbon Copy) and blind copying (Bcc or Blind Carbon Copy) them into an email.; and make sure your staff know the difference.   A great tip is to use the Bcc field when sending mass emails especially external emails when recipients don’t know each other.

The problem with Bcc is that there is a grey area between it being seen as informing someone privately and looking sneaky which can cause tensions in workplaces so always think twice before sending.  A good tip here is to try and avoid using Bcc when sending internal emails.

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Category: Cloud Computing, Data Backup, IT News, IT Security, IT Support.

If you’re assuming that your cloud synching and sharing services, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, are acting as your backup or are taking responsibility for automatically backing up all your data, then, please, think again!

The fact that some businesses are making this assumption came across loud and clear at an event we hosted recently to help improve SMEs cybersecurity awareness and skills.

It’s an understandable assumption to make, but it’s also a dangerous one too – that could extract a heavy price if you fall victim to a determined cybercriminal. Let me explain why and what to do to keep your priceless data and systems safe.

The boom in cloud-based services is transforming the way businesses operate, with fantastic new capabilities now at our fingertips. But it’s also a complex, and at times confusing marketplace, with new, multi-layered products and services emerging all the time, each trying to outdo their rivals with more and more features and functionality, backed by persuasive sales and marketing campaigns.

It’s important to remember that, while cloud file sharing and storage solutions synch your data across multiple devices, this does not add up to a robust backup system. In fact, file syncing services cannot differentiate between ransomware-encrypted files and regular files, and therefore they can sync malware-infected data! And ransomware attacks on businesses are rising, up 12% in 2018, with businesses now the victims of more than 80% of all successful ransomware infections.

As a specialist IT support and services company, we devote significant resources to understanding these cloud-based products, their features, benefits, and complexities, so that we can help our clients to make informed decisions about their IT. But for many SMEs, often with small teams and limited resources, it can be very difficult to navigate a safe course.

When it comes to backing up your data and systems, my golden rules are:

  • Assume nothing!
  • Question everything!
  • Be certain that you have a dedicated backup solution over and above your file sharing solution
  • True cybersecurity is about having layers of protection – think of your premises with combinations of locks, alarms, password-protected entry systems, and CCTV.

Earlier this year I spoke about the key questions to ask about your data and backup arrangements, questions that enable you to ensure that you have robust measures in place. Click here to review that advice. Or if you’d like to discuss your backup options and how we can help you to make the most of new technology – and keep your business safe – call our team on 03300 886116 or email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: VoIP, IT News.

One characteristic that I know that successful businesspeople display time and time again is the ability to see opportunities where others only see problems.  And for me, the “Great BT PSTN/ISDN Switch Off” has got OPPORTUNITY written all over it!

So, what exactly is this big switch off and why should you be taking action sooner rather than later? Well, this is the process where PSTN (the traditional public switched telephone network) and ISDN lines will finally be switched off and everyone will move to cloud-based telephony or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).  And in case you were unaware the first stage of the process begins in just six months’ time.

But the thing is, why wait? Because even without this move by 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 potentially video) calls anywhere in the world, from any device – all you need is an internet connection.

It will transform your business communications. With VoIP you’ll get:

  • substantial reductions – up to 70% – 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
  • access to the latest versions, updates and mobile working features
  • integration with your other business systems
  • a great phone system to boost productivity, agility and customer service – without ANY capital investment.

The process is simple too. The only things you need to do is check your current contract (don’t accidentally fall into long 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.

I know there are people who are still nervous about making the move – and I do understand this because our traditional phone lines have been so familiar to us for generations – so let us help you TODAY.  Here, at The PC Support Group, we look after many of our clients’ combined IT and telephony needs – using a single, trusted supplier will make life easier for you and is more likely to identify more opportunities to take full advantage of VoIP and save more money in the process.

So, if your business is still using the old ISDN lines or if you have already moved to VoIP but are not happy with the service you are receiving then why not email our team on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call them on 03300 886116 for an informal and confidential chat on making the switch to VoIP sooner rather than later.

Phil Bird

MD, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: IT News, Latest.

Whilst we have all been enjoying the recent heatwave, our computer equipment definitely has not.  When switched on, our computers’ internal components generate heat, so if they are exposed to additional heat, it can cause major problems.  For example, the hard drive can expand in heat and consequently fail which could result in you losing your files.

Here are our top tips to keep you and your equipment working safely:

  1. Avoid direct sunlight

If your computer is near a window, make sure it is not in the direct sunlight otherwise it could overheat and even become dangerously hot to touch.

 

Consider closing a blind and opening a window or if either of these are not possible move to another part of the room that is not in direct sunlight.

  1. Think cool temperature

Make sure any place or room with equipment in is below 23 degrees centigrade. An airconditioned office is obviously best for maintaining a reasonable temperature but failing that get a fan to blow air onto the computer

 

Equally, if you have to leave your laptop or equipment in a car, make sure they are switched off and in a shaded place, preferably the coolest place within your vehicle.

  1. Equipment positioning

Make sure your computers and other computer equipment have access to an airflow/ventilation to keep them as cool as possible and, try not to put devices too close together. Servers in particular need to be kept cool so a small unventilated cupboard is the worst place for them in hot weather.

 

Also, laptops typically have fans underneath, so try to avoid having your laptop on your knee, better to have it on a flat surface.  If you can hear the fan constantly, it’s a sign of potential overheating.

  1. Unplug equipment that doesn’t need to be on

Make sure you unplug unneeded equipment to stop unnecessary heat from circulating.  If equipment is plugged in and switched on, it is generating heat.  Likewise, once your equipment is fully charged, remove the charger which can also overheat.

  1. Consider a move to the cloud

A move to the cloud means less physical equipment in your office or wherever you work which means less hassle for you.  Instead, any equipment is looked after externally in a professional and well-equipped environment, that would take all of the above into consideration.