Date:

Author

Category: Business Continuity, Customer Service, IT Support.

Great customer service should be provided consistently at all times.  The COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt highlighted the good, the bad, and the ugly IT & telephony support companies.  So, how has your provider fared?  Do you feel they have stepped up and provided solutions to support your business during these difficult times?

If not, how secure and ready do you feel for what’s next as furlough eases and staff return to work?

Below is a six-point checklist to score how proactive your current IT & telephony provider has been in supporting you before and during the pandemic; and to be transparent, we’ve asked our clients how they think we’ve fared.

  1. Prior to the pandemic, did your provider offer you help and advice regarding remote working options for your business?

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created major challenges for businesses, particularly around working remotely. I’m pleased that we’re in a strong position thanks to the recommendations made to us by The PC Support Group late last year.

Having originally hosted our emails and files on our office-based server they recommended moving our email and files to Office 365 and SharePoint, providing a more robust and secure infrastructure. Also, importantly, it meant our staff would have secure, remote access instantly anywhere, anytime – giving us the ability to stay in touch, access and share documents, and work together wherever.

Previously, remote working would have proved very challenging putting pressure on the office internet and network with a huge risk of losing access to all our emails and files; without which we would not have been able to continue operating.

For us, the transition to remote working for all staff has been seamless due to this pre-emptive work by PCSG, and thankfully there has been minimal disruption to business continuity.”

Norma Guest – Mploy

  1. What did your provider do to help you transition your business to home working and did they charge you?

“During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it was really important for our business to transition all of our staff to home working quickly and efficiently to enable business continuity.  We contacted The PC Support Group and even though this wasn’t a normal support requirement they handled everything professionally and with urgency.  Our whole team were set up seamlessly, and without any extra charges; which during this difficult period, was exceptional and much appreciated.  Excellent service as always and highly recommended.”

Julie Doyle – PD Law

  1. Did your provider quickly and efficiently help you to access your systems remotely?

“I cannot thank you enough for the extraordinary work you’ve done to support me and my team during this unprecedented period. In particular, the speed and efficiency in which you enabled me and my team to access vital systems remotely was amazing.”

Paul Judge – WH Pavoas

  1. Has your provider offered you help and advice on remote working options?

“The recent COVID-19 outbreak has created challenges that meant we needed to change our operation significantly, with a much greater emphasis on remote working.  PCSG has been incredibly supportive in helping us make that transition. Not only has it ensured that we have remote access to all our relevant systems and data, they have also helped us implement, and use, remote working tools such as Microsoft Teams, that were not previously part of our working practice. I’m sure we will continue to benefit from these remote working technologies and are very grateful for the help and advice of The PC Support Group.”

Brian Jackson – Brian Jackson& Co. Solicitors

  1. Has your provider been proactive in providing regular, useful communication on ways to help?

“We know that there is a high demand at present and Phil went above and beyond to help support our team with communications – huge thank you Phil!”

Clare Calman – Starts With You

  1. Has your provider been empathetic and proactive in offering ways to help financially?

Being in the property business the coronavirus has had a big impact on us and The PC Support Group has worked with us to temporarily reduce costs with minimal fuss and no loss to the services we still need. We couldn’t ask for more.”

Stacie McGhee – Forth Homes

If you feel your IT & telephony provider has not been proactive with the support you needed, and are looking to move supplier, we’d love to hear from you on how we can help.  Contact our friendly team on 03300 886 116 or drop us an email on info@pcsupportgroup.com and we’ll get back in touch.

Phil Bird

Chief Executive, The PC Support Group

 

Date:

Author

Category: Remoteworking, IT Security.

Just as most SMEs had got to grips with the need for robust cybersecurity, along comes COVID-19 with a new challenge. With many employees working remotely, how do you enable them to be productive – and keep your business and its data safe?

With owners and managers scrambling to maintain business as usual in the days and weeks after lockdown, the priority was simply making it happen – fast – with employees using their own tech and devices in hastily arranged remote “offices” to stay connected and functioning.

I’ve heard great stories of ingenuity and determination not to be beaten by the virus. But there’s no doubt that remote working, without IT support close at hand, has increased the risks of attack by cybercriminals, who are of course on the look out for opportunities to strike. And we all know the potential consequences of a serious breach.

Some businesses may already have additional security measures in place to cover these new working arrangements, but for those who haven’t, now’s the time to make sure you’ve got the right protection. For me, there are three elements to consider – technology, policy and communication.

  1. Technology: With increased use of more vulnerable personal tech and devices, it may be necessary to increase your overall security profile with some additional cybersecurity technology. For example, establishing a virtual private network (VPN) ensures that remote workers can receive and transmit company data securely over the internet without the risk of it being intercepted by a criminal. Then there’s multi-factor authentication (MFA), like that used for online banking, which will prevent a criminal who has stolen an email address, username and password from being able to access systems.
  2. Policy: Be clear about your security expectations of your remote workers and do so in writing. This is for everyone’s benefit and most people appreciate clarity. For example, your policy statements would include requirements to stay connected to the company VPN when using a public Wi-Fi network, to always enable software updates to ensure that the lastest versions of operating system software are in use, to ensure all data and documents are being securely backed up and to use only complex passwords.
  3. Communication: Team members unfamiliar with remote working, and away from the support of their colleagues and IT professionals, may simply be unaware of the new risks and dangers. So, it’s vital to reach out and provide regular help and support, to stress the need to maintain the same safe practices as they would in the workplace during the normal working day, being vigilant about phishing emails, using strong passwords and restricting the use of the internet to purely work-related activities.

Clearly this is a new challenge, on top of the other stresses and strains of COVID-19. So if you’d like some advice and guidance about enhanced security for your remote teams, call us on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com – we’d be delighted to help.

Phil Bird,

Chief Executive Officer, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Remoteworking, VoIP.

Here at The PC Support Group, we’ve been busy supporting our clients to enable their teams working remotely to function effectively and maintain business as usual.   Our own team is working very productively, this way too.

Despite the upheaval and uncertainty about the future, the surprising speed and ease of transition to remote working has led many SMEs to radically rethink the future shape of their businesses, with remote working now increasingly at the heart of their forward planning.

In recent weeks I’ve had many discussions with owners and managers about how to maximise investment value in the technology and platforms required to fully embrace remote working long-term. With that in mind, I’ve got two top tips for today – and the first is to make the move to powerful VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony.

VoIP telephony makes remote working easier by enabling voice and video calls and conferencing anywhere in the world, from any device – with just an internet connection. And improved communications means you can manage your remote teams more effectively. Because it’s cloud-based, with VoIP you’ll enjoy:

  • next-generation technology that’s simple to install and easy to use and maintain
  • flexibility to use your own devices, keep the same phone number across all devices, scale up and scale down at speed and work from any location
  • access to the latest versions, updates, applications, and mobile working features, for example, enabling remote workers to appear to be office-based, or virtual geographical numbers where office or service location is important – missed calls and opportunities will be a thing of the past
  • integration with your other business-critical systems and platforms – call with a click of the mouse in your CRM system
  • exciting new opportunities, for example, to recruit remote workers anywhere in the world, adding additional skills, opening up new markets, and cutting costs.

My second top tip for great remote working that really transforms your business is to use as many of the great VoIP features as possible, like call forwarding, auto-attendant and virtual extensions, and fully integrate it with your other business systems too. Unfortunately, some businesses only use some features of VoIP and miss out on the game-changing benefits.

By embracing VoIP in totality, you’ll have a great phone system and secure communications platform that boosts productivity, agility, teamworking, employee satisfaction, and customer service. And you’ll achieve significant savings in business phone line and contract costs with no line rental or contractual commitments or major capital investment.

Customers embracing VoIP telephony tell me they’re amazed at how easy it is to make the switch. Some quick dos and don’ts: Find out when your existing telephony contract expires and use that date to plan your move to VoIP. Check out the strength of your workplace and remote workers’ internet connections. Don’t invest in new traditional hardware.

Then, because we deal with many of our clients’ combined IT and telephony needs, call us on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com to see how we can help you to embrace and make the most of VoIP, and other remote working technologies too.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Microsoft 365, IT News.

When we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, there will be many aspects of business life that will have changed for ever.

I’ve been incredibly impressed by how quickly so many people have embraced remote working, in particular through the use of teamworking platforms, enabling many organisations to go a long way towards maintaining business as usual for their customers and stakeholders.

Despite inevitable teething problems as the various technologies creaked under the pressure of unprecedented demand, just a few weeks later, telephone and video conferencing is the new normal. And as the long-term cost, convenience and productivity benefits become clear, remote working is here to stay.

But what’s the right technology to build your future ways of working around? Well, if you’re a regular reader of these emails, you’ll know that I’m a strong advocate of Office 365 (just rebranded as Microsoft 365), which means, for me, there’s a logical starting point to consider for your teamworking platform – and that’s Microsoft Teams.

While there are other great products on the market, Microsoft Teams is the fastest growing app in Microsoft’s history, with more than 330,000 companies worldwide using it. It’s a stable, secure and proven communications hub, enabling users to chat and collaborate from anywhere in the world, at whatever time, just as if they were sat around the same table.

But it’s Teams’ tight integration with other elements of Microsoft 365 that really sets it apart, meaning that you don’t have to switch apps when you want to work together on a document, for example. You can access all the familiar 365 resources within Teams and use Word, Excel or PowerPoint to instantly share your work with colleagues and co-author the next version. And if you couldn’t attend the meeting, you can catch up via the session’s recording, meeting notes and agreed actions, all stored in the same place.  Meeting organisers can also invite non-Team members who do not have an account, such as suppliers or other stakeholders, to attend meetings as guests.

If you’re still considering the best way forward for your organisation, there are some great videos online. Here is a link that I’d recommend to help familiarise yourself with Teams and how to successfully deploy it.

To access Microsoft Teams all you need is a Microsoft 365 account with the appropriate license plan. The PC Support Group can help you to install and deploy Microsoft Teams, or if you would prefer to do it yourself visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/business

For an informal chat about Microsoft Teams, how to make the most of it, and how we can help, call us NOW on 03300 886 116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

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

The move to remote working is one of the most significant workplace trends of the past decade. By the end of 2019 more than half of the working population worldwide worked remotely at least once a week.

Previously businesses had time to plan their journey to remote working, organise the necessary technology and agree ground rules with employees. Now the Coronavirus crisis is rapidly accelerating remote working as businesses scramble to reorganise their resources.

For some, remote working is new, bringing fresh challenges in already worrying times. So this week I wanted to offer some brief advice and guidance for colleagues wrestling with these issues to help you to remotely manage your staff quickly and effectively. The challenge has two main elements, first, the technology required for effective communication and second the successful support and management of your people.

  1. Key communication tools. The key to the successful management of remote workers is good communication and providing platforms for teams to interact in real-time, to prevent individuals feeling isolated and disconnected from their workplace colleagues and friends.

Resources like Microsoft Teams and other videoconferencing services such as Zoom (https://zoom.us/)  are priceless – and not just for work. They’re equally valuable as a tool to bring groups together to socialise, during lunchtimes, for example, to share problems and fears too, as we all support each other in these troubling times. The video component, as opposed to teleconferencing, is vital, providing friendly faces, visible body language and the visual clues that are important in effective communication. Clearly ensuring good connectivity and a reliable service is essential to keep everyone in touch.

  1. Supporting and managing remote employees should include setting clear expectations, agreeing regular communications methods (but varying times of meetings to accommodate everyone’s needs where possible) and ultimately trusting employees. Empowered people respond positively, work productively and take responsibility for their time.

Personally I find proactively picking up the phone and speaking directly to my remote workers on a regular basis gives me a good indication of how they are feeling and whether they need any additional help and support.

And, for those businesses wishing to keep track of remote workers’ activities, there is an array of employee management software such as Monday.com and Clear Review.

The PC Support Group can help you to successfully implement remote working, for example by recommending the technologies and systems best suited to your particular business needs, those of your clients and the working patterns of your employees. For an informal chat call us NOW on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

 

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Ransomware, IT News, IT Security, Latest.

We all know that ransomware and phishing are huge challenges facing all businesses during normal times, but just to kick us when we’re down, there are scammers out there targeting our businesses on the back of the coronavirus whilst we are all extra vulnerable.

Remember, SMEs are the victims of 43% of all data security breaches, with some forced to close as a result of a ransomware attack. The loss of core IT infrastructure, essential data and business confidence forces clients to go elsewhere, and never has utilising that infrastructure, to keep business going, been more important.

I expect we’ll start to see companies approached by criminals to exploit the uncertainties and panic they’re feeling over their cashflow stopping and their struggle to keep their businesses going.

Businesses are desperate for detail, what will happen, when, what money they’ll get and how. So, any information will be jumped on and business owners everywhere may not think to stop and check it’s a legitimate source. One unconsidered click and you could be subject to a ransomware attack, corrupting all your data on top of all the other challenges.

That being the case it’s far better to take sensible cybersecurity measures to prevent a ransomware attack from succeeding in the first place. The Government’s National Cyber Security Centre provides great online advice to protect businesses from cybercrime.  So, rather than frightening ourselves instead, let’s focus on what we can do to protect ourselves and our teams.

  1. Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There are currently no vaccines, pills or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores
  2. Watch out for emails with attachments claiming to provide CV19-related information. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. Other useful sites include and the World Health Organisation or WHO (https://www.who.int/) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/)
  3. Watch out for texts and emails claiming to be HMRC, UK Government, or other official organisations; asking for bank details so that money can be transferred directly into your bank account or asking for a payment (e.g. an “admin fee”) in order to hand over a much larger amount of money. The details are still being worked out.  Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer. Valid information can be found at:
  1. Never click on a link or an attachment unless you’re certain that it’s safe. This is exactly what the criminal is trying to get you to do, so be absolutely,100% sure that it’s genuine. If this takes some investigation such as a phone call to the sender, it’s well worth it
  2. Add Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) which will add an extra secure layer to your email account on top of usernames and passwords and makes it almost impossible for hackers to intercept.

And most importantly, share this information immediately with all your staff so they are all vigilant and don’t inadvertently create an additional major challenge for your business.

If you’d like our help to improve your defences against cybercrime or any other aspect of IT or telephony support, call us NOW on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

 

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business Continuity, IT Support.

Downtime is one of those words that every business owner and manager just dreads to hear.

When some or all of your people can’t access core IT systems and data, it’s always bad news – for relationships with customers, for productivity, for morale and, ultimately, for the bottom line.

But in the manufacturing and engineering (M&E) world, the downtime discomfort is doubled and the numbers that result can be, well, eyewateringly large.

Are you sitting down?

Research shows that the average manufacturer experiences 800 hours of downtime per year – or more than 15 hours per week.  For the average automotive manufacturer, one MINUTE of downtime costs almost £18,000.

Of course, the precise damage and cost of unplanned downtime depends on many factors and varies from one business to the next. Hopefully, your downtime costs don’t come close to those of our automotive friends.   But even losing a few hundred pounds per hour could make the difference between profit and loss on a job.  

And downtime can have horrible knock-on impacts, with expensive machinery lying idle,  inventories becoming depleted, staff abandoning other important tasks to understand the implications of the downtime and then advise customers of delivery delays and not to mention supply chain management.   Your reputation for reliability and great service, hard-earned over many years, is suddenly under immediate threat.

Running an IT and telephony support business as I do, I’d love to be able to say that unplanned downtime is 100% avoidable! The reality is that it’s very difficult to prevent every conceivable cause of downtime. Occasionally even the best technology fails and human error is always a possibility.

Faced with a challenge like this, you have to get practical – very quickly! What do we do about this then? Well, here are some key things that manufacturing and engineering businesses can do to minimise unplanned downtime – and even planned downtime too:

  1. Understand the risks and potential costs to your business of downtime
  2. Create a strategy and action plan to proactively manage all aspects of your IT
  3. Put a disaster recovery plan in place
  4. Organise regular automated backups
  5. Regularly check your backups
  6. Monitor and update all your devices and systems.

The thing is, for most businesses with limited IT resources and expertise,  the most efficient and cost-effective way of ensuring that these tasks are completed and checked is to work with a trusted IT service partner with specific technical expertise and management skills.  One that understands your business essentials, such as speed of response, proactive support and the importance of security, and is familiar with the M&E sector too, in particular the vital role of reliable IT, in your ERP and MES environments for example – and where your vulnerabilities may lie.

Although there are costs involved, as there are engaging with any supplier, these are usually very reasonable, while the impact of not making this investment can be huge.

Just one more tip: Make sure your prospective partner offers flexible terms so that you can quickly and easily go elsewhere if you need to – beware those businesses that want to tie you down to long contracts with onerous terms!  To help you find the right IT service provider for your business, we’ve also created this helpful guide.

If you’re concerned about the impact that downtime could have on your business and what you can do to prevent it, email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call us on 03300 886116 for a confidential chat about how we can help.

www.pcsupportgroup.com

Date:

Author

Category: IT Security, IT Support.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is providing a world of opportunities for UK manufacturing and engineering (M&E) businesses. In particular, the increased use of automation and computer-controlled manufacturing techniques means that IT systems have evolved to become a mission-critical part of all M&E businesses.

Despite economic and political turbulence, UK M&E businesses are investing in the future, contributing almost 70% of total UK spend on research and development and maintaining our reputation as a global centre of manufacturing and engineering excellence.

But it’s never been more important for M&E businesses facing unique security challenges to protect themselves, their people, their intellectual property and other trade secrets from cybercriminals. Manufacturers with large, dispersed operations, MES systems, ERP software, hand-held RFID devices, and collaboration tools that lack security features, are vulnerable to hackers looking to extort businesses owning valuable brands, inventions or designs.

Research by Make UK, formerly EEF, shows that some firms are largely unaware of the threat and lack basic security measures. Its 2019 statistics show that 65% of its members had been attacked, with 27% suffering financial or other losses, while 33% do not train staff in even basic cybersecurity.

The most effective cybersecurity systems have multiple layers of protection – and a key defence as part of that mix that I believe is essential for all manufacturing and engineering businesses is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). When you log in to your online bank, enter your email or username and password, you’re then asked for another code – that’s MFA. It adds an extra security layer, or ‘factor’, on top of usernames and passwords which, as we know, are often not strong enough.

MFA provides a unique, time-limited code via a hand-held device, such as PINsentry from Barclays, that’s almost impossible for hackers to intercept. Even if the criminal has a stolen email address, username, and password, MFA keeps data safe.  Here’s a quick checklist to get you started on MFA:

  • If you haven’t already, make a list of everything you and your business accesses using an email address, username, and password
  • Identify those systems or services that are cloud or web-based – as they are the ones most at risk of being hacked
  • Check with the providers of these systems and services (or ask your IT support company) to see if MFA can be applied – and then do so immediately
  • For those not MFA-enabled, review your current username and password policies, make sure they are securely stored, limit access to them and make them as strong as possible.

We would strongly recommend the Government-backed Cyber Essentials accreditation scheme for all M&E businesses. Cyber Essentials provides advice and guidance on security processes and measures that your business needs to keep your infrastructure safe from attacks. Cyber Essentials accreditation demonstrates achievement of a respected cybersecurity quality standard, providing peace of mind as well as adding weight and value to your offer.

If your current provider hasn’t mentioned MFA to you yet, then you should be a bit worried about that! We regard this kind of advice and guidance as part and parcel of our proactive support service that keeps our clients’ businesses as safe as possible and delivers reliable, smoothly-running IT.

If you’d like to find about more about MFA, or how we can help you with cybersecurity more generally, you can either leave us a message here, email them on info@pcsupportgroup.com or speak to our friendly team on 03300 886116 or for an informal and confidential chat.

www.pcsupportgroup.com

Date:

Author

Category: Business Continuity, Business, IT News.

For all businesses, regardless of size or sector, the well-being of our employees is paramount.

But as we all wrestle with the unique challenges created by coronavirus, the well-being of anyone affected will be best served if they have a job to return to and a bright future to look forward to. So, in these stressful times, all owners and managers will be focused on protecting the health of their businesses too, so that they are still a going concern when the crisis is over.

Late last year we shared with you the importance of business continuity planning, to ensure that you’re fully prepared in the event of a sudden crisis. A key element to consider was to enable staff to work effectively from remote locations other than the office –  a challenge that many businesses are currently facing of course. But the fact is that agile working delivers major business benefits and with today’s technology, it has never been easier to work away from the office. Here’s why:

  1. Agile working improves business performance as it results in more productive and motivated employees, who in turn provide better customer service to your clients. Agile working can cut costs and drive efficiencies too, for example by reducing expensive and time consuming business travel – lowering your carbon footprint in the process.
  2. There’s a host of great, simple to use tools, which enable employees to be able to work anywhere, anytime such as Office 365, SharePoint, OneNote, Microsoft Teams and VoIP telephony – and much much more. And, in the cloud, you can securely store and access everything you need to work productively 24/7.

The important thing is to select the right technologies and systems best suited to your particular business needs, those of your clients and the working patterns of your employees. We can help you make those assessments and make recommendations about the best way forward for you.

If you’d like to revisit your business continuity arrangements, our FREE, six step guide to business continuity is still available, just click on this link: Business continuity for SMEs – how to survive a major emergency and recover in style.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to chat about how The PC Support Group can help you to put the right technology in place to protect your business from the effects of unexpected events – and help drive efficiencies at the same time, call us NOW on 03300 886 116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

For businesses who have chosen cloud-based data hosting services, there’s a temptation to relax and think “great, we’re paying someone else to take care of our data, we don’t need to worry about it anymore.”

Of course, using cloud-based services can deliver major benefits for businesses. But it’s vital to remember that all the data you have “in the cloud” is still stored in a physical data centre somewhere in the world, managed by your cloud service provider.

So, good data security practice means that it’s essential to have exactly the same knowledge about how and where your data is being handled “in the cloud”, just as if it was sitting on a server in your office!

Unfortunately, worrying research results published recently by leading hosting provider TeleData UK reveals that large numbers of firms are lacking this very basic information:

  • 42% don’t know the location of the data centre their provider is using
  • 25% don’t even know if it’s in the UK
  • 33% don’t know if the data centre is ISO compliant.

That’s alarming enough, but the standout statistic for me is that 43% of businesses don’t know whether the data centre they are using has a failover to a secondary location should an outage occur.

Let’s just think about the size of the huge risk that those businesses are taking. One day, everything’s rosy in the garden, customers are happy and business is booming – then bang! Suddenly they can’t access their data. They don’t know where their data is, they don’t know how long they might be without it – or if they’re ever going to be able to access it ever again!

Committing to a cloud service provider requires detailed due diligence and fact-checking to confirm the service is fit for purpose, that all risks and eventualities have been considered and minimised, and that all GDPR and ISO compliance requirements have been met.

I bet those businesses who don’t know where their data is stored, know every dot and comma about their alarm system – which company supports them, where they are based, how long it will take them to get to the office in the event of a problem. Yet many seem to know far less about their data, their most valuable asset.

At The PC Support Group, we specialise in Microsoft Office 365 because from our long experience we believe it’s the best – and a major advantage is its transparency – you can sign in (or your IT support provider can) and find out everything you need to know about the data centre where your data is stored. That’s hugely reassuring in my opinion.

If you have any concerns about how your data is being stored and handled or would like an  informal chat about how we can help provide peace of mind or improve your data security arrangements, call us NOW on 03300 886 116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group