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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

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Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

I reckon that if I ask six people to define what hosted desktop is and how it’s organised, I’ll get six different answers because it means different things to different people!

I know this to be true because I’ve been having lots of these conversations recently, as we’ve been working with some new clients who came to us for help after suddenly finding themselves locked out of their IT systems and unable to access their data.

A hosted desktop is a virtual machine that hosts the operating system, applications, data and other system configurations of a physical desktop remotely from a server through the internet providing similar functions of a physical desktop.

What all these organisations had in common is that they were all using a hosted desktop service to operate their IT systems and equipment. Which is absolutely fine in theory. Hosted desktop is the future and can deliver huge benefits for SMEs, reducing investment and running costs and providing access to the latest agile business tools to boost productivity and enable flexible working anytime from anywhere.

The trouble is there are good hosted desktop solutions – and bad ones. A good one provides fast and secure access to your systems and data, on any device from anywhere in the world. A bad one is a ticking time bomb, and it’s only a matter of time before it fails, taking the hosting company down – and its customers with it.

The reason is because they are usually badly designed, insecure and often rely on cheap, old or outdated infrastructure and software. Rather than accessing the very best resources that the cloud has to offer, your entire company could be hosted in a server down the road, in demand by numerous other businesses, where you have to share resources that are prone to malfunction and vulnerable to attack.

But here’s the $64,000 question – when you’re trying to decide, how can you tell a good one from a bad one? The answer, as always, is to ask the right questions and, most importantly, if the service you’re being offered sounds cheap, be very, very careful!

Think of it this way, if you saw your dream house, you’d still have a full survey carried out wouldn’t you – to check that the boiler was sound, and the roof didn’t leak?

Making a fundamental decision on the future of your IT operating model requires the same caution. Before you commit to hosted desktop, when interviewing a potential supplier, make sure you get detailed, clear answers to these questions:

  1. Where and how will my data be stored?
  2. How much resource and capacity will we have, and will we always have access to 100% of that resource without sharing with other companies? Will we always be able to access our data, systems and emails? How do you meet that promise?
  3. If your entire system goes down will we still have access to our files and emails?
  4. Will we always be able to run the latest versions of Windows and Microsoft office whenever we need or want to?
  5. Please name and detail with a diagram the background technologies and infrastructure which your services use?
  6. Can you provide evidence which shows that you do not have any single point of failure in the delivery of all services to us?
  7. What security, business continuity, disaster recovery and risk management provisions are in place?
  8. Which subcontractors or suppliers will you be using to provide our service?
  9. What happens if we no longer wish to use your service?

Always describe your business requirements and not your tech requirements and speak to the supplier’s technical and support staff as well as sales representatives. And remember that hosted desktop is only one of a range of options at your disposal – and it may be a mistake to put all your eggs in one basket. Procuring separate (though integrated) services for each business function ensures that if one fails, the rest can usually carry on working.

What’s important is to select the solution that’s right for your business. If you’d like to discuss hosted desktop or your IT requirements in general, leave us a message here and we will get back to you or email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com  or speak to our friendly team on 03300 886116  for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

You’re probably thinking that, as an owner of a successful IT support company, my mind must be firmly made up on this business-critical decision – outsourcing must be the way to go, right?

 

Actually, what I think is most important of all, is that individual business owners make the right decision for them, one that takes account of their unique needs and circumstances, their size and the market they’re in, and the expectations of their customers.

 

For some SMEs that I talk to, having an IT person in the building is very reassuring. They’re on tap, they know the business, its systems and users inside out, they know the pressure points and they’re often dedicated and knowledgeable all-rounders. Even after we’ve discussed all the pros and cons of both approaches, staying in-house can be the conclusion, a decision I always respect.

 

For other businesses though, the advantages of outsourcing are much more appealing. The benefits that I find carry most weight during these discussions are:

 

  1. Cost – a good IT Manager will cost between £28-40k a year plus all employment and training costs, while a comprehensive support package covering the needs of, say, 50 users, with back-up and security, will typically cost less than half of that. And the supplier will invest in the latest technology and expert, trained staff, meaning you don’t have to.
  2. Expertise – an IT Manager may be a good allrounder, but a specialist supplier is focussed exclusively on IT, recruiting the full range of skill sets required.
  3. Availability – an outsourced supplier can be on hand 24/7/365, while an employee may not be available outside core hours, may leave at short notice, will get sick occasionally and need cover during holidays.
  4. Consistency – through service level agreements, businesses can select the level of support that’s best for them, with defined standards and predictable costs.
  5. Simplicity – with a single contract and a single supplier taking overall responsibility for IT; people management requirements are reduced.
  6. Advice – receive independent, best-practice guidance on how to deliver IT that’s a tool not a burden.
  7. Continuity – a good supplier will quickly acquire a detailed understanding of your business requirements, demonstrate expertise and commitment, and become an integral part of the in-house team, albeit operating remotely, acquiring trusted partner status.

 

Even when I’m talking to an SME that’s convinced that outsourcing is the route for them, I always stress the need to find the right partner, one that’s the right fit for them. When recruiting it’s important to ask lots of questions and be clear about your expectations. Talk about your business requirements rather than your tech requirements – your tech is simply an enabler.  

 

I’m so convinced of the importance of this that we devised a simple guide with 20 key questions to help you choose the right IT support provider for you. Please feel free to download this here.

 

If you’d like a chat with our sales team here at The PC Support Group about outsourcing your IT support, you can contact them on 03300 886116 or email them on info@pcsupportgroup.com for an informal and confidential chat.

 

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

 

 

 

 

Date:

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

I wanted to share an incident with you that we came across recently, as it could happen to any business and be very costly.

You’ve probably heard of phishing emails – it’s when criminals send bogus emails to individuals to get them to reveal usernames, passwords, and credit card details usually by simply clicking on a link.  And while many scam emails are easy to spot, some can look very convincing.  Even if it looks like it’s from a credible source such as one of the big banks or a large corporation like Microsoft, it could just as easily be from a cybercriminal.

What business owners don’t often realise is how many of these emails come into their businesses every day and how easy it is for people to respond with devastating consequences.

A prospect called us to work out how an email had seemingly been sent from them to all their clients requesting payment into a specific account “without delay to avoid the loss of service”. The answer was that hackers had used a phishing email to trick them into providing the login details to their email system. The hackers then logged in and sent this email out as if it really was from this business owner.

Not only did one client pay – into the hackers account, but can you imagine the effect of such an abrupt and demanding email on the client relationship?! What was worse was that their only recourse was to tell their clients that they had been hacked, which made their business appear even more disorganised and vulnerable.

So, what can you do to ensure this doesn’t happen to your business?

Well, your best defences are education and motivation.  Share the problem with your people.  Build a team of committed defenders against cybercriminals.  Help them to spot the dangers – the do’s and don’ts and the need for caution and vigilance. Talk to them about the consequences of damaging their livelihoods and your business.  It could honestly be the most valuable investment you ever make.  Make no mistake, phishing could kill your business.

And of course, here at The PC Support Group, we can help you build defences against cybercriminals and provide advice and guidance to make sure your business is safe and secure.  It’s what we do! Call our team today for an informal and confidential chat on 03300 88 6116 or email them on  info@pcsupportgroup.com.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

 

 

 

 

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Category: Business, Data Backup, IT News, IT Security, IT Support.

I’ve read several interesting articles recently about data backup and how being unable to access data and systems is the nightmare scenario for all businesses. However, one thing that rarely seems to be mentioned is the act of data recovery. Hopefully, most companies by now realise the importance of having their data backed up but few appear to think about how long it might take to recover the data onto a live system should disaster strike.

Did you know that 90% of companies experience some form of downtime whether it’s a disk or other critical hardware failure, a flooded office or the latest cyber attack?  We’ve all experienced something.  Interestingly, a lot of our prospects when they first contact us have no idea how quickly they could recover.  Unfortunately, some businesses never recover which is not surprising when the average cost of one hour of downtime is £6,500 for a small business and £64,000 for a mid-sized one2.   Very sad when you consider that 93% of data loss issues are avoidable1.

Even IT businesses like us are not immune, the difference being we have robust business continuity measures in places preventing any issue becoming a major disaster.   In fact, only a few weeks’ ago we suffered a power outage for nearly half a day at our offices in Speke, but our services remained operational and none of our clients were left without support.

How did we do this?  We use a six-step disaster recovery plan that helps assess risks, identify weaknesses and put proactive measures in place.  Once you have this plan, recovery is much easier and quicker and therefore less costly for you and your business.  For instance, businesses without a plan experience greater downtime – on average 18.5 hours to get back up and running2.  Time and money that no business can afford.   So, by planning for the worst you can make your business stronger and more resilient today.

To get you thinking, here are a few questions for you to consider:

1: What is your business-critical data is and where it is held?  Is it backed up?

2: Is your backed-up data kept separate from your computer system, in a secure place with restricted access?

3: How regularly is your data backed-up – daily, weekly, monthly?

4: Is the backup process automated and regularly monitored?

5 How quickly could you access your backed-up data?  Within hours or weeks?

6: How long could your business survive without access to its data?

Answering these questions is just the start of protecting your business. Here at The PC Support Group we can help you with further practical advice and guidance.  Our rolling monthly contracts will ensure your recovery is easy and efficient because we’re good at what we do! Call our team on 03300 88 6116 for a chat about how we can help you or email them on info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

1 The Online Trust Alliance’s analysis of security breaches 2017

2 Backbone Connect, an UK IT infrastructure firm, 2018

 

 

 

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Category: Business, 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 contact us to be sent this free guide.
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 for a confidential chat.
Phil Bird
Managing Director, The PC Support Group

 

 

 

 

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Category: Business, IT Security.

I’m always struck by how serious the after effects of cybercrime can be, for businesses and individuals alike. Just one successful phishing attack, or an innocent-sounding conversation with a conman, and the result of years of hard work and sacrifice can all be undone in a few minutes.
When I hear these stories, I reflect on what the consequences could be for my business, my family, my colleagues and our clients too. Data theft is growing rapidly in volume and sophistication, with hackers increasingly adept at creating believable phishing emails and impersonating trusted organisations like banks (called social engineering), to trick people into revealing email addresses, usernames and passwords. And with the growth in cloud-based applications, once criminals have these electronic keys, they can access systems and cause havoc at will, from anywhere in the world.
But by taking some simple, extra precautions, we can all make it harder for the villains and easier to keep the things and people we value safe. There’s one defence that I strongly recommend you apply as widely as possible – Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).  You’re probably using MFA already. 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), before any access to data is allowed.

Also known as Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), MFA provides a unique, time-limited code via a hand-held device, such as PINsentry from Barclays, SMS or app, that is almost impossible for hackers to intercept. Even if the criminal has a stolen email address, username and password, MFA keeps the data safe.

This is a bit of a personal crusade for me. Every day I speak to SME owner/managers who, just like me and my colleagues, have worked their socks off to make a success of their businesses – and it’s satisfying to play a small part in helping to protect their hard-earned achievements.  Here’s a quick checklist to get you started on MFA:

  • Make a list of everything you and your business access using an email address, username and password
  • In particular, 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 (or ask your IT support company) to see if MFA can be applied and then do so immediately

If your current provider hasn’t mentioned MFA to you yet, then I would 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.

Phil Bird
Managing Director, The PC Support Group

 

 

 

 

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Author

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

The entries for the inaugural Managed Services & Hosting (MSH) Awards 2018 have been assessed and finalists selected in each of the seven categories. The winners will be announced at the UK Managed Services and Hosting Summit 2018 on 19 September in London.

The awards build on the momentum of the highly successful series of Managed Services and Hosting Summits, which have taken place for the last eight years.  They recognise excellence within the dynamic and innovative ICT sector.

John Garratt, editor of IT Europa, one of the award judges said:

“The entry quality level is very high, and this is perhaps not surprising, given the level of new thinking that is a feature of the sector. We want to use these awards to help publicise the tremendous work going on in the managed services sector and build understanding among customers and potential customers.”

North West based IT service provider, The PC Support Group is one of seven finalists in the Best SMB MSP Project category.  They provide fully managed IT support to SMEs across the Liverpool and Manchester areas.

Phil Bird, managing director with The PC Support Group said:

“We are delighted to have made this finalist list once again especially as we are currently undergoing an expansion plan to bring our award-winning service to more SMEs across the North West.”

Phil continues:

“We know we are great at what we do and we receive brilliant testimonials from our clients all the time, so it is equally fantastic when we get recognition from the sector.  We are proud to provide a world-class IT support service, helping SMEs grow their business through technology.”

 

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Category: Business, IT News.

It is no secret that the tech industry is very much a man’s world.

In 2017, only 17% of employees in the UK tech sector were female which proves there is still lots to do to encourage women into the sector.  Even the best tech organisations are struggling to close the gender gap when it comes to finding appropriately skilled candidates which include Millennials (young person reaching adulthood around the year 2000) and Generation Z (the next generation after Millennials) females, who are our first generation of digital natives.  The truth is, while retention is an issue, there are simply fewer women opting for a career in tech.

In particular, one of the biggest headaches for tech leaders today is finding app developers as organisations everywhere are developing their own apps to meet the needs and demands of their audiences as well as to keep ahead of their competition.

According to Elizabeth Gooch, founder and CEO of eg solutions, who pioneered the back-office workforce optimisation market, there are three barriers for girls and women entering the technology sector:

  • Gender stereotyping – there is still a perception in schools that boys are better at science and maths and consequently, young girls are put off STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects
  • Lack of awareness of careers  and role models within the IT sector
  • It’s geeky image

Encouraging a passion for STEM subjects in women, and an interest in technology, will have a positive impact on the continued growth and prosperity of the tech sector.  Not to mention, the benefit of having a more inclusive working environment.  Every piece of research done on diversity in teams demonstrates they outperform and out innovate homogenous teams hands down.  The benefits will be an increased female talent pool in the tech sector which will be more representable of the female population.

Research conducted by Debut, a student and graduate careers app, reveals that the UK education system needs to educate females on the positives of entering the STEM industry; and the variety of roles there are out there – whether its video games, programme or app developers, digital marketing or coding as well as many more.  By targeting the younger generation, educators and tech companies are creating a new workforce of successful tech executives that will change the perception of the industry.  Perhaps a reminder of the inspirational women in tech throughout history would also not go a miss.

 

Capability is not the issue, rather, it seems that external factors play a bigger role in dissuading women from opting for science-related careers.

The media certainly hasn’t helped encourage females to pursue careers in STEM-related fields with popular sitcoms such as Big Bang Theory and The IT Crowd – which has gone on to have 4 series and became a cult television series; where geeky techies are pre-dominantly IT coders.

On a positive note, there are a great number of organisations that aim to get young girls into computer science and engineering and interestingly, the NHS is Britain’s biggest STEM recruiter, according to Indeed.

Careers in the technology industry represent some of the fastest-paced, most interesting, and best-paying careers available. Further – these roles know no boundaries and can be done in any country.

There truly is something for everyone in tech.