Date:

Author

Category: Data Backup, IT Security.

On the back of listening to our clients and having an ear to the ground in the IT sector, we were delighted to jointly host a cybersecurity event in Liverpool last week.

We invited some of our clients to keep them updated about things happening in the technology sector as well as a number of other North West based SMEs with the aim of giving them useful tips about what they can do to protect their businesses and a chance to discuss any pressing cybersecurity issues.

The discussion was expertly chaired by Frank McKenna from Downtown with great input from everyone.   Vic Brown from the award-winning HR recruitment company, High Performance Consultancy was also on hand, providing important policy advice along with her positive experience on how tech has helped take her business to the next level.

We discussed how rapidly advancing technology has been a game-changer for those SMEs who have embraced it and yet, it has highlighted the fact that most businesses do not have the appropriate cybersecurity solutions in place.  Unsurprisingly, several companies in the room had experienced being hacked in the last month and two in the last week alone.  One business had recently lost £20,000 from one incident.

So, my advice to everyone who attended our event and indeed anyone who has a business is this:

  • Without delay, check what data backup you have in place, where it is stored and ask your IT provider, is it appropriate?
  • Make sure you have appropriate data security policies in place and that they are implemented to protect you, your staff and your business. Speak with your HR department
  • Educate yourself and your staff through internal or external training about what to look out for to avoid cyber-crime and what to do, should you be a victim

At The PC Support Group we hold regular events to educate SMEs on cybersecurity and we have produced a free cybersecurity guide. If you are interested in attending any future events or wish to receive our guide please contact us here or send us an email to info@pcsupportgroup.com  or phone us on 0330 886 116 and we would be more than happy to arrange a visit to see how we can protect and enable you to reach your business goals through our exceptional service and IT expertise.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: Business, IT News.

Downtime is one of those dreaded words that gives business owners and managers nightmares. When some or all of your people can’t access core IT systems it’s always bad news – for relationships with customers, for productivity, for employee morale and, ultimately, for the bottom line.

The damage and cost of unplanned downtime depends on how long systems are down for, and how much each business relies on smooth-running technology, for income and customer satisfaction. Even planned downtime can cause problems and, these days, is often unnecessary.

Running an IT and telephony support business like 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, if you’re anything like me, you get practical – very quickly! What do we do about this then? Well, here are some key things you can do to minimise unplanned downtime – and even planned downtime too, come to that!:

  1. Create a strategy and action plan to actively manage all aspects of your IT
  2. Put a disaster recovery plan in place
  3. Organise regular automated backups
  4. Regularly check your backups
  5. Monitor and update all your devices and systems.

The thing is, for most SMEs 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.

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, even existential.

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!

If you’re concerned about the impact that downtime could have on your business and what you can do to prevent it, call us on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com  for a confidential chat about how we can help. Meanwhile, we’ve also created this helpful guide to finding the right IT service provider.

 

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business, IT News, IT Support.

According to a report last year, two-thirds of SMEs now use managed services and this is rising.

 

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a third party who manages IT infrastructure on a subscription plan meaning the SME can focus on developing the business and the day-to-day responsibility lies with the MSP.

 

For businesses that don’t have the resources and expertise to look after their IT or simply want to spend time growing their business rather than fixing problems or maintaining IT systems, it is the perfect solution.

 

Managed IT services can cover a range of functions from network, systems, applications, data storage and backup, cloud service solutions, cybersecurity, VoIP telephony and printer management.

 

With technology being essential to all businesses to varying degrees and in particular how fast it is changing, businesses can’t afford to be left behind.

 

If you’re considering using a MSP for outsourcing your IT here is a useful article that outlines the benefits to help you make an informed choice.

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Author

Category: Business, Online Marketing.

As a marketing manager, I have been asked on numerous occasions by MDs whether posting on social media accounts is really necessary and beneficial for business.

Like it or loathe it, we live in a fast-paced digital era today so social media needs to be embraced as part of an overall business marketing strategy; prospects are savvy and with lots of competition no doubt on your doorstep, they want to know that you are keeping up with the times.   However, I can appreciate that social media marketing is just one element of your sales and marketing function, and it is a minefield that looks very time-consuming; but it doesn’t have to be.  It’s about being smart and looking at means and ways of doing things efficiently and knowing some basic things that can help the end goal – getting more business.   Here are some basic tips to get you started:

  1. Quality over quantity

It is not necessary to be on every single social media channel and it wouldn’t be possible as there are 100+ platforms.  It is important to be selective.   Think of your target audience and find out which platforms your target audience spend time on and focus your efforts on doing those selected platforms well

  • Automate where possible

There are some useful scheduling social media platforms out there such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Buffer etc. that allow you to schedule posts in advance to help better manage your time or when staff are away on holidays to make sure you are always engaging with your prospects

  • Images/videos are key

Images, gifs and videos have higher engagement that just text so make sure you are utilising them where possible

  • It’s meant to be social

The key is in the title itself – it’s called “social” media for a reason so bear this in mind as well as your brand in what you post and how you word posts.  As a guide 2 out of every 5 posts should be something not necessarily to do with your business

  • Short but sweet

Don’t make posts too word-heavy otherwise your audience will switch off. Where possible post hyperlinks to send prospects directly to your website for a full article; also remember you are limited on characters on some platforms. And not to mention a long link of letters and numbers not only looks like it could be spam but also ugly.  There are some helpful URL shortener tools such as Bitly, Tiny etc.

  • Evaluate evaluate evaluate

Although a lot of social media is about engagement and not direct leads, it is part of the process of a prospect becoming a lead, therefore you need to know what is and what isn’t working.  There are some useful social media analytic tools out there – free and paid for such as Google Analytics, Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights etc. as a starter.

Helen Roughley

Marketing Manager, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business, IT Security.

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

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

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

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

Date:

Author

Category: Cloud Computing, Data Backup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Si Albert

Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business, VoIP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business, IT News, IT Security.

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

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

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

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

A small investment today could save your business tomorrow.

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

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

Phil Bird
Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business, IT News.

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

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

For example do you worry about:

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group