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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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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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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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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.

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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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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

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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.