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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  [email protected].

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 [email protected]

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 [email protected] 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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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.

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Category: Broadband, Business, Customer Service.

How many bosses get told “sorry, you are still in contract” when querying their telecoms supplier. But are you really and do you have any options to get out of it?

If you are not sure whether you are in contract or not with your telecoms supplier, or you’d like some tips to help protect yourself before signing any new deals – here is a guide.

There is an onus on the telecoms supplier to prove the contract end dates. Just because the system says so does not mean it is correct. There could be data entry errors, or it could be deliberately misleading you. Reasonable proof would be a call recording or a copy of the original signed document or e-contract.

If your telecoms supplier refuses to provide that then it probably has something to hide.

There are a number of rules laid down by Ofcom to protect consumers and businesses with less than ten employees. This should be higher – how many 11 person businesses employ a qualified contracts person or company lawyer? The protection bans automatic rollover of contracts and provides the customer the ability to cancel contracts because of prices rises and/or failures to offer promised broadband speeds.

But some suppliers will try to find ways round these protections. On automatic rollovers some contracts say “tick this box to keep tariffs after contract end date”. There is no mention that by ticking this box you are agreeing to an automatic renewal. But that’s exactly what you are doing – you are renewing for that same term again. Effectively the telecoms supplier is getting you to waive your rights by ticking the box.

Others obscure price rises by only publishing it on the website or hiding it in the small print on invoices. Ofcom has ruled that you can opt out of a contract if the price rises – as long as you give notice within 30 days of being told. Therefore, if you miss the notification you miss the chance to cancel.

There are other some other tricks to watch out for including:

– Automatically restarting your contract if you change or add something;
– Adding new services that have their own contract so end dates never align, meaning cancellation is almost impossible as you’ll never be out of contract on all your services at the same time;
– Having different terms for each element of the contract. For example, having calls for two years and in small print the lines are for five years;
– Changing the Terms and Conditions – but only stating this on the website;
– False inducements to purchase – for example ‘we promise to save you money’ but when you get your invoices there is no saving.

Also, check your notice period. Whilst they may not be as difficult as “only on the third Thursday before Pentecost” there can be great variations from 30 days to six months. The worst we have seen is one requiring three years’ notice! And look at the penalties you may have to pay if you cancel early. If the company has given you a free installation in return for a three-year contract and you cancel after one year then it is perfectly reasonable to ask you pay for the installation. Again, small businesses are protected by Ofcom rules on the calculation of penalties but many a telecoms supplier ignores these and rely on ignorance. So how can you protect yourself and reduce the risks?

1) Check if the supplier is signed up to the telecoms ombudsman as that offers free binding arbitration to consumers and small businesses if there is a dispute. Obviously if you have real doubts then consult a lawyer it could save you money in the long run.

2) Send an email listing your understanding of contract and ask them to confirm that in a conflict between their T&Cs and the email – the email takes precedence and only on that basis are you accepting contract. Within the email you could include:

– Contract duration and notice period;
– That prices are fixed for duration – any changes gives you freedom to cancel without penalty whenever it is spotted;
– Only the charges specified in the contract may be levied – this stops hidden costs such as call set up fees and likewise any changes in T&Cs;
– Repeat any claims made (e.g. you will save money) and state that they are a condition of the contract and if they fail to meet these then the contract is null and void;
– The contract will not rollover at the end of the term without your explicit prior consent.

How many people have ever compared their bill to the prices in the contract? The longer you are asked to commit for the contract the more closely to should read the small print. Some suppliers promise to pay any penalties you may incur by switching but then fail to follow through. If you are offered this incentive, do make sure you get it in writing. State clearly that any failure to do so will make your contract with them null and void.

In conclusion, it is fair to say many of these points could apply to a range of services, not just telecoms, but a telecoms supplier is guilty of often seeking to bamboozle customers with jargon. It relies on people not spotting things, and then being unwilling to challenge. And for those who do challenge – then the supplier will draw out the process for as long as possible. So, be aware of what you are sighing up to, what your rights are, keep an eye on your bills and be ready to challenge your supplier if you spot any changes, inconsistencies, or failures.

Article from Real Business, SME website dedicated to high growth businesses and entrepreneurs www.realbusiness.co.uk

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Category: IT News, IT Processes.

Is your business no longer as profitable as it used to be? Recheck your ongoing operational costs. The reason behind wasting money when it comes to business usually refers to how much money you spend on different processes.

At the same time, generating revenue slower will have a visible impact on your budget at the end of the month. Resources are expensive, especially in a world where everything goes online, and businesses are dependent on the IT environment. Streamlining processes and automation are also the main goals of any business that wants to maximize its productivity.

This is where business integration steps in. Not everyone can understand how coding works, or how complex programs and applications make things happen. In reality, business owners look for friendly, time-saving ways of integrating data from multiple sources that could help them manage their companies better.

Deep technical knowledge is not accessible to all business owners and therefore B2B integration and app-to-app connections represent the focal point of the year. Without an in-depth view of everything that’s related to the business integration process, your company might lose some ground on the market.

Here’s what you need to know:

B2B
So, what is business-to-business integration after all? Through B2B integration, your company will enjoy the beneficial effects of workflow automation. Running data flows are much easier to manage when they’re completely automated.

Think of the possible human errors that can occur when large amounts of data are handled manually. B2B integration can help any business owner save a lot of time by letting him use task managers. Everyone knows how difficult setting priorities and following due dates is.

Once you get your business fully integrated, you can finally say goodbye to that issue. Monitoring and tracking your business activity is also a benefit of B2B integration. You can see in real time when tasks are completed. Thus, you proactively work for increasing your business’ profitability.

Approaches in the digital age
Modern marketing is entirely based on the digital environment. That is the easiest way to reach people and make them buy your products. But what it has to do with B2B integration? Well, marketers should start investing more in online practices rather than offline ones because of the target audience they can reach.

Putting B2B integration above all else could be the answer to every question you may have. Such a decision could propel your business to the top. Email, mobile marketing, social media, custom content – these are all digital marketing practices that work hand in hand with B2B integration.

What about data?
Data algorithms and analytics are too difficult for you to handle? Business integration can take care of that as well. Mathematical formulas, never-ending code lines, and statistical processes might be too much for a non-technical person.

Luckily, data integration saves you from trouble. Data mapping, transformation, and warehouses will become crystal-clear concepts that you can manage with ease after your own liking. If, before integration, you were scared to even think about big data, now you will enjoy working with it.

Article by The Sociable https://bit.ly/2kE8EVO

Are you using the most efficient IT processes and systems so that your business is generating the greatest revenue possible? Contact The PC Support Group TODAY to see how we can help you with all your IT support.

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Category: IT Security, IT Support.

If you think getting scammed is difficult and your business is immune, think again! Here is how easy it is…

 

1. Create a fake invoice as if you’re a local company and specify the bank details for payment as being that of your murky, nasty little criminal bank account. See an example below.

 

 

2. Get the name and email address of the business owner who is to be your victim

 

3. Get the name and email address of the person who pays the bills in the same business

 

4. Spoof an email so the person who pays the bills thinks the business owner is sending it, it only takes a few minutes to do (click here for instructions) – yes it’s that easy! You can spot fake email addresses like the below, check your previous emails from people and companies to see if they have emailed you before. Your email spam WONT always work.

 

 

5. Type the following:

Hi <name>

Can you pay this invoice for me via BACS ASAP

Thanks

<business owner’s firstname>

 

6. Await payment so you can spend it on your murky, nasty, little criminal low-grade life

 

However, if you’re a criminal reading this you’ll already know how to thieve from people and you’re a disgrace; and if you’re reading this and are a decent hard-working person the motto is that you shouldn’t trust emails unless you can be sure they’re from the person you think they’re from; no matter how real they seem.

The most simple fight against this tactic is to have a solid, well-understood internal business process for making payments that ensure nothing is paid without suitable checks and balances.

 

 

 

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Category: IT Processes, IT Purchasing, IT Support, Uncategorised.

Slow Computer Frustration Fix Warning…Practically your whole business – bar the furniture – is on your computer system these days. So, looking after your business means looking after that system. We’re taking a look here at how we can help you to understand how to do that because, even if you employ an IT Support Manager, you’re going to have to know what to expect from him or her! Are you or your IT Support Manager doing the following things?

KNOW YOUR IT SUPPLIERS – Meet them all to be very clear about what they do for you, how much they’re costing you, and review your reasons for signing them up. Great IT suppliers will bend over backwards to help you make life easier come budget time and will have useful ideas for you. Ask them what they’re best at, what they’re renowned for, and how they’ve helped their most successful clients.   When you have to undertake a special project, knowing who to go to for help will save you time and effort. You can often get some superb ideas from suppliers who’ve dealt with similar projects many times before.

KNOW YOUR SERVICE CONTRACTS – check the contract dates, diarise reviews, and read the summaries. Renegotiating old contracts can find you quick savings, sometimes you’ll even find obsolete services you’re still paying for, and you’ll be able to plan much better for contract renewals or tenders.

PRODUCE A FLOW CHART – This should show how all your IT systems integrate, which systems actually do work together rather than should work together. How do your IT systems fit in with the business goals? Such a flow chart should highlight efficiency improvements to start working on and enhance your ability to spot vulnerabilities and fix problems.

IDENTIFY CRITICAL AREAS – Which systems are most/least critical for business continuity? Checking they are being backed-up is the minimum you should do. Ensure you document recovery processes, times and objectives. Know where to locate your disaster recovery plan! When trouble hits (and it will) you’ll instantly know what to do.

FUTURE FINANCE – Avoid traps like over-ambitious spending and set aside a budget for the IT work inherent in important upcoming changes like office moves, restructuring and acquisitions. Such projects heavily impact IT! IT systems do wear out and become obsolete so account for this too. If you employ an IT Manager or outsource – ensure they are briefed appropriately by the person in charge of finance and consulted for their advice about any such upcoming changes.

PAST EXPENDITURE – review the projects and expenditures you have previously approved (or get your IT Manager to do so) and decide which commitments you want to alter, re-approve, cancel, delay or reprioritise.

MORE THAN ONE PERSON ON YOUR IT TEAM? – You or the IT Manager should meet with each member of your team and ask what they like and hate doing in their job. Gain an idea of their skills and weaknesses. Also ask each member if they have any great ideas, something they feel would transform the business. As a result of this you might decide to make changes to your team, but you don’t want anyone to mess up your plan by suddenly leaving. A lack of development opportunities is the number one cause of staff turnover. Listening to your team members will at least show you what development opportunities are possibilities and those free ideas could be very useful indeed.

PRODUCE AN IT OPERATIONS MANUAL – If you have more than one person looking after your IT this will show how the IT Department functions, including external parties, as well as the disaster recovery plan. Having one in place builds confidence amongst your IT team and the wider organisation.

PLAN – Create a 6-month IT plan. Outline any changes, upgrades, and improvements that you can envisage based on the company’s goals. Share this plan internally, and with your most trusted IT suppliers. The more people who are prepared for your plans, the easier you’ll find those plans to execute. Trusted external suppliers can share their own experiences from other clients, help you avoid pitfalls and help you plan the resources you’ll need to get hold of. This is especially true if you outsource your IT Support.

CONSIDER FULLY OUTSOURCING – If you don’t want to get into funding the cost of an IT Manager AND his or her sickness/holiday cover and all the other inherent staffing issues ….

If you don’t want to carry the entire burden of maintaining IT when you’re also trying to develop your business – lean on a reputable IT support company. That way you’ll have more freedom to bring in more business and work on growth.

By making sure you get the right IT support services to meet your needs, you and your business will benefit.