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Category: Business, IT News, News.

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).

In 2020 BT will begin phasing out its old-style landlines and will then switch them off altogether in 2025.  So, if you’re one of the millions of UK organisations now’s the time to make the move to the cloud.

Even without the news from BT, the advantages of VoIP telephony are so game-changing for SMEs. VoIP allows you to make voice and video calls anywhere in the world, from any device – all you need is an internet connection.

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

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 preferably 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.

The PC Support Group has been providing VoIP services for the last few years to both existing and new customers across the North West.  Please feel free to contact them here to discuss your options.

 

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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: IT News, News.

The PC Support Group ranks among the world’s 501 most strategic and innovative managed service providers (MSPs), according to Channel Futures 11th annual MSP 501 Worldwide Company Rankings.

The MSP 501 identifies the World’s most forward-thinking MSPs and leading trends in Managed Services.  It is the first, largest and most comprehensive ranking of managed service providers worldwide. This year Channel Futures received a record number of submissions. Applications poured in from Europe, Asia, South America and beyond.

MSPs were ranked using an unique methodology, which recognizes that not all revenue streams are created equal. Revenue figures were weighted according to how well the applicant’s business strategy anticipates trends in the fast-evolving channel ecosystem.

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

“We are delighted to have made this exclusive list once again.  We know we are the best at what we do but to be ranked amongst the top 501 MSPs globally is a huge honour.”

Pictured are some of the head office team with the award

 

Phil continues:

“We are passionate about remaining the best in our field and we realise to do this we need to constantly innovate, invest in the best technology and people whilst focusing on providing excellent customer service.”

The MSP 501 winners and award recipients will be recognized at a special ceremony at Channel Partners Evolution, held on October 9-12 in Philadelphia, USA.

“This year’s applicant pool was the largest and most diverse in the history of the survey, and our winners represent the health and progressivity of the managed services market,” says Kris Blackmon, Channel Futures content director and editor of the MSP 501. “They’re growing their revenue, expanding their customer influence and exploring new technology that will propel them for years to come.”

The complete 2018 MSP 501 list is available at Channel Futures and the full MSP 501 report will be available in the autumn.

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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 News.

Augmented reality

 

So 2016 is upon us so what exciting tech stuff do we have to look forward to?
1. IT Wearables for business –

Did you add an Apple Watch or a FitBit to your life in 2015?  Which of these do you think was the most successful product of the year?  Well, contrary to predictions, the Apple Watch was lagging behind FitbBit in terms of market share.

The majority of wearables were seen as accessories for fitness enthusiasts, not as essential devices for mainstream consumers.  Not only that but some early developments in the wearables market had limited capability, not to mention questionable accuracy. That led people to question their value and give up on them after only a few weeks of use.

So where is the ‘wearables’ market going in 2016?  Perhaps their best opportunity lies in the business world. Could they, for instance, replace building security cards with a more secure, biometric form of authentication?  Can you imagine them becoming the means to log into your work devices, secure websites, etc. thereby eliminating the need for resetting passwords and possibly increasing security?

Some U.S. businesses are already starting conversations with health-care organisations to collectively track the activity level and health of their employees in order to offer better insurance rates.  Big Brother implications or huge benefit?
Soon, wearable devices may be able to connect directly to the Internet, without needing to tether to a third-party mobile device. This will help set the stage for embeddable wearables, such as Chaotic Moon’s biometric tattoo, or tech tats, which attach to the skin much like a temporary tattoo.

2. Foldable displays –

One exciting development going on right now is the effort to create foldable or bendable displays and it looks like 2016 will be the year when we start to see the first examples available.  Imagine the possibilities for a moment… a tablet that turns into a smartphone, or vice versa? Tantalising possibilities!

The first versions of foldable displays will likely only be able to fold outward because it’s apparently easier to stretch the materials at the fold than it is to squeeze them together, as you would need to do for an inward-folding display.

3. Self-charging phones –

New technologies are enabling phones to charge through wavelengths. Ossia Inc. and Japanese telecom company KDDI Corp have a product called Cota, that will automatically recharge mobile phones at a distance, similar to how WiFi transmitters deliver data from routers to devices.

This follows existing technologies that take advantage of smartphones’ wireless charging standard, known as Qi. The company Qi Wireless, for example, produces pads that charge phones when placed on them.  Ikea recently began selling tables that wirelessly charge phones when the mobile device is placed on the table top.

Other companies, such as Israeli startup StoreDot, are looking to introduce instant charging and longer-lasting batteries. The company is pledging to introduce a battery next year that would charge a smartphone in 60 seconds or less.

4.  Drone technology –

The technology is being tested by many companies including Google and Amazon. Currently there is no permission from Governments to use this technology commercially, especially in built up areas. But clearly for deliveries – whether it is products from Amazon to fertilising crops will the commercial use of drones take a step forward in 2016?

5. Virtual and augmented reality –

Juniper Research predicts that 2016 will be a “watershed year for Virtual Reality”.  We will see the launch of Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the first consumer-level virtual-reality headset that doesn’t require a smartphone.  HTC Corp. and Valve’s Vive VR headset will also hit the market, after the launch was postponed in December when developers experienced a “very, very big technological breakthrough” that made the initial version obsolete.

In addition to the new hardware, 2016 will also see an increased focus on VR content in gaming and entertainment, as well as the development of consumer-level 360-degree cameras for amateur virtual-reality shooting from the likes of GoPro Inc.

Meanwhile, augmented reality may push its way into the workplace.  We could be seeing real-world applications for augmented-reality headsets, such as enhancing a person’s task on the job by interposing digital images like a map or instructions on top of objects in their surrounding environment.

On the other hand, anyone old enough to remember the TV series Tomorrow’s World knows that not everything predicted comes true. But whatever happens it’s sure to be another exciting year in tech!

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Category: IT News.

women in computingIt seems difficult to imagine now, but women were leaders in computer science for decades – but in 1984 they began to disappear from the field in dramatic numbers. What on earth happened?

Gender stereotyping could well be the answer.

If you’re old enough to remember the very first personal computers, you may recall that they were not much more than toys. Can you remember the marketing too? Almost exclusively aimed at boys and men.

We can’t put ALL the blame on the marketers though, because at around the same time computer geek culture also began to emerge and that led to TV shows, movies, and video games that were, sadly, reaffirming that computers were the domain of the males of our species.

So, it follows that, 1984 saw a generation of students, who could have owned a home computer, entering further education – most of them boys. Researchers had already concluded that parents were much more likely to buy computers for their boys than their girls. Naturally then, many more boys had programming experience to take along to college and university … leaving young women already significantly behind their male peers. Since computers were now pretty much considered the domain of males, young women would often face discouragement from parents, other students, and educational professionals.

This is rather sad since women were very active in the computer science up until this time. Indeed there was a large increase in their numbers between 1970 and 1984 (by which time 37% of computer science degrees were awarded to women). According to the Computing Research Association, that number fell to 12% by 2011.

Listen to “When Women Stopped Coding”, visit http://n.pr/1rOiDB6 a 15 minute podcast that helps us to truly understand what happened during this period. Caitlin Kenney and Steve Henn unravel the mystery of what happened to cause women to drop out of computer science in astounding numbers.

For parents who would like to encourage their Mighty Girls’ interest in technology, early exposure to programming is highly recommended since many children only interact with technology passively. A great way to introduce kids, ages 9 and up, to programming is via new DIY systems that allow you to build real programmable computers on your own such as the “Raspberry Pi Ultimate Set” and “Sparki: The Easy Arduino DIY Robot”

For a wide variety of toys that introduce programming concepts and electronics to kids, check out www.amightygirl.com, particularly: “Wrapped up in Science: Top 40 Science Toys for Mighty Girls”

Little Bits sets are another way to get girls excited about technology — to check out their new “Gizmos and Gadgets Kit,” for ages 10 and up,

To inspire her with many stories of girls and women in technology, visit the amightygirl.com’s “Science & Technology” book section at http://amgrl.co/1Mw9BGB

Included in the selection is a fantastic new picture book about the world’s first computer programmer Ada Lovelace: “Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine,” for ages 5 to 9 at http://www.amightygirl.com/ada-lovelace-thinking-machine

 

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Category: IT News, IT Security, Uncategorised.

Heard of ransomware?  It’s important that you know about it, so read on…

worm
Ransomware is the term given to a type of virus that enters your computer(s) and encrypts all your data in such a way that you can no longer access any of it.  Until you pay a substantial fee (a ransom) to get it back.

There’s a new ransomware virus to be aware of; it’s called Power Worm but unfortunately no amount of ransom can get your data back for you.  Unfortunately, the not-so-clever hackers have made a big coding mistake this time and one variant of their virus destroys keys that could help recover the data it has scrambled – leaving you high and dry even if you are prepared to pay a ransom.

Power Worm infects Microsoft Word and Excel files in the main,  but the latest version goes after many more types of files it finds on your machine.

Malware Researcher Lawrence Abrams makes it clear that anyone hit by Power Worm should not pay the 2 bitcoin (about £500) ransom it asks for because they will not get any data back.  He said “There is unfortunately nothing that can be done for victims of this infection, If you have been affected by this ransomware, your only option is to restore from a back-up.”

The reality is that even when the hackers do have the key they are unlikely to release it even if you pay the ransom so regular reliable backups is the only realistic way to protect your data and your business from these attacks.

Did you know:

  • 34% of companies fail to test their backups, and of those that do, 77% have found back-up failures (Source: Home Office Computing Magazine)
  • 93% of companies that lost their data centre for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. (Source: National Archives & Records Administration)

It’s worth noting that even if you avoid catching a computer virus, ALL disk drives eventually fail, regardless of brand or type and so backups are arguably the most essential aspect of any IT system.

Backup solutions can vary enormously and it is important to be aware of the consequences of choosing one solution over another. While all of our services provide excellent protection, some cover just data while others cover entire systems. Some enable faster recovery of your systems in the event of a major problem, while others ensure that your systems are safe from physical risks such as fires, floods or theft. We recognise that each business has unique requirements and so we talk to customers to diagnose their potential risks and vulnerabilities, understand what’s important to them and then design a specific BusinessCARE Backup system tailored for their situation.

Call The PC Support Group before it’s too late! You can reach us now on 03300 886116.

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Category: Windows 10, IT News, Software, Uncategorised.

Windows 10 DevicesMicrosoft’s new Windows 10 offers improvements over previous versions, and some great new features. Which of these are significant for you will be determined by how you use your computer and what for. The update mostly went smoothly when it was rolled out, but a few problems have been reported by many users. These include loss of internet access, no printing options, loss of access to e-mails, web browser issues, crashes, incompatibilities etc.

Not everyone has experienced problems, but there are millions of computers out there, running many different apps and programmes, so they’re not all going to react the same way.

Many of the errors have a workaround by now, but they can take time and effort to resolve, and some issues are going to remain until third parties can catch up and deliver new drivers.

Those who ARE experiencing problems are certainly helping the rest of us – as they report such glitches, Microsoft will create “patches” (fixes) for them and push them out to computers where Windows 10 is already installed. Those who update later then, are going to get a version that has many, if not all, of the glitches sorted out.

Waiting a while to update also gives the manufacturers of software drivers the time to prepare. Software drivers are the bits of software that allow your computer to talk to devices you connect to; for example printers. You should ideally search for drivers for these devices before you upgrade to ensure Windows 10 compatible ones are available. Even devices that do have updated drivers, have been causing issues for some people. If a device stops working you will need to uninstall your existing drivers and then locate new compatible drivers.

Do backup all important files before a big upgrade like this so that if anything does go wrong, you can recover the important things.

In summary…

Becoming an early adopter is often not a good idea because even a few weeks can make a difference as Microsoft, and third party driver developers, will have been able to sort out many glitches as users report them.   After all, the free upgrade offer lasts a whole year. Why not wait until Spring?

To get on the latest, fastest operating system does seem appealing and “free” does sound good but it should not be recklessly jumped at as you need to consider if it will work with all your other bits of software. The fact that it can be installed though windows update and retain settings etc does however make it sound like a reasonably hassle free upgrade path.

We’d look to wait until it’s been out for enough time for us all to be confident that Windows 10 will be trouble free, so maybe some 3-6 months after its launch (which was at the end of July).

We would, however, encourage you to register, any time from now, on each computer for the free upgrade. That can be done by clicking on the icon in the system tray of each computer. The beauty of registering is that you’ll then be able to upgrade anytime without having to pay, whereas by not registering the free period expires after 12 months from launch.

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Category: IT News.

Ada Lovelace 2Is Ada Lovelace our first tech visionary? In many ways, she anticipated our Digital Age (in Victorian times!) and is certainly a celebrated role model for women in technology.

In an article published in 1843, she imagined a future in which programmable machines would be essential to scientific progress, and might even be used to create art and music.

Ada, the abandoned daughter of the romantic poet, Lord Byron, was put under a strict regime of moral and mathematical training by her mother who hoped it would counter any dangerous “poetical” tendencies she might have inherited from her notorious father.

In 1833, age 17, Ada was introduced to Charles Babbage and one of his innovative calculating machines, the Difference Engine, at a party in his London drawing room. The introduction was made through their mutual friend Mary Somerville which relationship she used to visit Baggage and the machine as often as she could. At 26, married with three small children, she undertook maths correspondence course.

Ada made Babbage a bold proposal. She offered to work as his assistant – a remarkably bold move, especially given the stifling social conventions of the day. It worked!

By this time Babbage was working on a design for a new machine, which he called the Analytical Engine. Unlike the Difference Engine, which could only add, the Analytical Engine worked much more like a modern computer and could be programmed to carry out almost any sequence of logical steps.

Babbage was impressed by Lovelace’s intellect and analytic skills. He called her The Enchantress of Numbers. He wrote of her: Forget this world and all its troubles and if possible its multitudinous Charlatans—everything in short but the Enchantress of Numbers.

The only published description of the Analytical Engine was a French article which Ada translated for a British journal, and she added add a set of notes, describing more fully how the Engine worked. These Notes (which included some visionary statements about its potential and limitations) ended up twice as long as the original article.

The Notes also included tables setting out the sequence the machine would have to go through to find the solution to an algebra problem (e.g. Bernouilli’s numbers sequence). This is why some writers call Ada the “world’s first programmer” but these tables were not strictly computer programmes.

She does, however, seem to have understood the significance of Babbage’s engines better than he did. So – although not the forerunner of today’s coders and hackers, Ada was probably one of the first visionaries who imagine how future technology might change the world.

It would take another hundred years to recognise the significance of the extra ordinary foresight in her work. Her notes and letters to Babbage make it clear that Ada understood the potential of computers in a way that he, or nobody else ever did.

Ada Lovelace Day is now in its seventh year – it’s an annual celebration of women working the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths.