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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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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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Category: Windows Server 2008, IT Security, News, Windows 8.

With Windows Server 2008 End of Life happening soon, this means the extended support will also finish.

On January 14th 2020, Microsoft will end all support for Windows Server 2008.

Whilst the systems will continue to work, the infrastructure will not be supported which means it will become vulnerable to cyber-attacks and risks of data loss over time.

Options could include migrating to Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing service or upgrading to a later version of Windows Server including  2012, 2016 or 2019, depending on your requirements.

Hopefully, your IT support company has advised you of this important date if you are currently using Windows Server 2008 but if not speak with them to advise you about your options in particularly what is best for your business requirements.

 

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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: 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: IT Security, News.

You are more likely to fall victim to cybercrime than anything else.

In the past 12 months, two in five businesses in the UK have been subject to cybercrime with the average cost around £3000 per business (2018 Cyber Security Breaches Survey).

Don’t wait to be a victim.

The PC Support Group in conjunction with HR specialist, HPC and Downtown in Business are offering 30 businesses based in Liverpool with 10+employees an invitation to a select free cyber security power panel:

Date: Thursday 27th June

Time: 12-2pm (lunch & refreshments provided)

Location: Liverpool

Venue: TBC

This event is essential for business owners and directors and will take the format of an informal discussion for 30 businesses only based in Liverpool.

Topics we will cover:

  • The latest cyber security threats and how to identify them
  • How they can impact your business
  • What you can do to keep your business safe
  • Policies to implement to protect your business.

If you are serious about keeping your business safe, you don’t want to miss this non-technical but highly informative discussion.  

Early bird incentive: Reserve your place by Friday 7th June and after the event you will take away with you a FREE cyber Crime guide. 

RSVP to helen.roughley@pcsupportgroup.com by Friday 14th June 2019.  Places will be given on a first come first served basis.

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

According to a recent study, 86% of the top UK websites failed to comply with GDPR.  Considering GDPR is now a year old, this alarming news.

The findings by ImmuniWeb, a global security testing provider, highlighted that the majority of UK websites were using non-compliant processes or insecure systems to host and manage user data.   Eighty-six percent were found to be using insecure cookies and 17% of sites had either missing or hard to reach privacy policies.

On a positive note, 100% were using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or HTTPS and had up-to-date content management systems.

The stats also revealed that sites operating across the rest of Europe are more likely to be compliant with GDPR.

Here are some tips on how to make your website GDPR compliant:

  1. Make sure your privacy policy is very clear about the data you are capturing and easily accessible.  It needs to outline the usage of advertising, marketing, transferring data to third parties (who must be named) and IP tracking
  2. Make sure an SSL certificate is obtained for your website to encrypt data to stop people hacking it
  3. Make sure any data capture forms on your website have active opt-in boxes for acceptance reasons including for social media
  4. Make sure users can unsubscribe their consent/withdraw their permission easily and clearly and this should be separate to accepting terms and conditions
  5. Your website should have procedures in place to detect, report and investigate personal data breaches.

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Category: IT News, IT Security, News.

With hackers getting smarter and malware having increasingly devastating results, cybersecurity has never been more important to keep your business safe.

One way of increasing your cybersecurity is with an antivirus (AV) software. That is why it is essential to invest in good AV software. However, it should be stressed that this should be in conjunction with other security measures.   Previously, AV software was renowned for slowing your computer down and therefore an excuse for not investing in it; however, software has come a long way.  According to independent testing by IT PRO, the best business antivirus software for 2019 is Kaspersky Internet Security 2019, which came out as virtually faultless.

The other recommended AV software included BitDefender Internet Security 2019, McAfee Internet Security 2019, Panda Free Antivirus and Avast Free Antivirus.

If you’re unsure about which antivirus software to install or how to configure it, speak with your IT provider for advice or contact The PC support Group here.

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Category: IT News, IT Security, News.

New research says that almost 90% of SMEs are now looking to switch to the IT Managed Service Provider with the best cybersecurity services, above all other selection criteria.

Global IT management company Continuum spoke to SMEs across the UK, US, France, Germany and Belgium about their cybersecurity concerns. Its main conclusions included:

  • Almost all SMEs are now aware of the business-critical importance of cybersecurity
  • 89% of those surveyed would consider switching to a new IT support provider if it offered the right cybersecurity solutions
  • Almost a quarter have already switched following a cyber attack.

The research highlighted that cybersecurity is now the most important issue for SMEs selecting an IT provider and that virtually all businesses were willing to move away from their current provider if it meant getting a better service elsewhere.  Interestingly, the majority don’t feel like they are protected sufficiently and therefore are considering switching for better security

Is your business protected against cyber attacks like ransomware or email phishing? Do you feel that your current provider is giving you good advice and being proactive with measures to protect you and your customers? Or is it time to look at other options to keep your business safe?

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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