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Category: IT News, IT Support, News.

Acquisition International Magazine has announced the winners of the 2020 Global Excellence awards and Northwest-based IT provider, The PC Support Group is:

Most Outstanding SME IT Support Specialists, 2020 – UK

Acquisition INTL’s Global Excellence Awards were launched in 2016 to recognise and reward the firms and individuals whose commitment to sustained outstanding performance has seen them leading the way, not only in their own sector or industry, but across the entire global corporate spectrum.  The awards showcase the work of businesses and individuals at the top of their game, getting an inside look at how they go above and beyond for their clients time and time again.

The PC Support Group provides fully managed IT and telephony support to SMEs across the North West of England.  Its core focus is to protect and enable its clients to achieve their business goals through exceptional service and IT expertise.

Phil Bird, managing director of The PC Support Group said: “We are thrilled to have received this award that recognises us as an outstanding business as we are very proud of our unique customer service that means we go above and beyond with all our clients whenever we get the opportunity.”

Phil continued: “We actively request feedback from our clients so we can constantly improve our service.”

The rigorous selection process undertaken by Acquisition INTL’s in-house award specialists guarantees that all award recipients were chosen purely on merit based on the proven performance over the last 12 months.  Whether you run a single office firm or a multinational corporation, we reward those that are succeeding in their endeavours, innovating, growing, and improving.

To find out more about these prestigious awards, please visit www.acq-intl.com

To contact The PC Support Group to see how they can help you realise your business potential with world-class IT support, call 03300 886 116 or contact them here

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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: 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: 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: Business, IT News, IT Support.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Category: 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 feel free to download this here.

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 info@pcsupportgroup.com.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Category: IT News, IT Support.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Category: IT News, IT Support.

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” I couldn’t resist a smile when I heard this yesterday because the person in the coffee queue in front of me could have been speaking on behalf of just about everyone working in an SME!

We all know that, with additional time, there’s so much more that we could achieve. Do you ever wonder what would you do with a few extra hours every week?

Today’s successful businesses are working smarter, not harder. They’re finding new ways to improve the productivity of their people – and technology is making it possible. Of course, every business is different and what works for one may not work for another. But I am totally convinced that those that embrace technology are the ones that are prospering.

And by technology I don’t mean the really techy stuff, I mean the easy-to-use, tools and systems that are available for all SMEs. I reckon that there are six key things (and there are more!) that you can do very easily that will free up priceless extra hours for you and your people – and improve efficiencies, team working and job satisfaction in the process.

You may already be doing some or all of these things, but here goes:

  1. The basics: A fast and reliable internet connection and an automatically-updated cloud computing platform will ensure that your business-critical tech is always on and doing what it says on the tin. Remember, downtime is a business killer!
  2. Switch to versatile cloud-based telephony: BT is phasing out landlines and with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) you’ll cut costs and improve your mobile working capabilities.
  3. Collaboration: Make it easy for people to communicate, share files and documents, work together and stay in touch – using Skype, SharePoint and shared calendars for example – encouraging faster, more efficient team working.
  4. Consider remote working: Once you’ve embraced collaboration this is the obvious next step. Statistics show beyond doubt that remote and mobile working boosts productivity by giving people more control over their working life. Happier, more contented employees are more productive, it’s a fact!
  5. Update your management tools: This list is endless. For example, there are loads of easy to use tools to track the time everyone is spending on daily tasks, giving you the data, you need to manage more effectively. The latest automated CRM systems are saving time and improving services too, speeding up contacts with customers and improving conversion rates. And apps like Evernote capture, organise and share project notes, so that everyone is on the same page and actions and responsibilities are clear.
  6. IT support: Being able to call upon expert assistance when you need it will ensure that you’re making the most of your smart tools and systems, that your basics are running smoothly and efficiently, and that you have help on hand if something goes wrong.

If you’d like help to boost your productivity and free up some of your time – call our team on 03300 886 116 or email them on info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Category: IT News, IT Support.

 

Thanks to the rise of cloud computing, smartphones and tablets the amount of paper in offices has definitely reduced.  However, most businesses can still reduce their paper consumption by a further 20% with some simple office policies.

Where once the idea of being able to access documents anywhere and everywhere was but a pipe dream, with the likes of Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, this is now possible with the tap of a button or click of a mouse.

This is not only brilliant for SMEs concerned with how much printing and the supply of paper costs a business’s bottom line but also people concerned with the environmental impact of offices filled with paper and wastage.   After all, everything that is printed has both an environmental and monetary cost.

From a corporate social responsibility point of view, going paperless makes absolute sense. Globally, it’s believed our paper consumption has more than doubled in the last 40 years, while ORS Group figures suggest that the average UK worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper annually – the equivalent of four boxes, which cost £40 in total.

From a financial perspective, better using resources and reducing waste can only ultimately do good things for your overheads. Whether that translates to pure savings or just enables an organisation to divert extra resources to add value elsewhere, it can offer real benefits.

So, think before you hit that print button and start 2019 with a fresh approach to help save money and increase efficiency whilst helping the environment with the following tips:

1)   Avoid printing emails where necessary

3)   If you must print, try reducing the number of copies

3)    Set your printer to default to double-side printing

4)    Use scanners or email instead of printing

5)    Recycle what you use and ask to use recycled paper

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Category: IT News, IT Support.

I’m often asked: “should we store our data in the cloud or on our own server on our own premises?”.  Quickly followed by: “which is more expensive?”, and “which is more secure?”

Regular readers will know that I’m on a bit of personal crusade to help our clients – and anyone who needs assistance – to make more informed decisions, based on what’s best for their business.

So, let’s unpack this issue a bit because there are pros and cons with both cloud and on-premise data storage – and making the right decision for you depends on your own unique circumstances, your appetite for risk and what makes you feel most comfortable. Let’s start with the basics.

In a nutshell, on-premise data storage means:

  • using an in-house server, computers or other devices to store your data
  • purchasing your own hardware and software
  • regularly maintaining, upgrading and replacing your infrastructure
  • buying additional equipment if your storage requirements increase beyond current capacity
  • employing, directly or indirectly, specialist expertise to keep these assets fully operational

Advantages:
Security – by keeping your data within your own direct control, so long as you take sensible security precautions, it’s harder for hackers to attack.

Control – if you own the hardware, software and decide where the data is and who manages it then you are in complete control of every aspect of the system which may give you peace of mind.

Access – because you are not reliant on internet connection, all employees based at your site will always have access to the data, and if you are dealing with large files it can be faster.

Disadvantages:
Cost – buying, maintaining and regularly replacing your own equipment for the latest and best versions requires regular capital investment and ongoing operating expenditure.

Remote Access – unless suitable technology is implemented then remote access to on-site servers is often more complicated and slower than cloud solutions.

Meanwhile, cloud-based data storage involves:

  • using remote servers or hardware maintained by a third-party service provider
  • buying the use of specific quantities of storage space and bandwidth
  • accessing your data via the internet

Advantages:
Cost – cloud-based data storage avoids buying your own hardware and software and ongoing costs are often lower than the costs of maintaining your own systems.

Flexibility – you can access your data anytime, anywhere, all you need is an internet connection – and you can buy more storage space when you need it and pay less when you don’t.

Disadvantages:
Security – with flexibility comes increased risk. Data stored in the cloud often uses multiple providers, shared resources and may be more easily accessed by people outside your organisation. This can be reduced by using a private cloud, rather than a public cloud in which storage space is shared by many organisations.

Downtime – access to cloud servers is more susceptible to outages and downtime with it being reliant on the internet connection.

Tough decision? Well don’t despair as it’s just a case of going through your key business goals and drivers with your trusted IT advisor and they will be able to recommend the right solution for you. And remember, the solution doesn’t have to be one or the other, some companies decide that what is best for them is a dual approach or a hybrid data storage solution where primary data is stored on their own server with backup versions stored in the cloud.

If you’d like us to help you to decide what is the best option for you, leave us a message here or email us at info@pcsupportgroup.com and we’ll contact you back, or call our team on 03300 886 116 for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird
Managing Director, The PC Support Group