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Author

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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Author

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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Author

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

Date:

Author

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

Date:

Author

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

Date:

Author

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

Date:

Author

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

Date:

Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

I reckon that if I ask six people to define what hosted desktop is and how it’s organised, I’ll get six different answers because it means different things to different people!

I know this to be true because I’ve been having lots of these conversations recently, as we’ve been working with some new clients who came to us for help after suddenly finding themselves locked out of their IT systems and unable to access their data.

A hosted desktop is a virtual machine that hosts the operating system, applications, data and other system configurations of a physical desktop remotely from a server through the internet providing similar functions of a physical desktop.

What all these organisations had in common is that they were all using a hosted desktop service to operate their IT systems and equipment. Which is absolutely fine in theory. Hosted desktop is the future and can deliver huge benefits for SMEs, reducing investment and running costs and providing access to the latest agile business tools to boost productivity and enable flexible working anytime from anywhere.

The trouble is there are good hosted desktop solutions – and bad ones. A good one provides fast and secure access to your systems and data, on any device from anywhere in the world. A bad one is a ticking time bomb, and it’s only a matter of time before it fails, taking the hosting company down – and its customers with it.

The reason is because they are usually badly designed, insecure and often rely on cheap, old or outdated infrastructure and software. Rather than accessing the very best resources that the cloud has to offer, your entire company could be hosted in a server down the road, in demand by numerous other businesses, where you have to share resources that are prone to malfunction and vulnerable to attack.

But here’s the $64,000 question – when you’re trying to decide, how can you tell a good one from a bad one? The answer, as always, is to ask the right questions and, most importantly, if the service you’re being offered sounds cheap, be very, very careful!

Think of it this way, if you saw your dream house, you’d still have a full survey carried out wouldn’t you – to check that the boiler was sound, and the roof didn’t leak?

Making a fundamental decision on the future of your IT operating model requires the same caution. Before you commit to hosted desktop, when interviewing a potential supplier, make sure you get detailed, clear answers to these questions:

  1. Where and how will my data be stored?
  2. How much resource and capacity will we have, and will we always have access to 100% of that resource without sharing with other companies? Will we always be able to access our data, systems and emails? How do you meet that promise?
  3. If your entire system goes down will we still have access to our files and emails?
  4. Will we always be able to run the latest versions of Windows and Microsoft office whenever we need or want to?
  5. Please name and detail with a diagram the background technologies and infrastructure which your services use?
  6. Can you provide evidence which shows that you do not have any single point of failure in the delivery of all services to us?
  7. What security, business continuity, disaster recovery and risk management provisions are in place?
  8. Which subcontractors or suppliers will you be using to provide our service?
  9. What happens if we no longer wish to use your service?

Always describe your business requirements and not your tech requirements and speak to the supplier’s technical and support staff as well as sales representatives. And remember that hosted desktop is only one of a range of options at your disposal – and it may be a mistake to put all your eggs in one basket. Procuring separate (though integrated) services for each business function ensures that if one fails, the rest can usually carry on working.

What’s important is to select the solution that’s right for your business. If you’d like to discuss hosted desktop or your IT requirements in general, leave us a message here and we will get back to you or email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com  or speak to our friendly team on 03300 886116  for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT News, IT Support.

You’re probably thinking that, as an owner of a successful IT support company, my mind must be firmly made up on this business-critical decision – outsourcing must be the way to go, right?

 

Actually, what I think is most important of all, is that individual business owners make the right decision for them, one that takes account of their unique needs and circumstances, their size and the market they’re in, and the expectations of their customers.

 

For some SMEs that I talk to, having an IT person in the building is very reassuring. They’re on tap, they know the business, its systems and users inside out, they know the pressure points and they’re often dedicated and knowledgeable all-rounders. Even after we’ve discussed all the pros and cons of both approaches, staying in-house can be the conclusion, a decision I always respect.

 

For other businesses though, the advantages of outsourcing are much more appealing. The benefits that I find carry most weight during these discussions are:

 

  1. Cost – a good IT Manager will cost between £28-40k a year plus all employment and training costs, while a comprehensive support package covering the needs of, say, 50 users, with back-up and security, will typically cost less than half of that. And the supplier will invest in the latest technology and expert, trained staff, meaning you don’t have to.
  2. Expertise – an IT Manager may be a good allrounder, but a specialist supplier is focussed exclusively on IT, recruiting the full range of skill sets required.
  3. Availability – an outsourced supplier can be on hand 24/7/365, while an employee may not be available outside core hours, may leave at short notice, will get sick occasionally and need cover during holidays.
  4. Consistency – through service level agreements, businesses can select the level of support that’s best for them, with defined standards and predictable costs.
  5. Simplicity – with a single contract and a single supplier taking overall responsibility for IT; people management requirements are reduced.
  6. Advice – receive independent, best-practice guidance on how to deliver IT that’s a tool not a burden.
  7. Continuity – a good supplier will quickly acquire a detailed understanding of your business requirements, demonstrate expertise and commitment, and become an integral part of the in-house team, albeit operating remotely, acquiring trusted partner status.

 

Even when I’m talking to an SME that’s convinced that outsourcing is the route for them, I always stress the need to find the right partner, one that’s the right fit for them. When recruiting it’s important to ask lots of questions and be clear about your expectations. Talk about your business requirements rather than your tech requirements – your tech is simply an enabler.  

 

I’m so convinced of the importance of this that we devised a simple guide with 20 key questions to help you choose the right IT support provider for you. Please feel free to download this here.

 

If you’d like a chat with our sales team here at The PC Support Group about outsourcing your IT support, you can contact them on 03300 886116 or email them on info@pcsupportgroup.com for an informal and confidential chat.

 

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

 

 

 

 

Date:

Author

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  info@pcsupportgroup.com.

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group