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Category: Web Hosting.

It seems that the demise of one of the original successful web businesses has gone under the radar of most people.

Lycos Inc. (a well known name way before Google was even a glint in Lary Page’s or Sergey Brin’s eyes) stopped all the mail and hosting services on the 15th February 2009.

This marks a big change since Lycos was sold in 2004 for £52M

Many businesses use third parties such as design companies to arrange their web site hosting so they may have their email services or web site hosting through Lycos and not even realise the implications.

If you have lost your web site or email service then you should check whether Lycos was hosting them. If they are then contact a company who can arrange to host your services in the future such as The PC Support Group and then go to http://www.united-domains.de/lycos-support/en/ and follow the instructions.

It’s vital that you do this as soon as possible to avoid loss of service for any length of time.

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Category: IT Support.

So the stock markets are in freefall , we’ve stopped spending money, businesses are going to the wall and your home is falling in value every day – That’s what we hear on the news and in the daily tabloids…

BUT Is it really all that bad?

In December 2008, I finally left behind the banking industry following the challenges of 2008 – It was one of those typical bi-annual departmental restructures that every large company goes through. The final result put me in the position of competing against another colleague yet knowing, in my heart, that circumstances were fighting against me. The process was regimental but fair and I was offered the choice of “look for another job within” or take voluntary redundancy.

I took the redundancy option not knowing what was next –heck I had been there for 25 years and really thought I didn’t know anything but the Bank.

That weekend I sat down and scoured the newspapers, the magazines and the web – at this point I had already said I was leaving but didn’t even have a job (with a wife and two kids to feed it was a bit scary !!).

Fortunately I had more than Banking skills; having run a small IT company part time for 12 years and latterly had been Head of E-Commerce at Bank of Scotland.

After carrying out tons of research, the most favourable option was to buy into an IT support franchise and the starting grid produced four candidates. Two fell at the first hurdle when they sent me a few lines of pre-defined text about how I could pay them lots of money and have the right to use the name to sell services in a small area of the country. The other two looked viable so I set off down the formal process of application. The end result was a no-brainer and so that is where I am today.

Was it the right decision?

I have never looked back since the day I left the Bank

I now run a real business that gives me the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people

The world is not all doom and gloom

The PC Support Group have the systems, the support and most of all the people

SO TO ANYONE WHO IS FACED WITH THE PROSPECT OF REDUNDANCY; LOOK BEYOND THE NEWSPAPERS; LOOK BEYOND THE NEWS AND MOST OF ALL BE POSITIVE AND BELIEVE YOU CAN SUCCEED IN THIS EXCITING WORLD.

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Category: IT Support.

It just strikes me that at The PC Support Group we speak to businesses and home users daily who come to us with horror stories of their current or previous computer support provider. I don’t suppose that accountants, lawyers, financial advisors, designers and other professionals have anything like the same torrent of tales of woe. Why is this?

I think one of the biggest problems is that the computer support market has undervalued itself. What I mean by this is that thousands of barely qualified (or not qualified at all) people have started offering IT support services at ridiculously low prices. I recently came across someone offering computer support for £15 per hour which, when you consider they will not be paid for the time they travel, market, sell and do their administration, is not far from minimum wage!

Unsurprisingly, low prices attract custom but the service quality is invariably equally low. Low prices means that those IT support businesses can’t afford to employ skilled people, they can’t afford to invest in the best support technology, and they can’t afford to invest in training to keep up to date with technological changes. The result is that computer support businesses, and in particular “one man bands”, have created an undervalued industry with an appalling service record.

The other major problem is that the computer support industry is generally hopeless at communicating to the rest of the world. Apart from this resulting in technicians bamboozling their customers, it has also resulted in customers not understanding the value of great IT support.

For example, a high quality business backup solution which guarantees to restore all the data exactly as it was and make it available within a day might cost a few hundred pounds a month. Many small businesses will simply refuse to pay this sort of money for something that seemingly sits there doing nothing. The irony is that if they had one major problem every 3 years (which is likely) then this would more than pay for itself and could even save the business from closure.

The problem is that most IT support companies struggle to get this argument across effectively and then get the fall out when the business can’t operate – yet again they are seen to provide a poor service.

At The PC Support Group we constantly strive to make sure we offer the best service at the best value for money. We have numerous examples where potential customers choose the “cheap” provider only to find that within 12 months they are back saying “You were right, the service was awful and we’ve had all sorts of problems. When can you come and see us.”

It is time for the IT support industry to be stronger and focus on providing great service at a value for money price instead of being cheap and providing bad service. This approach is ultimately the best thing for our customers and will raise the reputation of the industry as a whole.

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Category: IT Purchasing.

All Businesses want to shave off costs where possible. In fact, both in your personal life and in business it makes sense to look for the best deals. However in terms of IT support and equipment, the best deal is not necessarily the cheapest. What businesses and individuals often forget are the associated costs with what seems like the cheaper deals.

For example, the cheapest company may not have a turnaround time that is quick enough, or may not guarantee the availability of a critical service (for example an internet connection).

I recently dealt with a company that had purchased a bundle offer for Internet, IP phone and telephones. This was all wrapped up in nice cheap deal that saved money on calls and seemingly provided all the support needed, which was great until it all went wrong.

The connection between the package provider and the Internet went down, and suddenly none of the phones for the businesses multiple sites worked and nor did their internet connection. This problem went on for 4 days, and the company could not contact the provider by telephone or email. They were simply being ignored. All items previously ordered through the internet had to be ordered using a mobile phone. As customers and potential customers could not contact them, the loss business they faced was immense, not even considering other losses such as the damage to their reputation. To add to this, they could not redirect phone calls (due to the inability to contact the provider) and another company would take up to 10 working days to port the services.

To avoid the situation described here, I often ask companies to do a simple sum: If every person in your business is unable to work for 1 full day, because of computer system downtime, (by this I mean if they could not access email, documents, online research, ordering, banking, etc…), how much would this cost the business? You should then search for the right IT systems with this figure in mind.

Consider this, even 99% guaranteed availability with an internet connection means you could be without a connection for over 3 days each year! If this happens you want to know you can contact someone who will help. Is an extra, say, £30 a month worth this improved service for your business?

Another thing to consider is the computer product selection process. Buying products from the cheapest supplier makes sense: after all it doesn’t change the product… or does it? When purchasing a product it is often fruitful to look around at various suppliers and average out the price. This is the maximum amount you should be paying rather than the cheapest. When selecting a supplier, also consider the service they provide, the delivery terms and conditions, and other people’s experiences with the supplier. After all, when you get those much needed PCs and find out that some have problems, do you want to wait 10 working days for them to replace them. Would you not rather have a supplier that will replace the goods within the next 2 days? And tell me, it isn’t worth paying that little bit extra for this level of service?

Cutting cost at the expense of service is almost always a bad idea unless it is a service that you don’t require. This is something to keep in mind the next time you are considering purchasing IT equipment or services.

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Category: IT Security.

With the economy shrinking rapidly most small businesses are looking to make savings and at least retain the business they have.

Unfortunately we all know where major savings can be made – reducing labour costs through redundancy. This is never easy for a business and it’s even harder on those on the receiving end of a P45.

One consequence of this of which all businesses need to be aware is that disgruntled employees may use security holes to take revenge. With more businesses having to take these drastic actions, Microsoft has recently warned that such malicious attacks are likely to increase.

A study last year by Verizon in the US found that insider breaches accounted for 18% of attacks.

Small businesses in particular are renowned for their “easy going” approach to security with many businesses using the same user name and password for all employees or extremely simple passwords such as the user’s surname. Whilst the staff are happily employed and focused on their work this seems a non-issue but if they feel badly treated then such basic security can often give them the freedom to inflict a huge amount of damage.

While insider attacks are lower in number, they can be more devastating because employees know where “the juicy stuff” is kept – unlike hackers who have to search for a company’s valuable assets.

These problems are easily prevented but most companies simply don’t see this insider threat. Our advice is to make sure you take your security seriously. Use secure passwords (ideally a mixture of upper and lower case characters and numbers – at least 8 characters long), limit access to the systems that employees need, immediately remove such access as soon as an employee is made redundant or sacked, and make sure your internet connection is secure.

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Category: Data Backup.

When you consider that the information on our computers is irreplaceable and often far more valuable than the computers themselves, it’s amazing how many individuals and businesses still don’t take data backup seriously.

Despite the importance of information within any business, the vast majority of small businesses do not have adequate backup and data recovery systems in place. Even when a solution is in place it is often fraught with problems; some of which are only discovered when it’s too late.

Home users are no different; often storing treasured photos of occasions never to be repeated in one place with no copy!
So why don’t we protect the information on our computers?

At The PC Support Group we have looked into this and it would appear that a combination of factors contribute to this potentially dangerous situation.

Read more »

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Category: Software.

Everybody can benefit from good IT software, but in the current economic recession they cannot always afford it.

The PC Support Group, office and home IT specialists, has devised some great tips to help the nation get their computers equipped with the best programmes without spending a penny.

Most of us are cautious of free internet tools, but the professionals at The PC Support Group guarantee that if we choose the right sites they can be even better than the paid-for alternatives.

The nationwide company, who offer customers full service technical support from the backroom to the boardroom, recommend users should only download programmes, suggested by a trusted source. Here are its top five freebies..

Read more »

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Category: Latest.

Being in the IT industry for over 20 years and running The PC Support Group makes me acutely aware of spam e-mails and computer security in general. I am almost over-cautious and positively cynical about every e-mail I receive. Even an e-mail from my mother asking how my weekend went is met with a level of scrutiny that MI5 would be proud of.

Until recently the only e-mails I received trying to “encourage” me to give away personal information consisted of various alleged dissidents from third world countries who just happen to have millions of pounds stashed away and just happen to have come across me (and my e-mail) as a potential way to get the money out of the country. In helping them to do this the e-mail usually explains that I will save many families and their offspring from tragedy and I’ll pocket a few hundred thousand pounds in the process. Wonderful! In fact… too wonderful!

Ludicrous though the above scam may sound, many thousands of people around the world have fallen for this kind of scheme and have gone on to reveal their bank account details to unscrupulous fraudsters who have then used those details to empty the victim’s bank accounts.

Read more »