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Category: Business Continuity, Business, IT News.

For all businesses, regardless of size or sector, the well-being of our employees is paramount.

But as we all wrestle with the unique challenges created by coronavirus, the well-being of anyone affected will be best served if they have a job to return to and a bright future to look forward to. So, in these stressful times, all owners and managers will be focused on protecting the health of their businesses too, so that they are still a going concern when the crisis is over.

Late last year we shared with you the importance of business continuity planning, to ensure that you’re fully prepared in the event of a sudden crisis. A key element to consider was to enable staff to work effectively from remote locations other than the office –  a challenge that many businesses are currently facing of course. But the fact is that agile working delivers major business benefits and with today’s technology, it has never been easier to work away from the office. Here’s why:

  1. Agile working improves business performance as it results in more productive and motivated employees, who in turn provide better customer service to your clients. Agile working can cut costs and drive efficiencies too, for example by reducing expensive and time consuming business travel – lowering your carbon footprint in the process.
  2. There’s a host of great, simple to use tools, which enable employees to be able to work anywhere, anytime such as Office 365, SharePoint, OneNote, Microsoft Teams and VoIP telephony – and much much more. And, in the cloud, you can securely store and access everything you need to work productively 24/7.

The important thing is to select the right technologies and systems best suited to your particular business needs, those of your clients and the working patterns of your employees. We can help you make those assessments and make recommendations about the best way forward for you.

If you’d like to revisit your business continuity arrangements, our FREE, six step guide to business continuity is still available, just click on this link: Business continuity for SMEs – how to survive a major emergency and recover in style.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to chat about how The PC Support Group can help you to put the right technology in place to protect your business from the effects of unexpected events – and help drive efficiencies at the same time, call us NOW on 03300 886 116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

For businesses who have chosen cloud-based data hosting services, there’s a temptation to relax and think “great, we’re paying someone else to take care of our data, we don’t need to worry about it anymore.”

Of course, using cloud-based services can deliver major benefits for businesses. But it’s vital to remember that all the data you have “in the cloud” is still stored in a physical data centre somewhere in the world, managed by your cloud service provider.

So, good data security practice means that it’s essential to have exactly the same knowledge about how and where your data is being handled “in the cloud”, just as if it was sitting on a server in your office!

Unfortunately, worrying research results published recently by leading hosting provider TeleData UK reveals that large numbers of firms are lacking this very basic information:

  • 42% don’t know the location of the data centre their provider is using
  • 25% don’t even know if it’s in the UK
  • 33% don’t know if the data centre is ISO compliant.

That’s alarming enough, but the standout statistic for me is that 43% of businesses don’t know whether the data centre they are using has a failover to a secondary location should an outage occur.

Let’s just think about the size of the huge risk that those businesses are taking. One day, everything’s rosy in the garden, customers are happy and business is booming – then bang! Suddenly they can’t access their data. They don’t know where their data is, they don’t know how long they might be without it – or if they’re ever going to be able to access it ever again!

Committing to a cloud service provider requires detailed due diligence and fact-checking to confirm the service is fit for purpose, that all risks and eventualities have been considered and minimised, and that all GDPR and ISO compliance requirements have been met.

I bet those businesses who don’t know where their data is stored, know every dot and comma about their alarm system – which company supports them, where they are based, how long it will take them to get to the office in the event of a problem. Yet many seem to know far less about their data, their most valuable asset.

At The PC Support Group, we specialise in Microsoft Office 365 because from our long experience we believe it’s the best – and a major advantage is its transparency – you can sign in (or your IT support provider can) and find out everything you need to know about the data centre where your data is stored. That’s hugely reassuring in my opinion.

If you have any concerns about how your data is being stored and handled or would like an  informal chat about how we can help provide peace of mind or improve your data security arrangements, call us NOW on 03300 886 116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

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Author

Category: Data Backup, IT News, IT Security.

Whenever I’m thinking about the topic for my next bulletin, my first port of call is always our support team. These are the folks who spend their days guiding our clients, resolving issues, fixing problems – so they know better than anyone what’s going on.

Maintaining a robust backup is hard work, it’s important to not only build the correct solution for your business and trust your IT support provider to look after it, but to also maintain a sense of urgency as a business owner to ensure you’re doing everything you can to keep data backup and recovery front of mind.  Therefore, today I’m returning to the topic of backing up your data.  So, why is backing up your data absolutely essential for your business?

  • Without it you risk losing your most priceless asset – the information you hold about your customers, your products and services, your finances and your people
  • Loss of just some of this information, for long enough, will sink your business
  • Back up is an important element of GDPR – and serious breaches can result in severe financial penalties
  • By backing up, if a disaster happens – a cyberattack, a fire, flood or break-in at your premises – there’s a good chance you can recover, repair the damage and go again.

I could go on, but I know you know this stuff already!  Regular data backup – ideally on a daily basis – is absolutely central to business continuity and it needs to be regarded with the same importance as activating your alarm system when you leave the office.  If you are unsure about your backup arrangements – whether they’re fit for purpose, or whether it’s happening at all, now is the time for action.  Start by asking yourself:

  • Do you know exactly what data you hold – about your customers, your employees, your business, your suppliers, your finances, your products, and services?
  • How and where is it stored, and how is it secured?
  • Do you back it up, how, where to and how often?
  • What would happen if you suddenly lost access to your live data and onsite backups?
  • How long would it be before this became a serious issue – minutes, hours, days?
  • How often do you review your backup arrangements?

Another key consideration is the choice between onsite or offsite backup arrangements. For me, that’s an easy one. Onsite backup can be just as vulnerable as your live systems. That’s because once criminals have access to your onsite network they may also get access to your onsite backups. The answer is a secure and managed offsite backup solution.

And remember, as your business develops, so will your data backup requirements. So it’s essential to periodically review your backup arrangements to make sure they reflect the needs of your business today – and as far into the future as you can realistically predict. Even if you’re happy with your backup processes, it’s a great idea to schedule regular reviews for peace of mind. For an informal chat about how you back up your data and how we can help, call us on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT Security, IT Support.

The New Year’s Eve ransomware attack on foreign currency firm Travelex was a stark reminder of just how vulnerable today’s businesses are to determined cybercriminals.

Even a successful global enterprise like Travelex, with 1,200 branches in 70 countries, can have its IT systems hijacked and its online services brought to a total standstill. The gang threatened to publish huge quantities of clients’ personal data – social security numbers, dates of birth and payment card information – unless it received a $6 million payment.

Frightening stuff. But what’s almost more frightening is that hackers aren’t just targeting big international businesses, they’re just as likely to attack your business – and mine!

And while Travelex has the scale and resources to fight back and recover, most SMEs do not. Remember, SMEs are the victims of 43% of all data security breaches, with some forced to close as a result of a ransomware attack. The loss of core IT infrastructure, essential data and business confidence forces clients to go elsewhere – never to return.

What is ransomware?

There are two types, usually delivered through a phishing attack. The first type encrypts the files on a computer or network. The second type locks a user’s screen. Both types require users to make a payment – the ‘ransom’ – to be able to use the computer normally again.

However, there’s no guarantee that the key or password, to ‘unlock’ the computer, will be provided once the ransom has been paid. In fact, you should assume that making a payment is a fruitless exercise and plan your business continuity on that basis.

That being the case it’s far better to take sensible cybersecurity measures to prevent a ransomware attack from succeeding in the first place. The Government’s National Cyber Security Centre provides great online advice to protect businesses from cybercrime but my advice would be to ensure that you’re covering the basics, which, for me, includes:

  • Regular security surveys and testing – to identify and manage vulnerabilities
  • Internet firewall protection
  • Managed antivirus services – ensuring your protection is always working correctly and up-to-date. Out of date or failing AV software is as good as no AV protection
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – in addition to usernames and passwords when logging in to web-based systems
  • Data encryption – keeping data safe if your computer or smartphone is lost or stolen
  • Always updating software – because hackers target older systems first
  • Employee training on safe working – for example how to identify a phishing attack
  • Controlling how employees interact with the internet – to minimise browsing risks.

Although, of course, prevention is far better than cure, we can also help you to recover in the event of a successful attack, by, for example, ensuring you have robust back-up procedures in place.   For an informal chat about your approach to cybersecurity and how we can help, call us on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com

Phil Bird

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: Business, IT Support.

For most SMEs, the days of the big Christmas and New Year shut down are long gone. In today’s fast-moving, non-stop world, clients expect services to continue uninterrupted throughout the festive season, while many businesses use the holidays to catch up and prepare for the year ahead.

What this means is that it’s essential that your IT systems and equipment are fully functioning 24/7/365. So, to help you keep your IT show on the road over Christmas and the New Year, and because it is the season for giving we thought we’d share some top tips with you.

  1. 🎁 Confirm your IT support arrangements

Make sure your IT support is available during Christmas and New Year. Find out about special seasonal arrangements and circulate contact names and numbers

  1. 🎁 Switch on Out of Office messaging

Let clients and key contacts know who they can contact, when and how

  1. 🎁 Stick to your backup schedule

Automating your online backup ensures that your data stays safe, even when you’re not in the office

  1. 🎁 Check that your anti-virus protection is up-to-date

Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to attack by putting this off until January

  1. 🎁 Make the most of flexible/remote working capabilities

Use your technology to enable employees to stay productive by working at home – and help them to spend precious time with family and friends; but get them to check their technology is working beforehand

  1. 🎁 Use social media to stay in touch

Regular, automated posts maintain visibility with clients and can remind them of your office opening hours, key contact details and where to go for assistance

  1. 🎁 Make sure your website looks its best

Clients and prospects often take time over the holidays to review their current and future supply chains – so ensure that your website is up-to-date and telling your story

  1. 🎁Set festive messages on your phone

Cloud-based telephony such as VoIP enables you to do this whether you’re in Lapland or Liverpool!

  1. 🎁Prearrange a status report call with your IT manager or support provider

To satisfy yourself that all is working normally – or to instigate action if required

  1. 🎁 Review and learn lessons

Did your IT operate normally during the festive season? If so, capture this year’s arrangements and you’ve already got a plan in place for next year!

If you’d like to speak to our team regarding our fully managed IT & telephony support please leave us a message here, email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call us on 03300 886 116 for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT Security.

Did you know that the UK’s SMEs are on the receiving end of an average of 65,000 cyber attacks every day? Or that the average loss from a successful attack is £25,700, per business?

I was shocked when I read these statistics, published by insurers Hiscox. Perhaps the most worrying trend of all for me is the relentless growth in ever-more sophisticated phishing scams. Even IT experts and senior executives are being tricked by bogus emails in order to steal your personal info and login details, or get you to make a payment – or simply to corrupt your computers to disrupt your operations.

The bottom line is, while some scam emails are easy to spot, the majority look very, very convincing. If it looks like it’s from a trusted company, with branding to match, it could just as easily be from a cybercriminal.

And, as Hiscox and other surveys reveal, the consequences can be extremely serious. Your business bank account could be compromised. Confidential customer data stolen. Or even worse, your entire IT estate paralysed by ransomware. Make no mistake, phishing could kill your business.

The best defences are education and motivation. Share the problem with your employees and give them guidance, after all failing to spot these emails could ultimately impact their job security.  Helping them spot the dangers now could be the best thing you can do to protect your business.

“So how do I spot a bogus email?” I’m often asked.  Here are six things that I would share immediately with everyone in your business. Beware of any emails that ask you to:

  1. make an immediate payment – don’t pay without speaking with the person to check the request is valid. Do not check via email!
  2. enter your ID and password – check with your IT support provider/department that this is a genuine requirement before entering anything you’re not 100% sure about
  3. start paying invoices into a new account – phone the requester to check it’s a genuine requirement
  4. click on a given link – check with your IT support provider/department that this is a genuine requirement
  5. download something onto your computer – don’t download anything unless you’re 100% sure of it’s content. If you’re not – check with who asked you to download it or check with your IT support provider
  6. respond because your account is under attack, been compromised or frozen – there is often no compromise and these are designed to create a panic response. Don’t! Check with your IT support provider that the alert is genuine before responding or clicking on anything

I treat everything as potentially suspicious – sadly that’s the mindset we all need to adopt. If you’re in any doubt, do not open or click on any link or divulge any personal or corporate information, without first contacting your IT team or support partner.

If you’re concerned about your business’s vulnerability to phishing attacks, email info@pcsupportgroup.com or, leave us a message here and we’ll get back to you or call us on 03300 886116 or for an informal and confidential chat.

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT Security.

Recent research by Verizon revealed that business owners and senior executives are 12 times more likely to be the target of a cybersecurity attack than any other employee – with SMEs the victims of 43% of all data security breaches.

For me, this worrying trend confirms what I have been saying to our clients for as long as I can remember: Effective cybersecurity has to start at the very top of your organisation – at board level – with clear policies, standards, roles and responsibilities that everyone understands, all backed by sufficient resources to make it happen.

It’s no surprise that top people are most at risk. They’re incredibly busy, on the move, working long hours, trying to achieve as much as possible every day – with the result that they are vulnerable to being caught off guard – and the cybercriminal only needs one mistake to pounce. And that mistake can be very expensive, not just in purely financial terms.

Executives also have onerous legal and regulatory responsibilities, with breaches likely to damage reputations, business prospects, careers – even an organisation’s very existence.

Surveys show that almost all SMEs are now aware of the business-critical importance of cybersecurity. That’s great – but now is the time to put cybersecurity at the heart of the way you do business, to protect everything you’ve worked for. Leadership is crucial, to reaffirm that cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, how we all have a vital role in the battle, and why it’s in everyone’s interest to become super-vigilant at work.

First, you and your senior colleagues must have a forensic understanding of all your key risks and vulnerabilities and how your data is gathered, managed and stored. You and your employees need ongoing training to guard against increasingly sophisticated efforts to trick you into revealing information which the skilled hacker can wreak havoc with. Discuss this with your IT provider and ask them if there is anything else you can do.

At The PC Support Group, we’ve developed a comprehensive, award-winning portfolio of services, solutions, advice, and guidance to help keep our clients – and their clients – safe.  We’re also Cyber Essentials-certified, having achieved the principal UK Government-backed cybersecurity quality standard.  Some of the services that The PC Support Group offer as part of our portfolio include:

  1. Security surveys and testing – to help identify and manage vulnerabilities
  2. Managed internet firewall protection – that meets the Payment Card Industry Security Standard (PCIDSS) compliance regulations
  3. Managed antivirus services – ensuring detection, protection, and removal
  4. Data backup services – keeping all your data in a safe and secure location
  5. Multi-Factor Authentication – for extra security in addition to usernames and passwords
  6. Data encryption – keeping data safe if your computer or smartphone is lost or stolen
  7. Email security diagnostics – to enhance your system’s security configuration.

Take the lead NOW and email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call us on 03300 886116 to find out how we can help keep your business safe and running smoothly.

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group

Date:

Author

Category: IT Security.

In my last bulletin I shared with you my IT health check, designed to help SMEs to have a solid foundation of basic information about their IT infrastructure, systems and equipment. If you know what cards you have in your hand, it’s so much easier to play the right one, at the right time!

But there’s a natural follow up to an IT health check – a broader exercise, which will help equip you to deal with a nightmare scenario: How would you cope with a sudden crisis in your business?

By sudden crisis I mean, what would happen if your business:

  • lost all its data?
  • couldn’t use its core IT and telecoms systems and equipment?
  • suffered from fire or flood damage to its offices?
  • suddenly lost key members of staff – or a vital supplier?
  • was unable to access bank accounts or key management software?
  • was a victim of the theft of online, intellectual or physical property?

This is something that I continuously consider and review – to be as sure as possible that The PC Support Group could recover from any of these nightmare scenarios. I do worry about this stuff but what it makes me do is plan, and I think you know by now, that I love a plan!

Owner managers of SMEs work so hard, often for many years, to build up businesses that do great things – and provide prosperity and incomes for themselves, their families and their employees, and it really pains me to hear of events when all that effort goes up in smoke – sometimes literally.

Do you think you would survive and recover? Most importantly, do you have plans in place and resources in reserve to help you to deal with these challenges and emerge with your reputation and your business intact? If you do, your chances of making a full recovery are greatly increased. If you don’t, drawing up these plans and allocating adequate resources to cope with an emergency should be a top priority.

We have a series of free guides available about a range of business-critical issues and one is devoted to business continuity, with a six-step action plan designed to help you to prepare. The steps cover:

  • How to carry out a business impact analysis – to understand your risks and vulnerabilities
  • Assessing your current state of readiness – and identifying those areas needing attention
  • How to construct your plan – to ensure you cover all the bases
  • Communicating your plan – so that your team know what to do if something goes wrong
  • Reviewing, testing and updating your plan – because your business is constantly evolving
  • Recruiting external support – for specific expertise and to plug gaps in your plan.

This FREE, six step guide to business continuity is available now, just click on this link:

Business continuity for SMEs – how to survive a major emergency and recover in style.

If you’d like to have a chat about business continuity, or any other aspect of your IT and telecoms, email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call our team on 03300 886116 for an informal chat.

 

Phil Bird,

Managing Director, The PC Support Group.

Date:

Author

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

Date:

Author

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