Managing An Office IT Move

Engineering the Perfect IT Relocation

The need to expand is a sure sign that your business is heading in the right direction, but expansion brings with it a series of logistical and operational challenges.

And, given the importance of IT in modern business, it should come as no surprise that migrating your IT operations is one of the most crucial aspects to consider when relocating to new premises. It can be a difficult and testing process, but one that, if engineered and planned correctly, can provide a seamless transition. Managing this move, therefore, is vital, so let’s take a look at what you need to consider.

Server Relocation

Without servers, your business has no backbone to its IT operations and its ability to remain competitive becomes significantly reduced, if not completely extinguished. And this fact remains true for as long as your servers are down. Consequently, relocating your servers needs to be planned thoroughly in order to reduce the downtime and the impact this has upon your organisation. One of your first steps, therefore, should be to draw up a thorough plan of when and how you will begin the relocation process.

However, whilst planning is certainly the key to success, the real challenge comes when you begin the physical removal of your servers and all their accompanying equipment. Remember, servers are not only bulky items, but they’re also fragile and contain incredibly valuable and sensitive data. Ensuring that this is transported correctly, therefore, is paramount. Thankfully, working with a professional and experienced removal company can guarantee peace of mind that your equipment will be transported safely.

Migrating Phone Lines and the Internet

Servers may be crucial for your organisation’s IT network to run efficiently, but equally important are the phone lines and the internet. It’s common to assume that every building in the 21st century is equipped and ready to cope with the demands of modern business communication, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. And that’s why it’s so important that, as part of your site survey, you evaluate the existing communication lines of any potential new premises.

There’s a chance that everything will be perfect, but this will be relatively small unless you’re relocating into bespoke premises. Installing new phone lines to cope with the demands of your business is likely to be required and this can take time to finalise. Time, of course, is highly valuable when it comes to relocating your IT solutions, so this is, again, a step that you need to take early on in the relocation process to reduce any downtime.

Prepare a Relocation Contingency Plan

It’s clear that organising and planning a successful IT relocation project is essential to keep your organisation’s IT functioning smoothly and consistently. However, the logistics involved in relocation mean that these projects rarely run to plan. And, with so much at stake, it’s vital that you have a contingency plan in place. Additionally, multiple backups of your data are imperative as relocation projects are prone to data emergencies.

Working with external professionals with experience running relocation projects involving complex IT systems is an effective way to help mitigate these risks.

If you’d like any advice on your next relocation project, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

How Does Hosted VoIP Work

What is Hosted VoIP?

Communication systems have always, and will always, be crucial components of any successful business, so it’s important that organisations keep in touch with any related tech developments. And, when it comes to phone technology, hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has steadily been gaining traction in the business market for the last decade. However, many businesses are still making do with traditional phone technology and aren’t aware of what hosted VoIP can offer them.

How Does VoIP Work For Business

The first piece of internet phone software was launched in 1995 and allowed early users to transmit voice signals over the internet to anywhere in the world. And, this remains the very foundation of VoIP nearly 25 years later. Naturally, advances in technology have ensured that the quality of these voice signals have increased almost exponentially and, more importantly, the connections that carry them are significantly more stable and provide seamless communication.

Hosted VoIP takes the standard concept of VoIP and packages it as a service provided to businesses. Part of the appeal of hosted VoIP is that all the hardware and the private branch exchange (a telephone switching system) doesn’t need to be housed on site. Instead, this is all housed at a remote location that businesses can connect to. This provides organisations with a fantastic phone system, but without the costly investment of purchasing said equipment and maintaining it on site.

Transitioning to Cloud-based (VoIP) Phones

Traditional landlines are due to be made redundant by the mid-2020s, so it’s vital that your business begins to consider making the transition to cloud-based office phones sooner rather than later. After all, we know that communication is critical in business, so remaining competitive in this area is highly important. Such a major change in technology, though, is surely difficult to integrate, right? Well, actually, it’s a lot simpler that you might imagine.

Planning is, as ever, an essential step, but if it’s done correctly then you can rest assured that your transition should an easy one. One of the major benefits of hosted VoIP is that all the hardware is based off site and this means you can gradually introduce it to your office alongside your existing telephone system. This allows you to keep your communication channels open to reduce the impact of any teething issues. Number porting, of course, is one of the most time consuming aspects of transitioning to a new phone system, so it’s a good idea to make this a priority from the start.

How Much Does VoIP Cost?

As with most hosted services, there are a considerable number of providers vying for your business and they will all offer products with varying features and price ranges. For the most basic package, you should be looking to pay around £20 per month for a service which allows you to work with a limited amount of minutes to use each month. However, for a business that, for example, contains considerably more staff and requires more talk time, it makes sense to go for all-inclusive packages which start at around £50 per month.

Learn More about VoIP for Business

 

IT support for PCs and Servers

The Importance of Effective PC and Server Support

The backbone of any organization’s operations in the 21st century is based upon a foundation of strong IT. However, whilst a series of desktop PCs may initially be enough for your business, the growth that you aspire to means that change will be inevitable. In particular, upgrading from individual PCs to a networked infrastructure such as servers is crucial.

Due to the technical expertise required to work with servers and server support involved, it’s important that you start working with a network support team.

Do I Need A Server For My Small Business?

Installing a networked infrastructure brings a myriad of benefits to your organisation. Files can easily be shared between different users, remote access opens up a much wider reach for your business operations and the ability to share hardware between users is easier than ever before. And good network support can facilitate this by:

  • Building a Network That Works: The complexities behind a PC network are immense, so it’s vital that they’re built by a team who know exactly what they’re doing. This, in turn, provides you with a fully functioning network and minimises down time.
  • Providing Network Support: With the amount of activity that takes place on a server it’s unavoidable that errors will occur. However, with a network support team who are highly experienced in the intricacies of servers, you’ll find that any issues can be resolved quickly.
  • Ensuring the Network is Secure: Hacking is a major threat to businesses due to the large quantities of data at risk and the danger of damaging productivity. Peace of mind over the security of your server, therefore, is paramount. The best way to achieve this is by working with a network support team who can guarantee the security of your server.

Growth to your IT infrastructure doesn’t just stop at your servers, it also means significant upgrades to your hardware and software. Both of which need a significant amount of expertise to support.

Hardware and Software Support

From data storage solutions through to updating software through the installation of patches, it’s critical that your hardware and software is supported correctly. With an excellent support team in place you can be certain of the following:

  • Productivity is Secured: Your productivity can feel the bite of poorly supported hardware and software almost instantly. If, for example, your data storage fails then your organisation can seriously struggle to operate. However, if your hardware is properly supported then this disruption can be resolved quickly.
  • Software Updates Installed Correctly: One of the biggest threats to IT security is the failure to install software updates and patches quickly. IT support teams, however, understand the danger this brings and will strive to install these fixes.
  • Remote Troubleshooting: Thanks to advances in technology, IT support for your hardware and software can be executed from any location. This allows your business to receive instant remote support at any time of the day from your IT support team.

Read more about Network and Server Support….

 

Managed IT Support Services in the UK

What is managed IT service?

IT is such a crucial part of the modern business landscape that even the smallest businesses struggle to operate without some form of IT infrastructure. Technology, of course, can be highly complex and a certain level of expertise is required to get the best out of it.

IT Support for Small Business

Small businesses, however, rarely have the resources to install an in-house IT support team. As a result, IT issues can soon begin to affect the productivity of your organisation and the ability to remain competitive in a world that is becoming more and more digital.

Help is at hand, though, in the form of external partners who can provide managed IT support. Highly experienced and capable of significantly improving your existing IT infrastructure, external IT support comes laden with the following benefits:

  • Installation and configuration of equipment can be easily planned and executed with the minimum of fuss
  • Response times ensure that you’re guaranteed to have any technical faults attended to within a specific time period
  • Remote technology allows external providers to access your networks from anywhere in the world to diagnose faults and solve problems quickly

These benefits, of course, are all fantastic, but how do you go about choosing the right provider for your IT services?

What do managed IT service providers do?

Every organisation is unique in its digital needs, but it’s important to concentrate on these basics when searching for an IT support team:

Working with both PC and Mac:

Office workers, for example, will require desktop computers and remote workers will most likely use laptops. And, regardless of the industry, it’s increasingly common to find PCs and Macs rubbing shoulders under the same roof. Looking after all these different types of equipment requires a level of experience and expertise that the average office manager simply won’t have. However, the best IT support teams are able to tackle all these different challenges with confidence and ease.

Cloud Services:

The headlines surrounding cloud computing have been inescapable over the last few years and this is with good reason due to the amazing benefits it provides. Off-site network solutions and storage facilities free up valuable space in your premises, but how do you know which cloud provider is right for you? If, however, you have an IT support team on hand then they will be able to recommend the best provider for your needs and, as a result, help enhance your IT operations.

 

Plan for Future IT System Growth:

If your business wants to grow then you need to make sure your IT solutions grow at the same pace. And that’s why it’s vital that you work with an IT support team who can plan for future growth. Ideas should be drawn together to schedule a five year plan that allows your organisation to expand as planned and with the minimum of fuss.

The demands of business in the 21st century are such that you need to ensure your IT operations are carefully managed. With this taken care of you can concentrate on remaining competitive and providing your customers with a fantastic level of service. And, with an external IT support team on standby, this has never been easier to achieve

What is a spear phishing attack?

What is Spear Phishing?

Spear phishing has been present in the digital landscape for over 20 years, but it’s only in the last 10 years that it’s started making headlines.

Primarily using email to deliver its malicious payload, spear phishing presents a very real and current threat to any business with an email account. Key to combatting the threat of phishing is by educating your business on the signs and symptoms of such an attack, so let’s take a look at what you’re up against.

Spear Phishing Techniques

A number of techniques are employed when launching a phishing technique and these can include:

  • Macros contained within Microsoft Office documents that, once activated, allow hackers to gain remote access of the infected PC
  • Tricking employees into disclosing sensitive data such as login details for company emails or databases
  • Redirecting victims to malicious websites where malware can be downloaded to their PC

What’s Different About Spear Phishing?

Phishing is frequently in the headlines, so many businesses are aware of this threat and know how to protect themselves. Spear phishing, however, is a little different.

Where phishing emails tend to target large numbers of individuals with generic content, spear phishing is a much more personalised attack. For example, rather than starting an email with “Dear Sir/Madam”, a spear phishing email will use the recipients exact name to engender trust and move the recipient closer to taking the malicious bait.

What are the Characteristics of a Spear Phishing Attack?

Phishing attacks are generally executed by sophisticated hackers, but there are still a number of telltale signs which characterise spear phishing such as:

  • Multiple Levels of Attack: Phishing attacks businesses on a number of different levels following the initial infection, so further attacks are likely to involve malware downloads, logging keystrokes and capturing screenshots.
  • A Combination of Threats: To enhance the chances of outwitting standard web defences, spear phishing incorporates a number of different techniques to deliver their payload including infected URLs, documents and unauthorised downloads.
  • Exploiting Zero Day Vulnerabilities: Spear phishing specialises in exploiting the numerous zero day vulnerabilities that can arise in browsers, apps and the various plugins that are found within desktop PCs.

Spear Phishing Examples

If you take a look at the IT headlines from the last couple of years then it doesn’t take long to find a mention of spear phishing.

In 2016, an employee of Snapchat fell victim to a spear phishing scam which involved an email being sent which claimed it was from the Snapchat CEO. Falling for the scam, the employee duly followed the request within the email and forwarded on payroll details to a spoof email address.

However, the most famous example of spear phishing is the attack launched on the US Democratic Party in 2016. Hackers sent spoof emails claiming to be from Google representatives and advising recipients to update their email passwords to strengthen security. However, the links contained within these emails merely led the victims to malicious websites which allowed the hackers to take control of their email accounts.

Rather than becoming the next victim of phishing, it’s important that you understand how such an attack is likely to be launched against your business. Knowledge is a valuable currency when it comes to cyber-attacks, so it’s crucial that you educate yourself and your employees to not only protect your sensitive data, but also maintain your productivity.

Cyber Security in the Office

Cyber Security Tips For Employees

We live in a digital age where computers are crucial for any forward thinking business, but this landscape is one that’s blighted by cyber attacks such as ransomware and malware. Combatting this is important, but instilling a good cyber security culture in the office is even more important. All of your employees, no matter how conscientious they seem, are vulnerable to cyber attacks. After all, it takes just one click of a mouse to activate an email’s malicious payload. To help you minimise the chances of this happening, we’re going to take a look at the principles of cyber security in the office.

Cyber Security Awareness

The absolute bottom line of developing cyber awareness is training. Your employees are often the final (and weakest) line of defence when it comes to cyber security, so they need to be seriously schooled in its best practices.

And this needs to begin when an employee starts working for your business. Therefore, cyber security training needs to make up a significant part of IT inductions for new starters and this should be signed off by an IT professional. Following this, regular refresher courses need to be put on internally to update employees on current threats and the best methods of defence.

Tips To Improve Your Cyber Security

To ensure good cyber security in the office you need to invest in a strong cyber security culture. This approach allows you to build organisation and regularity into your fight against cyber crime and, ultimately, provides a safer and more secure environment to work in. To create a strong cyber security culture, it’s recommended that you implement the following:

Test Your Cyber Defences:

There’s no room for complacency in cyber security as hackers are constantly evolving their techniques, so you need to regularly test your defence systems to guarantee they can deflect any attacks.

  • Protect All Devices:
    With the rise in popularity of the Internet of Things, we’re connecting more external devices than ever to our internal networks such as smartphones and even smart fridges. Including all of these devices in your security approach is paramount for protecting your networks.
  • Backup Your Data: Ransomware has the capability to encrypt all of the data on your network, so backing up your data has never been more important.
  • Analyse Inbound and Outbound Traffic: You need to know exactly what activity is taking place on your networks to stand any chance of detecting cyber attacks. Therefore, monitoring traffic in and out of your network is the best way to keep an eye on any rogue activity before it escalates into something more disruptive.

Cyber Security Awareness in the Office

By following the advice above it’s relatively simple to create a level of cyber security awareness in the office which protects both your employees and your data. You only have to take a quick look at the headlines to understand just how commonplace cyber attacks are, so bolstering your defences is essential for your business to remain productive and avoid any potential data losses.

 

 

Online Back-up: How not to Back-up and How to get it right

What is online backup?

Online backup means to save data from your computer hard drive to a remote server or computer using a network or online connection. Online backup systems make use of the Internet and cloud technology to provide remote data storage solution with minimal hardware requirement.

Data is the lifeblood of many modern businesses and vast swathes of companies have grown up focusing purely on how to understand and exploit business value from that data.

Is online back-up safe

With that in mind, it is of little surprise that disaster recovery and online backup systems have also been getting increasing attention of late. Companies want to be sure that should their systems fail, or their data become corrupted, they have a safe and reliable mechanism to restore that data as quickly as possible.

What to back up

Deciding precisely what data to back up will depend on your business priorities and regulatory environment. You should work with business managers to understand the data that is essential to the running of the business, or that could hold significant value in the future. For teams that are deep into data analysis, it is important to be able look at variations over time, therefore data points that look to be insignificant in isolation could be incredibly value as part of a longer data stream.

Some industries will have specific regulatory requirements to hold on to transaction data for a set period of time. This could also include KYC data for customers, like identity documentations.

When to back up

Backup frequency will also be largely dependent on how vital it is to the running of your business and the financial implications of being without it. It will also depend on how quickly new data flows into your business.

For business critical data, in a data intensive environment, you may choose to back up every day or even intraday. However, less critical data you might back up only on a weekly or monthly data.

Equally, data that you are simply holding for regulatory purposes you may decide to back up less frequently depending on how stringent the regulation is.

Cloud Back-up systems

Computer backup systems have fallen dramatically in price since the introduction of cloud storage. You can now leverage cloud platforms as a simple and scalable way of backing up your information without ever having to worry about the infrastructure.

You can also move the data to different tiers of storage, with different price points, to suit your needs. For example data that is held for regulatory purposes, but rarely needs to be accessed can be stored very cheaply.

More about online back-up services

 

IT Project Management: Planning for Digital Growth

IT Project Management for Growth

 Technology is now the undeniable cornerstone of every modern business and planning for the future means investments in systems upgrades to support your business growth.

While crafting an IT strategy can be difficult, following through on execution is even more of a challenge. However, effective project management helps you to stay close to the budget and time plan ensuing you get as near to your vision as possible.

                                                                      

Crafting your IT Strategy

Your IT project strategy should be a living document that outlines the role of technology in realising the business goals. This will include building any future capability as required, but also investing in upgrades and maintenance to make sure systems are up and running as and when they are needed.

The strategy should include a long-term vision for how you see technology evolving in your organisation. This can then in broken down in to a series of systems upgrades that help you realise your vision.

Some of the key things you will need to take into account as part of this strategy include:

  • Cloud systems – On premise infrastructure and software is being used less and less, with companies instead using cloud services like AWS. This can be a cultural shift for some organisations, moving from a CAPEX to OPEX model for IT financing.
  • Scalability – Will your existing systems scale to meet the demands of your growing business or customer base? How would you cope with a sudden surge in custom? These are questions that you should look to address, identifying where you are most likely to have problems, and articulating how you would overcome any scalability challenges.
  • Futureproofing – You don’t want to overinvest, or become overly reliant on a particular piece of technology today if you know it will be replaced in the short-term. You should look to build systems that will be able to adapt to future developments in technology, without needing to be fully revised.

IT Project Management

Each IT project helps you move towards the vision as set out in your IT strategy. Tight management of the various stakeholders for each project as well as budget and scope, will ensure you meet your mile-stones.

 

  • Scope – Altering the scope mid-way through a project can have a disastrous effect. A big part if project management is agreeing up front what needs to be delivered, and not letting resources be distracted away from this.
  • Time – Project management creates a sense of urgency which ensures that things are delivered on time. It also seeks to find solutions to potential challenges that would slow the project down.
  • Budget – You can’t afford to overspend on everything technology project that you implement. Project management helps you to look ahead at the milestones for various projects and make sure that any risks that are likely to cause costly slippages are highlighted and resolved.

For more information on IT project management and how it can help you achieve your long term strategic goals, don’t hesitate to get in touch and speak to one of our experts.

IT Relocations

How to Plan an Office Move

Office IT Relocations can be a complex manoeuvre because of the desire to maintain your regular day-to-day activities while avoiding any major business disruptions. Many people view the hard part of planning an office move or office relocation as finding a new space and then outsourcing to the moving company, but things are much more complex than that when you take all the IT requirements into account.

IT Relocation & Office Moves – The Procedure

As one would expect, the absolute key to a successful office move is planning far in advance. A team needs to be assembled to determine the key dates of the move, as well as distributing the relocation budget.

There are various tasks that must be completed, such as booking the movers, disposing of old equipment, and notifying your customers of the move. A larger team is helpful for thinking of these contingencies, although you may wish to use a relocation consultant who has been through this before.

Your Business Relocation Continuity Plan

IT relocations can be executed much more smoothly if you have a proper business continuity plan that details how your voice and data services are going to be transferred over. You should have a plan for how you can plan IT upgrades at the time of moving at this point.

The Office Relocation plan you put together will detail how your data and important documents are backed up and stored off site (in case of emergency).

The inventory list you will have prepared as part of your checklist above will be helpful both with dealing with the movers and reassembling your office when your equipment reaches the new office.

Facilitating Your IT Relocation

IT relocations & office moves are a difficult to pull off without previous experience. There are invariably going to be unforeseen problems, but you need to be ready to solve them at a moment’s notice so as to avoid missing out on revenue.

The most frequent problem during office relocations is to do with the IT systems, which is why you should assemble a team who is devoted to planning and managing the way new systems will be implemented over the course of your office relocation.

The key to successful office IT relocation is in going through a checklist of all the things that could possibly go wrong, and mitigating the risks early on. Here are several questions to ask yourself:

  • Do we have a relocation business continuity plan?
  • Have we contacted all our Internet Service Providers regarding this move?
  • Have we performed an audit and inventory of all our current systems?
  • Do we need to upgrade any of our systems or equipment in the foreseeable future?

By properly assessing what you have and what you need, it is possible to turn your office move into a net benefit for everyone. Relocating your old telecoms system can be just as difficult (or more difficult) than moving to a new one.

Additionally, if you are planning on recruiting or onboarding new staff as part of your office move, you will have a whole new set of variables to cope with. This is why it is recommended that any upgrades you would be considering over the next 2-3 years be executed during a move.This sort of strong continuity should be your overarching goal throughout the whole move. However there is also a real opportunity to plan for the future and make changes that will set you up for success over the long-term.

Read more on IT Relocation & Office Moves

Best Apple Mac For Small Business?

Which is the Best Apple Mac for Business?

In the past, Apple products were seen as too expensive for most businesses, but this has changed a lot in the last decade. Now, there are numerous ways that Macs are superior to PCs in an office environment:

  • They are more secure than regular PCs
  • Macs are more easily managed in a business that is quickly scaling
  • Business-class PCs cost approximately the same as a Mac, but Macs have a lower cost of ownership
  • Macs are capable of fulfilling many of the core needs that PCs provide

For all these reasons and more, it is quickly becoming more practical for companies to use Macs instead of PCs. Smaller companies also benefit from the fact that Mac support is much superior to PC support and can help them save costs on in-house IT personnel.

Mac for business use?

Not all Macs are created the same though. You can choose to go with a desktop solution (iMac) or use a more portable option (MacBook). Initially, most people think that the only difference is the level of portability, but there is also the matter of cost and power to consider.

Apples Macs are highly effective tools, and making the choice between the two top picks (iMac and MacBook) is a difficult one. Some of the strengths and weaknesses of each solution are highlighted below.

Macbooks

Although you might not expect it, some MacBooks can be more powerful than their desktop counterparts. This is where you would consult your IT department to compare the specs on your current devices to your MacBook. The last thing you want is to experience a drop in technological capabilities for the sake of being able to carry your device around.

Using a MAC Book in a business environment allows for a much simpler workflow while travelling, and executives often benefit the most from the ability to work effectively while on the road. They are sometimes viewed as the consumer option, but for day-to-day work, there often isn’t a necessity to be able to move your device from location to location.

Apple iMacs

The desktop offering of Apple is a strong competitor in the market, and even though the iMac isn’t as portable as a MacBook, this isn’t always a big deal. With the widespread adoption of cloud technology, many of your files may be accessible from a different computer whenever you may need it.

One of the clear cases where an iMac may be the superior choice is when a user needs high visual capabilities, such as a designer or video editor. The screen on an iMac is much larger than that of a MacBook, and since it isn’t normally being transported around, it doesn’t need to be as durable as that of a MacBook. This results in superior visuals, which can definitely be a plus for certain roles.

Apple Mac – Final Thoughts

There is no clear cut answer here, but one thing is for sure: Apple’s products are becoming more and more accessible for corporate level usage. Even though you might not want to switch the entire office over to them, many businesses may benefit from having their executives use them.

From there, it is easy to start scaling out the solution. The lower cost of operation and higher functionality and networking capabilities often pay for themselves in a short period of time. This is definitely an investment your employees will thank you for down the line.

If you’d like help deciding which Apple Mac is right for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’d be happy to share our expert advice. We specialise in designing and supporting mixed networks with Macs and PCs allowing you to get the best out of both. Read about our Apple Mac Support Services.