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Expert Articles

Time or broadband – Which goes faster?

Incredibly, it is now 2 years since I took the platform at an Opportunity Peterborough Bondholders Breakfast to address 200 people with a wavering but passionate voice to launch the YES2FIBRE campaign. At the time, Fengate, Cygnet Park, Woodston and Orton Southgate suffered from atrocious broadband provision with little or no prospect of anything better than the BT offering … which putting it politely, amounted to little and was woefully inadequate. What a difference 24 months make.

In this period, Cityfibre have completed their Gigabit network and all major commercial areas in Peterborough have now been covered, offering businesses the fastest broadband available anywhere in the UK. It is an enormous advance and a huge leap forward in a remarkably short time frame; who said we Briton’s can’t deliver impressive infrastructure projects on time! I would suggest, it has also been a catalyst to spur on BT, who seem to suddenly have renewed vigour; enabling more cabinets for fibre to the cabinet than their plans promised. Good news for all.

Just 3 weeks ago, we took delivery of gigabit broadband in our own offices and after so much anticipation I confess I was slightly concerned that the staff wouldn’t be suitably impressed; techies are notoriously hard to affect. My apprehension was further compounded as CityFibre experienced one or two technical glitches, as should be expected with such major infrastructure projects, during their rollout. So, what have the first 21 days been like and do we consider the investment worthwhile?

Firstly, let me say just how quickly one gets blasé about such things. 4 weeks ago we were struggling with a constantly variant 5mbps broadband line that drove us to distraction. It wasn’t uncommon for staff to throw hands in the air simultaneously as support sessions were lost, regained and lost again; reminiscent of a geeky Mexican wave! The first day with the new service was largely spent running speed tests accompanied by that slightly manic laugh that indicates incredulity. Even with our network overheads we regularly saw 500mbps in both directions. Within a week however, we were fiddling with network connections and routers to push it higher still; as if 500mpbs was somehow inadequate. Today I asked how we were doing with the new broadband and the best I got was “its good”. What, not brilliant? Not awesome? Not stunning? No … just good. It isn’t any slower of course than those first exultant days, our online CRM is very quick and snappy, our emails no longer take an age to load and uploading files to online SharePoint is like copying files to a USB stick; but we get used to the new “normal” so quickly. So, I threatened to switch the connection back to the old broadband and was greeted with a unilateral look bordering on panic. Point proven I think.

This demonstrates just how connectivity and infrastructure should be; invisible!.... that’s the definition of effective networking. It has extended our network out to the cloud in a seamless link without any reduction of speed or quality simply because certain systems are not located in our office. It is a tribute to the broadband network just how quickly the staff have forgotten it is even there, and believe me - that is a price worth paying!

Our next challenge is simple - modify our mind-set to take full advantage of our new reality.

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A month on; the good, the bad and the ugly of Windows 10

After the marketing build-up and anticipation of its release, we are now a month on from the release of Windows 10. "Should I upgrade to Windows 10?" remains the single most common question I am asked when out and about. No doubt Microsoft are delighted at reputed 75 million downloads in the first month given Windows 10 is cited as their "make or break" product launch.
 
As always, there are quibbles and gripes but after using Windows 10 in beta for some months and half our support team using it in production for the 4 weeks, the response has been generally positive and we believe Windows 10 to be the natural and worthy successor to Windows 7
 
The good, the bad and the ugly of Windows 10
 
Good
 
  • The Start Menu is back making the move from Windows 7 far less traumatic
  • Easier to use compared to Windows 8 and a natural progression for Windows 7 users
  • Windows 8 charms are gone (thank goodness) and replaced with the much nicer Action Centre
  • Seamless switching between desktop & tablet modes for 2-in-1 devices.
Bad
 
  • You may encounter some bugs related to activation, updates.
  • Privacy settings need to be changed if you use 'Express' set-up.
  • Edge browser is good but lacks extension support; even Microsoft's own Silverlight
  • No surprise that some software vendors are still playing catch up.
  • Quoted minimum specifications are optimistic at best.
Ugly 
 
  • WI-Fi sense. A degradation of privacy for the unaware.
  • Forced updates. Some of us still like the choice

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Do’s and Don’ts of email security

Irrespective of the security controls in place for large enterprises, small business or telecommuters, there’s usually one particularly porous component which seems an irresistible force of evil: incoming email!

We all use email to sign up for websites, apply for jobs, transact payments and so much more. However, when asked to supply sensitive information in our emails, we are exposing ourselves to the risk of data theft. What’s more, you stand to lose so much more than an email account if hackers get their hands on your vital information.

So, here are our Do’s and Don’ts of email security.

In any given day, an average worker receives 85 emails, 10 of which will be spam, 64 are bulk mail, and a mere 11 will be important enough to be read immediately.

An employee spends approximately one minute trying a response to each of the messages whilst attempting to continue working on other tasks. The distraction of this multitasking, without carefully considering the emails that they open, allows malware and other such threats to slip in and infect an entire system.

Whilst the numbers are daunting, it’s possible to reduce email security issues, enabling employees to more efficiently their jobs as a result.

Please follow the link to our website and consider these email security tips for enhanced protection: (website link)

Don’t be tricked into giving away confidential information

Avoid responding to emails or phone calls requesting confidential company information including employee information, financial results or company secrets. Legitimate organisations will never speculatively ask for such information.

It’s easy for an unauthorized person to call us and pretend to be an employee, one of our business partners or even IT support; don’t fall for it! Stay on guard and ensure your computer is protected. Should you discover any suspicious emails it’s imperative that you report to your IT provider.

Dont use an unprotected computer

When you share sensitive information from a non-secure computer, for example in an Internet café or a shared machine at home, you put the information you’re sharing at risk.

Ensure your computer is running the latest approved security patches, antivirus and firewall.

Try not to use public Wifi for any sensitive operations such as banking, etc.

Lock your computer and mobile phone when not in use

It’s good practice to lock your computer when you’re not using it. Others could see you working on important documents, containing important company information. This simple act ensures your data and contacts are safe from prying eyes.

We invest capital and time in firewalls and antivirus; but information is often exposed by leaving a sensitive document on screen while making coffee for a visitir for example.

Stay alert and report suspicious activity

Always report any suspicious activity to IT. An integral part of their job is to stop cyber-attacks and to ensure your data is neither lost nor stolen.

Our employment is dependent upon keeping our information safe.

Should something go wrong, the faster we know about it, the faster we can deal with it!

Password-protect sensitive files and devices

Always password-protect sensitive files on your computer, USB flash drive, smartphone and or laptop. Losing a device can happen to anyone, however, by protecting your device with strong passwords, you make it more difficult for someone to break in and steal data.

Avoid obvious passwords such as “password,” “cat,” or obvious character sequences on your qwerty keyboard like “asdfg” and “12345”. Create complex passwords by including different letter cases, numbers, and even punctuation.

Try to use different passwords for different websites and computers, ensuring if one gets hacked, other accounts aren’t compromised.

Be cautious of suspicious emails and links

Don’t let curiosity get the best of you! Always delete suspicious emails and links, without opening them. Opening or viewing these emails and links could compromise your computer and create unwanted problems without your knowledge. Remember, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. It’s better to be safe than sorry and risking putting computer safety at risk.

Don’t install unauthorized programs on your work computer

Malicious applications often pose as legitimate programs like games, tools or even antivirus software. Their intention is to infect your computer or network and compromise you or your company. Remember; there is rarely such as thing as a free lunch, and the same applies to applications often found on the internet or offered on promotional emails.

Be especially aware that trying to circumvent licensing with "crack" files is often a very hazardous practice

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Deliver outstanding customer service using technology

I once heard said that 60% of lost business is through “perceived indifference” on the part of the vendor. I have never been able to verify this figure, but looking back on my own dealings with various companies, I can well believe it. Hours spent listening to a recorded voice assuming me how valuable my call is, promised calls not returned and quotes that take days or weeks to arrive; usually after numerous calls to chase. I have walked away from numerous suppliers because what makes them looks bad reflects on your dealings with your own clients. “Sorry, but I am still waiting for the information” only washes for so long. 

This invaluable insight came my way at around the time that EasylifeIT was born. Until that point, all the planning and conversation was around winning new business, but little about managing the client once they came on board. It was therefore decided early on that we would not use voicemail, preferring instead to ensure that the phone would always be answered by a human being, even if that was an answering service. We also set ourselves the objective of always returning a call or providing information when promised and ensuring effective communication with the customer, even if it was just to say that we were still waiting for the information requested; often it is the silence that infuriates. Finally and crucially, in a world where the concept of “customer service” seems to reach no further than the mission statement, we needed to deliver truly outstanding responsiveness and service. 

Of course, having these aspirations are laudable, but how to actually take that into a busy, sometimes frenetic service environment? With requests coming via email, fax, telephone, text and verbal message it is not surprising that things get forgotten or mislaid. Everyone has their own system, some better than others, but to deliver an effective and consistent service you have to employ a system that encompasses all aspects of your business from communications and emails, managing new leads and opportunities to driving your service effort once you have the customer on your books. Most importantly in a small company, we needed access to our systems where ever we were, be that working at home in the evening or when sat with a client in their premises.

As a Microsoft partner, we had an obvious choice of software in front of us. We chose Microsoft Exchange for email communications and Microsoft Dynamics for customer management. It was quite an investment for a small start-up company, and at the time I wondered if it might be overkill. Even with the software concession from Microsoft as a partner, the cost of servers and software still took a large bite out of our initial budget, but my business partner insisted that these systems were in place from the start. She was absolutely right. 

Once we started to use the system and began to perfect and tweak the system to our needs, the 2 products simply revolutionised the way we worked. The communications were excellent, with diary sharing and live mobile phone access to not only email but also diaries and contacts. On the customer management side; incoming customer issues are raised as a case, telephone calls, messages, tasks and appointments are attached, and workflows trigger reminders and emails to ensure that promised actions are not forgotten and the customer is kept informed of progress. At any time or location, the complete history of any issue is available, including actions taken and notes, preventing repetition and virtually eliminating the frustration that all of us our familiar with; having to repeat the same things time and time again just because you can’t reach the same person on the other end of the phone.

Our customers certainly do not feel neglected. Emails can be returned where ever I am, and details of their order or issue available at any place or any time. If a customer calls the office when I am out, the staff can see my calendar and know it is up to the minute accurate. If they book an appointment for me to call or visit, it is on my phone within seconds.

Having invested so much in our service effort, we are now turning our attention to the sales effort and applying the same principles. Happily, our initial investment also provides the same functionality for leads, orders, quotes and campaign management.

Despite having worked in the IT industry, and unlike many of my peers, I am a firm believer that not every problem requires an IT solution. However, when it comes to driving customer service and sales efforts, I am completely sold on our systems. However, the cost of deploying such a system in house has traditionally been prohibitive, especially for a start up or smaller business. This is no longer the case.

Above all, herein lies the key benefit of cloud services; the availability of enterprise class software such as CRM at a modest monthly cost. No server is required, just a good broadband connection and this of course makes it absolutely perfect for distributed teams too! Looking back to our start-up days and the pain and cost of deployment, I am almost jealous.

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Things to consider when updating to Windows 10

In just a couple of days time, Windows 7 and 8 users wll have the option to upgrade to Windows 10 for free; an entirely new version of the veteran Windows operating system - a version that is make-or-break for Microsoft. Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 actually feels designed for a PC with a keyboard and mouse. Windows 7 users will be much more at home with Windows 10, but there are still some big changes. With Windows 7 being such a success there was a lot of complacency around windows 8. It drastically misunderstood its users with a different user interface which essentially didn’t make any sense and was hard to get your head round.

The new 2015 Microsoft is much different to the one of old, they have now thought about the fact people will choose other operating systems. Microsoft now wants to make stuff for OS x, Linux, iOS and Android. So it’s now allowing apps from other platforms to be easily ported to windows too. This is excellent news for business users making it easier when juggling around multiple devices for work and at home. Windows 10 will ship with built-in universal apps for Messaging, Mail, Calendar, People, Photos, Videos, Maps, and Music. All have a similar appearance across devices, and content is stored and synced on OneDrive so you can start a project on one device and continue on another.

Among the universal apps supported on Windows 10 there will be those from Microsoft Office. New versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote have been redesigned for touch optimization across devices, good news for employees who juggle smartphones and tablets, or prefer on-the-go productivity. Users can create and edit Word documents, annotate and present PowerPoint slides, and build and update spreadsheets in Excel sans keyboard or mouse. The Office universal apps will be free on smartphones and smaller tablets running Windows 10, and available for download on the Windows Store on other devices.

Another change in Windows 10, Microsoft Edge formally known as Project Spartan is the new minimalist browser. It’s being a replacement for internet explorer, however it will still be available for enterprise compatibility. Some new features that can help with productivity. Edge lets you annotate, save, and share webpages with colleagues, friends, or family, something that would be useful for trip planning but could also work for brainstorming or editing Websites. An improved reading mode eliminates ads on eligible websites for distraction-free reading and lets you build a list of content that can be accessed offline, which is a useful way to store all those articles and documents you don't have time to read during the workday.

things to consider when updating to Windows 10

Get a Microsoft account

You may already have a Microsoft account without even realising. If you have an Outlook.com account, a Hotmail account, an Xbox account, or a Live ID, you already have a Microsoft account. It’s not a necessity to have a an account however it makes things like synchronizing settings across devices and backing up data and settings to the cloud much easier, and it’s free.

Decide which edition is right for you

If you go for the free upgrade, you will get the equivalent edition to what you are starting with, but you can purchase an upgrade to a more feature-rich version if you wish, or you may be looking to simply purchase a new copy off the shelf. The core experiences are the same across all editions. That includes Cortana, Hello, Edge, Continuum, and Multi-doing. The majority of extra features in the business editions (Pro, Enterprise) and the education edition have to do with features home users won’t use, and which rely upon Active Directory. The one main exception may well be Bitlocker.

Make sure your hardware is up to scratch -

If your computer is running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 today, odds are very good that it will run Windows 10. The official minimum hardware requirements are detailed below

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 800×600
  • The graphics card is key. If your card is not capable of DirectX 9 or later, Windows 10 won’t run.

In reality however, we would recommenf the following

  • Processor: Intel i3 / i5 / i7 Processor or AMD equivelent
  • RAM: 4GB mimimum or 8GB preferred (for 64bit)
  • Hard disk space: 50GB free space
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 1280 x 1024
  • The graphics card is key. If your card is not capable of DirectX 9 or later, Windows 10 won’t run

 

Run Windows Update and patch everything

Before beginning the upgrade to 10, make sure your current operating system is fully patched. The easiest way to do that is run Windows Updates, and install everything it offers, even the optional stuff.

Make sure your third party software is up to date 

Just as important is to update all your applications. Historically, some vendors have been slow to update applications to work with the new version of Microsoft operating systems at release. They have had Windows 10 available to them for months, but that is often not enough. If you have any apps that you can’t live without, check the vendors’ support sites to confirm they work with Windows 10 before you upgrade.

Back up your data

Upgrading to Windows 10 will prove to be the most successful and reliable upgrade ever…but it’s still an upgrade. Better safe than sorry is the way to go here, so back up any core data you must have before you begin, just in case.

Make sure you have enough free space

You will need about 3GB of free space to download Windows 10 before upgrading. That may prove to be a challenge for small tablets with 32GB SSDs installed, so check to see what space you can free up before you begin.

Security and precautions

Microsoft has also improved its security and has managed to do so without opening up any new holes. For the most part, after testing the preview build, it's clear most of the changes are related to usability and solving that Start menu issue for end-users. It’s important that Microsoft point out there security floors from an early stage.

With Windows 10 there aren’t too many negatives that have been spotted in the beta that has been released. However there can be problems with updates which can often do more harm than good. It can damage video file types and also system errors known as the dreaded blue screen. Microsoft will be notified on these problems and resolved but it’s also an inconvenience that users shouldn’t have to go through. While it’s true that the vast majority of current updates go by without any problems, and we perhaps shouldn’t damn the process before we’ve even tried it out, it is slightly concerning. If an update turns out to be botching people’s systems, there’ll be no way for Home users to get out of it unless the update is recalled or patched quickly.

 

Portions (C) GFI Software. Reproduce with thanks

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How to contact EasylifeIT™

  • Contacting EasylifeIT™ is easy. Call us on 0800 043 9186 (+44 1733 715930) if you would like to speak to one of our team. Alternatively, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or complete our short enquiry form.

    Please note that you will be redirected to our secure SSL portal to submit your details and returned when finished

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Strategy and consultancy

Strategy and consultancy
EasylifeIT™ Director
ConceiveIT. A bewildering array of choices; unfathomable jargon. EasylifeIT™ will talk to you in plain English. We will help you make sense of your options and give you the confidence to make good decisions

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Preparation and implementation

Preparation and implementation
EasylifeIT™ Project Manager
ImplementIT. Let us plan, manage and implement the project for you, taking the weight off your shoulders while bringing years of cumulative experience to ensure its success.

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IT SITE MANAGER and support

IT SITE MANAGER and support
EasylifeIT™ Site Manager
ManageIT. Few things are so disruptive to your operations as when the IT misbehaves, and a poorly maintained and managed system is much more likely to go wrong. Delegate this responsibility to easylifeIT™

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IT SECURITY and Cyberessentials

IT SECURITY and Cyberessentials
EasylifeIT™ Security
SecureIT. The use of internet and email has brought enormous benefits, but also considerable risk. Every day there are cyber-attacks against companies just like yours

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