Tips on how to get the most out of Microsoft 365

A good IT support company will help you maximise the use of your IT to allow you to achieve your business goals in the most efficient way possible.  Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based subscription service that when set up properly can transform the way your business operates.  Often organisations pay for multiple IT services and do not realise that Microsoft 365 can provide many of their business needs.

Microsoft 365 incorporates all Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Microsoft Teams and enables you to access files securely from any location.  This flexibility enables you to collaborate easily with colleagues whether you are working in the office, on the train, at home, or overseas.  As it is a monthly rolling subscription service you have the added benefit that when your organisation grows or consolidates you only pay for what your business needs.

Here are some of the many features that can benefit your business.

Work from anywhere

The pandemic has bought many challenges to businesses and having a flexible workforce who can work remotely has been fundamental to their ongoing success.  Microsoft 365 can be installed on PCs, MACs, tablets and smart phones, which makes it easy to work in the office, at home, or on the go.  As Microsoft 365 data is held centrally on the cloud everyone can access the latest version of documents, emails and calendar entries, allowing people to work together as if they were sharing an office.

Collaboration

Microsoft 365 encourages collaboration, even if your employees are working across different locations. Microsoft Teams has instant messaging and desktop sharing so colleagues can easily work together by sharing ideas and information. There is also multi-party video conferencing (similar to Zoom) that allows virtual meetings across different time zones and offices. Teams also gives employees another choice of how they communicate, improving productivity and facilitating flexible working. There is also the social network Yammer that encourages employees to communicate, share ideas and work together.

Corporate class email system

Exchange Online is a professional enterprise level email system that includes an email address that matches your web address.  It also provides a secure email system that is fully backed up to the Cloud, so you never have to worry about losing an important client email or a customer order. You can access all your emails, contacts and calendars from any device allowing you to arrange meetings and deal with urgent requests efficiently, even if you are away from the office.  You can share calendars and email boxes with colleagues, enabling more collaboration and flexibility when colleagues are out of the office or on holiday. This could be a sales@ mailbox with important new business enquiries or a PA wanting to organise a directors diary.  Exchange Online also has the advantage of having advanced spam/phishing/malicious email filtering, so unwanted and malicious emails are sent to junk mail.

Security and data back-up

Microsoft spend millions of dollars on security, which means that Microsoft 365 offers the high level of data protection that was once the privilege of large corporations.  The data is stored in the cloud on Microsoft servers that are more secure and reliable than a local file server or NAS drive, with the advantage of no maintenance or backup costs.  If anyone in your company accidentally loses sensitive data it can be restored easily from a recent previous version, so that business can continue with minimum disruption. It is also possible to work from mobiles, tablets and laptops on the move, safe in the knowledge that it’s all securely backed up.  With the proliferation of cyber-attacks looking after company data has never been more important, Microsoft 365 is also GDPR compliant and will help your company meet it’s compliance duties.  

Lower predictable costs

Microsoft 365 offers significant reductions in upfront expenditure and on-going maintenance and upgrade costs associated with on-premise file servers.  Its monthly pricing model allows you to scale up or down the services and data storage required, so you only pay for what you are using.

Set monthly costs start at:

  • Exchange Online £3.00 + vat per month
  • Business Standard £9.40 + vat per month

Planner

Microsoft 365 Planner is an effective and easy-to-use tool that helps you to organise small projects without complex planning, and offers some of the following benefits:

  • Easy creation of new project plans
  • Organises and assigns tasks
  • Simple file sharing
  • Chat and collaborate with colleagues about what you’re working on
  • Receive progress updates

Planner helps you streamline your work processes and can be used to manage a marketing event, brainstorm new product ideas, track a project, prepare for a client visit, or just organise your team more effectively.

Microsoft Power Automate 

When simple manual tasks are done repeatedly it can waste an enormous amount of time and resources. Microsoft Power Automate is a cloud-based service that helps you streamline repetitive tasks and paperless processes so you can work more efficiently. Mapping and automating business processes was traditionally only possible through programming but Microsoft Power Automate allows you to create automated processes between apps and services such as synchronise files, get notifications and collect data. You can create a flow and perform administrative tasks in a browser or, if you download the Microsoft Power Automate mobile app, on your phone.

Microsoft Stream

Microsoft Stream is a video sharing platform where people in your company can upload, view, and share videos securely. You can share recordings of meetings, presentations and training sessions enabling you to train your staff, deliver important company information and work effectively together.

If you want advice on how your business can get the most out of Microsoft 365 call us for a chat or book a free consultation on 01603 451810 | hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

How technology can help the success of your business

Technology is an important enabler of competitiveness and when managed strategically within a business can enhance productivity, growth and returns. COVID-19 has confronted businesses with many challenges in terms of how they operate and how they stay competitive, forcing change and driving them to utilise technology to improve their flexibility and efficiency.

Client service

During this pandemic every business has had to find new ways to meet the needs of their clients whilst maintaining a quality service. Adopting new technology and maximising the use of existing software has helped many businesses adapt quickly to new challenges and meet the evolving needs of clients. Services such as Microsoft 365 have enabled companies of all sizes to move staff to home working, as files, emails, and collaborative tools, such as Teams, can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. A silver lining for many companies has been an increase in productivity and a reduced need for costly office space.

Making the processes to access your services simpler and more intuitive will encourage client loyalty and referrals, giving your business an important competitive edge to enable it to grow.

Cost effective

Utilising technology can help you run your business more cost effectively, and through the use of automation can increase efficiency and accuracy.  The right technology for your business will help increase productivity, enable your business to scale more easily and enable it to adapt quickly to changes within the marketplace.  When investing in new technology it is important to have a good understanding of your current processes and business needs, so that you choose technology that enhances the way you operate.  Training staff to use newly acquired technology is also vital to ensure that your business fully benefits from the investment. The wrong IT investments can be time consuming and costly, it is always worth seeking expert advice and researching the latest technology trends in your sector.

Data analysis

Business intelligence is a technology-driven process for analysing data and providing businesses with information that enables them to make informed decisions. If you can manage your resources using real-time key performance indicators (KPIs), it will enable you to focus your efforts on the areas of the business that will have the greatest benefit.

Which technology?

By investing the time and effort into understanding how technology can provide a competitive advantage, you can be rewarded with a significant edge over your direct competitors. Most businesses can benefit from having someone assess how they can use technology better to improve business results.

Adept IT Solutions helps companies, large and small, leverage technology to improve existing processes and accelerate business growth. By taking time to fully understand the business of our clients we can provide advice on applications and technology that can best move the business forward.

If you would like advice on how to enhance your business through better technology call us today 01603 451810 | hello@adept-it-soltions.co.uk

Warning signs that your computer needs a service

Your computer, much like a car, will perform better and last longer when serviced regularly. IT professionals recommend that you service your computer annually to ensure it runs smoothly and to identify any hardware issues. 

Over time computers get clogged with temporary files, internet histories, and unwanted software that fill up your hard drive and slow it down. Anyone using the internet is at risk of viruses and malware, which can hamper the performance of your computer and compromise your data security. A regular service will not only remove viruses and malware but ensure that your computer is running at optimum levels.

Taking a proactive approach to looking after your computer enables any issues to be caught early and dealt with quickly, before they become a bigger and more expensive problem. So what are the signs that you need to look out for?

Warning signals that your computer needs a service

  • Computer running slowly – hard drives last between 3 and 5 years. Don‘t wait for it to fail – it is quicker and cheaper to replace the hard drive when it has started to fail rather than recover data and software from a completely failed hard drive.
  • Hard drive imminent failure message – don’t ignore it and shut down immediately and take it to an IT professional.
  • Over heating – this may be due to being dusty or a fan failure, and if not dealt with can seriously damage your computer, sometimes irrevocably.
  • Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) – this means that the computer has a serious problem, it will not fix itself, and will need professional assistance.
  • Corrupted files – If you’re beginning to find files that fail to open and are corrupted even though they saved without errors, or if files suddenly disappear – save your data and get your hard drive checked.
  • Peculiar sounds -Grinding or screeching noises indicate that parts of the hardware, for example the bearings or spindle motor of the hard disk, or cooling fans, are failing. Back up your data and get it checked.
  • Acting strangely – e.g. freezes, error messages – turn it off and restart it and if the issues continue seek help.

What do you do if your hard drive is about to fail?

If you think your hard drive is about to fail you need to back up your data on a second hard drive. The likelihood that both drives will fail simultaneously are very rare, however we recommend keeping a copy of your most important data in a different physical location, or alternatively save your data to the Cloud.

What should I do if I have a virus/malware?

If your computer is running slowly, or strange windows keep popping up as you browse your computer, you may well have been infected by a virus, spyware or one of the myriad of other types of malware that proliferate on the internet.  What should you do?

  • Before you do anything, you need to disconnect your computer from the internet, and don’t use it until you are ready to clean your computer.

  • Delete temporary files

  • Download malware scanners

  • Run a scan with Malwarebytes

  • If necessary, seek professional help from an IT expert

Managed IT Services

If you want to spend less time worrying about your computer a proactive solution like our Home PC Care Plan provides an around the clock monitoring and maintenance service, that keeps your computer software up-to-date and secure. It is like having a 24/7 service on your computer ensuring your computer runs smoothly and safely.

To book a service for your computer or find out about the full range of IT services we provide please contact us 01603 451810 | hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

Financial Scams, the law and ways to avoid becoming a victim

IT Security Norwich

This month Ben Dures (Scott Moncrieff & Associates) and I discuss the law and how to protect yourself against financial scams and the steps you should take to recover lost funds.

According to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, financial scams are becoming more sophisticated, and as more people move to online banking, extra vigilance is needed.  Although in most cases your bank or building society will reimburse money taken from your account without permission, this is not guaranteed.  Below we look at the law in this area, and what practical measures can be taken to avoid falling prey to the scammers.

Getting Your Money Back

The good news is that under the Payment Services Regulations 2017 (PSR’s) you should get your money back, unless the bank can show that you have consented to a transaction. This may sound obvious but in practice it can be difficult for the bank to establish, as it involves several factors.

First, the bank must show the payment was authenticated. Authentication is the procedure which allows the bank to verify the identity of its customer, or the validity of the use of a specific payment instrument, including the use of the customer’s personalised security credentials. This can be done in a number of ways (e.g. chip and PIN, card number, CVV and expiry date etc.).  In many cases involving scammers, the payment was authenticated, because the scammers obtained your details.  So, to the bank, it looked legitimate.

Second, the PSR’s require consent to each and every transaction. So because you gave permission for one transaction, does not automatically mean you gave permission for any that followed.

In most cases, if you can show prove that on balance of probabilities, you neither carried out the transaction yourself, nor gave consent to it, that should be sufficient for you to get your money back.

However there is a potential sting in the tail.

Safeguarding your details 

Under most banking terms, if the bank can show that you’ve failed to take reasonable care of your security details and this has allowed the scam to take place, then may refuse to reimburse you.   They must show that you were grossly negligent, which is quite a high threshold.   However, it is also often a matter of interpretation, which can give rise to disputes.  So for example, if you are tricked into giving this information to someone who sounded very plausible, is that gross negligence?  Often the test will be what the hypothetical reasonable person might have done in the circumstances, but arguably this doesn’t take into account individual vulnerability. What about sharing details with family members or carers, who then remove money without consent?  On a strict interpretation you should not share your details with anyone, but in many situations this is a necessity.

The bank should also take reasonable care, so should be alert to suspicious looking transactions, and have methods for flagging these and verifying they are genuine.  For instance there may be unusual activity on the account.  If the bank has failed to notice something that it ought reasonably to have picked up on, and a suspicious transaction has gone through without anyone checking it with you, then on the face of it the bank has been negligent and this has caused you loss.  In these circumstances, it ought to refund you.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) deals with disputes between banks and their customers and if you cannot resolve your issue direct with the bank, a complaint to the FOS is usually the best place to start, rather than taking the matter to court. The best advice however is to take steps to avoid being scammed in the first place.

Security tips to avoid a financial scam  

Awareness

A phisher is clever in their techniques and will try and gain your trust through psychology and perceptions, be aware of the latest scams as your first line of defence.

Passwords

Passwords are used every day and they are the first line of defence against malicious attacks. Choose unique passwords for your online accounts and if you have too many to remember use a password manager to help you store them safely.

Payments

Only make online payments on secure websites, the URL must have a padlock and https. When making payments use secure connections and avoid using public WiFi.

Verify

Credible companies, such as banks and Microsoft, will never ask for personal information (usernames, passwords, account numbers) through an email.  Beware of poorly written emails, overuse of jargon or emails without contact details. If in doubt end the call and then call them back to make sure it is a legitimate request.

Check Links

Understand the risks involved in opening links from an untrustworthy source. Don’t click on a link unless you have checked it is from a reliable source.  If necessary, check with the recipient before opening.

Email sender address

The display name on an email can be set to appear to be someone you know, but the email address itself is often a giveaway so don’t forget to check before you respond.

Check accounts

Get into a habit of regularly checking your online accounts so you can respond quickly to any suspicious activity.

Threats

Beware of threats, blackmails and warning emails.  A genuine threat will usually be replaced or used in conjunction with a phone call.

Avoid traps

Ignore emails that look too good to be true, emails offering prizes or easy money are often a trap. Be suspicious of appeals and requests for money and always check the veracity of a charity and only donate directly through a website with a secure domain.

Personal information

Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Fraudsters can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam. Review your privacy settings on all social media, don’t publish your date of birth and make sure only friends can view your posts and pictures.

Updates

Ensure all your computers are using the latest version of all software, including internet browsers. Many phishing attacks exploit systems that are not updated.

Anti-Virus

There are many good reasons to use antivirus software. Install an enterprise level AV solution, regularly monitor the status and ensure that it is kept up to date.

Web and spam filter

Use a web filter that blocks malicious websites and install a spam filter that can prevent emails from reaching the inbox of employees.

Firewalls

By using a desktop as well as a network firewall you will drastically reduce hackers infiltrating your systems.

Email authentication

Email authentication is a technical solution where your mail server checks that emails are not forged and flags the emails accordingly or even rejects the messages.

As financial scams become more prevalent it pays to be cautious, vigilant and use common sense.

If you have suffered a financial scam and need legal advice contact Ben Dures on 07940 887494 | bdures@scomo.com, for a no obligation chat. If you would like more information about IT security and how to safeguard yourself against cyber attacks please contact Lucy Blake on 01603 451810 | hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

Cyber Security Awareness – how safe is your business?

To run a successful business in today’s world you need efficient IT systems.  Investing in good technology can help you work more effectively and securely, however the most advanced technology will not protect your business from human error and employees falling foul of a cyber-attack. With an increasing reliance on technology keeping employees up-to-date on the myriad of cyber threats, and how to minimise risks, is a vital measure in protecting your business. 

Increased cyber-attacks

Since COVID-19 there has been an increasing number of hackers taking advantage of people working from home, where IT systems are often less secure than in the office. It has therefore never been more important to treat cyber security as a core measure within your business.

Government statistics show an increase in cyber-attacks where almost half of businesses and a quarter of charities have experienced cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. There has been a rise in phishing attacks (86%) but a fall in viruses and malware (16%) attacks.  Whilst many businesses are more resilient to online attacks due to enhanced IT security and improved methods of recovery from a breach, a negative outcome can still cause considerable damage and cost to a business. When confronted with a cyber-attack businesses will often worry about the vulnerabilities of their IT infrastructure and overlook the people who are using that technology. 

Each new technological solution brings forth new risks, which is why regular cyber security awareness training on the latest cyber security threats is a vital part in protecting your business.

Steps to reduce cyber threats:

  • create a risk aware culture
  • regular cyber-awareness training for all staff
  • ensure regulatory GDPR compliance
  • establish company protocol to respond quickly to cyber-attacks to minimise damage

Adept IT Solutions Cyber-Security Awareness training

Our cyber security awareness training is computer-based and delivered monthly in engaging bite-sized modules. 

Evaluation

We carry out an initial risk assessment on each delegate, via a questionnaire, to determine their individual knowledge gaps. Using the results from the gap analysis stage, we will automatically craft a 12-month training programme unique to each user – with weaker subjects (e.g. phishing, passwords etc.), being deployed first.

Regular up-to-date training

Each monthly course uses information about current cyber threats and takes about 15 minutes.  Courses can be delivered more regularly to meet the needs of your business. We send out automated invitations and reminders so your training is continuous, efficient and admin-lite.

Engaging and jargon-free

The content is engaging and jargon-free.  Our courses come with video, interactive and blog-style content to engage different styles of learning, whilst avoiding confusing technical jargon. 

Cost

The cost of the course is £2 per month per user, so affordable to every business.

Company data breaches can mean huge financial loss, reputational damage and can even lead to business failure.  Whether you’re worried about the plethora of phishing attacks, new viruses and malware, external and internal security threats or unauthorised access to your IT systems we can train your staff and help you develop a strategy to protect your company data.

For information about our cyber security awareness training and advice on IT security issues facing your business please contact hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk | 01603 451810. 

 

How can a good IT infrastructure benefit your small business?

Your business may have a brilliant product or service but without the right IT infrastructure you will compromise your ability to operate effectively and securely.  Your IT infrastructure includes your computers, software, internet connectivity and networks and if set up well enables everyone in your business to work with ease, so that your business can thrive.

Planning

If you are reviewing and updating your IT infrastructure it is worth planning it carefully so that your current and future IT needs are considered, this will enable you to scale your business as it grows, quickly and cost effectively. 

Focus on critical business needs

Every business requires an IT infrastructure that supports it’s operational needs. If your staff work in different locations and away from the office you will need software that enables them to work remotely and access office files via the cloud. Think about what your business needs to operate effectively and invest in tools that enhance the way you work. It may be as simple as upgrading or servicing hardware so staff are not hampered by things like slow computers.

Connectivity/Internet

Businesses today rely heavily on email and online services, so it is imperative to have a reliable and fast internet connection that allows you to work online and without interruption.  Good connectivity enables your staff to work more productively, as well as delivering a better service to your clients. Your internet plan will detail what speed of service you subscribe to so you can determine if it meets the needs of your business, or whether you need to upgrade.  You may even consider a new supplier if the service is not reliable.

Network

A slow network hampers productivity and incurs maintenance costs. Investing in a carefully planned IT infrastructure will be more efficient and accommodate the changing needs of the business.  Without proper planning you can end up with a confusing array of cables that may go untested and be incorrectly placed, which can lead to reduced functionality and safety issues. A well thought through network will enable your staff to share files, printers and scanners as quickly and reliably as possible.  If you have a small business it may be a simple case of a wire and switch connecting two computers. Files can also be shared using a cloud service such as Microsoft 365.

Security should always be considered and it’s important that you secure your data network.

Data Storage

Many businesses are now moving their data storage to services in the Cloud such as Microsoft 365, as it provides flexibility, scalability and is more secure and cost effective than an on-site server.  The best solution for your business will depend on how much data storage is required as well as the level of security and control required. If you are unsure get advice from an IT expert who can assess your current IT infrastructure and provide recommendations and costs to upgrade.

IT Security

With the proliferation of cyber-crime IT security has become a critical element of any IT strategy.  Your IT infrastructure should be protected and include a robust back-up solution so that if you ever have a security disaster, such as a failed hard drive or malware damage, you can quickly recover data with a recent back up.  IT security not only protects your company data but ensures legal compliance, it also protects you from reduced productivity through cyber-attacks and viruses.

Leverage technology

When a company invests in the latest technology it can transform the way they work and enhance collaboration with staff, clients and suppliers.  It is worth finding out what IT solutions companies within your industry sector find beneficial, but always do your research because making the wrong IT investments can be expensive in time and money.

Software

Your software needs will range from the operating system your network will be running upon, to the productivity tools you and your team will need to run the business. Assess your needs and shop around for technology solutions that will either support or streamline your processes.

Microsoft 365 will provide many small businesses with the IT solutions they need to operate efficiently, cost effectively and flexibly.

Enterprise email

An efficient email system is a fundamental tool for any modern business, as many businesses have found during the current pandemic. A reliable and fast system such as Outlook, when set up correctly, can enhance efficiency, collaboration and reduce stress. Setting up your own email system with suitable IT security can be a minefield, so if you lack the know get advice from an expert.

VoIP vs Landline

Many businesses are switching over to VoIP (voice-over-internet-protocol), a cloud-based phone system that provides a secure and professional telephone service at a fraction of the cost of a traditional landline. VoIP offers the same quality of service as traditional PSTN phone services but may not be the ideal solution for every business as it relies on a reliable internet connection.

How to manage your IT infrastructure

Regardless of your business needs, make sure you get expert advice with a view to your future requirements, which will help you scale more easily and will be more cost effective. Whether you intend to hire internal IT support or use Managed IT Services, it’s important to know that your IT infrastructure will be designed, installed, and maintained by knowledgeable and experienced experts who will enable your business IT to run smoothly and securely.

If you need IT advice, or want to book a free consultation with one of our IT infrastructure experts, please contact Adept IT Solutions today 01603 451810 / hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

12 ways to improve your internet speed and reliability when working from home

As working practices change and the pandemic continues, we will remain dependent on our internet connections to keep us working as well as entertained. To achieve best performance and reliability, we need to gain a deeper understanding of our home networks. Here are a few tactics to ensure you have the right provisions in place to enable you and your family to carry on working successfully from home.

1. Quality Internet Provider

If you are working from home you will need a reliable internet provider and a high speed internet connection. Check your internet plan and establish what speed of service you subscribe to and work out if it is sufficient for your current and future needs.

If you need to upgrade your home internet consider a business package. Business class internet connections can provide better performance at peak times and tend to include higher quality technical support.

2. Router position

To optimize your home wifi network move your router to a central part of your home, as wifi strength and speed diminishes the further you are from your router. If necessary, consider repositioning it or using wired and wireless homeplugs and wireless access points to provide faster cabled and wireless connections, Old routers can affect the speed and range so if it is more than 5 years old consider replacing it.

3. Reboot your router

Rebooting your router and optimising the router settings can help boost your internet speed and wireless signal.

4. Good practice

Closing any extraneous or unused open tabs in your computer’s browser can improve your computer’s performance, as can turning off the wireless connection on devices such as phones and tablets when they are not needed.

5. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN Network is a secure encrypted link between two locations, for example between your home computer and your office network where your files are stored, enabling you to work remotely and as productively as possible.

6. Mobile data

Occasionally you may lose your internet connection and it’s worth having a backup solution in place, such as a mobile data package on a phone or USB dongle that you can tether other devices to by creating a wireless hotspot.

If you get a good mobile signal in your home, another way to alleviate home wifi network congestion is to use your mobile data rather than your home wireless where appropriate. Before switching over any of your devices, however, check your mobile data plan to make sure you won’t go over any data caps and incur overage charges.

7. Number of devices

Saturation can happen on your home network when too many people try to connect to the internet at the same time. If several films are being streamed while others are on video calls, you can overload your bandwidth, causing everyone’s connection to slow down. In this situation you need to limit how many devices are on the network at the same time and prioritise who uses it at certain times. If you still have issues with your internet consider upgrading your plan or purchasing an additional internet connection for dedicated work use.

8. Ethernet connection

A hard-wired ethernet connection, as opposed to a wireless connection, is still a reliable way to get a good connection.

9. Mesh wifi system

If you have several users in your home and experience wifi dead zones, a more comprehensive solution is to use a Mesh wifi system to blanket your home with better wifi coverage. This will help evenly distribute wifi throughout your home to all of your connected devices. Mesh wifi also provides flexibility as you can move away from your desk and around the house without experiencing Wi-Fi fade during critical business meetings. 

10. Separate home and business usage

If you or anyone else in your house is now working from home you might want to consider separating work and home internet traffic. One way to do this would be to have a dedicated network for each purpose and applying bandwidth restrictions; one for recreational use and the other for business use (with higher bandwidth and better SLA).  This prevents your children from monopolising the whole wireless network bandwidth to stream films and play online games during a critical conference call.

11. VoIP (voice over internet protocol)

VoIP is telephone communication that is transmitted over the internet. A high-speed broadband connection is a necessity if you are using VoIP. Many home office workers choose this method of communication because it is very cost effective when compared with landline telephones. Adept IT Solutions VoIP plans.

12. Schedule internet usage

Online entertainment, such as streaming films and graphic intensive games can use up huge amounts of usage and can result in an extreme slowdown or even a system crash. Encourage children to play games together instead of individually and set daily schedules within your house to avoid performance issues and prioritise usage for those working and studying.

Overall, working from home can be very rewarding, so make sure you stay ahead of the game by being proactive about ensuring that you are well connected, using the best software for the job and are engaging in the best security practices. By doing these things, not only will your employer be happy to leave you to it, they will continue to let you work from home.

If you need help with your connectivity or any advice on making your IT systems work better please get in touch 01603 451810 / hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk

 

 

IT tips to stay resilient

The recent pandemic has forced change upon many businesses. For some this has created challenges, whereas others have reaped unforeseen benefits from more flexible and efficient ways of working. 

Many organisations have adapted by migrating the running of their business, and the delivery of their services, online.  These strategies have not only facilitated more agile and collaborative working but have provided businesses with greater flexibility to cope with the unexpected.  However, these new working practices have placed an increased dependence on reliable and smooth-running IT systems.

Outlined below are some key areas of your business IT that should be evaluated, so you can run your business effectively and maintain resilience through these unpredictable times.

Leverage technology

It is important to understand how technology can help your business develop and grow but firstly you need to assess whether your current IT is meeting your needs. By aligning your IT with your business objectives will help ensure investment is made in the areas where it will have the greatest impact. If you don’t have the time or inclination to find out what technology is available and appropriate for your business seek expert IT advice, so you avoid making expensive and time-consuming mistakes.

Hardware

Evaluate your hardware, such as computers, to assess if they are fit for purpose.  Slow or unreliable computers can be frustrating and have a serious impact on productivity as well as IT security.  Taking a proactive approach to your IT and fixing issues early before they escalate into bigger problems is always more cost effective in time and money. Ensure that your staff have the right IT equipment to carry out their jobs effectively and ensure that they have been trained how to use it to maximum benefits.

Update software

Keeping your software up-to-date is a vital element of your IT security and will safeguard you from cyber-attacks.  Regularly check that all software is up to date and still supported and remove software that is no longer used, as this will slow it down and affect performance.

To check your MS Windows updates:

Click the START button, choose SETTINGS and then Update & Security

If updates are available, restart it or schedule your restart.

Regular health check

Looking after your computers will help enhance their performance and useful life.  A service, or health check, is a maintenance procedure that helps improve the speed and performance of your computer and ideally should be carried out annually.  It involve a series of tests that will determine:

  • if upgrades are needed
  • presence of viruses or malware
  • if temporary files can be deleted
  • potential issues that require action such as a failing hard drive
  • preventative maintenance such as clearing dust from cooling fans and heatsinks to prevent overheating

Proactive monitoring and maintenance

If your business relies on maximum uptime and security, and you don’t have time to continually check on your computers, you may want to consider a maintenance & monitoring service that provides the following benefits:

  • Protection against viruses and malware
  • Ensures backups are performing successfully
  • Manages updates of Operating System and third party applications
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Offers practical solutions to ensure systems are running efficiently

A monitoring and maintenance solution (like our Bronze Plan) is all handled in the background, so that you and your staff remain productive.

IT Security

During COVID-19 cyber-attacks have become more prevalent and present a major threat to your business. Your IT strategy should outline how to safeguard your company data as well as ensure compliance to current regulations. This should include staff training about the latest cyber security attacks as well as highlighting the importance of vigilance when working online.

Tips to avoid cyber-attacks:

  • Attachments are the most common method of viruses spreading, don’t open attachments from an unreliable or unknown source
  • Do not click on links within emails that you cannot be sure are safe
  • Always read security warnings but research them before agreeing to anything
  • Choose secure passwords and do not share them
  • Be sceptical and aware of phishing scams and don’t give way sensitive data. Phishing is a common way that online accounts are hacked into and can lead to identity theft
  • Read pop-ups before agreeing to anything
  • Limit administrator rights to minimise problems such as unapproved software being downloaded and security settings disabled
  • Set a screensaver with a password to stop unauthorised access to your computer

Robust Back-up

Embedded in your IT Strategy must be a backup solution. If you are affected by a security disaster, such as a major loss of data or failed hard drive, a good recent back up is the fastest way to recover and it will minimise the disruption to your business.

Permissions

Many businesses will have experienced staff changes over this period. If anyone has left the company ensure that user accounts, including online accounts, are disabled.  If roles and responsibilities have changed ensure user permissions are altered accordingly.  It is important to remember that safeguarding against any data breaches is a key element of maintaining GDPR compliance, so check that your staff only have access rights suitable to their position.

IT supports the fundamental operations within a business and can ensure your business thrives. Our IT consultants have the expertise and experience to assess your IT systems and create a plan aligned to your business goals.  For more information please get in touch 01603 451810 | hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk

 

How to make professional video calls

COVID-19 has forced many of us to start using video calls for work meetings, presentations and even job interviews.  Businesses have realised that video calls can facilitate agile working and reap many benefits. Navigating a video call, however, can be tricky especially if you don’t have much experience.  Here are some ideas to help you look professional, get the most out of them, and even start enjoying them.

Quiet space

Ideally find a quiet place to take the call and use headphones to minimise any background noise.

Wi-fi and power

  • Ensure you have a good wi-fi connection. The closer you are to the router the greater the speed and strength. Alternatively use a home-plug or wireless access points to improve the quality of your internet connection in other areas of your house.
  • Turn-off high-definition video, as this takes up considerably more band-width.
  • Make sure your device is fully charged or plugged in before the video call starts.

Microphone

  • Prior to making a call test your audio clarity and volume to ensure you can be heard easily.
  • Speak clearly, at your normal volume and speed.
  • When you are not speaking mute your microphone as background noise can be distracting and hinder the flow of conversation.
  • Conversely ensure your microphone is on when delivering important information.

Webcam

  • Place your webcam at around eye level and in front of you, so it looks like you are looking at the person you are talking to. Don’t sit too close or far away and have your head and shoulders in view. Avoid strange camera angles that can be unflattering and distracting.
  • Most webcams will enable reasonable video conferencing but to get the best experience you can choose cameras with a wide-angle lens and high-quality video and audio for optimum results.
  • Look into the camera and not at yourself.

Lighting

  • Natural light creates the best effect for video calls, and if this is not possible use a central light or a lamp facing you from behind your computer

Background

  • Your backdrop will reflect your brand. Keep it in line with your company image and remember a simple background will enable people to focus better on you.
  • If you don’t have time to ensure a professional looking backdrop set up a virtual background.

Clothing

  • Wear appropriate clothing that you would normally wear in your workplace. Choose strong dark colours and avoid patterned clothing and elaborate jewellery, which can be distracting.

During a call

  • Keep focused and pay attention so people in the meeting see that you are engaged and interested.
  • Don’t work or attend to emails during the call.
  • Greet the group and introduce yourself unless everyone knows you well.

When to speak

  • Compared to in-person meetings it is more difficult to read the visual cues so it is easy to interrupt. Wait a few moments before speaking in case of time delays. Alternatively agree a visual cue with the group such as putting up your hand when you want to speak.
  • If you’re running the meeting you can call on each person to speak to avoid interruptions and to enable everyone to speak.

Hosting

  • To get the most out of a meeting that is longer than 10 minutes create an agenda. This allows people to prepare beforehand and will facilitate more valuable contributions as well as balancing out the input.
  • If you have regular team meetings via video consider rotating the management of the meeting to enhance collaboration and engagement. It can also help build confidence across the whole team. 
  • At the start of the meeting check that everyone’s audio visual is working and that everyone is ready to begin.
  • Nominate a facilitator for each meeting to keep the meeting focused and in-line with the agenda, ensure objectives are achieved, and that everyone’s voice is heard. 

Sharing information

  • If you need to share a document on the video call warn participants there may be a delay, so they don’t think they have lost connection.
  • If you are going to share your screen during a call, prepare it beforehand to ensure your desktop doesn’t show any sensitive or private information.

With the right technology in place, and good practice, video calls can be made bearable, and can even be enjoyable. They can, however, be more intense and tiring than face to face meetings and so they should be time-limited, with appropriate intervals so people have an opportunity to recover before the next one.

For any technical advice about working from home please contact us on 01603 451810 or hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.