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.

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 thrive working from home

The current pandemic has forced many of us to work from home with varying degrees of success.  Some people really flourish with no strict schedule whereas others struggle to be productive and find it hard to motivate themselves.  Now that businesses have set up their staff with home working it looks like there will be a shift in work patterns.  It may take time to work out how best to organise yourself so you can work effectively and keep your sanity; here are a few tips.

Circadian rhythms work when you work best. If you are most energised in the morning this is when you should do the most important tasks, whereas if you are an owl you may start the day with the menial tasks to ease you gently into the day.

Unique perks – embrace the positive aspects of home working. You may find that you have more time, especially if you save time on commuting each day, so why not use this time to learn something new, spend quality time with your family or cook a tasty lunch.

A good workspace is critical for productivity. Find somewhere with minimal distractions, is comfortable and inspiring with enough natural light. If your phone distracts you put it in another room, and if you have children, and it is possible, work in a different room.

Get creative – if you have a mental block step away from your computer, find somewhere different perhaps with a nice view, and use pen and paper to put down your ideas.

Take breaks – to promote your well-being take time-out for yourself away from work and tech – do something enjoyable whether it is intellectual, creative or physical. Research shows that exercise can help you stay focused, and improve your memory, however do something that you enjoy.

Regular working hours – research shows that keeping routines is important to enhance productivity. It also enables you to leave work at the end of the day and helps you maintain a work life balance.

Get your technology sorted

  1. Internet – connectivity is vital so invest in a high-speed internet connection from a reliable provider.
  2. Router – wifi strength and speed diminishes the further you are from your router so consider repositioning it or using wireless access points. You can also try a homeplug that will provide a fast and stable wired connection. Old routers can affect the speed and range so if it is more than 5 years old consider replacing it.
  3. The right hardware and software – make a budget and invest in a good working computer and any other hardware or software to enable you to carry out your job properly. If you are unsure what products would work best for you seek expert advice so you make cost effective choices.
  4. Be proactive – fixing issues early before they escalate into bigger problems is more cost effective in time and money. If your computer is slow or glitchy get it serviced before something catastrophic happens and you can’t work at all.
  5. Proactive monitoring and maintenance service – this will help ensure your computer runs efficiently, securely and with minimal downtime. Our Bronze Plan costs £10/month per device.
  6. Cybersecure – there is a proliferation of adware, spyware and malware so good quality AV software is essential e.g. ESET. Keep up to date with cyber threats, our online Cyber Security Awareness course makes it easy and is only £2/month.
  7. Passwords – keep them strong and unique and change them regularly. Consider using a two step verification process and if you need multiple logins use a password management system like RoboForm or LastPass.
  8. Collaboration tools– technology that facilitates collaboration is extremely important if you are working from home. Sending around multiple copies of the same document for different amendments is fraught with potential problems, such as, keeping track of changes and the latest version. Fortunately, there are many services to assist with this, from Office 365 to Google Drive.
  9. Shared mailboxes – the advantage of sharing a mailbox rather than forwarding emails to your colleagues is that you know when emails have been read, replied to and dealt with, reducing the risk of emails being ignored or multiple replies being sent.
  10. Shared calendars can help improve communication and efficiency. Calendars in Office 365 are continuously synced so the information is up to date, making it easy to plan projects and schedule meetings, even if all your team are working from home.
  11. Virtual meetings – whether you use Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype many people are now adept at using apps for virtual meetings. Find a couple of applications that work for you and have the functions that you need for your meetings e.g. screen share function allowing everyone on the call to make notes on the screen, reducing misinterpretations. Train your staff so that meetings are professional and effective.   
  12. Headphones – when you’re on video chat use headphones with a microphone, especially if your home has a lot of background noise.
  13. Group channel – now that you’re not in the office create a place where you and your colleagues can ask questions and everyone can contribute. Discussing things with your colleagues will minimise misinterpretations and make you more productive.
  14. Video messaging -whether you need to present something, ask for assistance, or share something of interest, you can video message your team and they can view it at a time that is convenient for them.
  15. Shared task lists – this is another feature in Office 365 that enhances collaboration and productivity while everyone is working from home. Information is continuously synced so it makes it easy to coordinate activities, prioritise tasks, and meet deadlines.
  16. Second monitor – if you’re used to working with a bigger screen than your laptop has, or find two screens makes it easier to work get another screen or use your television as your desktop or second monitor by using an HDMI cable.
  17. Online training – budgets are tight but there are many free online courses to enable your professional and career development. These government courses are free and designed to improve your digital skills: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/find-a-course/the-skills-toolkit

Working from home can be very rewarding and improve the quality of your work. However to make it work you need good routines, have the right technology in place and robust IT security.

For more information about how we can improve your home working, or help your business get the right technology to thrive please call 01603 451810 or email hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

How agile working can benefit small and growing businesses

agile working

The traditional 9 to 5 working week and communal office is giving way to agile working as more businesses look at new ways to work more effectively. Advances in technology have helped many organisations provide a flexible working environment that enables them to react quickly to change, become more productive and attract the right staff. It is also enabling many organisations to carry on working through the current coronavirus pandemic.

What is agile working?

Agile working empowers people to work where, how and when they want, providing they meet their responsibilities. It’s success relies on businesses trusting their workforce as well as ensuring they have the right technology and processes in place.

When adopting agile working practices it is important to maximise flexibility and minimise constraints, and ensuring that IT systems used are reliable and secure. With all these elements in place, and an internet connection, employees can work on a report or presentation just as easily in the office as they can from home, in a café or on a train.

What are the benefits

Agile working enables employees to work in the way that suits them.  Research has shown that people work more effectively in the right environment and flexible working improves happiness and well-being. Staff are more motivated and work more efficiently, which makes them more productive. It can also help reduce costs in terms of reduced office space and utility costs.

Flexible working can also help retain employees as well as attract the right calibre of staff. You will be opening up jobs to a more diverse range of people who couldn’t have otherwise taken these jobs.

Technology that can help create an agile workplace

Creating a secure and truly agile workplace involves leveraging technology to better collaborate, communicate and track projects. It requires strong and reliable technology that enables your employees to work at different times and from various locations. You can select IT solutions to meet the needs of your business, many are inexpensive and will help increase efficiency. Here are some popular solutions that will enhance agile working and create the flexibility your business needs to thrive.

Office 365 for Business

Office 365 allows you to work on any computer, tablet or mobile phone with an internet connection allowing you to access any file, email or contact whenever and wherever you need it. 

Data is continuously synchronised with Office 365, so everyone is working on the most up to date version of a file or folder, enhancing collaboration across the whole business.

There are many tools in Office 365 to enhance flexible and collaborative working such as shared files, mailboxes and calendars, Microsoft Teams for easy real-time communication, Planner to manage projects, and many more.

LogMeIn

Adept IT Solutions IT contracts include a LogMeIn subscription that enables you to log in to your computer from wherever you are, making it easy to work from home and access all your files from any internet enabled device, if you can’t get into the office.

VoIP

VoIP is a cloud-based phone system that provides a secure and professional telephone service at a fraction of the cost of traditional services.  It also provides huge flexibility as calls can easily be transferred to different locations without extra cost, making it easy to work from any location with an internet connection.

Digital structure

With the help of your IT support provider put together a digital framework so that communication across the business is strong, information is searchable, no-one is isolated, and work can be prioritised and goals met.  

Security and reliability

Every business needs their IT to be secure and reliable in and away from the office. Managed IT Services, such as our Bronze Plan, will monitor your systems to ensure your IT systems run efficiently, securely and with minimal downtime.

Agile working requires a balance of people, process and technology. It is important that your IT is aligned to your business objectives and you have the right technology in place so your employees can carry out their jobs to their best ability, wherever, whenever and however. Introducing more people is not always the answer, allowing your employees to work flexibly can have huge benefits to your business in terms of being able to react to change and operating more cost effectively and efficiently.

If you need help making your business more agile and flexible we would be very happy to discuss your needs, please get in contact: 01603 451810 / hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

How to take a proactive approach to your business IT

By adopting a proactive approach to your business IT you can minimise IT problems and increase efficiency.

Preventative vs Reactive

IT as an integral part of running most businesses but often people are too busy running their core business to ensure that their Business IT is running securely and at optimum levels.  Looking after your IT in a proactive manner so that you prevent problems or catch them early can save money and minimise lost hours of productivity. 

Warning signs your PC needs repair

Fixing issues early before they escalate into bigger problems is more cost effective in time and money.

  • Your computer is running slowly
    Possible causes include; system too old, resource heavy applications, lack of memory, fragmented system, lack of space on the hard drive, viruses/malware and failing hard drive.
  • Error messages
    For example “hard drive detects imminent failure” – don’t ignore and seek help.
  • Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)
    Caused by many things but it is a sign of a serious problem that will rarely be resolved by itself.
  • Hot computer
    Causes include a dusty fan or the cooling system is broken, this can shorten the life of your PC and needs attention.
  • Glitching – unusual behaviour such as unresponsive, pop-up boxes and random crashes. Carry out a health check to establish the cause and resolve.

Regular Service

When did you last service your computer? 

Much like your car your computer needs to be looked after. A service or health check is a maintenance procedure involving 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

A service will help improve the speed and performance of your computer.

Automatic Updates

Ensure your software is running automatic updates and check that these have been carried out.

To check your Windows updates:

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

If updates are available you can restart now or schedule your restart.

AV Virus Scan

There is a proliferation of adware, spyware and malware so good quality AV software is essential e.g. CryptoPrevent or ESET.  Your Antivirus software will check current definitions, if there is a new threat then your software will only protect against it once it has been patched (updated).

To carry out an AV scan open up your antivirus software and run the scan, this will check all the files on your computer and will remove the virus, if it can.  If virus removal fails seek professional advice.

Multifactor Authentication

It is better to prevent a problem than have to fix it. One of the leading sources of data breaches is through password theft so it makes good sense to complement your password policy with multi-factor authentication.  Multi-factor authentication identifies the user via more than one factor, such as a password or pin number, a mobile device or a fingerprint.  

Secure data back up

If you ever have a security disaster, such as a failed hard drive or malware damage, a good back up is the fastest way to recover and any damage can be quickly reversed with a recent back up. Ensure you have a secure back up that is GDPR compliant.

Proactive Monitoring and Security Service

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:

  • Protects against viruses and malware
  • Ensures backups are performing successfully
  • Managed updating of Operating System and 3rd party applications
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Offer practical solutions to ensure systems are running efficiently
  • 24/7 health check

It is all handled in the background, while your employees remain productive.

Address potential IT issues early before they drain your business of money and productivity.

For advice on streamlining your IT operations and increasing efficiency call us on 01603 451810.

 

Why software updates are fundamental to the security of your computer

Every business needs secure IT but for smaller businesses without in-house expertise it can be difficult to keep all the equipment up-to-date and secure. 

A software update, sometimes called a patch, is a free download that is critical to the security and performance of your computer.  Hackers are constantly writing malware to attack operating systems like Windows and commonly used software like Adobe, so software companies regularly supply updates to protect against these attacks.  Many people wrongly assume that because they have ticked the automatic update box that updates will happen routinely, but this process can easily be interrupted by a corrupt file or glitch in your computer.

Why are updates important?

  • Updates provide critical security patches that protect against hackers and computer viruses
  • Some of the most harmful cyber attacks take advantage of software vulnerabilities and software that has not been updated
  • They introduce enhancements to your software such as new and improved features
  • Software updates will improve usability, compatibility and performance of the software enabling you to work more efficiently

How do you check the update status of your computer?

  • To check your Windows updates: Windows Start – (pc) settings – update & security
  • To check Third Party Software updates take the recommendations from the software vendors or install a proactive monitoring solution.

If updates are available you can restart your computer or schedule your restart when you won’t be needing to use your computer, but never ignore an update. If the last update is over a month old you may have an update issue, as most updates occur on the second Tuesday of the month – Patch Tuesday.

Windows updates can be quick or frustratingly slow, a complex update can take considerably longer but other factors may affect progress such as; the quality of your internet connection, downloading when everyone else is or maybe your files are scattered and your computer needs defragging or a Health Check.

Beware of old operating systems which are no longer supported by Microsoft such as Windows XP. Whilst they may support your old software they leave you vulnerable to viruses and malware as they don’t have the latest software updates.

Good practice

Update Management System

Carry out an audit of your IT hardware and software and make a plan of how to manage it. Updating software can be done automatically but it will need to be checked regularly to ensure that updates have been carried out.

Standard update procedures

Have a standard procedure across all your IT and ensure updates occur regularly and around the same time.

Updates usually will install without a problem but occasionally you will get a conflict with other software, if you have a lot of computers in your business it makes sense to test the updates before rolling them out across the company.

Cloud software

If your software is via cloud services, updates will be applied automatically.  However, it will not include your Windows Operating System updates that are not in the cloud.

MDM

If you use mobile phones and tablets across your business ensure that you keep them up to date too.  Mobile Device Management software can help manage updates across all or some of your devices.

Proactive monitoring solutions

Our Bronze Plan will manage all the updating of your operating systems and third party applications and will monitor your systems 24/7.  It will also provide protection against viruses and ensure backups are performing successfully.

For practical advice on managing your updates and IT security please contact us or call for a chat on 01603 451810.

Benefits of Proactive Monitoring

IT plays a vital role in the way you work, communicate and service your clients. If your business as ever suffered any system problems or downtime you’ll know the serious impact it can have on your business, and you’ll appreciate how important it is that your IT support team is prepared for any eventuality.  Many modern businesses are now embracing proactive monitoring, which flags up IT problems at an early stage so they can be resolved quickly and efficiently.

Although many businesses are fully aware that to get the most out of their IT system they need monitoring and maintaining, they are often reluctant to spend money on a system that appears to be working fine. However a proactive rather than a reactive approach to your business IT can often save you money on annual IT costs as well as minimise loss of productivity through malfunctioning computer systems.

Proactive monitoring & maintenance services are now an affordable and cost-effective solution to help small and medium sized businesses manage the health of their Business IT.

Why choose proactive IT monitoring?

Greater reliability

Early detection of problems allows action to be taken quickly before the failure of hardware or software, or the issue has a chance to affect your entire network. The discovery and early resolution of problems prevents costly downtime, increases efficiency and saves you money.  

Increased productivity

Most IT problems will show warning signs before they become critical.  Monitoring your systems allows minor issues to be flagged up and resolved before they become bigger problems that take longer to fix.  Proactively managing your systems also enables them run to optimal performance helping people work more productively.

Better IT decisions

Proactive monitoring provides up to date information on the overall health of your IT systems so you can make well-informed decisions on where to invest your IT budget, ensuring the greatest return on your investment.

Lower predictable costs

It is a monthly subscription service that can be scaled up or down to fit in with your current business needs. Prices start at £10 per month.

What does it monitor?

Your system will be monitored 24/7 with checks on hardware and software performance.  Regular reports will keep track of the performance and health of your IT system as well as advising you about maintenance carried out.

  • 24/7 proactive monitoring

  • 24/7 preventative maintenance

  • Antivirus and antimalware protection and monitoring

  • Managed software updates

  • Hard drive monitoring

  • Server monitoring

Peace of Mind

Whether you are a business with one or 100 computers, Proactive Monitoring is a cost effective and important tool to manage the health of your IT systems.  It will provide peace of mind that your Business IT is being managed to ensure maximum uptime and efficiency. 

If you would like any advice on Proactive Monitoring and Managed IT Services please call us on 01603 451810 or contact us to find out more.