Tips to leverage technology in your small business

Efficient technology is vital to the success of any business.  As a small business there are many IT solutions that can cost effectively drive your business forward and help you achieve a competitive advantage.  Here a few tips on how to leverage technology to help your business innovate and grow efficiently.

Key questions when reviewing your IT:

  • Does your IT meet the current needs of your business and is it easily scalable in the event of expansion?
  • What technology will help your business work more efficiently?
  • Is your IT Security sufficient and GDPR compliant?
  • Is your online presence professional and reaching your target market?

Align your IT Investment

When investing in technology ensure that it aligns with your business objectives.  The right technology can transform the way you work, however investment in the wrong technologies can be expensive and time consuming.  Whilst it is valuable to be seen using the latest technology it is more important to be using the tools that really make a difference to how you operate.

Always research your options and if you don’t have in-house expertise seek professional advice.  Good IT support will help you make IT investments that will help you work more productively and securely, and in the most cost-effective way possible.

Cloud solutions

Cloud solutions are a cost-effective way of managing your IT systems.  You can use the cloud for a huge range of business services, including email, calendars, file storage and applications.  It is all online, as and when you need it and you only pay for as much capacity as you need, so you can scale up or down as you require.

Microsoft 365 is one of the best cloud solutions around and used by businesses of all sizes.  It enables your staff to work from anywhere whether it is at home, on the train, or abroad, facilitating more agile and efficient work practices. Office 365 eliminates the possibility of data loss through system crashes and if you lose any data through human error this data can easily be restored. It has advanced security features that protect against external threats and provides internal access controls.

IT Security and Backup

Cyber-attacks are becoming more advanced and sophisticated, so every business needs to take IT security seriously.  Whether you are worried about new viruses and malware, external and internal security threats, unauthorised access to crashed systems or accidental deletion of files you need to protect your business network and data. 

Your company data and client information are vital to your business and a major data loss could be critical. In the event of a data breach, you need to have a secure backup system in place so you can recover information quickly and minimise disruption.

Without the correct security in place workstations, networks, servers, cloud solutions, printers and mobiles are all open to attack.  Your IT strategy should outline how to safeguard your business as well as be compliant to current regulations.

Cyber Security Awareness Training

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. 

Our cyber security training costs £2 per person month, for more details email hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

Proactive monitoring and maintenance

If your business relies on fast and efficient computers but you don’t have time to monitor and manage their maintenance, you may want to consider a proactive and monitoring solution like our Bronze Plan.  It will protect against viruses and malware, ensure backups are working, manage updates and carry out computer maintenance. By proactively looking after your computers they will operate more efficiently and reliably, enabling you to work more productively and with less stress.

Online presence

Having an online presence has become more important during the pandemic and can help you build your brand and reach your target market.  It is estimated that half of customers will look at a website and online reviews before purchasing, so without these you will be missing out on a significant amount of potential business. When creating or reviewing your website keep in mind its purpose and target market and ensure that what you offer is crystal clear.  An easy to navigate website that is mobile friendly with well written content will help to increase engagement and sales.  Do not forget a contact button so visitors can easily call, email, or web chat for more information.

Social Media is also an effective way to market your business, develop your brand, and build relationships with your customers.  Choose a few key platforms that your target audience uses and build a social media strategy that helps you engage regularly.

IT supports the fundamental operations within a business.  If you would like advice on how to leverage technology to grow your business, please contact us 01603 451810 | hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

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 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.

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 can Office 365 improve your business?

Office 365 for business Norwich

A successful business relies on effective IT systems, but keeping up to date with the latest technology can be difficult and time consuming.  In the last twenty years there have been huge innovations in IT that have made enterprise level IT, such as Office 365, accessible and affordable to smaller businesses.  However many companies continue using outdated technology because they don’t realise that the right investment in IT will be cost effective and improve the way their business operates.

There are many reasons why companies are slow to invest in their IT.  Some companies lack the in-depth knowledge to know where to spend their IT budget wisely or are concerned that migrating to a new system will be disruptive, but by taking expert advice a cost effective solution will be achieved along with a smooth transition.  Another worry is the hassle of training staff, but as Office 365 is based on Microsoft Office, which is familiar to many, it need not be a concern.

Many companies don’t realise how much their current systems are hindering productivity until they move to Office 365. However before you make any decisions get advice on which Office 365 subscriptions will meet the needs of your business and get a quote of how much it will cost to set up professionally. 

What are the benefits of Office 365?

Improved security 

Keeping your business secure is vital and a key reason why companies migrate to Office 365.  Office 365 eliminates the possibility of data loss through system crashes and if you lose any data through human error the data can easily be restored to a previous version.  It has advanced security features that protect against external threats and provides internal access controls.  If you lose a phone or laptop the administrator can remove the data from that device whilst still allowing access to that information from other devices.  It is GDPR compliant and other security features can be bolted on so you can ensure you meet the security levels required for your organisation.

Flexibility to work from anywhere

Office 365 allows you to work on any device with an internet connection allowing to you to access any file, email or contact whenever and wherever you need it.  Whether you are working on the train, writing a report from home or travelling abroad you can access the information you need, and connecting remotely is easy and requires no technical skill.

Reduced maintenance and environmental costs

Office 365 stores data in the cloud so you no longer need an on-site server, which can be expensive to maintain.  It offers a greener solution with reduced hardware and energy costs.

Scaleable with predictable monthly costs

Many businesses find it hard to predict their growth patterns, but as Office 365 is a monthly subscription and you are not tied to lengthy contracts you can scale up and down as required.

Increased productivity with file sharing

Office 365 synchronises all files, emails and calendars so all your colleagues are looking at the latest version of a document, current emails and all new calendar entries.  

All new entries are mirrored across all devices and with SharePoint Online you can work on a document using one device and continue editing from another device such as your smartphone.

Microsoft Teams enables you to collaborate easily with colleagues on projects so you can screen share, co-author documents, chat and make video calls.

Tools to make you more productive

There are a plethora of Office 365 features that can enhance the way you work as well as all the tools you are familiar with such as Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Publisher.

Data back up

Microsoft back up all Office 365 data, including emails, in their data centres, which they ensure are secure.  The data can be restored to a previous version so you can get working again and is protected from natural disasters.

Office 365 is a cost effective solution that enables you to work more efficiently, cost effectively and with greater security. Call us for more information on 01603 451810.