Microsoft In Education

IT For Education

IT For Education Select Technology & Microsoft team up to deliver an Educational e-guide

Click here to view

Here’s an excerpt from the guide.

Education and learning are always changing both inside and outside the of classroom.

Students today need to able to collaborate, communicate and demonstrate flexibility in how they solve problems in order to thrive and achieve their goals.

Technologies are ever evolving and changing. Pencils and slide rules transitioned to calculators and spread sheets, in turn are turning to apps and on-screen inking.

As technology begins to proliferate, teachers are needing to embrace this change and require effective methods to integrated technology and engage students.

Click here to read more

Select Technology work with many schools and Academy’s around Kent and the south east of England.

Those services range from simple hardware and product supply to fully outsourcing IT management which includes the provisioning of and onsite IT manager.

IT For Education becomes more appealing for schools as Select Technology consolidate services.

By working closely with schools and Academy’s we have been able to consolidate services and package support offerings which ultimately cut IT overheads and budget spends.

We have found a unique way of ensuring that schools have a proactive and progressive path to technology.

By using our latest monitoring software and fully managed helpdesk Schools can benefit from a wealth of knowledge and support which in the past could have been hindered by lack of training and technical knowledge.

Because we have a long standing history and understanding of how schools operate we can provide maximum return on investment without compromise.

We now have a number of Schools that rely solely on the support and guidance of our Microsoft trained experts read here for our case study on Wrotham school one of which we have been working with for a long while.

A number of new schools are following Wrotham’s success, if you’re interested in finding out exactly how we can save you money contact us here.

Hospice in the Weald

Select Technology

Our very own Sales Manager Guy Webb is raising money again!

Select Technology has to admit you just cant keep this man down.

Select Technology are always keen to raise money for local charities and support our employees with all that they do, a few years back Guy raised over £700 for Hospice in the Weald by jumping out of an aeroplane over at Headcorn airfield.

In Guy’s words.

It was to most amazing experience with a beautiful clear day 12,000 feet up I could see the coast line as I jumped…

Now he’s back again raising more money for the Hospice by taking part in his first Triathlon over at Leeds Castle on June 25th.

This is the first time Guy has competed in this type of event, he’s hoping for a good day and clear weather and not particularly looking forward to the 750m swim in the Castle moat… this will be followed by 30k on the bike and 5k running through the rolling hills of Leeds Castle.

Next year Guy’s planning on taking on the Olympic distance Triathlon but needs to get through this sprint version first which is still a big challenge in itself which I’m sure you will all agree.

He has currently managed to raise over £300 which is excellent but there’s still time to help him out by donating, every penny helps and you could make the difference by helping him towards his target.

Click Here To view guy’s fundraising page.

This is a fantastic challenge and a great way to raise money for the local charity you can read more about the Hospice HERE.

The Hospice relies on people like Guy and the many others around the weald that help generate donations.

Select Technology will be cheering Guy all the way to the finish line let’s hope it’s fair weather.

Wishing him all the best from the team at Select Technology.

Warning! New Ransom ware Klepto Zepto Detected…

Ransom ware

Ransom ware Klepto Zepto could steal millions

This month Select Technology are raising awareness surrounding the dreaded ransomware…

The techno underworld is getting ever more sophisticated, looking at new ways to con businesses out of their hard earned money.

The latest type of ransomware popped up just a few days ago and sparked cause for concern. You can read the reason why Zepto has got the experts worried Here .

While these threats are very real there are many ways to ensure that you don’t get caught out by these extortionists.

It’s really important to understand the best ways to tackle these things because generally once the ransomware has been triggered and files have been encrypted then there’s very little a business can do to roll back the clock without massive disruption to business.

The key really is prevention rather than cure as the latter is almost non-existent. Even if you get caught out and then decide to pay the ransom it’s highly unlikely that you will ever get your files back, unfortunately we have read many stories where just that has happened.

Ransom ware is real so let’s get back to the important message of prevention rather than cure!

Select Technology have devised a number of ways from raising end user awareness via in house training to adding extra layers of security included as standard in our flagship service Prestige.

Select Prestige is simply the go to premium service for full peace of mind that your systems and files are supported, serviced and protected from vulnerabilities.

Prestige comes in two flavours: Prestige and Prestige 24/7, these services are unrivalled by any of our competitors as standard which is something we are really proud of.

Our customers seem to love it too, check out our Google reviews to see what they’re saying Here.

If you have genuine concerns about ransomware and you want to talk it through then please feel free to call us on 01892 830 111.

If you want to find out more about our Prestige services and are looking for business IT support services that packs a punch then also feel free to call today and one of the team will talk you through what you might be missing out on.

Crypto Locker threats, protect your business with Open DNS

Crypto Locker

Crypto Locker a real threat using Cisco DNS can help protect your business.

Crypto locker is one threat Open DNS can protect against using analysis of global internet data and malware which shows a complete view of domains and IPs where attackers are staging.

Fast incident investigations.

Search up-to-the-minute threat data and historical context about all domains on the internet and respond quickly to critical alerts.

Improved Prioritised Incidents.

Leverage Cisco’s unique view of the internet to enrich security event data and threat intelligence.

Okay so what does all of the above mean? Good question!

It means that Select Technology are proactively working with leading partners such as Cisco to deliver high levels of security to your business.

Open DNS goes much deeper than Anti-Virus or Anti-Spam and should not be compared as such.

Open DNS gives us the tools to take on more control against nasty attacks that cost business millions in lost revenue per annum.

It’s a little bit like the Ozone layer!

Having an extra layer of security including Web filtering, Security intelligence and Security Enforcement gives businesses a very much needed peace of mind.

This services is standard with our Prestige service and is just one of many really useful added benefits. It’s all about ensuring you get the best out of IT.

Applying Open DNS is pain free with little or no disruption to your end users and zero impact to performance coupled with a simple low cost price per user model it’s a no brainer for that extra peace of mind.

If you’re worried about Crypto Locker and are not 100% sure of your protection then let us do a security audit.

If you’re thinking of becoming one of our Prestige customers then this level of protection comes as standard. Because we understand the importance of security and the impact poorly these threats have or supported managed environments.

Select technology are always delivering technology solutions Without Compromise.

If you would like to find out how our services can help protect your business then call us on 01892 830110 and ask about Prestige or click here and fill out our contact form so we can call you right back.

Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity

Disaster recovery and business continuity plan, you have one don’t you?

Disaster Recovery

It’s the day after all hell has broken loose and something in the server room unexpected went bang.

Now you sit there and try to figure things out as you question how everything you put your heart and soul no longer exists.

What will you tell your employees, or your friends and family?

What will you tell the insurance company?

Where do you turn from here?

Fortunately this situation is 100% avoidable, if you take action and plan.

If you have a plan already then we salute you, you’re part of an elite group and a minority.

It’s still surprises me that so many businesses overlook IT and technology and just assume it’s all going to work forever.

A bit like your car engine you rarely need to go under the bonnet but you expect it to work every time you turn the key…

Like it or not technology is the life blood of any business small or large therefore needs regular investment (time & money) and planning.

If you don’t have a plan and want to join those that understand the importance of this kind of service, then do it today, don’t wait until tomorrow.

Speak to your IT support provider today and if they cannot help you then we can!

We have a full range of disaster recovery and business continuity services to ensure you have one less thing to worry about tonight.

So to recap:
Decide how much downtime your business can afford
•Talk with your managed services provider to formulate a plan
•If you do nothing else, ensure you have a decent backup
•Speak to us if you’re still unsure about protecting your business

Pop over here  and fill out the enquiry form so we can come back to you with some free impartial advice.

IT Outsourcing, how do we make it friendly?

IT Outsourcing

IT Outsourcing, how do we make it friendly?

A few months on the school run I got three miles up the road when my daughter cries out;

“My phone, I’ve forgot my phone, turn around!”

My first thoughts were that she really didn’t need that phone, but she kicked up such a fuss telling me how she couldn’t go about her day without it, so I turned the car around.

I spent too much time later that day thinking how ridiculously my daughter had behaved about her phone.

I told myself that it wasn’t that long ago that none of us used mobile or had internet and how I could go without technology, no problem.

Then it happened…

I few weeks later I did the same thing and it hit me how much I thought I needed that phone and turned the car around again!

The point here is that you will miss it when IT’s gone. I’m not just talking about your mobile, I’m talking about your business applications, email, documents, etc.

I’m still shocked that a high number of small to medium businesses put little or very low priority on their IT systems.

I get the impression from some business owners that technology feels like a necessary evil and a costly pain which needn’t be the case.

IT Outsourcing is important, It’s no mistake that some of our most success clients prioritise technology at a much higher level.

Investing properly into technology has a number of benefits especially when things go wrong, and inevitably they will.

Having a strong focus and understanding of your technology, business critical applications and such, means that we can get you back on track faster and this is made easier if technology is up to date.

Avoiding technology will not make it go away.

Some of the biggest complaints is that IT is boring, unfriendly, geek-ish, complicated, the list goes on.

But.

That doesn’t have to be the case anymore the IT technician is changing.

We find more and more quality people with the right technical skills, soft skills and empathy.

Just like the most successful companies investing in the quality of technology we invest heavily in our people to ensure our clients get the best out of IT Outsourcing.

Contact us today for a friendly chat and insight into how things could be better… click here

IT Support Kent

IT Support Kent

IT Support Kent, there are lots of IT companies in Kent but how do you choose the right one to support your organisation? Break out the Trumpet…

Below are a few snippets from some very happy customers new and old. These businesses have taken time out to write some fantastic reviews on Google for us.

We thought you should know what others are saying about Select Technology as it will hopefully help you make the right decision when choosing your new support provider. Each line is a different customer speaking about our services.

You can read the full reviews here and find out who is spreading the good news.

As IT Director of a leading Kent Law firm I was looking for a capable local IT support Select have grown into a helpful, capable and trustworthy IT support business led by a very passionate management team and an equally capable team of IT engineers.

The level of service, technical knowledge & customer service has always been top class.

No job is too small or large and requests are all dealt with in the same professional and timely manner and are followed up using a very efficient IT ticketing system.

Great service, professional, fast and efficient. Together we have implemented our IT infrastructure that is fit for purpose and in doing so it has allowed my business to grow rapidly.

As a small business, we don’t have the knowledge or time to manage our IT systems in-house.

We don’t have a great deal of contact with Select, which is how we like/want it! Our server, emails, anti-virus and backup are all managed in the background.

IT Support Kent, solutions delivered in plain English…

If we ever have a problem the support team are always on the end of the phone/email and are quick to reply to queries and resolve issues and are able to explain things in plain English.

Nothing is too much trouble and all of the support team are more than helpful however big or small the problem.

1 to 1 handling of inquiries ranging from Sales, Projects to Day to Day Support. Innovative and forward thinking, with the right approach to proactive preventive solutions.

We’ve been incredibly impressed by their fantastic service so far, and look forward for more to come in the future. Their friendly and knowledgeable engineers really make a difference.

Select Technology have been looking after our IT solutions for several year and are constantly making improvements and building in stability to our systems, we are in safe hands!

Very Impressed with the knowledge of the engineers and the helpfulness of the office staff.

As always feel free to drop us a line on 01890 830110 or fill out the contact form below and we will call you back.

Outsourced IT, what does that mean?

Outsourced IT

Outsourced IT, what does that mean?

Good Question!

When we talk about outsourcing here at Select Technology we are not referring to offshore outside of UK outsourcing.

We are referring to tailored outsourcing services utilising our very own service desk and our own employees all managed from our service desk here in Tonbridge, Kent.

Whether in part or in full, IT outsourcing requires a flexible and skilled service provider. Whatever your reasons for outsourcing, we provide a tailored service to meet your organisations unique requirements.

Remote IT Support

Some organisations outsource elements that are expensive and ineffective to run in-house, up to an including their entire Helpdesk function. With our extensive experience of common infrastructure technologies we are often better placed to deal with common tasks such as Microsoft infrastructure support. Our remote services can provide all Helpdesk functions, including 24×7 support if required.

Onsite Support

In other scenarios we provide dedicated technical staff onsite, integrated with your existing team. They’ll bring extensive and varied experience to the table, and will stay with you as long as required. And as Select Technology team members, they’re 100% committed to delivering a superior service.

Our outsourcing agreements can also include protection against traditional staff challenges such as unplanned absences, providing an essential continuity of service. We’ll tailor our service to meet your unique needs.

The Perfect Fit

Full or partial outsourced IT expertise for Helpdesk, skills infill and knowledge gaps. companies of 25 – 250+ would benefit from these services. We also have some example clients where Select Technology have 2-3 staff complimenting the in-house IT team, fully integrating in all areas.

This means that our client benefits from specific skill sets, has flexible bespoke services and burst capacity for their in-house team. Also we completely take the pain away from our clients when it comes to the recruitment process which in itself can be very time consuming.

Outsourced IT Case Studies

You will find relevant case studies here and here.

These are some highlights of this bespoke service and if you would like to find out more then please fill out the contact form below and we’ll get straight back to you or alternatively call us today on 01892 830111.

Questions are good, ask as many as possible we look forward to speaking to you soon.

IT Project Management

IT Project Management

IT Project Management, getting expert advice from our projects team can mitigate risks, drive efficiencies and identify opportunities.

You need advice. Perhaps your business is expanding, your concerned about security, or you’re fed with an ageing flaky network. Or maybe you’re further down the track, and have identified the technology that could help – but just want to know if it will work for your business.

Whatever your circumstances, Select Technology’s team of Project Consultants is on hand to offer clear, actionable advice. Led by Projects Manager Scott Relf, the team’s expertise spans technologies including Microsoft infrastructure, Cloud, Security, Virtualisation and Networking.

IT Project Management ensures continuity and a seamless implementation

The process begins with a consultation in which we’ll discuss the business problems or opportunity you face. We’ll then draw up up plan to show you the ways in which technology could help, and describe how it could be implemented.

There’s no hard sell at Select technology, simply clear, down-to-earth help from the experts in the field. And if you’re happy with our recommendations then work will begin, all led by Scott and his team. In this way we ensure continuity and a seamless implementation.

In Scott’s own words he is determined to deliver a quality of service unrivalled by our competitors which is only made possible by the extraordinary expertise and skillsets of the team.

What type of projects do we cover?

No project is too small. We can deal with small scale Microsoft Office 365 cloud migrations up-to full infrastructure refresh rebuilding networks from the ground up, Virtualising server environments, and Co-location.

In recent months we have designed and build huge extended networks from our long term clients due to rapid growth within their industry. Select Technology fully integrated during the initial stages working from blueprint drawings advising network layout, security and WiFi systems. You can find out a little more about projects here.

Select Technology have also worked with a number of larger clients to assist with large scale cloud migration supporting the CIO and in house teams ultimately providing burst capacity required adding an extra layer of comfort during these sometimes stressful situations.

If you need advise on a project then please call us today on 01892 830111 or fill out the form below and we’ll come straight back to you.

Office 365 Migration

Office 365 Migration

Office 365 Migration, what are the benefits?

At Select Technology we are often asked by clients: What are the real benefits of moving to Office 365?

Clients with on-premise email servers (such as Microsoft Exchange server) who have invested in hardware and software licensing to host the email in their data centre often struggle to see benefit of moving away from something they have already paid for and used without any issues!

It’s easy to overlook the overheads of managing and hosting Exchange on-premise. These include hardware running costs like power, cooling, warranties, backups, and maintenance.

Office 365 Migration: Is Your Data Safe?

Many IT teams who maintain their email server online are responsible for ongoing management, maintenance, and up-time.

The time spent here often forces IT teams to avoid taking on other IT projects just in order to keep the business email system up and running. You not only have to consider the cost of running email smoothly; you also need to consider disaster recovery costs.

So how exactly does Office 365 address the above concerns?

Is your data safe?

What exactly are the real benefits of moving to Office 365?

Up-to-Date Email System on Resilient Hardware

Moving to Office 365 removes the need for you to invest in the hardware and software to maintain an email system.

Moreover, you don’t need to worry about patch management of your environment because Microsoft takes care of that as part of your subscription.

office 365 migration

Microsoft guarantees 99.9% up-time. Office 365 provides very flexible scalability without having to worry about resource capacity if you are hosting the email on premise.

Seamless Integration With Your Existing Software

Customers are often worried that moving to office 365 will change the way users currently use their PCs.

Office 365 provides seamless integrations with existing Microsoft products like Outlook, Word, Excel etc. In fact, Office 365 enhances their experience by providing Office web apps which can be used on the go.

Basically, the end user experience remains the same with little disruption if any!

Office On the Go

An Office 365 migration enables you to have a truly mobile experience.

You can access your email anywhere and at any time. Using Office Web Apps and One Drive enables users to access and work on their files on the move.

Skype for Business enables customers work closely with teams even if they are out of the office.

Most Office 365 subscriptions let you download the latest copy of the Office on up to five devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Collaboration and Communication With Your Partners

Many businesses these days need to share information with their partners and other companies.

Office 365 lets you create and share information and files using password-protected portals. It provides you with a single place for document management regardless of how many people are working on them.

Security

Data security is top of everyone’s list of priorities.

Security is a top priority in Microsoft data centres. Office 365 provides built-in Spam filters which scan your email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Microsoft not only provides data security but also physical security, as their data centres are certified to meet multiple industry standards.

office 365 migration

As you can see, there are many benefits for moving to Office 365. It couldn’t be simpler to implement, with our help you could be up and running in no time at all.

This post was written by our IT Project Consultant, Mantej Yadav. If you want to know more about Office 365 then drop us a line today.

IT outsourcing companies

IT outsourcing companies

IT outsourcing companies in Kent & London – how do you choose the right one?

First and foremost changing your IT support service provider shouldn’t be disruptive.

Select Technology has developed a comprehensive on boarding process to audit your current systems and plan a smooth transition.

We also take the opportunity to baseline your network in a security assessment.

Wait a moment, isn’t that what all IT service providers say?

That’s right, and when every other company is trying to shout louder just to be heard it all ends up being a lot of indecipherable noise.

Back to square one then…

This perpetual and painful loop continues for you until one day the pain of being with your current IT support service provider gets too much and you jump into a new partnership under pressure.

Then you quickly find out that that slick sales approach was, just a slick sales approach and you’re right back into that loop.

Sounds like Ground Hog Day…

IT outsourcing companies in Kent and London who’s walking the walk?

The mishap I mentioned above really doesn’t need to happen either as it’s my belief that there are many good IT outsourcing companies in Kent and London providing fantastic services.

So what happens when you find a good IT support company?

The old switcheroo…

Select Technology have invested a LOT of time making the switch over so simple and ridiculously pain free because first impressions last.

The bottom line is that your end users of technology should expect the same daily experience being able to access information and log help desk tickets in a fast and efficient manner with ZERO disruption.

We understand that.

If this means we have to redirect email because end users are used to emailing the helpdesk in a certain way then so be it, change can be daunting.

By planning around your business needs and anticipating Issues, we’ll ensure your first impression is as outstanding as your on-going customer service.

It’s all about the planning, including the little things. The little things have big impact! Especially if overlooked!

To find out if Select Technology really walk the walk then contact us TODAY and we might surprise you with an offer you cant refuse!

Walk this way…

IT Services Kent

IT Services Kent, how secure is your business?

Below is some really important information on staying safe and secure from Cyber threats…

WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?

Ransomware is a piece of malicious software designed to hold hostage a user’s files (such as photos, documents, and music) for ransom by encrypting them and demanding the company pay a fee (often in Bitcoin) to decrypt them.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Experts say that ransomware has a lot to do with exploitation of the human element – like employees, customers, and suppliers. Attackers have many ways to initiate an attack—everything from common advertising and phishing methods to sophisticated USB flash drive tactics.

The infections can begin when users click on links in phishing emails or if malicious ads or compromised sites redirect users to domains hosting exploit kits. Exploit kits can also be delivered via email attachments or infected USB flash drives.

When the exploit kit successfully exploits a system, it makes a call back to a ransomware drop host to retrieve the private keys needed to encrypt the endpoint. Most popular exploit kits have to resolve a domain name to an IP address to initiate the call back.

WHAT CAN SMALL- AND MID-SIZED BUSINESSES DO?

Deploying technology offerings and tools designed to combat ransomware alongside comprehensive company-wide strategies can go a long way in preventing – and in the worst case – mitigating a ransomware incident’s impact.

While ransomware is expected to net cybercriminals $1 billion this year, and its growth shows no signs of slowing down, organisations can still win with the right technology on their side.

Reduce your risk of ransomware starting with an evaluation of your existing security program if necessary, there are steps you can take to avoid having your data held hostage by cybercriminals.

HOW CAN SELECT TECHNOLOGY HELP YOUR BUSINESS?

We are working harder than ever to help tackle these ever present Cyber threats.

Some of our customers will already know that our new Prestige service is designed from the ground up with better security in mind, including everything from regular security auditing to Open DNS security helping to tackle these daily threats.

IT SERVICES KENT – HELPING YOUR BUSINESS!

Unfortunately over the last 12-18 months we have seen more and more businesses affected which could have been prevented, all this comes at a cost whether that’s business downtime or financial investment.

Here’s a link to a Video called “Ransomware – Anatomy of an attack” we sent it out on social media recently, it’s just 4 mins long but really packs a punch:https://youtu.be/4gR562GW7TI click the link to watch it now.

If you have any concerns about Ransomware or the general security of your network and systems then please do contact us today on : 01892 830110.

Internet of things

Internet of things

How well connected are you?

We live in an exciting age where everything including your house could be classed as smart…

These days there’s no getting away from the fact that we are becoming more connected with technology.

Think about it…

Your Phone. Your Car. Your Watch. Buildings and Sensors everywhere!

Maybe even your wallet will become a smart device, reporting data 24/7 to the internet, cloud applications and such. (Apple Pay)?

If we were to paint a picture of constant data transfer it would indeed be very colourful.

I wonder how long it will take before we are all wearing Microchips reporting back to a health service of our well being in real-time?

Or chipped to unlock doors?

Wait that’s already happening read Here.

Why am I writing about the Internet Of Things?

Because it’s really important to understand that while the boundaries are endless, there’s a dark side to all of this and unfortunately there always will be that darker side!

In a business setting, watertight security has never been under more pressure than now.

Remember this is a time when we are supposed to be marvelling in the joys of technology.

If all we do is open the door to attack then we better be prepared…

Businesses are under increased pressure to provide flexible conditions which include remote working.

The fact is that lots of businesses also allow the use of personal devices and this works for some smaller businesses that prioritise keeping the costs down.

It’s easy to infect a device and as long as it’s a programme it can be manipulated, even if it’s your car or an implant in your hand. (read linked post above).

In order to win the battle we humans need to be smart, thinking and acting smart.

Select Technology provide annual security auditing of all things connected to your business network because we understand the importance of security.

There’s no question that we have made this service standard for our Prestige managed services clients because your security and success in business is our future.

If you want to find out more about our services especially the security of your business then please contact us today as we will be happy to advise.

How Much is Your Loyalty Costing You?

One of the most common objections I hear when talking to businesses is that they are happy with their current IT support provider.

The reason behind this steadfast loyalty usually falls into one of three categories:

  • Family / Friend: “My third cousin does it all for us.”
  • Satisfaction: “We haven’t had any problems.”
  • Longevity: “We’ve been with them for X years.”

These are all legitimate reasons; however, your unwillingness to consider alternatives could be costing you more than you realise.

IT Support Provider

The Three Hidden Costs of Loyalty

As far as I can tell, there are three main costs to never challenging your incumbent providers:

Financial

 

When was the last time you made sure you’re getting the best value for money?

Just imagine that every month you spend £75 more than you need to on, say, widget insurance.

Every year, this equates to £900, so over five years we’re talking about £4500 which could have been spent on R&D, system upgrades, or staff incentives – *cough*pizza!*cough*

These figures are pretty arbitrary of course, but should illustrate how cutting costs on just a single service can result in some significant savings.

Logistical

 

When did you last check that your provider is still a ‘best fit’ for your business?

Before sending a prospective client a proposal I take the time to visit the premises to discuss requirements and pain points, and to get a feel for the way the business operates in a broader context.

No two people or organisations are the same, so a provider who offers a genuinely bespoke service as standard is going to be more adaptable as your business changes and grows.

Opportunity

 

What else could you be spending your time and resources on?

Squeezing more value out of your providers and improving efficiencies in your business will free up your resources to pursue other opportunities for growth.

As a quick thought exercise, consider some areas of your business that could be automated or outsourced.

How many hours you could save each week?

What could you do with that extra time?

 “But they earned our loyalty!”

Loyalty in business isn’t just earned once. It must be maintained.

The same is true of everything from vehicles to marriage, and even your bank balance.

If these things aren’t proactively given plenty of TLC, it will soon become noticeable.

Don’t believe me?

Skip your car’s next service, forget your wedding anniversary, and ignore your bills – see where that gets you!

In my opinion you owe it to yourself, your business, and your family to run as tight a ship as possible, so make your providers work for your continued loyalty.

If you’re not sure how to approach this, call me and I’ll happily provide some questions you can ask companies like your IT support provider to prompt some innovation.

 “But I want loyal customers!”

Customer loyalty creates great testimonials and enables more accurate revenue projections, but let me ask you a question.

Do loyal customers challenge you to change?

To grow personally?

To improve as a business?

Kaizen is the Japanese business philosophy of continual improvement.

Literally meaning “change for good,” kaizen holds as one of its central tenets the idea that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time.

kaizen

Are your providers acting in accordance with kaizen?

Are you?

We’re either growing or dying; there is no middle ground or static position.

“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” – 10 points to anyone who can name the movie!

When you deal with an “awkward customer,” do you resent having to step outside of your comfort zone or do you welcome the challenge?

To prosper as a modern business, you need to be creating, innovating, and refining.

It is your most demanding clients who will force this kind of positive change, or kaizen.

The Comfort Zone is a Grave

PR firm Berkeley put out a great little blog post a while back entitled “Metathesiophobia – The fear of change, and something we are all guilty of!”  here’s an excerpt:

“Look at the likes of Kodak, Blackberry and Blockbuster. All are dead, or dying because of a fear of change and lack of innovation. Now compare this to Google, the most successful internet company of today; Netflix, which has turned the TV network into an app and Apple, a company that doesn’t need an introduction. The difference, not just in marketplace but in survival, is huge, and all because some are willing to innovate products and services in line with their customers’ needs and the ever changing world we live in.

Our very own Guy Webb also likes to talk about metathesiophobia – if you want a laugh, give us a call and ask him to say it three times fast!

Look, I know it isn’t always practical to put out tenders and have meetings with umpteen providers every year, but you need to go above and beyond if you’re going to differentiate from your competition.

This is achieved by allowing the kaizen philosophy to permeate through your entire business – many small changes accumulated over time.

The Full Disclosure Challenge

Here’s your chance to step out of your comfort zone in a controlled environment.

Where are you falling prey to metathesiophobia in your own life?

You can gloss it up by calling it complacency or laziness, but those are just examples of you moving away from the pain of having to make a change it’s all the same!

Leave a comment below with an area of your business or even your personal life that may have stagnated due to fear of change.

Make what you will of the scary spider…

The Cloud: Five Misconceptions About Office 365 Holding Your Business Back

With a growing number of businesses moving their computer systems into the cloud, you might have been considering migrating to Office 365.

This post was inspired by a recent eBook released by Microsoft called Myths About Moving to the Cloud – What Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Really Need to Know About Moving to Microsoft Office 365.

We didn’t cover everything in the eBook, so be sure to check it out!

There are a fair few differing opinions on the subject, but as your business grows you will ultimately want to look at O365 as a worthwhile investment.

Providing our clients with IT support and services gives us insights into the overall perceptions that individuals and organisations have about modern technologies.

Let’s look at five of the most persistent misconceptions that you may have about Microsoft 365 and elevating your business into the cloud:

1. Office 365 is Just an Online-Only Version of Office

Far from it!

Microsoft has developed Office 365 as a unique cloud-based productivity suite that covers all of your usual office tasks.

However, the applications you know and (hopefully) love like Outlook, Word, Excel, and Skype are still installed on your device. This means that you can access them offline with the option to automatically sync your data when you reconnect to the Internet.

O365 gives you the consistency of offline applications with the added benefit of being able backup and collaborate in the cloud.

2. Email is Unchanged in the Cloud

Wrong!

At Select Technology we’re mad advocates (#madvocates?) of being proactive in our IT support and services, so this next point definitely resonates with me.

One of the best things about Outlook 365 is that moving your business email to the cloud places maintenance into the hands of Microsoft. This means that you can be more proactive by working on your core business, rather than re-actively fighting fires as the arise.

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Office 365 email login is seamless, and Microsoft’s Exchange Online can be set to update automatically, with enough customisation options included to keep you in the driver’s seat.

If you’re still not convinced, bear in mind that you don’t actually need to migrate your email to O365 right away.

Microsoft offers a few different Office 365 plans based on your needs and preferences.

3. Office 365 Will Negatively Impact My Business’ Agility and Security

Never!

As we just touched on, less time spent on upgrades and maintenance equates to more time available for growing the value of your business.

Microsoft 365 makes your business more adaptable and agile, and will often save you considerable sums of money that would have been spent on expensive servers.

As for security, this comes straight from the horse’s mouth:

“To keep Office 365 security at the pinnacle of industry standards, our dedicated security team uses processes such as the Security Development Lifecycle; traffic throttling; and preventing, detecting, and mitigating breaches that many companies don’t have the resources to ensure. And, Microsoft Office 365 has a 99.9 percent financially backed uptime guarantee.”

Microsoft also lists a myriad of acronyms like FISMA, FERPA, and PIPEDA to highlight the endless rules and regulations they adhere to.

4. Monthly Updates Will Cause Issues with My Business Applications

False!

This one’s easy.

Microsoft have enough experience working with enterprise-level clients to know that their cloud offering must ensure operational continuity on all levels – no one would buy it otherwise!

Your business no doubt relies on some kind of critical bespoke solutions. If they can operate alongside Office 2010 or Office 2013, they will probably work with Office 365.

In fact, Microsoft has more than enough industry clout to work with the biggest software houses and ensure optimal integration with O365.

If you’re still worried, then rest assured that you can still keep your older version of Office installed just in case – Gates forbid – something goes awry!

5. Office 365 Migration is a P.I.T.A.

Nope!

Simply put, Office 365 migration is a cinch, but I’d like to use this opportunity to talk about something related.

This actually touches on a common overarching perception of IT being some kind of necessary evil, or expense that is to be tolerated and kept to a minimum.

That may have been true in years past, with clunky hardware sometimes being more of a liability than an asset.

Times have changed.

Another expertly coordinated migration

Another expertly coordinated migration

For us, IT should stand for Investment Technology.

With the incredible advances we’re seeing in the field… that’s exactly what it is – an investment!

Compare it to training your staff.

You might not see the results instantaneously, but as the weeks and months pan out – providing the training was decent – you’ll begin to reap the returns from your investment.

The exact same thing is true of cloud migration and IT support.

Investing in something that will help your business become more efficient and ultimately more profitable can’t be a bad thing!

If you’re ready to look at Office 365 migration or you’re not sure if it’s right for your business, call us today for some free advice.

The Entire Internet Infrastructure Reborn… in Slough?

The Internet in its present form was originally conceived as a way of transmitting simple communications like email.

As Internet infrastructure has evolved ever more rapidly, we have gone from text to online video games and live video streaming in just a few short decades.

We know the internet needs reinventing,” says Dimitra Simeonidou at the University of Bristol. “It was originally designed for basic communication like email, and now we want 4K video available to us standing on the street.”

So what is being done to give the Internet its much-needed makeover?

The Dark Age of Dialup

I’ve been fortunate enough to see mainstream consumer-level Internet pretty much from its inception.

I can still remember visiting an Internet café in London and paying for 30 minutes of dialup access; just about enough time to figure out how to navigate Internet Explorer and oh… so… slowly load up a few images on a Simpsons fan site.

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Moving forward a few years and being able to stream videos – but not without having to pause and allow YouTube to buffer first – was nothing short of amazing!

Now in 2017 we’ve got researchers like Dr. Toktam Mahmoodi talking about combining emerging telecom technologies with robotics to enable remote surgery on patients.

“I work with a surgeon who takes a train to Leeds once a week to perform robotic surgery, but he wouldn’t need to go there if the internet was better.” says Dr. Mahmoodi, “He could do the same procedure remotely, saving lots of time and effort.”

Straight Outta Slough

Given the interconnectedness of the Internet, it is hardly feasible for us to start messing around with an infrastructure that just about everyone uses on a daily basis.

It is impossible to roll out 5G or high speed light-based Li-Fi on a large enough scale to know with any certainty that they will stand up to the demands and environmental variables associated with entire cities or even countries.

With this in mind, researchers are using a server in Slough, Berkshire as a base for testing new ideas.

Straight Outta Slough

Researchers from the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Lancaster, and King’s College London will run their experiments. “We’ve rented high-speed fibre-optic cables to connect all of the different institutions, controlled from a server in Slough,” Dimitra Simeonidou continues, “We will be connecting everything from smart cities to 5G mobile internet.”

This provides an isolated environment that researchers can test ideas on without the fear of, well, breaking the Internet.

Scaling Innovation

The researchers are utilising technologies which for the most part already exist, but the difference here is the scale on which they can now be tested.

Whatever the results of these experiments, something needs to change.

The Internet infrastructure is well overdue for a big overhaul if we are ever going to see the dawn of remote robotic surgery and 4K live streaming from the beach.

We can’t wait to see what the next few years hold in store, especially as concepts such as the Internet of Things continue to develop.

Source: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2120393-internet-playground-trials-new-tech-to-deliver-smart-cities/

Part One: It’s Time to Start Viewing IT as an Investment, NOT an Expense

So many business owners view IT as some kind of necessary evil akin to tax that must be tolerated, rather than embracing IT as an investment.

IT as an alternative

Our recent post The Cloud: Five Misconceptions About Office 365 Holding Your Business Back touched on the idea that IT should be viewed as a legitimate investment rather than just another expense.

So why are so many businesses still refusing to accept IT for what it really is, Investment Technology?

The Pitfalls of Maintaining a Small Business Mindset

For this post I decided to borrow from someone far more experienced than myself.

Sales Manager at Select Technology, Guy Webb, has spent over a decade in the world of technology.

Guy has developed his technical prowess while always maintaining a keen emphasis on the people who ultimately rely on said technology.

MarkTo kick things off, what would you say is the biggest obstacle faced by small business owners today?

Guy: Rapid change presents a huge challenge for small businesses, especially when we look at how quickly technology is changing.

The real challenge is overcoming resistance towards making small incremental changes. But this needs to be done if a business is to keep up with the pace as technology develops.

Mark: And would you say there is a fear of obsolescence?

Guy: Obso-what now? Haha!

IT as an investment

Of course. A lot of businesses think it’s pointless to invest in a technology they think will be obsolete six months down the line, understandably.

This line of thinking means that IT falls down to the bottom of their list of priorities.

The small business mindset stems from viewing things like IT as an expense rather than something that can be invested in to help the business perform more efficiently.

MarkDo you see this mindset permeating into other areas of a business?

Guy: Absolutely.

I was just going to say that Marketing is another area that usually ends up as a low priority, when really it should be a top priority for most businesses.

If you’re not marketing your product, sales will suffer.

So I suppose the small business mindset leads to paying the bare minimum just to cover basic requirements. Or rather, what the holder of the purse strings thinks are basic requirements.

Price Shopping for a Rolls Royce

MarkSo without naming names, can you think of any of your own clients who may fall prey to small business mindset?

Guy: Well I can think of a great example of two clients who are roughly the same size and operate in similar industries, yet who are polar opposites in their attitude towards technology.

The first pays around £X per year for us to support XY employees; the other pays £3X for more or less the same number of users.

It’s no secret that we sometimes struggle to service the first client because their ‘bare essentials’ mentality doesn’t always account for the curve balls we’re thrown from day to day.

MarkThe second client pays almost three times as much for the same staff numbers – does the service really scale like that?

Guy: Well look, the £3X client understands and moves with the advancements that technology brings.

They’re not afraid to make that investment-

MarkAnd I guess even if they are afraid, they’ll do it anyway if they can see the value.

Guy: Exactly, and the £X client will probably end up spending any “savings” on some form of upgrade down the line anyway.

Look at it like this…

<Guy proceeds to scribble frantically on his notepad>

IT as an investment

Maybe we should invest more in our graphics…

On the left is a business who moves with the times and keeps their IT infrastructure up to date.

That big green area is the increased efficiency the business enjoys as a result of a consistent investment level [labelled IL] over time.

On the right is a business who puts off IT investments until they become a necessity for one reason or another.

Notice how much smaller the green area is for the guys who view IT as just another expense?

MarkWhat’s the grey area on the right?

Guy: That’s the efficiency and potential growth they’ve missed out on by not stepping out of their comfort zone. It’s a cliché but you get what you pay for!

If you go shopping for a Rolls Royce, you’re not going to be concerned with cost because Rollers aren’t a commodity. You’re shopping for the best quality, not the lowest price.

The same is true with IT; it’s not a commodity.

No two IT helpdesks are the same.

Skillsets, team structures, escalation procedures; even company culture. These things can all vary massively from one provider to the next so to compare them like for like is missing the point.

Price shopping can cripple the competitiveness of a business because it keeps you in a mindset of scarcity; worrying about the pennies instead of proactively searching for opportunities to bring in more pounds.

Part Two: It’s Time to Start Viewing IT as an Investment, NOT an Expense

Following on from Part One of our interview with Sales Manager Guy Webb, this final part looks at the hidden costs of deferring investment in your IT infrastructure and refusing to look at IT as an investment.

IT as an alternative

MarkSo there are clearly some pretty significant hidden costs involved in putting off IT investment

Guy: Yep. And the problem is that it’s impossible to quantify missed opportunities from an operational point of view.

Successful businesses operate in a similar manner to successful entrepreneurs.

They are willing to take educatedcalculated risks, including making investments that may not provide an immediately tangible return. Education and training are prime examples of this.

It might feel like taking a leap of faith, but it doesn’t have to be scary if you’ve put in the necessary groundwork and removed as many question marks as possible.

Taking Ownership

MarkSo what do you think IT support providers like Select Technology can do to help matters?

Guy: Good question.

I think a big part of our responsibility is in properly demonstrating the value of IT… Investment technology, that is.

MarkHow do you do that?

Guy: It might sound counter-intuitive but learning is an emotional process.

<Pointing at the green sections of his drawing from Part One>

Maybe we should invest more in our graphics...

This is a bit like the comfort zone for each business.

The business that is willing to expand that comfort zone will learn and grow in the process. You can obviously see that the opposite is true for the other company.

So our job becomes demonstrating the importance of stepping out of that comfort zone; you’ll quickly find that what was uncomfortable or scary quickly becomes routine through repetition and, more importantly, curiosity.

As humans, we’ve evolved with a brain that screams “STOP!” when we experience pain or discomfort, but this is an outdated trait. We’re not having to outrun sabretooth tigers anymore.

IT as an investment

Fear can be useful, but it’s redundant in business.

We open our doors to all customers.

Anyone who reads this is welcome to pop in for a cup of tea and a chat. We invite every prospective client to come in and see how we operate, asking any questions along the way.

Understanding how our services work on a human level removes the unknown, which should reduce the fear massively.

MarkBut not all IT companies work like this.

Guy: Well, no, and that’s fine.

We would encourage any business to speak to other providers besides ourselves.

Remember that you’re not comparing a like-for-like commodity. Each provider you speak to will likely raise a couple of questions in your mind that you can use to better compare them.

Conclusion

Mark: Thanks for talking me through all of this.

So here are the main points I’ve gleaned:

  • Keep your business IT Infrastructure up to date
  • Small Business Mindset can cause stagnation and lead to missed opportunities
  • Take educated risks based on reasonable assumptions
  • Fear stems from a lack of information or understanding on a subject
  • IT managed services and solutions are not commodities

I also really like what you said, linking price shopping with scarcity mindset.

Guy: Exactly – how can you grow a profitable business if you’re busy counting the pennies?

Mark: Did I miss anything?

Guy: No, I think you covered the most important points.

Mark: Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?

Guy: Henry Ford said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’

A lot of people know this quote, but not many people really internalise it and put it into practice.

MarkHe also said that we get old when we stop learning, regardless of age.

Guy: Yeah. So what I’m getting at is that the growth, development, profit, and all that good stuff exists squarely outside of your comfort zone.

Look at Tesco. When they introduced the Tesco Clubcard it was a huge risk – something like 20% of their revenues were on the line. But the data they collected on customers, and the loyalty it created in consumers… well, you get the point.

<Check out Tesco: How one supermarket came to dominate>

If you’re not learning, experimenting, trying new things, taking calculated risks; you’re not going anywhere.

So there you have it.

Step out of your comfort zone, shake off the Small Business Mindset, invest in your IT infrastructure, and improve your operational efficiency.

Call us today to learn more about how we can help!

5 Important Questions to Ask IT Support Providers

With 2017 well under way, it’s the perfect time to review your IT Support contract to ensure you’re receiving the best value through the coming year.

IT Support

According to recent research, 72% of UK businesses suffered 43 hours of downtime over the last year.

The cost of this downtime is estimated to be £521 per employee, for a total nationwide loss of 149 million hours and £12.3 billion (with a b)!

Even if you have only experienced half as much downtime, it is easy to see how important it is that you have a solid IT helpdesk backing up your business.

In today’s post we’re going to lay out some simple questions to ask IT Support providers when reviewing your infrastructure this year

1. What is Your IT Support Experience?

We’re all for giving young businesses a chance, but you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to stake your business and reputation on a company who has only been around for five minutes.

Before digging into the details, be sure to ask:

  • How many years have you been around?
  • Do you have any clients in my industry?
  • Can I speak to any of your customers?

As many as 50% of small businesses fail within their first five years.

Consider also that the managed services industry is an overcrowded market. Stick to providers who have been around for five years or longer if you want greater peace of mind.

Team structure is another important factor because very large organisations experience a gulf between junior and senior staff.

The sweet spot will be a company that is big enough to provide a quality proactive service, but small enough that senior talent works ‘in the trenches’ with the rest of the helpdesk.

2. What Security Measures are in Place?

Check out this video and then tell us that security isn’t important!

Naturally, you will want to ask IT helpdesk providers what encryption and authentication protocols they have in place.

The following are also worth asking:

  • What are your physical security measures?
  • How will you back up my data?
  • Tell me about your risk management strategy

A risk management strategy is something that any provider worth their salt will implement as this plays into the increasingly proactive nature of the IT services industry.

Your provider must help you not just help you when things go wrong – they must proactively ensure that attacks and faults don’t even occur in the first place!

3. What SLAs are Available?

Any business owner will be hyperaware of hidden costs and sneaky fine print.

A clearly written service-level agreement will ensure you don’t get caught out.

It goes without saying that you will want to ask helpdesk providers things like:

  • Is the given price really the entire cost?
  • Will you proactively monitor my systems?
  • Are contracts rolling or will I be tied in?

It can typically take 4 – 6 months to really gauge the effectiveness of an IT support provider, depending on the size of your organisation.

Nevertheless, alarm bells should be ringing if a company immediately insists that you sign into a three-year contract with no flexibility.

Confirm beforehand what will happen the level of service you will receive, as well as what kind of exit path is in place if you decide to change providers in the future.

4. How Do You Service Your Customers?

This is similar to the topic of SLAs.

Customer service is more important than ever for business-to-business relationships, so it’s well worth taking a minute to ask what each provider holds as its core values.

IT support

Small and mid-sized IT support providers can often provide a more personal or bespoke service, but be sure to ask:

  • Will I have an account manager?
  • Is your support team on-site or do you outsource?
  • Do you regularly train your staff?

Continual improvement and development of staff is vital in an industry where technology is advancing such a dizzying pace.

A great IT helpdesk company will stay up to date with advancements in technology and practices so you don’t have to.

5. How Will You Manage My Business as it Grows?

Forcing a square block through a round hole is not going to work for very long in business.

Your IT Support provider must provide enough flexibility for your business as it grows and evolves throughout the duration of your contract.

Make sure your provider can answer the following questions:

  • Will you provide an IT Roadmap for my business?
  • How do your contracts allow for scalability?
  • Can I change my plan mid-term if needed?

An IT Roadmap is a great way of ensuring a bespoke service that is specific to your business.

A senior technician should take the time to sit with you and discuss what your plans are for the coming months and years so that there are no surprises down the line.

Another benefit of planning ahead is that an outsider’s perspective might actually provide some insights and ideas that you hadn’t considered outside of the IT arena.

Call us today to discuss your IT plans for 2017 and you’ll quickly see that we tick all the boxes!

Source: https://www.beaming.biz/press-releases/12-billon-cost-internet-downtime-uk-businesses/

Company Directors: Signs Your Business Isn’t Ready for Managed IT Services (and What You Can Do About it)

Managed IT services providers can fill a number of roles for businesses, by augmenting existing in-house IT departments or replacing them with fully outsourced IT support.

managed IT services

As outsourcing becomes more effective and more cost-effective, the traditional on-premise IT team is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

One, two, or even a handful of IT staff simply cannot keep up with the knowledge and skills of an MSP (managed service provider) that employs a few dozen advanced technicians.

Strengthening the case of MSP even further is their ability to snap up the best talent by offering ongoing training and development.

But that doesn’t mean you are ready to move to outsourced IT support.

Here are a few signs that your business isn’t quite ready to work with an managed IT services partner:

1. You Don’t Know What to Look for in a Managed IT Services Provider

There are a number of questions you should be asking when speaking to IT service providers.

Get companies talking about their successes with existing clients, approach to security, and how they service customers who experience growth throughout their contract duration.

Tip: Read our guide on 5 Important Questions to Ask IT Support Providers

2. You’re Not Looking to Grow Your Business

This probably isn’t you.

Moving swiftly on…

3. Your IT Infrastructure is Outdated or Poorly Implemented

Even the best IT Support provider will find it impossible to keep your business’ systems ticking along if your infrastructure is a mess.

managed IT services

An experienced pair of eyes will be able to identify any potential security issues and inefficiencies in your IT architecture.

Tip: Grab some free consultation (without the tacky sales pitch) from one of our Senior Project Managers

Bonus Tip: Bag yourself a discounted Security Audit throughout the month of March.

4. Your House Isn’t in Order

Have a clear plan for budgeting before making any kind of investment in your business.

Our guide (see the link above) suggests that managed IT services providers should be able to provide clear a SLA and pricing model so you know exactly what to expect from onboarding and beyond.

workbook-1205044_1920

It goes without saying that value trumps price, so be prepared to really look at your MSP as a partner who can help you improve your business beyond just fixing stuff.

Tip: Part of our service involves creating an IT Roadmap that will help you scale workload and investment level based on your own business goals – Call us todayto find out more.

Conclusion

The take-home point from this post is that you should avoid investing in a partnership with a MSP if you aren’t equipped with the facts.

Speak to us today and one of our Senior Project Managers can help you figure out what level of outsourcing, if any, is right for your business.

Alternatively, here are Signs that it’s Time for Your Business to Look at Outsourcing IT.

The (Frighteningly) Real Cost of Downtime to UK SMBs

I’ve been talking about downtime and its effects on business continuity quite a lot recently.

business continuity

To be honest, the subject has served more as a segue into other things, but I came upon some pretty alarming statistics during my research.

Just look at these figures:

  • 72% of UK firms suffered up to eight Internet connection failures in the past year
  • These firms suffered 43 hours of downtime in the same period
  • The average cost in terms of lost productivity is £521 per employee
  • Network downtime costs 80% of SMBs £11,500 or more per hour

Pretty scary stuff, don’t you think?

But here’s the real kicker…

Despite these figures, 45% of small-to-medium UK businesses are still solely using on-premise hardware for their IT infrastructure.

This means that nearly half of UK SMBs have no cloud-based business continuity plan.

Compared to the USA – where 93% of SMBs have at least partial cloud backups – this is shocking.

No wonder Internet downtime is costing us over £12 billion per year as a nation.

Fortunately, cloud adoption rates are on the rise, but it’s important to keep your business ahead of the curve if you want to stay agile and competitive.

Talk to us today about Disaster Recovery Testing and Business Continuity – let’s get your business secure so you can focus on growing it!

Sources:

£12 billion: the cost of internet downtime to UK businesses

Building Trust in a Cloudy Sky: The state of cloud adoption and security

Network downtime is incredibly costly for SMBs

UK Cloud Adoption & Trends for 2016

Company Directors: Signs it’s Time for Your Business to Look at IT Service Providers

In this article we’re going to look at some telltale signs that it may be time for you to start talking to IT service providers to ensure you aren’t left behind.

IT service providers

Recent research from Intel shows that 93% of organisations are currently using cloud services.

By mid-2018 cloud spending will account for 80% of IT budgets, so working with a trusted managed services partner is becoming more important than ever.

Now just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t necessarily mean that working with a MSP is the right choice for your business.

Here are some signs that it could be high time for you to start looking at outsourcing your IT infrastructure:

1. You Want to Get Aggressive with Your Competition

In our article 5 Important Questions to Ask IT Support Providers, we discussed the cost of downtime to businesses.

Estimated at £521 annually per employee, you simply cannot afford to leave your IT infrastructure in a vulnerable state if your goal is to dominate the competition.

IT Support companies who offer proactive monitoring reduce the need for firefighting, solving issues before they affect your ability to work.

As your infrastructure improves, you will enjoy more reliable remote access, data analytics, and a greatly reduced risk of security breaches.

In layman’s terms, this means that you’ll be able to work anywhere, anytime. You’ll also have greater insights into what is and isn’t working strategically within the business.

Competitiveness is one of the more overlooked benefits of IT outsourcing.

IT service providers

Think about how much more quickly you’ll be able to act on ideas with a clearly defined IT Roadmap courtesy of an experienced MSP.

Product and campaign launches can run as they should; without the fear of some unforeseen technical hiccup.

2. You Have a Talent Shortage

It is becoming increasingly difficult to attract highly skilled and experienced IT professionals into small teams or solo departments.

The growing appeal of specialisation means that many of the best in the IT field would rather work with an established IT company. This will give them greater exposure to a broader array of skillsets, not to mention increased opportunities for training and development.

Working with managed IT service providers will enable you to leverage a large pool of skills without the rigmarole of a hiring process and the associated costs.

3. You Need to Stabilise Your Spending

Speaking of costs, there is a strong financial case to be made for managed IT services.

IT support providers offer a fixed monthly fee, making it easier for you to predict your IT investment for the year.

Again, the hiring process comes with a host of financial and logistical challenges, many of which can be avoided or negated by letting a MSP do the legwork.

Finding contractual staff for a six-month project is going to be a lot easier through a company who already has the talent ready to go.

4. Security, Security, Security!

Last but by no means least is the unavoidable topic of security.

An independent businesses’ security infrastructure is rarely going to be as robust compared to what dedicated IT service providers can achieve.

And that’s fine; your business doesn’t have to be good at everything.

IT service providers

The talent pool, purchasing power, and practical in-house experience utilised by a solid MSP can benefit you greatly if leveraged effectively.

Updates and patches to firewalls, software, and hardware can all be performed externally so that you can focus on growing your business rather than worrying about having to fight fires.

This also goes back to the matter of downtime, which will be minimised both proactively and reactively as issues are handled before and as they arise.

Conclusion

If any of these points resonate with you, call us today and let’s talk about how you might take your first step into outsourcing aspects of your IT department.

Select Technology offers an industry-leading 15-minute critical response time, keeping your downtime to a minimum and reducing the financial impact to your business.

On the other hand, here are Signs Your Business Isn’t Ready for Managed IT Services (and What You Can Do About it).

Amazon to Create 5,000 UK Jobs in 2017

Amazon joins Microsoft and Apple as the latest giant to announce that it is increasing its investment in Britain, with the addition of 5,000 roles across the country.

Last month’s post Got the Brexit Blues? Select Technology has the Antidote in Five Fantastic Flavours discussed Microsoft’s statement that it is “committed to the UK.” Amazon is now clearly following suit.

This hiring spree will be a record for Amazon in Blighty, taking staff numbers to a new total of 24,000.

So far it appears that most of the jobs being created will be based at Amazon’s fulfilment centres; however, new roles will also be made for software developers, technicians, and customer service reps.

UK country manager at Amazon, Doug Gurr, said the investment in Britain would provide, “even faster delivery, more selection and better value,” for UK consumers.

Additionally, some of these jobs will be based at development centres in London, Edinburgh, and Cambridge, the latter of which has already seen Amazon trialing its drone delivery service, Prime Air.

amazon air prime

If all of that wasn’t enough, Amazon are also set to open their new head office in London, further reinforcing their commitment to the UK.

The new 15-storey Amazon building will sit near the “Silicon Roundabout” in Shoreditch, and will house more than 5,000 staff by the end of the year.

Seeing as you’re already here, talk to us about how we can help your business reduce downtime and deploy projects with more haste than a Game of Thrones box set shipped via Amazon Prime.

The Select IT Projects Team is Growing! Let’s Meet Svet Vidinski

I recently interviewed our Sales Manager Guy Webb on the importance of viewing IT as an investment rather than just another expense.

Continuing our series of staff interviews, we’re moving over to the more technical side of things – the Select IT Projects Team.

Svet Vidinski recently joined the dedicated Projects team at Select Technology, so I thought what better way to welcome him into the fray than by subjecting him to a thorough interrogation!

The Projects Team’s Latest Member

Svet previously worked for one of our clients, and was quite familiar with us having already spoken to our Director Nick Potter a number of times.

He was looking to join an IT company when a position opened up on our dedicated IT Projects team.

Mark: So Svet, to start off I wondered if you could tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in the IT industry.

Svet: Okay, sure.

I have been interested in IT for around 25 years now.

It started off as more of a hobby but my first role was a two-month internship at a school that I completed as part of my MCSE training.

<For those uninitiated amongst us, an MCSE is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. The certification involves examination on Windows 2003, BackOffice, and other Microsoft products.>

IT projects

Mark: You mention starting off in IT as a hobby.

IT definitely seems to be a field that you need to be pursuing with a genuine passion.

Would you agree?

Svet: Yes, and that is part of what led me to work with Select.

Mark: I was just about to ask about your role here – could you elaborate?

Svet: Well, working in a company’s IT department means that you often only ever complete large projects once.

Things like server migrations only occur every few years so there isn’t enough repetition to really master what you’re doing.

Mark: So I guess working on our Projects team is exposing you to similar projects on a regular basis?

Svet: In a way, yes.

For example, I recently worked on Office 365 migrations for two clients, and this repetition definitely helps the learning process.

Mark: It sounds like you’re being thrown in at the deep end so far.

Svet: Actually I’m not being given more than I can handle right now but my role will develop as I learn more.

For now, the senior Projects technicians are delegating tasks to me, and I hope to become more client-facing. This will enable me to relay the knowledge I’m gaining in a way that customers can understand.

Mark: That sounds great!

Speaking of knowledge, tell us about your own areas of expertise and what you’re bringing to Select.

Svet: Well I’m not sure how I feel about that question.

Mark: How do you mean?

Svet: I don’t like to use the word ‘expertise’ because you’re never really an expert in IT.

The technology is constantly advancing, making it impossible to know everything and really call yourself an expert.

Mark: That’s a great answer actually. It shows that you’re humble enough to know your own limitations, but confident that you can continually learn and develop to fill the gaps.

Svet: Yes, that’s fair. I see this a lot in the team here.

In this kind of environment, you’re only as good as your team.

The IT Projects Team here gives me access to a lot of talent, so I can keep asking questions and learning along the way.

It’s all about teamwork.

IT projects

Mark: Yes! I’ve experienced this myself as well, so I couldn’t agree more. My team is incredibly patient with all the questions I throw at them!

So what goals have you set yourself so far

Svet: It’s not a very exciting answer, but I’m focused on learning as much as possible at the moment.

Mark: Ditto, it never stops!

Well I really appreciate your time today, I hope we can catch up later in the year for an update on how you’re doing?

Svet: Thanks Mark, I like the sound of that.

Mark: Great, see you there!

Let’s talk about your plans for the year – Call Us Today and find out how the Select IT Projects Team can help you!

THIS is the Morning After Pill of Managed IT Services

Not everyone will relate to this post but the message is an important one for anyone looking at managed IT services.

The point I want to make today is that solely relying on an ad-hoc arrangement to support your business IT network is like using the morning after pill as your only form of contraception.

Sure, Plan B works, but it is just that – Plan B.

It’s a last resort.

It will usually do the trick, but it’s not much of a contingency, and it’s probably not the best thing for your health either!

managed IT services

You could also think of it like tightrope walking without a pole for balance: you’ve still got the safety net to (hopefully) catch you, but you’re ignoring the proactive steps you could be taking improve your chances of success.

What is Ad-Hoc IT Support?

Ad-hoc arrangements can take on various forms in managed IT services.

The most common incarnation of ad-hoc IT support is where you pre-pay for blocks of time, essentially purchasing a number of hours which are used up as you raise support tickets.

Schools and businesses will typically use ad-hoc support to supplement or run alongside a proactive monitoring and support contract.

This is usually done to cover unexpected outages, project work, or any other tasks that may fall outside of the pre-agreed SLA.

This pay-as-you-go approach to IT managed services can also be used to account for gaps in the skillsets of your in-house IT team.

After the Horse Has Bolted

As we discussed in It’s Time to Start Viewing IT as an Investment, NOT an Expense, there are many business owners and directors who cannot or will not see the value that IT support can provide.

This leads to an attitude of minimising cost rather than maximising opportunities that could benefit the business.

But what happens when your server goes down and your 50, 150, or 300+ employees are unable to work?

As much as eight (eight!) Internet connectivity failures occurred in the past year for 72% of businesses, causing downtime of more than 40 hours.

Multiply that by your staff numbers and you can quickly see how much of an impact downtime can have.

managed IT services

Click here to learn about The (Frighteningly) Real Cost of Downtime to UK SMBs.

IT is undeniably integral to just about every modern business, regardless of size or industry.

A purely reactive ad-hoc approach to support means that issues will only begin being addressed after they’ve arisen.

Compare this to contractual managed IT services where your servers and systems are proactively monitored on a continual basis, catching issues beforethey prevent your employees from being able to do their job.

Ad-Hoc Support or Managed IT Services?

This post isn’t about bashing ad-hoc IT support, because a pay-as-you-go model can work brilliantly in some situations.

It should, however, serve to illustrate the point that only using PAYG IT support can be risky business!

We will explore the topic of Ad-Hoc vs. Contractual IT Support in a future post, as there are some circumstances where the former might be the better choice.

If you’re still not sure whether you need ad-hoc or contracted IT support, Give Us a Call and we can discuss which is the best option for your business.

Take These 5 Steps for Cloud Migration Success

With the recent hullabaloo surrounding last week’s AWS S3 outage, some of you may be wondering if cloud migration is an appropriate next step for your business.

man-person-clouds-apple

We are major cloud evangelists at Select Technology, but we absolutely acknowledge that things can go wrong when moving your business to the cloud in the absence of understanding and correct planning.

Despite its perceived imperfections, some level of cloud migration will benefit your business in almost all cases.

We’re going to look at steps you can take to avoid the pitfalls of cloud migration and ensure your business gets the most out of this amazing technology.

1. Know What You Need

Take a moment to think about what kind of demands will be placed on your connection.

Is your business seasonal or marketing-driven, with surges of traffic based on public holidays or marketing campaigns?

One of the amazing features of public cloud services – especially with a platform like Microsoft Azure – is automation or auto-scaling.

If you can anticipate when your periods of highest demand will be, your cloud service will automatically activate appropriate computing resources during those times.

On the other hand, do you need consistently high bandwidth for live streaming video or hosting VoIP calls with clients and partners?

If so, you might be better off using a private cloud setup that requires less automation.

Cloud computing is a very, very general term, covering literally hundreds of different services.

Taking the time to think about exactly what your business needs will help you reap the fullest benefits of cloud migration, while ensuring you’re not paying for anything you don’t need.

2. Test Before Going Live

Test, test, test before deployment!

Storing data and setting up automation in Azure and other cloud services is a relatively simple affair.

One of the biggest pitfalls of cloud migration lies not in moving your data, but in making sure your applications perform as expected once shifted up into the cloud.

The way your apps operate on-site gives little indication as to how they will act off-premise.

This point overlaps with our next one because it is so important to remember that cloud migration for businesses is often a step-by-step process.

Moving your business into the cloud one workload at a time will give you the feedback you need to anticipate all eventualities before they have the chance to affect your business.

cloud migration

Pre-deployment testing of this sort is best performed by someone with the relevant experience and foresight, so we highly recommend seeking advice externally if your business lacks the skillset in-house.

If you have the IT resource onsite for pre-deployment testing then you’ll be pleased to know that Microsoft offers online instructions on topics like how to Create an Office 365 Dev/Test Environment in Azure.

3. Take Your Cloud Migration Step by Step

The point about testing is a crucial one that illustrates the importance of taking one step at a time.

Running before you can walk, so to speak, will give you far less agility. If you rush to shift your apps up to the cloud, then you will have no idea how they will operate when push comes to shove.

Cloud services are quickly becoming a business necessity but don’t worry if your competitors beat you there.

Performing your cloud migration in a step-by-step fashion will also provide a betting understanding of which services you require.

You may find that some workloads are better off remaining on-site or even automated to reduce costs.

You won’t know unless you take the time to find out!

4. Pay Attention to Security and Regulation

Every workload you move to the cloud should be thoroughly scrutinized to ensure your business’ security requirements are met.

Are you storing sensitive client data or other confidential information such as health or financial records?

GDPR is changing the way data is handled, so keeping your business compliant should be a vitally important part of your cloud migration strategy.

cloud migration

The security of your data, applications, and identities is well protected with Microsoft Azure Security.

“Security and privacy are built right into the Azure platform, beginning with the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) that addresses security at every development phase from initial planning to launch, and Azure is continually updated to make it even more secure. Operational Security Assurance (OSA) builds on SDL knowledge and processes to provide a framework that helps ensure secure operations throughout the lifecycle of cloud-based services. Azure Security Center makes Azure the only public cloud platform to offer continuous security-health monitoring.” – Azure Security

5. Choose the Right Cloud Partner

It is highly recommended that you seek to a managed IT services provider to identify what kind of cloud infrastructure is the best fit for your business.

Those of you who have already figured out what you need will likely also know which environment you want to run; Azure, HPE Helion, AWS, etc.

Be sure to plan ahead with your prospective provider so you can be sure they will be capable of supporting the full functionality your cloud infrastructure as it scales up.

At Select Technology we can look at and simplify your cloud requirements from a business perspective.

Call us today to talk to better understand cloud migration and your place on the modern technological landscape.

Ransomware: What You Need to Know for 2017

Ransomware has become an increasingly prevalent topic in IT circles and the mainstream media at large.

If you still don’t quite understand what ransomware is then be sure to check out this video before reading on:

Today we’re going to look at recent research to help you understand the implications for your business.

What Does the Ransomware Research Say?

Datto’s 2016 Global Ransomware Report did a great job of highlighting some of the perceptions surrounding ransomware.

The whitepaper reports that 88% of the IT channel identify as ‘highly concerned’ about the threat.

So why do only 34% of small businesses feel the same way?

Around half of businesses were targeted by ransomware in 2016, so it’s basically a coin toss to determine if you will be hit this year.

Moreover, an IBM survey of 600 business executives shows that a whopping 70% of targets paid the attackers to regain access to their systems.

What does this mean for you?

Endpoint antivirus software like AVG and Symantec offerings need to be combined with cloud-based backup and monitoring tools.

Proactively monitoring your infrastructure will allow ransomware attacks to be identified and quarantined. Backing up with a platform like Microsoft Azure will provide the option to access a virtualized version of your environment, often within mere seconds.

ransomware

Compare this to the hours and even days that may be wasted without these measures in place, and you can clearly see that you need to protect your business against ransomware in some way.

If you doubt the impact of downtime on businesses, then be sure to read our short post on The (Frighteningly) Real Cost of Downtime to UK SMBs.

Will You Become a Statistic?

Consider the following:

  • 88% of the IT channel are ‘highly concerned’ about ransomware
  • Just 34% of small businesses feel the same
  • 49% of businesses were subject to an attack in 2016
  • In another survey, 70% of targeted businesses had to pay the ransom to regain access

Security measures are improving but attackers are quickly growing more sophisticated, so it is unclear if these figures will change in 2017.

Do yourself a favour and don’t let your business become a statistic.

Speak to us today about how you can incorporate cloud-based solutions into your business.

Improve efficiency, manage costs and most importantly, stop worrying about security and downtime!

How to Ensure Cybersecurity With IT Service Providers

With cybersecurity at the forefront of most IT leaders’ attention, it has never been more important to consider GDPR compliance when speaking to IT service providers.

cybersecurity

I recently read a great piece over at CIO from last year featuring an interview with Mayer Brown legal partner, Rebecca Eisner.

Eisner talks about some of the challenges faced by customers of IT managed service providers, particularly larger organisations with a more complex staff and network structure.

She discusses that although data protection measures need to be included in IT service contracts, “Suppliers are understandably concerned about not paying damages that are disproportionate to the revenue received, and therefore seek to limit or disclaim their liability.”

Eisner goes on to say that, “Customers are equally concerned, particularly where suppliers do not have the same incentives to protect customer data as the customer, and because the negative impacts of a security incident are generally far more significant to the customer than to the supplier.”

This highlights the importance of establishing a clear set of guidelines with your providers so that everyone understands their responsibilities.

The Growing Complexity of Cybersecurity

The global infrastructure of data centres continues to grow and become more dispersed across the globe.

From your smartphone to the cloud and back again, there is a far greater margin for error and far more opportunities for your data to become compromised than ever before.

Eisner remarks, “The points of access and potential points of security failure multiply with this ever-expanding ecosystem. In addition, many of these systems are provided or managed by third party suppliers.”

cybersecurity

Consider also the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its far-reaching implications.

Every access point that your data touches must fall in line with the regulation that will come into effect next year.

Everything from your contracts, to your day-to-day operations and the handling of customer data must be considered and kept up-to-date.

How to Mitigate Risk When Outsourcing IT

I recommend checking out the full article linked above; however, here is a summary of Rebecca Eisner’s recommendations for improving cybersecurity in your relationships with IT service providers:

  • Make sure every member of staff from your secretary to the directors is trained and educated on the importance and practicalities of data security and customer privacy, as well as methods of minimising risk.
  • Gain a clear understanding from your provider exactly who will be handling sensitive data; this includes client information and any data that is integral to the business’ finance, operations, and so on.
  • Query your provider’s own cybersecurity measures, including the policies they have in place for identifying potentially high-risk third-party relationships.
  • Review your existing service contracts to ensure they meet both your updated internal cybersecurity policies, and GDPR when it lands in 2018.

cybersecurity

Periodic reviews should also be conducted by both your organisation and your providers to ensure policies are kept up-to-date.

A Little Due Diligence Goes a Long Way

This post is by no means comprehensive, and is intended mostly to get you thinking about your own approach to cybersecurity.

This is particularly important in the changing landscape of data protection regulation.

Make your IT managed service provider work for you by having them ensure the necessary measures are in place to secure your data in situ and in transit.

If you’re not sure how to approach a discussion about GDPR with your service providers, then call us today and we’ll be happy to help.

Slack Vs Microsoft Teams

Slack Vs Microsoft Teams: Office 365 Takes On the Collaboration King

Microsoft’s latest productivity tool Teams has been in beta since November, and this week it went live for Office 365 users around the world.

office 365

Some have been touting Teams as Microsoft’s Slack-killer app, with others slightly less enthused about the enterprise offering.

Today we’ll do our best to demystify the subject so that you can stop slacking and figure out which is the best option for your team!

Pricing

Pricing is probably the best place for us to start because Microsoft Teams does not exist as a standalone service in the way that Slack does.

Microsoft Teams has been integrated into Office 365 as a default feature for certain subscription levels.

This means that if you already have an Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, Enterprise E1, E3, or E5 subscription, you now have access to Teams at no additional cost.

You can log into Teams using your existing 365 credentials. There is no additional registration or onboarding necessary.

On the other hand, Slack adopts a freemium business model that incorporates a free tier for users to trial the app or roll it out in a smaller team.

Depending on what kind of online storage, email, and productivity apps you want to integrate with Slack, the annual cost sits at around $140-270 (£115-220) per user.

Microsoft Office 365 pricing starts at $60 (£49) per user per year for its Business Premium tier.

This includes Microsoft Teams on top of Skype for Business, Exchange email, and1TB of OneDrive for Business storage.

…and the winner is:

Looking at pricing alone, Microsoft Teams is the clear winner.

Even if you upgrade your Office 365 subscription to E3 with full access to the Office applications, you’ll still only be paying $240 (£196) per user per year.

office 365

Third-Party Integration

The Slack App Directory is currently a whole lot more expensive than the Microsoft Teams integrations, of which there are approximately 150 at launch.

Despite Teams boasting many partners, there are currently only a handful of default integrations built into the application.

One of the standout features of Teams is its tab-based interface.

Tabbed navigation enables users to add their own custom tabs based on the specific integrations they need access to.

An example of this would be your Support or Helpdesk teams using a tabbed instance of Zendesk, while your Marketing guys open a Hootsuite tab or two to monitor social media streams and publish content.

A downside to Microsoft Teams is the lack of integration with other third-party tools like Google Drive and Dropbox.

The biggest drawback is the fact that you can only interact with people who are already within your Office 365 network.

office 365

Slack, on the other hand, allows you to invite users via email, with the option to limit their access to particular channels if necessary.

Microsoft has promised us that cross-platform integration is coming, but for now we’ll have to sit tight.

…and the winner is:

This is a tough one; let’s break it down:

  • App Directory Pricing: Teams Slack
  • Cross-Platform Integration: Teams Slack
  • Built-In Integrations: Teams Slack
  • Tabbed Integrations: Teams Slack

There isn’t much to set the two apart in this area.

The main distinction is whether you need a platform that will enable collaboration with groups and individuals outside of your organisation.

If so, Slack is the way to go. Otherwise, let’s keep reading.

office 365

Bots

Slackbot

If you’ve used Slack for any amount of time, you’ll no doubt have dabbled with Slackbot.

Slackbot is a separate private conversation that can answer simple questions, as well as acting as a test environment for integrations.

Microsoft Teams introduces not one, but two bots: T-Bot and the yet-to-be-released WhoBot.

office 365

T-Bot

T-Bot works similarly to Slackbot, enabling you to ask questions about members of your group and other topics. You’ll likely notice some parallels with Cortana in Windows 10.

Moreover, T-Bot offers a choice of user-interfaces, with a tabbed browser-like instance accompanying the more standard chat-style interface which acts more like a conversation with the AI.

WhoBot

Far more impressive is WhoBot, which unfortunately doesn’t have a confirmed release date yet.

WhoBot uses the Microsoft Graph AI as its framework, accessing data from Active Directory and sucking it into Teams to answer your questions about individuals within your organisation.

If you’re looking for someone with a specific skill set or area of expertise, Teams will comb through your organisation’s directory for personal records, communications, or other details that may be relevant.

After finding the personnel you need, you’ll see information such as their department and which manager they report to so that you know exactly where they stand in the pecking order.

…and the winner is:

It wouldn’t be fair to compare our contenders based on a feature like WhoBot which hasn’t been released yet.

Nevertheless, T-Bot already holds its own against Slackbot, and with WhoBot incoming it looks like Slack will have to up its game in the bot department.

WhoBot’s integration with Active Directory is one of many examples where Microsoft Teams benefits greatly from calling Office 365 its home.

This one goes to Microsoft Teams.

office 365

Security

Microsoft has long been dominant on the security front, and Teams is no exception.

Both apps are compliant with ISO 27001, and incorporate two-factor authentication for granular teams and entire organisations.

Teams boasts additional Microsoft SharePoint encryption, as well as a host of other certifications:

  • Cloud Security Alliance (CSA)
  • EU Model Clauses (EUMC)
  • HIPAA
  • ISO 27018
  • SSAE16 SOC 1
  • SSAE16 SOC 2

Teams also integrates with Microsoft Intune, providing a decent level of mobile device management.

One of the defining aspects of Microsoft Teams is the level of functionality in the Office 365 Admin Centre.

Within the Admin Centre, you can adjust features like screen sharing, content access, and profile configuration. You can determine who can use integrations, video, bots, and even Microsoft Teams as a whole.

…and the winner is:

Microsoft Teams.

office 365

Funzies

Microsoft Teams has a meme generator, need we say more?

office 365

But seriously, you can really tell that Microsoft has gone that extra mile with the multitude of memes, stickers, and Emoji goodness in Teams.

Facebook Messenger will come to mind when you use the stickers in Teams. There is a library of sticker sets, designed specifically with business in mind and including categories such as Dev, Legal, and Office Drama.

Slack is well known for its many / commands, with /gif and /giphy commands making it easy to insert your favourite Emojis and animations into chats.

office 365

This is an undeniably solid feature of Slack, but Teams goes a step further by implementing a preview feature along with a scrollable list of search results.

…and the winner is:

Microsoft Teams does more than Slack in this area.

Slack’s /gif and /giphy features are great, but being able to preview content before inserting it into a message is a must-have feature.

Above all, there is now a meme generator built into Office 365!

Microsoft Teams takes this one.

office 365

User-Interface

The screenshot below shows what the Microsoft Teams interface looks like:

office 365

So, on the left-hand side you have tabs for Activity, Chat, Teams, Messages, and Files.

Activity essentially acts like a social media feed for your organisation’s Intranet. The threading and overall appearance is somewhat akin to Yammer.

Teams is like Slack here, so if you are mentioned by name in a post you will see a notification icon appear beside the relevant message.

Chat and Teams, as the names would suggest, are where your conversations are found. There is a text box at the bottom along with icons you can click to access GIFs, stickers, and files.

…and the winner is:

Slack offers far more UI customisation than Microsoft Teams. There are loads of skins and themes to choose from, while Teams only currently offers light, dark, and high-contrast themes.

The Teams interface isn’t terrible but it certainly has some way to come.

Slack wins this one.

office 365

Conclusion

As a Microsoft house, we’re admittedly a little biased.

Having said that, I have plenty of personal experience with Slack, and I’ve always been a fan. It looks great, and offers an awesome array of dependable features.

Slack paved the way for business chat and collaboration, but I’m very impressed by what Microsoft has achieved with Teams. 

Teams is the obvious choice if you’re already working in a Microsoft environment with Office 365.

The only exception to this would be if you need a collaboration tool for chats and meetings with people from outside of your organisation.

Slack is a great choice for smaller teams that aren’t already using Office 365. It is worth taking a moment to consider scaling, however. Office 365 may become a necessity as your organisation grows, making Teams a more viable option.

Either way, these are both fantastic tools with loads more great features on the horizon.

The collaboration competition is certainly heating up, so it will be interesting to see what Microsoft and Slack can come up with.

Talk to us today about your favourite collaboration tool, or let us know if you’re unsure which one to choose and we’ll provide some expert guidance.

The State of Tech in Post-Brexit Britain

The state of tech in post-Brexit Britain is looking promising, according to a KPMG report exploring The changing landscape of disruptive technologies.

State of Tech in Post-Brexit Britain

We always do our best to find the positives in any situation here at Select Technology, as you may remember from last month’s post Got the Brexit Blues? Select Technology has the Antidote in Five Fantastic Flavours.

There are obviously some downsides to Brexit, and the UK is hardly in the best shape of its life.

Our NHS is in an almost perpetual state of crisis, our currency is on the backfoot, and the division in our society has never been more apparent.

But there is a silver lining!

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

According to KPMG UK’s Head of Technology, Tudor Aw: “The research shows the UK’s technology sector drew more investment than that of any other European country in 2016 and that London is seen as a major hub for big data, fintech and a variety of digital technologies. Despite the uncertainty presented by Brexit and other economic factors, the UK and London has not lost its shine when it comes to its technology pedigree.”

The survey, which involved 841 business executives, ranks the UK fourth globally – just behind the US, China, and India – in terms of the promise it shows in the tech industry.

Aw goes on to say, “Technology underpins the competiveness and development of almost every sector. It is a key battleground for most economies and the UK must ensure it is a leader in this field. The Government’s £2 billion R&D fund for emerging tech, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, is therefore hugely encouraging and will make a real difference to the UK being seen as a tech destination of choice for scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and tech companies.

The State of Tech in Post-Brexit Britain

The British tech sector is in very good shape, with increasing investment and positive sentiment from Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and more.

There is obviously very little certainty as we move ever closer to a post-Brexit Britain, but things look promising.

If you’re unsure how to incorporate a Brexit strategy into your IT infrastructure, then talk to us today and let’s get your business Brexit-proof in 2017!

IT Companies: Why We Stopped Trying to Be Like Everyone Else

Now you might well think that this is going to be one of those come-speak-to-Select-Technology-because-we-are-the-best-in-the-world kind of blogs…

I really want to be open and honest here, and say that there are probably plenty of good IT companies out there. I say “probably” because, in all fairness, we stopped researching the competition.

We stopped trying to be like everyone else.

We no longer look at pricing. We know we’re at the higher end of the IT support market, but that’s a good thing because it gives us the headroom to properly support our customers and provide outstanding customer service.

This definitely bares repeating: We can properly support our customers and provide outstanding customer service.

And, when we stopped worrying about being like every other support company we began to really understand what it takes to be different.

IT companies

There’s no reason to compare our services to any other IT support company out there because the bottom line is that no-one else can be like us, we have a team of people who are dedicated to our core values.

Our services are simply designed with one thing in mind:

Will this solve your problem?

This does often present us with some problems, because when we are up against a so-called competitor in a new business situation our potential new clients get very confused because they are looking for a like-for-like comparison.

But this also plays in our favour time and time again because it allows us to explain, and for you to see how we really do things differently from others.

This is why it really pays for us as an IT support company to be innovative and constantly develop new and better services.

Talk to us today and find out how Select Technology can solve the challenges you face as technology in business evolves.

Still Feeling Confused About IaaS? You’re not alone!

Apart from sounding like a rude word have you wondered what IaaS actually is?

Let’s simplify this awkward acronym…

We can use the good ol’ onion analogy to explain this one.

IaaS

Think about how an onion is made of different layers – each one can be peeled away until you reach the core.

Infrastructure is one of three component layers in networking.

You need a network to communicate from one device to another. These are physical components such as network switches, hosted servers.

In the case of IaaS, we can refer to them as virtual or cloud components!

The cloud analogy still applies here, except that we’re now talking about virtual assets in the cloud rather than tin boxes sitting in your server room.

So how do you turn your physical onion into a virtual one?

Pain in the IaaS

Confused yet?

You’re not the only one!

Okay so first off, IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service.

IaaS describes an arrangement where hardware is provided and managed for you by an external provider.

This is described as a Cloud service because you are using physical components which exist outside of your premises.

IaaS

Here’s a simple analogy:

Think about your website.

If you pay for web hosting externally – i.e. not on your own physical server – then you are already using IaaS!

Your website is sitting on a server somewhere in the ether while a provider manages the backend in a data centre.

All you have to worry about is paying your subscriptions, which tends to suit most businesses.

IaaS, Cloud, and other terms can often muddy the waters, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Prepare to Kick Some IaaS!

Our pre-sales Projects Team operate a no-jargon policy, and can help you and us to understand your businesses needs, and point you in the right direction.

Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, but as long as you know what to want to achieve, we can help!

Here’s a useful link and case study that will help you further understand: Click Here

Speak to the team today on 01892 830110.

Cloud Storage: What Do You Really Need to Know?

Moving your data and applications into the cloud could be the smartest move you’ve ever made.

Cloud Storage

All of your important files will be stored safely online. You need not panic about losing your laptop or your data if, for example, your external drive stopped working.

If your data is in the cloud, you will still be able to access it if your computer is lost or stolen.

The Best of Both Worlds

Cloud storage is a model of data storage in which the digital data is stored in something called logical pools. Basically your data spans multiple servers and even geographical location.

One of the biggest concerns for most companies is the security and location of data. As mentioned above, it really is in the safest place while in the cloud.

The level of investment cloud hosting companies employ for security is far, far greater than any single company would spend on data security.

You really do have the best of both worlds!

It all boils down to what you actually want to do: If you want the ability to work anywhere, anytime, and have the peace of mind that your data is safe and secure in the cloud, then it is absolutely the way forward for you!

PAYG With Cloud Storage

The other benefit of using cloud storage is that you only pay for what you use, whereas traditionally you would often have to buy more storage on a server than you actually need.

There is also a fantastic range of different providers to supply you with cloud storage such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and our personal favourite, Microsoft Azure.

A few years back, a big restriction for using cloud services and cloud storage was Internet connectivity.

The Future’s Bright

As the United Kingdom’s connectivity continues to improve, it really opens a door for many small and medium-sized businesses to start adopting cloud services.

Drop us a line today on 01892 830111 and let’s have a chat about your options for cloud services.

Here’s a link you might find useful before you call us: http://www.itsupport.co.uk/cloud-storage-services/

Talking Geek & Free IT Support

Picture this.

You’re standing in the middle of Trafalgar Square with approximately ten thousand people around you.

That’s a lot of people…

Now, imagine that each one of those people is a business owner trying to tell you about their services.

Hot Air and Lots of It

That’s a lot of noise entering your ear canal, causing the tiny hairs in your eardrum to vibrate before sending a message to the brain, which ultimately comes out as jibberish.

Apart from the odd word that makes it through here and there – It’s all just noise.

ITSB

Many of us face this common problem.

We’ve seen so many times just how damaging it can be when business owners receive sub-par support services.

Better the Devil You Know?

This is common feedback, but the thought process underpinning this only delays the inevitable as the relationship becomes more and more strained.

So what is beneath all of this?

Well, it often comes down to a simple fear of change.

If you’ve ever moved house, then you probably know how stressful the experience can be without the right help.

We Get It!

That’s why we designed a comprehensive on-boarding process to ensure you’re treated like royalty right from day one.

Clearly you don’t want to take our word for it because, again, it’s all just ‘Hot Air’ at the end of the day.

Read what our customers are saying about us following theses links:

We prefer to let our customers do the talking for us.

Is Select Technology a Good Fit for My Business?

That’s a good question.

If you’re happy with:

  • Missed SLA;
  • Broken Promises;
  • Engineers failing to show onsite;
  • Not being called back at an arranged time;
  • Talking Geek; and
  • Paying for cheap (not inexpensive) services…

…then there’s no need to contact us because we won’t be able to compete with that kind of service!

If, however, you want a bit of extra TLC and don’t mind paying a little extra for a high level of service, then we are the right company for you.

Three Amigos

Kent Vision Live 2017

Three Amigos

Do you have any burning questions about Cloud services?

You can find these three Amigos at Kent Vision Live tomorrow @ stand 323.

Talk to us about hosted services such Microsoft Office 365 + Microsoft Azure + More.

Kent Vision Live 2017

Our expert Mantej Yadav will also be giving his Keynote presentation about Microsoft Cloud Services at midday, click for more details Here

Cryptolocker hits the NHS…

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 72 hours you will know that the NHS has taken a hit by Cryptolocker.

This is causing mayhem and panic throughout the NHS and general public.

Over the past few months we have written many posts about ransomware because we are keen to ensure that businesses of all sizes understand the dangers of these types of attacks.

Cryptolocker hits NHS

They are advanced and superior to standard Viruses and therefore need dealing with in a different way using different protective measures.

Protecting your business is simple if you follow basic security steps which should be priority number one.

Unfortunately it sometimes takes a high profile case like the NHS being attacked before people pay attention, no business is “Out of bounds” in the attackers eyes.

Attackers using Cryptolocker don’t care which business they attack, EVERY business is a target!

The truth is these attacks happen frequently every day around the world. You are only hearing about it because of the nature of business under threat.

As a support company we deal with many more attacks than we care to mention, scare tactics are not our game!

You can see for yourself this is now very real: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25506020

If you’re a business owner security really should be in the forefront of your mind right now.

Read any of our historical posts such as: http://www.itsupport.co.uk/ransomware-need-know-2017/

You will see we mean business in helping you to keep your business operational and safe in the face of ever increasing threats.

All of Select Technology’s Prestige Support Customers get advanced and enhanced protection against ransomware as standard.

If you are at all concerned about the health and security of your own business then please do contact us today and arrange to speak with one of our security specialists, even if you’re not a customer of ours, we really would be happy to advise in seeing you safe and secure.

Call us right now on: 01892 830 111

Veeam Cloud Connect

Veeam Cloud Connect

With the recent spate of ransomware targeting previous versions, and some backup file extensions, you may have heard the term offline or air-gap backups.  This is essentially backup media or repositories that are only in use during the backup, tape is a great example of this.

Devices like Network Attached Storage (NAS), or USB drives, which are either permanently on line or left connected for 10-12 hours a day, can be vulnerable to these types of ransomware attack.  Now, if you’re not familiar with ransomware, or have never heard of it there’s a great webinar here.  Before we get into scare mongering territory, there’s plenty you can do to protect your data.

Most of it is pretty straightforward, and hopefully already a staple of your day to day operations:

  • Regular proactive security patching of your servers and client devices
  • Regular Anti-Virus updates and scans of your servers and client devices
  • Perimeter security services like Open DNS.

But this ‘prevention’ is only part of the solution.  The ‘cure’ element is just as crucial, maybe more so in the context that anti-virus, anti-malware and security patching, are all reactive.

Now this blog isn’t about ransomware, although ransomware is a great topic as it asks a lot of questions as to how well your IT estate is proactively looked after,  how you data is protected and not least because it is considered the de facto IT threat to all businesses, creating a billion dollar business according to the FBI.

Veeam Cloud Connect. Is the topic I’m actually covering today.

For those unfamiliar, Cloud Connect is an add-on feature to Veeam’s Availability suite which allows businesses to synchronise their backup data with a trusted service provider. This is achieved via a secure HTTPS tunnel with the data between client and service provider being encrypted to 256 bit AES while in flight.

In the context of our ransomware discussion, this is an air-gapped backup repository. Unlike tape however, this repository is always online and you can synchronise your backups as frequently as required. If we keep to the ransomware example, is recovering from last night’s (or older) backup tape really meeting your businesses Recovery Point Objective(s) (RPO)?

Going beyond that example, and considering availability, how does this feature help businesses drive down their Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and keep the critical business services running in the event of a disaster?

The answer is that Veeam’s Cloud Connect can also be used to replicate virtual machines from customer premises to a trusted service providers platform, giving their customers a business continuity platform which can be invoked much quicker than a traditional disaster recovery process can be turned around.

Since we’ve mentioned DR, that’s another string to Cloud Connects bow.  If the recurring cost of a Business Continuity platform isn’t feasible, or your business RTO’s simply don’t warrant it, Cloud Connect can allow your trusted service provider to recover your infrastructure to either their own platform or into the Azure public cloud.

Obviously, in either scenario, it is critical to work with you trusted service provider(s) to understand and identify your businesses key services, and put together a plan that allows your business to mitigate risk and continue to operate should the worse happen.

Now Veeam’s availability suite has a whole host of other features besides this, and it’s modular deployment really lends itself to any infrastructure and can scale in either direction, but just taking the Cloud Connect piece into consideration, ask yourself

‘Can your current backup solution do this?’

Written by; Russell Gower-Leech Bsc – Select Technology Systems Senior Project Consultant

Russ has been working in IT with MSP’s for over 10 years, starting as a support engineer and working his way up through field engineer, project engineer and finally found his calling as a Consultant. He really gets a kick out of designing technical solutions to meet, and exceed, Clients business needs.

He is one of Select’s Cloud Champions, helping clients leverage the power and flexibility of the hybrid cloud. He is also the in-house Veeam Evangelist – “I really love the flexibility and resilience of Veeam based solutions, especially as I spent the early parts of my career working with products like Backup Exec.”

Please call us today on 01892 830111 if you would like to find out more about Veeam Cloud Connect.

IT Support for Business

IT Support for business is essential if you have customers that rely on your systems…

IT Support for Business

Let me explain that a little better.

If your business reputation relies on the strength of your backend technology then your business relies on the BEST quality proactive IT support services.

The embarrassment of having your customers or even your staff waiting for IT to fix things is unacceptable.

Who are Select Technology?

Firstly you should know that we are an MSP by mistake… We did not consider ourselves Experts!

When Nigel Potter founded the company over 20 years ago it was to serve businesses with good value hardware and software.

Select Technology didn’t start out as an Expert MSP. Back then it was all about value and by providing a good deal. This service was unrivalled and Select grew through solid reputation of providing a quality service. As time went on Select flourished into the successful Managed Service Provider it is today!

IT Support for Business became more and more demanding.

We adapted over time providing the same quality and value in the service side of the business. It wasn’t always easy we had many hurdles and lots of learning curves to tackle.

But we’re proud to say that we are now one of Kent’s prestigious IT support companies. But it doesn’t stop there, we undertake dozens of projects every year helping companies move their business forward.

Projects we undertake have shifted from on-premise server upgrades to more cloud based focus as more and more businesses move their systems to hosted solutions.

The increasing demand for ‘always-on’ infrastructure has never been higher. Select have aligned themselves constantly, investing in research & development to meet these demands.

You can find a range of our Services Here Make sure you also check out our Prestige Helpdesk service.

Your IT support partner of choice is part of your success, as mention above if your systems are not ‘always on‘ and are ‘always on the blink’ then maybe it’s time to speak about your options.

Our door is ‘always’ open, give us a call on 01892 830 111 and arrange to have a chat with our project team.

What’s Beneath the Surface?

Five years ago, if you would have asked most industry insiders about the position of Microsoft as a serious player in the device market, they probably would have labelled you as some kind of crackpot and gone back to working on their brand new MacBook Air.

Things were very different in 2012.

Apple was dominant in the premium devices space, launching the iPhone 5 into an already saturated iPhone market that devoured it ravenously. Apple also unleashed new MacBook Pros and the aforementioned MacBook Air to almost universal praise.

It seemed as if they could do no wrong…

The Times, They are a Changin’

Something began in October 2012 that had the potential to change the premium devices market for good: The release of the first ever Microsoft Surface device.

surface pro

Yes, it was flawed, and many had issues with the inclusion of Windows RT. The Surface almost sank under the weight of widespread rejection of the concept of a touch-enabled Windows 8.

That said, it was a good device.

It brought the concept of a detachable, convertible tablet to the mainstream. The instantly detachable ‘tear-off’ keyboard was sound – and would later be copied by Apple with the iPad Pro – and the touchscreen was responsive and tough.

Yes, it was a good device!

Getting Better all the Time

In the interceding years, Microsoft continued to refine their device offering.

Since the launch of the original Microsoft Surface we have seen the Surface 2 and Surface 3. The Surface Pro, Pro 2, Pro 3, Pro 4 (on which this post was written) and ultimately, the masterpiece of engineering that is the Surface Book.

surface pro

With each iteration, the Surface has become smaller, lighter, easier to use, and just downright sexier. It now has the desirability factor that up until recently was the exclusive domain of iProducts.

Today, things change again.

Today sees the official launch of the latest family of Surface devices.

Has the Apple Killer Arrived?

With the new Surface Laptop and the all new [except for the name!] Surface Pro, Microsoft now has a device offering with the functionality and desirability to truly take on Apple.

The Surface Laptop brings all the great features that us Surface Pro 4 users have enjoyed, enhances them, and wraps them up in a ‘traditional’ Laptop form factor that is available in four colours.

Optimised for the recently announced Windows 10 S, the Surface Laptop is small and light, but still boasts luxury features like the Alacantra Fabric Keyboard that us SP4 users like so much.

The new Surface Pro looks extremely interesting.

Smaller and lighter than any Surface Pro before, Microsoft has crammed a LOT into its 11.5”, 784g frame.

Its top spec will give you a massive 1TB SSD, 16GB of RAM, and an Intel Core i7 processor.

It also boasts 50% longer battery life than the SP4, something that was badly needed for the Surface to be a serious contender as a business device.

Also released today is the Surface Studio. A device aimed at the professional design and creative marketplace but one that is sure to find a home in education, a key market for the entire Surface family.

1

Looking Forward

Time will tell whether Microsoft can truly wrest the crown from Apple for the premium devices market.

Whoever wins out, I cannot recall a more complete ‘family’ of products from a single vendor.

Bear in mind that all the new Surface devices are optimised for Windows 10 and Office 365. Consider how powerful the combination of these products could be, especially when integrated by design.

Whether you are an educator, knowledge worker, design guru or just a consumer of sexy gadgets, you must now seriously consider a Microsoft Surface.

To have come so far in just five years is genuinely impressive, and it is starting to look like the long held Microsoft promise of Workplace Transformation is finally coming true.

Written by Marcus Naris, Sales Manager at Select Technology – Marcus is a former pre-sales Solutions Specialist at Microsoft and is passionate about helping customers understand that there is usually a better way of doing things, and that change is good and should be embraced.

Find Marcus on LinkedIn

We are Gold!

As part of our continued commitment to develop our service and solutions, I am pleased to announce that Select Technology has been awarded the Gold Small & Midmarket Cloud Solutions Competency from Microsoft.

microsoft gold partner

By achieving a Gold Competency with Microsoft, we have proven our expertise within the specific area of cloud technology, placing us among some of the top partners in the UK.

The Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency recognises partners who are selling and deploying Microsoft Office 365 cloud and hybrid solutions to mid-sized and small business customers. The competency differentiates a company as a proven cloud solutions provider for customers searching for qualified cloud solutions partners.

To earn a Microsoft Gold Competency is certainly a challenge and not just a ‘tick in a box exercise’.  A partner must successfully demonstrate expertise culminating in Microsoft certifications.  In reality this means investment in training and successfully passing some really quite tough technical exams (Which I am proud to say our guys passed first time!).  In addition, to ensure the highest quality of services, Microsoft also requires customer references for successful implementation and customer satisfaction.

So what does this mean to our clients?  In my view, achieving the Gold Small & Midmarket Cloud Solutions Competency demonstrates our depth and breadth of knowledge around Microsoft Cloud Services.  In particular technology solutions such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Skype for Business, Yammer and OneDrive.

So if you’re a Small or Midmarket business (In Microsoft’s eyes this is a business with less 500 employees) whom is interested in what the cloud can offer to improve your productivity, please do get in contact with one of our solution experts who will be more than happy to help.

Written by Nick Potter, Director at Select Technology – Nick began his career at Select Technology in 1998 as a network engineer. His ability to develop long-term client relationships prompted a switch to client management, using his technical skills to align technology with positive business outcomes. Nick is integral to the leadership team, but still lends his expertise to this vital strategic planning role.

Nothing to fear from GDPR?

Over the past 2 weeks, I have been undertaking a wide range of customer activities based around GDPR. Here at Select Technology we have held a GDPR Breakfast Briefing, a Webinar and numerous face-to-face workshops with our customer base, all offered free of charge.

We have done this for many reasons, sure, there is the potential for income based on enhanced services to help customers prepare for the GDPR (something we should all be honest and transparent about,) however our main reason for these activities is to deliver one overriding message;

Don’t Panic!

My view of the GDPR opposes a lot of the alarmist nonsense that has been propagated by many organisations looking exploit fear and doubt in the mind of potential customer, in the hope of scaring them in buying.

But…

The GDPR is genuinely nothing to be scared of. It is, in fact, a great opportunity to develop a framework to fix the things we all know are wrong with our businesses.

At the core of the GDPR is a single concept, Accountability, NOT compliance. Compliance will come but it will be because of this accountability. Accountability based on good process.

We all have those things we don’t like about the way we do business. No one seems to know where they come from but they have somehow become issues that many of us think are just too difficult to address.

Whether it is the pile of boxes full of unindexed files in the corner (that keeps growing!) The shared drive that continues to swell despite being only 5% business documentation and 95% pictures of a cat you think belonged to someone who left in 2009. Or that part of that process, you know that one. It’s too hard, so we just don’t bother with it.

This is where the GDPR comes in.

The path to the GDPR drives us to look at processes within our businesses and think about the impact they have on what we do, the information we manage and how to recognise and mitigate process failure. So, if you need the motivation to address the pile of boxes or the cat pictures, GDPR gives us just that. It represents a rare opportunity for us all to align our entire business and work toward a common cause (and we all know how hard that can be!)

The technology exists to make any journey to the GDPR simple, straightforward and logical. The only thing most organisations lack is the will and enthusiasm to embrace that technology and begin that journey.

Good process, the right technology and an open mind transforms GDPR from the scary legislative minefield you may have been told it is into the most powerful, collective workplace transformation opportunity in a decade. I for one intend to embrace it and help as many customers as I can do the same.

Written by Marcus Naris, Sales Manager at Select Technology – Marcus is a former pre-sales Solutions Specialist at Microsoft and is passionate about helping customers understand that there is usually a better way of doing things, and that change in all its forms, should be embraced.

How to catch a Phish

With the media attention Cyber Crime has been given over the past 12 months it is clear that the risks are increasing all the time. According to IBM, Cyber Crime is now worth an estimated $450 Billion per year and more worrying is that it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

There are many forms of Cyber Crime, which require a technical based response; you will be told that you need stronger passwords, better perimeter IT security, additional security software, regular security reviews, email cleansing services, anti-virus and anti-malware software etc.

But no matter how much technology you have or how good it is, there is one form of Cyber Crime that targets the human element of your systems and that’s Phishing.

So what is phishing? Phishing is a fraudulent act whereby emails are sent to individuals posing as reputable companies or as people known to you in your organisation to gather personal information from you such as passwords, credit card numbers or even requesting money transfers to companies you would normally deal with. More recently Phishing emails have been used as a delivery method Ransomware further increasing the security and business risk.

Over the past decade, phishing attacks have evolved to become highly sophisticated making it challenging for even the most well informed of people to spot them especially if the emails are in context e.g. you are already banking with HSBC, you have just bought something using PayPal, your trusty IT people advise of a password change etc.

The success of these kind of attacks has increased over the last few years as more and more of us use modern communication techniques.

You may be thinking, “What can we do about it?” Well, education through a process of continual testing and training is key. By monitoring and measuring staff behaviour and response to artificial phishing emails, we can track their actions and determine the degree of risk and the right level of education based on their behaviour.

So how does it work?  After an initial bench mark of Phishing results from the first Phishing test, the programme will then run continuously typically monthly in a continuous cycle through- testing, reporting and education… Over time, awareness and education will improve and this naturally reduces company risk.

By combining technology, alongside user awareness and education programmes, the chances of a successful Phishing attempts can be drastically reduced.

If you’re interested in finding out more our friendly sales and technical teams are more than happy to discuss our approach with you.

Written by Chris Malyon  Chris joined Select Technology in 2011 as 3rd line engineer and is now responsible for all Service Delivery. He has a talent to grasp new concepts quickly and masters technical detail.

Cloud Agility Vs On-Prem Deadweight

“Why should we move our IT infrastructure to a cloud based model, when we can purchase on-premise physical hardware and not have to worry about it again for the lifecycle of the equipment?” – a question our consultants in the Professional Services Team are often asked by Clients.

In our minds, the answer is “Why wouldn’t you?”.

Traditionally, IT infrastructure hardware (physical servers, networking equipment, etc.) has been considered to be a necessary burden that is accounted for as a CapEx purchase made only when absolutely necessary, i.e. when the assets have been “sweated” for the highest return on the investment possible, or when they have ceased functioning as required (or even at all).

When taking total cost of ownership into account, factoring in “hidden” costs directly attributable to on-prem environments (examples of such being power, cooling, hardware warranties, downtime for patching and routine maintenance, etc.), a very different picture emerges regarding the size of the investment.

Physical infrastructure also increases a reliance on a geographical location, reducing mobility and impacting resilience and reliability at a time when patterns of work are evolving to allow users to work anywhere, anytime, on anything. A key variable in improving work/life balance, and increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

The migration to a Cloud based infrastructure, charged on a rolling/usage basis, is a big step to take in the short term, but a highly rewarding one if implemented correctly. Whilst some may see the increase in monthly overheads as undesirable, when considering the TCO considerations mentioned above the impact is significantly lessened. Indeed, a key point that is often overlooked in comparisons between Cloud Vs On-prem is capacity planning. When designing a physical infrastructure refresh, the highest expected load over the entire lifecycle (possible up to five years) must be accommodated. Therefore, every second a piece of physical infrastructure is running at less than peak utilisation, it is incurring additional cost to the business rather than adding value to it. Predicting capacity requirements with any degree of accuracy over a timescale of 3-5 years is a challenge in itself.

Consider the alternative… planning for the lowest usage, and scaling up as and when required, and back down when demand has reduced. Only paying for what you actually use, rather than what you could potentially use. In businesses that require development and test environments, not having expensive equipment lying dormant and depreciating when not in use, and simply creating entire development architectures when required (and shutting it all down when no longer needed). The ability to be truly agile as a business, with happier, more productive, staff that are no longer constrained by geography. Enjoying the peace of mind inherent in knowing that your critical business systems and data are protected by the highest levels of resilience, redundancy and security, rather than in a room (or even cupboard) in the same building as your users.

The benefits of a business strategy based on the ‘Digital Transformation’ mindset cannot be overestimated, and provide a paradigm shift in Clients business processes and goals.

Viewing IT as an operational expense (that acts as a business enabler), rather than a capital expense (that increases drag and reduces agility), results in the question posed at the beginning of this post rapidly transforming from “Why should we…” to “When can we…”.

Written by Scott Relf With a background in Operations Management, Scott has applied his expertise to our Services and Service Desk functions since joining in 2014. He now leads our Project Consultants as they provide specialist implementation services.

The IT Service Value Paradox

How not calling your IT Support Company is actually better value for your business

Having spent the last 10 years working in the IT Services sector, I have seen first-hand the transformation of the Managed Services Provider or the MSP as we are commonly known.

Back in the early 2000’s, IT Support was very much based around maintenance contracts with a break/fix approach.  Customer satisfaction was largely based on how quickly an IT company could respond and fix a reactive issue and these reactive issues were simply billed in time and materials.  Looking back, this was quite a negative service because the IT Company benefited from the clients misfortune and with no commitment very little incentive to be preventative.  Something had to change.

A few years later we saw the emergence of the Managed Service Provider (MSP) and the Service proposition became very different.  Managed Services are typically designed around delivering a fully unlimited managed service for an all-inclusive fee.  This became desirable to clients because for a simple flat fee everything was taken care of and it was easy to budget for too.  This “all you can eat” model changed the dynamics of IT Service Delivery because no longer did the MSP make money from the clients misfortune (like in the break/fix model), but now with an “unlimited service”, downtime became mutually painful for both parties, after all, the risks were now mutual.

This change in dynamic was the catalyst which forced MSP’s to re-think their proposition and this led to a need for the service to be more proactive which has defined the modern day MSP.  MSP’s had to get more proactive thus reducing risk for both themselves and the client with added benefit of becoming more efficient, reducing risk and increasing service quality.  This led to the introduction of more intelligent IT tools which could monitor infrastructure so small issues could be detected mitigating the risk of a major outage.  The trouble is, even though the monitoring software may well prevent a bigger issue emerging later, if you weren’t expecting an alert from the monitoring software, this is still by definition ‘reactive’ time.

So fast forward to today and where are we?  The Managed Services model continues to evolve and while new ingredients are added to the MSP services, the same goal is always there – to increase the quality of service and also the efficiency.

MSP’s are having to keep innovating to offer the best service whilst still remaining competitive.  As a result, smaller MSP’s can suffer from a lack of resource and require their techs to “wear multiple hats” which can be the enemy of true proactivity.  As a busy MSP it’s all too easy for tech’s to get pulled into the reactive support vacuum.

But, to be truly proactive, we believe the answer is dedicated delivery areas outside of a reactive support desk.  This very structure allows us to provide a sustainable proactive service to our clients and this key differentiator sets us apart from an average MSP.

We have “Behind the scenes” delivery areas driving efficiency, preventing issues through best practices and processes.  Our best practices are distilled from all the collective technical brilliance across our Senior Techs.  Using this super database, we have scheduled proactive time on our clients infrastructure, leaving no stone unturned and comparing our findings against these best practices.  We meet quarterly with your leaders and discuss your business not just statistics showing that we are delivering the service we said we would.

Although having more delivery areas making up the Service could mean a higher entrance fee, the benefits of being part of this far out weight the costs. Paying less for a reactive service is not going to help your business.

When an MSP becomes truly proactive not only will the client see the benefits through increased reliability and greater productivity while enjoying less reactive tickets and less business risk.

So we can conclude that not calling your IT Company is better value for your business.

Written by Simon Moore, Technical Services Director – With 20 Years’ experience in technical roles, including the investment banking sector, Simon combines and obsession for customer service excellence with a passion for technology. Since joining Select Technology in 2006 he has transformed our services business and now focus his time on the strategic direction and leadership.

A day in the life of a Service Delivery Manager

The Service Delivery Manager role is a busy and enjoyable role.

Every day starts with a management Service Desk review where I can determine the health of the Service Desk.  Real-time data on our Service Dashboards gives me a quick insight into everything that is happening so I can gauge the current climate, and make informed decisions and allocate appropriate resources.  The morning is often spent making plans with the team, and helping with their next actions on sticky support issues.  The Service Desk health is carefully monitored throughout the day to ensure we are progressing through the workload efficiently.  We know what our end target is every day, so if we are not within acceptable thresholds we’ll quickly make a plan to rectify.  As you can imagine, it is critical we end the day in a good place because with Support it’s a certainty that more tickets will come in the next day adding to the previous day’s unresolved total, so if we aren’t on top of our tickets on a daily basis, our workload could quickly become unsustainable.

Constantly reviewing and improving the quality and efficiency of the team, to ensure we always deliver an excellent Service, is the top priority.  Traditional support is naturally very reactive, which means every day is different and it can be hard to predict how much capacity each team member has at any given moment, it only takes one major unexpected support ticket to impact everyone’s day. A big part of my role is working with our processes, products and people to develop new and improved ways of working to reduce the amount of reactive support we do; a more proactive approach helps us gain control over the quantity of reactive support we have to deal with. We are currently in the process of implementing new delivery areas within the services team to focus on ways we can effectively reduce the number of reactive tickets that are logged which will result in providing our customers with an enhanced end user experience.

Using our business intelligence data tools, part of the proactive teams role is to look for patterns and recurring issues and to ask the philosophical question “knowing what we know now, what could we have done to stop this ticket being logged?”. This is an important question that can lead us down a few different avenues. For repeated issues, one of three conclusions could be drawn; either a configuration change is required or perhaps a new product or service might be needed, or there is a training requirement for us to manage.  Sometimes we may develop self-healing automation processes which, after sufficient testing, could be rolled out as a preventative measure to all our managed devices giving all our  clients the benefits of our proactive work.  All of this positive effort helps improve our knowledge and efficiency within the services team, ultimately resulting in an enhanced end user experience to all our customers.

Our latest investment in the team involves a concept called “Gamification”. We have had pulse feedback solutions in place for a while where clients can click happy or sad on every completed ticket, however, we have updated our system to include Gamification where the guys get points for every positive feedback they get, a natural evolution in my eyes.  We are at the stage of developing rewards for the team and they’ve come up with some great ideas so far.   Very simply, points accrued can be saved up and exchanged for rewards of their choosing.  Ideas we have so far range from free lunches, 2 hour lunch breaks to various gadgets.  I am really excited by this addition, and how it will add an extra dynamic for encouraging and rewarding the team.

So to summarise, my role at Select Technology is varied, often fast paced and very rewarding.  Of course as part of my role to continually strive to improve our service, I’m always keen to hear from our clients first-hand about their experience of our Service, and I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to drop me a line anytime.

Written by Chris Malyon  Chris joined Select Technology in 2011 as 3rd line engineer and is now responsible for all Service Delivery. He has a talent to grasp new concepts quickly and masters technical detail.

Workflow automation: a step closer to the paperless dream

For very nearly forty years the myth of the truly paperless office has been a tantalising goal, remaining just out of reach. However, with readily available workflow automation tools, such as Microsoft Flow, the myth is closer to becoming reality than ever before.

The difficulties in implementing a paperless work environment are many and varied. Compatibility concerns, copyright regulation and the complexities of digitising existing hardcopy records, the ultimate goal of “going paperless” is still shrouded in the transitory future. The omnipresent use of email in today’s workplace, and the ability to carry your office with you in the form of a smart device, has had a significant impact for the vast majority of businesses. Even without consideration being given to enterprise oriented social networking platforms such as Yammer, the ability to send a bulk email rather than print off multiple copies of a memo, for example, has edged the dream a little closer. As has a generational shift in workforce, younger workers are statistically more likely to be comfortable reading a document on a screen, rather than an original hardcopy, or even printing out a softcopy prior to processing it.

Business processes themselves can be guilty of perpetuating the need for physical hardcopy documents by their very nature. If a document requires approval or authorisation, and needs to be passed between multiple individuals, it can be very tempting to print a copy to pass around for signature or initial, prior to final processing.

In my last blog post (Cloud Agility Vs On-Prem Deadweight – Aug ’17), I mentioned Digital Transformation as a paradigm shift, a completely different way of thinking. Rather than emulating an existing process and merely introducing more technology, the idea is to examine what you are trying to achieve and the desired outcomes, then using the tools available more intelligently to facilitate the required output. The new process might be fundamentally different from the original, but the output provides what is needed, cutting down on waste (both in terms of time and material) and increasing efficiency.

Tools such as Flow, included in most Office 365 subscription levels, and SharePoint’s integrated workflow functionality, make automating business processes simple and effective. When business decision makers hear “customised process automation”, concerns could be raised that specialised (and expensive) development is about to be proposed. This does not have to be the case. Flow allows quick and easy implementation of a wide variety of automation, via provided templates or built from scratch using intuitive blocks. Flows can interact with over 160 different online services, both Microsoft and 3rd party, and with a handy mobile device app, Flows can also be made available on-the-go. Approvals and authorisations can be gained in real-time, rather than gathering dust in an In-tray.

A very simple Flow that can take minutes to implement, and is a great solution demonstrator, adds rows to an Excel Online spreadsheet with date, time and postcode, upon the click of a button in the Flow mobile app. Rather than completing paper records of business journeys conducted for expense reimbursement, the travelling employee need only click ‘Depart’ and ‘Arrive’ at the beginning and end of a journey. All of the relevant information is then available in real-time to the Accounts department, ready for processing. It may seem almost trivial, but the time saved in completing forms, and the accuracy assured by the automation, is appreciated by all involved.

In the case of implementing automated workflows such as the example above, the sky is literally the limit (and brings the “paperless office” ever so slightly closer).

Written by Scott Relf, Projects Manager

With a background in Operations Management, Scott has applied his expertise to our Services and Service Desk functions since joining in 2014. He now leads our Project Consultants as they provide specialist implementation services.

The Power of Love (Feedback)

Providing Managed Support services to multiple clients all with varying levels of IT needs provides us with different challenges every day.  On a regular basis we have to deal with an array of issues and requests ranging from Cyber Security threats to password resets.

Whilst we endeavour to resolve our client’s issues beyond their expectations, how do we truly know if we have happy clients?

Historically we would have regular calls and client meetings, along with periodic lengthy satisfaction surveys.  Whilst this did provide valuable feedback, it was too infrequent and denied us the opportunity to act immediately.  In addition, more often than not, we were engaging with senior management which resulted in disjointed and sometimes historic feedback which frequently created a chain of miss-interpretation.

We were clearly missing a very important part of the puzzle… the staff themselves!

In order for us to be fully in tune with the client sentiment, we realised we had to understand how the staff were feeling about their Service experience.  We realised that by getting agile feedback from everyone who consumed the service first-hand was crucial to our success.

To address this, we implemented an intuitive simple pulse survey tool called CrewHu.  So how does it work?  It’s really simple, as soon as a support ticket is completed, CrewHu will email the client with the most important question “How did we do on this request?”  And the best bit?  To submit feedback it’s just “one click” on one of the faces.

Once feedback is submitted, we can very quickly gain an insight into how we performed on a specific issue, for a specific person.  In addition, there is opportunity to provide further written feedback if a client so wishes, although this is optional!

CrewHu will send out real-time alerts to the right people when someone has left a rating.  Our team will quickly follow up to deal with the situation where a client isn’t 100% happy. This rapid interaction allows us to be responsive with addressing any concerns and helps us improve our client relationships.

So why is feedback so important to us?  Simple.  Our continued success relies on delighted clients, and so feedback is an integral part of our improvement cycle.

The beauty of such a simple and effortless feedback system is that it encourages more people to use it which gives us a greater and broader insight into service trends which leads to improvements such as process enhancements and even helping us identify training opportunities.  Feedback is a key ingredient for us and means we are always listening to our clients which in turn shapes the future services we provide.

We’re proud that we consistently achieve higher than average positive feedback and that’s why we publish our feedback live:

http://www.itsupport.co.uk/livefeedback/

Our consistently great feedback is due to our dedication and commitment, we constantly challenge ourselves pushing the boundaries, driving innovation leading to service improvements all built on the foundations of this crucial feedback from our clients.  And not forgetting our Services team who are fundamental and committed to delivering service excellence and helping our clients make sure their businesses run smoothly with reliable and efficient IT Systems.

Written by Nick Potter, Director at Select Technology – Nick began his career at Select Technology in 1998 as a network engineer. His ability to develop long-term client relationships prompted a switch to client management, using his technical skills to align technology with positive business outcomes. Nick is integral to the leadership team, but still lends his expertise to this vital strategic planning role.

The Enormity of Small Business

My Customers never cease to amaze me.

Within the last few months, I made the move from working within Microsoft to joining Select Technology. As I made the transition from the world’s largest software vendor into the SME partner world, I knew that I would no longer be working with the blue chip, headline brands that I have been fortunate enough to interact with over the last few years.

That said, despite the concerns of others, I had no doubt that the conversations I would be having would be equally as exciting and invigorating as any I have had before.

And Boy, did my new customer base ever prove me right!

Throughout this and next year, Select Technology will be participating in the Microsoft Partner Workshop Programme. In Microsoft’s own words “These hands-on events are led by industry and solution experts. Their small classroom setting provides lots of opportunities to learn from and share with peers and experts in your region.” In other words, they allow us to deliver real value to our existing and potential customer base by delivering a series of half day Events.

However, the real value in these events has been the opportunity for me to see into the minds of the brave small business owners that employ more than 15.7M people in the UK.

Without the structural support and financial security inherent in being part of a larger organisation, these SMB entrepreneurs feel the impact of EVERY decision they make. Against the backdrop of professional and personal risk experienced by a small business employee, the agility and imagination displayed has really caught me by surprise. The level of creativity and imagination is far beyond the majority of what I have seen over the years from much larger businesses. Despite knowing that one wrong move could have serious consequences for their business, the key players within these organisations continue to embrace technology, deriving new and exciting ways to utilise, adapt and re-purpose what is already available in ways that most larger customers would never imagine was possible.

Small Business really is the key to the future of technology. Agility in this space is not optional. These organisations need to be innovative to survive. This drives a hunger for technology unlike anything I have ever seen before.

Each time we host a Workshop, the individual that seems to learn most is me. Maybe it’s time for some of the larger Vendors out there to appreciate and embrace Small Business. It is apparent that the true value in any deal is not the ‘value’ of the deal. It’s the innovation and creativity that builds solutions that can be taken forward to deliver industry relevant solutions that benefit hundreds of similar businesses in the future.

I look forward to whatever working in this exciting sector can teach me next.

The Importance of Documentation

Documentation is a vital part of what we do as a Managed IT Service Provider.  Customer intelligence is finding out things like how customers use applications, their experiences, and personal preferences – whilst ensuring that we can easily access the information in a secure manner.

Good documentation makes the entire process of providing support services more fluid and this translates into a more efficient and positive support experience for our clients.  Everything from new hardware and software configuration detail to 3rd party usernames and passwords are all centrally recorded which gives us the best platform to provide a great customer experience.

Good documentation is the base upon which 1st class customer service is built. It enables reactive situations to set the stage for proactive “Wow’s”, and it bolsters a team culture by making sure team members have the tools necessary to address customer concerns as effectively as possible.

We use a secure and agile cloud based solution which allows us to access all documentation relating to our customers using the internet.  This means that we have access to our full repository of information where ever we go.

Our documentation is effectivity in one location and fully integrates with our Service Desk system. All documentation is easily searchable via company, assets, hardware, software and known fixes to issues, this intuitiveness alone makes us more efficient.

All documentation is stored securely requiring multi factor authentication, which ensures that the data can only be accessed by authorised staff.

The system we use has the powerful capability to link documents to equipment, hardware, software, vendor, known fixes and more.  Linking enables us to easily identify which pre and post steps are necessary to complete a job at hand which may not have been known until the linked documents is seen.  This intelligence evolves over time as we use the system linking becomes mature which benefits all our technical team.

As a Senior Support Engineer, being passionate about good documentation is a must, as it not only makes my life easier but it directly translates to a positive outcome too.  After all, good documentation is an investment in future efficiency.

Rob Haggerty joined Select Technology in 2016 as Senior Engineer and has become an integral member of the team.  Rob is responsible for infrastructure and server related tickets as well as escalations from the junior team. Rob blends great technical skills with soft skills, perfect attributes for a customer facing support role.  Rob’s passion for service excellence drives his dedication to continually help us improve all areas of the business including developing our documentation solution.

Leveraging the Power of Azure – Dipping Your Toes in the Cloud

I was recently speaking at a Microsoft-sponsored Azure workshop held at Select Technology. Talking to the customers it become clear very quickly that lots of them struggle with inflexibility and lack of scalability within their current IT infrastructure.

Unlike some of the enterprises I have worked for in the past, small businesses are not always fortunate enough to have large and redundant server/ network infrastructure which can be used for unexpected workload increase or simply research and development (R&D). Sometimes it can simply down to physical growth, the server room cannot host any more hardware.

In fact, I was recently talking to one of our clients who were looking to upgrade, or even possibly replace, two of their core business applications. The challenges they had were: one, no hardware to utilise for R&D and two, they preferred to test the product before investing in it to establish if its fit for purpose. The only option they believed they had was to put some capital investment into server and storage hardware, to be able to test these applications. We will see later on in this blog how we addressed these challenges for the client, without any investment in the hardware.

In this blog we will see how you can start looking at Azure to migrate workloads. Azure is a truly hybrid public cloud, which gives you the ability to leverage the power of the cloud in conjunction with your on-premise infrastructure.

Hybrid Public Cloud? Another IT buzz phrase?

Not really. How many of you out there are already using Microsoft Office 365, or online accounting packages, and still have files and applications on on-premise servers – if you do, you are hybrid. More and more application vendors are now providing online alternatives for their products, so hybrid environments are becoming more and more common.

So how can you start dipping your toes in the Cloud?

Research and Development – Azure gives you the ability to test new applications by quickly spinning up virtual infrastructure. It gives you the ability to get it wrong – yes that’s right, you don’t have to worry about over or under spec’ing hardware or a solution. Going back to the example at the beginning of the blog, we created 3 virtual machines for the client in Azure to test their new applications and make a decision on whether or not they wanted to adopt the application. It gave the developer the freedom to work on the application and right size the servers before going Live. The biggest advantage that they had was that they could simply turn it off and it will not cost them a penny, but what if the client had invested in the hardware to test the application, and then discovered it’s not fit for purpose?

Storage in Azure – Many of you Infrastructure engineers out there will be able to relate to this. Storage is one of the very expensive components in the IT infrastructure but no one really wants to own the data. People leave but data never leaves, it’s kept for that “just in case moment” and it’s the same with shared and application data. So it makes sense for such archive data to be migrated to Azure storage. Typically for the same amount of SAN storage, you can buy 4 times the Azure storage for archive data.

Extending your current infrastructure – If your infrastructure is at its full physical capacity, Azure becomes an obvious choice as it’s truly hybrid. It supports site to site VPNs and dedicated express routes into the Azure. You can host services into Azure without physically expanding your current server room.

Backup and Disaster Recovery (DR) – Many of the small to medium size businesses operate from a single premises. Data is backed up to a backup server on the same site and most of the time in the same server room. The only form of offsite backups are tapes or external hard drives. Gone are the days when once an evening backups were sufficient. Businesses want frequent backups throughout the day (refer to my colleague Russell’s blog of 16th May here). In addition, what about DR if you don’t have a secondary site? Azure’s site recovery manager gives you the ability to easily and economically have a DR solution without having the need for a secondary site.

Public Facing Apps – Businesses no longer operate in isolation. There is an increasing demand on businesses to share data with clients, partners and suppliers. If your infrastructure has the capacity and your internet lines are fast and resilient, you can probably achieve this internally. But what if they are not? I will give you an example of another client we recently worked for, who was in similar situation. The Customer had a 70-30 split between mobile engineers and office based staff. They were looking to upgrade their “Field Resource Allocation” software, accessed both internally and by the mobile engineers. It made sense to host the software at an easily accessible and central location and Azure was the obvious choice for them. The application is now in Azure, and accessible by both office based and mobile staff.

The sky is the limit when designing new solution and incorporating Azure, due to the hybrid nature of the platform. Above are just a few examples to provide food for thought but just imagine the possibilities of working with more mature workloads such as:

High Performance Compute
Business Intelligence and Analytics
SAP and SharePoint on Azure

At Select Technology we have a hybrid cloud-centric ethos and this is reflected by our Microsoft Gold Small and Midmarket Cloud Solution Partnership. Speak to us and we can help you with the options you have available to leverage the power of Azure.

Written by Mantej Yadav, Senior Project Consultant, MS Office 365 and MS Azure MCP.

With over 12 Years’ experience in Technical Roles ranging in Public, Private and Charity sectors, Mantej brings the experience working in the large corporates and passion for utilising IT tools to achieve business objectives.

With keen interest in virtualisation and cloud technologies, he is the in-house Cloud-Evangelist – “I get a buzz out of working with clients to identify their business IT requirements and design an IT solution which enables them to achieve their business objectives”.  

In addition to the providing IT Consultation to the clients, Mantej is keen on presenting and benefits of modern IT tools and speaking at events like Kent Vision Live 2020 and at Microsoft sponsored workshops.

Is Your IT Support Like a Leaky Boat?

I wrote a thought provoking blog back in August called the “The IT Service Value Paradox – “How not calling your IT Support Company is actually better value for your business

I thought it would be a good opportunity to follow up and put a bit more context surrounding this concept and ultimately what makes us different here at Select Technology.  Those who know me will know that I love a good metaphor, after all, in an often overly complicated world; it is a great way to simplify things and help re-frame people’s perspectives.  So here goes:

Support with no proactivity is like a team sitting in a leaky boat, a vicious cycle of continually bailing out water with seemingly no time to fix the holes while randomly drifting along with no plan for the direction of the boat or its desired destination.

Dissecting this metaphor and applying it in the context of the real world IT Support looks like this:

  • Think of the boat representing a support company’s clients
  • The people are the support team
  • The holes are clients risks and support exposure
  • The incoming water is the relentless incoming support
  • And the boat direction/destination is support strategy.

Of course in this situation any thought regarding proactivity is hampered by the relentless incoming water, the boat is therefore slow to move forward and reach its desired destination and the people are caught in a vicious cycle.

Whether in-house or outsourced, in IT there is always a degree of reactive time but most people would agree that not enough proactive time is available which just isn’t good for the business.

The value of our service is not judged by how many times you call us for help or how fast we react when you do – it’s actually about how we reduce risk and improve your business through our unique processes.  After all, when you call for support it’s because technology is limiting your business rather than complementing it.

We are different at Select Technology.  Alongside our busy Helpdesk – we have dedicated teams and unique processes designed to continuously look after our clients proactively resulting in better results.

  • We have teams whose sole purpose is to find those holes in the boat and devise strategies to remove or reduce them
  • We have teams who spend scheduled time onsite regularly reviewing our clients infrastructure against our best practices to ensure risks are mitigated
  • We have Leadership teams who meet with our clients quarterly to have business discussions and how technology can help achieve their business goals.

Our unique approach brings stronger and more predictable results, which fundamentally reduces business risk meaning we enjoy relationships that are more positive with our clients.  For us it’s about positive actions which lead us all to positive results.

The Consequences of Your (in)actions

If you were ever to make the journey down to the Select Technology office, as you walked through the door, you would be greeted by a wall that spells out our guiding principles as a business.

One of these values relates to Innovation. We believe that to be the best organisation we can be, we owe it to our customers to be continually improving. Looking at what we do and how we do it and changing where needed to ensure that we continue to be successful.

Innovation is an interesting concept. Some organisations seem to think that Innovation means change for changes’ sake. Some believe that Innovation and change are essential and will embrace change at any cost. While these viewpoints both have merit, most organisations choose to exist somewhere in the middle, keen to embrace the positive benefits of change but wary of breaking something that is fundamental to the success of their business.

Change, for good or for bad, should in my opinion always be embraced. Meaningful analysis of the impact of specific changes can help highlight the benefits and mitigate the risks. A thorough understanding of what works well within your business (possibly by embracing critical analysis of your business using tools such as Power BI) will help you gravitate toward changes that are positive by nature.

The reality today is that change is a constant. The digital economy means that, no matter how fast we run or how hard we work, someone will always have just worked out a more efficient, more streamlined way to do something, think of Blockbuster & Netflix or Text Vs. Instant Messaging.

Innovation in business can be tough. Wouldn’t we all love the time to be able to stop what we are doing for long enough to be able to analyse WHY we are doing it. However, to ensure that we are always at the forefront of our industry, this is exactly what we must do. We are genuinely seeing the death of “but that’s the way we have always done it.” Sure, there are organisations that believe that is right and will continue to say it, unfortunately for most organisations that think this way the clock is ticking.

Let’s look again at Blockbuster Video. In 1997, when Netflix was formed, Blockbuster was worth $8.4BN. They were utterly convinced that their way was the best way forward. They believed in it so completely and were so resistant to change that when, in 2000, when Netflix approached them about a merger (Reed Hastings was asking for only $50M for Netflix to become part of the Blockbuster business) they sent the internet upstart packing. The rest, as they say, is history. Netflix is now worth $65BN, at the time of it’s demise in 2010, Blockbuster was worth only $24m. Blockbuster did launch its own online streaming service, but by 2006 when it was launched, Netflix already had almost 10 years of experience in the market and Blockbuster just couldn’t compete.

We all owe it to ourselves to continue to have an open mind about how things can be done differently. That organisation that comes to you and tells you they have a new way of doing things should at least be listened to. It might not be the right way for you to go forward but no longer can we simply dismiss these approaches as we have done in the past. That is exactly what Blockbuster did.

Hear no Evil, See no Evil

The Insights Team are one of the proactive sides of our services department. We look after the software and tools that assist our engineers in delivering an excellent service. We’re also tasked with ensuring that the essentials, such as antivirus software, patching, cloud based email and backups are delivered consistently and efficiently.

Being proactive means that we operate outside of the regular service desk environment, where the focus is naturally on reacting to, and resolving issues when they arise. We’re busy behind the scenes looking at how we can prevent the issue from occurring in the first place.

When our service desk processes a support ticket, they will gather as much relevant information as possible. This is not only important in providing a timely resolution, but it assists us greatly in building a better picture of the challenges our clients are facing.

Using our business intelligence tools, we perform regular reviews of the tickets we’ve handled recently. This enables us to identify trends and potential pain points, with a view to providing a solution to the root cause, rather than just the symptoms. If we see that 90% of a client’s tickets relate to failed backups, or there’s a spike in tickets relating to the wireless network, we’ll be asking why. This helps us to provide a truly proactive service. Using this intelligence, we can work with other areas of the business to provide long term solutions, reducing the number of support tickets that the client has to open.

Another area that’s constantly on our radar is efficiency. We’re always looking at better ways to carry out common tasks, which in turn leads to quicker resolution times for our clients. This can range from defining tried and tested processes for our engineers, to scripting the entire solution. Having spent a number of years on the service desk myself, I’m aware that time is limited for developing longer term efficiency savings ‘on the fly’. The priority has to be resolving live issues. The Insights Services team is ideally placed to take on these tasks.

Also hard at work in the background is our Remote Management and Monitoring (RMM) software. This is busy detecting unpredictable issues as they arise, such as hardware failures and offline servers. The fine tuning of this system is an ever evolving task for the Insights Services team. We constantly look at ways of automatically healing issues that are detected, meaning there is a resolution long before the end user is affected.

Another important part of our work in Insights Services is carrying out regular reviews of the software and systems we deploy. In a fast paced industry, it’s essential to make sure we’re benchmarking our current packages against alternative offerings. By the same token, we’re always on the lookout for changes, or news within the industry which may affect our clients, such as a recently discovered security threat.

Working within Insights Services is a rewarding role. The changes we make are often subtle, however the benefits can be widespread.

Plan for the Worst, Achieve the Best

The weeks blog centres around planning for availability.

Obviously this isn’t an all-encompassing check list for Disaster Recovery (DR) planning, but it should provide a high level starting point.

Availability, or uptime, are priorities for all businesses big and small. The keys to which are understanding and planning. -One important point to bear in mind, you don’t need to have all the information right away, and you don’t need to be overly granular straight away, that will come as the plan evolves.

Understanding: This is an entirely business orientated issue in the first instance.

  • Understand the business topology (departments, sub departments, etc)
  • Understand the way they work, and the tools they rely on.
  • From here you should be able to state which departments are the most important, and how long the business can live without these delivery areas – this helps to define your RPO’s and RTO’s.

At this point you can start your plan. As I’ve already mentioned, don’t get hung up on the details too early, IT is nothing more than a business enabler and as such the technology is arbitrary. Understand what the business does, and what it need to do as a bare minimum to keep operating.

Planning: Once you’ve established the business delivery area’s and their respective recovery objectives you can start to dig into the nitty gritty:

  • Where are these key services located?
  • How are they accessed? (this can play a large part, you need to make delivery of those tools & services as simple and cost effective as possible)
  • How often are they backed up?
  • Where & how are the backups stored? (are you meeting the 3-2-1 rule)
  • It’s important at this point to engage with your product vendors (either through your internal IT department or trusted IT partner) to understand what data is required to recover those respective services back into an operational state.

At this point you should have an understanding of where you are and where you need to be, and you can start putting together a Disaster Recovery plan, this should consist of:

  • Business Topology and the associated tools/services
  • RTO & RPO’s
  • Possible DR Scenarios (don’t get hung up on this, it’s impossible to predict every scenario, focus on the high level: specific localised failures, loss of the business premises, etc.)
  • Where the services will be located/recovered to
  • Vendor Contacts
  • Staff Contacts
  • DR Co-ordinators (who within your business will be responsible for co-ordinating the recovery, vendors and staff).

Now here comes a very important step: TESTING. Test your plan, recover your services in an isolated environment and review. Was it successful? Was it within your Recovery Objectives? If the answer to any of these is NO then you need to work with your vendors & IT partners to understand why and identify changes to address this.

It’s important to note that your DR process(s) is an evolving document. Every time there’s a change to the business, be it strategic or technical, look at how this affects the businesses Recovery Objectives and the DR Plan.

Every businesses DR plan will be unique to them, but as a general rule there are two area’s which can simplify the process and drive down Recovery Times:

  • Native High Availability – ensure your local resources have high availability and are fault tolerant (where possible). Mitigating the start of a disaster is far less costly than dealing with one! Look at moving your services into hosted offerings, Office 365 is a great example, Microsoft have spent billions making a highly available and fault tolerant infrastructure to provide it’s services. Piggy back on this and you can significantly mitigate the risks and impact of hardware and site failure.

As part of investigating this avenue with your prospective vendor, ask about their uptime SLA’s and DR plans, make sure you have confidence that they can meet their promises and keep your business running. It’s also worth looking at having a vendor agnostic backup of your data, at the end of the day it’s your data and keeping a copy in an independent location will help you achieve the 3-2-1 rule and protect your business

  • Implement An Availability Solution Not A Backup Solution – for those of you who read my previous blog you’ll know I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about backups. A backup is a copy of your data stored separately from the production copy of your data. For day to day file recovery that’s great but what about loss of whole services or hardware? Where are you going to restore your failed service(s) to? An availability solution should provide you with not only the backup mechanism but a place with which to recover to, be it local or in the cloud. It also goes some way to making your DR plan a lot simpler as you already have the recovery process in mind as well as a console to orchestrate from. Good backups will be a by-product of a good availability solution.

Written by; Russell Gower-Leech Bsc – Select Technology Systems Senior Project Consultant

Russ has been working in IT with MSP’s for over 10 years, starting as a support engineer and working his way up through field engineer, project engineer and finally found his calling as a Consultant. He really gets a kick out of designing technical solutions to meet, and exceed, Clients business needs.

He is one of Select’s Cloud Champions, helping clients leverage the power and flexibility of the hybrid cloud. He is also the in-house Veeam Evangelist – “I really love the flexibility and resilience of Veeam based solutions, especially as I spent the early parts of my career working with products like Backup Exec.”

Project Royalty – The PRINCE2 Methodology

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments v2) is a proven methodology for conducting project based change in a structured and manageable manner, and is recognised worldwide as a highly effective control model, offering best practice resource and risk management guidelines that can be applied in any project environment.

PRINCE was originally based on PROMPT, a project management method created by Simpact Systems Ltd in 1975, and adopted by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) in 1979 as the standard to be used for all UK Government information system projects.

When PRINCE was launched in 1989, it effectively superseded PROMPT within Government projects. PRINCE remains in the public domain and copyright is retained by the Crown. PRINCE2 was published in 1996, having been contributed to by a consortium of some 150 European organisations.

Here at Select Technology we are embedding PRINCE2 principles within our Professional Services Team, and bringing these benefits to our Clients which enables more consistent and predictable results regardless of whether we are installing physical server infrastructure as part of a planned hardware refresh, migrating a Client’s workloads into a cloud environment, or implementing network infrastructure change.

So, what does this mean, in real terms, for Clients engaging with our Professional Services Team?

A single word answer, to that very open question, would be Control. The structured process model of PRINCE2 enables a project to be broken down into management stages with defined boundaries and goals, reporting and issue highlighting mechanisms that both inform and advise the relevant roles, and pre-agreed actions in the case of any tolerances being breached (be they time, cost, quality, etc.).

By the organised use of Risk and Change Management procedures, and an evolving Business Case providing continuous business justification, the Client is kept informed at every stage. Risk is inherent in any changes from the status quo, however all that “risk” really means is “the unknown”. Risk can be both positive (in the form of an opportunity), or negative (in the form of a threat). Controlling these “unknowns”, and making them “known” (or manageable in the event they cannot be made known), is at the core of PRINCE2 and provides the most real-world benefit to Clients.

Project work should never be considered a potential money/time blackhole, but a force for change that can have a huge and positive impact on a Businesses operational effectiveness. PRINCE2 helps to reinforce Client confidence in the outputs being delivered, and satisfaction in the outcomes delivered back to the Clients business.

After all, who wouldn’t want royalty involved in their next major IT Project?

Written by Scott Relf, Projects Manager & Registered PRINCE2® Practitioner

With a background in Operations Management, Scott has applied his expertise to our Services and Service Desk functions since joining in 2014. He now leads our Project Consultants as they provide specialist implementation services.

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