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Are you considering a Hybrid Workplace?

by Nicki Dowsett in Anti-virus software, Audit Reviews, Back up solutions, broadband, cybercrime, Data Loss Prevention, Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, General, Hardware, Helpdesk, Hosted phone, IT Support, IT Systems, Microsoft, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, MPR, networking, Password Security, Ransomware, Remote working, Risk management, rural broadand, SaaS Protection, Software, Tech-as-a-service, Wireless networks

We are aware that many of our customers are investigating a Hybrid Office for the future. Finding a balance between flexible home/office-based staff, those that prefer to be at home permanently and others that prefer to be in the office permanently. Media articles are suggesting that 43 out of the top 50 companies in the UK, do not plan to bring staff back full time.

Last year when everyone made the mass exodus to home working, there was a clear focus on getting everyone on-line and the business continuing. The return to the office is not necessarily as simple as everyone just turning up to work at their desk.  After almost 15 months away from the office some people may find adjusting to the office trickier than others. Individual working styles may have changed.  After working in an environment with little distraction to suddenly being in an office with colleagues on the phone or just generally catching up, may mean that they feel they prefer to be at home for some of the week.  From own conversations with industry colleagues and customers, here are some area’s that we believe you should be considering for your staff and business even if you are not considering a hybrid office.

Cyber Security

Internet Connections and Firewalls

Remote workers will require internet connections to be able to connect to the office network whether it is cloud based apps or a Voip phone system. The most important consideration is the router secured and has the password been changed since it left the factory? The standard routers issued by home broadband have basic security settings and it is unlikely that your employee has ever changed the router name or password. This puts your data at risk, as you have no control over this set up.

Another area to consider is that many home broadband connections state in the small print that they should not be used for business purposes. Although this has been overlooked during the lockdown, now is the time to consider is your employee at risk from using their BT, Virgin or Sky broadband connection. Finally is the connection reliable? Have they suffered, but put up with, outages until now? Or is their chosen home office space receiving a good signal, do they need a booster installed?

Installing a dedicated business internet connection to your employees homes gives you the control to secure the router and firewalls that connect your employee to your business network and data.

Back up Solutions

While cloud-based applications like Microsoft 365 are safe when left alone, they can’t protect you from yourself (or your employees). This is why the #1 cause of data loss in the cloud is human error.

Every day, users trigger data loss/corruption in cloud applications due to:

  • Accidental (and intentional!) deletion
  • Overwriting important data
  • Downloading malware/ransomware viruses
  • And more!

More and more businesses are using SaaS (Software as a service) such as Microsoft Business 365 or Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and it is often assumed that your data is backed up automatically and that these providers will hold all your data, BUT this is not the case.

For example Microsoft state in their Service Level Agreement the following:

“Microsoft is not liable for data loss due to application outages, it is also not liable for data loss due to deprovisioned user accounts.
We recommend that you regularly backup your Content and Data that you store on the services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services.”

Recent reports show that it could cost your business upwards of £1million in ransom, fines, legal fees, loss of revenue and IT Support to get your business back up and running if you suffer a data loss due to vulnerabilities in your network.   From as little as £2 per seat per month, MPR IT Solutions can support your business against Data Loss see our news article here.

Ransomware and Phishing Scams

Ransomware and Phishing scams are increasing and it is becoming more prolific. This is affecting all industry sectors whether your employees are at home or in the office. Employees using their own hardware are unlikely to have the same level of anti-virus or malware software to protect your data against phishing scams and ransomware. As it is a personal computer you do not have the control over this as you would with a business device. Implementing Security Awareness Testing across your business can identify individuals that require further training on how to spot a scam. For only £2 per seat per month you can help to protect your business by ensuring your staff are more aware of the potential risks on email scams. See our blog articles on Network Security and Is my Network Vulnerable? for further information.

Hybrid Office Workspace and Risks

Suitable environment

Personally I have worked remotely for 7 years. I am therefore well situated to understand the needs long term, as opposed to the last year. I have friends sharing the dining room table with their partner, or know of people that have been using a lap tray to balance their laptop and phone whilst sat on the sofa. These don’t work short or long term. If you partner is in Sales and on the phone constantly and you are in an admin role there are going to be clashes. You can’t both be holding a MS Teams or Zoom meeting at the same time, it is unprofessional and distracting.

Your office is likely to have LED lighting to create a bright environment, and these are on all day long. At home your staff are working in natural daylight and this can cause strain on their eyes when looking at their screen all day. Is their home in a busy street? If so, it can be distracting to hear vehicles or pedestrians going passed constantly. These are all areas to consider along with lone working risk assessments. It is your duty of care as an employer to ensure that your staff when working remotely are safe, cables and power leads across the room are a trip hazard and even though it is their own home you can still be liable if proper provisions and risk assessments are not offered.

Hybrid Office Equipment

Is there a clear separation of home and work space? Is your employee expecting to be able to work from the kitchen or dining room table or do they have a desk? Not every home is large enough for a full office desk, however there are many home office desks available on the market to suit most needs. Having a dedicated work space, allows for your employee to define work and home time.

As a business, if you decide that you want staff to work from home, you need to consider that they have the same equipment and furniture available to them as they would in the office. Desk space, chair, printer and office stationary. Often overlooked are ergonomic items such as wrist or feet rests to allow them to sit comfortably and without risk of long term injury such as back pain or RSI. Be prepared that if staff are working part remote, part office based you will have to pay and provide these items for both home and office, the same as you would if they were in the office full time.

Computer Hardware

Are your staff working on business computers or personal computers? Last year the focus was just to get everyone on-line, many businesses invested in laptops for staff, others sent staff home with their desktop computer. However, for some it was simply a case that staff would use personal computers (Bring Your Own Device – BYOD) as no one expected it would be this long. Linking back to cyber security, it is important to consider the security of the hardware as well as the lifecycle. If your staff are using aged or personal hardware you should consider upgrading or purchasing business hardware to secure your network and ensure employees are able to work remotely long term.

Alternatively, if staff are going to be working in a hybrid office routine, what are your plans for hardware? Whilst cloud platforms are great for being able to connect anywhere, if your employee only has a desk PC, they are not going to be able to transport it back and forth.

VOIP Phones

Hosted telephone systems ensure a professional first impression for your customers, no matter the location of your employees or the size of your business.  With a hosted phone system, staying connected to your customers by telephone is seamless for remote working or the return to the office – it is very simple to switch between the two. Bringing the ultimate in flexibility, with a minimal initial capital outlay, along with an easy to manage monthly subscription. A hosted telephone system will allow your employees to connect whether it be a hybrid office or at home with customers and colleagues. Flexibility comes with the option of using a softphone on your laptop or PC, a physical handset or an app on your mobile.

Employee Status

Re-integration to work place

Expecting your employees to return to a hybrid office or any office, as if the last 15 months hasn’t happened, is not an option. Everyone will have had different experiences and you need to accept that it wont be smooth and there will be friction. For someone that may have been in the office for the majority of the lockdown, they will be used to working in the office, however they are now used to almost silence. For someone that has not set foot in the office for 15 months, it will be daunting. Surrounded by people after being isolated at home with limited interaction to suddenly be around colleagues can be stressful.

Each individual needs to be considered separately. You cannot assume that everyone is the same. Some may have lost family or friends, some may have been in hospital themselves, whilst others may have thankfully escaped any such experience. Some may live alone and have had extremely limited interaction with the outside world due to restrictions. The return to the office will have an affect on mental health in some shape or form. For those returning from furlough it will be a huge step to get back into a routine, whilst others that have worked all through may resent those that were furloughed.

Mental Health

Going forward, employees that want a flexible working approach will benefit mentally by being able to have a better home/work life balance. For those that are parents will value the opportunity to be more available to their family without a long commute or staying late in the office. With the option to work from home they might stop to take a half hour break to play with younger children. This doesn’t mean they won’t be making the extra effort to get the tasks completed. After all, for the last 15 months much of it has involved home schooling and they still got it done then, nothing will change on that front.

Staff returning to the office will also need to be accommodated. Suddenly being tied to a desk 8 or 9 hours a day will require regular breaks as they settle back in. They will be used to not being observed for every move they make and it really does make for a better environment overall when staff are trusted. In the past many business were concerned that out of sight meant out of mind and that working remote should never be an option. However, these last 15 months have proved that it can be done in most cases.

Communication, Collaboration, Concentration

I found that the last 15 months brought me closer to the team. I have worked at MPR IT for 7 years, all of it remotely and being based in Berkshire my visits to the office are not regular. Initially, when we all started to work remotely and had weekly social gatherings on MS Teams, I suddenly got the opportunity to get to know some of my colleagues better. I would have regular quick teams calls to ask colleagues questions where as before I would probably have dropped them an email. Using teams we were able to throw ideas around quickly and easily in a chat or quick call.

Now that they are all back to the office, I still feel that sense of connection, however I do miss out on the ‘corridor conversations’ as some might call them. Where one person will mention something and it then becomes a discussion. They are great and do keep me up to date with any decision made and ask for my opinion, and with a small team this is easy to overcome. For those businesses that are considering a Hybrid office environment, you will need to ensure that employees do not feel left out by being at home, as opposed to the office and continue to hold regular sessions as a whole team.

How can we help?

Contact our team on 0800 030 20 30 option 1 or email us at sales@mpr-it.co.uk to find out how MPR IT Solutions can support your business with technical solutions for a Hybrid Workplace. Whether just one member of staff will be remote or the whole team, we can identify vulnerabilities in the network, support you in upgrading hardware alongside day to day managed IT Support.

  

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Is my network vulnerable?

by Nicki Dowsett in Anti-virus software, Audit Reviews, Back up solutions, cybercrime, Data Loss Prevention, Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, General, Hardware, Helpdesk, Hosted phone, Industry News, IT Support, IT Systems, Microsoft, Microsoft 365, MPR IT Work, Office 2007, Office 365, Outlook 2007, Password Security, Ransomware, Remote working, Risk management, SaaS Protection, Security Policies, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows Server 2012

At the end of every working day, you ensure your workplace is secure with windows and doors closed, an alarm set and CCTV in place. So why don’t businesses consider that protecting their IT network is just as important? Many businesses are of the opinion that it wont happen to them – when actually the statistics show it probably will.

  • Globally 30,000 websites are hacked daily
  • 64% of companies have experienced some form of cyber attack
  • 75 records are lost every second of the day
  • 94% of malware is spread through email
  • 24,000 apps are detected on the internet daily
  • 300,000 pieces of new malware are created daily
  • 70% businesses that experience large data loss will go out of business within 1 year.

According to Government statistics on cyber security breaches, approximately 54% of businesses are now seeking information and guidance on cyber security. That leaves 46% that are not taking this seriously.

Business Continuity Plans often only investigate if the building is inaccessible and as we have all experienced in the last 12 months this can be solved. BUT if your network is compromised, your staff cannot even do that. You will most likely be locked out of the entire network and in turn, need to consider these points:

  • No access to data
  • All records potentially lost
  • All data potentially sold on the dark net
  • Held to ransom running into hundreds of thousands of pounds
  • Potential law suits
  • Large fines for breach of compliance
  • Staff unable to work
  • Loss of revenue
  • Extremely unhappy customers
Do businesses survive data loss?

Vulnerabilities in your network such as out dated hardware and operating systems put your business at risk and recent reports show that it could cost your business upwards of £1miilion in ransom, fines, legal fees, loss of revenue and IT Support to get your business back up and running if your suffer a data loss or network attack. It is expected that 70% of businesses that experience a large data loss will go out of business within a year. If your network is vulnerable so is your business.

With the increase in threat from ransomware, phishing, DDOS and scams, the market for products in cyber security is wide and ranging. MPR IT Solutions invest time in researching the market and carrying out in-depth training to find the best products available, so you don’t have to.

Contact our team today to discuss your Network security and how we can support your business to reduce the risk – 0800 030 20 30.

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Can I lose Data on Cloud Platforms?

by Nicki Dowsett in Anti-virus software, Audit Reviews, Back up solutions, cybercrime, Data Loss Prevention, Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, General, Helpdesk, Industry News, IT Support, IT Systems, Microsoft, Microsoft 365, Password Security, Ransomware, Remote working, Risk management, SaaS Protection, Security Policies, Software, Uncategorised, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows Server 2012

By 2022 it is estimated that 70% of organisations will have suffered a business disruption due to unrecoverable data loss in a SaaS application.

More and more businesses are using SaaS (Software as a Service) such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) it is often assumed that your data is backed up automatically and that these providers will hold all your data, BUT this is not the case. For example Microsoft state the following in their Service Level Agreement (SLA):

“Microsoft is not liable for data loss due to application outages, it is also not liable for data loss due to deprovisioned user accounts.
We recommend that you regularly backup your Content and Data that you store on the services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services.”

MPR IT Solutions invests time and resources to research the Technology market for all of our products and services to establish the best market offerings for our customers, so that you don’t need to.

Datto Saas Protection is a solution that will fit a large proportion of businesses using cloud platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Workspace (formerly G Suite).

70% of businesses that experience a large data loss will go out of business within a year. By implementing a back up solution today, you will minimise your risk.

Contact us on 0800 030 20 30 to discuss your options today.

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Windows Server 2012 – End of Life

by Nicki Dowsett in Audit Reviews, Engineers, General, Hardware, Helpdesk, IT Systems, Microsoft, Server cabinet, Tech-as-a-service, Windows Server 2012

MPR IT Solutions are supporting businesses to upgrade from Windows Server 2012 ahead of it end of life.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 was the fifth version of the Windows Server operating system. Released to market in September 2012, and shortly followed by it’s successor Windows Server 2012 R2, in October 2013.

All Microsoft products and packages follow a fixed lifecycle policy. At the end of life Microsoft will no longer provide support or security updates for their products. These dates tend to be pre-determined from the day of launch, clearly setting out expectations from the start.

Mainstream support on Windows Server 2012 ended in October 2018, with extended support available until January 2023, however Microsoft has since extended this until October 2023.

Type of SupportMainstreamExtendedBeyond
Request to change designAvailableNot AvailableNot Available
Security UpdatesAvailableAvailableNot Available
Non Security UpdatesAvailableAvailableNot Available
Self Help SupportAvailableAvailableAvailable
Paid SupportAvailableAvailableAvailable

For full details on the different levels of support please see Microsoft here.

What this means for your Windows 2012 Server OS

October 2023 seems a long way off, and realistically it is over 2 years until the extended support comes to an end. However there is plenty to consider in looking to upgrade your Windows Server 2012 operating system.

Existing hardware and the compatibility to new operating system

Newer operating systems often require additional memory and processing speed to work effectively. Older servers may not have the capacity to cope with a newer operating system due to the advancement of technology in recent years. Simply installing a new operating system without fully establishing your hardware capability will most likely mean that your existing server and software may not work. This can cause a loss of data and your staff being unable to carry out their tasks.

Existing packages and software compatibility

Most businesses use a variety of software packages from third parties, such as accounting, customer relationship and design software. These third party packages are written to be compatible with the available operating systems at the time of their own launch. By upgrading your existing operating system, it is possible that third party packages will not be compatible to your new operating system. An in-depth review of all the software packages that your organisation will ensure that the correct upgrade is implemented. If they are not carefully considered, the upgrade may mean that your employees are unable to use software that is vital for their role which can be detrimental to your day to day work.

Current and emerging market options

The technology market is constantly evolving, depending on your unique requirements and the packages/software there are a variety of options available when it comes to replacing your server. These include cloud, onsite or hybrid servers. Before any decision should be made on the type of server you need, we strongly recommend an in-depth consultation to evaluate the type of server best suited to your needs.

Budget

Finally, and probably one of the most important to consider is the budget. Depending on the type of new server hardware or operating system upgrade this can be a costly project. With forward planning on the upgrades required you can identify the budget and put this in place in advance. It might be that you need to plan the project to take place immediately or in the future. MPR IT Solutions will ensure that following the audit and consultation of your requirements, the costs involved will be clearly explained and set out.

Time scale – don’t leave till last minute

October 2023, is a long way off, however the project to upgrade an operating system or migrating to a new server can be time consuming.

If you are looking to upgrade your server or operating system we strongly advise that you do not delay in considering your options. For more information and to discuss your requirements contact our team on 0800 030 20 30 option 1.

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MPR IT’s March Newsletter

by Nicki Dowsett in Audit Reviews, Helpdesk, Industry News, IT Support, Monthly Newsletter, Password Security

 Welcome to MPR

Our newsletter brings you the latest information on the Tech world, this is in addition to our regular posts on Social Media and Blogs that can be found on our website.  Please make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Instagram to keep up to date fully.

Cyber Crime Seminar

David Keohane (Sales Manager) attended a seminar on Cyber Crime, organised by Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with NatWest and Wilkins Kennedy.  This was extremely popular with over 50 attendees.  The general consensus of the day is that many businesses are becoming increasingly concerned at the threat from cybercrime.    Topics covered by speakers Sophie Urquhart and Louise Brittan included, Social Engineering, Malware, Ransomware, fraud and processes that should be in place to protect your business.

 

A Youtube video shared on the day highlighted just how scary this situation can be.   Please check out David the Mind Reader and though this can appear light hearted – it really isn’t.

We covered this issue last month in our blog and newsletter, however since then there have been many more stories in the news of companies and even countries at government levels being hacked.  Please take some time out to read our blog on how best to protect your business and home hardware and data.  We cannot reiterate enough how important it is to ensure you are aware of how easy it is to lose valuable data and even in some instances money.  These criminals are constantly looking at new ways to work around the system.  Please speak to our helpdesk team if you have any concerns on your network security.

IT Audit Reviews

IT Audit Reviews by MPR

IT Audit Reviews by MPR

The year is moving on fast and it’s getting to that time when many companies are planning the new financial year.  Do you have an IT budget in place yet for the forthcoming year?  Please read our blog on IT audit reviews to see how we can help you plan for the new financial year.  Or you may be lucky enough to have budget left over that needs to be allocated.  Many companies don’t plan for the unexpected need to replace new equipment of for support required during the year.  MPR IT can offer support packages to meet your business needs and that sit comfortably in your budget.  We can also assist in identifying areas that will require upgrade over the next year so you can be prepared in advance.

SQL Server 2005 support ending

Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Microsoft announced some time ago that support would be ending for the SQL Server 2005, we have a short blog on what this is and what it could mean for you. There are many different variables in choosing the best SQL server for your business and our team at MPR can help you through the decision process and migration required.  If you are unsure of the SQL Server you are operating please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Fundraising News

The team at MPR like to support many charities and the next fundraising event on the horizon is going to be a team event.  Following on from last year’s successful 5 Peak Challenge in The Lakes by Richard & Tom, this year they are at it again.  This year they have enlisted other members of the team to join them on a 26 mile hike from Brighton race course to Eastbourne Pier on Saturday 11th June.

They will be hiking across the South Downs and through Alfriston Forest.  Before heading out to the coast and Birling Gap and along the White Cliffs of Beachy Head and along the front in Eastbourne. Whilst Richard & Tom are seasoned walkers, the same cannot be said for the rest of the team.  They each need to raise £250 in aid of MacMillan Cancer, this is approximately £10 per mile each.  This is an amazing charity that works so hard to support those sadly affected by this awful disease.  Please support them and give generously – if nothing else just to see them suffer the pain of having to spend the day together out of the office.

Other Team News

Our office refurbishment continues and it’s been a little hectic to say the least, however the end is in sight and we now have more space for the growing team.  Our new apprentice Ben will soon no longer need to desk-hop and have his own space to call home. Ben joined the MPR family at the beginning of February and is quickly settling and learning the role.  Please join us in welcoming Ben to the team.

The help desk team have been really busy last month with over 800 closed tickets.  This is approximately double the amount of last February.  Well done to the team for working so hard to answer all the queries and issues from our customers.  As well handling incoming calls from existing customers, the engineers have also been busy bees with site visits and installations for a number of new customers.  Good job guys – the success is shown in our survey results.  We are achieving an average score of 4.9/5.0 on customer satisfaction. 

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and if you know of any colleagues that don’t receive our newsletter and would find this of interest please forward their details to us so we can add them to our database. If any of the news stories we have on our site may affect you please let us know or if you wish to discuss the services we currently provide to your business please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to help

 

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IT Audit Reviews

by Nicki Dowsett in Audit Reviews, IT Support, MPR, Password Security

Many new customers that join MPR IT require an IT Audit review – we can offer this to any company irrespective of you coming on board with MPR for full support.  For many businesses the new financial year is April and so now is the time to identify the needs of your business going forward.  We can help direct you to the most cost effective and efficient technology to suit your business needs.  An IT audit review has 3 aims:

  • Provide an objective and independent review of an organisations, policies, information systems and controls.
  • Provide reasonable assurance that appropriate and effective IT controls are in place.
  • Provide audit recommendations for both corrective actions and improvements to controls.

With technology and security changing so quickly, it is surprising how out dated your equipment can become and unable to cope with the daily demands of the current operating systems.  I have recently experienced this with my own hardware such as my Kindle and IPad.  Despite them both having up to date operating systems and only being approximately 4 years old, they are both increasingly becoming slow and unable to cope with some of the latest apps.  I was then faced with the minefield of different versions of Kindle and IPad to review and decide which suited mine and my family needs.  Did we need both now that the Kindle has advanced in terms of what it can be used for or could we manage with just one tablet.  As you can imagine in this day it is highly unlikely that one item will serve the family without constant squabbles as to who can use what and when.

it audit

Office hardware is just as easily affected.  When you have an office with even just 5 members of staff it can become very expensive to renew all the hardware such as PC’s, printers and laptops all in one go and many businesses do not have the budget to replace these all at once.  Not to mention servers that store all of your important data.  Security is also changing so quickly to keep up with the ever increasing threat of hacking and new variations of viruses.  How do you decide which PC is the first to be updated – from my experience when working in large companies it was always the director that got the latest tech.  Very annoying for the poor admin person that is on an old PC that crashes every hour and spends more time in the day screaming at the computer than actually working.  Meanwhile the Director was at yet another lunch meeting and the brand new PC was collecting dust.  This means that your staff are not working efficiently and actually costing you more money than you might think.

It is surprising how many businesses are not aware of the most vital IT hardware in their office – for example if you are an internet based business such as an E-bay shop, it is actually your internet that is most vital.  If you cannot connect to the internet you cannot see your orders.  This could be viewed on a smart phone, tablet or PC.  So your PC is not necessarily the most vital piece of equipment.  Or if you are a printing firm – without the best printer you cannot satisfy your customers.  The list can go on but I am sure you get the picture.

MPR IT can offer IT audits for all companies, our trained and experienced team have knowledge of all the most up to date and efficient hardware and software available on the market.  One of our team can spend time to listen and understand the needs of the staff and identify where and when new hardware should be procured if necessary.  Today there are so many options for both hardware and software, we can help identify the most efficient options for your business.

MPR IT are completely independent of any one hardware supplier and so are able to offer you the best price on the equipment needed for your business. Our staff regularly review the latest tech on the market and so can offer an informed view of how your business can continue to run cost effectively without any hassle from outdated systems.  Please contact us if you would like to us to review and audit your companies’ IT equipment in advance of the new financial year, with the right information and direction we can assist your business in identifying where your IT budget is best spent to support you through the future.

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