• How Can I Use IT to Reduce My Business Costs?

    Date: 2017.07.06 | Category: IT | Response: 0

    In our previous blog, ‘How to reduce your company’s IT costs’ we focused on saving expenditure on IT. However, a potentially more valuable question is to flip that question on its head and ask – How can I use IT to reduce my business costs?
    By the way, cost does not simply manifest itself in obvious pounds and pence – that would be nice. You have to look deeper – identify tools that can boost your existing resource, your staff, productivity – thus saving cost by reducing head-count and/or drive more value, more productivity from each staff member by allowing them to focus on what is important and not the ‘doing of tasks’.

    IT is a vastly powerful resource for business, we don’t need to go into detail as it’s abundantly clear for all businesses in today’s world, that IT will play a critical role in the organisation, from being able to deliver your products and services, to managing your business. However, many businesses are missing out on the opportunities that IT presents with respect to time-saving and/or increasing the productivity of their teams.

    Let’s take a simple example. Think about your company’s ‘staff time-off’ booking procedure for a minute. Do your staff send in requests for various dates, as and when they require, via email or in passing comment during your busy day, does someone need to manually check the calendar to see if there’s conflicting holidays and then someone else has to decide if they can have the time-off?

    But, I hear you say, I already use IT to support this function – we use Outlook and Exchange, we use spreadsheets to record the information and store in a secure file on our network.

    Yes, you are using IT but, could you be using IT in a smarter way? The answer is of course, YES! Just about every single task or process can be improved and in our example above, there are a load of simple solutions on the market you can use to help with this, such as Timetastic, or Appogee to name just two.

    How valuable would it be for someone to come into your organisation and identify a bunch of business activities, deliver them in a different way, and walk out of your organisation saving your business 50 days effort per annum? What could you do with an extra 50 days of staff resource time? A lot, right? Well, it is not as hard as it sounds, but you must be willing to embrace change and try new solutions as well as make an initial investment in resource time to identify these savings.
    If you (or an external consultant) can recognise the issues faced by your staff in day to day activities, then you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. There are invariably loads of businesses who have come up with the same issues over the years and an application or tool will have been developed to help deal with those issues. If you suddenly find that is not the case, and your issues is not unique, then that might be a Eureka moment! Bottle it immediately and get in touch with an app developer to help you to exploit the opportunity!

    Specialist tools or software, are designed to take the hassle out of managing systems and processes. E.g. in the case of staff time-off, if you can make this self-serve as much as possible, whereby your staff can see all the available dates in a single view, request time-off with minimal clicks, their manager gets a quick one-click approval and if approved the details automatically populate into the staff calendar. It may sound trivial but think about it. If you have 50 staff, and the process that the above software can do is being done the team, how many hours would this save? I would estimate that 50 staff, generate around 4-8 requests for leave per annum. Let’s say each request can take 10 minutes per request, then you have between 200 and 400 requests per annum which boils down to 33-66 hours or somewhere in the region of 5-10 days per annum! If by implementing software you brought the per request time down to 2 minutes, think how many more days are available for more productive and valuable work?

    There’s plenty of different IT solutions which can have the same time-saving (and therefore cost-saving) effect, from your accounting package to office productivity applications, document sharing and social media management. Due to your busy schedule, you may not be able to find the time to identify which software or applications could help your business and that’s where a business IT use audit from a reputable company can pay dividends. Your consulting firm should be able to identify not only cost-cutting opportunities but also time-saving opportunities that IT can enable.

    For a friendly discussion about what areas IT could improve your company’s productivity give us a call on 020 8099 1502.

  • How To Reduce Your Company’s IT Costs

    Date: 2017.06.28 | Category: IT | Response: 0

    In an ever more technologically focused business world, there is an increased pressure on IT budgets to go further. According to consultancy firm Alinena, small businesses currently spend, on average, 5-7% of their total annual revenue on IT services.

    There are also hidden costs of IT to be mindful of, Samsung conducted a survey in 2016 and found that on average each employee spends 2 hours and 47 minutes on IT related issues each week, significantly harming productivity. The same study also found that 9 in 10 employees claim they regularly lost concentration at work, having to come to the aid of a colleague with an IT related issue.

    There are other hidden costs which can come from a number of sources but the most common is sometimes referred to as ‘IT by the back door’.

    How many SME businesses sign off on projects to implement software tools for a specific function (e.g. HR, Payroll, etc) using their departmental budget, but don’t consult with their IT team? We expect this is almost 100% to a greater or lesser degree.

    Ultimately, the costs of signing off projects which have not been reviewed by IT can be much higher than expected, since no assessment for compatibility has been made and any integration issues could end up costing far more than anticipated because a few simple questions were not asked. (Not to mention this is very dangerous as IT by the back door can be a big problem to businesses – e.g. who knows what level of unstructured data sits on systems which are not compliant with regulation – e.g. GDPR – but that’s another topic!).

    So, how can you keep a handle on IT costs whilst ensuring operational capability, staff productivity and of course maintaining security? As ever there isn’t a single answer to this question… However, by implementing a number or all of the below suggestions you can begin to get a better return for your IT budget.

    5 Steps to Reducing IT Spend

    Regularly review and consolidate where possible: As a business grows, naturally it’s IT requirements will change. At various times it is likely you will utilise more software and applications to run your business. It is useful to conduct a regular audit of your IT systems (annually is a good start) and identify if any products/services can be removed. You will be surprised how much software is paid for that is no longer used, even if only one or two licenses – it all adds up! Consolidate services to fewer suppliers. Much like your insurance, if you have several family members needing car/home/health insurance you have more clout with a supplier to drive a discount.

    Move to the cloud – Hosting your data within secure virtual server environments is becoming more common as business demand changes. It is no longer cost effective, secure or productive to have physical services in your offices; they can be cumbersome for office moves; increase the risk of data loss by damage caused by overheating, fire, flood, etc; not to mention the capital cost of sourcing and implementing. Virtual servers and hosted desktops are an effective alternative. Your data is housed away from your office in secure data centres offering resilience (dual power supplies, backup services, etc) and control is centralised and costs usually fixed on a per user or per service basis. i.e. You can purchase the required services you need as your business grows, flexibility and at a known cost.

    Outsourced IT Support – As Samsung’s study has shown, your staff are wasting too much time on often minor IT issues. Much better to utilise an expert who can solve the problem in fraction of the time, although it may seem an additional cost, packages can be flexible on a ‘call as you need us’ basis and the time saved by your employees will far outweigh the investment.

    Embrace the idea of Multi-Cloud services – Applications such as email, Accounting, and Microsoft Office can be run from the cloud and, as you add users only when you need them, this flexibility ensures you’re not wasting money and can keep a clear eye on your costs.

    Alternative Office Hardware – Of course it’s essential your IT equipment can perform the tasks required reliably, without issue, but there are smarter options. For example, using the cloud and hosted desktops you only need purchase thin client devices rather than PC’s. They are available at a lower Capex, use 60-80% less electricity to run than a standard desktop, and also produce less heat in the office that then needs cooling, which all drive down cost.

    As ever, please feel free to call us for a friendly, no obligation discussion if you have queries on any of the above – 020 8099 1502.

  • What is Ransomware?

    Date: 2017.05.30 | Category: Cyber Security | Response: 0

    After an increasing number of high profile cases including that against the NHS in the UK more people are asking the question, ‘What is Ransomware?’. And most importantly, ‘How can I protect myself and business from it?’.

    Simply put Ransomware is; a type of malware (malicious software) that prevents a user from accessing their system or files, this is commonly done by encrypting data (converting information into a code) and holding the user to ransom by asking for funds to unencrypt their data and therefore providing access to their files once more.

    Ransoms can range from anywhere a few hundred pounds to several thousands, as you may have seen from the NHS attacks in May 2017 they were only asking for $300 per computer. Fortinet, a US based cyber security company, suggest ransoms are becoming less (in the region of £50-£200) to make them more like a parking ticket, where the victim simply pays the amount to avoid the hassle.

    So, how can you protect yourself and your business against ransomware?

    As with any cyber security policy or action there is no ‘silver bullet’ which will guarantee your safety, however there are some simple actions you can take to reduce the chances of an attack, such as;

    Be vigilant with your emails, 33% of attacks in the UK come from users opening malicious emails. Request a free copy of our ‘Email – Is It Safe?’ poster for a step-by-step guide and what you should be asking yourself to check if an email is safe.

    Back-up your files, this is a massive one and still hugely underutilised. By having copies of your file elsewhere the impact on files being encrypted is minimal, particularly if you back-up daily the worst case is you lose a few hours of data. Critical here is that you back-up to a server not directly linked to your original data otherwise the infection could reach your back-up files too.

    Update your system and software, please ensure you update as soon as a program offers a new update. You can set Windows to automatically update to the latest versions, this prevents hackers using potential vulnerabilities in outdated software.

    These are just a few areas to get you thinking about how to prevent a ransomware attack, please call us if you have further concerns or need more advice on how to stay cyber safe.

    Please request a copy of our Free ‘Email – Is It Safe?’ A2 printed poster for your office.

  • Should I Let My Staff Work Remotely?

    Date: 2017.05.02 | Category: Remote Working | Response: 0

    It is becoming increasingly common for company staff to work remotely, either because they have asked for the flexibility to, or the business requires it. According to the Office for National Statistics nearly 15% of the nation’s workforce are now working from home as part of their current role. A recent survey by the British Chamber of Commerce found 91% of businesses have at least one staff member working from home. Inspired by books such as Tim Feriss’ 4-hour work week, a generation of staff are asking to work remotely, the question you should be asking is ‘is this good for my business?’

    As a business owner or senior management team, there are many reasons why you would consider allowing remote working amongst your team. Not only does it save on costs in relation to the office space and having a permanent desk but remote working has been shown to increase productivity by at least 20% with 90% of remote workers believing they get more done according to a survey by Forbes magazine. However, there are many considerations too.

    What are these considerations? There are a number – physical (tangible), policy and standards, as well as possible tax implications.

    Here are some of the main considerations from an IT perspective:

    IT Equipment – Who will supply the laptop/PC and any mobile devices the remote worker will use? If the company, are these insured away from the office and can you be sure they are being looked after correctly? What security is in place, particularly if the remote worker is using their own equipment (BYOD)? What happens if devices crash, who will supply the back-up and how quickly? What is the cost of downtime of the remote worker?

    Connectivity – the bedrock of anyone’s ability to work remotely is a reliable internet connection. Who is supplying this, the individual or the company? Who within your business will assess the quality of the broadband available to the prospective home-worker? If broadband is not suitable, can a 4G mobile network work? Again, who is responsible for the contract with the 4G provider?

    Cyber Security – On your office network it is easier to manage security, no doubt with office firewalls in place, monitoring and antivirus installed across all networked office devices, etc. However, for remote workers – can you be sure their devices are safe? How do you ensure adequate firewalling is in place? How will users access corporate systems? E.g. secure VPN? Hosted Desktops? Packaged Applications? Lots to consider.

    Internal Threats – We hope you don’t have to face a member of your team intentionally trying to hack your system and use data for criminal use, however, in the context of remote working , many internal threats can be accidental where a remote worker is unaware their device has been hacked or their device is lost or stolen. Remote workers are more likely to use mobile devices (laptops, tablets and phones), so the risk to the business, of loss of data/information, increases significantly. Therefore, systems (such as Mobile Device Management, 2FA) and policies need to be in place to mitigate these increased risks.

    One of the best ways to ensure you can deliver the user experience your remote worker needs, whilst maintaining centralised security, is to use hosted desktops. In combination with desktop centralisation, you can add additional layers of security, e.g. not allowing copy/paste between hosted desktop session and local machine; implementing a multi-factor authentication service (or 2FA) where users need to input a code or click a button using a token or app on their phone, in addition to their username and password.

    If you have questions around your IT and Cyber Security requirements for remote working, feel free to give us a call for a friendly chat, on 020 8099 1502.

  • Why You Should Update Your iPhone Right Away

    Date: 2017.04.25 | Category: Mobile Device Management | Response: 0

    You receive the notification as you do every so often that the latest iOS software upgrade is available and you should perform an update. It’s likely you’ll be using your phone at the time and think ‘I’ll do it later’ tapping the ‘remind me later’ button. That evening your iPhone gives you it’s promised reminder that it’s time to update but you’re scrolling through Facebook and put if off once more, and so on and so on…

    Here’s why you should change your ways and hit the update button as soon Apple asks you to!

    Primarily this is a security risk. As with any software, there will always be flaws and loop holes in security. Over time, Apple will identify these and create solutions which they then release as updates in their latest iOS software update. The urgency is high because these loopholes are found and published on the dark web very quickly so any hacker will know what vulnerabilities exist in the previous version and so this means you’re more prone to an attack if you do not update right away.

    Secondly you will ultimately achieve a better user experience. Updates often provide useful new features such as ‘night mode’ which you’ll want access to get the most from your device. Also, 3rd party apps will update their features in line with the iOS update, so without first updating your iPhone software you won’t be able to utilise many of these new benefits either.

    So, check now! Go to ‘settings’, ‘general’, and finally ‘software update’ and check if your iPhone is up to date. If not, sacrifice checking your emails on the go for a while and update now! But remember to ensure you always have a current back-up of your phone either via iTunes or iCloud before proceeding with an update…

  • The Role of Leadership in Cyber Security

    Date: 2017.04.20 | Category: Cyber Security | Response: 0

    You may be surprised to learn that only 21% of directors believe that their company is managing cyber security risk well. Why is that? Surely it can’t be for lack of awareness, cyber security is receiving more publicity than ever before, it’s rare you won’t read of a serious cyber-attack in the Sunday papers, or scroll across an attack on your favourite news site, even TV has programming highlighting the issue such as a recent cyber-crime feature on BBC Crimewatch.

    So, if not awareness, then perhaps capability? As a leader in your business, ask yourself a serious question, do you have the knowledge to create, implement and monitor a cyber security process suitable for your business? If the answer’s no, you need help and fast. Far from trying to scare monger it’s a reality that your business particularly if in the financial services sector, will be attacked, if it hasn’t been already (perhaps you don’t even know about it).

    Of course, capability won’t be the only reason. As business leaders, you will likely be an experienced manager and may have good technical knowledge in the area you do business, but I’m sure you’re well versed in bringing in support such as marketing, sales or accounting to fill your knowledge gaps. You will also likely undergo regular risk management and if you were to identify a risk, such as say one client providing too large a portion of your company’s revenue you will react by increasing marketing activity to reduce that risk. So why is you’re not reaching out for support when it comes to cyber security?

    Trust? Of course, it makes sense you need to trust a company or individual to have them access your IT systems but that is no different from trusting an accountancy firm with access to your company’s finances or trusting a marketing agency to spend your budget effectively.

    The truth is we don’t know, and the best person to answer this question is you! Call us and let us know will you. The fact you’re reading this tell us you’re one of the more forward thinking business leaders and likely to take steps towards protecting your business on-line. If so, here’s what you should be doing next.

    5 Key Steps to Leading on Cyber Security

    Acknowledge and accept that Cyber Security is a real and active risk for your business.
    Understand the exact risks your business faces and the possible consequences.
    Expand your knowledge in the area, bring in a specialist company to help you do so.
    Implement a policy from the top-down which outlines clear processes to minimise risk.
    Plan and practice what you would do in case of an attack.

    Reference Articles:

    Forbes – Cyber Security Leadership
    McKinsey – Senior Leaders Against Cyber Security

  • CRM Hosting Video Presentation

    Date: 2010.09.22 | Category: Webinars | Response: 0

  • secureVirtual is getting noticed!

    Date: 2010.09.03 | Category: News | Response: 0

    Over the last few years we have focused on delivering hosting projects and grown organically through referrals and recommendations. We have been behind the scenes.

    Now though, with our latest large hosting deployment, things have changed.

    Have a look at our latest exposure in the press:

    Computing.co.uk
    v3.co.uk
    Financialdirector.co.uk
    pcw.co.uk
    CIO-today.com
    Contact Centre World
    Newsfact.com
    industrytoday.co.uk

  • What are Hosted Desktops?

    Date: 2010.05.03 | Category: Hosting Services | Response: 0

    Before you read this post please see an overview of Hosted Desktops on our website. Please also note that the information in this article is in relation to secureVirtual Hosted Desktops hosted on our SVi cloud hosting platform and as such will have a higher resilience and performance level than the industry standard. Please get in touch and we can happily explain the differences.

    So, you have read about Hosted Desktops, you are starting to get a feel for what they might be able to do – but you still aren’t quite sure what they actually are or more importantly how they could help your business. That’s fine, because the truth is, most people don’t know what they are, or how powerful they can be. The aim of this post is to give you a little bit more information about Hosted Desktops and some of the main benefits. Of course, if you are interested in this subject, you can just give us a call and talk about them (UK only) – see our website.

    What are they called?

    In this article we are calling them Hosted Desktops. However you will often see them referred to as Remote Desktops, Virtual Desktops, Remote Virtual Desktops and DaaS (Desktops as a Service). These are all names for the same thing – a centralised desktop that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

    How do they work?

    This of course depends on the provider and the technology they have chosen. A very common method to follow is to use Microsoft Terminal Services (note: Other popular methods are available including Citrix) and connect to the desktop via a RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) on the client device (Client device could be a PC, Laptop, thin client etc) . So, as a business you have a server environment in a datacentre which has enough power to host multiple Windows desktops, then you have client devices in your office which have nothing on them and is connected to the internet. The user then uses the internet to connect to the server and login to their desktop. The user can now work as normal but instead of using a PC to run the applications (Word, Excel etc) they are being run by the server in the datacentre and just sending screen images and mouseclicks/keyboard presses back and forth.

    What are the benefits of a Hosted Desktop solution?

    Work from anywhere:

    By having the desktop hosted centrally it does not matter where the user is located they will always login into the same desktop. So whether a user is in the office, at home, on a train or in another country. They always access the same desktop, see the same programmes and work on the same documents. This means you get true remote working. It also means that there is no need to transfer documents around the place as you always login to the same desktop. Using Hosted Desktop solutions can therefore introduce a better working environment for employee’s at the same time as improving security.

    The speed of the system is dependent on the internet connectivity available to the user. However on a standard broadband connection the user will work seamlessly. Plus with the advances with wireless internet technology (3g) users are now able to work remotely using wireless 3g cards.

    Resilience:

    By being centralised the desktops avoid the usual problems faced by the traditional PC model. If there is a power cut in your office only the client device is affected – your desktop (And therefore your work) is happily sitting in the datacentre unaffected. You just reconnect when the power is back/you get home and carry on. This is also the case if a client device fails – just replace it/move desk and log back in. Hosted Desktops introduce a supperior level of resilience for businesses who can’t afford to be offline.

    Data Security:

    By putting all of your data in a centralised environment you eliminate a huge number of risks. With the data stored in a datacentre you are protected against office fire, flood or theft. If your office does suffer a loss you have only lost the client devices. The  Hosted Desktops (And therefore the data is still sitting in the datacentre). Plus with the data kept off of the client devices you don’t have to worry about employee’s losing their laptop or USB sticks. You can of course even control the files that are allowed to be removed from the environment. All files that get removed from the environment can therefore be forced to go through scanning processes to ensure that your environment stays completely virus free – and create an audit trail if you are worried about sensitive data being leaked.

    Disaster Recovery:

    One of the biggest risks with the ‘standard’ IT approach is the risk if you have an office failure. For example if you have an office fire, all of your PC’s and comms room is destroyed – what would you do? Using a Hosted Desktop solution would take care of this by default. If you use Hosted Desktops and you have an office fire you just need to find another location, client devices and an internet connection.

    Costs:

    There are many savings to be made. Firstly from using a predictable per user per month model for the desktops, having no CapEx, as you are not buying the hosting equipment, and because you are benefiting from the economies of scale achieved in a large infrastructure. Secondly because your client devices (thin clients) can use a fraction of the electricity needed by large power hungry PC’s. Although completely business dependent, it’s possible for Hosted Desktops to achieve a 40% saving. You also benefit from not having to depreciate hardware and prepare for the 3 yearly hardware replacement cycle. Your monthly fee covers hardware upgrades.

    Scalability:

    Another big feature is the ability to scale up and down by users each month. You can add accounts easily to your network. This means for fast growing businesses there is a simple and cost predictable process to follow. It also applies when shrinking.

    Flexible Resources:

    If you need more power for your applications – it’s just a press of a button. The same applies to data storage. As a company you only pay for what you need. So if you have 100GB of document storage – just pay for 100GB and then add more when you need it. There is no need to buy 500GB and leave 400 of it empty for a year.

    Disadvantages of Hosted Desktops:

    Internet connectivity:

    To connect to a hosted desktop you need access to the internet. Therefore you need good quality connectivity and you need resilient connectivity. Businesses should always ensure they have a secondary line in case of a primary line failure. This is a very important aspect of moving to Hosted Desktops. Check what connectivity you have and can get in your offices. Give us a call for more info. secureVirtual are an ISP (Internet Service Provider) for this reason. It allows us to provide a range of internet services in partnership with BT, Tiscali and others.

    Graphically Intensive:

    As Hosted Desktops work by sending screenshots from the server to the thin client they are not ideal for graphically intensive programs. The client device receives the screenshot and then draws it. Therefore they are not suitable for video editing, advance graphics programs or rich media streaming.

    secureVirtual SVi Guarantee

    securVirtual Hosted Desktops are hosted on our SVi platform. By using our VMware based virtualised platform we can offer a 100% uptime guarantee and ensure that a business using our Hosted Desktop services don’t suffer downtime due to hardware failure. As mentioned we are also an ISP and have a range of connectivity solutions to offer.

  • The First secureVirtual Blog Post

    Date: 2010.04.28 | Category: Blog | Response: 0

    Hello and welcome to our first blog post.

    Over the coming months/years we are going to be posting regularly about the subjects that mean most to us and our clients. Cloud hosting/SaaS is still a very new technology and as such we get lots of questions about different services we provide and technologies we work with. So I am going to use this post to introduce us and what we do and then future posts will be more subject specific.

    Who are secureVirtual?

    We are a UK company with our main office in London who specialise in hosting business applications and systems using our cloud hosting platform (SVi). We were initially formed as a spin off from a Software Development house back in 2005. While developing software it became apparent that businesses were lacking an option to outsource their critical applications to someone who could provide the reliability they needed. As such we started investing into our own hosting platform in 2003, testing the virtualisation technologies and then after two years of research – launched secureVirtual in 05.

    Nowadays we are a highly experienced VMware cloud hosting company with some big success stories under our belt. We offer a range of hosting and consultancy services and work with Businesses who have an internal IT team and our Channel Partners. As one of the first companies to create a cloud hosting platform we have become a leader in VMware hosting and infrastructure design and are very proud of our 100% uptime hosting platform – SVi.

    Find out more on our About Us page

    What do secureVirtual do?

    To put simply we are a Cloud Hosting company. The term Cloud is still not that well defined, but for us we see it as the ability to make things available via the internet. We offer a wide range of hosting and consultancy services. Including Hosted Desktops, Application Hosting, Dedicated CRM, VMware Virtual servers and the wide array of consultancy skills you need to be able to make the most of these services in business. For the enterprise class business (By enterprise I mean businesses that need 100% available IT and have an internal IT team) we focus on creating highly secure private networks and provide mission critical hosting. For other businesses that don’t have internal IT teams we use our Channel Partner network to help – providing the enterprise class technology of SVi with the first line support of an expert partner.

    We also help software developers put their software in the cloud and offer the SaaS model to their customers.

    Find out more?

    One of our biggest values is to ensure we stay a technical company. It’s why over 80% of our team are technical. As such we like to meet people for a coffee and just discuss their technical problems. We then give free advice and a no stings attached opinion. Sometimes we can’t help, sometimes we can. But so far we have not had anyone who has not taken at least a little bit of useful knowledge away.

    So, if this subject interests you and you work in the UK, why not arrange to meet one of us for a coffee?

    I hope our blog posts are useful to you and please if you have any feedback – send us a message.

    Thanks for reading.