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Broadband choices – why a larger investment always pays off

Broadband choices – why a larger investment always pays off

When it comes to choosing a broadband connection for your business, you may be surprised to discover there are three main choices. So how do you decide which right for you?

ADSL broadband

By far the cheapest option, ADSL is also the most common broadband connection in the UK. Running over standard telephone lines, ADSL offers download speeds “up to” 25Mbps which is considered adequate for residential connections.

In business however, there are two problems. First, although the ADSL2 download speed is relatively good, the upload speed is much lower – just 3Mbps. This means that your field staff may run into problems accessing files and resources remotely.

The second problem with ADSL is that the connection is shared at your local telephone exchange with up to 20 other businesses. If you think of your internet connection as a pipe, every time you send an email, browse the web, or make a video call, some of that pipe istaken up. Now think of all your employees doing the same – they each take up some more of the pipe. Finally, imagine twenty companies the same size as yours sharing that same pipe and you can see why that might be a problem.

An ADSL connection may be suitable for very small companies, but for everyone else it will quickly limit their online productivity. Especially if you intend to take advantage of VoIP telephony

Fibre optic broadband

Instead of using traditional copper wire, fibre optic broadband uses a completely different type of cable (at some point along the connection), that helps to deliver much faster internet speeds – up to 76MBps. Uploads speeds are also much faster – as high as 19Mbps under optimum conditions.

Unfortunately, most fibre optic connections have the same problem as ADSL – your connection is shared at the exchange. So although there is a lot more “pipe” for shared traffic, modern data-intensive applications like video conferencing and streaming will quickly consume the available bandwidth.

If your business does choose a fibre optic connection, it should only be seen as a temporary measure until you can graduate to a better service.

Fibre Ethernet / Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)

Unlike ADSL and fibre optic broadband, fibre Ethernet connections offer more than raw download speed. Yes, they can be incredibly fast (up to 1Gbps) but the most important feature is that they are not shared – all of the bandwidth is yours to use as you need. Unlike other broadband options, fibre Ethernet offers the same speed for uploading and downloading too, so data access is incredibly fast in both directions. Using a dedicated fibre optic connection, all of your data is secure from interference or tampering by third parties.

Fibre Ethernet is the most expensive broadband option, but you have a range of services at different price points to choose from. And, as your needs change, you can upgrade to access more bandwidth.

Don’t be blinded by speed and price

In the connected marketplace, having reliable, speedy broadband is essential. So investing in a shared ADSL connection simply because it is cheaper could be a false economy. There’s a very good reason that ADSL connections are advertised as offering “up to” 25Mbps – there’s almost no chance of ever attaining those speeds. Ever.

The additional outlay for fibre Ethernet will quickly pay for itself, especially if you are able to consolidate your VoIP phone and Internet connections into a single line. Your connection is also backed by a solid service level agreement, ensuring you get the speed and uptime promised. All of which ensures that you have a reliable connection at all times.

To learn more about your broadband connection options, including why your business really should consider fibre Ethernet, please get in touch

Get Smart on Cyber Security

Get Smart on Cyber Security

Get Smart on Cyber Security

There seems to be a never-ending stream of statistics about data security and ransomware these days.  Everybody wants to raise your awareness of cyber security (don’t worry, we’re not going throw any more stats at you).  We’re assuming that by now you’re aware that it is an issue.

However, there is a big difference between awareness of a problem and actually doing something about it.  If your business is something other than IT, the idea of sorting out cyber security probably makes you want to bury your head in the sand.  So, it gets put on the back burner.  And there it stays.

Cyber security isn’t fun or sexy and it’s not going to directly lead to any more revenue.

Or will it?

More and more businesses are inquiring about cyber security, and here are three key reasons why;

  1. Due to the increasing number of cyber-attacks, clients are asking more of their partners and service providers who hold or process confidential or personal information for them.
  2. The UK government has confirmed that the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will apply as of May 2018, regardless of the decision to leave the EU. Although the current UK data protection act is similar to the GDPR, there are additional requirements and increased penalties, enforced by the ICO, for organisations not adhering to good governance practices.  Responsibility lies with both the client and the provider.  Business is starting to take notice because to ignore it will affect their ability to trade in Europe.
  3. Organisations that work with government departments handling sensitive and personal information must be certified to a certain standard that ensures they protect themselves against cyber-attacks.

Fortunately, there is a UK government backed scheme designed to help businesses figure out how to approach cyber security.  There are two levels to consider based on the goals of the business.  The first is a templated self-certification process called Cyber Essentials.  The second is Cyber Essentials Plus that goes one step further to include an independent audit of your Cyber Essentials certification.

Regardless of the level chosen, there are a few key benefits of the scheme.

  1. It provides a way for you to demonstrate to your clients that you have reviewed your security measures and they are at least as good government standard. In addition, by placing the certification badge on your website and marketing material, you can set your business apart from competitors by showing you take security seriously.
  2. Even if the UK were not to participate in GDPR, any organisation doing business in the EU must be aware of, and adhere to, the GDPR principals. They can be held liable for GDPR breaches.  Putting the Cyber Essentials framework into a business is a great way to ensure the proper security measures are in place for data protection.  This will help towards compliance with GDPR which in turn can facilitate commerce with the EU after Brexit.
  3. Having Cyber Essentials certification opens the door to working with UK government departments.

Hopefully by now, you’re thinking this all makes sense.  However, there is still the challenge of doing something about it.  In reality, you could go to the Cyber Essentials website, download the information and try to go through it yourself.  But if you are a legal, architect or other professional services firm, with limited time or budget to address it, you’ll move on to “more important” things.

Why not hand this off to someone who has been through the process (we are Cyber Essentials Plus certified), and have developed a systematic approach to assess your business security, can identify any areas of weakness and help take remedial actions to help you become Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus certified, in the shortest amount of time possible.

It really is the easiest way.

If you have any questions about Cyber Essentials, security or any other IT related issues, feel free to add a comment below or reach out to us by clicking here

Topics: Blog, cyber security

 

 

Brexit and the Cloud

Brexit and the Cloud

It dominated the business headlines in 2016.  Now, as all the Brexit talk moves closer to becoming reality, many UK businesses who have adopted cloud, are probably wondering about the effects of a pending departure from the EU.  This is particularly relevant where you consume cloud services from suppliers in another country.

For those considering adopting cloud it raises questions and concerns about whether moving to the cloud is the right move for their business.

To help shed some light on things for businesses in the cloud and those considering it, here are a few things to ponder;

Rising Costs

One immediate effect for many UK businesses consuming cloud services from outside the UK has been an increase in the cost of services.  This is due to the decrease in the value of Sterling.

If billed in Dollars or Euros, the amount on the invoice is the same but it now takes more Pounds to pay the bill.  Even for companies billed in Sterling by UK cloud providers, cost increases are likely to be coming.  This is due to rising prices from global technology companies, like Microsoft, who provide products and services that sit behind many leading cloud solutions.  Microsoft announced late last year that Sterling prices for many of its cloud-based services would be increasing from January 2017 to bring them in-line with prices in other currencies.  Other providers are following suit, which means that UK cloud providers will eventually pass on these increases.

Customer Rights

Another factor to consider is the effect on the supplier/customer relationship.  What will be the impact on customer rights if the cloud supplier is in Europe but the customer is in the UK?  Will there be mechanisms in place to ensure that UK customers retain the same rights under existing contracts?  Only time will tell how this will play out but it is worth understanding what suppliers you have across Europe.

Data Sovereignty

For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to data being subject to the laws of the country in which it is located.  While being part of the EU, UK businesses had the benefit of EU Data Protection legislation.  When the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes reality in May 2018, it will supersede individual states laws.   UK businesses will need to ensure they understand the location of their data before Brexit and use this information to evaluate data sovereignty against any compliance obligations.

One thing is certain; there will be many things for UK businesses to be aware of as an exit from the EU comes ever closer to reality.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the impact Brexit is having on your decisions around cloud technology.  Is Brexit going to require you to re-evaluate the cloud services you currently use?  Alternatively, will it hold you back from making the move to the cloud until the dust settles?

Topics: Blog, brexit, Cloud Computing

 

Overcoming the skills shortage with IT outsourcing

Overcoming the skills shortage with IT outsourcing

Businesses already know the value of IT for saving time, automating certain tasks, and for simplifying communications. They are also aware that new technologies present opportunities to magnify these improvements. But there are two major problems.

First, new technologies tend to be quite expensive. Buying servers built around the newest processors are exponentially more costly than units that are a generation behind for instance. But where the systems deliver significant improvements, your CFO may authorise the purchase.

The second challenge is actually harder to address. Your IT team needs to upgrade their skills if they are to properly manage and maintain new applications or systems – which means a lag between deployment and full operational efficiency as they are trained.

Unfortunately, choosing to use cutting edge new technologies, means that there is a very limited pool of candidates from whom your company can recruit.

A skills shortage can derail your growth plans

Knowing that their skills are rare, these IT professionals can demand a premium salary. This further increases the baseline cost of your upgrade programme – potentially to the point where your CFO changes their mind, and the project is cancelled. According to the UK Federation of Small Businesses, SMEs in the tech sector have been forced to increase wages by 18.8% between 2016 and 2016 to attract talent – and those industries outside IT may have to pay even more to lure quality candidates.

For smaller companies, the combination of costs and scarcity rules them out of the running, leaving their larger, richer competitors to take advantage. Eventually the imbalance becomes too great, so that SMEs cannot compete meaningfully at all. Your growth could be severely limited too.

Outsourcing to the rescue

Once outsourcing provisions are set up correctly, there’s a good chance that your business doesn’t actually need a dedicated specialist for each new technology. There will be regular maintenance and tweaks required – but what will a dedicated technical employee do for the rest of the week?

In most cases outsourcing provides the balance you need. By partnering with an IT outsourcer, your business can tap into their pool of experts, from initial deployment, through to end user support and system maintenance. This team of specialists will apply their skills to your IT upgrade projects.

Using a third party allows you to avoid the costs associated with hiring a new member of staff; National Insurance contributions, recruitment agency fees, training, remuneration package and benefits. And the expense of under-utilised capacity also becomes the problem of the outsourcer.

You get to use fully-supported cutting edge technologies to drive your business forward, but without the usual staffing headaches that accompany these projects.

Taking outsourcing to the next level

Another way to combat the skills gap is to completely outsource your IT infrastructure. Instead of purchasing new systems and software for use in your office, you could choose a hosted equivalent running in the Cloud.

In this scenario, you get access to systems that are upgraded as new versions are released, ensuring you are always at the cutting edge. More compelling still is the realisation that upgrades are included as part of your subscription license – as is the team of experts required to keep the system running.

Under the Cloud computing model, your company never has to deal with the costs associated with running enterprise grade infrastructure – hardware purchases, software licensing, or the technical staff to keep the lights on. Best of all, your business will never be held back by a skills shortage again.

To learn more about outsourcing, Cloud IT and how they can be applied to your business goals, please get in touch

How to manage BYOD properly

How to manage BYOD properly

Whether businesses are willing to admit it or not, the use of personal devices on the company network is increasing. Some organisations continue to push back against bring your own device (BYOD), while others have embraced the inevitable – nearly 60% now permit employees to connect their own smartphones and tablets to company systems

Other reports suggest that employees truly value these mobility programs – when questioned, 39% said they would leave if BYOD provisions were not available

BYOD cannot become a free-for-all

For the CTO, BYOD is a headache. And allowing users to drive the company mobile strategy is a step too far, particularly as employees are seen as the number one threat to security by 78% of IT managers

The concerns extend well beyond security too. Among the many issues the CTO needs to address are:

  • Supporting multiple devices, operating systems and apps.
  • Ensuring that data and intellectual property is properly secured against loss and theft from mobile devices.
  • Verifying that data protection and compliance standards are upheld at every point of the new extended network.
  • Relevant safeguards are applied on the mobile device to restrict unauthorised access, and to protect against loss or theft.
  • How to ensure operating systems and apps are kept up-to-date to prevent security being compromised.

With so many legitimate concerns, manually managing the mobile estate is out of the question. Leaving end users to resolve these issues themselves is also out of the question.

Which is where mobile device management (MDM) comes in.

MDM is key to managing BYOD effectively

Mobile device management (MDM) is similar in operation and effect as your in house network management console (like Active Directory). When a user asks to connect their device to the corporate network, it is enrolled with the MDM system. You can then define and enforce a number of security provisions remotely.

MDM greatly simplifies mobile administration:

  • The system takes care of operating system differences automatically, extending the range of devices the IT team can support.
  • You can grant and revoke access to key resources from a central console on a per-user, or per-device basis.
  • You can define basic policies to ensure that devices are running the latest patches and updates before granting access to network resources.
  • You can deploy apps – like antimalware protection – to all enrolled devices, instead of relying on your users to make the necessary updates.

MDM is not necessarily stand-alone either. You can integrate the MDM’s authentication system with your existing domain controls, allowing consistent application of permissions and group memberships. This then streamlines the mobile deployment process, reducing your own administrative burden without sacrificing much-needed security.

Creating a break between personal and professional lives

Smartphones are central to our personal lives, acting as our default diary, address book and messaging tool. But to prevent sensitive personal and professional data being exposed to each other, you need to apply additional controls.

MDM allows you to create a sandbox on the user’s device, acting like a firewall between the two types of data held. Outside the sandbox, users are able to use their smartphone for social networking, chat and personal communications. Inside the sandbox you can install a series of business apps – email client, instant messaging, CRM etc – that are reserved for use in a work capacity. Data from outside the sandbox cannot pass through the firewall, nor can business data be taken out of the partitioned space.

Taking this sandbox approach segregates data efficiently, and reduces the risk of breaking compliance and data protection rules. The sandbox can also be managed efficiently from the MDM console – even if the device is not currently on site. You also have the ability to wipe the data remotely should a device be lost or stolen.

Centralised is the future

Even though the MDM platform may be located in the Cloud, the ability to control all of your users’ BYOD devices centrally will dramatically reduce your management overheads. In fact, MDM is the only way to deploy much needed mobility, without sacrificing resources required for managing and supporting other line of business applications and systems.

To learn more about MDM, or to arrange a demo of On Line Computing’s own hosted service, please get in touch