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Everything you need to know about digital education platforms for schools

When it comes to technology and Covid-19, discussion often focuses on the colossal changes that have been forced, at breakneck speed, on organisations.

You’ll have seen the stream of TV adverts featuring people on video calls, mirroring our own new ways of connecting in a disconnected world. You’ve no doubt encountered the various guides on how to make the best of remote working. And you’ve probably heard businesses talking about the radical steps they’re taking to protect their staff and customers.

In many cases, the dialogue unfolds in a way that suggests change is a new thing. But we all know that this is not the case.

That’s not to say the changes we’re all making aren’t profound. But rather, for many organisations, the pandemic has accelerated shifts that were already on the cards.

The education sector is a powerful example of this. Even though Covid-19 is the most unwelcome of catalysts for change – and follows years of digital transformation in this sector – these organisations have responded amazingly.

Throughout the pandemic, our work for many schools – and organisations such as LGfL – has once again shown us that the desire to give every child the best opportunity to learn trumps every technical challenge posed by Covid-19. And despite the fact that those challenges have emerged with no notice and after years of budget restrictions.

This is why it’s worth explaining one of the most notable developments in remote education – the digital education platform (DEP). And why we’re encouraging you – an education professional – to take full advantage of the financial help that’s available for schools to adopt such a platform.

Before we explain how a DEP works, it’s worth noting that although these platforms have obvious benefits to schools during lockdown, they are extremely useful for life beyond the pandemic, when all students and staff return to school. Adopting one now – while Government funding is available to help with the setup – is an investment that will prove valuable for years to come.

What is a digital education platform?

On the 1st October, the DfE published updated guidance regarding the provision of remote education. The Coronavirus Act 2020 Provision of Remote Education (England) Temporary Continuity Direction “makes clear that schools have a legal duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children unable to attend school due to coronavirus (COVID-19).” A Digital Education Platform from Microsoft or Google is a key component in being able to achieve this.

As the name suggests, a DEP is an online ‘environment’ comprising applications and tools for the education sector. It’s used by teachers, administrative staff and students – and is designed specifically to accelerate digital teaching and learning for schools.

A typical DEP contains tried-and-tested productivity software, such as those for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations – as well as email and calendar tools. No doubt you’re already familiar with such software.

For DEPs, however, these standard applications are bolstered with software for education. This includes virtual whiteboards; planning, assignment, marking and collaboration tools; and software to run lessons by live video as well as in-class lessons.

In short, these platforms are a collection of software and tools that all work together for education organisations and professionals – and the communities they serve.

Extra help in the wake of the pandemic

Due to the pandemic and its impact on schools, the Department for Education (DfE) is offering your school financial help to roll out a DEP.

In its announcement, the DfE detailed a number of schemes available to schools. For DEPs, the DfE funding is available for setting up one of two free-to-use platforms, with grants of between £1,500 to £2,000 per school.

Notably, we are one of only a small number of accredited suppliers across the country to offer advice and services for both platforms, meaning we can give truly balanced guidance on which of the two platforms is the right choice for your school.

Meet Google’s G Suite for Education and Microsoft 365 Education

The two platforms that schools can get funding for are those from Google and Microsoft: G Suite for Education and Microsoft 365 Education. ‘Microsoft 365’ is the new name for ‘Office 365’.

In both cases, the platforms run from the cloud, meaning you can use them through a standard internet browser – perfect for everything from a quick check of a document on a smartphone, or for a student to join a lesson on a desktop computer. And naturally, being browser-based and suitable for multiple devices, they are ideal for remote teaching and learning.

Here’s one example of how this might translate into the real world: as a teacher, you might plan your lesson and produce materials using the familiar productivity tools, as well as your school’s own curriculum materials stored conveniently in the same platform. It’s worth noting here that the Oak National Academy, in conjunction with the DfE, is providing 180 video lessons free each week, across a broad range of subjects, for every year group from reception through to year 10.

You would then run the lesson either remotely or in-class, using a presentation format, live video, or a mix of both. Based on the lesson, you could then issue an assignment to students, who would complete it remotely and return it through the platform.

You could issue the assignment in question-and-answer format created with the platform’s questionnaire tools. Or you might ask the student to submit a typed document – or even a handwritten response using a device stylus. For more practical subjects, the student could submit multimedia formats of their work – for instance, a photo of their drawing, or a video of a musical performance.

Once these assignments are completed and submitted, you could mark the work using the marking software. These are tools that go beyond marking up documents with comments – they’re intuitive and interactive, and can be set up so the data flows to a spreadsheet tracking the student’s progress.

Some important features for teaching and IT staff

Notably, both Google and Microsoft platforms can be set up to use existing user accounts. So there’s no need to create masses of new online ‘identities’ for staff or students. This is often music to the ears of the school’s IT team – and those of us who are averse to creating and managing yet another online account.

Another crucial point about the platforms is that they are impeccably secure – and designed from the ground up to address schools’ concerns around safeguarding and student welfare. For example, while students can collaborate on a project under the watchful eye of a teacher, they are restricted from communicating with each other in the ‘open field’. This prevents the platform from mutating into a form of social media, reducing the possibility of distraction or online bullying.

If you like to customise, both platforms offer a huge range of options.

From an administrative point of view, access levels can be adjusted at a granular level – meaning documents or features can be restricted to specific classes, or staff.

Another way you can tailor the platform to your school is through app marketplaces. Both Google and Microsoft platforms can be enhanced with a huge range of vetted add-ons and integrations. For staff, this might mean ways to streamline work, such as automation tools. And for students, this might mean new ways to foster innovation and creativity, such as software coding or video editing tools. With the direction and expertise of teachers, these platforms could bring out the next Steve Jobs or Steven Spielberg in our young people.

A final point worth repeating is that the platforms are free to use. In the case of the DfE programme, funding is available to help with setting up the chosen platform. As technology projects go, this is a typically straightforward process, but there’s a few things of note…

How to choose your digital education platform and what next

There are three key steps to setting up a DEP:

1. You must first decide which platform you will use – Google or Microsoft. As mentioned before, we’re one of only a small number of accredited suppliers of both platforms, so we can objectively talk through your situation and help you make an informed decision.

2. Once you’ve chosen your platform, you must apply through the official channels. In this instance, you can do it here, through The Key. As you work though the form, you’ll be prompted to indicate your partner – we hope you will choose AdEPT Education (part of AdEPT Technology Group plc).

3. Your application will come through to us, and we’ll get in touch promptly to roll out the platform – and we can do it all remotely, without having to step foot in your school.

In terms of payment, the DfE will issue the funds to your organisation once completion of the work has been confirmed, which must in turn be paid to your chosen partner.

A note for multi-academy trusts (MATs)

Digital education platforms are particularly beneficial for multi-academy trusts. Using one can bring together the trust community, pool resources and give students the opportunity to learn from staff that they would not ordinarily encounter. To help you set up a DEP, your chosen partner can receive DfE funding of £1,000 per school.

More information

One of the best places we’ve seen for guidance on digital education platforms is from LGfL, through its digital cloud transformation programme. The Key is also a good source of guidance – we suggest you start here, on the main page – and for some inspiring stories of how digital education platforms work in the real world, see the case studies.

How we can help

Having rolled out these platforms with more than 900 schools already, we’re also on-hand for impartial guidance. You can call us on 01689 814700 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk. If you email, please use the subject line ‘DfE funding’ as given the circumstances, we are prioritising these enquiries.

Summary

  • Digital education platforms (DEPs) are a collection of software and tools designed for schools.
  • DEPs are extremely useful for online teaching and learning, meaning they can be of great help during and beyond the pandemic.
  • In the wake of Covid-19, the DfE is offering schools funding to set up one of the two main DEPs: Google’s G Suite for Education, or Microsoft 365 Education. Both platforms are free to use.
  • The platforms offer benefits long beyond the pandemic. We’ve highlighted some of the key features above.
  • In order to secure DfE funding for a DEP, you must use an accredited supplier. AdEPT is one of only a handful of companies in the country that is accredited to advise on, and set up both the Google and Microsoft platforms. We can help you make the decision with genuinely balanced guidance.
  • There are three main steps to setting up one of the DfE-approved platforms and getting funding. You must start here – but be sure to read this blog fully before you do.

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  • This blog was written by David Bealing, Managing Director of AdEPT Education, and Clive Bryden, AdEPT Technology Group’s Chief Technology Officer.

David Bealing

Written by David Bealing

Managing Director, AdEPT Education

Coronavirus: technology helps, but it’s people that make the biggest difference

There is no way to sugarcoat it. The coronavirus pandemic is the most disruptive global crisis in decades. It will change every industry, every business, every employee and most of all, every human being on this planet.

So, what can I, a CEO of a technology company, say in a blog about this?

My natural leaning is, of course, to talk about technology. In many ways, it is glueing the world together right now. It is helping a lot of people continue their work, keeping the wheels of business turning.

But really, it’s about much, much more than that. So, I’d like to talk about the thing that is at the heart of all technology: People.

Helping teachers teach, and students learn

The most significant effect of the pandemic that we’ve seen on the people we serve relates to education. We help some 4,000 schools and education establishments with their technology – and right now, among all the other support that this community needs and deserves, is technology that helps teachers to continue teaching.

It is no small undertaking to meet that most critical of challenges.

After all, our youngsters need their developing brains stimulated and nurtured. They need routine. And even with the best will in the world, their parents and families cannot do this alone.

At the same time, our teachers want desperately to teach. They want to give their students as much as stability and continuity with their education as possible.

I know this, because not only am I a parent myself but because AdEPT has worked with the education community for a long time. And so, I’m proud and honoured to say we’re playing our part. It’s where our own people have come to the fore.

For example, working with organisations such as the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) and Virgin Media Business, we’ve been able to massively strengthen Freedom2Roam. This service allows school staff to remotely connect to school servers from their own devices and locations. From there, staff can access essential files and information – such as lesson planning documents, marking assessments and management reports.

In the wake of the pandemic and school closures, we’ve seen such a huge demand for the Freedom2Roam service that we have made it a top priority, putting the best brains from our back-end infrastructure and our front-end UX and UI teams onto this service.

We’ve expedited our normal, ongoing work; boosted its capacity to meet the 1,047 per cent increase in demand we’ve seen; and introduced a browser-based interface to make the service easier and quicker to use. Because – perhaps more than ever – no teacher or education professional wants to spend time downloading, installing and figuring out new software.

Of course, Freedom2Roam is only one tool to help – and it’s no substitute for face-to-face classroom time – but it is helping teachers get on with their job. One of them recently described it as a ‘godsend’. It is a real privilege to hear such praise.

I should also say a big thank you here to our staff here for working with the experts at LGfL to help develop guidance for schools around safeguarding. Through this work, we’ve contributed to official government guidance available here, under the ‘Children and online safety away from school and college’ heading.

Helping community healthcare communicate

Another area of work we’ve been doing in response to the pandemic pertains to public healthcare. I wish I could say here how we have somehow swapped our engineers’ day jobs for making testing kits, personal protective equipment for our fantastic NHS, or ventilators for those suffering from coronavirus.

I can’t say this. We are not specialists in any of those things. But we do specialise in helping public health organisations use technology to communicate. It is a less obvious and less pivotal aspect of the response to the pandemic, but still an important one.

One example of this is a recent project by our Wakefield team who work with a local GP practice. Like all primary care organisations right now, the practice needed to tackle a seemingly-impossible, threefold, challenge: respond to a surge in calls from concerned patients, maintain everyday community healthcare, but at the same time protect staff from exposure to coronavirus. 

Among our considerations was the sense that if primary care organisations like this cannot continue working, then there would be even more pressure on our NHS. So, for this practice, our Wakefield team set up a cloud-hosted soft phone system meaning staff could use their own mobile phones to answer practice calls while working from home.

Through this phone system, patients still dial the same number and get the service they are familiar with – a reassuring kind of continuity that is especially important right now. From the practice’s viewpoint, calls are recorded in the usual way, the setup adheres to NHS technology and data protection rules – and most importantly, staff can protect their own health and in turn keep community healthcare running.

Again, I am immensely proud of our team to have helped this practice, because they have played their part in protecting the welfare of health professionals, and ultimately, the public.

Adapting to increasing and changing demand

Away from public sector organisations, we’ve seen an enormous increase in demand from commercial businesses and some fundamental changes in the nature of those demands. One indicator of this is the 85 per cent increase in calls to our general helpdesk.

One way we’re responding is to use our own remote access and diagnostic technology to resolve queries. But such tools are the tip of the iceberg: in truth, the real difference to our clients is our people. They have genuinely shone – working longer hours and doing things that are over and above their day jobs.

For example, we’ve moved staff who would ordinarily be working in sales – or visiting sites to install equipment – into helpdesk roles. Not only does this reflect our culture of rolling up sleeves and getting stuck in, but it is also a real testament to having a workforce with breadth and depth of technical knowledge.

We’ve seen clients requesting products and services for temporary periods. Under normal circumstances, we’d work to long-term contracts, but this is not the time for red tape. For instance, a customer asked for extra phone lines for a short period and we’ve pulled together to solve this unique challenge.

Another sign of the times is the rise we’ve seen in orders of laptops. And here’s where I must thank our suppliers – it’s because of them that we’ve been able to honour every order. And I must thank our customers too – particularly the one who requested toilet paper, paracetamol and a few G&Ts with his laptop order. We very much value this humility and humour during this difficult time.

Working together

There are other, additional steps we are taking in light of the pandemic.

At the risk of being pests, we’re overcommunicating with our clients. In many ways, because we help organisations in technology, we get to see those organisations’ inner workings. We’re seeing the challenges and the repercussions of the pandemic first hand, every day. So, that means when we reassure our clients and say ‘we understand, we’re in your corner’ and ‘we’re available to help’, we’re saying it because we genuinely empathise.

When it comes to our staff, we keep in mind that, as technology specialists, we’re classified by the government as key workers – rather like the fourth utility. So, we’re not going to do anything at all that compromises the health and safety of our workforce.

Of course, we’re doing all of this with the incredible help of our partners. These are businesses and organisations like the LGfL and Virgin Media Business, which are facing and meeting demands on them from left, right and centre. There’s Gamma, whose staff are doing a lot of fancy footwork to increase voice capacity for our clients. And there’s Avaya, which is doing brilliant work to support our clients in remote-access technology.

Protecting people

There is little I can say to mitigate the challenges we’re facing now and will continue to face. Right now, it’s all hands to the deck and we’re busy – and in some ways, working from home is a novelty. But there may be a point where loneliness kicks in. I say that from experience as a regular home worker. So, among my responsibilities is keeping company morale buoyant.

There are a million articles out there about best practices for working from home. So, I’ll only offer a few tips.

Be flexible and adaptable. Be prepared to get involved in activities that are generally not part of your job role. Of course, those tasks should not be an unreasonable diversion from your usual work, but adopting a can-do attitude helps your own self-preservation and the spirit of your colleagues.

Overcommunicate. As mentioned above, we’re already doing this with clients, but it’s equally important to do that with colleagues. Calling or messaging a teammate to share a joke might not feel as spontaneous or natural as banter across office desks, but it matters. It’s ok to laugh among all of this.

Maintain the regular cadence of business. I’m still having my regular Monday review meeting. And my Friday sales meeting. And I’m still meeting investors. Even if all those meetings are virtual and I’m getting tired of seeing my head on the screen.

Thank your teams. You really can’t thank colleagues enough at this time. I hope I’ve highlighted the fantastic work of my colleagues in this blog, but in case it isn’t clear: thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Most of all, take the government instructions seriously and follow them to the letter. At the heart of all of this is our collective responsibility to save people’s lives. There is no other responsibility to take more seriously. After all, it’s people that matter before everything else.

Phil Race

Written by Phil Race

CEO - AdEPT Technology Group

The Technology Essentials of Remote Working: All You Need to Know in Light of Coronavirus

The topic of remote working has never been so relevant as it is today; no thanks to the coronavirus.

Despite this global, frightening phenomenon, the popularity of remote working is ever increasing amongst businesses and their employees. This is partially due to the major shift in businesses adopting Cloud services or various forms of off-site infrastructure solutions; taking the onus of working away from being just office-based and instead, encouraging/supporting a distributed workforce.

This is reinforced by the vast improvements in web conferencing and collaboration technology, making it easier to communicate using voice, video and share content, from anywhere with a solid internet connection.

Many studies have shown that enabling a flexible remote working practice results in greater productivity and quality of work, more engagement, loyalty and reduced absenteeism. Outside of the office it also helps manage a work/life balance.

However, businesses are at various stages of their remote working strategy; some don’t even have one yet, whilst others are fully committed to it and have already enabled their workforce with the necessary tools to implement remote working.

No matter where you are on your journey, here are a few pointers to consider.

These will help those businesses and organisations who are at the early stages of a remote working strategy, to those who are already benefitting from remote working practises.

Connectivity

No remote working solution will work effectively if the connectivity foundations are not adequate and security measures are not fit for purpose.

Providing access to IT applications and resources remotely starts with connectivity to the Internet and the corporate network, mapping out how employees will securely interact to access what they need.

There is also the question of employees having reliable and fast internet access from their remote location. If staff are in areas that are not yet on the UK fibre network, you will find their experience of working remotely significantly diminished, having a direct impact on their productivity and morale.

It is wise to survey your staff in order to quantify how many are able to work remotely, as and when the need arises. For key staff or those in rural areas, you may wish to invest in new or upgraded Internet access from their remote location, or look into mobile Internet access, to ensure they are online.

The key to this is bandwidth. Quantifying how much bandwidth remote workers will need to replicate their in-office productivity is vital. This of course varies across sectors and industries depending on the nature of the data and how often it needs to be synced to the corporate network.

For media, design and production businesses, this requirement is high due to the volume of high resolution images and video that are pushed and pulled across the network. This can also have a significant impact on conferencing and voice services, if they are also delivered over the same connection.

Unified Communications and Collaboration Tools

The enhancement of reliable real-time collaboration tools, like Teams, goes a long way to alleviate the bandwidth issue, due to the reduction in frequent uploading and downloading of large files across the network. Teamwork is an essential part of any successful business, hence the need to support this activity despite the location, is a key part of any remote working strategy. This is where today’s modern workforce collaboration tools play a significant part in keeping workers connected, whether it is using Slack, Microsoft Teams, Workplace by Facebook, unified communications/instant messaging solutions from Avaya, as well as web conferencing/meeting tools like GoToMeeting and Zoom.

The collaboration tools you choose will have a direct impact on your remote workforce and their performance, hence it is wise to minimise the number of tools you throw at your staff. Where possible, take advantage of the tools that are available or bolted on from existing providers, to encourage the user adoption and also make tool management easier.

Security

Delivering remote access to the corporate network, data and applications in a secure manner is critical. This needs to be deployed both at the user end and also on the network perimeter.

For users, this can be done by creating an encrypted network connection from their device to the corporate network, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) software application. VPN technology is reliable and proven to work, if installed, configured and maintain correctly. If not, there could be a detrimental effect on the performance of the device and the upload/download speeds.

There are a number of VPN solutions available that deliver an additional level of security and safety for your remote workers, so it is important to discuss this openly with your IT partner, to ensure you apply the right product for your business needs.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) should also be considered for the users, to double check their login procedure. In addition to their username/ID and password, 2FA is now commonly used to verify that only the designated users are allowed access. Again, your IT partner can recommend which 2FA service is fit for purpose, which the likes of Microsoft now including this service within specific Office 365 licences.

For the network, a fit for purpose firewall solution is a must. Again, they vary in size, spend and complexity. A firewall system should be designed to prevent unauthorised access to or from the corporate (or private) network, whether in hardware or software form, or a combination of both.

The User

It begins and ends with your people, the most prised asset of any business and organisation.

Remote working is more than choosing the right technology, it is a cultural shift for many. Some may be against the idea and due to extreme circumstances, are forced to work remotely. What seem like trivial aspects of office life, like banter and the quick chat whilst making the tea or coffee, can have a major impact when missed.

Therefore it is essential that the transition from office based to remote working is made as simple and straightforward as possible….for the USER too!

It is critical that an equal amount of focus and emphasis is placed on user adoption when choosing the right remote working tools and applications, as well as being technically proven, cost effective and recommended from a trusted source (IT partner).

Having a detailed Remote Working Policy in place can make a big difference to act as a guideline for the business and staff when it needs to be implemented at short notice. It is highly likely that you already have remote workers in your business, hence the ‘power remote users’ can play a great part in making those new to remote working settle in efficiently.

Speak to a Trusted Partner

At AdEPT, we help thousands of businesses and organisations with their remote working needs, from designing networks and security solutions, to delivering Cloud services, hosted desktop and telephony platforms, to unified communications and collaboration solutions; all managed by our in-house IT support teams.

If you have any questions on how to tackle the current issues and get ready for remote working, get in touch today to learn more about our wide range of services.

enquiries@adept.co.uk

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

WLR Withdrawal, is your school ready?

As BT accelerates its plans to migrate the UK voice network from copper to fibre, the pressure to change solutions becomes ever more urgent. BT will withdraw the Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) service by 2025. It sounds an age, but it isn’t. Schools need to be thinking about their future communications solutions.

As BT accelerates its plans to migrate the UK voice network from copper to fibre, the pressure to change solutions becomes ever more urgent. BT will withdraw the Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) service by 2025. It sounds an age, but it isn’t. Schools need to be thinking about their future communications solutions.

AdEPT Education provide specialist telephony services for schools, so we’ve outlined below a few ways you can prepare. If you want to discuss your options in more detail please don’t hesitate to book a review with one of our experts.

Have a look at one of your recent bills. Do you see any of these items listed?

  • ISDN30
  • ISDN2
  • Analogue Line
  • Business Line
  • Alarm Line
  • PTSN Line

If you do then you need to start thinking about your long term telephony arrangement. In short, anyone with an on-site PBX, telephone line, fax line, PDQ line or broadband line is affected and will need to make a plan.

What’s happening?

BT & Openreach announced some time ago the intention to switch off the ISDN services from the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) by 2025. They have also announced that they intend to switch off the whole PSTN service by 2025, with no new supply after 2023.

Although they’ve been the most reliable solutions to date, PSTN and ISDN are rapidly becoming out of date technology, and expensive to operate and maintain. Openreach plans to invest instead in fibre infrastructure rather than further invest in a new version of the PSTN (which is essentially Victorian technology).

This means that any individual or organisation still using these traditional voice services will need to have moved to newer SIP and IP voice solutions by then or, simply put, they won’t be able to use their phones.

What are our options? SIP and VoIP.

The terms SIP and VoIP refer to telephony based services delivered using IP signalling.  Historically, telephony based services have been delivered using technology and signalling which is now over 30 years old, such as ISDN30 and PSTN lines.

SIP services are generally used to connect lines to a telephone system and these are a direct replacement for the ISDN30 technology. VoIP is a general term used to describe routing voice calls over an IP network. The term is closely associated with hosted telephones, where a telephone system installed at a customer’s premises is replaced with a central system shared between many different locations.

What do I do now?

Essentially we all have 3 options.

  1. Ignore it all and do nothing

It should go without saying, but consider how important your phones are to your school. Though 2025 may seem like a long way off, 6 years can fly by.

Recent studies have concluded that a large proportion of UK organisations are unaware that the change is taking place. Don’t run the risk. Have a plan in place and be ready for the change. VoIP and SIP based solutions will almost certainly offer cost-savings if deployed correctly and they’ll offer more functionality for your school, and be future-proofed for years to come.

  1. Panic and rip it all out tomorrow

Though it is time to take action, that doesn’t mean now is the time to change – you may not be ready. It may not make economic sense, or you may not have resource available to manage the transition. You could make the wrong decision, and chose a solution that offers little or no additional benefits over your current service, or even worse, spend time and money implementing something that will only help you out for the next few years. Make an informed decision, you still have time and options to explore.

  1. Engage with an industry professional to better understand my options and make a self-paced evolution to the future.

AdEPT Education have years of experience providing communication solutions to schools, including SIP and VoIP solutions, refining our portfolio to best match their customers’ requirements. We have already developed a number of IP and VoIP services which are available to replace the current PSTN and ISDN services and would be happy to discuss the benefits of these over your current solution.

We’re offering both new and existing customers alike the opportunity for a free telephony audit. This audit will review all of the telephony services currently supplied to your business, providing a report on the services and a recommendation of the actions needed to prepare for the withdrawal of the PSTN and ISDN network in 2025.

If you’d like to discuss you telephony requirements in more detail or to book a free telephony audit please get in touch. To read more about our Voice solutions, please get in touch.

Get in touch

For more information on any of our services or to talk about how we may be able to help you, please get in touch with us using the form opposite or by clicking the link below.

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Ben Rogers

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

AdEPT helps Kent NHS achieve its Digital Transformation

AdEPT helps deliver high speed connectivity to accelerate ICT for the NHS in Kent, positively impacting 1.6 million people. Keep scrolling for the full story.

AdEPT delivers on a promise

In 2018 AdEPT announced a significant government contract win with the NHS.  However, winning a contract is only half the battle – it is crucial to deliver on the promise made in this substantial contract process. 

AdEPT is therefore delighted to announce that, under the guidance of the NHS Trusts in Kent, AdEPT has delivered improved network and bandwidth capacity to more than 100 hospital and specialist care sites across the region.

This project facilitates greater collaboration in handling the health and welfare needs of Kent residents.

Following the success of this initial network programme, AdEPT are completing the roll-out of improved bandwidth services to the 300 GP surgeries in the region.  This will complete the upgrade of the entire NHS network in Kent.

This ultimately means that 1.6 million people across Kent will receive better care through improved network and bandwidth capacity, financial savings and improved access to clinical systems.

The challenge to be addressed

In 2017, the NHS decided that the 12 years old ‘N3 network’ needed to be retired.

But what was the ‘N3 network’? N3 was a decade old national broadband network for the English NHS, connecting all NHS locations and 1.3 million employees across England, a solution formerly managed by BT.

As a single supplier service, N3 was principally designed to provide access to national applications, such as patient records, hospital appointments and prescription services for NHS organisations. 

However, as with all single supplier markets, the network became outdated.

The Change

The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) was devised as a multi-supplier marketplace adhering to single credentials – it is designed to provide an improved way for health and social care organisations across the country – from both inside and outside the NHS – to access and exchange electronic information.

This multi-supplier approach also encouraged competition for the provision of the network, leading to a substantial cost reduction for the NHS.

Digitising Healthcare

The digital transformation being felt in all walks of society is being experienced in equal measure across the NHS. 

Front line care is increasingly digital. A recent Healthcare News report clearly highlighted a host of initiatives that demonstrate how this transformation is impacting the NHS.  Examples of ICT initiatives across the NHS include;

Information security, patient analytics, digitised patient engagement, population health, Electronic Health Records, remote patient monitoring and revenue cycle management.

The healthcare world is clearly changing, with; virtual surgeries, remote consultations and telehealth all improving the way health services are delivered. 

However, all these transformations depend on a high speed, secure, cost effective network infrastructure.

Specifically Kent, and the benefit HSCN brings

The delivery of a new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) to NHS hospitals and specialist trusts in Kent replaces an outdated N3 network, delivering improved access to information and technology and substantial cost savings. Underpinning the transformation of health and social care services in the region. 

This improvement was made possible by the competition between network suppliers driven by HSCN.

Kent chose AdEPT because it demonstrated that it would be a flexible and responsive partner to the NHS in the region.

How has this substantial programme been delivered?

The change programme has required strong collaboration between a number of critical partners;

•          the NHS Trusts in Kent,

•          NHS Digital, and

•          AdEPT Technology Group

 “The N3 community of interest network (COIN) within Kent was one of, if not, the largest and most complex in England. It’s a credit to the strong leadership and collaboration between the seven Trusts in Kent, that not only was a successful migration of services to HSCN completed, but we were the first to do so in the UK”

commented Tim Scott, Chief Commercial Officer and HSCN Programme Lead at AdEPT.

“Strong programme delivery is critical to complex technology projects. There are four key disciplines and attributes that allowed us to deliver this programme so well: leadership, structure, collaboration and flexibility.

In AdEPT, we found a partner – rather than a supplier – aligned to us in each of these disciplines”.

Michael Beckett, Director of IT, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

“The migration of the Kent CoIN demonstrates everything HSCN was designed to achieve;

greater collaboration, both locally and with suppliers;

reduced costs for the NHS by virtue of the HSCN marketplace and

using technology to provide enhanced capabilities, that will deliver better care though health and social care integration.”

Mike Oldfield-Marsh, HSCN Migration Manager NHS Digital.

Ben Rogers

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

Hatton Garden & Cyber Crime

What does a gang of ageing criminals who pulled off an audacious £20m jewellery robbery have in common with cyber crime? Well, a lot more than meets the eye. Here our CEO Phil Race draws on the high-profile Hatton Garden heist to explain the scary and costly reality of today's cyber attacks – and the measures you can take to stop your business from becoming a victim. A must-read blog that's written for everyone in the company, whether in technology or not.

London, Easter 2015, and a crew of ageing criminals led by ringleader Brian Reader pull off an audacious heist from a vault in Hatton Garden. Diamonds, gold, jewellery and cash amongst a haul of over £20m according to Scotland Yard. A burglary that, according to the presiding Judge, Christopher Kinch, ‘…stands in a class of its own’.

What on earth does this have to do with Cyber Crime?

Well it’s great to have a physical parallel to the ethereal world of technology, and there are many lessons to learn that apply to both.

And here at AdEPT we think it’s a risk that deserves attention. It’s estimated that, on average, a cyber incidence costs an organisation $369,0001 with the loss of critical data, intellectual property and source files that can cost a company its reputation, let alone financial loss. Research also suggests that 27.9% of organisations will have a data breach in the next two years, with 61% reporting a cyber-attack in the past year.

In any risk assessment there’s a simple equation – Risk = Likelihood x Impact. With Cyber the equation is High Likelihood x High Impact = so, High Risk, therefore High Priority!
Yet, Cyber Readiness (as measured by the insurer, Hiscox) remains low – that’s despite intense regulation (GDPR et al) and a mass of education. In the Hiscox survey only 10% reached their defined Expert threshold with 74% classed as novices. This in-depth study looked at two dimensions of readiness; technology / process on the one hand, and oversight / resourcing on the other, and is well worth a read.

People

Back to Hatton Garden – during the heist the alarm actually went off! A security guard was dispatched to the building to investigate. After wandering round, on a quiet weekend evening, he reported that the building appeared secure and no alarm was sounding, a false alarm was declared.

The heist continued...

Human ill-discipline, lack of attention and poor processes are incredibly common as causes for cyber-crime. For example, the most common password in 2018 was ‘123456’2, with ‘password’ a close second! It’s no wonder then that every 14 seconds a business will be attacked by Ransomware, with the frequency and type of attack rising every year. Criminals are targeting the weakest link – us humans!

So, the cheapest, but potentially the most difficult, defence against Cyber Crime is trained employees. Any Cyber defence strategy should look first at making people aware of the risks and the consequences. As data files grow exponentially, with thumb drives & memory sticks allowing information to be so easily downloaded and shared, the impact of complacency can be widespread and crippling.

It’s no wonder then that there’s been a rise in Identity and Access Management (IAM) tooling. AdEPT are increasingly delivering two factor identification solutions – demanding fingerprint / evidence of ID using a second device – to prove an individuals’ identification before they are allowed to open the ‘digital door’.

The most common form of cyber protection helps here too, Endpoint Security / Antivirus. AdEPT are deploying a range of tools from market leaders such as Sophos, Symantec and McAfee that scan incoming threats and halt them before they get to that precious data.

Physical – the morphing boundary

Our Hatton Garden master criminal, Brian, and his crew spent two years planning the robbery. They visited the vault several times and obtained blueprints of the vault. They learnt that the building had been re-designed, leaving a weak point of entry – a lift shaft that gave easier access to the building. Leading in turn to a metal doorway. The thieves abseiled down the lift shaft, prized open the metal door and entered an area covered by CCTV – more on that later – a hallway perfect to house a massive drill.

So, despite the security firm’s best endeavours the ‘edge’ of the secure area in Hatton Garden had changed. This is not unlike businesses that are constantly morphing in terms of; technology, employees, buildings and working practices.

In the world of cyber, firewalls were deployed to create a clear technical ‘edge’ defence. An insurmountable barrier, digital barbed wire patrolled by cyber guard dogs. Firewalls remain a necessary defence, AdEPT deploy this technology across thousands of schools for example, but they’re no longer a solid barrier. The ‘edge’ now changes constantly with employees bringing their own devices, using their own applications, browsing the web from work devices, sharing data using memory sticks and working from home. The digital world has created a porous barrier.

Physical – the challenge of age

In Hatton Garden the vault security was old, with out of date CCTV, poor alarm systems, and weak doors. The criminals had identified all the weakness in ageing physical infrastructure.

This is no different to the systems embedded within businesses across the UK which can at times be unloved and un-maintained. There’s a great recent case study that demonstrates the risks of lack of maintenance.

The case study relates to a virus called WannaCry, where ageing Microsoft software created a technological open door for criminals.

In May 2017, IT Directors and Security professionals went white as a sheet as they learnt of the WannaCry ransomware attack, infecting unpatched systems running Microsoft. Although the NHS was not the specific target of the attack, the impact in this world alone proved significant: 34 trusts were directly infected, 80 trusts experienced some indirect disruption, and 603 primary care organisations suffered.

6,912 patients had to cancel or re-arrange appointments (including 139 patients with an urgent cancer appointment).

As a result, the NHS increased spending towards cyber by over £150m3. Truly a case of bolting the door after the horse had bolted.

It’s clear that there is no silver bullet to this type of crime but there are some basic actions that build defences, and removing the risk by continuously updating the IT estate is a necessity – not an option. It’s like fixing a car following an MOT to ensure that its safe to drive.

Can Cloud help?

At the end of the Hatton heist the criminals grabbed the hard drive, which was stored locally near the vault, and destroyed it – along with all the CCTV footage from inside the building. Yet again a low-tech security solution was easily foiled by the criminals.

Yet the risk of loss of images could, potentially, be easily remedied with storage of CCTV in the Cloud.

The Cloud is certainly a haven with expensive defences – AWS, Azure and all those other public cloud players invest massively in Cloud security. Microsoft alone fends off 7 trillion cyberthreats per day and allocates over $1 billion each year to cybersecurity4. It’s like a massive data vault – far bigger and more secure than a Hatton Garden hard drive for sure!

“Through 2022, 95% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault” Gartner

Are criminals becoming more intelligent?

You can lock and bolt the front door, electrify the fences and buy in guard dogs. But, if you leave the back door open or invite the criminal fraternity into your data ‘house’, then all that security goes to waste.

The battle is constant, evolving, and with the advent of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics cyber-attacks are increasing in frequency and sophistication.

Just like ‘Basil’, supposedly the red headed, bewigged, brains of the team, the criminals are getting more and more clever.

OMG – what can be done?

Cyber security is about people, processes and technology. We can’t blame ignorance anymore – the search term Cyber Security reveals 548,000,000 Google hits. There’s a mass of information out there.

Prevention is certainly better than fixing the resultant mess.

If Hatton Garden had undergone a risk appraisal, a cyber MOT if you will, I suspect they’d have spotted the out of date kit, the old-fashioned security and the flawed processes. They’d have probably fixed it for a little less than the £20m stolen? A range of tools exist to reduce that risk & probability equation. At AdEPT we’d recommend;

• Undertaking a risk assessmente
• Continually educating employees
• Evaluating and deploying tools
• Proactively maintaining the entire IT estate
• Understanding the boundary of your organisation
• Remembering that it’s a continuous process, as the threats morph and change/VoIP

According to the Telegraph in 2015 the Hatton Garden vault saw a floor “strewn with discarded safe deposit boxes and numerous power tools, including an angle grinder, concrete drills and crowbars.” Of the £20m stolen in the Hatton Garden robbery some £9m is apparently still unaccounted for.

Cyber-crime doesn’t leave such a physical mess, but it does leave a financial, psychological, and in many cases brand, mess. So well worth checking those people, processes and technology.

1 Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2019

2 SplashData annual list

3 For local services, from 2018/9 to 2020/21

4 Tech Republic article – Feb 14th 2018

Phil Race

Written by Phil Race

CEO - AdEPT Technology Group

The Future of Managed Service Providers and Why it Matters to your Business

If you work in IT, you've no doubt heard about the pitfalls and positives of outsourcing your IT to a managed service providers. In fact, you don't need to work in IT at all – many business owners often consider if external IT support could make a difference to their business. In all cases, there's so much to think about – so our Head of Business Development for IT Services, Sami Malik has explored the past, the present and the future of managed service providers, and how this affects your business.

If you work in IT you may have heard about Birmingham City Council ending a 13-year IT and HR contract with Capita. It’s significant news in technology circles – after all, Capita is a multi-billion-pound outsourcing giant and Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in Europe.

Many have already questioned if the Council’s decision is a sign of things to come. Some argue that in the future, more and more organisations will abandon the long-running practice of outsourcing functions that are not core to the business. You may even be considering bringing your own services such as IT back in house – a process called ‘insourcing’. Or you may have written off the idea of ever outsourcing your IT.

Is it really that straightforward? Do IT outsourcing firms and managed service providers (MSPs) like us need to hang up our hats?

Thankfully, no.

But MSPs shouldn’t rest on their laurels. So it’s worth exploring why a polarising ‘outsourcing versus insourcing’ debate is not useful for anyone, including you and your business.

Paving the way: the iPhone and Office 365

Before we consider how companies might work with MSPs in the future, we need to look back.

Let’s start with the first iPhone. Released in 2007, it is one of the few modern gadgets that I consider a true disruptor. It transformed many of the time-consuming, laborious functions of our desktop machines into an elegant, accessible mobile format. Overnight, our love-hate relationship with technology became a love affair with the smartphone. Thanks in large part to the arrival of the iPhone, we would no longer settle for unreliable internet connectivity, clunky productivity tools and fiddly email processes. 

By the time smartphones had really got into full swing, including the arrival of Google’s Android, something else happened that’s crucial to the story of outsourced IT: Microsoft Office 365.

Prior to the arrival of this Cloud-based software in 2011, most businesses were wary of the Cloud and many still relied on physical software. This meant CD-ROMs or on-site servers; licensing and installation headaches; and painful upgrade processes.

When Office 365 arrived, it introduced businesses and their workforces to the Cloud. And most importantly, it did so on a huge scale.

Of course, we’d all been using the Cloud previously. The internet, emerging social media and iPods had been gently ushering us towards the concept of data being up there, somewhere. But because Microsoft Office was, and still is, so widespread, it meant there was simply no escaping the new era of the Cloud. It had arrived in the workplace to stay.

The turning point in our collective mindset

You may wonder why I’ve talked about the iPhone and Office 365. Ultimately, one is a handheld device that’s immensely popular around the world, and the other is a piece of productivity software that’s integral to the modern workplace. But it isn’t so much the literal function that matters here. It’s how they have transformed the mindsets of many.

In the case of the iPhone, it has spawned a world where people expect seamless user experience. They won’t tolerate inefficiencies in technology. They expect reliability, insist on simplicity and won’t tolerate speed that’s anything less than instant. And all of these expectations will only increase.

Meanwhile, Office 365 has shown businesses in droves that having their data in the Cloud needn’t be scary. It’s demonstrated that Cloud-based software and services are ideal for the modern workforce, where people no longer need to be chained to their desktop computer. It’s proved that Cloud software can easily grow with a business, in what’s now termed as ‘scalability’. And let’s not forget the cost savings. Like most Cloud-based services, Office 365 offers a way to reduce or remove certain aspects of capital expenditure. It can also do away with the expense and hassle of relying on, and maintaining, on-site servers.

Arguably, Office 365 has played a huge part in transforming business software – and by extension, business life. Companies large and small have now embraced the Cloud and want more of it.

What has this got to do with outsourcing and MSPs?

I’ve been working in technology for more than 20 years – through all of my career. I’ve seen the widespread adoption of mobile phones. I’ve seen the dot-com bubble burst. I’ve seen IT emerge from the dark depths of the hardware cupboard and into the boardroom.

And now, I see a common theme with so many businesses: the C-suite declaring ‘we need to move to the Cloud’.

Why is this happening?

Sometimes, senior management learns of another company, or competitor, migrating to the Cloud. And this brings out a sense of rivalry, or even prompts a reckless race to keep up.

Furthermore, using Office 365 has given the business an irresistible urge to go all-out Cloud.

Other times, the idea to move to the Cloud comes from the iPhone and Office 365 mindset that I’ve explored earlier. In such cases, staff are desperate for their business technology to mirror their personal user experience of their smartphones.

And it can go further than this. Employees are now demanding the service they experience at home in their workspace.  With fibre-to-the-premise providing fast internet access, Wi-Fi coverage in every corner of the home (and garden!) and devices powerful enough to stream high-quality content and video, the workspace has to, at least, be on par.

Whatever the cue, these Cloud migration aims are totally understandable – as I’ve discussed, there are numerous, huge benefits from making the move. But, the Cloud is not an overnight fix, or a matter of a few clicks. And it shouldn’t be a decision based on the Cloud migration of a peer or competitor – especially as every organisation is different in every possible way.

Additionally, moving to the Cloud is much, much more than a matter of technology. It affects  every business area: from production to HR, logistics to customer service.

It is this final point that brings me to MSPs. While some technology matters are perfectly suited to, and should be, the domain of in-house IT, a full Cloud migration requires business expertise that goes far beyond the technology department. And it’s for this reason that many businesses consult an MSP.

The changing role of the MSP

Returning to my opening gambit – the decoupling of Capita and Birmingham City Council – I’m very aware that outsourced IT firms and MSPs have attracted their fair share of controversy over the years. Some of the complaints about them – such as exorbitant fees, millstone-like contracts, lack of transparency – are entirely justified.

The positive news is that MSPs are evolving, doing so to meet the changing needs and expectations of the businesses they serve.

One example of this is the impact of the GDPR, which means MSPs now and tomorrow must take a much greater responsibility in supporting their clients’ information management and security. Another example of the changing MSP is the move away from only selling boxed hardware. This is because many companies are fully capable of handling the hardware aspect of technology – and quite rightly, will no longer accept the traditional ‘break-fix’ model of IT outsourcing of old.

As these business needs have evolved and diversified, the MSP market has been opened up. Naturally, this means there’s more choice than ever for a business looking for support with any kind of technology change. But with more choice, comes more confusion. And I see that confusion every day with businesses of all sizes and industries.

How does this all relate to your business?

I’ve focused on Cloud adoption here because it’s a dominant part of my work and one of AdEPT’s specialist areas. But if your business needs external help with any aspect of its technology, you might find yourself being baffled by choosing an IT supplier or indeed an MSP. This is because not only are there so many more providers to choose from – it’s because many providers do themselves no favours when it comes to explaining what they do and how they can help.

This is perfectly illustrated by the number of ‘as-a-service’ options now available from MSPs. There’s ‘DaaS’ or desktop-as-a-service; ‘ITaaS’ or IT-as-a-service; ‘CIaaS’ or Cloud-infrastructure-as-a-service; ‘PaaS’ or platform-as-a-service… the list goes on. My personal favourite is ‘BADaas’ which sounds like some kind of rebellious rockstar – it’s actually Biz-Application-Development-as-a-service…

It’s no wonder then, that businesses find navigating the world of MSPs intimidating before they’ve even found a provider. But it doesn’t stop there. Often, when an MSP is chosen, the negative experience can continue. And one reason for this is because too many MSPs fail to ask the right questions.

As I’ve described above, I’ve encountered many companies whose reason for getting in touch is ‘we want to move to the Cloud’. It’s at this point that the plan of action can go the right way or the wrong way. So, when I’m faced with such a statement, I’ll ask ‘Just what is it you want to achieve?’ or more simply, ‘Why?’

I never ask this to be obstructive. Instead, I’m playing my role in being a responsible MSP – one that goes beyond pushing technology for technology’s sake. It’s a question that sets out to unearth the real business needs and ensure, as a MSP, we’re going to make a genuine difference to your business.

Asking the right questions at the start is, of course, the tip of the iceberg and I could say much more on this, but that’s a blog in itself.

Instead, I’ll touch briefly on the other aspects of an MSP that should be a dealmaker for your business – now and in the future. A good MSP takes time to understand your business from the outset; a great MSP is ahead of technological evolution, not reacting to change when it’s too late; and an exceptional MSP invests in every phase of the relationship, from presales to support. These are the qualities that will make or break tomorrow’s MSPs and the businesses they serve.

Final points

By reading this blog, you’ve hopefully learned why the ‘outsourcing versus insourcing’ debate that’s spilling over from the public sector isn’t black and white. You’ve hopefully seen why and how MSPs are changing – and what businesses should now expect from those providers. And above all else, I hope you’ve had a taster of how an MSP should be helping your business.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

How do SIP phones work? All you need to know on SIP and the Benefits of SIP Phones

Research shows that a growing number of small businesses are looking to cloud phone solutions to lower costs, increase efficiency and boost productivity. SIP trunking is one such solution. SIP, short for Session Initiation Protocol, has been a key topic of discussion in companies and IT departments looking to expand and enhance their company’s phone service while still lowering costs. So, what do you need to know about SIP phones before you can consider them as suitable solutions for your enterprise? This article details the key aspects about SIP including; what is SIP? How do SIP phones work? How can a SIP phone system benefit your company?

What is SIP?

SIP or Session Initiation Protocol is a communication protocol used to manage multimedia communication such as voice and video calls. To make use of SIP, you need SIP phones that establish communication over the internet. Unlike legacy phone systems that relied on physical lines and cables, SIP phones use the internet to make and receive calls. This also means that they are significantly more secure and reliable than traditional phones.

As organisations continue to embrace digital transformation, Session Initiation Protocol allows organisations to adopt unified communications as it brings together most of today’s business communication including basic phone capabilities, email, video, instant messaging and more. For enterprises that are looking for reliability, scalability and improved functionality, SIP phones allow them to move from basic voice communications and expand into video and instant messaging.

Features of SIP Phones

Visually, a SIP phone looks like the typical office phone. However, beneath the surface, SIP phones offer far greater functionality than common office phones. In addition to placing and receiving phone calls, SIP phones can manage calls including transferring callers to different extensions and placing callers on hold. It is also important to note that SIP phones deliver higher call quality than traditional phones.

The technical differences that draw IT leaders and experts to this technology include the fact that SIP phones connect to a VoIP phone service without the need for servers or extra hardware. This also means that they are significantly easier to install and consequently easier and cheaper to maintain.

In essence, by choosing SIP phones, you are getting a reliable phone service loaded with business VoIP features without the typical hassles.

Key Features of a SIP Phone

  • Basic and advanced call forwarding
  • Conference calling
  • Auto-attendant
  • HD phone calls
  • Hold with optimal music
  • Call recording
  • Custom caller ID
  • Shared caller appearance
  • Desktop and mobile app integration

How SIP Phones Work

At the most basic level, SIP phones operate pretty much how you use the internet on any other device. If you listened to the network traffic, you would be hard-pressed to find a difference from HTTP traffic when accessing web pages.

When making a call from a SIP phone, the device notifies the SIP server it is connected to – typically your business VoIP service. The SIP server then initiates contact with another extension or patches the call over to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). When the receiving phone answers, the call is established. During the call, SIP phones automatically negotiate the status and quality of the call in real-time.

This is a big contrast from a traditional phone system that consists of two parts – the PBX responsible for call management and PRI lines which connect calls to the PSTN responsible for routing calls. With SIP, a virtually installed SIP trunk uses the internet to connect to the PSTN and thereby eliminates the need for PRI lines.

The thing that stands out the most about SIP-based telephony is the minimal equipment, hardware and infrastructure requirement.

Benefits of SIP Phones

There are numerous reasons why SIP phones are the way of the future including;

Flexibility

In addition to the basic call function, SIP phones can also perform the following functions without the need for extra devices.

Determine user availability

  • Identify user location
  • Negotiate media capabilities
  • Multimedia conferences
  • Instant messages
  • Enhanced 911 emergency calls

Cost Savings

Switching to SIP telephony has been shown to result in cost savings of up to 70% particularly with the help of a reputable IT solutions firm. This is largely due to the elimination of installation, hardware purchases and maintenance costs.

Scalability

Supporting a growing business can prove exceedingly expensive particularly with the traditional phone system. With SIP phones, you only buy and pay for what you need without having to make guesses about future needs or deal with underutilised resources.

User Friendly

Installing SIP phones is quite easy and straightforward while maintenance is done through a simple online control panel. Additionally, the system consolidates all your business communication making it easier and efficient to improve business communications. This also means that you only need to train employees on one device. The additional features also go a long way in improving user experience and enhancing business productivity.

Does Your Business Need SIP Phones?

SIP phones are here to stay and are the way to the future. If you are wondering if you need SIP phones, you probably do or will in a few months. At AdEPT, we help organisations of all sizes find the right voice solutions for their needs and move towards unified communications. Our unified communications are based around key partnerships with leading providers including Ericsson-LG’s iPECS and Avaya for AdEPT Nebula Voice. With close to 20 years of experience, we have the skills and expertise to facilitate a smooth transition and help you reap the full benefits of SIP phones. Contact us today to learn more about our voice services.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What are the Differences between Infrastructure (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

The cloud is a hot topic for businesses of all sizes across the UK and around the world. Even though there is increased migration to the cloud, most enterprises do not fully understand the concept and how it can benefit them. Studies show that moving forward, organisations will need to adopt the cloud to not only compete favourably but also to survive. If you are considering switching your business to the cloud, you must understand the differences and advantages of the various cloud services and deployments. In this article, we will delve deeper into the differences between Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) and evaluate their uniqueness so you can make the right choice for your organisation.

Let’s start from the basics.

What is Cloud Computing?

Put simply, cloud computing is the use of computer resources (both hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network which typically is the internet. There are many models of cloud computing but let’s focus on IaaS and PaaS.

Defining PaaS

Platform as a Service (PaaS), also known as Cloud platform services, provide cloud components to certain software with its primary use being in applications. It gives developers a framework that they can build upon and use to create custom applications. All servers, networking and storage can be managed by a third party provider or the enterprise while management of the applications is left to the developers.

The platform is delivered through the web allowing your IT team to concentrate on building custom applications for your organisation without having to worry about infrastructure, operating systems, storage or software updates. The applications they create, called middleware, take on certain cloud characteristics and are therefore highly available and scalable.

Advantages of PaaS

PaaS offers numerous advantages to organisations of all size, including;

  • Scalable
  • Highly available
  • Simple, cost-effective app development and deployment
  • Automation of business policy
  • Reduced amount of coding needed and software maintenance requirements
  • Facilitates easy migration to the hybrid model

Using PaaS in your Organisation

PaaS is particularly beneficial when creating custom applications and when other vendors need to be included as it greatly streamlines workflow thereby improving speed and flexibility in the project.

Examples of PaaS

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), also known as cloud infrastructure services, are made of highly automated and scalable computing resources. It is fully self-service for monitoring and accessing computers, storage, networking and other services. It allows you to purchase the resources you need on an on-demand basis instead of having to buy hardware.

IaaS uses virtualisation technology to deliver cloud computing infrastructure including servers, operating systems, network and storage. Typically, the cloud servers are delivered to the clients through an API or a dashboard which gives them complete control over the entire infrastructure. Many people view IaaS as a “virtual data centre” as it provides organisations with the same capabilities and technologies as a traditional data centre but through the cloud.

One key aspect to note is that unlike PaaS, IaaS clients are responsible for managing aspects such as applications, Operating systems, runtime, data and middleware. However, IaaS providers manage the hard drives, virtualisation, networking and storage.

Advantages of IaaS

  • Easy to automate deployment of servers, storage, networking and processing power
  • It is the most flexible cloud computing model
  • Resources can be purchased on-demand thereby cutting costs
  • Highly scalable
  • Clients have full control of their infrastructure
  • Hardware can be purchased on a need basis

Using IaaS in your Organisation

Although every organisation can benefit from IaaS, the following circumstances emerge as the most advantageous

  • Small companies and start-ups can avoid spending large amounts of money on purchasing and creating software and hardware.
  • Large companies can retain complete control over their infrastructure and applications while only spending on what they need.
  • Companies experiencing rapid growth that need to scale specific hardware, software and other resources as needs change.

Examples of IaaS

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Cisco Metacloud
  • Google Compute Engine (GCE)
  • Linode

Key Differences between PaaS and IaaS

The two service models mostly differ in what they provide for the end-user out of the box. This is in regards to speed of customisation, cost and level of control.

IaaS offers complete control over all cloud services. Although this can be advantageous, it also means that you have to do everything by yourself which can increase costs. In the case of PaaS, you have to give up a measure of control which can also help you control costs and adopt the best-serviced and best-skilled solutions. PaaS is seen as the most basic level of cloud computing models or the lowest common denominator offering flexibility and speed while also aligning outcomes.

Which Service Does your Organisation Need, IaaS or PaaS?

The direct answer is that it depends. Your choice of cloud services depends on your organisation’s needs. What’s most important to you? Standardisation or complete control? Application development or scalability? At AdEPT, we believe the answer lies in adopting the cloud services that make sense for you. And as interoperable hybrid cloud deployments become the expectation rather than the exception, knowing what your organisation needs are more important than ever. The AdEPT range of cloud services including Azure is based on understanding what your needs are and implementing the solutions that best serve your business. Are you still wondering what are cloud services and how they can help your business? Or do you want to learn more about Azure and how it can benefit your business? Contact us today and talk to one of our seasoned IT professionals and let us help you make a smooth transition to the cloud.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is the difference between LAN and WAN?

Networking is the heart and backbone of all information sharing and internet activities of organisations today. It drives and facilitates business communication and other key functions. With a well-designed and configured business network, your business can run as effectively, efficiently, securely and productively as possible. There are two main types of networks – LAN and WAN. What is the difference between LAN and WAN? And how can your organisation benefit from either or both of these networks? This article details the key aspects of both networks and how they can improve the running of your organisation.

Let’s start from the basics,

What is a Network?

A network is any group of computers (workstations or servers) and devices like printers and smartphones that are connected and can communicate with each other. As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of networks i.e. LAN and WAN. LAN is short for local area networks while WAN is short for wide area networks.

Local Area Network (LAN)

LAN, local area network is a group of computers and other network devices such as printers, servers and laptops connected within the same geographic location. LANs are typically found in offices, schools or other establishments and operate within the same building or the same floor of an office building.

LAN Setup

A basic LAN is created by connecting computers and other network devices using Ethernet cables or Wi-Fi through a network switch. Each computer and network equipment is assigned a unique IP address either manually or automatically through a service called DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). Most LANs comprise of a network switch and a network router either on the same device in a small LAN like a small office network or different devices like in an enterprise LAN network. Additionally, most modern routers have Ethernet ports or switch ports together with Wi-Fi capabilities hence the term WLAN (Wireless LAN) which falls in the LAN category.

Devices on the same LAN can see each other on the network and connect through various protocols for file transfer with or without encryption, connect to a remote command line or for Microsoft Remote Desktop etc. LANs also serve as the gateway to the internet for local devices through a centralised device such as a router through which internet traffic is sent and received.

LANs can be configured in many different ways depending on need including limiting and managing access to shared resources over the network among local users. These considerations carry a cost and security implication with security taking priority in today’s world of cybercrime.

Pros and Cons of LAN

One of the key advantages of LANs is the speed they offer which is typically over 1Gbps and significantly faster than the average WAN. On the other hand, its biggest downside is that it is limited to a local area such as an office building or school.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

Some people tend to think of WAN as a larger LAN although some foundational differences set them completely apart. For example, the internet itself is viewed as a WAN and, like typical WANs, it has a significantly more complicated infrastructure than LAN.

A WAN connects LANs typically across multiple locations including individual devices connecting from a remote distance. Think of it this way, if one of your employees wanted to send a file to a colleague next door, they will probably use LAN. However, if they wanted to send the same file to one of your satellite offices across the world, they will most likely use WAN.

WAN Setup

WANs often connect hundreds of devices, contain different sub-networks with differing security requirements and need to use more address space and employ more security measures. Typically, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the main players that create and implement WANs.

Devices can connect to a WAN through wired options such as Direct Internet Access (DIA), Metro Ethernet and T1 Cables or through wireless options that are now gaining popularity such as safelight signals, public Wi-Fi and 4G LTE services. WANs can be administered over a public or private connection or a hybrid of both.

Pros and Cons of WAN

A WAN can cover almost an unlimited geographical distance depending on resources. However, this also means that they are can be costly to implement, can increase latency, security exposure and lower speeds of data transfer.

Differences between LAN and WAN

Speed

Due to the technology and distance involved, LANs tend to transmit data more quickly and efficiently than WANs. This can be a determining factor for mission-critical business activities such as financial trades.

Network Security

LANs tend to be more secure as they can act as stand-alone networks without having to be connected to a WAN. WANs, on the other hand, are more prone to security concerns as they connect one LAN to another which can lead to intrusion.

Ownership

LANs are typically internally owned by individual companies who then depend on the internet to act as a WAN. WANs, in contrast, are typically run by a collection of entities such as companies operating in a business network or city departments.

Having the Right Network for Your Organisation

LANs and WANs have some key similarities and some important differences that can contribute to the efficiency and productivity of an organisation. The important thing to remember when creating or upgrading your business network is to work with a reliable and experienced IT partner.

With close to 2 decades of providing the best data networking services to organisations all over the UK, we have the skills, experience and expertise to provide your organisation with an optimal business network. The AdEPT Nebula core, part of our WAN service can allow your organisation to operate, communicate and perform efficiently across multiple locations. Contact us today and let us help you get connected.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is MPLS? How Multi-protocol Label Switching Works and Benefits Business

It is no secret that for companies to function properly and grow in the current digital age, they need to be connected – to the internet and eventually to other branches. This creates a unique problem of how companies can maintain their data network and its security while simultaneously managing costs and increasing productivity. Unfortunately, many multi-site businesses end up managing their various locations as multiple businesses rather than a single business which is not only costly but also very inefficient and a major stumbling block for growth. MPLS network, also known as multiprotocol label switching allows companies to address these challenges, but how?

What is MPLS?

Contrary to what most people might think, MPLS is not a service or a type of internet connection, it is more of a technique that helps you use your internet more efficiently. MPLS has been defined as a protocol for shaping and speeding up network flows. This means that MPLS labels, sorts and prioritizes your data packets according to your business needs which effectively increases your available usable and guarantees 100% uptime for your critical applications on private routes.

How Does MPLS Work?

Although we know that MPLS is a networking technique that labels and prioritises types of data, let’s use an analogy to paint a clearer picture.

Let’s think of MPLS as mailing a package from a distant retailer. As you track the package in transit, you might notice the package make random and seemingly illogical stops across the country. This is how most connections work. Networks are required to look inside every data packet at every router to know where to send it next. Imagine having your package opened at every post office before it arrives with you. Wouldn’t it be more efficient and frankly more secure if the package has a destination label on the outside so the package could be sorted and forwarded without lengthy inspections? This is exactly what MPLS does. An ingress router labels the data packets on entry to the network so that routers can quickly and more efficiently direct them where they are going without much delay. This not only adds efficiency but also allows some packets to take priority over others – think of it as ‘express shipping’. Mission-critical data packets take priority over less relevant applications.

In more technical terms, MPLS replaces/switches the long network addresses with short path labels on private routes.

Why is MPLS Important?

MPLS has emerged as a simple, secure telecommunications solution that allows many multi-site businesses to have a solid backbone for cost-effective, secure communications. Additionally, MPLS is a flexible network solution that accommodates and facilitates scalability so companies can create custom solutions for their unique needs. Also, having that MPLS uses path labels for worldwide connections on private routes without special hardware or encryption, this further drives down the cost and increases efficiency. MPLS bandwidth relief also allows for reduced overhead expenses and support.

One thing to note is that even though MPLS networks are unencrypted, they are more secure than a normal internet connection.

Importance of MPLS to Businesses Today

Lower Cost

MPLS can slash down your on-going WAN operating costs by up to 50% depending on your current enterprise-class network while still maintaining a higher level of service and reliability.

Improved Quality of Service

Probably the most cited benefit of MPLS is the ability to assign QoS and classes of service features to traffic. This allows your network to prioritise the most important traffic over other traffic.

Scalability

 The protocol-agnostic nature of MPLS allows many different types of traffic to be carried via MPLS routing regardless of type. Additionally, automatic network configuration allows larger and more complex networks to be scalable according to need.

Is MPLS Dead?

With the emergence of competing technologies such as SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network), Gartner published a crucial report on the future of MPLS. In the report, they noted that even though most enterprises would transition to a hybrid environment with both the public internet and MPLS networks, MPLS would continue to be a fundamental part of the WAN landscape, particularly in multi-site companies.

Going forward, MPLS will continue to play an important part in organisations that rely on time-sensitive applications that require guaranteed delivery such as IP phone traffic, Quickbooks, video conferencing etc.

How Can Your Business Take Advantage of MPLS?

As you continue to grow, guaranteed connectivity will play an ever-growing role in your enterprise. In this regard, it is important to work with a networking specialist that will monitor and analyse your evolving needs and implement the right data networking implement. With close to twenty years in the industry, AdEPT works with a variety of key partners including every major carrier in the UK to ensure we give you the right mix and match of data networking options for your specific needs. Additionally, the AdEPT Nebula offers a comprehensive, reliable, scalable and diverse range of networking and communication solutions from a single provider so you can focus on running and growing your business. We also have a variety of other networking solutions to help you elevate your business to the next level through improved connectivity and productivity. Contact us today to learn more.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

The Best Voice over IP (VoIP) Solutions for Business

Business communications technology has greatly evolved over the last couple of years to unlock numerous applications and features that are revolutionary – none more so than cloud telephony.

Business communications technology has greatly evolved over the last couple of years to unlock numerous applications and features that are revolutionary – none more so than cloud telephony. Organisations now have more options than ever before with each solution promising the latest features. Understandably, it can be quite hard trying to figure out which VoIP solution works best for your business. However, as with every aspect in business, it depends on the needs, goals and objectives of your organisation. This article takes a detailed look at the leading Voice over IP solutions available today to help you decide which one works best for you.

Cloud telephony has come a long way to the point that it is nothing short of a necessity for any organisation looking to excel in the current environment. Gone are the days that businesses only relied on phone calls and emails to communicate. Today, businesses can have cohesive real-time communications across multiple devices from any location in the world. With the ever-expanding number of tools provided by the various Voice over IP solutions, organisations are starting to realise and reap tangible benefits including; higher productivity, increased flexibility, cost reductions and more. At AdEPT, we stand at the frontier of these technologies helping thousands of businesses across the UK gain access to intuitive, scalable, reliable and feature-packed Voice Over IP solutions including;

Avaya

Avaya gives you a stable, reliable, flexible and cost-effective communication solution that allows organisations of all sizes to communicate effectively and efficiently both internally and externally. At a time when every organisation is looking for the best ways to improve their productivity, Avaya provides more than a million organisations of all sizes across the world with comprehensive communication and collaboration solutions such as cloud telephony, unified communications and contact centres. In addition to being one of the key innovators in the sector, Avaya’s products and services have received recognition and awards around the world. It is no surprise therefore that it is widely regarded as one of the most reputable VoIP providers today. Some of its key selling points include;

Flexibility

Flexibility is becoming an increasingly important concept in business today. Organisations want to have the ability to work from any location around the world while still maintaining productivity. Avaya gives you the ability to use multiple devices to communicate and collaborate with people regardless of their location. It gives you cohesive access and control over data storage and retrieval, instant messaging and even video conferencing. And the beauty of it is that you can tailor the systems and services to match your exact needs at any given time.

Reliability

The Avaya innovation and R&D team is one of the most productive in the sector. This has helped Avaya establish a longstanding reputation for being one of the leading providers of collaboration and communication solutions on the globe. Their IP technology and products continue are incredibly popular and continue to improve.

At AdEPT, we are a trusted Avaya reseller helping thousands of UK businesses upgrade their communications technology. We have helped businesses of all sizes including HCA Healthcare, Coca Cola, The Office Group, Fidessa and many more improve their communications and collaboration environment.

Nebula Voice

This is our leading cloud telephony service and for good reason. Powered by Ericsson-LG Enterprise, Nebula Voice improves on all the features, benefits and convenience of an on-premise phone system by delivering them through the cloud. Designed to deliver, reliable, intuitive and stable communications from our state of the art data centres, all your organisation need to communicate and collaborate from anywhere around the world is a handset and an application or web portal. We take charge of managing the phone system so you can focus on your core business activities.

Key Features of Nebula Voice;

  • Voicemail
  • Auto-attendant
  • Conferencing
  • Hunt Groups
  • Cloud mobile
  • Instant messaging
  • Skype for business
  • Call Recording
  • Call reporting
  • Dedicated portal

You also get the following as part of our Cloud telephony and Voice services

  • CRM integration
  • Real-time statistics
  • Call logging and recording
  • Powerful switchboard to manage calls
  • Call queuing and queue reporting
  • And much more

Benefits of AdEPT’s Nebula Voice Service

  • Unifies business communications
  • Lowers total cost of ownership
  • Improves collaboration across teams, colleagues and locations
  • Frees up your resources to focus on your core business
  • Guarantees more uptime
  • Scalability. This is one of the stand-out aspects of Nebula voice – the ability to easily and quickly meet the needs of businesses of different types and sizes. It gives you on-demand access to features and resources with the ability to add/or remove users and features as your business grows or your needs change.

What is the Best Voice over IP Solution for Your Business?

Well, it depends. Every business is unique and so are their needs. As such, it is not so much as which the best VoIP solution is but rather which VoIP solution can best match your needs. Cloud telephony solutions like Avaya and Nebula Voice can completely transform how your organisation communicates and collaborates allowing you to more productive, efficient and ahead of the competition. That where AdEPT excels – helping organisations like yours find the right technological solutions that work best for them within their budget. Our over 300 person team comprising of the leading IT specialists in the UK are eager to work with you and find the best Voice over IP solution for YOU. Contact us today to talk to one of our experts and learn more.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What does an IT Consultant do? The Benefits of Working with an IT Consultancy

Consultants and consultancy have become an important part of our business culture. By definition, a consultant is a person or an enterprise that provides expert advice.

Consultants and consultancy have become an important part of our business culture. By definition, a consultant is a person or an enterprise that provides expert advice.

As such, people and businesses have come to appreciate the need for consultants particularly when they can benefit from an outside perspective or when niche expertise is required. As Information Technology continues to transform how businesses communicate, operate and innovate, IT consultants have become particularly important to businesses of all sizes more so to small and medium businesses.

This is because an IT consultant allows these businesses that do not have enough resources to dedicate towards a full-time, in-house IT department to quickly scale up and not miss out on the opportunities presented by IT while also managing their overheads. That said, even large corporations can greatly benefit from IT consultancy particularly when niche knowledge is required for temporary or one-time projects.

What are IT Consulting Companies?

Simply put, an IT consulting company works with organisations to help them solve IT problems. This can vary from basic network analytics to managed IT solutions. Some consulting firms tend to focus on a narrow field of IT while the large established firms offer the whole spectrum of services including;

Cloud services

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning

Network Operations

Cybersecurity and Compliance

Managed IT Solutions

Voice Services

IT professionals from these firms will review your current operations, seek to understand your business needs as well as your business objectives. They then make recommendations on the various solutions and services together with the accompanying software and hardware that will address your needs.

What Do IT Consultants Do?

At the most basic level, IT consultants are established experts in one or several fields of IT. This allows them to take a high-level view of an organisation’s current IT infrastructure, its problems with regards to business objectives the make considered recommendations that will improve the organisation.

Some IT consultants are brought in specifically to offer advice on a key issue. They study the flow of business, identify areas that can be improved and then typically recommend various types of systems and software to use.

Software companies also offer IT consulting services in addition to selling software. This allows them to customize each software sold to the specific needs of the client.

There are also some IT consultancy firms that specialise in the day to day running and maintenance of an organisation’s systems. They provide managed IT services and will typically replace your in-house IT department with outside contractors either partially or fully depending on your agreement.

The Benefits of Working with an IT Consultant

An IT consultant can have a significant financial and logistical impact on the company. Some of the key benefits include;

Focus on Core Business Functions

Regardless of the industry you are in, it is a well-appreciated fact that employees are most productive when they work on what they do best. The distracting and sometimes frustrating task of constantly having to figure out IT problems comes with a significant opportunity cost. Working with an IT consult allows your employees to focus on what they do best and thereby improve your bottom line.

Expert Knowledge and Expertise

IT is constantly changing. Even for businesses that have a full time in-house IT department, keeping up with the ever-changing landscape is not only time consuming but also expensive. An IT consultancy firm will typically have the leading IT specialists in every field with the latest tools, equipment and expertise as well as the experience of working on similar problems.

Cost Savings

Maintaining an in-house IT department and infrastructure can be very expensive even though in most cases, these resources are not utilised to full capacity. Working with an IT consultancy firm allows you to only pay for the service and resources you require resulting in significant cost savings. Additionally, by working with a dedicated team of experts means that IT problems are identified earlier, prevented and fixed which saves you money that would be lost on downtime. There is also the assurance of knowing that your systems and applications will be available 24/7 that is invaluable. Reduced downtime, 24/7 availability and smooth upgrades all culminate in improved productivity, efficiency and ultimately a healthier bottom line.

Increased Security

Cyber security is currently the most prominent challenge to IT and continues to be an evolving threat for every business reliant on IT. An IT consultant will be aware of this fact and will assess your network to identify potential vulnerabilities, help develop business continuity and disaster recovery plan and establish and enforce data security protocols. They can also train your employees on cyber security which can greatly boost the confidence of other business partners working with you.

Choosing the Right IT Consultant for Your Business

The field of IT is changing by the day. The right IT consultant can provide your organisation with a great way to keep on top of the advancements and to optimize your IT infrastructure for your business objectives. With close to 20 years of experience, AdEPT, is a managed services and telecommunications provider with a team of over 300 IT specialists with experience in providing award-winning, simple and proven IT solutions to thousands of organisations across the UK. Need an IT consultant you can trust, contact us today to learn more about our services.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

SD-WAN: welcome to the wide area network that’s more intelligent and gives you greater control

Among the past 50 years of technological evolution are three things that have touched the lives of every one of us.

Among the past 50 years of technological evolution are three things that have touched the lives of every one of us.

First, processing power has grown exponentially – as costs have come down. Technology is one of the few things in life that tends to get cheaper as it improves.

Second, the internet. And we all know how that’s turned out – I certainly could not do the subject justice in one blog.

Third, we’ve seen technology become increasingly user-friendly, making it easier than ever for people to use it in ways that would once require computer science qualifications.

This move towards the ultimate in user-friendliness has become so widespread that the term ‘user experience’ (UX) – once the preserve of technology professionals – has become a household name. Such is the importance of this concept in our everyday lives, it’s now not uncommon for consumers to complain about poor UX.

Yet, when it comes to business technology, the continued existence of IT professionals and departments tells us that the hardware and software we use in our professional lives is not necessarily as user friendly.

It’s why I work with IT professionals to help them get the most out of their business technology. And it goes without saying that because every organisation is different, every IT setup is different too – one size most definitely does not fit all.

One field of business technology where this is especially true is connectivity – the backbone of business and one of our key specialist areas here at AdEPT. And so, it’s our job to keep a close eye on developments in this area. Software-Defined Wide Area Networks, or SD-WAN, is one of those developments. And it has positive implications for businesses.

But before I look at how it works – and how SD-WAN is useful – some context.

SD-WAN isn’t an entirely new development in technology. If you look at Google Trends representing searches for the term, it seems the concept started to gain traction in early 2015. It’s grown since then, and people’s interest peaked last November, about a year before this blog.

So why am I talking about it now?

Good question.

As with all emerging technology, it’s best to avoid jumping on bandwagons for bandwagons’ sake. That is to say, at AdEPT, we extensively interrogate and evaluate new technology before it goes anywhere near our clients.

So that is what I’ve been doing – I’ve spent at least 18 months studying SD-WAN. As a company, we’ve waited until we can truly live and breathe this area of technology, because that’s what due diligence is really about – being able to honestly advise our clients of the plus points and pitfalls.

I’ve extensively assessed and hand-picked vendors. I’ve explored how they could help companies of different sizes and industries, to meet their needs, their concerns and their market conditions. I’ve studied reports and research papers. I’ve shared and debated all my findings with my colleagues. I’d even go so far to say I’ve dreamt about SD-WAN, but that may be too much information. And now I am here, writing you a blog about it.

Here’s what I’ve learned – and for the benefit of your non-IT colleagues and your internal discussions – I’m going to go back to basics.

Greater independence, giving you control

First, the clues are in the name.

Like other wide area networks (WANs), it is so called because at its heart is a network that you can use to connect computers and technology across a wide area – namely, multiple sites in different locations, or branches.

What about ‘software-defined’? This is the clever and distinguishing part of SD-WAN. As the name suggests, the network uses software, rather than hardware alone, which can be adjusted to respond to changing business needs.

And here’s the first, obvious benefit of SD-WAN. By using software, management of the WAN becomes much more intelligent – and notably, it gives greater control to users.

Imagine, for instance, a growing business that decides to upgrade its WAN because it needs more bandwidth for more services and applications – a scenario that faces most companies in most industries. Typically, such a situation would involve new hardware and help from external specialists – with associated costs – and perhaps downtime, and training.

With SD-WAN, it all becomes a lot more straightforward. Through the ‘software’ aspect of SD-WAN, the control is in your hands, and the hands of the business. This means more often than not, IT teams can make their own adjustments, often from one central location. And they can do so without external help – or certainly with a lot less external help, which can make for quicker turnaround and less expense.

Intelligent network management

SD-WAN’s benefits don’t stop there. Being able to control the WAN setup internally is one thing, but it’s what you can do to the setup that makes it so valuable.

Let’s take another scenario. Suppose your company needs to relocate staff to one location. And in doing so, you find the demand on your network increases in one area and decreases elsewhere. You have a traffic pileup in one site – with your newly-centralised staff struggling to get their work done – and free-flowing traffic in another location, where there’s little demand.

Alternatively – particularly given all that’s happened in 2020 – you may find that your staff are now more spread out than ever. Your one central office has now become hundreds of offices, as staff work from home. And again, you might find that the network that was fine for the head office is no longer right for these new ways of working.

With SD-WAN, you can redress this situation – not just at a traffic level, but at a user and application level too. And as the power to do so is in your hands, you can do so internally, helping you to keep your business running with minimal fuss.

A ray of sunshine for cloud

This leads nicely onto cloud. As you’ll no doubt know, more and more businesses are turning to the cloud to store data, and from which to run services and software. You may already be doing this in your own company. But while doing so is great in theory, it’s not always so easy in practice.  You may find more traffic jams thwart your plans for the cloud.

This is, again, where SD-WAN can come to the rescue. By directing cloud traffic through your data servers, you can give staff direct access to cloud applications, irrespective of location – and without putting a strain on your core network. You can also prioritise cloud applications according to business and location needs.

Improving cybersecurity across the board

Given that cyber attacks happen round the clock and to companies of all kinds, it’s never been more critical for businesses to have impeccable cybersecurity protecting the entire network.

SD-WAN is one way to address this, strengthening cybersecurity throughout your business, helping you ensure nothing slips through the net.

For instance, you can configure SD-WAN to use ‘encrypted tunnels’ at every location. As the name suggests, the data runs through a ‘tunnel’, offering greater protection from external threats – in practice, this has similarities to virtual private networks (VPNs).

SD-WAN also enhances cybersecurity at a micro level, thanks to the intelligent controls I’ve mentioned above. For example, you can specify how it handles certain types of traffic based on your own criteria, applications and policies.

I’m interested in SD-WAN. What next?

If you’re interested in rolling out SD-WAN in your business, you’ll find lots of companies that are only too happy to help.

And herein lies the first big consideration: which provider do you choose? Like so much in business technology, this decision can be a headache in itself. So I’ve done some legwork for you.

As part of my research, I’ve studied and interviewed and compared the providers and how they might suit different businesses – my list is as long as my arm. It includes vendors as wide-ranging as Virtual1 to Cisco.

Among the list is Fortinet. It’s considered to be the third-largest SD-WAN provider behind Cisco and VMware, but there is one area where it’s head and shoulders above the others: cybersecurity. And this is one of the reasons it’s our preferred provider – cybersecurity, after all, is one of the most critical aspects of IT today.

Fortinet is also highly regarded by Gartner, which as of September 2020, has classed it as a ‘leader’ in its Magic Quadrant of SD-WAN providers. It also meets all of Gartner’s must-haves – and in recognition of its customer reviews, Fortinet earned a 2020 Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice award.

You can probably tell now that we have a leaning towards Fortinet. However – and it is a big however – we pride ourselves on being provider-agnostic. And so, when helping you with your own SD-WAN setup, we would talk you through all the possible options for providers.

What about costs and practicalities?

To help you discuss SD-WAN with colleagues outside of the IT team, I’ve made this blog as non-technical as possible. However, there are many technical aspects to consider when setting up SD-WAN, not least the configuration rules for WAN management and how responsibilities are shared.

It’s for this reason that it would be wrong to offer any kind of ‘off-the-shelf’ price for setting up an SD-WAN in your company. Like all business IT projects, there are so many individual factors that affect pricing – and consequently, the only way to make this call is to give my colleagues or me a call, so we can help you talk through what you’re trying to achieve and how SD-WAN may help. You’ll find my details below.

What is worth saying here is that setting up SD-WAN is relatively straightforward. After discussing your requirements with you and assessing your current setup, we’ll typically install a box – rather like a router – at each of your sites, before setting up the software interface. We also offer training and support, so ultimately you can become self-sufficient. Downtime is minimal – and particularly so with the right work upfront.

We’re offering SD-WAN as part of our Nebula platform – a suite of streamlined products and services to help businesses with the IT, networking and telephony. You can find out more about Nebula here.

What next?

As with all our blogs, we aim to give you the key information in a way that demystifies technology and helps you make your case internally. But as it’s the tip of the iceberg, your next step is to get in touch, where we can talk you through how SD-WAN could help your business:

  • This blog was written by Jem Campbell, Pre-sales Solutions Consultant. Jem has worked in networking and telecoms for more than 30 years – and in that time has specialised in everything from BGP to VoIP. He is a genuinely empathetic communicator and ‘people person’, priding himself on his ‘can-do’ attitude. You can connect with Jem on LinkedIn here.

Written by Jem Campbell

Pre-Sales Consultant

What is a Disaster Recovery Policy and Why Is It Important?

Disaster recovery, or DR, is a security planning speciality that looks for ways to protect organisations from the impact of damaging events. With the right disaster plan, your business can resume vital functions quickly and efficiently following any interruption.

Disruptive events are anything that interrupts an organisation’s operations, from power outages to fires, equipment failures, or cyber-attacks. Disaster recovery aims to allow your business to continue operating normally or as close as possible.

There are numerous options available to modern businesses, including specialised plans for smaller companies that might be reluctant to invest funds in preventing events that may never occur. While disaster recovery centres around events that have not occurred, having a strategy in place for these events is better than being caught unawares. The loss of revenue in the wake of an unanticipated disaster is much greater than the amount paid to have a plan in place that mitigates that disaster.

The Importance of RPO and RTO Disaster Recovery

Modern businesses operate on a high-availability basis, and most cannot afford long periods of downtime. Many businesses struggle to recover after experiencing a disaster resulting in significant data loss and some companies fail as a result, but disaster recovery can mitigate this.

Recovery point objective, or RPO, and recovery time objective, or RTO, are two fundamental metrics used in disaster recovery.

RPO is the age of the oldest required files for a business to resume normal operations after a disaster occurs. The recovery point objective determines how frequently backups should take place. As an example, companies with an RPO of one day should perform a system backup once a day at the same time.

RTO is the period of downtime an organisation can sustain while recovering files from an off-site location and local backup storage before normal operations resume again. Businesses with an RTO of four hours cannot allow recovery to take longer than that.

By knowing their RTO and RPO, administrators can choose and tailor disaster recovery plans to suit their particular needs. Preparing for a disaster and accurately calculating RTO and RPO necessitates a comprehensive approach. Administrators must be aware of their hardware, software, and networking equipment while performing tests that ensure and DR occurs within the required RTO and RPO targets.

Disaster Recovery Tiers

In the 1980s, six tiers of disaster recovery were presented by the Share Technical Steering Committee and IBM. Tier 6 represents the maximum amount of off-site recoverability while tier 0 represents the least. Tier 7 was added later as automation made more sophisticated systems possible.

  • Tier 7: No data loss. Data is backed up and held in an offsite facility capable of automatically restoring any lost data in the event of a disaster.
  • Tier 6: Minimal data loss. Recovery occurs near-instantly and usually requires disk replication.
  • Tier 5: Backup data is continuously transmitted between two sites.
  • Tier 4: Two active sites back up vital data for each other.
  • Tier 3: Data is backed up at a fully functional data centre that provides 24-hour assistance in the event of a disaster.
  • Tier 2: Physical copies of data are made and transported to an off-site, 24-hour data centre.
  • Tier 1: Physical copies of data are made and transported to a site that can be activated in the event of a disaster.
  • Tier 0: All backups and recovery are made and performed using on-site systems only.

Typically, higher tiers lose less data and feature quicker recovery times. However, higher tier systems have higher operating costs.

Disaster Recovery Policies

A DR policy is a vital step in preventing disasters from ruining your business. The policy outlines what types of events are covered, expected RTO and RPO times, and which tier of disaster recovery is provided. Before choosing a DR policy, an organisation must have a clear understanding of its disaster recovery requirements. By choosing the right plan, a business can save itself from a crippling or fatal blow in the event of the unexpected.

Read more about our Business Continuity Services to find out how we can help you develop a disaster recovery plan.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is SD-WAN? How it Works and The Benefits for Your Business

Over the past few years, there have been significant changes in networking, particularly Wide Area Networks (WAN), none more important than software-defined WAN (SD-WAN).

Understandably, there is a lot of buzz around SD-WAN alongside digital transformation and edge computing. So much so that Gartner estimates that SD-WAN will be preferred by over 90% of entities doing WAN edge refreshes over traditional routers.

However, with the buzz comes confusion. This article answers the key questions around SD-WAN; ‘what is SD-WAN?’ and how can SD-WAN help my business?’

What is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN of Software-Defined Wide Area Network is a combination of an SDN (Software Defined Network) and a (Wide Area Network). It is a type of computer network that facilitates the bonding of multiple internet access resources any other IP transport to provide reliable and efficient high-throughput data channels. To understand the concept better let’s break it down to its components.

SDN is a cloud computing approach used at a headquarters for internal data centres. It was designed to give network administrators the ability to quickly respond to evolving business requirements through a centralized interface.

A WAN, on the other hand, is used to connect enterprises across distant geographical locations. It connects the headquarters to remote locations. Typically, it comprises Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) ‘hub and spoke’ architectures that connect the headquarters and the remote branches. 

As such, SD-WAN is the best of both worlds. It gives you the ability to centrally manage your entire WAN through the cloud even if your enterprise has thousands of remote locations across the country. Some networking gurus have referred to SDN as the architecture and SD-WAN as the technology. SD-WAN makes use of the internet and the cloud to connect the data centre in headquarters to branch locations. Unlike legacy networks, SD-WAN networks separate the traffic, monitoring and network management functions from the hardware thereby creating a centralised control. This increases application performance and improves user experience resulting in higher business productivity and a reduction in IT costs. Additionally, SD-WAN networks also offer the flexibility of being able to support multiple carrier options, unlike MPLS networks that tie you down to a contract with a single provider.

How Does an SD-WAN Work?

By identifying applications and use of intelligence, SD-WAN provides application-aware routing across the WAN and gives cloud-first enterprises the ability to deliver a superior application quality of experience for users (QoEX). Every class of application receives an appropriate security policy and QoS enforcement to meet the unique needs and objectives of the enterprise with regards to the industry.

With secure local internet breakout of SaaS and IaaS application traffic from the branch, enterprises can protect themselves from threats while also achieving the highest levels of cloud performance. In contrast, the router centric model delegates the control function to all devices and simply routes traffic based on ACLs and IP/TCP addresses. This is not only inefficient but also rigid and not cloud-friendly which ultimately leads to poor user experience, low business productivity and exorbitant IT costs.

How can SD-WAN Benefit Your Business?

The many benefits of SD-WAN make it an appealing attractive to MPLS particularly as more businesses continue to push for digital transformation.

Simplicity

Probably the leading benefit that SD-WAN offers to IT professionals is simplicity and the ability to use a single central interface to manage an entire WAN. With zero-touch provisioning, company-wide network upgrades can be made in minutes rather than weeks. Additionally, it eliminates the need and costs associated with retaining on-site technicians to do configurations for every branch.

End-to-End Visibility

SD-WAN gives network managers clear top-down network visibility, analytics and control across the entire enterprise network through a single management interface, unlike legacy networks.

Reduced Costs

Understandably, SD-WAN is less expensive than conventional legacy networks as it eliminates for expensive routers and other equipment as well as the techs required to install and maintain the network at every location.

Increased Uptime

The presence of a central management interface allows you to reduce troubleshooting time and increase uptime. Additionally, with the ability to aggregate multiple WAN and ISP connections, enterprises can achieve seamless redundancy in the event one path fails which is not available with MPLS.

Improved Reliability

SD-WAN is typically optimized for remote access to on-site resources and the cloud. This significantly improves the reliability and efficiency of cloud applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce.

Increased Flexibility

SD-WAN does not lock you onto a contract with a single provider. It gives you the flexibility to switch carriers, create hybrid MPLS/ SD-WAN networks as well as mix and match carriers.

Adept SD-WAN Support

More and more enterprises are realizing the importance of SD-WAN. At AdEPT, continues to help organisations transition to a cloud transport network that is centrally managed, easily deployed and significantly cost-effective. We offer state of the art SD-WAN technology and support to help you improve your user experience, efficiency and business productivity. Learn more about our cloud services by contacting us today.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

IT leaders look to cybersecurity and networking to help them roll out the ‘new normal’

2 November 2020

Cybersecurity and data networking are the top priorities for IT leaders in the wake of Covid-19

Senior IT professionals helping their organisations recover from Covid-19 are looking to invest more in cybersecurity and data networking than other areas of IT.

That’s one of the key findings from a new survey by AdEPT Technology Group, released in an ebook format today.

In the survey – which was conducted in partnership with Dell Technologies and Innopsis – IT leaders were asked about their organisations’ experiences of working through the Covid-19 pandemic, exploring the impact of the crisis on business IT and related staff matters.

Asked about future cybersecurity investment, 51 per cent said their organisations would be investing more in this area over the next year. And for data networking, 46 per cent said this area would attract more investment than usual.

Notably, the majority of these same survey participants (64 per cent) described their businesses as being previously ‘secure’ or ‘extremely secure’ against cyber attacks – and a similar majority (59 per cent) said that their organisations had not been the victim of any such in attacks in the last year.

One interpretation of these contrasting points is that the pandemic has heightened IT leaders’ concerns about cybersecurity and renewed their need for robust connectivity.

AdEPT CEO Phil Race said: “When the pandemic began, it was very much a case of all hands to the pump. Consequently, to allow staff to work from home, came a drive by businesses to keep IT afloat at all costs.

“This meant that in many cases, the usual stringent practices around cybersecurity and networking were put to the back of minds. It was incredibly challenging, but completely understandable.”

He continued: “With our own clients, we saw businesses rushing to refurbish old laptops for staff to use at home – often without the rigorous checks that would ordinarily happen with such refurbishments.

“We saw staff using personal devices to access company systems, unintentionally opening the floodgates to a whole host of cyber threats. And we saw previously-impeccable networks become a hodgepodge of systems, devices and processes, compromising everything from performance to data integrity.”

Throughout the pandemic, AdEPT has been helping many organisations to address these challenges. And it is especially proud to have done so for public sector organisations, allowing them to continue working in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

One example of this is AdEPT’s work with a GP practice in Wakefield. To ensure staff could keep helping patients and the community, AdEPT’s local team set up a cloud-hosted soft phone system meaning staff could use their own mobile phones to answer practice calls while working from home. Phil has explained more about this in this blog, here.

Looking forward, AdEPT expects work like this will continue, in a movement that it is an evolution, not a revolution.

Phil explained: “Many of the new ways of working that have emerged through the pandemic are an acceleration of previous patterns – and our survey reflects this.”

The majority of IT leaders (44 per cent) said that up to 20 per cent staff were already working from home before lockdown took hold. And given that the ONS found that 5.1 per cent of staff worked from home in 2019 – and 4.9 per cent in 2018 – it’s clear that home working has been growing in popularity over recent years.

Phil added: “Unsurprisingly, our survey found the percentage of staff working from home throughout the pandemic jumped to 80 per cent and greater. And though we’re now seeing a return to the office, we believe workplaces have been irreversibly changed. And once again, IT will be a critical factor in making this change a long-term success story.”

In the wake of Covid-19, AdEPT has published a number of guides for IT leaders to help their organisations recover. One such piece is this e-book, exploring how business IT can adapt to the new workstyles brought about by the pandemic.

AdEPT has also published a number of useful blogs exploring both the impact and the future implications of the pandemic on IT.

  • Run in partnership with Dell Technologies and Innopsis, AdEPT’s survey was conducted on SurveyMonkey in August 2020.
  • 100 IT professionals responded, and the percentages above are based on those responses.
  • For the data and graphs resulting from the survey, please get in touch with Ben Rogers, below.

ENDS: 724 WORDS

For a full briefing please contact:

This announcement has been released by Ben Rogers, Head of Marketing, on behalf of the Company.

About AdEPT Technology Group plc:

AdEPT Technology Group plc is one of the UK’s leading independent providers of managed services for IT, unified communications, connectivity and voice solutions. AdEPT’s tailored services are used by thousands of customers across the UK and are brought together through the strategic relationships with tier-1 suppliers such as Openreach, BT Wholesale, Virgin Media, Avaya, Microsoft, Dell and Apple.

AdEPT is quoted on AIM, operated by the London Stock Exchange (Ticker: ADT). For further information please visit: www.adept.co.uk

Ben Rogers

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT