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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.

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

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.

Drop us a line

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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.

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

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.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is a Hosted Phone System & How Does it Work?

If you are considering investing in a new phone system for your organisation, you must have come across the phrase “hosted phone system”. The terms “hosted” and “cloud” have for a while now attracted the attention of large and small businesses. Tech media as well loves the concept and enjoys analysing its benefits and application. But, most business owners and leaders are still left with the question; what is a hosted phone system and how can it benefit my organisation?

In this article, we will go into a little more detail on what a hosted phone system is, how it works and how it can benefit your organisation.

What is a Hosted Phone System?

A hosted phone system, also referred to as hosted telephony or hosted PBX, is an internet-based phone system that is not based at your organisation’s premises. The servers and applications of the hosted phone system are based at a data centre or in the cloud rather than at your place of business.

Most people confuse a hosted phone system with a VoIP phone system but there are significant differences in these systems. VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol, is a type of phone that uses an internet connection as opposed to the traditional PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) to deliver phone traffic. As you know, most phones are now IP phones – be it for business or personal use. However, using an IP phone does not mean that your call traffic is being carried over the internet or that you have a hosted phone system. It just means that your phone can use an internet connection to send and receive calls.

In simpler terms, not all IP systems are hosted, but, all currently available hosted or cloud systems are IP.

How Does a Hosted Phone System Work?

In today’s modern hosted system, a hosted phone system typically resides in the cloud. Cloud in this context means servers and switches that are located at a secure data centre off-premises. To connect to this phone system, you need to be a subscriber which comes with a monthly fee. To setup, all you need is to plug in the provided desk-phones and you are set to go. They are designed to connect automatically back to the brains of the system – the servers and switches at the data centre.

Much like every other cloud service or computerised system, it is the “brains” of the system that needs regular maintenance and updates. Of course, the maintenance and updates are done by the hosting company meaning you are saved from the worries of dealing with upkeep, repairs and updates. You can, therefore, focus on your core business and redirect time and resources to increase productivity.

With that said, not all hosted phone systems are the same. There are;

  • True cloud-based phone systems
  • Hosted phone systems – also called hosted hybrid systems or hybrid.

A true cloud system is one that comes with certain pre-set features targeted at small businesses and provided entirely via the internet. It is designed to allow small businesses to enjoy a selection of Unified Communications features you get from a premise-based enterprise phone system. The key downsides are that it is reliant on the strength of your internet connection and of course the low flexibility offered by the limited features.

A hosted hybrid phone system though similar to a cloud solution, is based at an off-site location or data centre. It essentially is a premise-based system set up to be hosted off-premise and handled by the provider or hosting company. This setup provides more flexibility and the ability to take advantage of full features of having your own hosted system specifically designed for your needs but maintained by the provider or hosting company. On top of that, you can choose the features, applications and integrations that your business needs at any given time.

Benefits of Using a Hosted Phone System

Greater Flexibility

It gives your team the ability to work from anywhere. You also get to choose and use the features applications and integrations that you need.

Lower Costs

Probably the main benefit is that there are no upfront equipment costs and no ongoing maintenance and repair costs. You can, therefore, enjoy a great communication system at a fraction of its value. A hosted phone system also absolves you from the cost of downtime and an unreliable phone system which is critically important in some organisations.

Embrace Unified Communication

Your team can take advantage of the many features and applications to achieve quick, easy and efficient internal and external communication.

A hosted phone system is a great idea for every organisation moving into the future. However, as cliché, as it might sound, it all depends on your needs. There are many things to consider and it is worth talking to an expert to determine what makes sense for your business, systems, goals, practices, operations and overall cost of ownership. Contact AdEPT today to kick-start this discussion so you can make an informed decision, or read more on our voice services.

Written by Adam Barsby

A full-fibre future: what the copper line switch-off means for you

From calls with our loved ones, to making a business agreement, the humble telephone is arguably one area of technology that’s integral to our lives, yet is so easily taken for granted. After all, we’ve all grown up with telephones and as such, they’re part of the furniture.

But in December 2025, telephony in the UK will change forever. Openreach – the infrastructure division of BT – will retire the old copper lines that have been at the heart of the UK’s telephony for decades. It’s a development that appears to be behind the scenes, but it has a very real impact on every household and every business.

How this affects you and your business

There’s obviously a lot of complex technical, practical and political discussion around this major change in the UK’s telephony. Essentially, the switch-off of copper telephone lines will see the withdrawal of two different copper-based telephone systems – PSTN and ISDN – with fibre-optic based internet telephony taking their place.

Broadly speaking, PSTN – or Public Switched Telephone Network – is the system that is used by most residential telephone lines. It’s also used by businesses too: if you have a security or lift alarm that’s linked to a phone line in your business, then you too use PSTN.

ISDN is similarly prevalent. It stands for Integrated Services Digital Network and is generally used to connect lines to a business telephone system, giving you the ability to provide a direct number for every employee or department.

Both PSTN and ISDN run through the old copper telephone network. And as such, when these copper lines are switched off, so too will the PSTN and ISDN services cease.

Why act now?

We appreciate 2025 seems a long way into the future. And particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and its massive impact on our professional and personal lives. But, five years is not a long time in business – and there are other, more immediate, factors to consider.

One of the most pressing considerations relates to Openreach’s decision to stop providing new PSTN and ISDN services at more than 118 UK telephone exchanges. As described in this article from ISP Preview, Openreach is already trialling this in Suffolk and Wiltshire – and is replicating this across the UK.

The article provides a full list of the affected exchanges. If you are served by one of them, do keep in mind that this does not mean your telephone service will cease, but rather, you may not be able to add new PSTN- or ISDN-based features to your existing telephone service, including features such as caller display, call barring, and the 1471 service.

Furthermore, this so-called ‘stop sell’ transition is due to be in place across the UK by September 2023. This means that after that date, nobody – whether consumers or businesses – will be able to buy or add new features to their PSTN or ISDN-based telephone services.

Given the ongoing trials by Openreach – and the September 2023 restriction of new PSTN and ISDN services – we are advising all of our customers to at least have an informed discussion about their telephone system. And while it might seem daunting, it’s actually a very simple process, and may bring some pleasant surprises…

How you can benefit from the copper line switch-off

Practically speaking, there isn’t a lot for you to do to respond to the copper line switch-off. We’ve explained what’s involved below, but before that, it’s worth noting some of the benefits of the change.

Essentially, our telephone lines will all eventually be run over fibre optics – the technology that already brings the internet into so many of our homes and businesses. You may see these kind of internet-based voice services referred to as ‘IP telephony’ – which stands for ‘internet protocol telephony’. And you’ll understand why VoIP – ‘voice-over internet protocol – is another term that’s bandied about in such discussions.

If you’ve ever made a call through an internet-based service, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype or WhatsApp, then you’ve already used a form of VoIP. This is particularly relevant to the past few months where many of us have been working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So whether knowingly or not, millions of us have already been using VoIP services to make and receive calls.

During this time, you may have noticed that these services bring with them a huge range of features that aren’t available through traditional phone lines. For example, applications like Microsoft Teams and Zoom feature video calling, screen sharing and recording. You may already have reaped the benefits of such features.

On a more personal level, smartphone apps like WhatsApp – which now has more than two billion users – have made internet-based phone calls a familiar concept, meaning it now only takes a few swipes to make a call to someone on the other side of the planet, only requiring an internet connection to do so.

If any of these examples ring a bell with you, then you can probably envisage the benefits of internet telephony. For businesses specifically, internet telephony can translate to improved collaboration, enhanced disaster recovery and business continuity options, better information sharing and a greater, richer, variety of call features. Internet-based telephony can also bring cost savings – and for home-based and mobile workforces, it often proves invaluable – which is particularly important in the post-Covid workplace.

How might your business respond to the copper line switch off?

So far, the copper line switch-off has tended to make headlines in industry publications rather than general media. And consequently, many businesses are understandably unaware of the changes ahead. Meanwhile, we’ve already spoken with many of our existing business customers about the switch-off – and in all cases, the first thing we say is ‘don’t panic – just be prepared’.

For those customers, and for you, responding to switch-off is relatively straightforward, involving three main steps.

Typically, the first step is an assessment. We would start by auditing your existing telephony estate, to confirm the lines you have across your business premises and work with you to identify what is connected to each of these lines. This audit would be carried out remotely and we might only need to work with you on site to assist with identifying the location of lines where the information you hold may be missing or out of date.

Once this audit is completed it will be important to review the various lines and understand the commercial implications of changing – and how those commercials will change with time. Don’t assume that you need to change all your lines immediately – your telecoms supplier should be able to discuss your various lines with you and agree the best course of action, both commercially and technically.

Next – the second step – is a simple hardware installation. If you decide to change to internet-based telephony and are happy with our assessment and recommendations, we’ll need to prepare your business for the switch from your copper-based telephony to fibre-based telephony. Practically, this means we’ll need to install a gateway in your business that converts internet voice to the format that will work with your existing handsets and hardware.

And here’s a really important point of note – you do not need to change your hardware to use internet telephony. Of course, if you do want to upgrade your handsets and perhaps even connect your PCs and other devices to your new IP telephone system, then we can help with that. But it isn’t necessary to do this to use IP telephone services: you can continue to use your existing handsets and other connected devices.

Finally – the third step – we’ll need to turn off your old telephony service and switch on your new IP telephony. Typically, this means your phone lines will be unavailable for up to two hours, but we’ve seen the switch happen in as little as 15 minutes. We can do this at a time that minimises disruption, and make the switch for you remotely. However, if you’d prefer to have somebody on site while the switch happens, we can be there throughout the process.

As you can see, as technology upgrades go, switching over to IP telephony is one of the more straightforward processes. And for all our customers, we’re very proud to give a truly consultative service: one that’s focused on finding your business the right solution, rather than cajoling you towards products and services because we have a sales agenda.

Next steps: what now?

If on reading this blog, you feel ready to make the switch – or you’re still not sure – then we can advise you either way. Of course, there is no obligation to make the switch now – and for our existing customers who are not ready to change to IP telephony, we’ve agreed with them to have a chat every three months as a gentle nudge. This might be the right option for you if you’d like to see a return to a little more normality before you make any commitments.
Whatever your circumstances, our voice and telephony experts can give you objective advice. You can call us on 0333 4002490 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk – or get in touch with me through LinkedIn, as below.

A final note: why are the copper lines being switched off?

This is an important question to ask for context. And as mentioned above, the rationale for the change is complex, touching on everything from advances in technology to economical reasons.

In broadest terms, as with all technology, the copper lines that serve the UK’s telephone network have a shelf life. And since the origins of these lines can be traced to the Victorian era, it’s fair to say that more than a century later, our copper telephone network is feeling the strain.

At the same time, the cost to maintain this copper network is increasing, as suppliers of parts and hardware are becoming scarce. Likewise, relevant knowhow is dwindling – training of engineers now tends to focus more on fibre-based voice telephony, rather than older systems. It all means that as time passes, running the copper telephony network will become more and more prohibitively expensive – and this expense will be ultimately passed onto customers.

Finally, consider the advent of smartphones. Certainly domestically, we are using our landlines less and less. For example, according to Ofcom, the amount of time we spent making landline calls dropped by a half between 2012 and 2017, while the amount of data we use through our mobile phones has increased tenfold in that period. This pattern has been mirrored around the world, and it suggests we’ve gone past the point of no return with our landlines.

One last point of note relates to industry terminology. You may see the phrase ‘wholesale line rental’ – or WLR – mentioned if you read further about this topic. For what it’s worth, it’s industry lingo and is of far less importance than the points covered in this blog. But if you need any further explanation, please call 0333 4002490 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk.

  • Peter Fisher is the Head of Network Services within the Comms South division at AdEPT Technology Group and has been in the industry for over 20 years. He has built up a wealth of experience in the various technologies available across both telephony and networking, making him well placed to offer insight and guidance to businesses, large and small. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Written by Peter Fisher

Head of Network Services

Is outdated IT impacting your care home?

The last thing you need if you’re working in a care home right now is any concerns around your IT infrastructure. We’re all aware of the challenges care homes have faced recently – and continue to face – so it’s fair to say you just need your IT to work properly, correct?

Many organisations don’t even think about their IT until something goes wrong. Yet when your IT does malfunction, it can be time-consuming to fix and it’s a distraction to running your care home effectively.

Think about everything your IT needs to do in your care home and you’ll see it actually underpins almost every activity, including:

  • Supporting staff in the office and helping them to be efficient
  • Providing hardware and digital resources for residents to use for entertainment, speaking with family and positive wellbeing
  • A means for residents to communicate with doctors over Wi-Fi from the comfort of their own rooms
  • Supporting you in achieving your CQC requirements
  • Keeping confidential data safe and protected against cyber-crime

You can read more about IT challenges for Care Homes, and how to fix them by clicking here.

Overhauling IT in care homes
We’re proud to have supported care homes with their IT in recent months. One example of our work is with a home in Kent that has been running for 50 years.

The team there approached us because their IT was slowing them down. They had an antiquated telephone system, outdated servers, poor Wi-Fi connectivity and no digital data storage for storing information and records.

Rather than working with a variety of companies to solve each of these challenges, the home turned to us to find out how we could help with one overall and consistent solution.

The changes we made
We carried out an assessment of the home’s existing IT infrastructure and made recommendations. The care home was happy with our suggestions and work soon began on improving their IT set-up.

One important change was putting a support structure in place so the staff didn’t have to worry about technology any more. We did this through implementing our Managed IT Services with a 24/7/365 helpdesk, immediately putting their minds at rest.

This was followed by installing an AdEPT Nebula Voice solution to replace the old phone system, so calls to doctors, relatives and internal calls, all started to work properly.

The patchy Wi-Fi was the next challenge we needed to fix – important for residents to be able to FaceTime their families or video call their doctors. We improved the Wi-Fi system with increased access points and a new internet line to improve bandwidth.

Next on the list is updating the servers and storage – but for now, everybody is delighted with the progress made so far.

You can read the full case study here.

Improve IT in your care home today
If you work in a care home and you’ve struggled with your IT systems recently, why not chat to our team about making improvements? We’ll get everything working just as you need it to, cost effectively.

Call: 0208 8501 7676
Email: enquiries@adept.co.uk

Written by Alex Wilson

Business Development Executive

What makes a good AV install?

The IT world has many, many quirks. One of them is the distinction we make with audio-visual (AV) technology. Arguably, most modern devices have some form of audio or visual capacity, so why does AV get its own special label?

The answer to this lies not necessarily in the hardware itself, but rather, like most technology, is all about end use.

We’re all already familiar with domestic AV technology. If you’ve ever bought a new home TV, you’ve probably come across talk about the millions of colours your new screen can display, or multiple speaker configurations. But while technical specs might sound impressive, what really dazzles you is the prospect of your favourite film being so lifelike, it jumps out of the screen, right into your living room.

The distinction between features and benefits is equally important in the business world. Having helped organisations of all shapes and sizes with their AV technology, we’ve learned that successful installs depend on several factors. First, the benefits must offer both the wow factor and good business sense. Second, AV technology is nothing without the right infrastructure. And third, merely hanging a display is not enough – staff must feel confident using the new equipment. All of these factors couldn’t be more true for schools.

Helping teachers as they inspire students

During lockdown, we’ve been very privileged to work on a number of AV installations for schools. Having had long-term plans to upgrade their displays, these organisations realised that doing so while there are fewer students and staff on site was less disruptive – a small positive among the many big challenges of the pandemic.

One organisation that has taken this view is Elthorne Park High School in west London. This is a school that not only helps its students learn and grow, but has ‘curiosity’ as one of its main principles, embracing learning and growth as an organisation too. Consequently, using modern technology is a big part of that growth – and that includes the new displays we’ve recently installed there, while respecting social distancing rules.

Given how there’s a strong and understandable drive to limit youngsters’ screen time, it seems counterintuitive to say that smart displays are a crucial part of education technology. But, like all technology, it’s about context. And in a school setting, smart displays can provide the interactivity that young people love and now expect. And crucially, such displays can greatly enhance teaching and learning.

For example, a smart display can allow a teacher to show a video of explosive chemistry reactions to spark interest in a theoretical science lesson. Or, it can mean a teacher can browse the internet in front of the entire classroom, helping students grasp the importance of using reliable websites for research – a valuable lesson for life beyond school. And when it comes to drama studies, being able to show a film on screen for students to critique not only inspires future actors and entertainers, it can help students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills too.

Of course, with any of these examples, we know smart displays aren’t a substitute for the expertise and enthusiasm of teachers. But as with all technology, these displays can be useful catalyst for something more powerful – in this case, learning.

Another organisation that we’ve recently helped with displays is Skinners’ Academy in north London. Again, we completed the work while respecting social distancing restrictions – something that required careful planning, ingenuity and flexibility – and some physical flexibility too!

Being able to complete this work during lockdown is definitely among our most rewarding installations. Because it means the Academy has something ticked off its long to-do list – at a time when that list is growing exponentially ahead of the return to normality.

And so, we are delighted to have received this feedback from Skinners’ Academy:

“AdEPT Education has been a solid support partner for Skinners’ Academy throughout the years. The AdEPT Education engineers have worked with us with the utmost professionalism to complete their installs for our ongoing projects, even in this unsettling time of lockdown where social distancing rules need to be adhered to.

“Thank you again to our sincere account manager William Asare and his lovely engineers for the great work they have done!”

What more can we say? Not a lot – but if this is the kind of approach you’d like for your own school technology installations or services, then get in touch with our education team. You can find out more here, or email enquiries@adept.co.uk

Lessons beyond schools

Technology that enthrals school students has some unexpected lessons for the private sector. At the heart of this is sharing information, engaging people and building dialogue.

For conference rooms – notwithstanding connectivity issues, which we’ll come onto shortly – smart displays obviously provide the means to hold group video calls – which we’ve all come to really appreciate in the past few months. They can also bring people together in another way: allowing people to present documents, on-screen, to everyone. It’s easy to underestimate how useful this can be. Still, if you’ve ever huddled around a laptop screen, squinting to see what’s being discussed, then you’ll know viewing that same content on a larger, clearer, shared screen helps improve collaboration.

For the customer-facing aspects of business, AV technology such as digital signage can serve as the most flexible form of advertising imaginable. A smart display in a reception area, for example, can provide a warm welcome and useful information to visitors. Or for an exhibition, a smart display, featuring engaging content, can draw an audience and break the ice for conversations.

There are many more applications for smart displays. For example, call centres use them to show real-time information about customer calls; they’re ideal for local government planning departments and council meetings; and they can greatly enhance shop window displays.

AV technology is nothing without connectivity

While we’ve talked largely here about the ‘visual’ side of audio-visual technology, it’s worth noting that our expertise and experience extends to the audio too. Similarly – and perhaps more importantly – being an IT company that specialises in all things connectivity, it’s important to consider the behind-the-scenes aspects of AV.

When we approach any AV work, we always take the view that the technology should not only be carefully chosen for individual needs and budget – but it should be installed in the same way an electrician wires a light switch, or a plumber fits a tap, too. In such instances, the electrician ensures the switch is powered properly and the plumber makes sure the water is running.

In the same way, when we install AV equipment, we ensure the new technology is working properly with the network – both for internet and phone connectivity – and staff are fully comfortable with using the new gadgets. We do all of this as one package.

This may seem like a trivial point, but it’s always of great importance to our AV clients. And we’re able to provide this because we’re fundamentally an IT company that has a specialist AV arm. It’s one of the many things that make us different – and it’s one reason we consistently receive glowing feedback. We hope to do the same for your organisation.

Written by Nick Shea

Sales Director - AdEPT Education

SIP vs PSTN – Key differences businesses need to know

For any business, efficient and cost-effective communication is crucial. As digital technology advances, more options have become available when considering methods of telephony. Gone are the days when a landline was your only option, although its reliability and familiarity means it still plays a part in modern-day business communication. However, more and more businesses are considering alternative methods to the traditional phone system. One such method is termed SIP which works by using the Internet, providing a virtual connection as opposed to the physical connection of a landline.

SIP vs PSTN

SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol, using the Internet to make voice and video calls from computers and mobile devices. It is one of the technologies challenging the previous dominance of PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Networks). PSTN is simply an industry abbreviation for traditional phone networks, consisting of the familiar phone lines, cables and transmission links. However, the copper cabling which forms the backbone of PSTN was not designed with today’s data traffic in mind, which now exceeds voice traffic in volume.

One of the main differences to consider between these two forms of telephony is PSTN operates on a one user per line basis while SIP can have multiple users per line. As SIP uses the Internet it means it removes the need for traditional copper wiring and merges all business voice calls and data traffic on to one network. To operate a SIP protocol you will require:

  • A SIP address used as a communication handle, which some providers can provide for free
  • A SIP client, a program which is installed on a user’s computer or mobile device
  • Sufficient bandwidth on your internet connection, particularly when considering video communication

Cost Implications

One of the primary attractions for businesses toward SIP is the potential to reduce the cost of communication. SIP uses the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) which treats voice signals in the same manner as other digital packets.. They are typically cheaper,  which makes SIP a tempting prospect, especially for businesses who have high phone costs through frequent international calls.

Any calls between employees will also be free as internal calls should not require any connection to the PSTN. Internet-based telephony is more efficient, which can see businesses which use SIP pay smaller charges per minute when calling clients with landlines and mobiles, while even long-distance calls will be cheaper as your connection time to the PSTN will be reduced. As SIP is installed over your existing Internet connection as one point of entry only instead of several analogue lines, it reduces the cost of incoming lines.

Scalability

Being able to easily increase communication capacity or have the flexibility to react to fluctuations in demand can have a significant impact when deciding on a telephone network. When you need additional capacity on your landline phone system it can often be weeks before the physical new lines are installed and ready for use. SIP is a virtual installation and when there is a need to increase capacity it is far easier and far quicker to scale up.

For any VoIP technology such as SIP, a business needs to ensure they have the bandwidth to cope with the voice and data traffic they send out over their internet connection. Yet the flexibility within SIP also means you can scale down just as quickly as you can scale up, allowing you to react to changes in demand such as seasonal fluctuations. With landline phones they may often be left at the same capacity even when there are reduced numbers of users, therefore paying for lines which are not being used.

A Range of Options

Until the arrival of mobile telephony, landlines were the unchallenged phone communication tool. The increasing demand for data traffic in a modern digital world has placed pressures on the PSTN for which it was not devised. However, traditional landlines still offer a reliable network where many years of expert knowledge has been built up, providing swift solutions to problems experienced. Yet the focus will increasingly be toward communication across the Internet and the plans for the Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) withdrawal gather pace.

SIP has many benefits, including lower costs and easier scalability. Although it requires greater bandwidth capacity there are further practical benefits to consider; such as SIP not being geographically dependant, meaning you can move premises to another location and keep the same numbers. Although for some the new range of choice can at first seem a little daunting, in a world where communication is so key for a business, time spent on installing the right infrastructure could see positive practical and financial rewards.

If you’re considering making the switch for your business, we are here to help and guide you through the process. Contact us today to find out how we can help you upgrade.

Written by Adam Barsby

What are the business benefits of digital transformation?

You’ve probably heard or come across the term digital transformation – it seems like the trending buzzword that is in every business forum. However, with all the hype and different interpretations, most people don’t know what digital transformation is or why it matters. In this article, we will explore what digital transformation means to a business as well as what the benefits of digital transformation look like for a business.

What is Digital Transformation?

The meaning of digital transformation will vary depending on the industry you are in. however, generally, digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies into all aspects of business operations. Put differently, it is the incorporation of information, mobile and computer technologies into the overall business strategy of a company.

Why Does Digital Transformation Matter?

Even if you are not well versed with the term digital transformation, you’ll understand that adapting digitally is more than an afterthought in today’s business environment. Digital disruptors are snapping at the heels of many industries and now more than ever, it is clear that only the businesses that progress their transition to digital transformation will remain relevant and competitive. Additionally, for maximum effect, the transformation must be weaved into the foundations and culture of the company and also championed by the leadership to the employees who also need to be skilled in the best practices of the digital age.

The majority of businesses that are looking into digital transformation are lured by the promise of its incredible benefits. So, what are the benefits of digital transformation to a business?

Benefits of Digital Transformation to a Business

Better Customer Experience

Every business craves to deliver better customer satisfaction. Digital transformation has transformed how companies engage with their customers through advancements in technology. In effect, companies are in a better position to fulfil customer needs and therefore provide a better and more consistent experience. Speed is an essential part of creating a satisfactory customer experience. Digital transformation empowers businesses to serve and engage with their customers quickly thereby improving their experience.

Improves Employee Skill Set

As mentioned, the success of digital transformation relies on employees being able to learn and understand the best practices of the digital age. As companies adopt new technologies, employees will need to update their skills to adapt to the changing environment. An increase in company employee skill sets consistently improves the quality of work, creates agility and better communication among all departments.

Encourages a Digital Culture

Digital transformation needs to be holistic and comprehensive. It covers a huge number of interactions, processes, changes, transactions, external and internal factors, technological evolutions, industries and more. This holistic transition radically changes the company culture and empowers employees to easily adapt to technological changes. In turn, this digital culture creates the perfect environment for increased productivity, employee creativity and also leads to innovation.

By its very nature, digital transformation encourages and requires employees to be continually learning and improving their skills. This helps keep employees agile and motivated.

Improves Data Collection and Analysis

Digital transformation data analytics tools that make it easier to monitor, collect and analyse consumer data to aid in the decision-making process. By studying consumers’ online habits, companies can enhance their business strategies and make more informed decisions.

Consolidates Process and Operations

Perhaps the biggest advantage of technology is in making it easier for businesses to connect with people. Digital transformation allows businesses to not only consolidate their workforce but also their entire architecture. Social media, project management and analytics are interfaced to better connect with the company’s target audience and satisfy their needs.

Increases Business Profitability

In most cases, and when successfully implemented, digital transformation affects other areas of your business positively. For instance, improving customer engagement and experience inspires customer loyalty. In turn, your loyal customers are encouraged to make more transactions and also refer their friends and family. This creates a self-sustaining cycle of growth and profitability.

Helps Stay Ahead of Competition

To survive in business, you have to be able to compete. To succeed in business, you need to be able to compete with or be better than your competition. As the world becomes more digitised, the competition will continue to grow and only those businesses that can adapt and excel in the new environment will survive. Through digital transformation, you are effectively placing yourself in the right position to take advantage of new technology and to continually improve your business for greater success.

The benefits associated with digital transformation in businesses are more than those listed above. For most businesses, they have derived more gains from their digital transformation process than they anticipated. While the process might appear like a challenge in the short term, the long term business benefits of digital transformation are well worth it. As a business owner or leader, digital transformation should be on your list of crucial projects to undertake. Contact us today, to learn more about how digital transformation can look in your business and practical advice on how to get started.

Written by Adam Barsby

The Top Advantages of Cloud Hosting over Traditional Hosting

Everyone is moving to the cloud. What does it mean to move to the cloud? How does cloud hosting work and is it better than traditional hosting?

In today’s modern business environment, every visionary business owner or leader is looking to cut costs and maximize efficiency. As technology continues to evolve, organisations and institutions are looking for new and innovative ways to manage their web hosting requirements. Cloud hosting, currently a popular buzzword, has become an effective and revolutionary method. Everyone is moving to the cloud. What does it mean to move to the cloud? How does cloud hosting work and is it better than traditional hosting? We will try and address these questions and help you make an informed decision.

What is Cloud Hosting?

In simpler terms, the cloud is an electronic structure that can store data across multiple computers. This data is then served up through networks such as the internet. In effect, these server farms act as one large storage, processor and space with your website data spread out across a cluster of multiple servers. This means that if one server goes down, no information or capacity is lost. This also means that all your data, applications, email or software are accessible anywhere on the go.

What are the Advantages of Cloud Hosting over Traditional Hosting?

Some of the benefits of cloud hosting are;

Increased Server Uptime

Your website’s performance is directly correlated to the server uptime. The system of interconnected servers ensures there is no single point of failure. If any server goes down or cannot take your request, another server from the cluster takes over by default keeping everything running smoothly. With  traditional hosting, however, any downtime or failure on your single server could result in extended downtime for your applications and website.

Cost- Efficiency

With cloud hosting, you do not have to worry about capital expenditure on infrastructure – providers handle that for you. Additionally, you only need to pay for the services and resources that you are actually using. In a traditional hosting model, however, you need to invest in infrastructure and also pay a fixed amount for services and resources regardless of whether you use them.

Increased Security

In the traditional hosting model, resources and CPU capacity on a single server are shared among multiple websites. Additionally, you need a private dedicated server to secure sensitive information which is costly.

Cloud hosting, on the other hand, comes with an established infrastructure with multiple layer security; data, network, application and physical security. Cloud service providers also provide secure and encrypted solutions, backup recovery, firewalls, identity management and data isolation and storage segregation.

Scalability of Resources

Cloud hosting makes it incredibly easy to instantly allocate resources in accordance with the emerging needs of a website or application. You can add or reduce resources like storage, bandwidth, RAM etc. from the available resources in the cluster of servers.

A traditional hosting setup has rigid specifications and limited resources. You cannot instantaneously ramp up resources if the need arises.

Independence of Location

Traditional hosting servers are tied to a fixed location. For this reason, you need to choose a server that is fairly close to you so as not to compromise your websites loading speed.

Cloud hosting servers, on the other hand, are available and accessible via the internet and with any PC or mobile device, from any location around the world.

Increased Group Collaboration

Through cloud hosting, employees can access and work on the same documents or applications from any location around the world. This increases flexibility in work practices and productivity.

This feature is not feasible in traditional hosting.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

The cloud hosting multi-server setup allows for data to be automatically backed up. This provides for a fast and easy disaster recovery feature.

In the single-server setup of traditional hosting, disaster recovery is not feasible as there is only one server that hosts your data and applications. For disaster recovery, you need to make special arrangements for backup.

Latest Technology

Cloud hosting takes advantage of the latest technologies. You can automatically integrate and customise your software applications based on your business’ needs and preferences. This includes software versions, server upgrades and processing power.

Traditional hosting does not allow you to automatically customise or upgrade.

Environmentally Friendly

  • Cloud hosting reduces an organisations carbon footprint by eliminating the need to maintain in-house servers.
  • Cloud servers are utilised to full capacity which saves energy and the environment.

If you are considering moving to the cloud, it is important to remember that cloud hosting is the newer technology and the trends are showing that it is the technology of the future. Therefore, sooner or later, irregardless of the many benefits that cloud hosting offers over traditional hosting, you will need to move to the cloud. With that said, the ability to scale your resources and only pay for what you require, whilst increasing collaboration and efficiency, are enough reasons to move to the cloud as soon as possible. Contact us today to switch to cloud hosting or speak to our experts.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is HSCN? All you need to know on the Health & Social Care Network for NHS

To restore and improve collaboration and efficiency, NHS Digital, in 2015 embarked on a plan to modernise NHS systems by migrating from N3 to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).

After several years of planning and a few setbacks along the way, the destination is finally in view. In August 2020, N3 will officially be switched off and all health and care organisations must have migrated to HSCN. For over 15 years, N3 has provided a fast and secure network to connect all NHS locations and millions of employees across the UK. However, as new and helpful technologies continue to pop up, N3 has struggled to incorporate them making it not fit for purpose in the long run. To restore and improve collaboration and efficiency, NHS Digital, in 2015 embarked on a plan to modernise NHS systems by migrating from N3 to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).

As the deadline comes ever closer for the full migration to HSCN, a number of organisations are still unaware of the full impact of these changes and how to stand to benefit.

So, what is HSCN?

In short, HSCN is a new data network for health and care organisations designed to replace N3. It is designed to enable greater and more fluid regional collaboration, increase reliability and provide flexibility for health and social care organisations. The network fundamentally transforms the sector by creating a competitive marketplace which gives customers the freedom of choice, as opposed to the single supplier contracts that have existed in the past. Health and social care providers can now choose their network connectivity suppliers from a competitive marketplace and in collaboration with other health and social care organisations. Ultimately, this is intended to level off service in the sector and result in far more cost-efficiency.

How Does HSCN Work?

HSCN is an interoperable network of networks provided by multiple suppliers who comply with open and common standards and acts as a single network provided by multiple suppliers. This allows health and social care providers to share information and access services regardless of their network supplier or location.

Objectives of HSCN

HSCN is a critical step forward in the push to realising the vision of making digital health and care services widely available over the Internet. By providing both private and public connectivity over one connection, HSCN hopes to;

  • Help health and social care organisations move to Internet and cloud-based architectures
  • Provide highly improved access to critical digital services relied upon by health and care but which are not currently available over the Internet.
  • Help health and social care organisations protect themselves against network-related cybersecurity threats.

HSCN is designed to support the delivery of key health and social care initiatives such as NHS England Five Year Forward View, National Information Board ‘Paperless 2020’, Sustainability and Transformation Plans and Local Digital Maps. In this regard it will help in the following ways;

  • Establish network arrangements that support integration and transformation of health and care organisations, flexible work patterns and regional collaboration.
  • Enable reliable, safe, efficient and flexible sharing of information among health and care services
  • Create a competitive marketplace for network services. In turn, this will improve customer’s freedom of choice, deliver better value for money and enable organisations to easily and efficiently access faster, better and cheaper network connectivity services.
  • Improve collaboration between health and social care services by encouraging sharing and reusing existing services and infrastructure as well as reducing duplication.

Benefits of Joining HSCN

  • Improved ability to send and receive secure data between health and social care services as well as better service and information sharing.
  • Cheaper network connectivity and services than N3
  • Standardised networks
  • Simpler network Information Governance requirements
  • Better access to NHS Digital’s national applications which makes it easier to share care plans, confirm NHS numbers and access Summary Care Records.
  • Facilitate working together of staff across health and social care organisations.

How is HSCN Different from N3?

N3 was primarily designed as a single supplier service for NHS providers to access national applications. On the other hand, HSCN is designed to enable multiple suppliers to provide connectivity services in an integrated and rapidly evolving health and social care sector.

HSCN features comprehensive security monitoring and analysis functionality. This provides the capability to detect irregular traffic volumes almost in real-time and for prompt resolution. However, even though these features improve network security, NHS Digital emphasises that HSCN should not be considered a secure network. For this reason, all health and social care organisations connected to it must perform their own risk assessment and employ their own security controls to protect the data for they are responsible.

If you have been putting off migrating to HSCN, this is the right time to finally make the leap. However, as with any new technology, it is important to identify your initial and long-term requirements for the transformation. As you take the step to a more connected NHS, we can hold your hand and guide you as we offer dedicated connectivity to NHS organisations from a Stage 2 Compliant provider. Contact us today to learn more.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Everything you need to know about digital education platforms for schools

This is one of our longer blogs – lots to cover. For a quick summary, click here.

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 coronavirus 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?

As the name suggests, a digital education platform 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 and is therefore a brilliant platform that can be used for remote teaching and learning.

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 digital education platforms, the DfE explained the 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’s Office 365 Education

The two platforms that schools can get funding for are those from Google and Microsoft: G Suite for Education and Office 365 Education respectively.

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. Additionally, 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 freeform 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 five 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 place to – we suggest you do so 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 the pandemic.
  • In the wake of coronavirus, the DfE is offering schools funding to set up one of the two main DEPs: Google’s G Suite for Education, or Microsoft’s Office 365. 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.

Written by David Bealing

Managing Director, AdEPT Education

9 Top Cyber Security Risks for Businesses

A host of new and evolving cyber security threats is keeping businesses and the information security industry on high alert. A survey conducted by the World Economic Forum shows that cyber attacks are the number one concern for executives in Europe and other developed nations. Today, cyber terrorists don’t just hack emails.

They can take down entire websites, steal sensitive information or corrupt entire databases with just a click of a button. From healthcare institutions to government facilities and online stores, no business industry is exempted from this challenge.

Now more than ever, it is important to be proactive in understanding the cyber security risks we face and also learn how to protect our businesses – large or small.

Here are the top cyber security risks for business today.

Social Engineering

Social engineering attacks use deception to exploit social interactions to gain access to valuable data. The criminals behind these attacks manipulate employees or associates into disclosing sensitive information or bypassing security measures. Social engineering attacks are on the rise and unfortunately, even the best cyber security systems cannot reliably stop them. The best defence is to educate your employees on the importance of following laid out protocols and to always be on the lookout for out of the ordinary conversations.

Third-Party Exposure

Many retailers use third parties for services such as payment processing. Unfortunately, using a third party vendor does not absolve you from the responsibility of a data breach on the vendor. Even if an attack originates from a third party, you are still liable and are legally required to notify regulators and your clients not to mention that the fines and penalties are very steep.

Patch Management

This is how many attacks start – outdated software. If you are not up to date with software patches, your company is severely vulnerable to any number of information security breaches. Attackers are actively looking for software vulnerabilities they can attack.

Cloud Vulnerabilities

Cloud services are now an essential tool for businesses of all sizes. However, this reliance on cloud services exposes businesses to a wide range of cyber-attacks including denial of service attacks (DoS) and account hijacking. No technology is completely safe from vulnerabilities and so a holistic approach is important in protecting organisations – including taking up insurance as a part of a cyber-risk management plan.

Ransomware

These attacks infect your network and hold your computer systems and data hostage until a ransom is paid. On top of the ransom, the business loses productivity and its brand image is severely damaged. Attacks like these have put 60% of companies out of business within six months of the attack. Mistaking Compliance for Protection

Meeting the adequate legal data compliance standards is not a substitute for robust cyber protection. It is not enough to meet the legal standards. Take proactive steps towards protecting your data as pertains to your operations. Legal guidelines are not tailored to specific operations and thereby are not sufficient.

Mobile Security Threats

Although mobile technology is a valuable technology, it can also expose you to potential cyber security breaches. Many organisations are now facing such breaches with most of them coming from malicious Wi-Fi and malware.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policies

Cloud services have allowed businesses to cut down on capital investments and to adopt solutions like the bring your own device trend. While this has been shown to increase convenience, flexibility, productivity and even morale, it also leaves businesses exposed to cyber security breaches. This is because personal devices can be easier to hack than company devices thereby giving attackers an opening to compromise data and breach networks. It is therefore important for you to review these policies and ensure that all your employees are adequately trained to minimise this risk.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT uses the internet to connect devices from all over the world. This allows for a network of devices that can send, receive and store data which gives individuals and businesses a lot of convenience. However, hackers can exploit this internet connectivity to steal data.

Outdated Hardware

Not all cyber security threats result from software. As hardware becomes obsolete it cannot support newer and more secure security measures which puts company data at risk. Therefore, it is important to monitor your devices and replace or upgrade devices that are out of date.

Additional Measures You can take to Protect Your Business from Cyber Security Threats

  • Identify risks related to cyber security
  • Establish cyber security governance
  • Develop oversight procedures, policies and processes
  • Identify and mitigate risks associated with remote access and funds transfer
  • Define and address risks associated with third parties and vendors
  • Have the ability to detect unauthorised activity

Cyber security threats are not slowing down. In any case, they are only becoming more complex and devastating. It is therefore imperative that business have to take active steps in protecting their data and networks through holistic measures anchored by a cyber-risk management plan. At AdEPT, we help businesses deploy a wide range of security measures including firewalls, end point security, BYOD policies and even cloud security policies and to make cyber security measures as intuitive as possible. We also deploy behavioural analytics and industrial grade encryption to protect you but we strive to make sure that all processes are and intuitive. Contact us today to learn more about our cyber security services.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager