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DfE Funding for Your Digital Education Platform with Google or Microsoft

Advice for schools on how to secure DfE funding for an Office 365 for Education or G Suite for Education platform

The DfE have recently announced additional funding to assist schools in moving to a remote learning solution during the Covid-19 lockdown. The benefits to your school of a secure Digital Education Platform will last long after the lockdown, and our advice at AdEPT Education would be to take the opportunity to enhance remote learning and collaboration now and for the future.

How can we help?

AdEPT have successfully completed over 600 schools’ migrations and are designated partners of the DfE scheme so we can help and guide your school’s transition.

What is a Digital Education Platform?

A Digital Education Platform is an ecosystem of tools enabling teachers, students, administrators, and parents to access the relevant resources they need for teaching and learning. By hosting it in the Cloud, your school’s users can access what they need, when they need it wherever they have an Internet connection without having to be on-site. Teachers can share information and set homework, students can access resources to assist in their learning, administrators can access critical data and information securely, and the whole school can communicate and share information better. Entire aspects of a school’s operation can be run digitally.

The benefits include increased efficiency and flexibility as well as a reduction in cost of maintenance of on-site hardware.

Where to get started?

AdEPT Education will be able to support you on every step of the Digital Education Platform journey, including consultancy on what is the best platform for your school (such as Office 365 or G Suite), migration from an existing platform and providing ongoing support and advice.

How it works:

  1. You need to visit either of the following portals
  2. Once in the portal, select AdEPT Technology Group Plc as your partner to help you set up your Digital Education Platform
  3. Schools in England without a developed Microsoft Office 365 or G Suite environment will be eligible for funding to help them implement a Digital Education Platform.

For more information, we’ve prepared a short guide, which you can read here:

Why AdEPT Education?

AdEPT Technology Group / Atomwide have 30 years’ experience in supporting schools across the UK in their IT and digital transformation. We are both a Microsoft Gold and Microsoft Authorised Education Partner and a Google Partner, now delivering over 600 school set ups enabling secure access to appropriate teaching and learning content for students both at school and home.

For schools using USO, AdEPT Education can also sync your existing USO usernames and passwords with Google or Microsoft to access G Suite and Office 365 services.

If you want a no obligation conversation about any of the above, we can walk you through it. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch and take advantage of this DfE scheme.

enquiries@adept.co.uk

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

What is Digital Transformation for Business?

Every keynote address, panel discussion, study or article related to how business can increase their efficiency or remain competitive and relevant in today’s world reiterates the same idea – digital transformation. However, it’s not clear to many business owners and leaders what digital transformation really means. Is it just another fuzzy tech word meaning moving to the cloud? How do you go about digital transformation? Do you need to design new job roles or hire a consulting agency? Is it really worth it? These are some of the many questions you might be having about digital transformation. This post attempts to answer them:

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation looks different in every organisation. Therefore, it is hard to pinpoint a clear definition that applies to all cases. However, in general terms, digital transformation can be defined as the holistic integration of digital technology into all aspects of a business with the aim of achieving fundamental changes in the manner in which businesses operate and deliver value to their customers. But, it is much more than just technology. It is also a cultural change that requires businesses to actively and persistently challenge the status quo, experiment often and to embrace the chance of failure. Understandably this is a new way of thinking that requires businesses to walk away from long-standing business processes and to embrace new practices that are still being defined.

There is a plethora of definitions and articles on digital transformation all taking a slightly different view. It is no surprise therefore that most business leaders and owners don’t know how to feel about digital transformation. After all it is just a hot mess. Or is it?

Why Does Digital Transformation Matter?

Businesses embark on digital transformation for different reasons. However, the most prevalent reason is survival. Moving forward, businesses that will survive and thrive are those that act fast, adapt quickly or chart new paths. Speed and agility are now business imperatives for organisations of all sizes.

What are the Benefits of Digital Transformation to a Business?

Although digital transformation is risky and expensive, the resulting benefits outweigh the challenges. Some of these benefits include:

Delivers a Better Customer Experience

Technological advancements have broadened the ways in which businesses interact with their customers. This allows businesses to provide a better and consistent customer experience. Speed is an important factor in creating satisfactory customer experience and digital transformation gives business the ability to serve its customers quickly.

Improves the Skill Set of Employees

The adoption of new technologies will require employees to update their skills to meet the changing environment. As the employee’s skills and knowledge increase, your company will achieve better communication between departments while also becoming more agile. On top of that, the quality of work will improve.

Promotes a Digital Culture

Having a digital culture and environment enhances productivity and allows employees to quickly and easily adapt to any technological change within the company. It helps them explore their creative side and promotes innovations through a process of continual learning.

Improves Data Collection and Analysis

With all the available data analytics tools and the ability to collect extensive data online, businesses can now easily, collect, monitor and analyse customers data to aid informed decision making. Businesses can now study and predict the online habits of their customers and further enhances their business strategies.

Enables the Digitisation of Products and Services

Customers want to have things done quickly and the company that has quick processes will naturally have more companies. Digital transformation allows businesses to convert tangible goods into digital goods thereby meeting the needs of their customers in a shorter time.

Increases Profitability

When successfully implemented, digital transformation positively affects all areas of business. By improving customer experience and shortening delivery times, businesses earn the trust and loyalty of customers which increases revenue. This general improvements also opens new markets and sales channels leading to more profitability.

Maintaining a Competitive Edge

Businesses should always aspire to have an advantage over their competitors. This is the only way to remain in business. Digital transformation presents a firm foundation from which new ideas and opportunities can be integrated into the business. This not only makes the business competitive in the present, but also highly adaptable and agile in the future.

What Next?

Digital transformation is your ticket to the future growth and success of your business. While digital transformation might be a challenge for most companies in the short term, the long-term benefits outweigh all challenges. If you are a small or medium business owner, digital transformation may just be the revolutionary strategy you need to break into the big league.

Contact AdEPT today to learn more about how digital transformation can help your business grow into the future. We have a dedicated team of IT professionals waiting to guide you step by step towards digital transformation. 

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Benefits of Using a Hosted Desktop Solution for Your Business

PCs, laptops, tablets and other computing devices have universally helped improve productivity in the office. However, these computers, software licensing and peripheral hardware all carry substantial costs. When you factor in maintenance and support, the costs accrue significantly. As businesses continue to look for solutions to help them be more efficient, productive and competitive, hosted desktop service is emerging as one of the leading solutions.

Hosted desktop service is an innovative and efficient way of thinking about computing hardware and software. Hosted desktop service, often referred to as Desktop as a Service (DaaS), is a shift from a personal computer being defined as a physical piece of hardware, to a model where any web browser, on any size of screen, becomes an instant gateway to your software applications, PowerPoint presentations, documents, spreadsheets, photos etc. with just an internet connection, your employees can access a cloud hosted virtual desktop environment from any device and thereby work from any location.

Using hosted desktop services can be the change your business needs to move to the next level. Small and medium businesses stand to gain the most from the benefits of using a hosted desktop service. Some of these benefits include;

Mobility – Work from Any Location

Hosted desktops allow business owners, managers and employees to log onto their own desktops from any location and using any device. Through the desktop environment, users can access their entire suite of business software applications including accounting packages, CRM database, files and data as well as emails. With any internet-enabled device, your employees do not have to wait to reach the office to work on urgent tasks. Additionally, you can engage professionals from around the world remotely on a temporary or contractual basis.

Cost Savings

Analysts, including Gartner, show that it costs an average of £1500-£2000 per person annually to supply licences and to manage and support a fixed desktop. A hosted desktop service can reduce this cost to less than £1000 annually thereby saving 30-50% of your annual IT budget. The provider provides the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and is responsible for security, storage, managing updates and data backup and related services. With no need for costly capital expenditure and a low fixed monthly cost, a hosted desktop service frees up your resources including time and money to focus on the core functions of your business.

Scalability

As businesses grow, their needs change. Additionally, businesses experience demand fluctuations throughout the year. Hosted desktops give organisations flexibility and make it easier to grow and scale their IT capacity up or down as the circumstances require. You can easily and quickly pay for more storage, applications or capacity when you need it. In essence, you only pay for what you use unlike in the traditional system where the majority of your IT capacity goes unutilised for extended periods throughout the year.

Increase in Productivity

Cloud computing has been shown to improve productivity by up to 20%. Hosted desktops facilitate seamless remote working from any location in the world which dramatically increases productivity. Additionally, it allows businesses to offer flexible working arrangements and schedules to their staff thereby keeping them happy which in turn increases their job satisfaction and productivity. In the long run, if your employees are happy, the bottom line will reflect.

Near 100% Reliability

Downtime is not only expensive but also very detrimental to an organisations brand image. With most hosted desktop provider promising 99.9% uptime, your business can always be open. Providers also use corporate-grade firewalls to secure customers data and offer 24/7 support and monitoring. If a server fails, the load is automatically taken up by another server to keep your applications live at all time.

Enhanced Security

Digital security is an increasingly crucial concern. After all, a single cyber-attack can result in more than £2 million to an average business in damages. In hosted desktops, data is stored in a central system which allows you to have more control on access and security. You can easily set rules, policies and restrictions to make sure that your data and applications are only accessed by the right people.

A Greener Business

Cloud solutions have been shown to reduce carbon emissions and energy use by more than 90% for smaller deployments and more than 30% in large companies. This is due to the fact that businesses using hosted desktops use fewer machines, have better equipment efficiency and do not have to maintain climate control rooms for in house servers or extra servers to handle peak data loads.

Are You Ready to Switch to a Hosted Desktop Solution?

These benefits show that it is not only beneficial to move to a hosted desktop solution but also critical for future growth and success. With the ability to leverage a part of this technology or make a holistic switch, you can tailor the solution to your needs and objectives.

Switching to a virtual environment is a huge change, both for your digital infrastructure and your employees. However, adept is here to help. With our team of highly experienced and knowledgeable IT professionals, we will help you evaluate your needs, objectives and available options then help you to tailor a hosted desktop solution within your budget. Contact us today to start the conversation on how we can help you move to a hosted desktop solution or any other managed IT solution.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Best Cloud Solutions Compared: AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud Platforms

Cloud computing, over the last couple of years, has moved from being an emerging technology to being an essential tool for all businesses. The debate has now shifted from whether or not to adopt cloud computing to which is the best cloud solution. At the heart of this debate are three major players; AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. While these three providers seem like they provide almost the same services at relatively similar prices ranges, choosing among them is not as straight forward.

So, how do you decide which provider is best suited for your business? This blog on Azure vs AWS vs Google Cloud highlights and elaborates the key differentiating factors between AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. We will cover the following key area regarding AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.

  • Features
  • Pricing
  • Advantages

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Features

The amazon cloud platform provides almost every feature in cloud computing and it is no surprise that is currently the leading provider. Their services allow you to gain quick access to computing power, data storage and other functionalities. They also offer developer tools, mobile services, management tools, and application services. Their computing and database infrastructure combined with their application services provide critical components for all sizes of organisations.

Pricing

AWS has played a crucial role in adjusting the pricing of cloud computing. Their prices are very competitive and continue to decrease as pricing structures change. AWS offers free tiers of services for individuals and start-ups. It is a convenient way for you to try out the services before you commit. On top of that, users can purchase servers by the second rather than by the hour. Depending on the services you intend to use, you can find an affordable AWS prices structure that is lower than the cost of all that infrastructure investment.

Here are their pricing structures

Advantages of AWS

By purchasing AWS cloud services, you benefit from 15 years of enterprise infrastructure developed and perfected by some of the leading IT professionals in the world. AWS has some of the best talents in the market giving you plenty of expertise and experience to work with.

Microsoft Azure

Features

Similar to AWS, Azure provides a full variety of cloud services. The platform allows you to deploy and manage virtual machines at scale. You can also compute and process at whatever capacity you need within just minutes. Additionally, it can handle large scale parallel batch computing if your custom software needs to run it which is a unique feature to Azure and AWS over Google Cloud. The wide-ranging Azure Features integrate into your existing processes and systems which offers you more computing power and capacity.

Pricing

It is important to keep in mind that the pricing of Azure products depends on the types of products your organisation needs. The hourly cost of a server can range from $0.099 to $0.1449 which might not be consistent since this is just one parameter. However, in general, the prices are comparable to AWS when you consider the price per GB of RAM. It is also important to remember that these providers are competitors and so the prices of one affects the other and vice versa.

Here is the pricing structure of Azure

Advantages of Microsoft Azure

In addition to the customisable pricing and a full set of features, the Azure platform is one of the fastest cloud solutions in the market. It particularly excels in operation scalability and speed of deployment. Azure is the undisputed leader in cloud computing solutions with regards to speed. On top of that, it integrates seamlessly with Office 365 and is part of the Microsoft eco-system of services. 

Google Cloud Platform

Features

The Google Cloud Platform offers a myriad of services to different size organisations. Its App Engine product is particularly popular with app development teams. This is a fully managed app development solution that is uniquely agile. On top of that Google cloud also allows you to perform high-level computing, networking, storage and databases. Depending on the products your organisation needs these are all great products even though their selection is limited in comparison to other competitors. With that said, you can almost certainly find all the products you need.

Pricing

Where Google Cloud fails in feature selection, it makes up for in cost efficiency. The platform employs a pay as you go pricing structure – billing to the per second of usage. To set it apart from competition, Google Cloud offers discounts for long-term usage starting at the end of the first month. In contrast, other provider may take over a year to provide such discounts. If your biggest concern is cost, Google Cloud is an enticing option.

Here is their pricing structure

Advantages

As Google Cloud continues to establish itself in the industry, it offers another level of security. They are no stranger to enterprise-level security meaning you can rely on their solutions. They have multiple layers of authentication, data encryption, third party validations and over 500 employees dedicated to security protection. For security, Google Cloud might be an excellent solution.

Which Cloud Services Provider is Right for Your Business? Azure vs AWS vs Google Cloud

When comparing Azure vs AWS vs Google Cloud, there are many features to evaluate and considerations to make. However, rather than trying to pick a provider, start by understanding your needs and objectives. You can then select services either from a single provider or a combination of two or three of these providers. The key thing is to find the right mix of solutions that fit your needs and objectives.

Still, have questions about cloud services providers? Talk to us today to understand how cloud services can best serve your organisation.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

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

AdEPT Communications Secure Openreach Flexibility During Covid-19 Pandemic

Richard Burbage, Managing Director for AdEPT Communications discusses how AdEPT worked to get industry consensus on how to help customers through Covid-19

None of us could foresee the global pandemic (Covid-19)  in advance and the same is true as to just how much it would affect UK businesses and specifically AdEPT customers. However, there were some obvious areas where we knew customers would ask for our help. One of these is the ability to temporarily suspend some services and to restart them when needed, in support of the Government ‘mothball’ strategy.

On our own this would have been difficult to achieve, and so we knew we needed to put pressure on our Wholesale Partners, and specifically Openreach (part of BT) who look after the fibres, wires and cables that connect the majority of the county.

In early April the AdEPT Chairman, Ian Fishwick, reached out to a number of other Communication Providers to achieve a consensus as to what assistance our industry would require from Openreach to deliver tangible help for our customers during these times. This initiative resulted in a request for support signed by the majority of Communications Providers in the market and was submitted to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden, as well as to the head of Openreach in the UK.

Within days AdEPT had successfully secured the help we were looking for directly from Openreach.  The team at AdEPT are now in the process of reviewing the small print and we will then communicate this to all positively impacted customers.

We knew very early on what would be asked of us and we knew how essential it would be to go to the very top to secure such unprecedented support. Our Chairman’s approach with other Communication Providers to get an industry-wide consensus was essential to send a united message to the UK Government and to Openreach. The resultant positive response by Openreach will make a huge difference to AdEPT customers who need the help the most. Yes, there is some small print which means it doesn’t apply to everybody, but by and large, it’s a big win for AdEPT, the industry at large and our customers, and is further evidence of how we’re taking our role as the 4th Utility service seriously.

Written by Richard Burbage

Divisional Managing Director, Communications

Case Study – Age UK Doncaster

Age UK is the country's largest charity dedicated to helping those in their elderly years by providing companionship, advice and support for those who need it most. Age UK also has an international arm which delivers services in some of the poorest countries around the world. Here we look at how AdEPT supported their Doncaster branch with a remote working solution so they could continue their critical work and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The main focus of Age UK is the well-being of the older generation. The coronavirus outbreak has seen demand for their services soar, as the elderly are especially at risk from the virus. Due to these circumstances, Age UK wanted to provide their staff with the ability to work remotely and be able to access their business-critical applications from any location to keep them safe, but also ensure they could still do as much as possible to care for the elderly in their community.

The solution needed to include CareFree, an application that provides homecare management and was designed in conjunction with several home care providers. CareFree is a client/carer management and rostering solution specifically written to meet the needs of the modern care provider.

Without access to this core application, Age UK staff would not have been able to deliver critical services, and this could lead to serious problems for the business and for those they care for.

Age UK approached longtime managed services provider AdEPT to see if we could help.

After initial consultations, with both the CEO of Age UK and other key staff, the team at AdEPT investigated the options to allow staff to safely access the CareFree system and other key resources remotely.

The right solution was to implement a Remote Desktop Solution (RDS) which would allow the external members of staff to log into a terminal server and access their key software.

As security is a key requirement for Age UK, a two-factor authentication system was implemented alongside the RDS.  This would send a notification to the user’s mobile device before connecting them to the RDS environment. AdEPT installed a dedicated HP server to support the solution and allow users to connect.

Installation & configuration times were managed to only a single day for each user.

This transformation has allowed Age UK staff to work remotely and flexibly, in a secure and productive manner, without the need to visit the office, ensuring they were able to carry on their good work in caring for some of society’s most vulnerable at this time and in the future.

I just wanted to write and thank you for the speed in which you solved our problem of remote working on Carefree in the current crisis. We are quick to criticise when something goes wrong, so equally we need you to know how grateful we are for what you have done in a short space of time and the ongoing remote support.

 Ian Piper

Finance Manager – Age UK Doncaster

If you or your organisation could benefit from help with your IT or communications please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

How we’re financially weathering the storm of Covid-19

In times of crisis, one of the most important steps any company can take is to provide clear and candid communications. So, one thing I can offer you – whether you’re a client, a colleague or an investor – is all of that in spades, and for this blog – clarity on our financial position.

I’ll start by setting the scene.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic our role as a ‘fourth utility’ – covering telecoms, data and IT – has come to the fore. If you question the voracity of this statement just ask your family whether they’d rather you keep the heating on or the broadband connection with IT attached.

Since Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement on the 23rd March we’ve seen significant growth in demand for many of our services – from organisations of all sizes and industries, across both the public and private sector. As a clear example of how the team at AdEPT has risen to the challenge we’ve managed to help some 200,000 teachers and 900,000 students continue education through remote technology.

Of course, we would prefer for this demand to be the result of happier circumstances. Nevertheless, we are hugely grateful to everybody who continues to choose and trust us to keep their technology running through this crisis, and I am personally immensely grateful to the awesome team at AdEPT who have truly stepped up.

Behind the scenes, there’s much going on here to ensure we ride out this storm. Here’s a closer look.

The financial picture as it stands

We have a number of financial advantages worth highlighting.

The first core strength is our balanced client base. About 45 per cent of our turnover comes from public sector clients, including thousands of schools, the Cabinet Office, and the NHS. Clearly, at this time, such organisations have pressing technology and connectivity needs. But beyond the pandemic, the public sector’s digital transformation will continue – and perhaps become even more fast paced. During the election of 2019, ‘Digital Britain’ was a major manifesto commitment – and has been brought into stark relief over recent days.

As such, AdEPT and our partners have an invaluable role to play right now, and long into the future. Crucially, dealing with ‘government backed’ organisations means a secure flow of cash which is so important in uncertain times.

Our second core strength relates to the nature of our revenue. The majority of our income results from long-running and repeat contracts. Building this dependable revenue stream has been a core mantra of AdEPT for many years, a strategy that is bearing fruit for both our clients and us as a business during these challenging times.

Certainly, we have been more flexible than ever in light of the pandemic, helping our clients with short-term options, but we are able to be nimble and adaptive because of the bedrock of long-term visible cash flow.

Our third financial strength relates to a point I mentioned earlier: IT, communications and networking collectively being the ‘fourth utility’. Therefore, as a provider of these products and services, we play a critical role in the connectivity and communications of organisations. And – at the risk of stating the obvious – this means our services are not just a desirable, they’re essential. It’s therefore no surprise that our staff have been classified as key workers.

A fourth strength, though not strictly financial, lies in our people. As clichéd as this sounds, our people are our biggest asset. We’ve always nurtured – and been proud of – the breadth and depth of our people’s knowledge and their continued can-do attitude. However, this has become all the more striking in the face of the pandemic.

They say that culture is what happens in a business when you are not present in the office. With AdEPT now scattered across over 300 ‘offices’ – bedrooms, kitchens, studies and dining rooms – our positive culture is being demonstrated time and again. It is one of the main reasons why I know we will weather this storm. You can read more about how our people have been stepping up to the plate here.

These points are by no means an exhaustive list, but they do stand out in the wake of the pandemic. But what about our financial picture before the crisis, and beyond?

A look back

To look beyond our obvious financial strengths, it’s worth casting your mind back for a moment. As you may be aware, over the past few years we have been acquiring businesses to enhance and complement our portfolio of services.

For instance, in 2017, we acquired Our IT Department, incorporating this business into our group IT support services team. Also, that year, we acquired Atomwide, establishing a substantial presence in the education sector.

More recently, in 2018, we acquired Shift F7, growing our position as an IT provider. And last year, we acquired ACS, broadening our geographic reach and depth of capability in the education sector.

All of these acquisitions reflect our long-term strategic goal: to respond to the irrevocable blurring of the boundaries between telecoms, data and IT.

And so, in a relatively short time, we’ve become a leading independent provider of managed services for IT, unified communications, connectivity, voice and cloud services. Or, to put it more simply, a one-stop shop for all things ICT. This puts us on a strong footing for the future.

Looking ahead

You’ll have seen above some of our financial strengths that put us in good stead at this challenging time. But one thing worth mentioning here is that, prior to the pandemic taking hold – in February 2020 – we raised £4.25m in a share placing. Our plan at the time was to utilise these funds for more acquisitive activities, but given the situation we all find ourselves in, we have chosen the most sensible option – to conserve this cash as a buffer in the coming months.

In a clear demonstration that we are all in this together we have also cancelled the payment of dividends – we’ll review this decision later in the year, with a further update as part of announcements alongside our final results planned for July.

And, as our chief financial officer John Swaite tells Proactive Investors in this video, we have extensively stress-tested our finances to ensure we are as prepared as possible.

We’ve modelled various scenarios that have a low, medium and high impact on our business, looking at orders, lead times, delays to payments and business failures. In these scenarios, we will remain a cash-generative, profitable business.

Confident, but not complacent

Every organisation and every person is being shaken up by the coronavirus pandemic. We are fortunate that we have several levers at our disposal and structural strengths – all benefits of our strategy, our scale and our depth of expertise. However now is not a time to be complacent, and certainly we shall not be.

Written by Phil Race

CEO - AdEPT Technology Group

Helping Businesses Survive Covid-19

Founder and Chairman of AdEPT and Cabinet Office SME Panel Member Ian Fishwick offering help and advice to businesses on how to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

We have collated Ian’s articles into one place. To view these articles and future updates, and connect with Ian please see his Linked In page.

At AdEPT Technology Group we are committed to helping UK industry any way we can, not just by offering technology advice. As we review the various Covid-19 Government Schemes, I will share our thoughts with you, and we hope you find this useful. There are so many schemes that it can be difficult to keep up and understand how to get access to the money you all need. To keep it simple I will only cover one scheme in each post.

Post 1. HMRC: Time to Pay

The reason why some schemes are not available yet is they are new and web developers and system designers are frantically trying to get them ready. Today’s scheme already exists – the HMRC Time To Pay scheme. If you cannot pay any tax – Corporation Tax, VAT, National Insurance or personal tax – ring the special Covid-19 helpline to agree a plan to pay by installments. There are up to 2,000 call handlers. The helpline numbers are 0800 024 1222 or 0800 015 9559. It is open Monday to Friday 8am till 4pm, excluding Bank Holidays. Further details at: https://lnkd.in/d9cJwHa

Post 2. RATES RELIEF: Who Can and Cannot Get it

A BUSINESS RATES HOLIDAY IS AVAILABLE TO RETAIL BUSINESSES FOR 2019/20 AND 2020/21

Who qualifies for buisness rates relief?

These are the types of business that qualify as ‘retail’ and can therefore get the business rates reliefs: Shops, restaurants, cafe, bar, pub, opticians, post offices, second hand car lots, petrol stations, garden centers, hair and beauty, funeral directors, cinemas, music venues. NB – Nurseries qualify for the rates relief but not the grant.

What types of business do not qualify for business rates relief?

Offices, factories, doctors, chiropractors, accountants, financial advisers, architects.

What is the business rates relief I can get?

It depends on your rate-able value: Under £12,000 – no business rates are chargeable to any type of business £12-15,000 – taper relief discounts business normal rates Above £15,000 – retail businesses get 100% discount on Business Rates HOW TO FIND YOUR ‘RATE-ABLE’ VALUE The rates and reliefs are based on the premises’ “rate-able value”. If you do not know your ‘rate-able value’ check it here … https://lnkd.in/dpDSDtG

Post 3. VAT: Delay this Quarter’s Payment

This is the 3rd post in AdEPT’s series about how to help your business survive the Covid-19 crisis. We all need industry to prosper, so please share these articles. Today’s advice is about VAT payments.

DO NOT PAY ANY VAT THIS QUARTER.

The Government has announced that to help the cashflow of beleaguered businesses there is no requirement to make any VAT payment this quarter. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 can be deferred. Please note that you will still have to pay the VAT by the end of this tax year. Our advice is to make maximum use of this new rule and pay this quarter’s VAT to HMRC as late as possible, but before 31st March 2021. The official notice is here https://lnkd.in/dmsNkTV

Post 4. Covid-19: Grant Funding

Local council business rates team are currently sending out correspondence for those who are eligible for:

The Small Business Grant https://lnkd.in/d_8CMnn

Tthe Retail and Hospitality Grant https://lnkd.in/de2hUQj

Please check the guidance for your eligibility. If you are eligible, you will receive correspondence as normal by post or email. To receive either of these grants you must be business rates registered and been in occupation/trading on 11 March 2020.

If you believe you are eligible, but haven’t received correspondence from the business rates team by the 6th April then please get in touch with your local council. The correspondence will detail what you need to do in order to receive the funding, so please look out for this.

BUSINESS RATES UPDATE

If you are eligible for the Business Rates holiday for 2020-21, you do not need to do anything, this will automatically be applied to your bill. Business Rates have recently reissued bills, which detail if you qualify to receive business rates relief for the 2020-21 tax year.

Letters and emails from your local council should arrive this week if you are eligible for grant funding. They need your bank account details to be able to send you the money. Look out for them and reply quickly.

Post 5. New Covid-19 Business Interruption Loan Schemes (CBILS)

At the time of writing only 983 business interruption loans (£90 million) have been approved so far out of 130,000 company applications. Things had to change and they have. CBILS are extended so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible.

Lenders now cannot request personal guarantees for loans under £250,000. The government will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees. The new Coronavirus LARGE Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest. Further details will be announced later this month.

Loans over £250,000: personal guarantees are limited to 20% of any amount outstanding on the CBILS lending after any other recoveries from business assets. Lenders are prohibited from asking business owners to put their house on the line. This will apply to finance already offered under the scheme.

Post 6. Safer Homeworking: Microsoft 2 Factor Authentication

We want to make everyone aware that homeworking is often not as secure as working inside your normal office and we have seen an increase in phishing attacks in the last few weeks. If you see any dodgy looking emails please delete them immediately and never give your bank details to anyone unless you are certain who they are.

I thought it might be useful if I explained what AdEPT has done internally to combat this threat. First, we asked all employees to change their password. Second, all employees implemented Microsoft 2-factor-authentication, so that we now have to login as normal with usernames and passwords and then we are sent verification codes to our mobiles (much as I do with my bank). Once the 2-factor-authentication system had been set up centrally, I simply downloaded a Microsoft Authentication app to my mobile and it was straightforward. If you need any help with making your homeworkers better at cyber security best practice then please shout and I will point you towards an expert.

Post 7. Wrongful Trading Regulations Suspended & Insolvency Law – Laws Changed

If you are worried that your company might be insolvent, this is for you … The Government will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, giving them breathing space that could help them avoid insolvency. This will also include enabling companies to continue buying much-needed supplies, such as energy, raw materials or broadband, while attempting a rescue, and temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months for company directors so they can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability.

The proposals will include key safeguards for creditors and suppliers to ensure they are paid while a solution is sought. Existing laws for fraudulent trading and the threat of director disqualification will continue to act as an effective deterrent against director misconduct. Full details https://lnkd.in/djFpSdf

Post 8. Eviction of Commercial Tenants Banned

If you are worried about not being able to pay the rent on your office, shop etc, then this is for you …

Ban on evictions for commercial tenants who miss rent payments in the next 3 months.

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction, the government has announced. Many landlords and tenants are already having conversations and reaching voluntary arrangements about rental payments due shortly but the government recognises businesses struggling with their cashflow due to coronavirus remain worried about eviction. These measures, included in the emergency Coronavirus Bill currently going through Parliament, will mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months. This does not mean that you do not have to pay rent – it means that you can agree to pay it at a later date. Full details here https://lnkd.in/drwPAbm

Post 9. Date Announced for Furlough Scheme Opening

HMRC have today announced that the online portal being built to process the payments of furloughed staff in Britain will be open from Monday 20th April. This will mean that HMRC will be ready to make payments by Thursday 30th April. The system will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning that callers can queue to speak to an advisor. There will be millions of businesses wishing to submit claims, so expect a huge queue. I understand that payments will be processed within 4-6 working days of receiving the claim.

Post 10. Telecoms Industry Unites To Help Business Customers

On 10th April Livingbridge arranged a call for over 30 senior executives from the Telecom industry. We agreed the Covid-19 problems facing our industry and how we could alleviate them. I summarised 3 key issues that all need assistance from BT Openreach:

1. Customers need to temporarily cease lines or circuits at no cost and reinstate them once lockdown has gone

2. Early Termination Charges should be reduced when a customer can no longer afford a long-term contract

3. Customers need to cancel an order for a circuit that has not yet been installed

We agreed I should write a letter to the CEO of Openreach, and a covering letter to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for DCMS and the CEO of Ofcom.

David Goldie and I drafted the letters and 2 trade associations (Innopsis and FCS) plus 18 of the UK’s largest telecom companies agreed to put their names to them. On 14th April, the letters were sent to Openreach and DCMS/Ofcom. Many thanks go to Openreach as LESS THAN 6 HOURS LATER they issued a briefing addressing all the issues we had raised. Business customers can now reduce their communication costs temporarily.

Written by Ian Fishwick

Founder & Chairman, AdEPT

VoIP vs SIP Phone Systems: The Key Differences to Know

In recent years, Internet telephony technology has become more reliable and accessible than ever before, allowing businesses of all sizes to enjoy a rich and affordable communication experience.

Both VoIP and SIP provide the foundations for IP technology with ample opportunities and benefits for users to increase their efficiency & productivity whilst saving money. However, how do you tell which technology between VoIP and SIP best works for your business? Below are some of the key aspects of each technology, their similarities, differences and the various ways your business can benefit from each technology.

What is VoIP?

VoIP, short for Voice over Internet Protocol, refers to any technology that allows voice signals to travel over a network which in this case is the Internet. It can be configured using various hardware and software combinations but provided voice messages travel over the Internet, it is VoIP. VoIP technology is rapidly expanding and developing and popular platforms and apps such as Skype are common tools in most small and medium-sized businesses.

What is SIP?

SIP, short for Session Initiation Protocol, is a powerful system of digital rules that allows multiple devices to communicate with each other including sending and receiving multimedia messages. Put simply, SIP is one of the many protocols you can use to implement VoIP. This system is used to set up and terminate multimedia sessions including video and voice. It is this intertwined relationship between the two systems that gets most people confused about VoIP and SIP.

The Relationship between VoIP and SIP

To make it easier to understand, you can think of the relationship between these two technologies as that of websites and HTML. HTML is one of the languages you can use to build a website. Though common, you can also use other languages such as Java. Similarly, VoIP is any method one can use to send voice messages over the internet including enterprise phone services, FaceTime and Skype. SIP, on the other hand, is one of the many protocols being used today although you can use other protocols as well.

Case in point, most enterprise-level phone systems use SIP but Skype does not rely on SIP.

Key Differences between VoIP and SIP

In certain aspects, these two communication protocols differ from each other although with some overlap. Below are some of these differences.

Device

To make a call, VoIP handsets or phones need to be connected to a computer that is turned on and which has an internet connection. On the other hand, SIP phones operate like a regular phone and do not need to be connected to a computer before making a call. However, it does require a modem to send and receive multimedia messages.

Data Handling

VoIP only allows for voice messages. SIP, on the other hand, can handle all forms of media including voice messages. Additionally, SIP systems are processed by individual systems in each user’s system, allowing it to handle more data and traffic than VoIP, which uses one central network. However, this single network system also gives VoIP a stronger security defence.

Scope

VoIP is a fundamental technology that uses other protocols such as SIP to allow it to work as it does. On the other hand, SIP is a stand-alone technology that can be used by itself under the VoIP umbrella.

VoIP Vs. SIP – Which is The Best Fit for Your Business?

If you are wondering which technology between VoIP and SIP will serve your business better, you are on the right path moving to the future. However, it is important to note that VoIP vs. SIP is not a direct comparison. Therefore, you should be considering whether voice-only VoIP phone services meet all the needs of your business now and in the near future, or you would be in a better position with a SIP implementation with Unified Communications tools.

As a continuation of this deliberation, UCaaS vs. VoIP is a better comparison than SIP vs. VoIP. If you are already using collaboration technologies and apps which are a part of Unified Communications, then SIP adoption would be the next logical step. However, if you just getting started with the idea of using internet-based phone systems, and you are limited by your budget, VoIP would be a good starting point. With that said, it is also important to remember than SIP enhances the capabilities of VoIP beyond voice messaging including the ability to exchange files, video and other forms of data. As such moving directly to SIP and Unified Communications can offer productivity gains and cost savings even though you will need a bigger initial budget.

Business phone systems can be complex to understand and tell apart – the numerous terminologies and overlapping roles do not help either. This is why we recommend that you talk to a dedicated Voice Services provider offering multiple services including Unified Communications, SIP Connectivity, VoIP, Avaya, Nebula Voice and others. At AdEPT, we are a full-service managed IT service provider offering these and other services. Our team is ready and capable to help you decide which is the best system for you, then assist you with all phases of planning, design, installation, training and then offer proactive maintenance and support for your business communications. Talk to us today to learn more.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager