What are the Risks of Not Having a Disaster Recovery Plan?

By definition, disasters are rare and unpredictable. As such, they tend not to be the focus when executives think of day to day operational aspects of their business. It is no surprise therefore that up to 60% of organisations do not have fully documented disaster recovery plans. And even for those who have a disaster recovery plan, 40% admit that it is not effective. With so many organisations having such a casual approach to disaster recovery planning, you might be tempted to think that your organisation can get by without a disaster recovery plan. After all, what is the worst that can happen if you do not have a disaster recovery plan?

Complete Loss of Data

At a time when most businesses are heavily reliant on their information technology infrastructure, data is bread and butter. There is an unlimited number of ways that organisations can lose their data including through natural disaster, human error, security breaches, etc. No organisation is immune to all of these circumstances – 42% of organisation suffered data loss in 2019. A study done by the Diffusion Group found that up to 72% of businesses that suffer a major data loss close down permanently within 24 months. A similar study by the British Chambers of Commerce found that 93% of business have lost their data for more than 10 days file for bankruptcy within a year while almost 50% file immediately. Even for the businesses that do not close down, the loss of data triggers a snowball effect that typically costs thousands of pounds and sometimes millions depending on size and type of operation.

Business Interruption

Any time your organisation is not operating at full capacity, you are losing money. You not only lose revenue but also employee productivity. In the case of any disaster, however minor, and your organisation does not have a disaster recovery plan to enable a prompt resumption of normal operations, in the same location or elsewhere, you will lose money and employee productivity. A disaster recovery plan provides organisations with a smooth and cohesive approach to dealing with any kind of disaster so that operations can resume or continue as usual within the shortest time.

Loss of Clients

People are more aware of information security than ever before. Although your customers might be understanding and not likely to be moved by the fact that you had a data breach, they will demand to know where their information has gone. In addition to that, they will want to know when you will resume normal operations. The customers are invested in you because you help meet their needs. Telling them that you cannot meet their needs or that you need to start from scratch is not something they will want to hear. As such most customers will seek to know beforehand that you have methodically designed a disaster recovery plan that guarantees you will continue to serve them. Customers will lean towards organisations that can guarantee continued service and security of their information.

Damaged Reputation

How a business handles a disaster can either build or hurt its reputation. Poor handling of disasters can have a greater and longer-lasting impact far after the actual disaster. There are real-life examples of this including reports of fraudulent customer accounts at Wells Fargo and Volkswagen emissions scandal. Although these organisations later made up for their earlier mistakes, the initial damage due to poor disaster management was a big stain on their reputation for a while. Such occurrences can happen to any organisation and not having a proper response plan can greatly impact your bottom line, turn away quality employees, hamper future investment and other future prospects.

Business Failure

A huge and widespread disruption in technology infrastructure can well and truly dominate an organisation. Unfortunately, no organisation, however tech-savvy or protected, is immune from such catastrophic disruption. However, with a proper disaster recovery plan that includes measures such as data backup and a secondary data centre, an organisation can survive a catastrophic disaster. It is also important to note that the lack of a DRP does not mean that a business will automatically fail. It is possible to salvage, reconstitute and recreate records. The premise is that the majority of institutional knowledge that makes a business productive over time including processes are stored electronically. If a business loses its institutional knowledge, it might take months or even years to go back to its previous productive state. Some businesses do not have the luxury of operating at sub-optimal levels which is why they fail.

Downtime and IT outages, in particular, are growing ever expensive. It is no secret that disaster recovery and business continuity planning can greatly mitigate these losses. Wondering how you can start protecting your business with a disaster recovery plan, AdEPT can help. We are a leading managed services provider offering award-winning solutions to thousands of UK businesses for close to two decades. Contact us today to learn more about how we can work together to keep your organisation safe with our business continuity management services.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Choosing the Best Cloud Telephony Services & VoIP for Business

Cloud telephony services have come a long way. From the time when VoIP was just another emerging technology to now when it is almost a necessity for every business regardless of size – the future is now. Business communication is nothing like it was 10 or even 5 years ago.

Technological advances have allowed businesses to move from just emails and phone calls to video conferencing, instant messaging and more. Accordingly, there are a plethora of options for VoIP services in the market today all promising increased flexibility, higher productivity and cost reductions.

But as with every new technology, some providers jump onto the bandwagon to make a quick buck and some are genuinely invested in the advancement of technology. With close to two decades of experience in delivering quality cloud telephony services and other managed IT solutions to over 12,000 organisations across the UK, AdEPT has the depth and experience to deliver the best cloud telephony services for your organisation. We have made strategic partnerships with leading providers including Avaya, 3CX and Ericsson-LGs iPECS for the standout AdEPT Nebula Voice to provide you with reliable, intuitive, scalable and feature-packed cloud telephony services in the UK.

Avaya

Every organisation is always on the lookout for technologies that will allow it to communicate efficiently, effectively and productively both internally and externally. This calls for a reliable, stable, cost-effective and flexible communications solutions and that is exactly what Avaya gives you. Avaya provides comprehensive collaboration and communication solutions such as unified communications, cloud telephony services, contact centres and more to more than a million businesses of all sizes worldwide. Avaya has received countless awards for its telephony services and products and is considered the most reputable providers in the market. Some of the qualities that make them stand out include;

Reliability

Avaya has established a longstanding reputation for providing reliable communication and collaboration products and services. Their extremely dedicated and advanced R&D team ensures that their products and IP technology are reliable and provide impressive sound clarity.

Flexibility

Using the IP technology in Avaya systems, you have the ability to use VoIP handsets, mobile phones as well as additional technology for instant messaging, data storage and retrieval and even video conferencing. You can make the system as powerful or as minimal as your business needs dictate.

Scalability

Avaya combines data and voice in an integrated cloud telephone service that also allows you to scale your solutions as the business grows. You can add new hardware, handsets and users as required without having to add more phone lines or cables.

AdEPT is a leading Avaya reseller specialising in helping businesses through transitions in their communications and technology environment. Our Avaya solutions serve organisations of all sizes including Coca Cola, HCA Healthcare, Fidessa, The Office Group and support Avaya solutions in 70% of private hospitals in London. Take a look at client testimonials on our Avaya solutions.

Nebula Voice

As our leading cloud telephony service powered by Ericsson-LG Enterprise, Nebula Voice delivers all the features of an on-premise phone system but through the cloud. The service is designed to deliver intuitive, reliable and stable communications to your work environment from our state-of-the-art data centres. This means that we take charge of managing the phone system for you so that all you need is a handset, application or web portal to access everything you need, whenever you need it no matter where you are.

Scalability

Nebula Voice is designed to be easily scalable to suit business of all types and sizes. This means that, whether you are a single home office or a large conglomerate with several satellite locations around the world, Nebule Voice can be configured to meet your exact needs. Users can be easily and quickly added and removed as need be and with AdEPT’s advanced feature packs, you can tailor the service to meet your unique and changing needs.

Top features of Nebula Voice include;

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

As part of our IP telephony and Voice services, you also get;

  • CRM integrations
  • Call recording and logging
  • Real-time statistics
  • Call queueing and queue reporting
  • Powerful switchboard to manage your call
  • And much more;

Benefits of AdEPT’s Nebula Voice Service

  • Lowers total cost of ownership
  • Unifies business communications
  • Guarantees more uptime with less responsibility thereby freeing up your resources for your core activities.
  • Enhanced collaboration across employees, teams and locations
  • Scalability. Nebula Voice gives you on-demand access to features and the ability to add and/or remove users in accordance with the changing needs of your business.

Giving Your Organisation an Edge Over Your Competition with Cloud Telephony Services

Cloud telephony services like Nebula Voice and Avaya have completely transformed how businesses communicate and do business. With the right provider, IP telephony can give you an edge over your competition, allowing you to be more efficient, productive, collaborative and to significantly cut your costs. At AdEPT, our over 300-person team is ready and capable to help you throughout the process of transforming your communications into cloud telephony with the solutions that work for you – all within your budget. Contact us today for more information on our cloud telephony services and to find out which service best works for your organisation.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Why use a Managed IT Service Provider?

For many companies, choosing between an in-house IT department and an IT service provider is a difficult decision. An in-house service offers more control and a high degree of customisation. However, in-house IT departments are expensive and difficult to manage. There are several other advantages it using a managed IT service provider, including:

Focusing on your Core Business

By utilising a managed IT service provider, your business can focus on more important matters. Instead of dealing with IT-related headaches, you can relax while experts take care of everything for you. An IT service provider ensures that your business’ requirements are met while keeping up with the latest technological developments.

Greater Return on Investment with less risk

An IT service provider brings trained professionals, up-to-date certifications, and years of experience to your business. With these advantages, an IT service provider can dedicate specialised resources for your company’s needs. Since IT providers remain at the forefront of technology policies, keeping on top of regulatory requirements is simple. Instead of hiring expensive specialists that your company only needs once a year, your IT service provider provides their knowledge on an as-needed basis.

Customised IT Strategies for your Business

A third-party IT provider is capable of analysing your business’ requirements from an objective perspective. Your business can pass on its goals and strategies to technology experts. These experts will help you develop an insight into how technology can best serve your company’s needs. Solutions can be designed and manufactured to maximise productivity over a fixed term. IT service providers do more than react to and fix problems. The relationship that develops is one focused around helping your business formulate the strategies it needs to realise its goals.

Access to a Variety of Services

IT services providers are continuously developing services to serve their customers’ needs. As an example, many companies require a cloud-based solution for specific business operations. IT service providers will have a variety of cloud-based solutions with customisation options ready to be utilized by a client. Understanding potential clients’ needs and desires lead IT providers to develop a variety of services ahead of time so that they are ready to work with your business as quickly as possible.

Innovations in Technology

IT service providers are responsible for keeping up with the latest technological innovations. The providers’ technological experts can surround themselves with cutting-edge developments and bring benefits to your company. Your company maintains its position on the cutting edge of the technological threshold without paying for new hardware or employee training.

Reductions in Operation Costs

Maintaining an IT department or simply paying a few specialist technicians is an expensive endeavour. Every IT employee requires a salary, benefits, training, vacations, and needs to be replaced as they find other opportunities. Managed IT service providers provide a steady and continuous service that is free from all of the hiccups that come with an in-house department.

A Predictable Monthly Budget

One of the best aspects of an IT service provider is the fixed monthly fees. The exact details of your contract are always worked out in advance with explicit monthly costs and the possibility of additional expenses. When your company has an in-house IT department, you need to set aside money in case of sudden and unpredictable expenses. With a managed IT service provider, you never have to worry about surprise expenses.

Accountability

Every contract with a managed IT service comes with a Service Level Agreement. An SLA defines accountability for both parties in certain circumstances, it outlines and enforces the IT service provider’s commitment to service excellence. With an IT service provider, technical experts are continuously working behind the scenes on your behalf. Should these experts fail to meet their obligations, there is a clear line on how to take appropriate measures.

Vendor Relationships

As IT service providers accumulate clients and experience, they are also building relationships with their software and hardware providers. As a result, service providers have access to purchase and leasing options that are not available to companies trying to build in-house departments. The service providers have also already done the work of finding the best suppliers and this frees you from yet another unnecessary task.

Choosing an In-House IT Department vs a Managed IT Service Provider

Choosing between an in-house IT department versus a managed IT service provider is important. The biggest advantage of operating in-house is control. However, there are so many upfront and maintenance costs associated with in-house solutions that utilising a third-party is often the superior choice.

Consider your company’s needs carefully and choose the IT services that will best suit it. If you would like to read more on how we can help you, check out our managed IT services.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

When Businesses Need to Outsource IT Services

Technology is responsible for more changes in businesses than anything else. Companies that wish to compete with their rivals must adapt to the latest technological trends.

Failure to adapt means being left behind and becoming irrelevant. IT is an area in which any modern business must remain current, and outsourcing IT services is one way in which this is possible.

Reduced Labour Costs

Businesses that train and maintain in-house IT services incur large overheads.

One way in which companies can reduce these costs is by hiring temporary IT specialists on an as-needed basis. Unfortunately, hiring employees this way leads to workers who are not financially or professionally motivated to do a good job. The alternative is to hire a dedicated company to provide IT services that can provide skilled labour for a much lower price.

Reduced IT Costs

The infrastructure required to maintain dedicated IT services is prohibitively expensive. By outsourcing your company’s IT services to a third party, you only pay for the services you use. Supplying and maintaining IT equipment leads to large, fixed overheads. When you only pay for what you need, there is much more room to allocate your budget to other useful areas.

Focus on your Core Business

Anyone who has held a managerial position knows there are ever enough hours in the day to accomplish everything they want. When managers need to manage both their core business responsibilities and IT related concerns, completing tasks becomes more difficult. By outsourcing your IT services, employees are better able to focus on the tasks that matter most to the business.

Uninterrupted Flow of Service

As the demands placed on IT services become more complicated, maintaining these services becomes more challenging. Halting business operations to tackle issues within your IT department leads to issues such as lost clients and lost revenue. Third-party IT service providers have enough redundant systems and solutions for errors in place that you never have to worry about interruptions in the flow of service.

Workforce Confidence

Your employees feel more secure in managing their jobs when your company’s IT services are managed externally. Whenever there is an IT-related issue within a company, it takes a mental and physical toll on employees. Workers worry about issues to lost work, reduced productivity and other problems. When your company outsources its IT services, your employees’ worries are laid to rest while they know any technical issues will be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Decreased Investment Risk

There is no way around the fact that every business investment comes with some risk. The ever-changing nature of technology, shifts in the market, changes in government regulations and other factors all play a part in determining this fact. When your company outsources its IT services, you mitigate a large portion of the risk your company would otherwise incur. You are investing less, you do not need to worry about changing to meet modern IT demands, and you are placing these responsibilities in the hands of professionals. 

Greater Competitive Abilities

When your company maintains in-house IT services, it must allocate significant resources to IT-related research, development and implementation. When your business’ resources are allocated to IT services, its time and financial costs increase for all projects. These higher prices are usually transferred to customers who are unhappy with increased expenses. Slower projects also lose out when competing with other faster-moving businesses. Your company is best able to compete when it can transfer savings in time and money gained through outsourcing its IT services.

Disaster Recovery

When disaster strikes, your company’s management must react quickly. Depending on the incident, there may be insurance claims, employee injuries, lost products, lost clients and more. After its people, a modern company’s most important resource is its data. Recovering lost data is a challenging process and is impossible in certain circumstances. Third-party specialists have all the necessary backups and systems to ensure that no matter what kind of disaster strikes, your company’s data can never be permanently lost and your recovery time is minimal.

Outsourcing IT services brings numerous advantages. It fundamentally makes your company more efficient, saves time, saves money and enables you to compete with the competition more effectively. If you would like to find out how AdEPT can help your business, read more about our outsourced managed IT services.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Everything you need to know about digital education platforms for schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a digital education platform?

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

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

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

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

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

Extra help in the wake of the pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some important features for teaching and IT staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to choose your digital education platform and what next

There are three key steps to setting up a DEP:

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

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

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

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

A note for multi-academy trusts (MATs)

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

More information

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

How we can help

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

Summary

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

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

David Bealing

Written by David Bealing

Managing Director, AdEPT Education

5 Cyber Security Risks for Business: The Workplace Cyber Threats to Watch

Cyber security is still a hot topic. However, as statistics from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport shows, there’s still a lot of work to do. Even though the majority of businesses appreciate the importance of making cybersecurity a priority, only a few businesses have taken concrete steps towards this goal. As the DCMS Cyber Security Breaches Survey found out, only 20% of UK businesses have put staff through cybersecurity training. With human error/behaviour being the leading enabler of cyber security breaches, and as the cost of each attack rises, organisations need to create a robust digital safety culture.

With that said, every business must understand the most common sources of cyber threats facing businesses today. They include;

People

The people who work in businesses are the number one weak link in cybersecurity – by a long way. Employees are without a doubt the greatest liability in cybersecurity. From opening malicious emails, clicking links to downloading malware-infected documents and falling victim to business email compromise (BEC), it is no secret that poorly trained employees end up costing businesses a lot of money.

To tackle this problem, employers cannot just get rid of employees – this is not a sustainable solution. Educating employees on cybersecurity risks, on the other hand, is a more effective strategy. Employees need to understand the risks posed to businesses by poor cyber security practices. Regular and robust cyber security training can help employees unlearn unsafe practices and be on guard.

Passwords

Passwords are another weak point. It is very easy for malicious individuals to guess or put together weak passwords. In contrast, strong passwords, with two-factor authentication if possible provide greater security. It is also important to sensitize or insist to your employees that they must not re-use passwords from other online accounts for their work purposes. You can also implement an IT policy that requires employees to change passwords every 30-60 days. Lastly, although it might seem obvious, it is important to remind your employees not to share their passwords with anyone including close family or friends and even fellow employees.

Patch Management

Every business needs to keep their software up to date. This became clear in the WannaCry attack where the malware exploited a vulnerability in the Windows operating system and spread across corporate networks without any user interaction. What is peculiar about this attack is that it could have been avoided – as reported by the BBC. The patch for the vulnerability exploited by WannaCry was released by Microsoft in March – the WannaCry attack happened in May. If businesses had applied the patch sooner, the effects of the attack would have been minimised.

What is even more worrying is that, even after the WannaCry attack that was highly publicized, another attack, Petya, also happened in June – using the same vulnerability as WannaCry. Even though there are reservations as to updating software in large and complex organisations, incidents like these underline the importance of ensuring your systems are up to date.

Other Companies

As businesses seek more integration with their stakeholders such as vendors and suppliers, they now have to worry about the cyber security protocols or these organisations they exchange data with. Even though your business might have strong cyber security practices, attackers could still access your network if one of the companies you deal with is compromised.

To tackle this threat, you can safeguard your business through network segmentation or dedicated servers specifically for vendors so they do not connect directly into your company’s network. If this is not feasible, you can start by having a conversation with potential vendors about their cyber security measures and the measures they have in place before you start doing business with them.

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device (Trouble)

Understandably, many businesses are embracing BYOD. By allowing employees to bring their own devices, businesses can reduce costs, increase flexibility and convenience of their workflow. However, this also brings in a fair share of problems.

Some businesses hop onto the BYOD trend without fully evaluating the security risks associated with this trend. Employee devices are not likely to have the same level of security as corporate devices. As such, they are like sitting duck for malicious individuals. If you choose to allow BYOD in your business, it is imperative that you also employ a strict BYOD policy that all employees should comply with. Steps like ensuring employees have two-factor authentication on all of their work accounts and only allowing access to company networks through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) are proactive steps that will greatly improve the security of your business network.

Businesses are facing a wide range of cyber security threats at the moment and signs show that this will only continue. As such, it is imperative for all businesses, small and large to employ comprehensive security tools and also increase Security Awareness Training to prevent and mitigate these threats. View our cyber security services to see how we can help your business avoid cyber breaches and attacks.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

The Key Differences between Business Continuity Plans and Disaster Recovery Plans

Most people often use the terms business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan interchangeably. Although they do go hand in hand, the two terms are not the same and in fact, describe two different approaches and objectives at ensuring that a company bounces back in case of a disaster. A company can choose to focus on one over the other although most choose to apply both to be completely prepared for the unthinkable.

So what is the difference between a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan? There is a breadth of information available on these two topics and the answer might vary depending on who you ask. However, let’s start with a general definition of each term.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan (BCP in short), refers to a collection of protocols established to guarantee that a business can maintain a healthy level of business operation in the face of a disruptive event. All the steps and processes listed in a BCP answer one question; “how can we continue to offer an acceptable level of service if a disaster strikes?”.

What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A disaster Recovery Plan (DRP in short), refers to the specific technologies and steps that a company needs to implement to recover AFTER a disruptive event. This usually pertains to infrastructural failure, lost data or other technological components. This plan answers the question; “How do we recover from a disaster?”

Dell describes a business continuity plan as a strategy aimed at helping a business continue operating with minimal disruption in case of a disaster.

A disaster recovery plan, on the other hand, is more specific. It is a plan aimed at restoring applications and data that an organisation uses in case their servers, data centre or other infrastructure is destroyed or damaged. Some people even argue that a disaster recovery plan is a subset of disaster recovery planning.

Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery

Organisations face a wide range of threats that could disrupt their normal operations or even decimate them completely. This could be anything from natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, viral outbreaks to man-made threats like workplace violence, cyber-attacks, industrial sabotage etc. According to a report published on Forbes, a significant majority, close to 90%, of all small business fail within one year after facing a disaster. This goes to reinforce the importance of businesses having both disaster and recovery plans even though not every business employs both. In reality, however, a comprehensive BCP will have a DRP built into it.

A BCP is a master document that stipulates all aspects of your organisation’s prevention, mitigation and response including recovery protocols. In essence, an effective business continuity plan also addresses how a business will recover from every kind of disaster.

Let’s take a closer look at each plan

Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity planning, in general, is a high-level process that focuses on critical operations within an organisation that needs to be running to maintain a healthy level of service. If the plan is implemented effectively, the organisation should be able to continue offering products and services to customers with minimal disruption during and immediately after a disaster. This also involves addressing the needs of other stakeholders such as vendors and partners as the effects of a disaster can also affect their operations.

For the above reasons, a BCP needs to cover all ends of disaster preparedness in an organisation including prevention, mitigation and recovery. These broad categories of actions need to be individually defined for each risk and disaster scenario. This can mean the difference between survival and a complete shutdown. BC planning achieves these objectives through relentless analysis and isolation of critical business processes and threats. This helps you create a priority list of key processes, resources including employees and infrastructure not limited to IT.

Disaster Recovery Planning

A DRP can be viewed as a more specific part of a BCP. Although some people tend to narrow the focus of a DRP to information systems and business data, it can also refer to protocols outside the IT scope. In other words, even though most businesses are now heavily IT reliant, a DRP does not have to be exclusively about IT. It could include guidance on how to restore communication or finding a secondary business location to accommodate critical operations and systems.

Even with an extended scope of a DRP, it is essentially a response strategy – mostly being a component of a BCP. It lists all necessary technologies, procedures and objectives required to perform a quick recovery after a disaster. The recovery could pertain any point of failure across all operations including data loss, hardware failure, network outages, application failure etc.

Bottom Line

A business continuity plan is the first line of defence for an organisation against disaster. However, a disaster recovery plan is a critical plan particularly for organisations that cannot function without vital business data. In practice, it is best to implement both plans when possible. View our business continuity & disaster recovery plans to find out how we can help your business.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is RTO and RPO in Disaster Recovery?

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) are vital parameters in any disaster recovery plan. However, are the two terms different means towards the same end? RPO and RTO are two key metrics used by organisations when developing a disaster recovery plan that can guarantee business continuity in the face of a disruptive event. At first glance, the two terms seem to be quite similar, but they are different metrics with unique objectives in disaster recovery and continuity management. Let’s take a closer look at each metric.

Recovery Time Objective (RTO)

RTO is the time duration and a service level within which a business process must be restored after a disruptive event to avoid a break in business continuity. It dictates how quickly an organisational infrastructure needs to be back online after a disaster. RTO is sometimes used to define the maximum downtime that an organisation can tolerate and maintain business continuity. In practice, this is a target time set to have services back up and running after a disruption – say two hours.

In reality, such RTO (2 hours) is not always attainable. A disaster such as a storm could leave a business down for weeks or even months. In other cases, a small lawn care company could get by with paperwork orders for a week or more in case of an outage. In essence, RTO is different for different organisations and in different circumstances. In outsourced IT services, RTO is defined within a service level agreement. The implication is that you can choose to have a better RTO at a higher cost depending on your business requirements.

Alternatively, businesses can handle RTO internally if you have an in-house IT department. In this case, there should be a goal for addressing technical problems. Of course, the ability to meet the RTO will depend on the severity of the disaster. The RTO for a server crash is not attainable for a natural disaster such as a flood. RTO is more than just the amount of time needed to recover from a disaster, it also includes steps to mitigate and recover from different disasters.

Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

RPO describes the time interval that might pass during a disruption before the quantity of data lost exceeds the maximum allowable tolerance or threshold in the business continuity plan. For instance, after 16 hours, the effect of lost sales on a small business might become an excessive burden against costs and result in not meeting sales targets.

It is important to understand how much data is an acceptable loss in your organisation. In this regard, mirror copies and backups of data are a key part of RPO. Some organisations determine how often they need to create backups by calculating the recovery costs versus storage costs. Other businesses create a real-time clone of their data using cloud storage. In this case, a failover only takes a couple of seconds.

As with RTO and acceptable downtime, different businesses have different levels of tolerance for data loss. While a small lawn care services company can retrieve 24 hours of records without any effect on real-time operations, an online billing company can face major difficulties with just a few minutes of data loss.

RPO is often categorized by time and technology

8-24 hours

These objectives make use of external storage backups of the operations. In this case, the restoration point is the last available backup.

Up to 4 hours

These objectives call for ongoing snapshots of the operations. This allows the organisation to get data back faster with minimal disruption.

Near Zero

Such objectives require the application of enterprise cloud backup and storage solutions to replicate and mirror data. In most cases, these services offer maximum redundancy by replicating data in multiple geographic locations. The net effect is that failback and failover are seamless.

Both RPO and RTO involve time periods for the measurements. However, RTO focusses on bringing hardware and software online while RPO focuses on acceptable data loss. With so many forms of disasters to consider, it is important to define what they have in common – disruption of normal business operations.

Preparing your business for any disaster is critical to ensuring minimal downtime, continued operations and avoiding a negative impact on your reputation and revenue. This makes implementing business continuity and disaster recovery plans a crucial step for every business. That said, establishing RPO and RTO will greatly decrease the negative effects of downtime and also help you manage disasters more effectively when they happen. Partnering with a business continuity professional will help you manage RPO and RTO more effectively using the latest technologies and backed with an extended understanding of the industry. View our business continuity management and disaster recovery services for more information on how we can help.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

A hat trick of practical pointers for IT in the post-Covid workplace

This is one of our longer blogs. So here’s a summary of key points covered here:

1. What to do if you’re using Skype for Business and have heard the news of its retirement
2. Yes, your backup needs a backup plan
3. Going beyond two-factor authentication for our new ways of working

It is impossible to overstate the professional challenges that IT staff have faced over the past six months.

Although IT work is less emotive than, say, that of healthcare professionals – and understandably so – technology is arguably the backbone of an organisation, helping it move forward in areas as diverse as finance and marketing. And so, when the pandemic took hold, IT professionals had to do all they could to keep that backbone standing upright.

Yet at the same time, they found themselves handling the biggest change to the way that we work in recent history. As a result of the crisis, they were tasked with what is the most profound kind of digital transformation: to remodel the modern workplace. And to do this literally overnight.

Now that the adrenalin has worn off and businesses look to return to some form of normality, IT professionals again face a new catalogue of demands. Some of those challenges are obvious – and there’s already thousands of articles that address them.

A less obvious challenge facing IT professionals right now is the ‘where do I even start?’ question. It’s something that many of our clients ask when faced with an overwhelming to-do list and an equally staggering list of expectations from the business.

If you’re at that point – asking yourself where should you start with IT now your workplace has been changed forever – this blog is for you. We have identified three key areas that will be of great value to your organisation in the post-Covid world. But before we get onto these pointers, it’s worth framing them.

First, we’ve focused on Microsoft. And we’ve done this because while we know you rely on many other vendors – some of whom are likely to be our very own partners – we also know that Microsoft is one of the most prevalent IT suppliers. And so, we’re hoping there’s guidance here that will be useful to you, irrespective of the size or the nature of your business.

Second, this blog is the tip of the iceberg. It’s likely we’ll look at these three areas more closely in the future, through further blogs or webinars. If we do, we’ll share them on LinkedIn, so if you’re not already following us there, do so here.

Third, if you’re asking yourself ‘where do I even start?’, remember that you’re not starting from scratch. You are instead building on years of hard work that’s led your business to where it is now – the past few months have been an acceleration of that. What you do now is an evolution, not a revolution – and that’s not to be confused, Alan Partridge style

Microsoft Teams: what about Skype for Business?

It will come as no surprise to you that from 17 February to 14 June 2020, usage of Microsoft Teams grew by 894 per cent. We suspect that existing business users of Office 365 – now referred to as Microsoft 365 – account for a large part of this growth. And given that Teams has been part of Microsoft 365 since March 2017, it’s likely that many of these businesses had access to Teams long before the pandemic.

And so, our hunch is that when it’s an all-hands-to-the-pump situation, companies can and will embrace new technology and features – and they can do so quickly. The Microsoft figures are a good testament to that – and to the agility of IT teams.

Nevertheless, the catalyst for this change has been most unwelcome, causing many a sleepless night for an IT professional. At the same time, the switch to video conferencing has been so significant that it has tinged everything from office etiquette, to popular culture, to TV advertising. If you’ve not yet seen a schmaltzy commercial featuring a grid of talking heads, then lucky you.  

One related topic that hasn’t attracted nearly as much interest concerns Skype for Business. Many organisations still use this service – and if yours is one of them, chances are you now have a raft of questions that have emerged in this new age of Microsoft Teams. Among them, one question appears to be the most pressing:

“I’ve heard Microsoft Teams is replacing Skype for Business. Do I really need to shift to Microsoft Teams?”

It’s a question that reflects the confusion about Skype we’re seeing in the marketplace. And it may stem from Microsoft’s announcement that Skype for Business Online is to be retired at the end of July next year (2021).

As with so much in the world of IT, this is another occasion where the devil really is in the detail. As you can see from the above blog, Microsoft’s announcement refers specifically to the ‘Online’ version of Skype for Business.

Of course, in the world of technology – where even fridges are connected to the internet – it’s natural to regard all products as being ‘online’. And so, we’ve seen many clients get a whiff of this news and become understandably confused between ‘Skype for Business Online’ with ‘Skype for Business Server’.

Semantics aside, where does this leave you? Let’s set the record straight.

If you use Skype for Business Online – where the system runs in the cloud – then there’s no way to sugarcoat it: you’ll need to make the shift to Teams. And as the Microsoft blog says, you’ll have to do so by 31 July 2021.

If you use Skype for Business Server – where the software runs from hardware in your own premises – there is nothing to do. But, as many of our clients have discovered, you may find Teams is more suitable for your business, it being a platform that unites many business communications tools. It’s also worth mentioning here that if you use even the most basic version of Microsoft 365, then you already have access to Teams.

We’re highlighting Teams because it appears that a lot of businesses will never return to past ways of working. As such, video calls and, more generally, unified communications platforms, are likely to be more critical than ever before.

Whether you have the Online version of Skype For Business, or use the Server version and want to switch to Teams, there’s no quick or one-size-fits-all answer to what you do next. So here’s the part where we ask you to get in touch, so we can objectively guide you towards the right setup for your business. This isn’t a sales pitch, but rather, it’s us being honest about the situation.

Microsoft 365: backup your backups

Those of you who already use Microsoft 365 will have no doubt encountered, or are already using, the cloud storage features of the service. It follows the same principles as Google’s equivalent – G Suite, with Google Drive – and is similar to other cloud storage services, such as Dropbox and Box.

With the emergence of these services over the past few years – and perhaps in the excitement about all things cloud – has come a mindset that cloud is an infallible way to store data, which isn’t strictly true. And it’s a misconception that’s particularly relevant now as remote working, often with personal devices, becomes par for the course.

The experience of IT leaders working through the pandemic is especially relevant here. According to Computer Weekly, 82 per cent of these professionals saw use of cloud ramp up in response to Covid-19. And 60 per cent said use of off-premise technologies continues to grow.

Consider here then, for example, a company leaver. As they wind up their employment, they may innocently decide to ‘tidy up’ their files. Or worse, they may be disgruntled and maliciously remove valuable data. In both instances, the standard cloud backup on Microsoft 365 may only be able to recover items deleted in the past three days. And so, if you discover a data loss that’s older than that, you might find retrieval is impossible.

In pre-pandemic times, these scenarios would be valid causes for concern. But in the post-pandemic world – with looser reins on staff and technology – this becomes an even more troubling possibility.

And so, this is why we are urging you and all of our clients to look into backing up your backups. In fact, Microsoft itself gives this same advice – because, after all, no IT professional wants loss of valuable data added to their already enormous plate – especially now.

To help clients with this concern, we work with a backup specialist called Veeam, which has been positioned ‘highest in execution’ in the 2020 Gartner Magic Quandrant – the fourth year in a row. Get in touch, and we can explain how it could work with your IT setup and benefit your business.

Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Security: go beyond two-factor authentication

As with data backup, the pandemic has exposed businesses to another IT-related risk and again, it relates to the new ways of working. Let’s take a step back to explain this.

As we all know, most of our online accounts and the valuable data within them are accessible through an email address and a password. This is true in both our personal and our professional lives.

There are two inherent problems with this setup.

First, email addresses are easy to harvest. Professional email addresses are often inadvertently leaked into the public domain. Many people have them listed on their LinkedIn profiles. And many companies have a standard format for their email addresses, so if one address is in the public domain, it doesn’t take much detective work to figure out the email addresses of specific employees.

Second, despite our efforts as IT professionals try to encourage our colleagues to use strong passwords, it’s much easier said than done. And so, armed with a genuine email address, a cyber criminal only has to crack a password to crack an IT system.

It’s for these reasons that in recent years, two-factor authentication (2FA) has grown in popularity, with options including one-time passwords, or authenticator apps. Indeed, these are very helpful tools that add a valuable layer of extra protection.

But there are a few catches. Some of them are covered by this very interesting article from Wired, which although dating from 2013 is still very relevant. One of the most notable flaws with 2FA is that it only verifies the user. It doesn’t authenticate the device being used – and again, the world we now work in means we need to think again about the devices accessing our IT systems and data.

The solution? Well, one of them is Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). It’s a bit of a mouthful, granted, but it is worth talking and thinking about. It’s built around conditional access – that is, it can vet devices as well as users.

For example, say you wanted to restrict access to your systems by geography. With EMS, you could do this, since it can look at IP addresses and decide whether to grant access to a system. Likewise, if you wanted to ensure all the devices accessing your systems met certain security criteria, EMS would let you do this.

The interesting thing about this level of authentication is what it reveals about your systems, and the devices trying to access it. We’ve a sneaking suspicion that many companies would be surprised about who and what is trying to access their systems, and where those access attempts originate.

As you’ve guessed, we’re highlighting EMS because it is especially relevant in the post-Covid world. And if it’s something you would like to explore, then we can talk you through it.

You can get in touch here.

***

We know that right now, you’ll be swamped with advice and how-to guides related to technology in the post-Covid world. So we hope that our pointers here give you some practical tips, along with fresh thinking and useful background and context so you can make your business case internally.

We also hope that if you have any questions, you’ll get in touch – you’ve seen the links above, but you can call us on 0333 4002490 or email enquiries@adept.co.uk. We live for problem solving, we’re friendly, straight-talking and positive.

  • Andy Boylan is a Pre-sales Solutions Consultant for AdEPT Technology Group. He has worked in IT and telecoms for some 35 years, and has an MBA With Distinction in Technology Management. He is interested in the intersection of business technology with people and culture, and ardently believes that the most successful technology projects look beyond technology to address wider business issues.

    You can connect with Andy on LinkedIn here.
Andy Boylan

Written by Andy Boylan

Solutions Consultant

Hosted vs Virtual Desktops: The Key Differences in Remote Desktops

Cloud computing has created a wide range of new business solutions. Understanding the differences between similar-sounding solutions can be confusing at best, and remote desktops are particularly complex. This article will outline the key differences, pros and cons between hosted desktops (Desktops as a Service, DaaS) and virtual desktops (Virtual Desktop Infrastructures, VDIs). Understanding these differences is crucial in making the best decisions for your business.

Hosted Desktops – DaaS

Hosted desktops allow for cloud-hosting of company computers. With DaaS, your company’s desktop computers are not connected to in-house servers. Your DaaS provider is responsible for providing network management, load balancing and resource provisioning.

A third-party data centre is responsible for hosting your company’s desktops. Your staff are thus able to access their desktops, applications and data from any location. With the correct setup, hosted desktops can stream to almost any other device.

Virtual Desktops – VDIs

Virtual desktops and hosted desktops offer similar functionalities. The fundamental difference is the solution’s setup. VDIs are managed in-house and not by a third-party (external) solution provider.

Virtual desktops are the same as hosted desktops in that your staff can access their data, applications and desktops from any location.

While virtual and hosted desktops may sound very similar, important distinctions make each solution suitable for different companies’ requirements. Deciding which one you need is a matter of comparing the pros and cons of each to your company’s requirements and available resources.

Pros and Cons

The greatest benefit of utilising a virtual desktop infrastructure is control. Since a VDI is set up and managed by an in-house department, businesses retain total control over their IT solution. This level of control is vital within industries like finance or law.

The drawback to an in-house solution is the increased workload on your company’s IT department. Additionally, third-party providers can provide extra benefits in terms of security.

The setup of virtual desktops is both expensive and time-consuming. A large initial investment is required when obtaining the hardware and software for a VDI.

Hosted desktops are the opposite in that they require very little in the way of an initial investment. These desktop solutions are usually sold as a subscription-based service, and businesses do not need to own a data-centre to utilise DaaS. This way, businesses unable to build VDI can benefit from remote desktops.

Companies that offer hosted desktop services are run by experienced professionals with cutting-edge hardware. Businesses that pay for other companies to host their desktops benefit from reduced IT overheads.

Hosted desktops are usually more secure than virtual desktops. Since hosted desktops are provided by specialist companies, they utilise enterprise-grade data centres equipped with the best in physical and cybersecurity measures. Even though your business’ data is held off-site, it is much more secure since most companies cannot afford top-level security systems. Additionally, as a company’s remote desktop requirements grow, hosted desktop providers are capable of scaling the services they provide to match.

Hosted Desktops

ProsCons
Managed by professionalsPartial loss of control
Low initial costs
Fast implementation time
Quickly scalable
High levels of security.

Virtual Desktops

ProsCons
Complete controlHigh initial costs
System and staff familiarityRequires intensive management.

Remote Desktops

There are strong benefits regardless of whether your business adopts hosted or virtual desktops.

All remote desktop solutions allow your staff to work from any location. Salespeople travelling abroad, staff working from home and other employees operating outside of a normal schedule can all work just as efficiently as if they were in their usual offices. All positions within your company benefit from increased productivity.

More opportunities for remote work lead to happier workforces. At least 30% of the average workforce waste one or more hours every day, all because of issues experienced in office environments. Problems include irritating or noisy coworkers and unnecessary meetings.

The average remote worker is 13% more productive. Remote workers suffer from fewer distractions, have more productive hours and take fewer sick days.

Finally, all remote desktop solutions are good for the environment. As businesses look for more ways to reduce their carbon footprint, remote desktop environments provide reductions in energy usage and carbon emissions.

Find out more about our Nebula Hosted Desktop Solutions.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager