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Increased storage for OneDrive plans

Good news for OneDrive users … Microsoft has increased the amount of storage you get. Your 7 GB is now 15 GB, and that’s a free upgrade. And Office 365 now comes with 1 TB of OneDrive storage. So this gives you loads more space for your documents, photos, data and documents. OneDrive for Business users also get 1TB of storage per person.

So what is OneDrive? Well it’s cloud storage from Microsoft. Use it to store all your folders, files and data, and then access it from any computer, tablet or smartphone with an internet connection. OneDrive for Business is a part of the Office 365 suite. With Office 365 you also get SharePoint. Which is also cloud document storage. So what’s the difference? Well SharePoint is intended for data that you need to share. You can give everybody in the business access to your SharePoint site, or different departments access to different areas within SharePoint, but it basically works as a document sharing portal. A place for all your company documents, and you give access to personnel as required. OneDrive is designed for documents that don’t need to be accessed by multiple people. Files you need to store, use, but not share on an on-going basis. And OneDrive (as opposed to OneDrive for Business) is intended for personal use – your holiday snaps, family videos etc. Whereas OneDrive for Business is intended of course, for business use.

So, lots of choice, loads of storage, all in the cloud and all accessible from any location (with an internet connection) and on any device. Perfect!


Microsoft Office 365 plans set to change


Microsoft has announced that as of 1st October it will be changing its Office 365 plans to improve the product for small and midsize businesses. So what’s changing?

The three new plans will replace the current Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business plans and will be tailored to businesses with up to 250 employees, offering increased choice and flexibility.

And the new plans will look something like this…

Office 365 Business
– Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher
– 1TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage

Office 365 Business Essentials
– Business class email and calendaring
– Office Online Web Apps
– Online meetings, IM, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing

Office 365 Business Premium
– Everything from both the Office 365 Business and Business Essentials plans.

The changes have been made to reflect feedback the company has received from its SMB customers and regarding business growth and how 365 can support this growth.

So how will this affect you as a current O365 customer? Well Microsoft has a policy of giving 12 months’ notice of any core subscription changes so you’ll only be affected upon your first renewal after 1st October 2015 – a year after the plans officially change. And if you’re currently a Small Business Premium customer your seat limit will be raised from 25 users to 300, and Midsize customers will get a price reduction from $15 to $12.50 per user per month. UK prices are yet to be released, but to give you an idea, US pricing has been announced at $8.25 for Business, $5 for Business Essentials and $12.50 for Business Premium.


Summer’s here…but how does that affect your business?

Summer’s here! The schools have broken up, the sun is shining, and holidays are booked. Now I don’t want to be a killjoy, but how does that affect your business?

It might not affect it at all, but for many businesses, especially small businesses, losing key members of staff for days or weeks over the summer can have an impact. And for some senior members of the team, being away from the office can become an inconvenience – no matter how much we need the break. Sometimes, you’d prefer to just be kept in the loop while you’re away. Be able to keep on top of your email inbox and handle any major issues or enquiries that may crop up whiles you’re away.

So what if we told you that all of that is possible? That you could check your emails in China. Make business-line phone calls in Malaga. Approve proposals in Portugal… All possible, with cloud computing.

Office 365 from Microsoft is a cloud computing solution that starts from as little as £3.30 per user per month. It gives you business class email, document storage and sharing, online conferencing, Office Web Apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote – all available from any location with an internet connection, and on any device. So all you need, is the hotel WiFi password and your iPad. And it really does work that simply. Check out this blog post about how our technical director Graham got on during a trip to South Africa.

And if you take cloud a step further, and switch your business to a VoIP telephony system, then you have just as much flexibility with your phones. VoIP routes all of your business phone calls via the internet, which means you can make and receive calls over the internet from wherever you are. Simply plug your telephone handset or headset into your laptop, connect to the internet and make and receive calls on your main business line, using your regular office telephone number. People can even transfer calls to your regular extension number, just as they would if you were in the office.

What are you thinking? This is all too much? I’m meant to be on holiday! Sure, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the option? Wouldn’t the mobility that cloud computing brings, give you the flexibility to take more holidays, knowing you can stay in the loop at work? Think about all those business trips, meetings and conferences that leave you working ’til midnight to catch up with what you’ve missed during the day…

Food for thought.

Maybe, a bit of cloud on your summer holiday wouldn’t be that bad after all?


What is Microsoft Office 365?


In January 2013 Microsoft announced plans to release its new revolutionised Office product known as Office 365. Unlike before, this Office product was different not only in its capabilities, but in its affordability and utility.

Pre Office 365, most people would have used the standard Microsoft Office Suite in which they would pay a set sum of £100+ and in return would receive all of the Office apps; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and more. However, with the introduction of Office 365 the game has changed.

You pay for Office 365 on a monthly subscription from prices as low as £3.30 per user for a basic small business package (£39.60 annually) to up to £15 a user per month for the enterprise package (£116.60 annually). This boosts the products affordability as not everybody has the purchasing power to pay in bulk.

Yet, you may be wondering: what does this new Office 365 program have to offer? From the ground up, you begin with access to every Microsoft Office app. Although depending on your chosen package you may only have access to Office Online; a web browser version of Microsoft Office applications. With the more expensive subscriptions you earn the right to good old desktop versions.

Once you get past the basics, things get a little bit more interesting. For a start, with every package comes Microsoft Office mobile apps for your devices so when you are out and about and need to be able to work but your laptop is out of battery or you just don’t have one, you can just as easily work on your phone or tablet.

When you combine these mobile apps with the file storage and sharing offered by Microsoft with Office 365 – OneDrive for Business – which gives each user 1TB worth of cloud storage, all of a sudden life becomes a whole lot easier (if you sync your devices). For example, you complete some important statistical data at home on your laptop in preparation for a business conference, however you forget your laptop and it’s imperative you have that information. Not a problem! All you have to do is turn on your phone and open up the OneDrive and there you have it, access to all important work and further information you may have stored. Therefore, Office 365 helps to store all your important data and makes it accessible whenever you need it. Neat huh?

Advancing further, all users will be offered business-class email with 50GB of storage space and the ability to use your own domain name. This helps to create a more professional look for your business whilst at the same time boasting better coordination and orderliness.

Finally, also included is site mailboxes and intranet sites for your teams. The site mailboxes obviously assist in storing and sharing emails and documents in project-specific folders, thus allowing for easier team collaboration and a smoother work front. As for the intranet sites, SharePoint sites provide workspaces with customizable security settings for individual teams throughout your organisation meaning people will only be able to access the information they need to work boosting your businesses security through the protection of sensitive information.

All in all, Office 365 promotes a package unlike any predecessor. For a small, affordable subscription price every month (can be paid annually if you prefer) you can get a whole host of brand new, evolutionary functions that can help create a foundation for a business to work from with few technical issues thanks to regular updates and patches by Microsoft. Not only does Office 365 make life easier but it helps save time and is also something you can fall back on in times of need. And, at the end of the day if you don’t like the product you can just cancel your subscription which in the short term saves you a lot of money compared to if you have paid for the whole package in full originally.

Whether you are looking for Microsoft Office for business use or even just personal use, there are several tailored subscription packages and I’m sure there will be one suitable for you.


How to protect your business from cybercriminals

Hacker - blog

Cybercrime. Nowadays, most businesses have some kind of connection to the internet and computing, whether it be through online cloud storage or simply just the use of computers. However small the connection, all of these businesses are under threat from the modern day thieves, the invisible foes – cybercriminals.

Before delving deeper into this topic, I believe it is important to understand that hacking used to be an activity that was mainly carried out by individuals working alone, and they did it for fun. But over the last 15 years the world of hacking has become more and more organized – unlike ever before. Over the past few years hackers have decided that cracking open a system and posting a message or disrupting files is no longer enough. The game has moved on to stealing data, money and intellectual property from businesses, usually working alongside a larger, organised criminal gang.

Arguably, with cyber threats on the rise companies have made large advances in improving their defence systems with companies offering high security protection to keep businesses safe.

Yet, criminals are forever evolving new tools and looking for vulnerabilities that leave the door open to let them inside peoples systems, and they are increasing in their craftiness as they find new methods of hacking. This poses a persistent, almost relentless threat to businesses. According to Ramsés Gallego, vice-president of Isaca, the problem with cybercrime is that businesses are often using yesterday’s tools to fight tomorrow’s threats.

So what can you do to protect yourself against these cybercriminals?

In order to provide your business with a defence against this modern day threat there are two areas you need to address; the external vulnerabilities of your business and then the internal vulnerabilities.

First, in terms of external factors it is important to protect your business from hackers and intruders on four primary stages; the system level, the network perimeter, the cloud interface and mobile devices. On a system level, encryption can be used to protect information from the eyes of others and human interface devices (HIDS) can be used to provide fundamental security. When it comes to the network perimeter, firewalls are imperative as they are your primary and initial defence against the internet with the option for additional protection through malware filters, data leak prevention and spam filters. For the cloud and on a mobile level, once again you must consider firewalls and malware filters  and anti-spyware technologies are also a necessary part of your defensive arsenal.

Secondly, looking at the internal factors, protection against hackers is not a problem of virtual exploits but is often linked to human error and how well your employees recognise and deal with cyber threats. Educate yourself and your employees about the problems that can arise from cybercrime and how it leaves businesses vulnerable, and often damaged. Granted, you cannot always  trust each and every one of  your employees so it would be smart to only tell certain (few) trusted people the delicate business information, while leaving others with only the information they need to work. Need to know basis. Also, you should consider asking your IT company to test what users can access on a network and how much power they have. This can can reduce risk by limiting the number of people a hacker can exploit. If your employees have fewer permissions this will reduce the likelihood of unintentional damage to a business.

Hackers are always lurking, constantly expanding their capabilities and looking for exploits in your businesses. Be vigilant and that NEVER leave your digital door open. It is not and never will be as simple as just buying an anti-virus suite and then considering the job done.

Keep up to date, keep alert and keep secure.




Don’t let the GameOver Zeus virus signal game over for your business

There’s been plenty in the press lately about the GOZeus virus (GOZ) and its accompanying ransomware, Cryptolocker, but we’re still coming across customers and businesses that aren’t sure what they are, or aware of just how damaging they can be. So what exactly are these malicious pieces of software? How do they work, what’s the damage and what can you do to avoid them?

Well GameOver Zeus, or GO Zeus as it’s known, is a strain of malware that is unfortunately for us, very clever. It uses high levels of encryption to work its way around intrusion detection software – in fact more than 80% of the attacks to date have involved virus strains that had never been see before by security experts. GOZ, as a rule, disguises itself as a ZIP file and gets to the end user as an email attachment – usually purporting to be from a bank, building society, delivery company or the tax office. So, you receive an email – a very legitimate looking email at that – advising that you have either missed an important delivery, or are owed a tax rebate from HMRC, or there is a problem with your bank account, and quite unwittingly you open up the file, and hence, download the virus.

These emails really do look like the real thing. Here’s one which was sent to our technical director recently. If you look closely you’ll note the odd spelling mistake. This email contained the GOZeus virus.


Of course, we didn’t open it. But what would have happened if we did?

Once downloaded the GOZ virus will start trawling your systems for any data of value that it can steal. Next, Cryptolocker kicks in. This is a piece of malware known as ransomware which will lock down your systems and quite literally hold them to ransom. Your computer will be frozen, a message will appear asking you for a sum of money in order for your data to be released and a clock will appear, counting down the number of hours you have left to pay – after which point your data will be destroyed. It will look something like this…


Cryptolocker will also attack any other machines attached to your network, including your backup if it’s networked, meaning it can sweep through your business in minutes. And the effects can be devastating. Imagine if you suddenly lost all of your business data – files, documents, emails, calendars, databases, apps – all gone. Could GameOver Zeus mean game over for your business? Well yes, it could. UK media reported on one business that lost £100,000 in the just three minutes recently. Devastating.

So what can you do to avoid this and other viruses?

- Install and maintain anti-virus software from a reputable provider and keep it updated.

- Install a firewall and DO NOT turn it off – it is a protective barrier between you and the internet. Turning it off will put you at risk.

- Educate your employees on best IT security practice – the majority of Cryptolocker attacks are successful because of human error.

- DO NOT OPEN any email attachments that you are not expecting to receive, particularly zip files.

- Backup your data regularly as part of your routine. Keep your backup off the network, and test it habitually.

- Keep your operating systems up to date.

- Monitor your systems for infection at all times.

- Consider moving your data to a reputable cloud provider such as Microsoft Office 365 – this gives you an instant recoverable backup, stored in a high security data centre.

- Make sure your passwords are secure – alphanumeric, 14 characters – and changed regularly. Use different passwords for each system to avoid a mass system breach if your password is stolen. Never share or write down your passwords.

- Be wary of USB drives from unknown sources. Use encryption if you’re using your drives for sensitive data management.

If you suspect your systems may have been compromised or are apprehensive about an email that you’ve received contact your technical support company for advice.




How will Microsoft’s support lifecycles affect your business?

MSEarlier this year there was a lot of talk about Microsoft support for Windows XP going end of life and now there are a few more products which are coming to the end of their cycles.

But do you need to worry about it?

Well if you’re using Windows Server 2003, then yes you do. On July 14th 2015 Extended Support for this product ends. It means that Microsoft will no longer support this product in any way, shape or form. There will be no more security patches or fixes released, and if you continue to use it you will expose your systems to vulnerabilities. Warranty claims will also end.

It’s over 12 years old now, so it was due. So if you’re on Server 2003, you need to think about upgrading.

Then there are the products that are nearing the end of Mainstream Support.

In January 2015, Mainstream Support will end for;

• Windows 7 (all editions)

• Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2

• Windows Storage Server 2008

• Microsoft Dynamics C5 2010, NAV 2009, and NAV 2009 R2

So what does this mean? How will this affect your business?

Well don’t panic too much. Once Mainstream Support ends these products will then go into Extended Support and there isn’t really much difference between Mainstream Support and Extended Support. It just means that after 13th January next year Microsoft will stop adding features to these products, but they will still update them with security fixes and patches.

So don’t panic too much when you read about this in the press. It will be a while before Mainstream Support for these products end.

What’s the difference between Mainstream Support and Extended Support? Well Mainstream Support lasts for five years, or two years after the successor product is released, whichever is longer, while Extended Support continues for five years following the end of Mainstream Support or for two years after the second successor product is released, whichever is longer.

Whatever your support level, make sure the software you’re using is still under Microsoft support. Otherwise you risk opening your business up to a whole host of security risks and compliance issues through malicious attacks and malware.

If you’re not sure where you stand, contact your IT provider for advice on whether you need to upgrade


How to buy a server


The growth of cloud technology is ever increasing. With technologies available to companies such as Microsoft Office 365 and virtualisation, we tend to believe that servers are now a thing of the past.

Although some of this technology has and will lead to that inevitable change, servers are still essential within the working environment. And if you decide that a server is a necessary part of your IT solution, there are a few considerations to take into account.

Firstly do you need a server?

This will take time to answer, as you need to consider company policies, type of documents and data, access to business line applications, file sizes and most importantly connectivity.

If you have a variety of policies in place that prevent documents being stored in a data centre, then yes a server is required. No matter what the answers to the other considerations are, a hybrid model is relevant here – where you utilise some aspects of cloud technology but also retain an on premise solution.

Either way, hybrid or full on-premise solution, a server of some sort is required.

Below are a few things you need to think about before deciding on what server to buy. (Be aware every company’s requirements are unique and so are the servers).

How many users do you have currently and how many do you expect to have in five years’ time? This will help determine the operating system licencing for the server. Sometimes it will be more beneficial to invest in an operating system that has the capacity to grow with you. Better to spend a little more now than a lot more in a few years.

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks. Without going ‘techy’ this simply means that if you have a RAID 1 solution, the hard drive in use will make a mirrored image of all its files to a spare hard drive (need 2 HDD’s for RAID1, 3HDD’s for RAID2 etc…).

So if your primary HDD fails, you won’t be crippled by a data loss, because the fail over hard drive will kick in meaning you can continue to work. The more RAID’s you have the more fault tolerance available for your company. Just remember…the more complex, the higher the cost.

HDD size:
Not as important as it once was. When considering the size of the HDD (Hard Disk Drive), evaluate how much data needs to be on it and how much can be archived on an external storage device. In comparison to the RAM and processor, the HDD is nowadays the slowest part of the server. I would always recommend purchasing a SSHD (Solid State Hard Drive) for any device. This removes the moving parts with a HDD which can fail and in comparison to a traditional HDD is a lot faster when finding data.

If you asked your server multiple requests, so, go and get X amount of books from the shelf, the processor has to process that request and think about where the book is and how to get it. The better the processor the more tasks the server can handle at any time. Again without going techy if we talk about core processors, this in short means the server thinks it has more processors than are actually installed. These are virtual processors.

Using the processor’s analogy, RAM is the ability to handle multiple tasks at any one time. So with the books and requests, RAM is the table the books are held on. The more RAM the more books you can have open for requests to happen.

Where are you going to put this server? Servers can range in size, from a big desktop to a full size cabinet or even a small room. If your office is already cramped and you’re short of free space think carefully about where the server goes. Does it need locking away from staff? Does the room have adequate ventilation to keep the server cool? A large server will need air conditioning. Is there structured cabling? Again things to think about.

IT expertise:
Whether you’ve an in-house IT Manager or outsourced support, make sure that you discuss the decision in detail with the maintainer of the server. You don’t want to be spending more money on staff training. Pick something that is easily supported and can be fixed with ease. It all equates to reducing downtime in the event of a disaster.

Servers do have the capacity to backup internally however, why backup to a machine with RAID? And more importantly, backup the machine to the same machine…it makes no sense. Instead invest in a NAS system which can be stored on-site or remotely, again some NAS solutions do have the ability to perform RAID.

I would always consult with a trusted IT professional prior to ordering new solutions. A second opinion never hurts.

Hopefully this article has been helpful. I appreciate there is a lot more to selecting the right server, but hopefully this article has got you thinking.

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