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Looking for cloud computing companies in Cheshire? So was Bob…

When it comes to cloud computing, we’ve got all of your business needs covered. Axon is the Macclesfield based cloud computing company, and we can help you make the leap from on-premise servers to the cloud, ensuring a hassle free transition.

If you are looking for a cloud computing company in the Cheshire or South Manchester area, get in touch with us here, or find out more about our cloud computing services here.



How to create a safe password

In today’s modern world everything is going digital, from the way you socialise to the way you run your business. Such a shift in culture has led to a monumental rise in the number of people using computers, tablets and phones, so much so that they have integrated themselves into our lives to a point where some people don’t see how they can live without their trusty gadgets.

With technology becoming such a crucial, intricate part of our lives there has never been a time where the need for virtual protection against hackers has been higher with billions upon billions of attacks on digital devices, products and services made by hackers each year.

Initially I imagine you might think “Well I will just buy myself some anti-virus software and make sure my firewall is turned on”, yet sometimes the problem is not the hackers ability to exploit a device, but the owners attitude towards protecting the device.

If you would like to take better responsibility for not only your computers but your online products and services that you are subscribed to then ask yourself, are my passwords safe?

Tips For Creating A Safe Password

What is a safe password? Below you will find some tips about creating safer passwords.

A safe password is made up of five characteristics:

1)     Firstly, it must be at least eight characters long.

2)     It must not contain your username, real name or company name.

3)     It should not contain a complete word (December -> D3cemB3r)

4)     It should be significantly different from previous passwords.

5)     It should contain characters from each of the four categories;

-          Uppercase letters = A, B, C

-          Lowercase letters = a, b, c

-          Numbers = 0, 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5

-          Symbols (found on the keyboard) = ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ – + = { } [ ] \ | : ; ” ‘ < > , . ? /

If you combine all five of these rules together you create a password that is extremely strong (in theory) to crack. For example; “I love food a bit too much” -> “1 Lov3 f0Od + b1t to0 Mu_Ch!” (You can even include spaces)

As you can see the password is completely random yet something I can relate to and easily remember should I need a hint to recall my password, and at the same time it is still a very reliable, solid password.

All in all, if you manage to stick to these password building rules you will undoubtedly be able to fend off any potential intruders, helping to protect any personal, sensitive information and possibly saving your business from falling victim to a hacker’s assault.

Remember, in the virtual modern day world, you may not be able to see the threat but it is most certainly there. If you have concerns over the security of your businesses IT systems, we can help. Take a look at our IT security services here.


How does cloud computing benefit businesses?

Cloud computing - woman - blog

Cloud computing. Ever heard of it? I’d be surprised if you haven’t as it’s the latest IT hype with businesses worldwide adopting the new approach to infrastructure as stories of its success spreads. CRN predicts that by the end of 2014, small businesses will spend almost $100 billion on cloud computing services.

But, what is cloud computing? Cloud computing at its simplest refers to the storing and utilisation of data and programs over the internet rather than through your computer’s hard drive. In fact, the “Cloud” is just a metaphor created to represent the internet.

Data that you store and use on your computer’s hard drive is known as local storage. Its source does not originate from the cloud, it’s from your computer.

Once you delve a bit deeper in to cloud computing you find that it can be split into different areas.

Specifically, cloud computing describes anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet. These services can be split into three different categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

Software-as-a-Service is where a business or consumer subscribes to a software application to access it over the internet. Google, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are all examples of SaaS.

Platform-as-a-Service is where a business can create its own custom applications for use by all in the company. PaaS services are hosted in the cloud and accessed by users simply via their web browser. The majority of businesses that use cloud technology will use PaaS because it allows them to create a database to store information that employees can see and edit while also creating tailored applications for the business to better achieve objectives.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service is where a cloud provider gives a company access to a computing resource in a virtualised environment. In particular, IaaS specialises in providing companies with virtualised hardware. Examples of such hardware are virtual servers, network connections, bandwidth, IP addresses and load balancers. This can be seen through Netflix, which provides consumers with films via the cloud as a customer of Amazons cloud services – they have been given virtual server space.

Why move to cloud?

I bet you are probably thinking this is all quite confusing and are uncertain about the benefits of adopting cloud technology over the costs, because at first it can sound like a lot of work. However, a survey in May 2013 by the analysis firm Research found that 92% OF CIO’s (Chief Information Officers – IT) and IT professionals think the cloud is good for business.

So, is “The Cloud” worth your time”?

Firstly, one of the primary motives behind adopting a cloud perspective in business is the prospect of reduced costs. When it comes to cloud, it can be much more cost effective as you only pay for what you need. A company could have x number of servers yet only use 10% of their capacity as a whole meaning they are paying 90% more than they should be. With cloud you can save considerable amounts of money which could be otherwise used to reinvest into the business and help further growth and achieve sustainable development.

Secondly, by subscribing to a cloud provider rather than buying servers personally you greatly increase the flexibility of your company because if you need more bandwidth than usual, a cloud based service can instantly meet the demand. As a result, this means a business suffers less down time and is not losing out on potential revenue. In an InformationWeek survey 65% of respondents said that “the ability to quickly meet business demands” was an important reason to move to cloud computing.

Thirdly, once a company begins relying on a cloud service provider rather than solely on themselves there is no need to have complex disaster recovery plans. This is because cloud computing providers take care of all the maintenance, updates and patches meaning a business is more optimised to combat issues thus saving the business time and money. It also means that should the worst happen, and your business premises become rendered out of action through an emergency such as fire, flood, theft or similar, the business can be relocated quickly and seamlessly to alternative premises with no loss of data. The Aberdeen Group found that businesses that used the cloud were able to resolve issues in an average of 2.1 hours, which is nearly four times faster than businesses that did not use cloud.

Finally, thanks to cloud technology the employees of a business have better control over their projects and can work from practically anywhere in sync with other employees as each cloud document is automatically updated in real time online. Therefore, this adaptability means that workers can have a better work life balance while also boosting productivity as they can work whenever and wherever they want – assuming they have an internet connection. Not to mention, if a company has employees based in different countries in different time zones workers will not have to send files back and forth over email, meaning better efficiency and lifting a company’s general standard of work. According to one study, “73% of knowledge workers collaborate with people in different time zones and regions at least monthly”.

So, whether you are an entrepreneur, a small business or even large company, cloud technology is something that you should really take a look into. Not only does it help improve infrastructure for both the up and coming and the current but it can greatly boost a company’s prospects through the utility it offers. The possibilities with cloud are endless. A survey by Frost & Sullivan proves this having found that companies which invested in cloud had a 400% return of investment. If that doesn’t impress you then I don’t know what will.


What is load balancing?

Load balancing is when two or more lines are connected to a load balancing router, and that router works as a fail-over to keep you connected to the internet if one of your lines goes down. So if, let’s call it line 1, goes down, the load balancing router automatically routes your traffic down line 2 instead – so no outage. Your business keeps running. Your lines can be ADSL, ADSL2+ or fibre – it doesn’t matter.

So effectively, you’ve got two lines, but only one router. This gives you greater bandwidth and is more straightforward to set up on your network than having two lines and two routers.

Don’t confuse it with bonded broadband though, this is something different where multiple internet connections are bonded together to improve slow broadband connections – but not to act as a fail-over.

So what’s the benefit of load balancing? Well it spreads the load, meaning your connections aren’t being used to capacity giving you better response times. It gives you high availability, reducing the chances of downtime and the associated business losses. And it gives you peace of mind, that if one of your broadband lines fail, you can continue with business as usual via your second line.


How to spot a computer virus

The relentless threat from computer viruses is not something to be taken lightly. There is malicious software out there that has the capacity to damage your business beyond repair in just minutes. So what can you do to avoid such a cyber-attack? How can you spot a computer virus?

Well there are a few things you can look out for that could indicate that something is wrong…

- Your machine starts taking a long time to boot up, runs slow, hangs, freezes or locks up
- Error messages start to appear (look out for ones that say you don’t have access to certain drives)
- Your computer crashes and reboots itself several times throughout the day
- The CD drive tray opens and closes by itself
- Pop-up adverts start to appear on your screen
- Applications start to work incorrectly, or won’t run at all
- Files won’t open
- Printers and other hardware devices stop responding and start behaving strangely
- New icons appear on your desktop that you didn’t put there
- The sizes of files and folders starts to fluctuate
- Programmes and files go missing
- Menus appear distorted
- Your web browser changes – tool bars appear that you haven’t installed and random pages pop up
- Applications start to open by themselves
- Hard drive space disappears
- Your internet connection drops
- Files have moved, been deleted or become encrypted without your knowledge

If you notice any of these on your systems, run a scan using your anti-virus software (if you are comfortable doing so) and contact your IT provider immediately for further advice and investigation.


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.

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