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How MSPs Support Charities

Charities do vital work to support the vulnerable in our communities. To ensure efficiency and quality, as well as safety and compliance, charities often turn to MSPs (Managed Service Providers) for assistance. The reason charities turn to MSPs for support is to ensure that all needed support is available always and it is also a cost-effective solution, enabling them to allocate more resources to support those in need.

Our story

At help4IT, we didn’t set out to niche in the charity sector, however, as we were approached for assistance by charities, we took the chance to make a positive impact on people’s lives through our expertise and enthusiasm for tech. We work with many charities from AGE UK Camden and Groundswell to Meals On Wheels, providing them with tailored solutions that ensure they can always operate effectively.

We’ve helped our clients with full cloud migration, automation of operations, including route planning and orders, as well as Linux support to ensure the system and all programs work properly. Charities often need to find ways to be cost-effective without sacrificing quality and safety, that’s why many charities turn to an MSP like help4IT for support with their IT requirements. Most of the charities we work with have been with us for 15 years and refer us because we not only know our field inside out, we take time to listen, communicate and nurture the relationship. We genuinely care about the charities we work with and we want to ensure our clients and the people they help are happy and stay safe.

The impact of MSPs on charities

Charities must always think carefully about their budgets while ensuring that their operations don’t suffer, and their team and their customers stay safe. This is why many charities opt-in to outsource their IT operations to MSPs.

Meals On Wheels were planning their delivery routes manually which took time, so they turned to us for help. We automated their operations in terms of route planning and orders with the help of Microsoft Azure. As a result, they were able to take on 200 more households as customers for meal deliveries. Read more about our work with Meals on Wheels here.

Groundswell had chosen to use a Linux-based server to reduce costs, but their IT service provider wasn’t able to solve an issue causing the charity severe issues with their IT operations. The charity turned to us because we have Linux expertise in our team and the capability to resolve the key issues quickly. Since that day we have been the trusted partner for Groundswell.

Charities can’t afford to risk their operations halting or slowing down due to tech issues. People across the country rely on charities for daily support. If the IT operations aren’t optimised, not only their performance but also security is affected. These are the main reasons why MSPs are trusted partners for charities like Groundswell and Meals On Wheels. Charities also appreciate human interaction with their service provider. As we are a people business that cares about our clients, we build a strong bond with the charities that we work with. This is why we have retained these clients for many years.

For further information on our IT support for charities, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

“We are a people business” – Mel Patel on the founding of help4IT

When I first founded help4IT Limited, it was already clear to me that I wanted my company to be one of
a kind. IT is often seen as boring and complex with plenty of terminologies that would turn any business
owner off within 5 minutes. I wanted to build a business that is exactly the opposite.


I’ve always appreciated and respected people I meet and love helping where I can. This was also the
cornerstone of help4IT when I embarked on the mission to build an IT company that is also a people
business. I wanted my clients to feel heard, respected and understood. I didn’t want my clients to feel
puzzled when an IT manager explains what needs to be done, I wanted everything to be clear and simple.

This philosophy has resulted in long-term relationships with both employees and clients. I value
connection and relationship and that also shows in our relationship. Many of the help4IT team have
been around for over a decade and so have many clients like Groundswell who we’ve been working with
for over 15 years already.

One size doesn’t fit all

Another reason for customer loyalty is that we understand that one size doesn’t fit all. This is why we
take time to listen and understand the requirements of our valued clients instead of playing that we
know it all. We tailor our services to provide the optimal solution for our clients. From cybersecurity and
MSP to consulting and providing pay-as-you-go with the features that are vital for our clients has
ensured that our customers are happy.

We are family

I take pride in having around me people who have become family to me. With time, me, my team at
help4IT, and our clients have become like family. When you treat people like family, they are more likely to
stay with you long-term. Investing in relationships is a vital ingredient in our success story.

Windows 11 Has Landed

Prepare for Migration

Windows 11 was released to great acclaim on October 5 2021. Our technical support team have been testing Windows 11 for a few weeks now as well as having great looking user interfaces, it builds on all of the great improvements in Microsoft security over recent years to bring to market to deliver Microsoft’s most secure operating system yet and it’s going to help businesses be a lot more productive.

As the biggest Windows update since 2015, there’s some prep work your business needs to do if you run Windows 10 or earlier and Microsoft 365.

Prepare Your Business For Migration

The update process for Windows 10 users isn’t as straightforward as clicking an upgrade button. There are a number of system requirements that all of your business devices need to meet in order to run Windows 11, as well as some best practice safety steps that you will need to take, including creating recovery drives and backups, to ensure you avoid interruption to your business.

Unfortunately, if your existing PCs or laptops don’t meet the strict hardware requirements – key issues might be that there is not enough free memory, or perhaps your processors aren’t fast enough – you’ll need to upgrade your devices before you can progress to working on Windows 11.

As well as the possible cost implication of new hardware purchases, there is also a global chip shortage that is impacting on the supply chain of technology components and is currently reducing the availability of new computers.

To avoid disruption to your business, you need to plan ahead if you are considering upgrading to Windows 11

Download our free guide to Windows 11, get prepared and get ahead of your competitors today.

How can technology drive your business forward?

Technology is incredibly vast term, branching into almost every modern industry and business, empowering users to experience improved productivity, connectivity and specialist expertise. But how can you use relevant technologies within your enterprise to drive your business forward?

Exploring new opportunities

One of the most significant benefits of a technology driven business environment is the range of new opportunities that technology can open up for your business. Thanks to the internet, there are an infinite range of information sharing sources available, so developing your understanding and expertise within a field is easier than ever, breaking down the barriers for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

This allows businesses to build a niche market, becoming an industry leader in a specific field and delivering innovation that drives their business forward whilst propelling the whole technology sector to new growth, expanding the already vast range of opportunities and opening new doors for you and your customers.

The advantages of improved connectivity

Connectivity is key in business, empowering you to communicate effectively with customers, suppliers and prospects to deliver a more personal and innovative service. Technology plays a huge role in business connectivity, allowing for a range of simple communication tools, from emails to instant messaging. This is important as it means that individuals and business centres around the world can share information and data to improve the service and ensure your business is performing to its full potential.

Driving your business forward

As technology continues to develop and innovate, and cloud technology and super-fast Wi-Fi become commonplace in business throughout the developed world, the corporate environment is always changing and adapting to new trends, developing new apps and programmes to take advantages of these opportunities. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you’re taking steps to future-proof your business and equip your staff with the technology they require to deliver the best service possible.

To find out more about how you can equip your business to experience increased efficiency and drive your business forward, get in touch with one of our friendly IT consultants today on 0207 653 9780.

What could have been done to prevent the WannaCry ransomware attack on the NHS?

Last week, the NHS saw one of the biggest cyber-attacks to date, encrypting over 230,000 computers in almost 150 countries. Although the attack was stopped, the ransomware was able to drastically impact the operation of many NHS Trusts, including GP surgeries, hospitals and more. There is no denying that the rapidly spreading WannaCry has shaped the future of cyber-security across the world, but the question is knowing what we know now, what could have been done to prevent the attack and how can we ensure we are protected in the future?

What is WannaCry?

WannaCry (or WannaCrypt) is a ransomware programme that targets Microsoft’s Windows operating system, usually infecting computers through a phishing email or by targeting vulnerabilities in unpatched systems as a computer worm. Although it is not clear who was behind this attack, the ransomware encrypts data on the computer, demanding ransom payments in the form of cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which can be incredibly difficult to track.

What can be done to prevent ransomware attacks like this?

Investigations suggest that the WannaCry ransomware software first entered NHS systems through a vulnerability in the outdated Windows XP operating system, of which Microsoft ended official support in 2014. These means that computers still operating on Windows XP or early Windows Server operating systems did not receive the recent patch that was released for current operating systems, which could have prevented the wide-spread infection.

Microsoft has since taken steps to prevent the spread of the malware by releasing a fix for versions of Windows that it had previously retired, including the once highly popular Windows XP. It seems that this vulnerability served as the main entry point for the ransomware, suggesting that, had the systems been kept up to date and had the proper security software in place, the breach could have been avoided.

Learning from the attack

In light of the attack, the NHS are working with cyber-security firms to increase their cyber-security and remove vulnerabilities like this to prevent future attacks. Microsoft have also taken steps to protect all users against threats by releasing updates for the majority of current and retired systems which removes this fatal flaw,    but they advise that all users take extreme caution with emails from an unknown sender, especially those containing suspicious documents or links. The best practise is to protect your computer with an up-to-date antivirus, and making sure that your computer is running the latest version of a supported operating system.

Protecting your business

If you’re in a business environment, the best option is to consult a cyber-security expert who will be able to work with you to establish security procedures and implement protection software, backed up by a secure back-up solution to ensure that you are protected in the event of a disaster.

To find out more, speak to a member of our cyber-security team on 0207 653 9780.

Tips for schools regulating internet use to get the right balance

Most of us rely on the internet heavily in our day-to-day use, and schools are no exception. The internet allows for quick and effective communication amongst staff and gives teachers access to an endless pool of resources and ideas to craft inspired lessons that keep students entertained and engaged. However, this does not come without risk. Schools are sensitive environments, and it’s important to find the right balance where teachers, students, and members of staff can access the vast range of inspiring educational resources that the internet offers, but are protected from any dangerous, explicit, and harmful content. Here’s our advice on finding the right balance of internet access in your school to ensure you can optimise performance without putting your students or staff at risk.

Educate staff and pupils on how to stay safe online

The internet is a powerful tool, and it’s important that your staff and pupils understand how they can stay safe online. Take the time to train your staff on the best practices when using the internet in a school environment and develop a staff policy regarding the appropriate use of the internet in a professional setting.

As with most things, education is an effective preventative measure. Make sure your pupils know the risks that the internet can present and the best way to deal with them. Consult an expert on the most appropriate way to teach internet safety in your school and develop a training programme that teaches students the dangers of irresponsible internet use and advises them on the best methods for staying safe. Your goal should be to allow students to protect themselves against threats whilst making the most of the resources that the internet has to offer.

Monitor and regulate internet use

In a school environment, effective network monitoring is essential. All school computers should be monitored and controlled by an IT manager who can ensure that all pupils are using the computers responsibly. Your IT manager should also be in charge of regulating internet use so that the computers are only used for research and work purposes and that pupils are not able to access explicit or harmful content.

If your school’s internet offers Wi-Fi as well, this should be regulated in the same fashion and should be fitted with a secure password which should be changed regularly, increasing the wireless security of your network. It is also worth considering whether you or not you actually need Wi-Fi, as disabling wireless networks is a great way to remove a whole host of vulnerabilities.

Restricting access

The chances are, there is no reason that any device on your school network should be able to access any form of explicit or harmful content. This is why schools use strict browsing filters to block any websites that are deemed to be suspicious or unsuitable. There are many ways in which this can be implemented, the best choice is often to employ a specialist to install this on your behalf, which will ensure that pupils are protected and the school is not liable for any potentially unsuitable material. This way, you are not only keeping students safe, you are also keeping them focused by removing access to distracting, or non work-related sites.

Reporting and recording incidents

Encourage students and staff to inform someone if they come across an unsuitable site and keep a detailed record of incidents. Every student and member of staff should know what to do if they have any concerns about their safety online. This ensures that you can work quickly to resolve the issue and take the necessary steps to deal with the incident appropriately and sensitively. This also ensures that, in the event of a complaint, you can recall exactly what happened and why, and you have evidence to support the preventative measures you had in place and show how you responded.

To find out more about how you can ensure security in a sensitive environment, speak to one of our IT consultants today at 0800 043 4448.

What benefits can a bespoke IT infrastructure offer your business?

Every business has different requirements when it comes to their IT. From storage solutions to catering for necessary processes and backup requirements, off-the-shelf solutions are not always applicable to the needs of companies, and can often result in them paying for unnecessary components. If your business hasn’t considered bespoke IT solutions, then there are numerous benefits that are worth bearing in mind.

Bespoke solutions increase security and flexibility

Security is one of the most major concerns for many businesses, since it has significant legal implications and data protection regulations must be adhered to. In many cases, a bespoke solution can offer much greater security than standard solutions, since they can be tailored to your exact requirements.

Faster data restoration and RTO times

Certified processes can be put in place to ensure that data is backed up effectively. This means that you can guarantee a faster RTO time and reduce the negative effects on your clients and in-house when downtime occurs. Data can be stored and backed up using a private or [public cloud solution depending on what best suits you. This structure can also give you better overall services due to large bandwidth pipes.

Cuts costs and reduce your carbon footprint

Ultimately, choosing a bespoke solution means paying only for the things your business setup requires, and cuts out costs of things that will not be used. It gives you full control over your IT infrastructure and the features that it has, meaning you also have control over the way you work –this can include flexibility to work remotely. Some options such as using the cloud can also reduce operational costs and reduce your carbon footprint.

A solution to suit you

The most important thing about your IT infrastructure is that it allows you to complete day-to-day processes efficiently and meets your requirements. Although standard setups can be suitable for some businesses, a bespoke solution is often much better at directly addressing these needs, and ensuring the best possible infrastructure that is tailored exactly for optimum performance.

Find out more about bespoke IT support solutions by giving help4IT a call today on 0800 043 4448.

3 steps to creating a more efficient IT infrastructure

The expectation for IT infrastructure within businesses is now very advanced, with requirements changing all the time. Different elements of this, such as Cloud technology have revolutionised the way in which businesses can operate and function. However, with so many solutions around, how do you know what is best to make your business’ IT infrastructure more efficient? Following these 3 simple steps can help you on your way:

Step 1 – Simplify your infrastructure

No doubt your business will have changed since its beginning and long with this you’re likely to have accumulated a range of data and software that you no longer need. Not only does this take up space and cause your systems to run more slowly, but it can also highlight unnecessary ongoing costs that can be eliminated. Carrying out regular audits can help to streamline your in-house processes and remove software that is no longer needed, which can leave the overall system with greater capacity and faster running speeds.

Step 2 – Consider virtual infrastructure

Data storage capacity is a part of your IT infrastructure that can make your IT extremely inefficient if not managed correctly. There are physical limitations for internal storage such as server capacity, which if operated at full can add pressure to the network.
This is just one of the reasons why a growing number of companies are now choosing to move towards a virtualised infrastructure whereby storage is contained within the Cloud by offsite servers, which means data is accessible easily from multiple locations. This makes your in-house infrastructure more efficient and reduces the physical storage capacity needed in-house, and can also be more cost-effective, whilst delivering scalability.

Step 3 – Maintenance and future-proofing

Regular maintenance is vital to the efficiency of your IT infrastructure. Old hardware and failing to update software can cause processes to slow significantly. Proactively monitoring and maintaining your IT infrastructure will ensure that you are operating at maximum efficiency at all times, whilst preparing for future requirements and planning changes that may need to be made in advance before any issues occur.

Areas for improvement

Of course as with most things, there is some level of expertise that will help you to decide what would be best to make your IT infrastructure more efficiency. Discuss your setup with Help4IT’s team today on 0800 043 4448 or +44 207 653 9780 to see how we could help.

The complete 8-step checklist for ensuring your Office 365 rollout was fully completed

Migrating to any new system can be a major task and moving your enterprise to Office 365 is no exception. One of the advantages 365 will often have for organisations is its relative familiarity, helping the rollout to staff in terms of training and potential user resistance. Nevertheless, the process still needs to be carried through with diligence. And by following these simple steps, you can ensure that your rollout runs smoothly to full completion.

User Accounts

Ensure you have all users collated within the organisation. Everyone who will be using the system should be accounted for, with a record of username and password for each user. Make sure that every user has been successfully added to the Office 365 subscription with contact details entered into the correct directory and email address set-up functional and with password appropriately set.

If you are operating multiple Office 365 subscriptions, ensure that each user is assigned to the appropriate subscription, so that they have access to (and restriction from) the requisite applications.

Mailboxes

Do you have the correct number of mailboxes set-up for the business? This might include mailboxes for:

  • Individual Users
  • Shared departmental
  • Conferencing

Ensure mailboxes are of appropriate size to cope with capacity.

Configurations

Ensure you have correct configurations for the various devices used in the company, such as:

  • Browsers
  • Operating Systems
  • Mobile Devices

Have you accounted for every device used in the organisation?

Understanding the different versions of Office 365 for different devices is an essential tool in the future management of a multi-user and remotely accessed system. Ensure that you have correctly set-up and configured Mobile Device Management (MDM) for Office so that you are able to record the devices accessing the system, including any facility required to block access or wipe the device.

If your enterprise has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, then managing system access through the App should be similarly set-up accordingly.

Network

Is your network correctly set-up? Check that firewalls are correctly configured, that internet connectivity and bandwidth is appropriate.

Ensure that DNS records are correct and pointing to the Office 365 servers.

File Storage

Ensure you have located and accounted for all files so that they are appropriately migrated to the Office system.

If migrating files to the Sharepoint system, ensure that your subscription has accounted for appropriate storage capacity.

Ensure that libraries and sub-folders have been set-up to enable data to migrate to the correct location.

Hybrid Environments

Will Office 365 be integrated with existing services? For instance, you may have existing local Office products in operation (such as on-site directories, existing Skype set-up). Ensure that your Office 365 system is accurately synchronised with these local set-ups so that they mirror each other and avoid confusion or lost information in future use.

Similarly, user identity needs to be mirrored between local user ID and cloud-based ID. This ensures that appropriate access is given to users for the data and applications they require via both local services and online.

User Preparation

System users need to be fully prepared for the migration. This means effective communication, including timings for roll-out, and making clear what the migration will entail, any changes they’ll notice in use. And when their accounts, mailboxes and application access is going to go live.

Roll-Out Support

At the go-live date and across the roll-out period, ensure that suitable training and support is provided for users across the company. This should entail comprehensive support from the IT team and service desk, adequately prepared to deal with roll-out queries and assistance.

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The DIY IT Audit Checklist and How to Conduct It

An internal IT audit is often overlooked, misunderstood or even ignored by businesses until one of two things tend to happen. Either, they experience a negative impact from poorly provisioned or deployed IT, or they already use a responsible IT provider. If your business is working within a regulatory framework, this IT audit checklist should be an essential element of your IT audit and overall strategy.

In many cases, your business will rely on auditors to determine whether your organisation operates within the boundaries of regulatory compliance. Everything from data storage to identity and access management (IAM) systems face scrutiny. Businesses often have bespoke IT environments, each with different perimeters to defend and users or data to manage, a coordinated audit plan is an absolute necessity to ensure your internal controls are effective.

To be effective, you must understand what external auditors will look for during a compliance audit. Ask yourself if you are able to demonstrate:

  1. Effective controls to address regulatory compliance and that the design of your IT deployment has zero deficiencies.
  2. That your business continually monitors and employs those controls so that there are no processes that compromise your compliance framework design and threaten your computer system security

Evidence is Key

Whenever you design and implement security and controls for the benefit of your customer’s and your business’ security, you should always document and produce evidence, which you can make available to auditors. Your control program, must be more than just effective, its effectiveness must also be visible. You can achieve this by monitoring and reporting on both, the design of your controls and the processes to which your organisation’s individuals adhere.

Follow these steps and you will closely replicate a compliance IT audit:

1. Plan the audit

Take into account everything mentioned above and consider your deployment’s weaknesses in relation to the Governance Risk and Compliance framework you have in place. Plan the audit around regulations, risk assessment, and cost implications of design or system failure.

2. Hold and audit meeting

Discuss with key stakeholders how you plan to conduct your audit and ask for feedback on how your audit will affect staff, operations and particularly seek out information that will contribute to the effectiveness of your audit.

3. Collect Data and Test

Begin the audit process and collect data that identifies deficiencies in your IT systems. Review IT policies and procedures as well as your business’ structure. Speak with personnel and refer to your Business Impact Analysis. Monitor the processes and procedures in action to ensure your organisation and employees adhere to the documentation or training.

4. Address Identified Problems

Correct anything, which you identify in Step 3. Consider the best approach to dealing with deficiencies. This could be better documentation, improved procedures or a redesign of your security policies and IAM systems.

5. Repeat Step 3

Test the changes you make to ensure they are effective. Ensure you test every part of your organisation as if you were doing so for the first time. Any changes you make may have an impact on the effectiveness of controls and measures that were not addressed in Step 4, which means a thorough testing plan is necessary as if testing for the first time.

6. Report the Findings of Your Analysis

Reporting must be relevant to both your organisation and the regulatory framework in which it operates. Your IT provider should have a thorough understanding of laws pertinent to your industry, including financial, health and legal industries in addition to understanding cross-border data protection and compliance issues. Compare your reports to each regulation framework with which your business needs to comply.

7. Create a Final Report

Not every issue will call for a major overhaul. Some features of your IT may need additional monitoring or minor tweaks as part of an ongoing audit process. Consider suggesting automated IT processes that identify problems, report and document them in accordance with compliance obligations.

You can meet many regulations by simply identifying where better monitoring is necessary to allow your organisation to respond to problems. Suggest IT controls, updating procedures and auditing schedules that will ensure your organisation sits well with external auditors.

Where to Start

Wherever possible, work with external auditors and regulatory bodies as early as possible in the process. Assess your IT provider to ensure they have the skill-set, knowledge and experience necessary for your business to comply with regulations.

Most of all, address auditing before it becomes a problem. The earlier your IT systems employ sufficient control frameworks, the easier it is to scale as your business grows.

How Feasible is Cloud Migration For Your Business?

Cloud computing is being adopted in ever increasing numbers by businesses across the UK (and indeed globally). The digital landscape has evolved with the cloud an integral feature of business IT.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every business has, nor indeed should they adopt cloud technology.  While more and more are making the switch, we should also remember that there’s a significant number still to make the leap away from their old networks into the ‘brave new world’ of the cloud. And for wholly legitimate reasons.

For those small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) still exploring whether or not the cloud is the right way to go with their IT then a number of factors need to be considered to determine the feasibility of any migration – either in whole or part – to a cloud-based service.

Connectivity versus Applications

For the cloud to deliver a productive and efficient service your business needs to be running an internet connection which is robust enough to cope with the size and scale of file sharing that you need.

Whilst the cloud you opt for will offer a service with maximum uptime, if your internal internet connection is running on a low bandwidth capacity, you may find your system becomes slow. Such a scenario could therefore negate the productivity benefits the cloud can offer.

Businesses that work with very large file documents – graphics and media for instance, might have a particular issue with this. Working with a specialist IT consultant would allow you to take a tailored solution offering advice on increasing bandwidth to cope with your cloud demands or even providing a hybrid solution which would combine cloud services with more traditional local storage to match the needs of your company.

Let Your IT Consultant Assess Your Business Requirements

Rather than taking your business headlong into a cloud migration, work with an IT consultant with expertise in tailoring a system that works for you. By doing so you can expect a full audit of your current IT set up whilst analysing overall needs. Your IT is a crucial component of your business and your provider can be a key partner in ensuring your system matches the specific requirements of your company, be that cloud-based, local networking or a hybrid of different tools.

4 Considerations for your Business Needs

1. How much investment have you made in your current IT infrastructure?

If you’ve invested heavily in your existing IT system on hardware and networks, you need to balance the costs against long-term potential benefits of migrating to the cloud.

2. What security do you require on your data?

Your provider should recognise that security levels will differ for different industries ranging from data that can be safely shared in the public domain to highly confidential documents which are stored in hard copy only.

Whilst utilising the different cloud options may provide advantages in one area – as well as high levels of security – if you are working with extremely sensitive data then there may be a case for protecting this locally through high-security firewalls and similar measures.

Your IT consultant can work with you to ensure that any migration which occurs take into account every level of security needed to protect the integrity of your business.

3. How much training will your staff require?

Making any significant changes to your infrastructure or way of working is likely to involve a degree of training. Whilst cloud migration can often be a relatively simple procedure a business needs to consider the short-term impact of a new system roll-out before embarking on the change. Again working with an expert IT support provider offering a range of cloud and non-cloud solutions will allow you to make the choice most suited to your circumstances.

4. Support

Your current IT set up may well come with a certain level of support and maintenance which you are comfortable with and suitably budgeted for. Understanding how any migration might alter the way in which your business is supported is a crucial factor in any feasibility study before you migrate to the cloud.

Conclusion

Migrating your IT system requires critical levels of scrutiny, analysis and diligence in order to make it cost-effective, user-friendly and, importantly – secure. And, while there are many well-established benefits for businesses to migrate to the cloud, from productivity improvements to savings in hardware and maintenance, it’s not the right option for every business. Indeed, in a large number of instances migrating wholly to the cloud may not represent the most effective solution for a given task or time.

Research within your industry; maybe companies similar to you have changed their IT, offering insight to the relative factors which may affect your business. And, of course, work closely with an IT expert who can provide a thorough, painstaking analysis of your business needs, ensuring that any migration or changes made are suitable, secure and rolled-out with minimal day to day disruption; leaving you with a robust, safe and cost-effective IT system able to meet every challenge.

The 4 Best ways to improve your Linux desktop security

You don’t have to search too far through the pages of Google to find historic articles, such as this one from 2010, aimed at highlighting how secure the Linux operating system is, in comparison to rival systems – in particular Windows. And while there’s a historic truth to the fact that Linux has been a safer platform, less susceptible to malware attacks, to believe that it’s a platform immune to breaches is to be lulled into a false sense of security.

Less susceptible, yes. Impervious, no.

However, there are some simple recommendations you can adopt to bring immediate peace of mind, and here are 4 of the best…

Update Regularly

The first step in ensuring any operating system is at its most secure is to make sure that it’s up-to-date. This means keeping on top of updates to the server and all its related applications: browser, media players and such like.

It’s a simple thing to do and, in many variations of the system (Ubuntu, for example) it can be set to update automatically. This may well be set as a default or can easily be set-up for automation in the system settings.

Set Up a Firewall

Similar to Windows and a range of third-party security applications, Linux has the facility to set-up a firewall within its system. When initiated on the system, the firewall offers an effective barrier against malicious software entering via the typical access points – such as email or web browsers.

And yes, malware is a threat on Linux. It may be a much lower risk than Windows, but it remains a risk nonetheless.

Most Linux systems won’t have the firewall activated as a standard. It will however be contained within a component in its kernel, known as iptables. Learning the best ways to configure can add a significant layer of safety to your desktop.

Encrypt!

Again, much like any operating system, encryption can provide high-level security to your desktop. The files and content on your system can be as vulnerable on Linux as they are on any other OS to those unscrupulous types seeking to gain access to them. If your computer is stolen, or someone is able to gain access in any way, a password is easily by-passed. Encryption, on the other hand, locks down all data, keeping it out of sight even in the event of theft.

Most popular Linux distributions offer the facility for encryption at the point of set-up or installation. Depending on the extent you want to set up this security measure you have the facility to encrypt specific files on the system (those that contain the sensitive data you want protected, for example), or a full disc encryption – which encrypts the entire hard drive.

Naturally, full disc encryption offers the highest security levels, and ensures that the data contained in temporary files and elsewhere is also protected in the event of a desktop breach.

Secure the Browser

You may have set-up your Linux system for the highest levels of security, but what about the web browser you’re using?

So many malware and phishing threats gain access to your system via the browser. Applying simple security extensions (available on all main browsers) will add yet another layer of security and privacy to your system.

Conclusion

All systems have their vulnerabilities and Linux is no exception. And, by understanding this simple truth, you are actually giving yourself the greatest chance to ensure your desktop remains safe. So, rather than ignoring potential risks and pottering on in the misguided belief that you are operating on a secure platform, take these simple measures to ensure that this remains the case. Should you require assistance with your set-up, contact our Linux support specialists today.

Expert Linux Support for Logistics Companies

3 challenges that come with the connected learning model

Connected learning is a model for education based very much around the demands of a digital world. A way of delivering learning so that it remains relevant to the world around us, adaptable to evolving technologies and engaging to the individual. A model rooted, in the words of Educause:

“In the active participation of students, instructors, advisors, and collaborators, offering the ability to connect courses, people, and resources to develop unique personalized learning pathways.”

Source: https://library.educause.edu/blog/2013/5/7-things-you-should-know-about-connected-learning

Personalised learning is based around personal interests, utilising the resources and information readily available to us through the internet and social media outlets. In essence, this is a method of education that’s reflective of modern society and twenty-first century interaction.

Nevertheless, in implementing a connected learning model into an educational environment, there remain a number of key challenges that need to be addressed and overcome.

Keeping Pace with Technology

At the heart of connected learning is the concept of education through the sharing of experience and knowledge. And it is through the proliferation of digital technology – drawing on the seemingly unlimited resources available online as well as the ability to share and collaborate through social media – that such a learning model becomes so accessible. Digital technology allows students to learn using methods that are relevant to their daily lives. For instance, this may be in the form of online searches or joining in discussions on forums or social media groups.

Which presents a challenge to educational establishments.

Technology advances quickly, and while students will likely keep pace with this progression in their personal lives, in an era of tightened budgets, for schools to do the same can place a burden on resources. The challenge being to find a solution robust enough to deliver the level of service required for this kind of digital learning, while remaining both secure and within budget.

Finding the relevant resources

If you’re opening the learning process up to new channels and means of research, then there is a challenge in finding the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Traditional learning methods are somewhat standardised, with students all studying from the same resources. Moving away from this standard approach opens the student learning experience up information and resources previously out of reach from the classroom.

And, while this clearly represents an opportunity, there’s a danger that the student may become swamped in such an abundance of information. The challenge for the teacher being able to guide the student towards the resources most trustworthy and relevant to the study.

Studying Traditional Subjects

With the nature of connected learning geared towards providing students with the tools through their education to operate competently in the wider world – calling upon internet search skills, digital communication and new media – is there a danger of dropping standards in those ‘traditional’ subject areas that are still deemed crucial to a rounded education?

Namely subjects such as English, Maths, Science and History.

Well, there seems no reason why connected learning should detract from these subjects per se. Literacy and numeracy still have a huge relevance to the day-to-day skillset of a digital age student and online resources only open up accessibility to research in both the sciences and humanities.

Where the challenge may lie in this regard, however, is in terms of assessment. Connected learning and the use of online resources and communication is taking students ever more along a path of personal learning, tailored to their own specific interests and requirements. Where this becomes the norm for an establishment, the ability to apply standardised testing could become ever more difficult.

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4 scary stories of failed Office 365 migrations that will give you chills!

In theory, moving from on-premise Exchange to the cloud-based Office 365 should be a straightforward process. But this assumes that you are going about in the right way. The fact is that all migration processes – whether they involve Office 365 or not – require planning, familiarity, a methodical approach (not to mention a cool head).

So what can possibly go wrong – and what wider headaches can this cause for a business? Here are some of the problems we have come across…

Incomplete migration of email

Let’s say that for whatever reason, you’ve retained large quantities of emails. Quite understandably, these have been archived methodically in various folders. Yet here’s the thing: you move the mailbox to the cloud and the stubs are broken. At some point after the migration, your staff realise that they are unable to access archived emails. From customer service right through to HR, if your business is heavily dependent on email communication, the blowback from this can be a real headache.

This happens where your legacy archiving method isn’t compatible with Office 365. There are ways around it, however – although the way around it depends on the export capabilities of your archive solution. A word of warning however: it’s a far more straightforward process to pre-empt the problem, by understanding what the situation is in terms of native export tools and data extraction within your current infrastructure – rather than trying to fix it later.

OneDrive sync issues

Once it is up and running in the right way, OneDrive provides the ideal tool for accessing business files remotely and for multi-user collaboration on shared documents. Yet for many clients who approach us for advice after they have already undergone an Office 365 migration, problems with OneDrive feature prominently.

Files can fail to sync properly due to a various reasons. It might, for instance be down to a specific problem with the version of Office you are migrating from, or it could be that you’ve failed to deploy the Next Generation Sync Client correctly. It’s fixable, but the best way of resolving it is via a full diagnostic check: where, exactly, does the problem lie and what needs to be done to remove it?

Sharepoint permissions incorrectly configured

This is a good example of a simple oversight that can have unfortunate repercussions for a business. It happens when entire document libraries are moved over to Office 365. The transferral occurs successfully; it’s just that the job of setting access permissions has been overlooked. At some point, the omission is realised and access permissions are reinstated – but not before members of staff have been able to access sensitive files that ought to have been kept out of bounds (to do with HR, for instance).

Some more potential stumbling blocks…

Let’s say that your pre-migration infrastructure was never really all that reliable; it tended to be unstable and occasionally prone to corruption issues. It’s good practice to identify those problems and take them into account before the migration process takes place – to avoid any unwelcome surprises.

Likewise, there’s the issue of downtime while migration is happening. The smoothest migrations happen after a realistic assessment of what’s going to be required. It’s only then that a business can work from a reliable time estimate on how long critical systems are going to be down. The decision can then be made on when to migrate to minimise disruption.

Microsoft bills the migration process as being relatively easy; but when you realise the potential problems that can arise, you see that expert input can save a lot of hassle.

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5 ways to improve Wi-Fi connectivity in schools without busting your budget

A school’s connectivity requirements are based on very particular usage patterns. Schools need to take into account not just what’s required to deliver the curriculum, but also the operational and administrative needs of the school. So you want to ensure stable connections and reliable performance – but while staying on budget.

With this in mind, here are five ways to ensure you stay online – without ending up with a needlessly expensive connectivity package.

Assess your needs

Insufficient bandwidth for your needs is likely to result in increased instances of outages – together with sluggish performance. But at the same time, you shouldn’t have to find yourself paying for a level of bandwidth that significantly exceeds your requirements.

To get this balance right, it’s worth looking in detail at your requirements before you start shopping around for suppliers. Assessing these needs can be complex as you need to take into account the effects of a range of different types of activities, from pupil research and use of portable or mobile devices – through to the demands of running a school portal or virtual learning environment (VLE). In terms of logistics, a school consisting of just a few hundred pupils is likely to have very different requirements to a much larger organisation housed across a main block and multiple peripheral buildings. If necessary, get expert input when carrying out this assessment.

Installation of wifi boosters

Boosting your signal is one of the easiest ways of addressing less than optimum wifi speeds and signal dropout. Installing a signal repeater is often the obvious way forward – i.e. adding an extra wireless router to your network.

Consider powerline networking

Powerline networking adapters are fitted with Ethernet ports and they use the existing wiring in your building to transmit WiFi at speeds you would normally expect from a wired network. These can be useful for setting up wireless hotspots with a suitably strong signal in classrooms but for very little outlay.

Look at MIMO access points

Compared to the installation of routers and powerline networking, MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) technology represents the next level of boosting a wifi signal and ensuring connectivity. For this, antenna technology is used to transmit the signal from your router to where it’s needed without delay or disruption. MIMO hardware involves a more substantial outlay than other ways of getting the most out of your connections. However, depending on your needs and setup, it could represent the most cost-effective way forward.

Finally: ensure you are connected for the future

Loss of connectivity has the potential to disrupt both learning and administration throughout a school. Rather than patching up a local connectivity issue with, say, extra routers, it’s often worth taking a step back and working out whether the type of connection package you have in place is still fit for purpose.

Remember that it can be a false economy to spend money on boosting a network if you are due a complete upgrade. With this in mind, it’s worth consulting with a network connectivity IT consultant to consider whether your connectivity setup is the best it can be to meet your future requirements.

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