Category Archives: Blog

Missing emails?

In these times of employment uncertainty, it’s always nice to get a call from your HR company to check that all is well. Our HR company, GAP HR, wasn’t calling about furlough or other Covid-19 related employment issues though.

Gap HR also provide HR services to golf clubs – in fact, they specialise in HR services to golf clubs and have a separate organisation, Golf HR, to deal with the particular requirements, structures and operations of golf clubs.

A Golf HR customer was having a bit of a problem… One of the management team at the golf club had been looking for an older email, but couldn’t find it.  The search for the email in question seemed to highlight that a lot of emails were ‘missing’.

After a bit of work by the golf club, they found that emails from April all the way through to September were nowhere to be found.

The person that had been dealing with the emails was the clubs General Manager who, unfortunately, had stepped down from his role a couple of months earlier.  Given the circumstances of his departure from the club, he was in no mood to discuss where the ‘missing’ emails might be.

So the task was entrusted to the club’s go-to IT person.  However, this turned out to be simply a friend of one of the members, who “knew a bit about computers.”  After looking around for a while, he concluded that he didn’t have the appropriate access and couldn’t help.

The issue had been raised to Golf HR as a question as to whether they could force the previous General Manager to disclose what he’d done with the emails.  Golf HR sensibly gave us a call and asked if there was anything we could do to help.

We accessed the email system, remotely, and found that six months’ worth of emails had been archived into a file to save space on the email system.  We mounted the file, and access to the ‘missing’ emails was restored.

So, all’s well that ends well.  But it might have been a different story had the emails truly been deleted.

Do your systems and procedures give an audit trail as to what has been done with your emails?

Reliance on a single person for IT, often with limited experience or a restricted skill set can lead to big problems.

If you’d like us to look after your IT, give us a call on 01628 563636 or email us at

Avoid These Buying Mistakes When Choosing Your IT Support Provider

Avoid These Buying Mistakes When Choosing Your IT Support Provider

If you’re looking for IT support, or looking to change, it can be a minefield.

With such a wide range of IT solutions on the market today, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Getting this right is important. Having the right IT system in place is a crucial part of a successful, growing business. And your business set-up is only as good as your IT support provider.

The last thing you want is to feel dissatisfied with IT support. From lack of reliability, worries about cybersecurity to overcharging – if you get this decision wrong it can have a serious impact your business. But get it right and you have a technology partner who can help you work more productively and grow successfully.

I’m here to share with you some of the mistakes people make when choosing the right provider and how you as a business owner can take control of your technology. I love talking to my clients and getting asked tricky questions because I’m confident my team and I will be able to answer them. It makes the process so much easier for our clients too.

Here are some questions to ask when you’re on the search for the right IT support provider:

What are the contract terms and will I be tied down for a specific period?

This one’s important.

Most IT support companies will have a set contract with a minimum time commitment and long cancellation periods. For the most part, this comes from a place of vulnerability from IT companies. In my opinion, if you provide exceptional support then there would be no reason for a company to leave you. We’re after long-term relationships, not long-term contracts.

If you’re not happy with the service, you should be given the ability to get out when you need, so ideally search for a company with a short minimum term and a month’s cancellation period. Also, be aware if there’s a penalty involved.

You need to know the scope and limits of cover. Also check your pricing is transparent so you don’t end up dealing with hidden extras at the end of the month.

Think of things like:

  • What does your IT company classify as a fault?
  • Who pays for onsite visits? Is this included or an extra cost?
  • What isn’t covered in the support contract?
  • What are your response times? (Be wary of guaranteed response times)
  • If people step outside of the contract, what are the penalties?

How do I know you’re the right fit for my business?

Your needs will constantly change depending on the growth plans and budget for your business. You need to sit down and clarify exactly what your needs are at present and what you will need in the future.

Are you looking for a one-stop IT solution that can offer you everything from software to hardware, networking and support? Are you looking to only outsource parts of your IT?

Do you want your business’s data to be accessible from anywhere at anytime? Then you’ll need to look for a digital solution with cloud-hosted options.

It’s definitely best to meet in person with a senior employee or better yet, the owner so you can get a feel for their philosophy as a business and if they’re able to meet your requirements. After all, you’re the one who will have to trust them to handle your IT on a daily basis.

Can I get references for a business in a similar situation?

The best way to measure an IT company’s ability to deliver is through referral. You want to be sure they can support your specific business needs so ask to speak to their other customers who have a business of a similar size.

If you’re a smaller business, you want to be sure you’ll be as much of a priority as their bigger clients.

Of course technical skills are important (this should be a given) but it’s important you get the impression they have your best interest at heart. Do they deliver on what they promise? Are they easy to get hold of and do they stick to the budget?

In the end it comes down to people. They should be able to provide you with substantial evidence that they’re more than capable of handling your business regardless of your size.

How big is your team?

Before you splash out on the big players in the field, you need to carefully weigh up the pros and cons here. Your priority should be focused on ensuring the IT team has the resources to meet all your needs.

There’s no doubt one-man bands offer a more personalised service but what happens when they’re on another call or they’re ill or on holiday? Whereas a corporate will have the resource to cater to your every beck and call 24/7, it’s likely customer care will be lost.

Depending on your objectives, go for a medium-sized provider who offers breadth and depth of skills but is focused on delivering a tailored experience for their clients.

Again, if you’re feeling doubtful, speak to their existing clients to understand if they’ll be a good fit for you. You need to feel safe placing your business in their hands.

Who will manage my account and how do I let you know about problems?

You don’t want to be speaking to a different person every time you call with an issue. Make sure there’s a designated contact on the other side with who you can build a long-term relationship with.

When problems arise, you need to know how to report these faults. There should be a dedicated number you can call, an online portal where you can submit a form or a direct email address to the support team. It’s important to be clear on the process and to know they will be there to help with your issues at a drop of hat.

Ultimately, if your technology fails or you need help, you should be able to count on your IT providers to quickly resolve the issue and prevent it from happening again.

I hope you feel more confident in making the right decision when it comes to switching or choosing IT support. It’s about time businesses give those ’so called’ IT professionals a boot and get in contact with the people who are passionate about helping you succeed.

If you have any more questions or you’d like to chat about IT support, don’t hesitate to give us a call, we would be more than happy to help you.

Crackdown On Mobile Use While Driving Announced By Police

Crackdown On Mobile Use While Driving Announced By Police

Police in England and Wales have announced that they will be conducting a week-long campaign that is focused on catching and cracking down on drivers who are using hand-held mobile phones while driving.

As well as the obvious motive to improve safety on the roads now, this latest crackdown is part of a longer term stated aim to make driving distracted “as socially unacceptable as drink driving” according to The National Police Chiefs’ Council.

What Kind Of Crackdown?

This latest crackdown by Police will use dedicated patrols using unmarked vans, helmet cams, high-seated vehicles and high vantage points to catch offending motorists. Police will also be working with paramedics as part of this campaign, and there will be social media videos and messages, warning messages displayed on commuter routes, and schemes enabling “community spotters” to target repeat offenders.

Won’t Work Say Some Critics

Some critics, including family members of those killed by distracted drivers, say that at best motorists may stop using their mobile phones during the crackdown … and then return to their use afterward. Critics have also pointed out that the amount of technology in new cars could also be regarded as a cause of distraction while driving.

31% Still Doing It Says RAC Survey

Driving while using a handheld mobile phone has been illegal in the UK since December 2003 and yet the results of a recent RAC survey show that 31% of motorists said that they had used a handheld mobile phone while driving. What is more alarming and what is one of the main reasons for this week’s police crackdown, is that this is a large increase on the 8% of those recorded in survey 2 years ago as still using a mobile phone while driving.

What Is The Law?

According the UK government website, it is illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held phones or similar devices. Many UK drivers may also still not be aware that it is also illegal to use hand-held phones or similar devices if you are stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.

If you are using a hand-held phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver or rider then this is also an offence on UK roads.

Hands-Free OK If Not Thought To Be Distracted

Using hands-free devices, sat navs and 2-way radios when driving / riding is legal, but you can still be stopped by police if they believe that you are distracted by the use of the device and you are therefore not in control of your vehicle.

Big Penalties – Bigger To Come

The normal penalties for a distraction offence due to hand held mobile device use while driving is 3 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100. For new drivers, the penalty is 6 or more points on the licence. A court visit could also result in fines of up to £1,000 or £2,500 if you drive a bus or goods vehicle.

This latest crackdown comes just ahead of government plans to double fines and points for using a mobile while driving.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If you and your employees drive to and from work and as part of your work it is essential that a hands-free device is used for any calls, or that calls are only made or received when your vehicle is safely parked. Even checking texts is constitutes a distraction. The results of not heeding the law on this matter are not just the terrible human consequences, but also the potential damage to your business through driving penalties and reputational damage from the local publicity.

BT Launches Competition To Find New Apps and Services For UK Market

BT Launches Competition To Find New Apps and Services For UK Market

Small Businesses and start-ups in the UK will now have their opportunity to pitch ‘Dragon’s Den’ style to BT in a competition, the winners of which could receive expert mentoring as well as seeing their ideas rolled out to BT customers in the UK.

BT say that the object of the competition, run by their Infinity Lab, is intended to find innovations that will help “busy people stay in contact and feel connected to their family, friends and communities”. BT has suggested to potential entrants that the focus for ideas should be very much upon smart devices and apps i.e. something that can be used on the move.

Which Companies Can Enter?

The competition is open to small businesses and start-ups and essentially BT are looking for companies with an early stage product which has innovation at its heart.

What Are The Prizes?

Winners of the competition (of which there could be several) can ultimately expect a commercial partnership for BT to use or sell their new services to its customers. BT has said that this would still involve a (6 month) trial first with its TechHub community. BT has stated that winners of the competition can expect to receive:

  • Mentoring in the form of support from BT research, engineering, commercial and marketing teams, with a view to helping to develop the product or service.
  • Support from BT to evaluate and trial the product or service.
  • Six months’ membership of BT’s TechHub entrepreneur community. This will come with flexible desk space at its main London office and access to events.

How Do You Apply?

Applicants will need to complete an online form to describe their product or service and should also provide a short video about the product or service. BT has said that the video is optional but is ‘strongly advised’.

The submissions will then be reviewed by a team of our product and technology experts, and the shortlisted companies will be called for interview with finalists to present a “Dragons’ Den” style pitch of their idea to BT executives at an event in January 2017. Potential applicants should visit The closing date for applications is 10th December 2016.

10th Competition

This is the 10th such innovation challenge competition in the last 3 years run by BT’s Infinity Lab and although the programme aims to identify potential innovation partners, BT does not intend to invest or take equity in the applicant companies as part of this process. The previous 9 competitions (launched in partnership with TechHub) are reported to have attracted entries from around the world and winning success stories include ‘SeenIt’ who are now working with BT Sport, and the connected cities winner ‘See.Sense’ which is now in trial with MK Smart.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For BT, this is clearly a relatively easy and cost effective way to find product and service ideas that could be lucrative in the future, enable them to keep a competitive edge, and help retain and attract customers. For your business, this could be a real and rare opportunity to bring your idea quickly through development to a large existing nationwide customer base with the help and support of a leading company.

Voters Crash New Zealand & Canada Immigration Website

Voters Crash New Zealand & Canada Immigration Website

It appears that some U.S. voters were so horrified by the prospect of living in America with Donald Trump as President that they crashed immigration websites in New Zealand and Canada in their bid to find an alternative safe haven.

Massive Increase in Traffic From The U.S.

After the apparent shock of the Presidential election result, the New Zealand immigration website INZ ( is reported to have received a massive 2,500% increase in traffic in a 24 hour period. For a website that would normally receive 5, 300 visitors in one day, a spike of 56,300 visits was a shock to the website administrators.

As well as taking to the INZ website in huge numbers, U.S. voters also took to the New Zealand’s partner immigration website NZ Now ( in their tens of thousands. According to reports from Forsythe, instead of the website’s normal 3,000 registrations of interest in any 24 hour period, the 24 hour period after the U.S election result attracted a mighty 7,300 registrations interest, the vast majority being from the U.S. The increase in traffic on this immigration website was even more marked with 70,500 people visiting the website in that one day as opposed to the normal daily average of 1,500.

Canada Immigration Website Crashed.

The 24 hour period after Mr Trump’s election victory reportedly brought visitors in such huge numbers to the official immigration website for Canada that it crashed. Most visitors to the website that day were only able to see a ‘This site can’t be reached’ message as Shared Services Canada reportedly worked through the night to put the website back up again.

Signs on Twitter.

The trail left by disgruntled and disillusioned U.S. voters could be seen last Wednesday as many took to Twitter to discuss potentially moving to other countries. Canada and New Zealand were popular suggestions.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Incidents such as these are indicators of the expected level of change in the country by the citizens themselves, and to UK businesses with U.S. customers, as well as the initial effects of changes in the money markets it is important to keep a close eye on the changing economic environment in the U.S. in the coming months and years.

If you travel to the U.S. for business it may also be important to take note of any changes to immigration and border control rules, as Mr Trump has focused on this area in many of his election messages. Some financial commentators have also warned that Mr Trump’s win could have an effect upon work ‘money purchase’ or ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes because they are linked to stock market performance.

Women in Tech Earn 9% Less Than Men.

Women in Tech Earn 9% Less Than Men.

According to data recently published by ‘Hired’, women working in the technology industry in the UK earn 9% less than men in the same jobs.

Evidence of the Gender Pay Gap.

More evidence of a long-acknowledged gender pay gap in the UK has been highlighted by the ‘Hired’ survey that analysed 10,000 job offers made to 3,000 candidates across 750 companies.

9% less income equates to £5,000 less per year for women, and it is no accident that the findings of the survey were announced two days before the so-called Equal Pay Day. This is the day identified by equal pay charity the Fawcett Society that women will essentially be working for free until the end of the year in relation to the extra pay received by their male counterparts.

Big Gap For Software Engineers.

Those women building a career as a Software Engineer, for example, can expect a pay gap that is significant now but is likely to widen dramatically further down the line. According to the ‘Hired’ survey results, a female Software Engineer will earn 7% less than her male equivalent in the early years. This gap widens to 10% less, two to six years in, beyond which the gap widens to over 30% less. This will see a female Software Engineer’s salary of £53,000 being vastly outstripped by her male equivalent’s salary of £65,000.

Why The Gap in This Industry?

A gender pay gap is unfortunately not unique to the technology industry in the UK. ONS figures released last month  show that across all UK professions, women earn on average 13.9% less than men.

Some technical commentators have suggested that one factor contributing to the gap that has been demonstrated in the ‘Hired’ survey may be the size of the company. Women in companies with between 200 to 1,000 staff tend to be underpaid in relation to male staff members by an average of 17%. This could be because these medium sized companies slip through the gap between the regulation associated with larger companies and the transparency of hiring practices associated with smaller companies.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The published findings of this report were intended to make employers think about issues of gender bias in their own companies. It will soon be a requirement anyway that employers publish details of their pay gap and this may also be another step towards closing gender inequality gaps in business.

Expert employment commentators suggest that other ways for companies to a move towards a more equal work situation for employees could include creating more quality part-time work, encouraging men to play a greater role in paid and unpaid care work, and making sure that your business at least has an action plan to help address any gender pay gap you may have.

For those women applying for jobs, some of the strongest advice to avoid being the victim of a gender pay gap from the outset is to know their market worth in the interview and job searching process, and to ask for as much as men.

For businesses, it’s a case of trying to reduce genuine inequalities through means such as offering salaries based on up-to-date knowledge of the market and the candidate’s market worth, offering training to help employees to develop greater worth, and conducting regular salary audits to ensure fairness.

UK Surveillance Concerns After Trump Win

UK Surveillance Concerns After Trump Win

Donald Trump’s successful bid to become the next U.S. President has prompted the UK digital rights and freedom group ‘The Open Rights Group’ (ORG) to publicly express fears that UK citizens may now be the subject of greater surveillance.

Link With GCHQ.

One of the key concerns and the foundation for the views expressed by the ORG appears to be the fact that the UK’s GCHQ has been shown (through evidence from WikiLeaks) to carry out work for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), and that NSA operatives can access GCHQ surveillance programmes. This could, in theory, mean that (based on the more controversial security views expressed by Mr Trump during his election campaign) he could potentially abuse his national security powers.

Integration Fears.

Another key concern expressed by the ORG is which effects the integration of the NSA and GCHQ could have on the UK’s surveillance capabilities, and on the balance of power in the surveillance and intelligence relationship between the U.S and the UK.

It is generally accepted among security and technology commentators that the UK depends heavily upon U.S. technology and data, and as such is the subservient partner. Furthermore, the integration of the NSA and GCHQ could mean that it would become incredibly difficult for the UK to separate its intelligence capabilities from those of the U.S. in future should it need / want / have to at any point.

With separation or staying together, there may also be implications for the UK as regards bulk data collection and surveillance. For example, ORG appears to perceive governments (the U.S. and UK) to prefer to carry out more bulk surveillance, and the UK would be more able (and arguably more likely) to do so with U.S. help and with Mr Trump at the helm.

Prime Minister For More Surveillance.

ORG has also spoken out publicly in the past about the implications of Theresa May being Prime Minister as far as her support for greater surveillance of UK citizens goes. For example, her championing of the Investigatory Powers Bill (also known as the Snooper’s Charter) and her support for the scrapping of the Human Rights Act have attracted warnings of the implications from ORG.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If greater surveillance by the UK alone or in combination with the U.S. can thwart terrorist attacks or cybercrime, this would, of course, benefit individuals and businesses alike.

Abuse of any powers is, however, a worry. So too is the possibility of the erosion of democracy and freedom of speech. However,  it is still too early to say exactly what path the President-elect Trump will take.

Digital freedom campaigners are warning that the replacement of the Human Rights Act with a weaker UK version, plus the wrong approach to Brexit could have negative implications for our rights as UK citizens, protection, e-privacy, net-neutrality and copyright.

Facebook Kills The Admiral’s Plan

Facebook Kills The Admiral’s Plan

A request by insurance company Admiral to trial a scheme whereby the contents of the Facebook profiles of young drivers would be used in order to judge their safety as drivers (and thereby influence their insurance premiums) has been given the thumbs down by Facebook.

Judged on Posts and Likes.

Admiral’s idea for the trial is reported to have been for the insurance company to look at the posts and likes on a young driver’s Facebook profile and to use them in deciding the level of risk of the driver.

In addition to viewing the details of the driver’s profile, the driver would be asked a series of questions, the answers of which would be used to build a personality profile.

If it was decided from the Facebook and personality profile that the driver’s risk was low, then they would be offered a discount of between 5% and 15% on their car insurance. Admiral would have sought the driver’s permission first to view the Facebook profile.

The trial was aimed at 17 to 21-year-old motorists and would have used an app to offer the quote, and the judgement about the driver’s level of risk would have involved the use of algorithms to judge a driver’s level of organisation.

Reason Why Facebook Said No.

Although Facebook was happy for drivers to use their Facebook accounts to log in to the Admiral app for verification, it was not willing to allow the insurance company to use the details of drivers’ profiles to decide on discount eligibility.

Facebook’s (stated) reason for saying no to what would have been the first trial of its kind in the UK was that the privacy of the people on Facebook must be protected. There may also be an element of needing to protect Facebook’s own reputation.

What Now For Admiral’s Idea?

Although the original scheme was refused (by Facebook at the eleventh hour) drivers will still be able to log in to the Admiral app via Facebook before answering questions from the insurer which could still lead to a discount, but their Facebook profile will not be used to help decide that discount.

Criticism of the Trial.

Popular criticisms of the idea for the trial from tech and consumer rights commentators (who have praised Facebook for saying no) have been that it could make social media users feel inhibited, non-financial factors could unjustly be used to help make financial decisions, and that the algorithms involved could conceivably perpetuate social biases that are based on race, gender, religion or sexuality.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

From a purely business perspective, it makes sense for a company such as an insurer (that has no previous evidence to go on) to try and devise a fast and workable method for attracting young customers. As business people and consumers, however, it could be argued that a scheme of this kind raised ethical questions, and would have set a dangerous precedent had it been given the green light.

For example, what if a private health insurer wanted access to your Facebook profile or even company page in search of details which could show that you have not been living a healthy lifestyle?

The fact that Facebook refused permission for the scheme and received good publicity, and the fact that perceptions of Admiral’s approach to ethics and its company reputation may have suffered some damage with the publicity are also a lesson in how important the protection and projection of sound business ethics are, particularly in this digital age where bad news travels faster than ever before.

Security Fears About Software Than Can Copy Your Voice

Security Fears About Software Than Can Copy Your Voice

After its unveiling in a live demo at the Max Conference San Diego last week, Adobe’s Project VoCo audio / voice manipulation software has been the subject of some concern over its potential for misuse.

What Is Project VoCo?

Project VoCo is an audio editing program that enables you to edit speech as easily as you can text or pictures. This is why it has also been dubbed the “Photoshop of speech”.

How Does It Work?

The program needs around 20 minutes of voice samples from a person. These samples are then broken down by the program into phonemes which are the smallest units of sound in speech. These phonemes are then transcribed, and the voice model is then created.

What’s The Problem?

The potential problem with the program that has caused the voicing of concerns is that the program is so flexible that it could be misused. For example, VoCo allows you to use the same voice model to create completely new recordings. In other words, you can take a recording of a person’s voice and make a new version from it that includes words and phrases the original speaker never used.

Some critics have therefore said that VoCo has the potential to undermine trust in journalism or even pose a security threat. Other critics have suggested that the developers of the program had somehow missed or ignored the ethical dilemmas involved in creating a voice manipulator of this kind.

Some of the main concerns about the capabilities and availability of the program include that:

  • It could mean that digital media may therefore not be able to be used  e.g. by lawyers and journalists, because of doubts about authenticity.
  • It could be used to fool bank security systems where voiceprint verification is being used for customers who phone in.

No Ship Date Announced.

So far, just the demo of VoCo has been shown to the world, and although Adobe are standing by their product for the many positive benefits that it will bring, no ship date has been announced for it and the release date is not imminent.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As a product that could be potentially used by businesses, VoCo could be a very powerful, useful and value-adding / time saving tool for example when used to fix podcasts, create marketing communications, or even to fix audio book recordings.

Businesses also have the right to feel nervous about how the program could be used in the wrong way e.g. by criminals are part of cyber fraud /cyber attack on the business or on the bank that the business uses.

At present, the Biometrics companies (who are now being used by banks) are re-assuring people by saying that their systems would not be fooled by VoCo. Research is also under way to find a way to enable detection of the use of the software e.g. by some kind of watermark.

Stripe Launches New Payments Apps Directory

Stripe Launches New Payments Apps Directory

Customers of payment services company Stripe are to be given access to a new directory of some 300 compatible apps that can be integrated and used with their existing Stripe services to make more meaningful and value adding use of the data.

Who / What Is Stripe?

Stripe is a San Francisco based company (valued at around $5 billion) who, like Paypal, provide a means for businesses to accept payments online (a payment gateway).

Stripe is reported to be processing billions of dollars a year for thousands of businesses and has received funding to the tune of $300 million from an impressive list of investors which includes Sequoia Capital, Visa, American Express, Peter Thiel, and Elon Musk.

Stripe recently launched the Stripe Connect product in the UK, Ireland and Nordic countries to enable start-ups to receive payments from any country where Stripe is live.

How Stripe’s Service Works.

Adding a few lines of Stripe’s code to their websites enables businesses-to-payment services into their mobile apps and websites.

Two Main Reasons For The Introduction of The Directory.

Tech business commentators have suggested that the 2 main reasons for the introduction of the directory are to increase the ‘barriers to exit’ for existing Stripe customers who start to use and rely upon the new services / apps, and it paves the way for Stripe to develop more business relationships with 3rd party app suppliers.

The listing in Stripe’s directory for the app suppliers is free but the services will depend on each one’s pricing models.

Most Popular Indicated.

Stripe has said that as well as showing customers which apps are compatible with which platform or service, it will also show in the directory which are the most popular integrations, thus making it easier for customers to choose. As an extra (and important) benefit of housing the directory and monitoring which apps are most popular, Stripe will be able to use that information to help shape its own in-house products.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If you are a Stripe customer, the app database could be a handy source for you to find tools that will enable you to query, analyse and get some more useful insights into your payment data. As such, it could be a way to discover more sources of competitive advantage and add more value to your services.

If you are a customer of another payment processing service, the new app directory from Stripe may be one factor that could help tempt you into considering switching.