Category Archives: Blog

Sector Focus: Recruitment

Sector Focus: Recruitment

There simply isn’t a sector or industry in the UK The Cloud doesn’t affect in some way. In our  regular series, we’ll take a look at a specific sector to find out how cloud technology is making a difference. This month, we go undercover in recruitment.

The recruitment sector may have had a tough time of it during the recession, but things are seriously looking up. With increased confidence in the marketplace and companies – particularly small businesses – now looking to expand, the outlook for recruiters is rosy. According to figures from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation from April, a huge 69% of small businesses are looking to hire, with the key sources being local recruitment agencies and word of mouth referrals.

As well as an opportunity, this puts pressure on agencies who already face
several key challenges:

1. Being able to scale up as well as down, depending on the seasonality of recruitment and responding to the changes in the marketplace. Often these changes happen in a matter of weeks rather than months, so responding quickly is key.

2. Information management. The traditional filing cabinet and paperbased
recruitment office is being replaced with more centralised documentation systems to prevent duplication and improve workflow.

3. Security of data. The holding of sensitive confidential data on clients and candidates is a potential minefield if ever compromised. Not only do information security policies need to be implemented, there needs to be a full disaster recovery policy in place with regular backups undertaken to ensure no loss of recruitment client and candidate data in the event of disaster or theft.

Within the recruitment sector, cloud services are affecting the industry on two levels. On an infrastructure level, cloud computing technology, such as Hosted Desktop offers a new way of working for recruitment offices.

Previously, recruitment offices had to utilise an in-house server – bringing with it all the issues of in-house IT – at once a costly and inefficient use of resources from the traditionally
lean operation most recruitment consultancies run.

This application of cloud technology has helped remove one major concern over security of data. As a cloud solution, confidential customer and client data no longer needs to be held
in a physical location, where it may be susceptible to flood, fire, theft or general damage.

Unlike some other sectors, recruitment doesn’t suffer from a dearth of specific recruitment applications. Countless cloud-based recruitment software-as-a-service packages are  available promising applicant tracking, customer relationship management, financial management, client and customer portal access and other functions to help run and automate the recruitment function.

However, these are only recruitment-specific applications. Using these systems, if you were to use email or any Microsoft Office application such as Word or Excel, you’d still need licences and versions installed on individual desktops or laptops, or on your local server. Only through Hosted Desktop, would every element of the IT infrastructure be hosted off-site and fully-managed.

Of course, both hosted solutions work alongside each other. Hosted Desktop delivers all the infrastructure and resilience, support and remote working opportunity expected of a busy
recruitment office. And the 3rd party specialist recruitment applications are available to use as normal, either via their own cloud-based package or installed as an application on your
Hosted Desktop.

Perhaps the main area where cloud technology has made a difference is the ability of recruiters to expand and contract when needed. Users can be added and removed in hours
with the per user pricing structure, allowing temporary but immediate changes in the numbers accessing the system. Furthermore, this is done securely and in a controlled manner and almost eradicates the risk of data leakage or information theft. With everything automatically backed-up off-site on a regular basis, the problems of lost emails, missing documents and accidentally deleted files becomes a thing of the past, allowing a full papertrail (digitally, of course!).

Know a recuitment agency looking to take their business to the next level? Refer us and if they take up our Hosted Desktop package, they’ll get their first month of services free and you’ll receive the equivalent value off your services.

Simon Says: Broadband Connections

Simon Says: Broadband Connections

Our Technical Manager answers your questions about cloud computing or technology. If you’d like to ask a question please contact us at network@worknet.co.uk

Question: I’ve been a very satisfied customer of your IT support for many years, but now we’re thinking of making the jump to Hosted Desktop and all the benefits it entails. However, I’m concerned about two things:

1) our broadband connection here isn’t particularly fast so I’m not sure whether it will work and

2) as you know our desktop computers and laptops are getting on a bit and I suspect they’ll need replacing. Will we have to do this before we move to Hosted Desktop?

Thanks, Marie (by email)

Simon: Thanks for your question, Marie. Hosted Desktop is, indeed, a step forward from your traditional IT network with in-house server. Our Hosted Desktop package offers businesses, like yours, a completely resilient, fully backed-up IT network which doesn’t look or feel any different from what you have now, for a costeffective monthly fixed price. The benefit, of course, is because you’ll no longer have a server on-site. It will free up room in your office and all your data is safely and securely stored in an impenetrable Tier IV data centre in the UK so no chance of fire, theft or flood bringing your business down. You’ll also have full access to updated Microsoft Office applications, which means not having to mess about with
annoying upgrades, new licences and of course you can add and remove users as required. But enough of the sales job, let me answer your questions.

In answer to your first question, the speed of your broadband connection isn’t actually the important factor in whether Hosted Desktop will work for you. A quick, simplified explanation may help here.

With Hosted Desktop, the desktop you see everyday on your work computer is actually just  an image of your desktop running on a server all the way back at the secure data centre. Therefore, the only thing which needs to travel up and down your broadband connection is the image. A more important factor than outright speed is something called latency. This is the time delay between you pressing a key and the message travelling to the server to make the action, and then it travelling back to your screen so you can see that action on your monitor. As long as latency is good, Hosted Desktop will work perfectly in your office. There are limits to the speed, of course, but we find that almost all locations in the UK can now get a sufficiently good speed.

Your second question is actually related to the first. Because you are only using your work computer or laptop to display an image of your desktop on your monitor, it doesn’t need to have super-high processing power. Therefore you won’t need to replace any of your computers. In fact, you may even have a couple of older computer you can drag out of your store cupboard and put back into use!

Do you have a question you want Simon to answer or a concept you need explained?
No problem, just email Simon at network@worknet.co.uk

 

Refer us and save money on your services.Most of our business comes through the fantastic word-of-mouth you kindly give us and referrals. We like referrals and recommendations a lot. The reason is we know you’re a great customer, so we’re pretty sure you know some good people and businesses who would make great customers too.That’s why we’ve launched our Worknet Referral Scheme, our way of thanking you for your recommendation and rewarding you for referring people to our business.It’s really simple. Every person or business you refer to Worknet is offered their first month of services free and, if they take up the offer and become our customer, you’re rewarded with the equivalent value deducted from your services. There’s no limit to the number of people you can refer and no limit to the amount you can earn. Start earning moneyoff right now!

Productivity Booster: Relocation, Relocation

Productivity Booster: Relocation, Relocation

So you’ve outgrown your office space? Or perhaps you’re moving to somewhere more economical? You know what this means… the dreaded office move. But don’t fear, as part of our series on making the most of your IT network, we share some helpful advice on making your office move as pain-free as possible.

Moving offices is stressful, no matter how much you plan. Fortunately, we’re pros at office relocations and have done move after move while minimising downtime as much as possible.

Communicate your move dates well in advance
Let all your suppliers know when you are moving as far in advance as possible. This helps with their forward planning so you know of any potential issues upfront.

Figure out the basics
Know what the minimum is needed to get working once you move in. For Hosted Desktop users, a desktop or laptop and a broadband connection plus working phone will ensure disruption is minimised. For a standard IT set-up, the key issue will be installation of the server (wherever it is being housed). Without this, no work happens. It needs to be powered down, physically moved and reinstalled at the new location. Once it’s moved, it’s often difficult to use it from the ‘current’ location until everyone has moved, so ensure the necessary elements are moved and installed in the new location first. The office coffee machine probably doesn’t need to take priority…

Check your connections
Following on from the previous point, before the move we advise a thorough assessment of the power and broadband capabilities in the new location. Utilities suppliers are notorious for offering a poor service to small and medium-sized businesses, with no thought to the impact it has on their business. Keep this in mind to ensure your new premises has everything you need ahead of the move so you can simply plug-in and go. Of course, we’re happy to help with any aspect of this.

Think about spares
No matter how small an office you have and no matter how well you plan, a cable always goes missing in the move. Or a connection somehow gets damaged. Purchase spare cables and connections in advance (a good housekeeping move, generally, too).

Have a Plan B
For whatever reason, if something can go wrong it usually will. Therefore, have a contingency plan in place in case something unexpected happens, such as the power in your new office is switched off or there is a problem gaining access. If you’re using Hosted Desktop, this may be as simple as ensuring all staff members have the capability to work from home so laptops and phones need to be diverted appropriately. Or perhaps identify an internet cafe nearby where work can continue in the interim. If you’re on a standard system, this may require back-ups of work onto removable discs ready to use at home or at another location.

Need help with your office move? We’ve done lots of moves and can bring our experience to help you relocate with the minimum of fuss and keep your business moving. Call us on 01628-563630 to discuss your move.

 

Talking Point: How safe is your data?

How safe is your data?   Why using US-based cloud services providers may mean your data isn’t as confidential as you think…

In our Talking Point series, we dedicate space to subjects of interest to our customers – usually as a result of questions that we receive during our normal business.

If you’re a company handling sensitive customer and business data your switch to a cloud-based network will be heavily influenced by the added security it offers. In the legal, accountancy and other fields where a great deal of personal and sensitive information is  held about clients, you’ve a duty of care to protect this information from falling into the hands of those who would seek to abuse and use it for their own financial gain.

Let’s face it, storing your company’s vital data in a secure Tier IV data centre, protected by 24/7 security with multiple power sources to prevent downtime and robust systems in place to ensure no-one illicitly gains access (even yourself!) is a whole lot safer than on an  in-house server. And it’s a lot safer than a stack of back-up discs on a shelf in the corner of  an office which can easily be swiped and/or destroyed by an intruder. As for backing up onto a portable hard drive which is then taken out of the office, well… the information security risks are almost limitless.

But there is a huge caveat to this. For businesses using cloud companies with services  housed in data centres based in the US, they’re unwittingly subject to the USA Patriot Act. The act was originally brought into law after the 9/11 attacks as a way of giving security services an greater ability to intercept illicit communications. However, in practice, its use by the security services has been more far-reaching than anyone thought possible.

Any business operating within the jurisdiction of the United States is subject to the act. It is now proven to give government agencies the ability to call upon and access any information they request.

It’s the kind of all-reaching access NSA informant Edward Snowden blew the whistle on.  Those agencies have the power to access and view any of your personal and confidential  data if it is stored in US data centres.

Of course, the likelihood is your data won’t be compromised. But how would your customers  feel knowing their personal data may be vulnerable?
It’s a matter of confidence.

At Worknet, we use as a UK-based Tier IV data centre to ensure none of our customers’ data is at risk or can be compromised by government agency prying (unless it turns out Parliament has done the dirty on us as well). I understand how important it is to be able to say confidently to our customers their data and their customers’ data is 100% secure.

The issue is few people using US-based cloud services in the UK are aware of the powers of the act… or the fact their data is subject to it. Therefore, it’s no surprise those services haven’t exactly been upfront with businesses about how their data is used. And these aren’t small names we’re talking about here, by the way – think of any US cloud service such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Dropbox, Amazon Web Services and even Office365. The list is bigger than you’d think.

Google even admits Gmail has now started to encrypt all its emails between data centres to try and avoid government spying.

If you’re concerned about your data, download our free guide to the US Patriot Act and its implications on your sensitive data. The report “How safe is your data?” is available at www.worknet.co.uk/patriotact

Marvellous things our customers say…

“It works the way of an in-house system. Thereferral
benefit of Hosted Desktop is the security aspect.
We don’t have the resource to have someone
here permanently looking after IT, so the major
benefit is security and having it backed up
automatically.”
Hitesh Dhokia, MD, ChaseBridge

“We have found Worknet to be extremely
flexible in their approach. Our growth has
meant that we needed an IT partner that was
capable of providing the right solution to our
HQ and branches on time and on budget.
Worknet is that partner.”
Huw Chivers, MD Hot Tub Barn

Net Success: Inpharmation

Net Success: Inpharmation

Inpharmation logoIn our Net Success series, we dedicate space to businesses like yours and discover how you’ve been using technology to grow your business, increase sales and make your life easier. Today we turn our focus to a company with incredible global reach, who have used cloud technology to help their worldwide team operate remotely and securely when sealing deals.

Pharma is a seriously big business. When a major drugs company develops a new product it can easily spend in excess of $1 billion on research and development. Before embarking on such an expensive escapade, it makes a great deal of sense to know exactly what your return is going to be.

“With remote desktop, we can access all our resources from anywhere in the world.”

That’s where Inpharmation comes in. Inpharmation is an industry-leading marketing research and commercial insight firm. Its client list consists of the world’s biggest pharma companies, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Roche.

Heading up this UK-based business with a global reach is founder Gary Johnson, who explains the role his company plays: “If you’re a pharmaceutical company and investing these sums, you need to see a return. Our role is to tell you how many units you’re likely to sell and what price you’re able to charge. We put a commercial value on the potential development.”

Having a foot in the pharmaceutical market requires the company’s staff to travel around the world for most of the time, working with the major global pharmaceutical brands in various territories. With 80 percent of its workforce operating overseas, Gary Johnson explains the specific challenge facing the business.

“Our staff require access to all their information and resources on their computers, all the time, anywhere in the world,” he says. “You can also imagine how important information security is for our staff. We are trusted with incredibly sensitive commercial data and we need to ensure it is secure, and it’s only accessible to authorised individuals on any given job.

“Furthermore, we work in real-time. We need everything working securely across the internet, all the time. We cannot afford to be off-line.”

For more than 10 years, Inpharmation has worked with Worknet, utilising our Hosted Desktop solution and hosted telephony to allow its staff and contractors across the world access its solutions remotely. In this time, we’ve helped maintain the security and resilience of its global workforce by giving the company complete control over its access to users and through robust information security and back-up services.

Inpharmation’s Gary Johnson explains how the technology has helped the company do business.

Inpharmation founder Gary Johnson

Inpharmation founder Gary Johnson

“With remote desktop, we can access all our resources from anywhere in the world,” he says. “With hosted telephony we are able to take our telephone numbers with us, wherever we go – it’s really important. All our information is backed up automatically without our intervention, so we haven’t the hassle or worry of running back-up tapes.”

We’re really pleased to see how effectively Inpharmation has been using cloud technology, both in terms of its data and telephony, to show how a company with a global reach can achieve big things.

 

Are you being innovative with technology? Have you used IT to build your business? If so, apply to feature as a case study in our newsletter and feature in my blog.

Useful stuff to keep an eye on…

Useful stuff to keep an eye on…

IT security attacks… there’s more coming

Train your staff up on your security policy pronto… (or get a security policy, if you don’t have  one!) as attacks on IT infrastructure are on the rise. At InfoSec – the annual conference on IT security (yes, it sounds mind-numbing, we know…) – a huge 60% of the 150 attendees said attacks on their IT infrastructure rose in the past year. Top threats included social engineering and phishing, attacks for financial gain and staff accidentally causing security issues. All of these can be effectively combatted with better training as staff are the biggest threat to your business with regards these types of security breaches.

Is your business vulnerable to cyber crime?

Most small businesses don’t think a cyber attack will happen to them… until it does;  tightening up your network’s security just became critical. According to The National Crime Agency, UK businesses will suffer from more cyber crime in the next three years as organised criminals look to steal or destroy company data. It points to the kind of threats to keep you awake at night… harvesting customer and sensitive business data for fraud, deliberate attacks to inflict damage on your reputation and malware attacks on mobile. Who did the agency say were most vulnerable to this wave of cyber crime? Smaller businesses with ‘less mature security measures’.

Not all cloud services are equal, it seems…

It looks like some businesses could do with a dose of our fully managed cloud service… a global survey of IT professionals found 73% fear their cloud computing provider hides problems with the performance of their network. The survey of 740 senior IT pros by Compuware Corporation discovered the widespread concern, which doesn’t end there… 62% of respondents also said they were finding it hard to troubleshoot problems. Of course, for our cloud customers our IT support heroes deal with these at HQ.

IT manager or firefighter?

Our team recently attended a conference organised by Cisco about how businesses were using cloud computing technology to grow. One statistic really stood out: on average IT managers spent 70% of their time firefighting IT issues, while only 30% was spend on developing strategy and ways to help IT grow their business. It’s a stark reminder how day-to-day issues can take over. Our belief is you’re job isn’t to service technology; technology should be there to make your life easier.

The NumbersVirtual desktop

14%
Number of UK businesses who use cloud technology for all their IT.
(Source: Barracuda)

18%
Number of UK businesses who completely ignore cloud technology.
(Source: Barracuda)

70:30
Proportions of time IT managers spend fire-fighting vs time spent
focusing on growth and using IT to help build the business.
(Source: Cisco)

The Cloud’s coming… are you in?

Chris BrownleeThe Cloud’s coming… are you in?

There’s a couple of unscientific milestones you notice which normally herald the arrival of a new idea. Sometimes it’s hearing your parents or elderly relatives discuss something for the first time. Sometimes it’s when the popular soaps start referencing it. For me, it’s when I hear something being discussed on Radio 2. When I tuned in to listen to an exchange on what ‘The Cloud’ was a few weeks ago… well, I knew it had gone mainstream.

While us IT geeks have been harping on about The Cloud for years and the likes of Microsoft and the big tech companies have been pushing corporations hard to adopt, for most small and medium-sized businesses it’s probably passed them by. And there’s good reason why.

Tech businesses haven’t exactly done a great job explaining what the benefits of cloud computing technology are for small business. Microsoft et al are so wrapped up in the technology and its possibilities for the future, they neglect to explain how cloud computing relates to the everyday issues of real businesses.

How often do you see a case study on how cloud computing has helped a regional accountancy firm resolve its problem of being under-resourced? When do the adverts mention how cloud computing has helped an estate agent keep tabs on its sales team and reduce costs? Where is the mention of the business which has grown from small roots to serve national businesses thanks to the ability of cloud computing to scale and grow with their business without any hint of recurring IT issues holding it back? You don’t.

That’s why I’m committing Worknet to doing our bit to spread the cloud computing message with our eye firmly on the business benefits for small and medium-sized enterprises. Yes, the technology is incredible… but what really matters are the possibilities it opens for  business owners and entrepreneurs.

It strengthens a business by bringing greater stability to their operations. It vastly improves security and resilience  in case of threats from theft and our recent extreme weather. It  enhances productivity by removing the many problems associated with in-house IT and office servers. It frees up your time to work on the important aspects of your business, such as winning and keeping your customers. And it helps you grow thanks to its in-built flexibility to mould to your business needs, scale when you need it and add remote workers. It will even allow you to forecast costs when you use a fixed-price service, such as our Hosted Desktop.

I’d love to hear your feedback about this issue. Feel free to drop me an email at chrisbrownlee@worknet.co.uk or call me on 01628 563630