What’s the best way to back up your work?

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Millions of remote workers throughout the UK are asking the question, ‘What’s the best way to back up your work?’ A simple, reliable backup is more critical than ever.

SharePoint

Do you use SharePoint already? If you do, that’s great! You can store your documents and data just as if you were at your business premises.

Organisations configure SharePoint (integrated with Microsoft Office 365) to manage content, knowledge, and applications. Secure sharing helps teamwork and efficiency. The seamless collaboration of backed up data allows for productivity benefits. Data is available to authorised personnel using PCs, Macs, and mobile devices.

Data Security

If you are using a company PC, Mac or mobile, then it’s slightly easier to remember to back up your device as you would at the office. You can either use your VPN connection or your remote desktop.

If however, you are using one of your own devices for work, be extra careful.

Only use encrypted Wi-Fi for business data. Do not use Wi-Fi that is open for all to access. If you’re working from home, make sure your home Wi-Fi network is secured – all home routers support encryption.

Use strong authentication to access your device. Now is a good time to think about the passwords you use. It’s a good time to upgrade to secure your passwords. Make sure each device that you use is up-to-date. Security updates are important. Also, install the latest versions of antivirus and antimalware programs. Make sure that your data security protection software is actively running. Use a modern browser, and make sure you’re running the latest version.

Store your files in a secure cloud location. Your laptop, your local drive or removable media might not be safe enough. Make sure that if you save to a synchronised back up storage service like DropBox or OneDrive that you don’t download a copy of sensitive files to your home computer.

Check that you have the tools and security protection that your company demand. Check your company Information Security Policies. Keep your company data safe at all times.

Whenever possible use web versions of apps, such as Word, Outlook, and Excel. When you use the web versions, your data stays on the server  – not your local device.

Stay in touch

Stay in touch with your company IT services team while you work remotely. There might be new tools for you, or they may need your help. If you don’t understand something, then ask. If you suspect compromised data, notify your IT support staff immediately. Limit the damage by starting an investigation quickly.

Be Vigilant

Now more than ever is the time to be vigilant. Resist the temptation to store data offline on your own devices. Review and get approval for your data back up processes. Ask your IT services team or escalate to your line manager if you are not sure what to do.

Planning for the new normal

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Preparing for recovery

Now is a perfect time to start preparing for recovery with the end of lockdown in sight. Consider this week as one of the last few self-isolation weeks, so that you can bounce back when things begin to return to some form of normality.

Company managers are thinking about cutting costs without cutting corners. Is your goal to increase functionality while making costs savings? Many businesses have seen a negative impact from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Perhaps businesses producing toilet rolls and hand sanitiser are poised to start spending on diversifying to achieve further growth! Most are looking to evaluate their ongoing monthly expenditure.

How we can help

Communications

Discover how to make changes to your business IT infrastructure & communications for future value and success.

Our communications solutions can save you up to 80% on your telephone bills. There are no upfront costs on a 3-year agreement, so you can start saving straight away.

With a unique to the UK implementation of the 3CX unified communications system, we offer one of the most feature-rich and easy to use options currently available.

3CX gives you access to features like Web Conferencing, Remote Classroom, Remote Training, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) integration so you can start to work smarter and more efficiently from anywhere. Intelligent apps on your own choice of smart devices can keep your communication lines open wherever you are. There is no need for additional equipment. We help you set up the 3CX App for your Android or iOS phone or tablet, so you’re good to go!

IT Support

Cirrus IT Services (UK) Limited have offered an all-inclusive managed service product for many years.

Our customers will tell you how our product gives complete protection and support to their businesses. Eliminating unexpected high bills with clear, consistent, and predictive costs allow for better cash flow management. While many businesses in our area have copied a service structure model in the last five years, they charge for extra things like reconfiguring a phone for remote working (at £50 a time). We most certainly do not! We know how to offer customers the best value and will continue to do so.

Cloud

Who better to provide cost-saving cloud-based services for you? For example, you can get Microsoft 365 from us on a monthly subscription that costs less than buying directly from Microsoft! Cirrus ITS focus on cloud-based services (hence the cirrus cloud name).

Cloud-based Virtual Machine backup solutions are from just £7.50 a month – per VM and cloud desktops and infrastructure of all sizes depending on need. Gain the advantage of predictable monthly costs. Cloud-based services are always up-to-date with the latest features. With little or no capital expenditure, you are up and running quickly.

Why us?

The Cirrus IT Services team are proud to receive 100% positive feedback from customers every month.

100% customer focus allows our customers complete peace of mind. Most new business arrives via recommendations.

You can review our prices knowing that we only sell (or recommend) products suitable to your individual business needs.

We offer a single point of contact for your Cloud, IT & Communication needs so that you can focus on your business. We’ll be your trusted partner in helping you develop and improve your infrastructure. We take responsibility if you have any issues and resolve them within agreed SLA’s.

Have a look at some of our recommendations and case studies online for more information.

If you would like to start a conversation on how we can help your business thrive, please email us at hello@cirrusits.co.uk

We’re here when you need us

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Responsible businesses like ours are following UK government advice and working from home. Luckily for us, the extended lockdown period (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) doesn’t pose any real changes to our working week.

Operating IT services & IT support via cloud-based systems makes remote working more accessible. Rather than talking face to face at our desks, we’re chatting on Microsoft Teams.

Some of our customers required a lot of help to set up home working for the first time. Despite the massive increase in workload over the last few weeks, the Cirrus ITS team has responded very well. Helping all of our existing customers – without extra charges – has been our way to support local businesses throughout the economic uncertainties. Some of our competitors have charged up to £50 to configure handsets for home working!

The volume of new support requests is now reducing. Our ticketing system is working well, and we’re very much back to business as usual. If you need help during this challenging time, then please do contact us by email, phone or online chat. We are here when you need us most!

Keep checking our Blog and Social Media posts as we publish news, information and tips regularly.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all key workers and NHS staff. We are very grateful to everyone who is working tirelessly to allow us to stay safe and stay indoors.

ThanksNHS

Working from home? Don’t drop your guard!

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Most of us will by now have settled into a daily “work from home” routine. Things may be starting to feel slightly less alien as working from home becomes “the norm”.

Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in reports of spam and phishing emails, as fraudsters take advantage of people’s insecurities and confusion. Fake account holders try to access personal or login information in many different ways.

Please remember these fundamental questions to ask yourself if you receive an email you are not sure of:

  • Do you recognise the sender?
  • Does the From Name match the From Address?
  • Does the email ask you to provide information that you should not divulge by email?
  • Is there an attachment that you did not expect?
  • If you recognise the sender, does the content match the style and format the sender usually uses?
  • If there are links in the email, do not click them. Instead, by positioning your mouse over the link text (without clicking any links), you can see where they lead. Are you confident that each link is genuine?

If you recognise the sender but are not 100% sure, check with the sender by telephone before opening. Please use the company’s advertised number, not the number in the questionable email as that might be a fake.

Examples

Here is a real example of a Phishing email received this morning and another fraudulent email that somebody received last week to show you how to spot them as fakes:

Example 1 – Phishing Email

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My Office 365 Services are on a Microsoft Office 365 platform, provided by Cirrus IT Services (UK) Limited.

If you look at the “From” name, the name displayed is “Notify scott.magee” but the actual sender address is inigozumarraga@eizuplaning.es as seen in the angular brackets:

Hovering over the “CANCEL REQUEST” button in the email reveals a fake link preview, not a safe Microsoft or Cirrus IT Services website.

Example 2 – Fraudulent Email

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Fake emails should set off your alarm bell straight away. The subject is, “Congratulations.. Open attachment below for more details.” about a lottery win, from no visible sender and sent to “Recipients” rather than showing the recipient name.

Do not open attachments and delete, or mark as spam.

There are some even more sophisticated scams and fraud emails in circulation that are harder to spot. But, if you follow a few steps, you will be able to identify most of them as fraudulent before they do any damage.

Layered Security

You should use layered security wherever possible.

Scanning mail with a reliable mail filter as it arrives, checks for viruses and known threats. Perceived threats are stopped, and you are given the option to review and release them from a secure environment without clickable links or attachments.

The next layer of security should be a gateway firewall, either as part of your router or – for larger organisations – a separate appliance.

Antivirus software is another layer of protection. Choose a different security provider to the mail filter to maximise your chances of the software engine recognising the threat and stopping it.

If your antivirus does not include a firewall, then you should also be using a local machine firewall or the inbuilt Windows Firewall.

It is important to remember that there is not any single software or hardware solution available that will fully protect you from all threats. The most common way for a fraudster to obtain information from you is to fool you into providing them with information. Gaining access to your data can cause financial damage or harm your reputation. The techniques are becoming ever more advanced.

If you follow the advice in this guide, you will be able to prevent most of these attempts.

If you are not sure, verify first before opening any attachments or clicking on any links.

VPN’s are great BUT they are not perfect for everyone

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Most regular remote workers will connect back to their office using a VPN to access resources on the company’s local network.  These are usually reliable but during the current pandemic, almost everybody wants to use one and it’s not always the best or most reliable solution depending on your setup and circumstances.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, put simply it’s a secure connection (usually referred to as a tunnel) made over the internet. Basically, a secure network connection established over an insecure network.

VPN’s are usually quite easy and quick to setup when everybody uses the same protocols and settings and connect over the same or similar networks.

The problems we are seeing is that many suddenly faced with using these for the first time are using lots of different devices requiring lots of different protocols and have differing expectations on how it should work.

Ideally you should simply establish a connection, then open the resources you need BUT, remember when you’re sat at your desk and accessing a resource on the network, you are likely to have a connection speed of around 100 to 1000Mbps.  With a VPN Connection you may only have a 5, 10 or 15Mb connection if you’re lucky so IT IS NOT GOING TO BE ANYWHERE NEAR AS QUICK!

You also need to factor in that the internet is currently under much more pressure than usual with so many people working remotely and many people including kids streaming movies and playing online gaming which all reduced available bandwidth and increases contention.

Most home broadband connections are contended so they are shared with those around you using the same cabinet and infrastructure.

There are many articles online about the current internet pressure like this one:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8146529/Global-internet-pressure-map-shows-coronavirus-puts-stress-internet-infrastructure.html

There are also many problems that can affect a VPN such as:

Many users using different devices to connect may need different protocols enabling or configuring. Changing this for one user’s device can stop others devices from working.

You can and do end up with people using tablets, computers, smart phones, chrome books etc, all using different hardware devices and connection to try and connect back to one device that has to be able to service requests from all of them.

Sub-Net clashes

Many people use the same IP range at home and at work so the VPN can struggle working out what is local and what is remote.

Router based restrictions

Some routers like those used by TalkTalk have built in protection that can interfere with remote access software and VPN’s.

Some shared working spaces will not allow some VPN protocols over their access points.

iPhone Hotspots no longer pass PPTP traffic over their connections (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) this is a recent change that stopped many VPN’s working overnight!

Speed

Using a VPN adds security but will also reduce throughput speed.  On a contended circuit, this may be significant enough to stop it working reliably.

What other Options are available?

Remote desktop access using third-party tools

Splashtop.com offer a free trial of their remote access software that allows you to control your desk PC from anywhere with any device and does not require a VPN.

Office 365

You can use the Web Based applications to access your files and email without a VPN.

You can use office tools like SharePoint and OneDrive to access documents direct from the cloud with no need to connect back to the office.

Handy Tips

Ofcom have released an article on their website with tips on helping the work from home experience:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/stay-connected

If you need any more help, please contact us:

Contracted customers: support@cirrusits.co.uk

Non-Contracted Customers: hello@cirrusits.co.uk

First Toilet Rolls, then Hand Sanitizer, now Laptops are disappearing fast…

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In these unprecedented times we have seen our supermarket shelves emptied of Toilet Rolls and Hand Sanitizer and now due to the demand of home working solutions, we’re seeing a shortage of Laptops for businesses from all of our usual suppliers.

The demand to work from home has been massive and we have not been able to supply laptops to some of our customers due to a lack of stock.

There are still laptops on sale in some places like Curry’s and PC World BUT these will rarely have the business version of the Operating System that most people will need.

The Business version of Windows 10 is called Windows Professional.

Windows 10 Professional allows a computer to join a domain, which controls access to the computer and applies policy and settings set by your network administrator.

How to use your Desktop at home instead

Some customers have asked us about taking their desktop computers home to work.

The first stumbling block is usually that the computer will use an ethernet cable to connect to the network rather than WiFi.

If you will be setting up your desktop computer close to where your home broadband router is located, then this may not be a problem.

If you cannot set up near the router you will need to enable WiFi.  If the computer does not support WiFi you can buy a USB WiFi adapter for around £10 – £20.

We have used these devices in the past quite successfully:

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150Mbps Wireless N Nano USB WiFi AdapterTL-WN725N

You can but these from places like Argos or Amazon but if you get stuck, we have a few left in stock here.

Once you’re connected you may still need to have a VPN connection back to the office, but this depends on your setup and what you need access to.

Using another PC

You can however use another PC, even a low powered device like a chrome book.

You can setup a VPN back your office using an application and then use another application to allow you Remote Desktop access to your normal computer at work.

This way the computer screen is locked, and you have access to the keyboard, mouse and screen remotely and because the computer is still in the office, it can access everything as normal including all of your applications and shared drives.

If you need any help please get in touch.

Using our Ticketing System for Support during the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Just like every other business, we are not immune to the effects of this virus ourselves. We may end up with reduced staff numbers at times. Still, we will continue to provide support to all our contracted customers.

To help us maximise our resources as best as we can, please consider the following:

  • All tickets logged with us are prioritised based on impact and urgency.
  • The best way to log an incident or request is to email support@cirrusits.co.uk with a brief description in the subject line and a more detailed description in the message body.
    • Please provide as much information as you can, including screenshots of the problem and any error message if applicable.
    • Specific information helps us assign the most appropriate engineer to reduce the need to ask questions.
  • Please report urgent requests by telephone on 0 33 33 056 520

We only ask this as our engineers will be working their way through all of the outstanding tickets by priority. When the phone rings, they have to stop what they are doing to answer the call and then log a ticket on the caller’s behalf, before returning to their current assigned ticket.

When there are so many tickets at once, this can significantly delay our response.

Using the email address or website logs and assigns your ticket to the queue automatically.

  • Expect an acknowledgement email with a ticket number. Our service team tracks your ticket for you and notifies engineers.
    • We will keep you up-to-date with progress via the email address you use to log your ticket.

Simply select the SUPPORT menu option or go directly to the support portal login page here https://support.cirrusits.co.uk

  • Please do not contact engineers directly as they may not be available, and we may have somebody else that can help you instead of waiting for a specific individual.
  • You will receive an email with an explanation of the resolution to any problem.
  • 24-hours after a resolution, the ticket status automatically changes to Closed.

In Summary:

Our regular opening hours are Monday to Friday 09:00 until 17:00 Excluding Bank Holidays, but you can log a ticket with us at any time on the website or by email.

Help Desk Support Email: support@cirrusits.co.uk
Sales Email: sales@cirrusits.co.uk
Telephone: 0 33 33 056 520
Website: https://www.cirrusits.co.uk
Accounts Email: accounts@cirrusits.co.uk

We are very fortunate as a business to be 100% Cloud-based so that we can react very quickly. Working remotely, when required, has little or no impact on our service.

We are currently almost at full strength but are very aware that this can change very quickly. We ask that you help us to keep our service available to everybody by following these guidelines.

Thanks in advance for your co-operation and understanding

Scott Magee

Managing Director

Cirrus IT Services (UK) Limited

We will always keep our blog updated with the latest information so please check back regularly.

Productive Remote Working for Businesses

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If your phone system does not support home working features, don’t panic, we can help!

To help fellow businesses survive and thrive through the Covid-19 Pandemic, we are now offering complete full-featured 3CX telephone systems with a free standard license on a 1-month contract. Your remote working solution takes just a few hours to setup. You can then work at home during Cornovirus self-isolation advice, as a temporary short-term or permanent solution.

Staff can work remotely using Mac, Windows, iOS or Android applications as their desk phones from anywhere with an internet connection. The Standard license allows users to take advantage of Web Conferencing, Remote Classroom, Chat/Messaging, Document Sharing and apps for MAC, Windows, iOS & Android.

Presenting your real company telephone number when you dial out shows people who you are when you call. We set up a temporary number to divert your current system to for seamless outbound calling. If they return the call, it will go to your existing system and then redirect to your new temporary number automatically.*

You can choose how many concurrent calls you need to determine how many “Trunks” you need. Each Trunk is just £9.95 + VAT per month and includes all UK standard Mobile and Landline minutes (Fair Usage Policy applies)**

The setup fee is just £90.00 + VAT for the telephone system and £9.95 + VAT per Trunk (payable in advance).

*Your current call provider may charge for forwarded calls to your new temporary number.

**Fair Usage Policy: Unlimited calls to UK landline numbers starting 01, 02, and standard UK mobile numbers only (excluding 070 and 076). Excludes calls to the Channel Islands, dial-up internet, indirect access, premium mobile services & all other numbers. The maximum call time is 60 minutes per call. Service must be applied on all SIP Trunks supplied. This service must not be used in conjunction with any automated dialling services, or where outgoing traffic exceeds 75% of the entire traffic volume and mobile traffic must not account for more than 50% of the entire traffic volume. The service can be removed / modified at any time if the provider feels that the traffic profile is outside of the good intention to which the service is provided or that the continual use of the service within the current profile may place the seethe suppliers service and or resources at risk of providing a reduced capacity service to other clients.

Working From Home/Bed

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Whether you think the current situation with Covid-19 is media fuelled hysteria or a real threat to the mass population, the truth is that you or your company will be looking into how workers can operate from home if necessary.

We have received a significant increase in requests to setup home working from our own customers so we wanted to give out some good advice that all computer based workers can follow to help them work from a remote location.

Office 365

If you use Office 365 for your company email, you will usually have the ability to access your emails and documents from any Internet Connected Device.

This means you can pick up your tablet and connect to your email and applications using the Office 365 apps for your device (like Outlook and Word) from your tablet’s app store.

You can also access your business Office 365 account by browsing to https://portal.office.com or go directly to your Outlook Web Access page using https://outlook.office.com

Depending on your subscription, you may also be able to access the Web App versions of the most popular Microsoft Office applications such as Excel, Word or Powerpoint without having to install anything on your device.

Telephony

3CX users can download the 3CX mobile application for free from their mobile device’s app store, scan their unique extension QR Code and make and take calls from their mobile devices exactly as they would sat at their desks (including all the same queues and group memberships).

Customers will be presented with your office number so they will not be aware that you are working remotely

You can also login to your extension and forward your calls to another number like your home number or a mobile.

If you don’t know how to access your login details or QR Code, just let us or your company contact know and they can resend your welcome email with all of this information included.

If you have a “Simplified” cloud hosted Extension, you can take this home and work from home as long as you have a wired Ethernet internet Connection and Power available for the handset.

VPN

Regular remote workers will usually use a VPN to create a Virtual Private Network over a Public Network.

This option isn’t available for everybody but is the secure way of connecting to your company’s network to access network resources that are not ion the cloud.

This option requires a bit of setup and depends on compatible equipment and resources being available.

If you’re not sure if this option is available to you, please just ask.

Could you be missing out?

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As we approach our fifth anniversary in business, we’ve been thanking our customers for their custom as we reflect on the massive positive transformation in our organisation over this time!

Could you be missing out on tech-related productivity benefits? Do your employees work away from desks productively? Are you able to avoid big time-wasting tech-related jobs? Do you have impressive technology integration to attract the best new talent to join your team?

Organisational growth

We know that maintaining a happy customer base allows organic organisational growth. Earning the trust of customers provides a direct, measurable increase in order levels as a result.

We want everyone to be aware of how they can benefit from buying products and services from us. Offering a customer-first focus is our number one core value. The best service levels across our existing customer base always come first, so that every new customer can rest assured that we deliver our promises.

We can deliver on price

Please don’t go elsewhere and end up paying much more than you should for something that we know we can deliver better. If we can provide something with our best service standards, then it’s more than likely we can deliver on price.

Just one example of where you might be missing out:

  • We have one of if not THE, most attractive 3CX Telephone System & Unified Communications implementations in the UK.
  • We can typically save you up to 80% of your telephone bill
  • Calls to UK Standard Landline and Mobile numbers are FREE
  • Unlike most providers, we use connectivity from data centres in different geographic areas so that in the event of a problem, failover is automatic
  • All our systems are backed up to a different datacentre every evening and can be restored to any datacentre or a physical machine or virtual server onsite or offsite at any time
  • Advanced Features like call recording and Mobile Clients are all FREE
  • We offer integration with the most popular CRM’s for FREE

Sign up!

We like to keep everyone up to date with occasional emails that show some of the products and services we offer. We promise not to email too often, and we don’t merely fill messages with sales blurb. If you would like to sign up to our email list, then please subscribe at the bottom of our contact form: https://www.cirrusits.co.uk/contact-us/

Thank you