Tag Archives: #remoteworking

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.

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.