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Conquering Kilimanjaro

Conquering Kilimanjaro:

7 Life Lessons Learned by climbing the World’s Highest Free-Standing Mountain

Managing Director of ITCS, Brian Stokes, has returned from scaling the World’s Highest Free-Standing Mountain. Originally from the Afan Valley, and always looking for ways to give back to the community, Brian pushed himself to the extreme, with a core team of 11 people, to raise money for LATCH: Welsh Children’s Cancer Charity. Here are some of his thoughts upon his safe return:

 

I just wanted to say a massive thank you, for all the support and well wishes I received to climb Kilimanjaro. I’m back in one piece, and conquered the mountain. Not all our group made it, and some had to be practically carried to the summit, so it was no easy task.

It was a tough challenge, but a very memorable and rewarding one. Watching the sunrise over Africa from nearly 20,000ft was like nothing else, but I believe setting challenges however big or small, is a good thing to do. Pushing boundaries, and striving towards our goals is important in life. Our work, personal and family life, can all be effected in a good way with a positive mind-set.

Thoughts from the mountain….

 

1. I can do this.

The way we talk to ourselves impacts what we actually achieve. If you tell yourself that you can do something, chances are that you will, even if you don’t accomplish it straightaway.

Kilimanjaro climbing

2. Challenge accepted.

Next time someone throws an unfamiliar or tricky task your way, don’t throw it back at them – embrace it. Even if you mess up along the way, you can be sure that you’ll do better the next time.

3. Work hard for it.

You’re unlikely to reach any goals without the effort to match. Work hard, even a small bit at a time, and you’ll be able to enjoy the rewards.

4. No such thing as perfect.

Don’t let the idea of perfection get in the way of getting things done. Perfection can sometimes be an illusion; what matters most is your effort.

5. Be open to new ways of doing things.

You can never be sure of how something is going to pan out if you’ve never tried it before. Before assuming that something will never work, ask yourself: ‘What do I have to do to make this work?’

 

Kilimanjaro selfie

6. Don’t let setbacks get you down. 

Setbacks don’t mean you’ve failed, just that you need to try a different approach. Take feedback from the experience on board, and make changes accordingly. You can learn just as much from a mistake as you can from success.

7. Positivity is everything.

By staying positive, you not only live a happier life, you become a good person to be around. When things get tough, it is the positive people that we all look to in order to get passed the situation. Be an influencer with a positive attitude, and watch the effect it has on everyone around you.

If we want to learn new things in life, we have to embrace challenges head-on and to treat any setbacks as a learning experience, never a failure. Climbing Kilimanjaro was similar in a lot of ways to running a business, it’s only possible by surrounding yourself with like-minded people and having a positive can do attitude, a growth mind-set and self-belief that you can make it work.

There’s still time to donate to Brian’s very worthy cause: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/brian-stokes-kilimanjaro 

You can see some more images from his amazing trek below:

  • beginning of climb
  • view Kilimanjaro Brian Stokes
  • Kilimanjaro selfie
  • Kilimanjaro tent
  • surveying Kilimanjaro
WebConquering Kilimanjaro

Managing Director Takes on World’s Highest Free-Standing Mountain in aid of LATCH

Standing at 5,895 metres high – Kilimanjaro remains one of the world’s great challenges. Brian Stokes will be taking on the gruelling charity trek this April in aid of LATCH. On April 5th 2019 he will push himself to the extreme, with a core team of 11 people, to raise money for LATCH Welsh Children’s Cancer Charity.

Who Are LATCH?

LATCH  is currently supporting an amazingly brave little girl from Maesteg, Amira Barry. Amira was diagnosed with Leukaemia last year, and is currently receiving support from LATCH. The fantastic help and support provided by LATCH has driven Brian and ITCS to raise money to help the charity continue its excellent work.

The Kilimanjaro trek is set to take 7 days, where on average 44% of people fail, mainly due to altitude sickness. This is no mean feat, and a real challenge.

“The idea is to raise awareness around this vital support for Amira’s family,” says Brian, “LATCH Welsh Children’s Cancer Charity needs to raise, on average, £800,000 a year to cover the costs of supporting families like Amira’s. So, we wanted to test ourselves to the limit, and see what we are capable of, whilst raising money for a really worthy cause.”

The trip has been entirely self-funded by each individual, so donations are well received and go entirely towards the charity, not paying for any part of the expedition. The training has been well underway for many months, along with numerous trips to the doctors for a huge list of jabs. The malaria tablets and altitude pills are all ready to go – now they need as much support and encouragement as possible.

You can donate to Brian’s cause by visiting his JustGiving page – every donation, no matter how large or small, is gratefully received.

WebManaging Director Takes on World’s Highest Free-Standing Mountain in aid of LATCH

ISDN Phaseout 2020: Threat Or Opportunity?

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It is common knowledge amongst telecommunications experts that ISDN is a dying technology, and is planning an ISDN phaseout beginning next year.

BT will begin with a cease in supply in 2020. They intend on moving to a full migration by 2025, permanently switching off ISDN networks. The BT ISDN switch off could affect many businesses – especially if you’re unaware of the phaseout, and are looking to invest in or upgrade your current business telephone system.

ISDN’s days are numbered. Is your business ready?

What is ISDN?

ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) is a telecommunications technology that enables the transmission of digital data over standard phone lines. Known as the original high-speed internet service, it can be used for voice calls as well as data transfers. It sparked high-speed internet development between service providers in the 1990’s and revolutionised internet use.

ISDN is a communications network that relies heavily on physical infrastructure; specifically, copper wiring. It came to prominence because it provided the opportunity to transmit voice and data over the same lines. However, because of its reliance on physical infrastructure to manage calls and additional functionality via a PBX (or multiple), this takes up space within business premises and requires resources to administer and maintain them. Similarly, it is hard to add and remove new lines to an ISDN network because it requires the physical addition and removal.

Why the ISDN phaseout is important for my business:

The BT ISDN phaseout marks the next evolution of telecommunications technology. Despite being continually updated, ISDN phone lines are still cost far too much to maintain and run. Although the BT ISDN end of life of 2025 has not been set in stone, businesses will be unable to buy systems that use ISDN after 2020. If you currently have a traditional ISDN/PSTN based system, now is a great time to look into alternatives – and what many businesses don’t realise is just how beneficial the new systems are.

Hosted Telephony – what is it?

There are two future-ready solutions storming the market right now; the one we will focus on is Hosted Telephony.

Hosted telephony is a complete business phone system, delivered over the internet and provided by a host and/or telephony company.

ISDN phaseout VOIP ITCS

IP Technology:

IP (internet protocol) technology is incredible advantageous for business, and many are beginning to realise the endless benefits. When it comes to facilitating communications, organisations are able to use IP technology build a single infrastructure that supports both their voice and data communications needs.

After the ISDN phaseout, all phone lines will be superseded by IP technology, which is vastly superior to what we have used in the past.

What is VoIP? We’ll tell you: 

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a telecommunications technology that allows users to make calls using the internet, rather than using traditional systems. VoIP works by converting sound into digital voice communication, and then transferring it through Internet broadband. Using a VoIP system has several benefits for many businesses:

1. It’s Cost Effective

Most importantly, the cost of using a VoIP telephone is much cheaper than using a conventional phone. Making long distance phone calls are also cheaper when using a VoIP provider. There’s no need for masses of on-site equipment either; only pay for as many users as you need.

2. Easy setup & maintenance

Besides the cost savings, setting up and maintaining a VoIP system is a much simpler job than with traditional telephone systems.

This is because there is so little on site equipment compared to traditional ISDN networks.

3. Greater Control

Furthermore, take complete control of your phone system with an extensive range of call handling and management features. These are all operated through an easy-to-use web interface. Ideal for home workers or multiple sites.

4. Freedom & Portability

VoIP technology is completely adaptable and flexible. This means you can easily add and remove users as you need. More importantly, physical location doesn’t matter either. Regardless of where you are, if you have Internet access, there should not be any problems in terms of costs and connections. In addition, VoIP systems are accessible via email or while you are travelling. Simply take your headset or IP phone, and you can contact staff or clients with a low cost call.

5. Provide better customer service to your clients

Enhance the service you can provide to your customers at all times. VoIP systems include dynamic call handling, pre-recorded messages and seamless transfers at the touch of a button.

6. Reliable and Secure

We provide full support including: training, number porting, provisioning and assistance. This will give you complete peace of mind.

Summing Up:

As you can see, the great BT ISDN switch off is as much an opportunity as it is a problem. The one thing we know for certain is that BT ISDN end of life is around the corner. Make sure you’re prepared for it. Make the ISDN Phaseout an opportunity for your business to cut costs and thrive.

Ready to find out what the advantages of VoIP for your company are? To discuss your particular requirements, or to discover more about the systems we offer, contact us by filling out our enquiry form or call us on 08456 444 200 for advice today. You can also email info@itcs.co.uk.

                                       

WebISDN Phaseout 2020: Threat Or Opportunity?

7 Time-Saving Outlook Tricks to Get you to Work Smarter

Outlook is renowned for being one of the best email providers for business: the platform helps millions of people manage their email correspondence every day. The snag? It assumes you already know how to organise your office correspondence for optimal productivity. But what if you don’t?

We all know that time is invaluable, especially when it comes to running a business. Improve your Microsoft Outlook productivity and you’ll find yourself working more efficiently. Whether you want to be an Outlook expert or just save time, you’ll appreciate the 7 time-saving Outlook tips in this tutorial.

Web7 Time-Saving Outlook Tricks to Get you to Work Smarter

ITCS Team Stranded in Storm Callum – but still get project completed on time for ATV company

Dalton’s ATVs is one of the largest authorised dealers of new and quality used Honda, Yamaha and Can-Am ATV’s along with Polaris UTV & ATV, in the whole of the UK. John Dalton owns and runs the family business that is Dalton’s ATVs whilst also managing his own family farm. When Camilleri Construction asked for ITCS’s co operation with this project, little did they know that they’d end up battling some of the worst flooding that Wales has seen in 30 years…

WebITCS Team Stranded in Storm Callum – but still get project completed on time for ATV company

4 Key Security Threats that Businesses Need to Prepare for in 2019

From high profile data breaches of companies like Facebook and British Airways, to mounting evidence surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 US election, it is safe to say that 2018 was a landmark year in terms of security vulnerabilities and emboldened cyber-criminals. So, with 2019 set to bring more technology advancements, what can you do to protect yourself, and what should your priorities be as a business?

The Information Security Forum – also known as the ISF – is a trustworthy source that senior security professionals and board members turn to for guidance on information security and risk management. They have identified 4 key security threats that businesses will be faced with this year – as well as tips for risk management. You can read the full report here.

Key threats for 2019 include:

1. Increased Sophistication of Cyber Crime

In 2017, high-profile incidents, such as the WannaCry ransomware attack, made file-encrypting malware internet enemy number one. 2018 actually saw a decrease in the number of Ransomware attacks, as many businesses invested in backup solutions that eased the impact of a ransomware attack – or even investing in high quality Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) systems – which basically eliminate the risk altogether.  However, there are still many high-profile ransomware attacks happening, which is why this threat remains at the top of our list as a threat to business in 2019.

How to Prepare:

John Zorabedian, author of Sophos NakedSecurity Blog – suggests that preventing ransomware attacks can be as simple as getting the basics of cyber security right. Back up your files regularly,  train and retrain employees in your business (we can help with that if you need). Use a password manager and never reuse passwords. Keep up to date with operating system patches and app or software updates. Change the default administrator passwords on things like home routers, modems, and network-attached storage servers.

2.Legislation Falling Behind 

ClickDimensions-GDPRBoth regional and national legislators are struggling to keep pace with the fast-paced developments in Cyber-security. They are set to fall even further behind in 2019, with most current legislation in place being years behind the technological curve. At the same time, as businesses cry out for more regulation, sweeping changes get made with tight deadlines that don’t allow adequate time for organisations to attain compliance. The ISF identifies how national regulations will also provide a hindrance: “legislation by its nature is government and regulator driven, resulting in a move towards national regulation at a time when cross border collaboration is needed. Organisations will struggle to keep abreast of such developments which may also impact business models which many have taken for granted”.

What Can I do?

Unfortunately, this one is mostly down to government and regulation. Without doubt, there remains much to be done and it requires the collaboration between governments, private initiatives, the academic sector, and of course, users.

3. Smart Devices will Challenge Data Integrity

Picture+for+ArticleAs the world enters a new era of technology, businesses are implementing smart devices enthusiastically in an effort to impact their business. This is a huge positive; however, many users won’t realise that these devices are often insecure by design, and therefore offer many opportunities for attackers. These types of attacks are on the rise; in 2018, SophosLabs saw significant growth in the volume of attacks targeting IoT devices. One of the reasons for this is that it’s challenging to detect a device is affected until something goes horribly wrong.

There will also be an increasing lack of transparency – vague terms and conditions will allow organisations to use personal data in ways customers did not intend. This will prove problematic for business, as it’ll become less clear to pinpoint what information is leaving their networks or what is being secretly captured and transmitted by devices such as smartphones or conference phones. To add insult to injury, when breaches occur, organisations will be held liable by regulators and customers for inadequate data protection.

The Fix:

Again, the main advice for preventing these types of attacks is to focus on mastering the basics. Make sure all devices are kept updated, and continually updating passwords. A new device that’s being introduced as a replacement for old devices makes it increasingly easy to forget about every connected device on your network. But old devices may carry old security protocols, forgotten passwords, and a whole host of other threats to your networks.

Each device is a potential weak point that has to be secured. So, if there are old access points that you no longer use, you’ll want to thoroughly disconnect them from the network – even going as far as doing a factory reset on the gadget.

4. Supply Chain Assurance Myths

Supply chains are a vital component of any B2B or B2C organisation. They are integral to the smooth running of a business, with valuable – and often sensitive – business information being shared with trusted suppliers. It’s important to remember that when this information is shared, direct control over your data is lost. This year, many organisations will realise that gaining traditional reassurance of their supply chain security is a lost cause. Businesses that continue to focus on assuring supply chain security with approaches such as self-certified audit and assurance, may preserve the illusion of security in the short term, but will inevitably discover that the security foundations they believed to be in place were lacking. Even the smallest supplier, or the slightest supply chain disruption, can have serious impacts on your business. Brand management and brand reputation are subject to the successful security of your supply chain; both are constantly at stake.

What to do:

Refocus on managing key data and understanding where and how it has been shared across multiple channels and boundaries, irrespective of supply chain provider. The best method is to implement a supply chain information risk assurance process, which is focused on information shared with upstream suppliers. This can be done by using supply chain maps to follow the information. Such an upstream information-sharing assessment tracks what is being shared with the suppliers’ suppliers and beyond. The results draw attention to significant concentrations of information, triggering the implementation of additional controls on your suppliers and can mitigate risks.

In Summary:

The unfortunate reality of today’s complex digital marketplace is that it is impossible to prevent every security compromise beforehand, and that no matter how much you prepare, there are still risks. However, being proactive now also means you, and your business will be better able to react rapidly and intelligently when something does happen.

For more information, guidance, and support on making sure your infrastructure is as secure as possible, get in touch with one of our engineers.

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Web4 Key Security Threats that Businesses Need to Prepare for in 2019

Windows 7 End of Life Support: January 2020

Are you prepared?

Windows 7 has now been with us since 2009. It’s probably one of the most liked of all recent releases of the Microsoft Windows Operating Systems.

In January 2020, Microsoft will end the extended support for the Windows 7 Operating Systemwhich means that they will no longer patch any security vulnerabilities found after that date.

Microsoft has stated that they: “strongly recommend that you move to Windows 10 sometime before January 2020 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available.”

What does that mean for your business?

This basically means that all technical assistance and automatic updates that currently help to protect your PC will no longer be available. We understand that the end of life for a software product can be a significant challenge for businesses.

Don’t believe us? Consider this:

When Microsoft ended support for its popular Windows XP product in 2014, it affected 40% of the world’s computers. That’s 40% of one billion computers worldwide. In a world where cyber-security threats are on the increase, sticking with Windows 7 means you are extremely vulnerable as a business.

computers graphic

What if I don’t upgrade or replace my machines by 2020?

Imagine using a product that a company doesn’t want to take responsibility for anymore. You’ll be using the product at your own risk. This means that Microsoft will not take responsibility for loss of data due to security breaches on Windows 7.

Computer threats are now developed daily. Although there is technically nothing stopping you from continuing to use Windows 7, it’s important to understand that continuing to use it will expose your business and make your data vulnerable. Without regular patches and security updates, you’re basically at the mercy of hackers.

Although 2020 seems a long way off, businesses should now plan their approach to replace or upgrade any machines running Windows 7 before this date.

Still sceptical? Remember the NHS 2017 Cyber Attack?

Wannacry Graphic

Do you remember the NHS Cyber Attack in 2017? It’s also known as the WannaCry attack, and it’s a prime example of what can happen when your systems aren’t in current vendor support. The WannaCry attack in 2017 leveraged vulnerabilities in unpatched and unsupported operating systems and spread the infection throughout the NHS, amongst many others throughout the world. It left the NHS with a whopping £72 million IT bill, and massive costs on patients who received incorrect treatments, had ambulances delayed, and appointments cancelled.

What shall I do?

The passing of this product I’m sure will be mourned by many users; according to NetMarketShare’s September 2018 data, over 40% of desktop users are still using Windows 7. That’s the equivalent of up to 184 million commercial PC’s still using the software.

At ITCS, we have already upgraded many of our customers to the replacement Windows 10 platform, and although the user interface is quite a step change from what customers were used to, it has proved to be a stable and secure platform.  In addition to the usual Microsoft offerings, the professional versions allow the planned encryption of your hard drives to protect the information they contain in the event of loss or theft ‑ a must in today’s post GDPR environment for an increasingly mobile workforce.

If you haven’t upgraded yet, it’s best to seek the help of an IT professional. This is a good way to ensure that everything is upgraded correctly and that all firewalls and antivirus are in place and working optimally. Depending on what type of hardware and software you’re using, you may need to take specific steps to make sure everything is fully compatible.

To meet with a member of our team or discuss your needs, please contact the ITCS support desk on 08456 400200 or email support@itcs.co.uk and we will be happy to help.

WebWindows 7 End of Life Support: January 2020

ITCS Celebrates Latest Awards Win for IT Support Team

The ITCS team have another reason to celebrate as we have been named Best Business IT Support Company 2018 in the 2018 Welsh Enterprise Awards.

It’s greatly appreciated by the support teams who work at our highly-regarded Head Office and 24 hour support centre in Bridgend, and of course our Midlands regional office and nationwide network of engineers.

We now provide IT Support, Business Telecoms, Web Design, PPC and SEO to businesses throughout the UK.

The awards, hosted by SME-News, analyse every aspect of entrants’ performance over the past 12 months, considering factors like commitment to innovation, working practices and how they compare to their industry competitors.  The results will be formally announced in October 2018, but winners have been notified early.

Managing Director, Brian Stokes, said he was delighted to receive the award:

“I’d like to thank the awards organisers for recognizing the outstanding efforts of our IT support team. Every team member is committed to delivering excellent customer service and this award reflects the hard work and effort they put into exceeding customer expectations.  I’m delighted to receive this award on their behalf, and would like to personally thank the customers who took time to support our nomination.”   

WebITCS Celebrates Latest Awards Win for IT Support Team

ITCS welcomes ‘more durable’ Gorilla Glass for next-gen mobile phone handsets

Welsh business mobile provider ITCS are pleased to learn that handset screen manufacturer Corning are introducing an even tougher version of their famous Gorilla® Glass, which Corning claim is the most durable cover glass to date. Having been introduced in September 2007, and leading the industry since, Corning’s Gorilla® Glass screens have provided serious protection … Continue reading

WebITCS welcomes ‘more durable’ Gorilla Glass for next-gen mobile phone handsets

Congratulations to AerFin CEO Bob James on OBE award

We love to shout about good news from our customers, and an OBE is definitely something worth shouting about!

AerFin CEO Bob James was recently awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to exports in the aerospace industry.   ITCS supply the company with business broadband and business telecoms, and our team were delighted to hear about the award.

ITCS Managing Director, Brian Stokes, said:

“I am proud to supply Aerfin and look forward to continuing to work with them.  The company are one of Wales success stories and have pioneered Welsh aerospace innovation around the Globe.

“It only remains for me to add my congratulations to what I’m sure will be a very long list for one of Wales’ most successful businessmen.”

WebCongratulations to AerFin CEO Bob James on OBE award