ITCS Blog

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

1/3 of UK leaders say they’d rather pay a hacker than invest in IT security – is UK plc waiting for the ransom notes?

Like most of Britain’s IT Leaders. IT Specialists ITCS are acutely aware of the importance of robust IT security systems and the threat posed by the growth in cyber-attacks and ransomware.  However, it seems that outside the IT department, business leaders are not giving adequate priority to the business risks they face from IT security threats.

IT Security Risks ‘huge’ as April report shows 350% Increase in Cyber Attacks

The Global Threat Intelligence Report (GTIR) published in April, reported that ransomware attacks surged by 350 per cent in 2017, accounting for 29 per cent of all attacks in EMEA and 7 per cent of malware attacks worldwide.  Victims have included public systems, such as the NHS, which impacted every area of the organization, including patient care.

The NHS response has been to allocate £150m on cyber-security to avoid a repeat of the incident – there is nothing like a headline-grabbing incident to raise the urgency of IT security spending.

‘Ordinary’ businesses face the same security risks as Public Bodies

It isn’t only official Government bodies, but absolutely every business that is at risk from the growing menace of cyber attackers – and it seems that UK business leaders, even in some of the UK’s largest employers are not treating IT security with the priority it deserves.

The 2018 Risk Value Report, published today, sees one third of senior global business decision makers admitting they would rather pay a hacker’s ransom demands than invest more of their hard-won budgets in information security.

ITCS Managing Director Brian Stokes said he was ‘shocked but not surprised’ by these results.  Brian said:

“This report is shocking, seeing as the UK’s top leaders don’t even know how much the ransom is likely to be, or even if they will ever get their data back after paying a ransom. This mindset is sending the wrong message, essentially telling international hackers they have a blank cheque ready – and are sitting waiting for the demands to arrive.  If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.”

C-Suite leaders are over-confident about IT Security

It seems that outside the IT department, C-Suite leaders and other key decision makers are over-confident when it comes to assessing vulnerability within their own organisation.

Only 41 per cent of UK respondents were confident that their organisation had not been affected by a data breach already, but only 10 per cent of UK business leaders acknowledged that their organization was at risk of a future security breach.

22% of senior leaders ‘don’t know’ if their organization has suffered a security breach already

Nearly a third of senior leaders (31 per cent) believed they were not at risk and do not expect to suffer a breach – while this perhaps shows overconfidence, most worrying of all is that 22 per cent of senior UK business leaders admitted that they were not sure whether their organization had already suffered a breach or not!

Business leaders ‘idealistic’, not ‘realistic’

Kai Grunwitz, Senior VP EMEA, NTT Security, comments:

“Many decision makers within organisations are simply not close enough to the action and are looking at one of the most serious issues within business today with an idealistic rather than realistic view.

“This is reinforced by that worrying statistic that more than a third globally would rather pay a ransom demand than invest in their cybersecurity, especially given the big hike in ransomware detections and headline-grabbing incidents like WannaCry. While it’s encouraging that many organisations are prepared to take a long-term, proactive stance, there are still signs that many are still prepared to take a short-term, reactive approach to security in order to drive down costs.”

The issues that concern UK business leaders

Only 4 per cent of UK leaders identified information security as the single greatest risk to the business.

Notably, 14 per cent identified Brexit as the single greatest business risk facing UK businesses, but  competitors taking market share (24 per cent) and budget cuts (18 per cent) were the biggest concerns – it seems that most business leaders fail to appreciate the risks posed by poor IT Security and the impact a breach could have on the business.

UK Leaders under-estimating costs of an IT Security breach

The report also shows that UK executives are estimating lower costs than their international colleagues should a breach occur.  While global estimates predict costs to be USD1.52m, UK executives estimate their recovery costs would be on average USD1.33m.

UK Leaders under-estimate time to recover from a breach

UK executives also show far more confidence than their international colleagues when it comes to predicting recovery times.

Globally, respondents anticipate it would take 57 days to recover from a breach, whereas in the UK, decision makers predict it would take just 47 days to recover, one of the lowest estimates for any country.

IT Security is not ‘just an IT issue’

Brian Stokes, Managing Director of ITCS, said:

“This survey proves what we’ve been saying for some time, that over-confidence in IT Security is widespread and in most cases this level of confidence is not justified among UK business leaders.   Attacks have the potential to disrupt an entire business so the threat needs to be discussed at board level – in every business, not just within IT businesses.

“GDPR sent UK plc into a panic, but IT Security spending is just as important to address – and also critically important to GDPR.  If these figures are correct, then we have way too many senior executives who are under-prepared, over-confident it will not happen to them, and happy to run the risk and pay an unquantified price if a breach occurs.   Their employees, customers and shareholders deserve better, I encourage them to act now.”

 

Business leaders who have any questions about IT Security can contact ITCS by telephone on 08456 444 200 or by visiting their website: https://www.itcs.co.uk

Web1/3 of UK leaders say they’d rather pay a hacker than invest in IT security – is UK plc waiting for the ransom notes?

Adwords is giving me clicks – so where are all the customers?

Google Certified Adwords specialist, Lisa Baker, discusses why self-managed Adwords campaigns rarely attract the right traffic and what customers can do to fix it!

It’s important to remember that customers may not actually buy online, but call your phone instead, especially if using a mobile, so your ads MAY be working better than you think.  However that’s another story.  It’s true to say that self-managed Adwords campaigns often waste huge chunks of budget because customers don’t know how to get the best from them.

“Adwords didn’t work for us”

“Adwords didn’t work for us” is maybe the most common thing I hear when it comes to speaking to new SEO clients.  Desperate to get a bigger share of the traffic for their keywords, many of them have invested considerable resources, sometimes thousands of pounds per month, only to see no return on their investment.

These same clients are the ones who give us a try and are surprised when a month later, they are getting more telephone calls to their business, a lower bounce rate, more leads and more conversions from the same Adwords budget – even after they have paid our management fees!

SEO and Adwords management is often seen as a ‘dark art’.  However, ITCS customers won’t find me waving a magic wand and chanting under a full moon to improve their Adwords performance – it’s actually just a matter of common sense.

The good news is that people like me use the same Adwords portal that you do – we just know how to use it better!

Here’s two ways you can make fast improvements:

 

Avoiding Broad Match Traps

The first tool in your kit needs to be match types – if you don’t know what they are, chances are you will waste 50-80% of your budget.

Google has four different match types – knowing how to use which type and when is critical in getting the right traffic.  Getting it wrong is the most common mistake we see.

Most ‘DIY’ managers only use broad matches and assume Google will only match when the customer search includes their term.  This is a costly mistake.

Broad matches, where a phrase is just written normally, allow for similar or related search terms.  This means in practice if you type in ‘Van MOTs’, Google will also match for Car MOTs, Van Sales, ‘My Van failed it’s MOT’, ‘What does an MOT cost’ etc.

This means two things will happen:

  1. Your budget will go fast, because there are lots of these irrelevant searches and
  2. All those clicks will do nothing to gain you business.

Our advice is:

  1. learn all about the different match types so you know what to use, when – and use broad matches with extreme caution, and
  2. Look into negative keywords use them to avoid irrelevant matches.

 

Getting it right: Quality Scores

Google assigns each keyword a quality score, from 1 to 10.  No matter how much you offer to pay, a keyword with a low score won’t get many ad views, and those it gets will be more expensive.

That’s because Google wants to deliver what customers are looking for.  So, if you don’t sell red shoes on the page your ad takes customers to, and you don’t mention red shoes in your Google Ad, chances are your quality score for the term red shoes will be low!

If you go to the keywords tab, within Google Adwords, you can modify the columns to show your Quality Scores.  If you also add the ‘ad relevance’, ‘landing page experience’ and ‘expected click through rate tabs’, you can see why Google has given your keyword that score, which tells you where you can start to make improvements.

Here’s a handy little infographic to show you why getting Quality Scores right could save you money.

Infographic Provided by Wordstream

Why choose an Adwords professional

While these two points will almost certainly reduce your wasted spend, in the right hands, you could see real gains for your business by getting Adwords right.  Just like adding an extension to your home is something usually best done by a qualified builder, you will get better results by using an expert to manage Adwords.

There is far more to managing Adwords than can be gathered in a simple blog post, Google Certified specialists have to undertake exams every year to maintain their status, and in order to get the best results, our advice is always to use a Google Partner like ITCS.

In case you are wondering what your matches look like, ITCS offer a free review, and will be happy to show you where you could make savings.

Ultimately, Adwords is no different to any other power tool.  In the right hands, it’s an investment in your business – getting it wrong should not be an option.

If you’d like your free Adwords review, click here.

WebAdwords is giving me clicks – so where are all the customers?

‘World Password Day’ flooded businesses with password advice – that fell on deaf ears!

With each weekday bringing another new ‘World Day for xxxx’ on social media, businesses can’t help but become a tad cynical – but some advice is still worth following.

May 3rd was officially World Password Day – a rather odd thing to celebrate, but nonetheless social media was flooded with advice for businesses on what to do, most of which probably got overlooked by the very businesses that nonetheless hit like and share!  With new reports finding that one in five UK businesses have been hacked, and that nearly half of all UK attacks target UK manufacturers, password security is something businesses cannot afford to ignore.

ITCS spoke about it to Welsh Business News about the issue – click here to read the full article

Web‘World Password Day’ flooded businesses with password advice – that fell on deaf ears!

BT continuing plans to close existing phone network, with VOIP only calls from 2025

The UK’s main telephone network provider, BT, has this week announced plans to close the UK’s traditional PSTN telephone network in Britain.

As a leading business telecoms provider in South Wales, we thought we’d offer our customers some insight into why this is happening.

The old systems are out of date, having not changed much since the very first line in the 1800s.  The cost of ongoing repairs and upgrades means that the old analog technology will cease to be viable.  From 2025, all customers will be switched to VOIP telephony services, whereby customers will have to switch to a system of calls being made digitally over the internet.

Openreach has already written to communications providers advising them of the change and will be consulting with wholesale providers about the withdrawal of these services in May, although it’s not just ‘a problem for the future’ as existing services are already being phased out in some areas.   For example, BT stopped installing new ISDN lines in London in 2014, and in some areas fibre to the premises is being installed rather than fibre to the cab.

Who will the change affect?

As well as private homes, the move will impact on ALL businesses currently using traditional telephone services or ISDN lines.  Ofcom stats reveal that In 2017 there were well over 2 million companies still using ISDN connections in the UK, so this could impact a significant number of businesses..

Is this bad news for my business?

Provided BT are able to deliver on their promises for improving broadband speeds in rural areas, this is actually very good news for business, as VOIP delivers high quality calls for a fraction of the cost.  The announcement will further increase the mounting pressure on BT to improve broadband lines in more remote locations., but for most businesses, VOIP is already a viable and cost effective option for many of our customers, including those in Wales.

Many ITCS customers are already using VOIP technology, which enables us to offer call-inclusive packages from £15.00 per month for business users.  Callers still use a handset, and dial as normal, so from a user’s point of view there is little difference – but the monthly bills are a lot lower.

Our recommendation for businesses who haven’t made the switch yet is to get in touch.  With the end of the PSTN network now firmly announced, the old system is going anyway, so it makes sense to make savings as soon as possible.

Managing Director of ITCS, Brian Stokes, said:

“BT have not installed any new ISDN lines in central London since 2014, because many businesses have already moved on. Up until today, we’ve been advising our telecoms customers to switch to a VOIP system for cost benefits.  Now it’s not even a choice to make, with BT’s announcement of PSTN ending, it’s simply common sense to move to VOIP as soon as possible and benefit from the savings sooner rather than later.”

To find out more about our telecoms packages, contact ITCS on 08456 444 200.

 

 

 

WebBT continuing plans to close existing phone network, with VOIP only calls from 2025

How thinking within the box helped a major client improve business resilience

The ITCS projects team are regularly asked to ‘think outside the box’ – but a recent disaster recovery project saw us thinking very much within it!

One of our established clients, a huge international automotive specialist, had approached the projects team to commission and build a back-up data centre solution for their site in South Wales, which employs over 500 people.  The client had identified that existing backup switches were not sufficiently remote to the main site, so if a disaster such as a fire or flood occurred, the back-up would be equally vulnerable.

ITCS were initially tasked to identify a good, secure location for an additional data centre within the existing building complex, but having inspected the site over several hours, Projects Director Glyn Pearce was unable to identify a suitable location which would not be equally affected by any disaster that befell the main data centre.

As the project would need an exterior site, Glyn needed to find a solution for a custom structure which would be affordable, reasonably fast to complete and sufficiently strong and secure to act as a disaster recovery suite.  Having seen containers used for all manner of purposes, Glyn came up with the idea of using a shipping container to create a disaster recovery suite, completely customized to meet the company’s exact needs.

Shipping containers are made from weathered steel, so offer good fire resistance and are secure.  Unlike traditional buildings, a container was quick to build and could be located anywhere, so finding the right spot sufficiently distant to the main building would not be a problem on the large site.  The location chosen would then require the ITCS Projects team to lay a 3000m fibre data cable from the main site to the disaster recovery suite, ensuring connectivity in a crisis.

Glyn presented the solution to the client, who loved the idea and instructed ITCS to go ahead with the build.

    

The build itself took 6 weeks at the ITCS site in Bridgend.  The team took an initial empty container, and the other departments at ITCS watched with interest as the projects team converted it into a complete office suite with both the hardware and comfort required to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster.  The next step would be installation of the disaster recovery suite at the clients site.

Logistics and transport were the next challenge.  Thankfully, ITCS have a good working relationship with local heavy transport experts Smiths Heavy Haulage.  We were able to work with them closely to manage the logistics of transporting a heavy container to site and we were well equipped to handle the installation.  We employed contractors and managed the entire on-site project including health and safety during both installation and the laying of the 3000m fibre cable.

The result is a completely custom, robust disaster recovery solution that has seriously increased our client’s business resilience.

The client was over the moon with the final result, which was implemented on time and on budget.

Glyn

Projects Director Glyn said:

“What seemed an initial challenge was easily overcome.  I always joke that working in the projects team means being able to think outside the box – I’ve now had to agree it means thinking WITHIN a box sometimes!

“This is a perfect illustration of how good planning, creative thinking and good relationships with logistics and contracting teams can deliver a complex project and make it look effortless to the untrained eye.  We’ve already had enquiries for similar projects for other large companies in the South Wales area, and it feels great to know that no matter what life throws at our clients, we are able to help them ensure business continuity.”

 

WebHow thinking within the box helped a major client improve business resilience