ITCS Blog

VoIP FAQs: What is a Soft phone?

A soft phone isn’t actually a phone at all.

A softphone is actually a piece of software – similar to Skype, or Slack, that enables you to make phonecalls from other devices, such as your smartphone, tablet or PC.

If you have a softphone, a headset, microphone, and VoIP provider, you can place video calls and Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, calls.

What’s Great about a Soft phone:

As remote working becomes increasingly popular, the versatility and portability of the softphone is proving extremely appealing for many clients.

With a softphone, you can do many of the things that you can do on your desk phone, whilst unifying communications throughout the business so no call goes unanswered. With a Softphone, you can:

  • Place, receive, and transfer calls
  • Manage your contacts
  • Set call waiting and do not disturb settings
  • Update rules for how calls forward
  • Reroute calls
  • Call with a single click
  • And more

Why You need a Soft phone:

Although no one is exactly throwing their desk-phones away yet, the flexibility of VoIP has allowed business owners to easily use a mix of both handset and soft phones to allow for business versatility.

There are a range of benefits of using soft phones in your business. In addition to significant cost reduction, Soft phones:

  • Are easy to obtain and use
  • Can save money in comparison to desk phones
  • Lower monthly service charges and international call costs
  • Advanced calling features — even video conferencing
  • Adding and removing users easily
  • Provide portability: employees can work from anywhere whilst retaining the same phone number
  • Present a unified and professional company image
  • Integration with CRM systems

Should I get rid of my desk phone?

The reality is that every business is different, and therefore every businesses communication strategy will be different. The choice between the Desk phone or Soft phone solution is a question that many businesses have to grapple with.

Both IP Desk phones and Softphones have got their pros and cons. You’ll need to take your business individual needs into consideration to determine the most appropriate phone solution.

If you need help or advice determining what solution is the most appropriate for your business, get in touch with ITCS Business Telecoms .

WebVoIP FAQs: What is a Soft phone?

Vacancy: Senior IT Support Engineer Wanted

Who We Are:

ITCS (UK) Ltd is a specialist IT and Telecoms company servicing businesses throughout England and Wales. The company is growing at a rapid pace and looking to recruit fresh talent. The company delivers a wide range of IT solutions including Consultancy, Support, Procurement, Web & Software Development and Training. ITCS specialise in flexible IT computer solutions, providing anything from the support of small networks, through to the development and installation of multi-site operations.

We are seeking an innovative Senior IT Support engineer to join our expanding web department in Bridgend.

Do you think you could fit into our Web team? This is what we are looking for:

Responsibilities and Duties:

  • Dealing with support requests from the 1st and 2nd line team
  • Establishing networking environment by designing system configuration, directing system installation, defining, documenting, and enforcing system standards
  • The design and implementation of new solutions and improving resilience of the current environment
  • Maximizing network performance by monitoring performance, troubleshooting network problems and outages, scheduling upgrades and collaborating with network architects on network optimisation
  • Undertaking data network fault investigations in local and wide area environments, using information from multiple sources
  • Securing network system by establishing and enforcing policies, and defining and monitoring access
  • The support and administration of firewall environments in line with IT security policy
  • Updating job knowledge by participating in educational opportunities, reading professional publications, maintaining personal networks and participating in professional organisations
  • Reporting network operational status by gathering, prioritising information and managing projects
  • Upgrading data network equipment to latest stable firmware releases
  • Configuration of routing and switching equipment
  • Configuration of hosted IP voice services
  • Configuration of firewalls
  • Remote support of on-site engineers and end users/customers during installation
  • Remote troubleshooting and fault finding if issues occur upon initial installation
  • Capacity management and audit of IP addressing and hosted devices within data centres
  • Liaising with project management team and service desk engineers on a regular basis
  • Speaking with customers via email and phone for initial requirement capture

The Ideal Candidate:

Candidates must be able to demonstrate an excellent knowledge and understanding of the following areas:

  • Networking Knowledge (DHCP, DNS, TCPIP)
  • Windows Server Administration 2008 through to 2019
  • Microsoft Exchange Administration
  • Wireless Networking
  • VPN Technologies
  • Cloud Solutions
  • Cisco/CCNA (Advantageous)

If you think you’d fit into this role, please contact Matt Mutlow, Operations Director, with a CV and covering letter by following the link below:

WebVacancy: Senior IT Support Engineer Wanted

Signs It’s Time to Review Your IT Service Provider

Having a good relationship with an IT provider is integral to your business success.

As an SME, the quality of service you get from your suppliers affects everything from your internal operations, to the quality of your customer service.

Lost data, recurring downtime, IT security glitches, poor response times – these can all damage your business reputation.

According to CompTIA, a world leading tech association, reasons for leaving IT Providers usually fall into the following categories:

  •     Poor response times 
  •     Feeling neglected
  •     Too high cost
  •     Lack of innovative solutions
  •     Lack of expertise
  •     Difficult to work with

Here are some of the main tell-tale signs that you need to be considering your IT Provider options:

1. Lack-Lustre Pro-activeness:

Related image

Poor response times are one of the most popular reasons that SMEs search for a new IT Provider. Besides responding to requests quickly, your IT partner should be proactively informing you, and preventing problems before they occur. Routine monitoring and maintenance is imperative, and you have a right to expect this of your IT partner.

With digital innovation continuing to drive business growth, and with ever-evolving cyber-security changes, your need for a proactive approach to your business IT support will be increasing. If you don’t feel that your current provider is providing you with proactive IT Support, you should really think about changing providers.

 

2. Cost:

Image result for business cost

Any business owner worth their salt understands that lowest isn’t always the best value for money. With that being said, high costs alone shouldn’t be a reason to change supplier. However, you pay your current provider to keep your network up, running, and problem free.

If you are doubting whether you are getting real value for your money, you can arrange a free site audit with us. One of our engineers will call out and examine your current systems, then provide a report completely free, and with no obligations.

 

3. Recurring Issues:

Image result for phone frustrated business

Let’s face it; IT will never work like a Swiss watch. There are simply too many variables in business that are beyond your IT provider’s control. However, the entire reason you invest in an IT Partner / IT Department is to avoid day to day business disruption. You trust that your provider will keep downtime to a minimum and keep your data safe. If you feel a bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, facing the same issues repeatedly – despite being told that the problem has been fixed – it’s quite clear that your IT provider is not doing everything within their knowledge to discover the cause of the problem and address it properly.

 

4. No Understanding of your Industry:

Image result for one size fits all business

Yes, perhaps it’s a lofty expectation for your IT provider to have a full understanding of every product / service you sell, but your IT provider should certainly have a sound understanding of the function of your business. A good IT Partner will be able to provide its’ services on a general business level, and be able to tailor its’ services to the specific needs and goals of your own operation. They should have a solid knowledge of how the technology and digital processes you use impact productivity and efficiency.

 

5. Can they Protect you from disaster?

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When disaster strikes, downtime can be expensive, and your hard earned reputation can be damaged. Disaster Recovery as a Service is designed to prevent this. Your IT partner should be able to clearly spell out how they fit into your business continuity plan and if they can’t it is a sure sign that it is time to look for a new provider.

 

Here at ITCS, we believe in building open, lasting, trusted relationships with all of our clients. If that’s what you need and you’re ready to change IT provider – or if you identify with any of the concerns in this article, call us for a chat. We’d love to see if we can help.

 

WebSigns It’s Time to Review Your IT Service Provider

Cyber-Crime & SMEs: Who would want to attack my business?

When you look to the media, it is very rare to see small businesses making headlines for being attacked by cybercriminals. However, cyber-attacks in the UK grew by a dizzying 140% in 2018, and show no signs of slowing down in 2019. Moreover, According to the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 58% of cyber-attack victims were small businesses.

These figures don’t seem to make sense at first glance. Firstly, why would attackers put a small business in their crosshairs? Surely the big payoffs would come from going after larger operations? Secondly, the news is filled with headlines about cyber-attacks on large entities like the NHS, British Airways, and TalkTalk – SMEs are very rarely mentioned?

It might be tempting to think that your business has little in the way of value for hackers in comparison to the Talk Talks and Yahoos of the world. The fact of the matter is that your business has systems which hold data. Anything your business can leverage to make a profit, so can hackers. The statistics speak for themselves:

2/3 of companies with 10 – 49 employees suffered some form of cyber-attack in 2018.

The ONS estimate around 4.5 million cyber-crimes were committed in England and Wales during 2018.

Cyber-crime now accounts for more than 50% of all crimes in the UK (National Crime Agency).

According to the UK Gov’s ‘Cyber Survey 2019’, 31% of small businesses & 60% of med-sized businesses experienced a cyber-attack in 2018.

These figures are intimidating: The threats are real. But something stands between them and your organization’s data: you and your security teams, with the insight, perspective, and tools to take action.

Here are a few simple, yet effective tips that will benefit any business owner:

1. Perfect Password Protection:

This seems obvious; password protection is a standard practice these days. However, using a strong password that gets changed regularly is the foundation of good cyber-security. Follow these simple protocols when creating your passwords to ensure they are as strong as possible:

  • 8-16 characters in length
  • combination of upper and lowercase letters
  • include numbers and symbols
  • don’t choose obvious passwords
  • Change regularly

Implementing policies to deal with the sharing of passwords, even with co-workers, is also a good idea.

2. Layered Protection:

Layered protection in terms of technology and tools, means implementing various security controls to protect separate entryways. For example, deploying a firewall, endpoint protections, and secure email gateways – as opposed to relying only on traditional perimeter defenses. This also means limiting access to certain types of information, and adding levels of protection such as additional passwords, encryption, and so on.

Potential security risks can occur at a variety of levels. As a business owner, you need to set up security measures that provide multiple layers of defence against these risks. Layered security aids in keeping even the most sensitive data safe.

3. Monitor Personal Devices:

This sounds a little bit ‘Big Brother’-esque, but this doesn’t mean invading your staff’s personal privacy or disallowing specific software and apps. It just means that as a small business, you may not have the capital to provide devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones for employees to use. In other words, employees may use personal devices to access company data.

If this is the case for your business, you need to create policies that allow your network administrator to install monitoring software, push automatic security updates, and call for regular password changes.

4. Train Employees:

Even with a technical support staff in place, your employees can create some of the greatest risks to cyber-security. However, when properly trained, they can also become some of your greatest assets – and a first line of defence against a data breach. With this in mind, it’s imperative that organisations conduct regular training sessions throughout the year to keep employees aware of potential scams and the ways they can make their organisation vulnerable.

 

 

5. Plan for Attack:

As you’ve seen above, cyber-attacks are now so prevalent, it’s best to prepare for the worst. You need to take a proactive approach to IT security. Ensure you employ a company that will take the time to get to know your business, and design a network security solution to suit your needs and budget.

 

 

6. Hack Yourself:

Before creating procedures and controls around IT security, organisations need to determine their risk. One of the best ways to find vulnerabilities is to hire an appropriate consulting firm or IT specialists to audit your system in search of weaknesses. From there, you can begin to make changes that will better protect your business, your network, and your clients.

 

 

 

Rounding Up:

SMEs have an inherent advantage over larger companies: smaller business tend to be more agile and flexible, so can adjust to changes quickly. The lack of red tape and corporate complexity means they can act and adapt fast. By giving cyber security the same priority as other business goals, SMEs can maintain their advantage and thrive in the new digital world. Cybercrime is on the rise and IT security is vital. ITCS can help you defend your data. Get in touch today for a free IT security audit – forewarned is definitely forearmed.

WebCyber-Crime & SMEs: Who would want to attack my business?

What Smart E-Commerce Solutions are on the Horizon?

Online retail sales have burgeoned in recent years. It now seems as if there is an application for every product and service on the market. All experts agree that these trends show no signs of slowing down and if anything, they are expected to increase. The same holds true when examining the meteoric rise of user-friendly and cutting-edge ecommerce platforms. After all, such systems are absolutely necessary to secure online sales and to proactively address any issues that a customer may have. This is why a great deal of thought has been placed into adopting some of the latest and most innovative smart technologies. So, how has the e-commerce sector evolved and what interesting amenities might be looming just over the horizon?

Smart Systems and Artificial Intelligence

The role of artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to gain ground as computing power increases alongside the demand for more intuitive UX architecture. How might some of these transformations translate to the end user? While no one possesses the proverbial looking glass, some features that are likely to emerge in the coming years include:

  • Smart chatbots to partially replace human interactions.
  • Facial recognition technology to augment existing security protocols.
  • Marketing campaigns based solely off of the buying habits of the client.
  • A more accurate collection and interpretation of big data to hone advertising strategies.

It is therefore clear to see that the role of “smart” systems involves much more than architecture alone. The main goal is to provide the end user with a more targeted and interact experience than in the past. This will breed loyalty over time and encourage future purchases. However, smarter and more flexible are not always better. We need to embrace a careful balance between technological advancement and a user-friendly e-commerce system.

Designed for the Individual as Opposed to the Coding Expert

The first e-commerce providers tended to adopt a “one-size-fits-all” approach. In other words, they were comparatively inflexible in regards to their ability to be moulded around the discrete needs of a specific organisation. They instead offered “blanket” approaches and naturally, some freelance businesses fell through the digital gaps. It did not take long for developers to realise this oversight. This is why we have seen the emergence of more targeted and user-friendly solutions such as those which are currently offered by Shopify.

To put it simply, it is much better to work smart as opposed to hard. As the number of individual entrepreneurs continues to grow, we should expect e-commerce software to adapt to this inexorable momentum. This ultimately signifies more flexible architecture, drag-and-drop functionality, 24-hour customer support solutions, and websites that can be modified on the fly as opposed to requiring the use of a dedicated IT expert. Larger enterprises as well as small businesses should both benefit as a result. While the digital future is not set in stone, it is likely that these trends will continue to emerge (to the benefit of everyone involved).

WebWhat Smart E-Commerce Solutions are on the Horizon?

World Password Day should Be Every Day!

It’s World Password Day: when you look back – even as little as ten years – cyber security has never been as important as it is today. Businesses and Consumers both store some of their most sensitive details live behind online password protection. Financial information, confidential files, official documentation, personal photos, the list goes on. With intimidating statistics coming out about hackers and business all the time (Did you know there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds?), it seems that keeping sensitive online data safe needs to be at the top of everyone’s priorities.

With this in mind, World Password Day seems to present the perfect opportunity to be diligent about ensuring our passwords are secure. A few tips to keep in mind include:

1. Make your passwords 9-10 characters long:

Most websites recommend an 8 character minimum, but we would recommend using a minimum of 9 or 10 characters on all passwords.

2. Check your password vulnerability:

Go to a site such as haveibeenpwned.com – this is a completely free site built by one of Microsoft’s Regional Directors. Type in one of your passwords and see if your chosen code-word have been compromised in a breach and are generally available to hackers. If they are, change them wherever they are used.

3. The No-Name Rule – but expanded:

Do not use common passwords, and do not use basic personal details within your passwords. Info such as your birthday, family members’ names or pets’ names is easily guessable. According to security company SplashData the two most commonly used passwords are “123456”, and “password” – a dream for hackers and fraudsters.

4. Complex is Best:

Strong passwords normally incorporate a mixture of the following:

  • Uppercase characters
  • Lowercase characters
  • Base 10 digits (0 through 9)
  • Nonalphanumeric characters: ~!@#$%^&*_-+=`|\(){}[]:;”‘<>,.?/

5. Lather, Rinse… but DO NOT REPEAT:

Do Not Re-Use Passwords! Password reuse is extremely common. It’s extremely risky, but it’s a regular occurrence, because it’s easier to remember one or two passwords, and people aren’t aware of the potential impact. But, repeating the same password across several sites means if a hacker discovers just one password, all personal info is suddenly at risk. Therefore, it is crucial to diversify your passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all of your accounts at once, should one password be somehow compromised.

Overall, it is absolutely crucial to ensure that your passwords are as secure as possible, every day – not just on World Password Day. CyberCrime is only escalating, and neglecting the defence of your network is simply allowing your data to be hacked. Secure your passwords now, and make sure you keep vigilant to the risks that we all face.

If you have any questions or concerns around computer security, please don’t hesitate to contact the ITCS support desk on 08456 444 200, we are always happy to help.

WebWorld Password Day should Be Every Day!

5 Reasons Businesses are still Afraid of Social Media, and why they shouldn’t be

We speak to many businesses every day, who are still afraid of opening their doors to social media marketing.

These clients won’t always say outright that they are unsure of the platforms, but will instead say things like:

“Our industry doesn’t lend itself to social media”,

or something about being an industrial business, such as:

“We’re B2B, not B2C – we don’t need social media.”

These conversations differ slightly, but generally go the same way. Reason after reason. Excuse after excuse. We’re not on social media because. . . we don’t do social media because we. . . it’s only for young people. . .

We do understand this. When you are a business owner, you’re already juggling a million balls up in the air. Often, the suggestion that you add another ball like social media can elicit a groan.

But, social media isn’t going away. Your customers and potential customers are on social media. And so are your competitors. Social platforms help you connect with your target market, allow you to increase awareness about your brand, as well as boost your leads and sales. With more than three billion people around the world using social media every month, it’s no passing trend. In fact, social media is one of  the fastest growing, and arguably, most innovative ways of marketing your business today. Below are some of the main reasons we hear daily about why a business isn’t implementing a social media strategy, along with ITCS’ reasoning behind why they should be.

1) We’d have no control over what others said about us:

This is probably the most common uncertainty we hear. It’s true: Social media allows everyone to be a journalist. It’s a completely public platform. Provide a bad client experience, and they will quickly take to their Twitter or Facebook feed to express their disappointment.

Our answer to this is always the same:

They are going to say it anyway. 

This may sound harsh; but even before social media came to its prominence, word-of-mouth still spread like wildfire. Whether you have a social presence or not, people will still complain about a bad service experience, and tell as many of their friends as they can. So, with that in mind – social media complaints can be a golden opportunity to control your narrative as a brand. It can allow you to showcase your customer centricity and brand values, and potentially quickly change a bad review into an improved experience. For tips on how to handle social media complaints, see this article by the Social Media Examiner.

Build an active networking base online to ensure that you can communicate quickly and respond to the conversation going on. Present your own perspective on the topic. Be part of the conversation, and don’t ignore it.

2) Social Media marketing can’t be measured:

Our answer to this? Yes it can! 

How do you measure a billboard? Do you know how many people drove by, read it, and bought your product? How do you measure a TV, newspaper or radio ad? Can you calculate how many heard, watched, or read the ad, were swayed by its’ message and bought as a direct result of it? How many people never even saw it because they changed the channels?

It’s true that measuring the results of your social media marketing campaign can be challenging, because there is not a clear path to measure true ROI. However, you can easily measure engagement. Platforms are now becoming more sophisticated – you can now see on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn how many people engage with your content. Social media can tell you how long someone watched a video or visited a website, when they clicked away, and where they went. In contrast, mainstream media can only guess at the numbers of viewers, listeners, and readers. We aren’t saying that these forms of marketing aren’t effective, but they should definitely be integrated with online channels in order to be able to truly measure customers’ engagement with your brand.

Related image3) I don’t want my staff on their phones all day: 

According to recent studies, UK employees spend nearly 3 hours a week on social media – so we understand this concern. However – as we stated earlier, social media isn’t going away. So our answer to this?

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em:

Rather than reprimand your employees for all the time they’re probably already spending on social media, why not harness that time spent online for promoting your business? Encourage them to share pictures, blog articles, an other similar activities. If you are a B2B service business, employee advocacy on platforms like LinkedIn can actually be a very effective lead generation tool.

4) Paid advertising is expensive:

We also understand this one. It’s true – poorly targeted social media adverts with no strategy can be costly. When it comes to advertising on social media, it is best to proceed with caution and with a budget in mind, as spending more money doesn’t necessarily equate to greater success.

However, when done right, paid advertising on social media can be really effective. Each platform is designed to facilitate the goals of your business, such as brand awareness, lead generation, website traffic, and more.

Our recommendation:

We recommend planning out paid advertising. Work out who your target audience is: who do you want to reach and how you want to reach those people? Then, you will be able to  decide how to spend your advertising budget.

5) I have no time and I’m really not ‘techy’:

This is one uncertainty that is both extremely common and totally understandable. There are two elements to our advice here. Busy business owners can find social media a struggle: It can even be frustrating. You may have the the best of intentions, and the desire to be helpful and visible on social media. But real time posting throughout the day, lack of resources and having to split yourself into 10 different roles at once, means that real time social media just isn’t realistic for a busy business owner or Managing Director.

Our time-saving solution:

Schedule your posts.

Social media scheduling, quite simply, saves time. No more having to get to your computer at a certain time each day, no more missed opportunities. Scheduling your social content in advance lets you take care of everything scheduling-related in one go, and then it’s out of sight, out of mind. Then, you only have to keep up with notifications and engagement with posts.

Our tech novice solution:

Ask ITCS for help.

This is for those who simply do not know how to use social media. You’ve read through this article, you agree with all of the points put across, and yet you are still feeling disheartened. You don’t know where to begin, and you don’t have the time to sit down and learn from the beginning. Well – we can help there. We build a bespoke SEO and Digital Marketing Strategy to enable you to continue doing what you do best – running your business. At ITCS, we’ll work alongside your business every step of the way. We will get your website seen by more people, and make sure it appeals to all your potential customers.

Rounding Up:

The power of social media is huge, and it can open the doors of success for your business when used in the right manner. Benefits generated are cost effective and measurable and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be using them.

Web5 Reasons Businesses are still Afraid of Social Media, and why they shouldn’t be

Tips for Cutting IT Costs in Your Company

A part of your business streamlining processes that takes time to develop is your cost-cutting strategy. Over the course of months and years in your industry, you’ll become increasingly aware of the inputs that you’re paying to keep your company afloat. What you may not be so aware of is the fact that the costs of your IT systems – perhaps the most important and biggest source of your business expenditure – can be reduced with smart planning.

This article provides tips to help you cut these hefty costs.

Modern Software Solutions

Software packages are a part of your obligatory expenditure in business. You don’t simply require hardware and computing power – you also need the programs that’ll help you perform whichever process your business is concerned with. With software developers quickly moving to produce the best solutions for businesses large and small, there’s healthy competition to take advantage of in this space.

Whether you take it upon yourself to personally monitor the emerging tech scene, or you rely on IT specialist advisors to do it for you, it’s fundamentally important that you keep your software up-to-date and effective. The best software packages – offering the best balance between investment and outputs – are centralised, allowing you to process a number of different functions through the same program. These are easily onboarded as third-party applications, with data transfer capabilities to ensure that you don’t lose your past work.

Energy Usage

Computing power relies on a constant source of energy and, especially in larger offices maintaining a number of devices between working hours, this can add up substantially. You can enact a number of strategies to keep your energy costs down – the simplest of which being to ensure that no device is left running unnecessarily. Likewise, purchasing efficient hardware with low-energy cooling systems is another way to reduce the energy used by your computers.

Meanwhile, you can also cut costs with the energy supplier themselves. Use this site to find a comparison of utility prices in the UK, with business-specific packages competing for your attention and custom on-screen. This is the simplest way to reduce your expenditure on energy bills, and will help you make cost-efficient use of the tools that your staff use every day.

Upgrade Wisely

Every company must intermittently upgrade their hardware, which is a costly process that you’re unable to avoid as computing systems slowly become either obsolete or incredibly slow. When you are forced to consider a wholesale upgrade to your computing systems, you’re faced with a choice – whether you invest in a long-term solution with plug-in extras you can onboard over time, or a shorter-term investment that gets your company running smoothly on new hardware.

In either case, you’re going to want to talk with IT specialists, and monitor tech sites, in order to find the best deals on your new office equipment. Bear in mind that many providers will provide discounts for multiple computer purchases, so sometimes it pays to buy in bulk to achieve the discounts that’ll cut your IT costs.

These tips will help you cut the IT costs in your company dramatically, while maintaining the same performance levels that helps your staff make the most of the technology available to them in the workplace.

WebTips for Cutting IT Costs in Your Company

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

Norsk Hydro: The ultimate example in handling a data breach

We regularly post about being prepared for a cyber attack in your business, but the sad fact is, that sometimes, they happen. 
So, if you’re hit by a Cyber Attack, what do you do?

The Norsk Hydro Cyber Attack: March 18th 2019

Norsk Hydro, one of the world’s largest global producers of aluminium, suffered production outages after a cyber attack affected operations across Europe and the U.S. Hitting 160 plants worldwide, many branches had no choice but to switch to manual operations, and several of its metal extrusion plants used to make components for car manufacturers and other industries were shut.
Not only this, but the company’s new CEO had only started one day before. Talk about the ultimate test.
It’s clearly a situation that no business wants to find itself in. But the way in which the company reacted, we believe, was extremely impressive and should serve as an example for all business. In fact, many industry professionals have agreed that both operationally and from a PR perspective, the company’s reaction may well become industry standard.
Here are some of the main takeaways that other businesses can take from the attack:

1) Honesty is the best Policy

One of the most commendable aspects of Hydro’s response to its’ data breach was its transparency: Hydro didn’t shy away from admitting it had been a victim of a targeted ransomware attack. The company utilised daily webcasts and social media posts to keep business partners and the media informed about what was going on. With its email systems down, the company used Facebook as a main source for communication. They also used a redirect on their website, sending users to a temporary Azure hosted area:

holding page norsk hydro

The temporary holding page that Norsk Hydro Sent users to after the attack

This allowed them to control the narrative from the outset: The company has been completely transparent about the scale of the incident, constantly reassuring stakeholders and media about their efforts to tackle it.

The result? Well, most tellingly, the company’s share price has remained more or less constant throughout the attack’s aftermath. Despite such major upheaval, insurance company RMS believe that Hydro behaved exceptionally in terms of its communication of the breach:

“One of the critical factors in cyber breach response and recovery is executive action, including public communications, accountability, and responsibility,” RMS said.

2) Forewarned is definitely Forearmed:

It’s well known among businesses that cyber attacks are now a ‘when’ not ‘if’ scenario. Therefore, being prepared for incidents such as this should now be commonplace.

At a news conference, Hydro’s finance director Eivind Kallevik said that the company would not pay the extortionists:

We have good back-up routines. Our main strategy is to reinstall data from the back-up systems.”

Any business would hate to find itself in the position of having to shutdown operations for any longer than absolutely necessary following an attack. Hydro was the ideal example of a business that is prepared: it had secure backups in place, and mechanisms for restoring impacted systems. It was also insured against such attacks.

It would be prudent and good practice for any sized business to build its’ cyber defences and segment networks, to reduce the chances of an attack successfully permeating your organisation. Ensure that you have a secure, working backups of your critical data so you can get back up and running as soon as possible if an incident does occur.

3) Upgrade to the Cloud:

Unlike some other victims of cyber attacks in the past, the fact that Hydro had already migrated its email systems to the cloud meant that even if its computers were down, workers were still able to communicate via smartphones and tablets.

Cloud hosting not only serves as a disaster recovery solution, but allows portability: everyone in your business can access data across multiple offices or different locations on the go.

4) A business is only as good as its’ people:

Hydro released a Youtube video on April 2, explaining the attack. In it, the company states how its employees were prepared to do whatever it took to get the company back up and running: ‘with a tremendous effort of our colleagues…the plant has managed to get production back up to 100% normal, despite operating in manual mode’. Staff spent hours building a manual drawing archive so that orders could be fulfilled. ‘Everyone wants to help,’ the video states, ‘we do not even have to ask people’.

Did you know that globally, human error is the second largest cause of data breaches? At Hydro, staff are experienced and prepared, so they were able to be proactive and run manually for a while.

Watch their video here – it really provides an insight into the dedication of the company’s staff:

Ensure your personnel are clued up and prepared for a security breach, and know exactly what to do in the event of a cyber attack.

Rounding up:

LockerGoga is a particularly nasty form of ransomware as it has the capability for destructive erasure (also known as “wiping”). The attack on Hydro could have caused severe damage to industrial control systems, had the ransomware gained network access. As the Insurance Journal said, “If it had become necessary to do an emergency shutdown of critical plant, this could have led to a very costly recovery operation”.  This actually happened at a German steel mill in December 2014.

It is almost certain that there will still be a battle at the organisation before everything is returned to normal, but you cannot fail to be impressed by what the global company have achieved so far. They should serve as an example to us all in how to prepare, and react to, a cyber security attack.

WebNorsk Hydro: The ultimate example in handling a data breach