The shortage of computer chips was an initial effect of lockdowns and factory shutdowns because of COVID-19 last year, and production is now back to normal.  However, the way in which we use IT and the fundamental way we all now work has changed and looks likely to stay in some form in our future.  The increase in demand for laptops and devices to help us work from home has therefore increased the number of chips required to produce these products and currently demand is higher than the supply.

What we are seeing here at MJD is common IT networking components are going out of stock and the incoming stock’s lead time is much longer than what we would usually have seen.  To the point where the lead times can be a couple of months.

What does this mean for you?  The more advance warning of IT requirements that you can give us the better chance we have of successfully achieving the desired outcome ready for when you need it.  Because our usual options may be low stock or a long lead time it will mean we need to review and work with the stock available to ensure that we can still provide you with a fit for purpose and effective IT solution.  It also means that IT components which need chips will increase in price, so again this means it is important to involve us from the beginning of your plans so we can give you current prices to allow you to determine the total cost of the project for budgeting requirements.

You may be thinking, as restrictions ease and we all get setup with the IT hardware we require to work in our “new normal” patterns that this will ease and become okay.  However, the chip industry is advising that this problem could take them a few years to resolve completely due to the time taken to expand through building new factories and getting these tested and qualified for production to begin.  This is why we wanted to warn our clients and to help you understand that any major IT projects you wish to carry out, consider getting in touch with us as early as possible so that we can plan with you and advise any components lead times at that point so we can make your IT work for YOU.

Accidentally spilled your water or morning coffee all over your laptop?  Or your chosen evening tipple while catching up after the kids are off to bed?  We have seen an increase in liquid damage to laptops since the move to working from home for the COVID-19 pandemic.  But we understand accidents happen and if we had the answer to prevent accidents, we would be sitting on a beach somewhere sunny!  However, how you react to a liquid spill on your laptop is controllable and can greatly help the success rate of bringing the device back from the brink.

First things first is so long as it is safe to do so, as please remember electricity and water do not mix, unplug the device and turn the laptop off as soon as is safely possible.  Next, if you can remove the battery from your laptop and any other peripherals you have connected to the laptop.

Now it is time to think about limiting the reach of the liquid and drying the laptop out.  So, if you spilled the liquid onto the keyboard, turn the laptop so the liquid can drain back out the keyboard and if possible leave it somewhere warm, so near a radiator or in a warm area of your house.

At this point, we would encourage our clients to contact us as soon as they have done the above steps so that we can plan the next steps based on the type of device which has had liquid damage to assess and hopefully repair the damage. Usually, it is a case of leaving the equipment to dry for a few days and then taking it into the workshop to assess the damage done.  But we will assess things like the make and model of the laptop, as to whether it is one which can be taken apart further in our workshop and left to dry there, or if it is a worse case of damage and we need to get the hard drive out ASAP to save your data.  However, we would always recommend that you carry out regular back ups of your data to ensure that should a liquid damage accident happen, and your laptop can’t be brought back that you can still be setup on an alternative or new device.  We have a blog here on why back ups are important and how to chose a suitable backup solution.

The type of liquid makes a big difference, for instance clean water is less likely to cause long term corrosion compared with sugary drinks.  Any corrosion internally can shorten the life of the laptop, even if we are able to bring it back from the liquid damage.

Please don’t ever hesitate to get in touch with us for advice on liquid damage to your laptop, the team at MJD are here to help and get you back and working as soon as possible.

We’ve all been there, your device can connect to the wifi, but has no Internet connection?  It can be incredibly frustrating, so lets go why this may happen to you.  Your Internet connection is provided by your Internet Service Provider whether this is by phone line, fibre, 4G or satellite connection.  Your wireless signal is provided by either your router or an access point.  Therefore, if your internet connection is down and cannot provide your wireless network with connection to the internet, you will still be able to connect to your wireless network.  This is because your router or access points will still be able to generate a wireless signal to connect to your network within your office/home but just won’t have an internet connection to transmit through the wireless network.  Let’s give you some basic troubleshooting steps to help you determine when ask for IT assistance to resolve the issue.

First point of call should always be to check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that there isn’t an outage in your area.  Most ISPs have a page on their website dedicated to current outages or even a search by post code or area code.  By checking this first, you know whether it is worth spending additional time troubleshooting your issue within your own network.

Next if we have determined that there are no outages with your ISP, it’s time to start narrowing your search for the issue down by checking if any other devices or users are able to get an internet connection on your wifi.  By checking this, you can determine if you need to investigate the singular device you are currently working on or if it is experienced by multiple users and different devices then there maybe an issue with the router or any devices providing your wireless signal such as access points.

At this point, if you have narrowed down the problem to all devices have no internet then the first thing to do is reboot the router (leave it switched off for at least 5 minutes), however, if you narrowed it down to a singular device or to being part of your wireless network, there could be a variety of issues happening to these devices to cause them to either be unable to connect to the Internet signal or to be unable to send out your wireless Internet connection.  It is time to get in touch with your Managed Service Provider or IT department to carry out technical troubleshooting on the device/system in question.  The team here at MJD would be more than happy to help troubleshoot any issues and get you connected to the Internet again, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch and lets make IT work for YOU.

Following on from a blog post last month on what is the cloud, we are taking a look at Microsoft’s 365 cloud services and provide you with some useful information to help you make the decision on whether 365 is right for your business.  Microsoft 365 can help you to become more productive in the new work from home environment we find ourselves in and take us through to the future hybrid working offices with more people continuing to work from home for a percentage of their working week.

Microsoft 365 is a cloud based productivity solution software which is subscription based.  This means you pay a monthly fee per user and you get the latest version of the Microsoft Office software. There are different levels of license which you can choose to purchase depending on what you require.  Microsoft 365 allows you remain connected and stay productive while working remotely, by allowing collaboration on work projects with colleagues and allowing you to store your company data which all employees can access without the need for a server or remote access to PCs in your office.  The subscription service also keeps your business agile and if you need to increase in size, you are not limited by your current IT hardware and infrastructure and require large capital costs for new servers and software, simply add a Microsoft 365 license and install it on the new device for the new employee!

There are 4 main packages to consider: Business Basic, Standard, Premium and Apps for Business.

  1. Business Basic – this gives you business email, access to Microsoft Teams, web based Office apps and cloud storage. This is perfect if you just need the ability to communicate with colleagues and clients.
  2. Business Standard – this also includes access to the desktop versions of the Office apps on top of the Basic offering but does not include the device management and advanced security options.
  3. Business Premium – this includes all of Basic and Standard, but with the added Advanced Security and Device Management and this makes it perfect for SME use and the product we recommend if you require more than the basic email address.
  4. Apps for Business – if you simply require the desktop versions of the Office suite, apps for business is designed for just that. Always have access to the latest version of the Office suite.

Another question we are often asked is how reliable is Microsoft 365.  To help our clients understand we explain that if your on premise server were to go down, you’d be without your data until we could resolve the issue or recover your data from your backup to get you running again.  However, with Microsoft 365 as they have a large cloud network of servers around the world, if there is an outage on one server it will move to another server in that data centre.   Then if the data centre fails, it would fail over to a secondary location.  So it would be rare that you would not be able to access your data due to an outage on the cloud server side.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to adjust your thoughts onto paying a monthly cost per user when previously you would have a capital outlay in one payment.  What is important to remember and to consider is that you are shifting from working with what will become outdated technology at the end of its life before you invest in new equipment to always having access to the latest software and technology.  So, rather than the unknown of what a future upgrade project might cost, you can now budget and plan for the known cost of your 365 subscription each month for the latest software and cloud technology that works to make your business more efficient.

The migration to Microsoft 365 from your server based operations can be a daunting thought.  However, the switch is a sensible choice if you are looking to increase your flexibility and allows you to move away from the need to make capital investments in servers to store your own data or run Exchange.  Microsoft 365 offers you flexibility to change your IT requirements to fit with your growing business month by month if required.  Your Managed Service Provider (MSP) will be able to talk your through and plan your migration to 365 to ensure that you experience minimal downtime and migration work is scheduled for out of hours.  Downtime cannot totally be avoided, however with the right planning and teamwork with your MSP minimal disruption can be achieved usually less than an hour downtime in total.  This is what we strive for at MJD in our 365 migrations, each stage is planned with you to best suit your current business activities to ensure the impact on your business operations is minimal.

This blog post will help you to begin to consider and decide if 365 is right for your business, but the Team here at MJD are always happy to discuss your options and make sure you are choosing the right solution to make IT work for YOU!

With World Backup Day approaching on the 31st of March we wanted to highlight the importance of a backup and encourage everyone to run a backup on the 31st of March, especially if you have never done a backup before!

We have previously covered the topic of why a backup is important and tips on how to chose a suitable backup service for your circumstances which you can read here:

Why is a backup important?

Today lets highlight the top 3 reasons why you need to implement a backup system.  Software as a Service (SaaS) apps do not back up your data, examples of these are Microsoft 365 and Google Mail.  Now these services will assure you that THEY won’t lose your data, but what if YOU lost the data?  In a recent report by Aberdeen Group (Read the report here) the top cause of data loss is human error.  Consider your most important document to your business, how well could you cope if you lost it forever or at best had to wait 6 hours or more to retrieve it, could you survive?

Cyber attacks are not slowing down. In the first half of 2020, ransomware attacks increased by 715% exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, there are at least 3.4 billion fake emails being sent every day around the world (Read the report here) all attempting to gather more information to determine email accounts to target their attacks on.  Coupled with the fact Microsoft reported 480,000 accounts were compromised by “spraying” attacks.  This is where the attackers run a common password such as “Winter2020!” against numerous accounts until they have success.  If that number sounds big, compare it to the fact Microsoft stop 300 million fraudulent sign in attempts per day!  Same as thinking about that business critical document, what would happen is you couldn’t access your email account for a day or more?  We have a great blog article with advice on setting strong passwords here to help protect yourself from spraying attacks.

The evidence in the Small Business Reputation and the Cyber Risk report (Read the report here) shows that cyber security attacks are damaging SMEs, its not just the large multi national corporations that are targeted.  89% of SMEs reported that cyber breach ramifications are “huge and long-lasting”.  30% of SMEs surveyed reported lost of clients and 29% a reduction in their ability to win new business.  So combined with losing current clients, you could also struggle to replace that business if you don’t protect your data.  These costs far outweigh any capital and monthly costs of implementing a backup solution.

On a positive note, 4 in 5 small businesses with a comprehensive Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) recover from ransomware attacks within 24 hours.  The average cost of downtime as a result of an attack for 2020 was $274,200 which has almost doubled since 2019.

If you have a comprehensive backup solution in place, such as a Datto system which is MJD’s chosen backup partner of choice, you can reduce that downtime cost considerably and not have to even consider paying the ransom to then also pay a MSP to decrypt the data as well.  Not to mention the unproductive time of employees unable to perform your core business activities without access to your data.

If you are interested in implementing a Datto Backup System, or would like some advice on a backup solution please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

Today’s blog topic may be something you have never even considered or realised exists.  So lets explore why it’s required and the benefits for your business.  It is important to remember that we now use our mobiles like laptops and computers to access and browse the internet and this means they are vulnerable and exposed to the same threats as our laptops and computers.  Like with your PC or laptop you should always keep your mobile software up to date and try not to delay installing a new update.

There are two main type of mobile OS: Android and Apple iOS.  The Apple iOS is more locked down in comparison to Android and all apps are subject to security checks prior to being released through the app store.  Now this does not mean that Android is without its own security features from Google, however, with Android devices it is recommended that an additional anti-virus software package is installed on your Android mobile device.

The mobile anti-virus software will scan your device regularly and alert you to any potential security threats and help remove these threats.  One of the key features which are important to make sure your mobile anti-virus software has is remote wipe.  This means that if a mobile device has been lost or stolen you can wipe all data on the phone and the memory card.  This way, even if the device is lost/stolen the data on the device can’t also be used to the criminals advantage.  This means you are protecting your data and the data of your clients and complying with GDPR.

Mobile anti-virus software allows you to continue your business security protection beyond the walls of your office and when unfortunately the device has left the hands of your employees.  But this is not a free ticket to let your  guard down, it is important that you are still vigilant for phishing emails, unknown senders and attachments and dodgey websites with the anti-virus software being the icing on the cake of your security mindset.

If you are interested in implementing a mobile anti-virus package across your devices please just get in touch with the team here at MJD.

A password manager is a fantastic software tool to add to your IT kit to help increase the security of your passwords without the main issue of how to remember and store your details securely.  A password manager is a software tool that allows you to store your passwords securely and easily access them across your devices such as your PC, tablet, laptop and even your mobile.  They also have auto-generation tools to create secure passwords for you.  No more having to think of a random phrase and insert numbers and symbols! A password manager when used across the company can provide warnings if staff are using weak passwords or repeating their passwords thus giving you confidence that your business is not being left vulnerable due to staff weak passwords.

Everyone here at MJD would and probably could not go back to managing their passwords without using a password manager since we implemented them several years ago.  You can even have 2FA setup on your password manager to make it even more secure.  In addition, the autofill features are extremely useful when it recognises a login page on your device and fills the details in for you before you can even think “What email is registered to this account?”  It really is an essential tool to managing and maintaining secure passwords for all your accounts.

Another useful business function of a password manager is when setup within your organisation you can give permission to other users who need to share a login with you securely.  This can also facilitate everyone being able to update the password when it needs to be reset without the need to send the information in an unsecure format such as an email or post it notes.

Here at MJD we recommend the password manager Keeper, which also has a feature called Breachwatch which will scan your records and advise which passwords are at high risk and should be changed to be made more secure.  This can be extremely useful when you initially move to using a password manager to help you work through and change existing passwords to ones generated within your password manager.

If you are interested in getting a password manager please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

We all work with the cloud every day, but do we all understand what it means and where the cloud is?  Today we are going to demystify the term “The Cloud”!

The Cloud is a network of servers which are located across the globe which store the data and software which we operate in cloud services.  It facilitates the internet to allow you to access data and software from any internet connected device at any geographic location that you have an internet connection.  The Cloud will find your data or services through its network of servers and deliver it when you need it.  A few examples of cloud services are Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud and Netflix.

Using cloud computing allows us to lower the specification needs of our devices as they do not run the software and services directly.  It also means its very easy to increase your storage limits with cloud based, without having to upgrade your devices HDD and then requiring to carry out reinstalls and data transfers.

However, there are disadvantages to the cloud, being that without an internet connection you have no access to your data or services/software.  So, when considering a cloud-based solution, you need to evaluate the quality of your internet connection and whether you need to upgrade this to cope with a cloud system.  The other consideration is that there can be a risk to store your data online but no worse than the risk locally if your security is not up to standard, with sufficient security and procedures in place the cloud is as secure as locally stored, depending on your provider of services some can be more secure.  While all cloud services have security measures in place, it is always worth considering what data you want to store online and what data you keep on your own device.

You may be wondering why the term “The Cloud”?  It is likely that it developed from the use of a cloud-like shape to denote a network on telephony diagrams.  This was used when the specifics of how endpoints, your computers and/or devices within your network, were connected was not relevant to the diagram.

If you are interested in discussing the merits of cloud-based services within your organisation and IT network please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

As we continue to work from home due to COVID-19 and a shift in our working practises and business models brought on by the pandemic, we need to consider that we are moving our business activities into potential hostile environments outside the safe confines of our office security systems.

Out of a need to move quickly we have all been learning how to connect remotely from our personal devices and how to continue business within our new work environment.  But, what may have be left out of your considerations is how secure is this new work environment.  Also, how many new work environments does my business now have which I currently have little or no control over?  Each employee working from home will have their own unique setup within their household for their own personal IT.  What we need to consider is this:  was this setup with business in mind?

The answer will likely be no as before now, unless they worked from home as part of their contract, the most they might have done remotely is to check emails on their home network via webmail or on their phone.  What their home setup will predominately be catering for is their personal use: entertainment, children, life admin!  The security setup will depend on their personal interest in IT and their appetite for risk.  If they are a security conscious individual concerned with internet safety they may have anti-virus software on personal laptops and have changed the default password on their router (if they know how to do this).  However, they could also have no software and have left the default password on their router as supplied from the manufacturer resulting in every hacker in the world knowing the password for their router in fact a 10 second internet search will likely provide the password to anyone that wants it.

This is where our term “hostile environment” comes into play.  When you ask employees to work from home, whether using company issued devices or not, you are introducing a new network into your business network parameters.  This means to ensure your network security is comprehensive you need to consider each employee who works from home as a satellite office and part of your overall IT network.  Ask the questions would you allow your employee to take commercially sensitive files out of the office and leave them in an unlocked home overnight?  This is effectively what you maybe doing with your electronic files.

Now we’re not trying to panic anyone and we’re not saying that you need to stop people working from home, quite the opposite!  Working from home has been vital for many businesses during COVID-19 and will probably continue with many workers afterwards. Here at MJD we’ve been working hard with our clients to set everyone up with safe and secure work from home solutions to allow them to protect their workforce and their business as best they can from the effects of the pandemic.  What we want is to increase the awareness of the security risks posed from the work from home movement and highlight that there are some key tools to implement to increase your opportunities and decrease your threats because of working from home.

In fact have you considered the fact that your employee could be in the kitchen making a cup of tea while other members of the family may have access to the computer and ultimately your valuable business information and whilst not being malicious children can be very inquisitive and can cause a lot of damage deleting things in the 5 minutes that the pc is unsupervised?

First and foremost, if your employee is working from home using a personal device it is highly recommended to make sure you have a Bring Your Own Device policy in place and that a stipulation of this is that a company approved anti-virus and anti-malware software is installed.  The National Cyber Security Centre have a fantastic advice document on their website on Bring Your Own Device policies which can be found here.

The team here at MJD can help you to implement such a policy and we can recommend suitable Remote Access software to help you manage this policy for mobile devices, laptops and PCs.

An IT policy should also be implemented alongside your BYOD policy, which we recently wrote a blog article on and can be read here.  This will help to protect the business should any IT hardware or services provide by the business to your employees be used outwith the manner agreed to and intended for while in the work from home and office environments.

A password manager should also be utilised to ensure the secure management of company passwords and allow employees to share credentials in a safe and secure method.  You can even share read only view permissions between members of your organisation so they can login but not view or edit the password themselves.

We would also recommend the use of Email Encryption for members of your organisation who require to send confidential or sensitive information.  This allows you to add a further layer or security on your business communications in these new hostile environments.  We recently wrote a blog article on email encryption which you can read here.

This is by no means an exhaustive guide on to how to fully protect your IT network and business in the work from home environment, but is a good starting point to encourage discussion and planning on the area.  If you have any questions about your remote setups or would like advice or guidance on improving your work from home security please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

The management of your IT ecosystem is not just the maintenance of the physical hardware and your networks, there are also important policies which need to be in place to compliment the good management of the IT hardware and networks.  This week we wanted to cover the importance of an IT policy.

The main purpose of an IT policy is to ensure your corporate information is kept safe through detailing the methods that will be employed to prevent unauthorised access, loss or corruption of the data in both electronic and physical forms. An IT policy will provide all your employees with a secure and acceptable framework for them to take their cues from on how to work with the IT in your network.  An IT policy can also help you to demonstrate to auditors that you have taken your IT security further than just your physical hardware and software implemented.

Now, IT policies can be viewed as micromanagement as they do detail how information should be communicated, how its stored and how it can be used within the IT network.  But it is important that you communicate your IT policy to your employees as a tool to improve communication and transparency.  You are making sure there are no grey areas on how something should be done within your IT network.  It also provides them with a decision making tool which will help to reduce time taken on problem solving if it clearly sets out what they should and should not do within the IT network.

It also means each employee has the same set of controls, so it is a consistent message and helps to communicate a fair and trustworthy environment.  Everyone knows what is acceptable and therefore what they should do.  This does mean that you are also protecting yourself in the instance of malicious actions carried out by employees.  If you clearly detail what is allowed and what isn’t, you can handle the situation with certainty that they acted outwith your companies policies and that they were made aware and agreed to these policies when they were employed or the policies implemented.

All of these add up to create a strong argument for why it is not a question of if you need an IT policy, but of when you will implement an IT policy.  The team here at MJD would always recommend you implement it now and we are here to help make IT work for you!