Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Sharing & Backing Up Across Multiple Devices

The Ability To Back Up Data
Across Multiple Devices
Mobile phones, tablets, netbooks and other such devices are great for allowing you to work remotely and not be tied to the office.

But the potential problem with them is that they are not backed-up, which means that if something goes wrong with your device, you might lose everything on it. So if you lose your phone or spill coffee on your iPad, you could have lost everything on it. Everything. Documents, contacts, photographs – the lot, never to be replaced.

There’s also the problem of not being able to access data or files on your server when you’re out, unless you specifically connect your device to it. So that important document you want to work on might not be accessible.

One of the solutions to this is called SafeSync Safesync from Trend Micro. It works by synchronising everything on your team’s remote devices, seamlessly and automatically in the background. So you can access files on your device and it will automatically be backed-up, giving you both access and security.

The cost is based on the number of users and storage space needed, so there will be a package available that suits your need.

SafeSync isn’t the only method we have of doing this but a big advantage is that you don’t have to guess which device something might be stored on. Have you ever wanted to find a particular tune or photo but can’t remember if it’s on your phone or tablet? With SafeSync it doesn’t matter as you can access it from any device, regardless of which one you thought it was stored on.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Using Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing Offers Off-site Facilities
Cloud Computing
Offers Off-site Facilities
We recently posted an article to our website about cloud computing, which in essence means accessing computing services remotely, rather than via your own servers.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this method of storing your data and applications. A sensible approach is to use the positive aspects of it to your advantage, but be more cautious in those areas where it is as yet unproven or has risks which are yet to be fully addressed and resolved.

The most effective uses for the cloud are often those where off-site facilities would be of positive benefit, such as back-ups and business continuity which you can read about in How to Help your Business Survive Disasters. However, there are a number of other situations where the cloud deserves serious consideration, such as;
  • Where mobility is key. If you have remote workers or are often out of the office, cloud solutions can help you access stored files, data and software applications.
  • For ‘Software as a Service’ applications. For example, smaller accountancy firms often use cloud solutions rather than having to purchase their own Sage packages.
  • New business start-ups. All software and kit needed can be rented for a fixed, regular payment and then expanded as necessary, rather than investing capital in purchases.
Where you have to be careful with the cloud is applications that promise better service than is currently available with existing servers, but at a fraction of the cost. If you’re thinking of using it to save money as opposed to enhancing your operational abilities, think carefully. We’re not saying it won’t, but there are some costs associated with it that you might not have expected, such as service rental costs and upgrading broadband connections.

There are also risks associated with it. Your data would be under someone else’s control rather than yours and everything you did would require a link outside the office, via your broadband connection. If your broadband went down or was running slow, you would have issues accessing files, software and data, rather than it just being limited to your internet and email.

Our advice is generally to use the cloud for certain applications rather than seeing it as a complete solution, unless you are a new business start-up. Some of the potential applications could include providing remote working capabilities and as part of your business continuity and back-up arrangements.

Visit the website for more details on the range of cloud computing services P&L Networks can provide.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Ensuring Successful Server Installations

Ensuring Successful Server Installations
Ensuring Successful
Server Installations
We’ve recently conducted several very efficient server installations and thought we’d share the reasons for success with you.

There are a number of reasons why organisations may want to replace a server. Often it’s because of a need for expansion or performance issues with existing equipment. Another reason is that a part may have failed outside the server’s warranty period, so the opportunity is taken to upgrade or expand.

Regardless of the reason, the secret to success lies in planning.

One of the first things to look at is what the new server actually needs. There are three areas to look at here;
  • What’s on the existing server that needs to move over. This will also identify any compatibility issues between the existing systems and the new server’s capabilities.
  • What’s not on the existing server but is needed – new applications, for example.
  • Potential future requirements so there is a degree of future-proofing built in.
All three of these need to be considered in advance so that the most appropriate server can be purchased, together with the most appropriate software for it, then a plan for the installation can be developed.

Each of the three areas also has specific things that need to be considered. For example, when looking at what needs to move to the new server, housekeeping exercises such as a full clean-up of existing data should be undertaken, including archiving files no longer needed or used only occasionally.

The purchase and configuration of a new server can be also be an excellent opportunity to consider what the organisation needs from an IT perspective. Back-up and disaster recovery routines can be reviewed and tested with any required amendments incorporated, rather than introduced later when the scale of the job may have become larger.

So a successful server installation requires an understanding of all these areas, which will require lots of advance planning involving both the organisation and the IT maintenance company.

This doesn’t necessarily prevent it from happening quickly though.

With only two weeks notice, we recently replaced and upgraded a server system for an organisation with 125 workstations over the course of a weekend including the installation of an Exchange email system and virtualisation for business continuity. But we were only able to do that because of our IT experience, putting the effort into advance planning and the number of experienced engineers we were able to call upon.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Employees in an IT Support Role

IT Support Services for IT Employees
IT Support Services
for IT Employees
We wrote recently about Changes in the IT Maintenance and Computer Support Market. There is another trend we’re starting to see, but this time linked to organisations that have an employee providing in-house support.

Having someone knowledgeable within the organisation that can perform basic IT tasks is a great idea and something we discussed in Reducing your Maintenance Costs. The trouble happens when this role is extended and the employer gets the employee to take on more IT responsibility because they want to reduce the IT support costs.

The employee then has two roles, both of which are on a part-time basis, even though the individual may be employed full-time. Unfortunately the employer thinks they have decent IT support in place but the employee doesn’t really have the expertise and knowledge to do a thorough and professional job.

So as with pay-as-you-go arrangements, the quality of the system may start to deteriorate over time.

In addition, with a single employee doing two jobs, they’re not always in the position to provide the ‘quick fix’ help that an IT helpdesk often can. They can’t be in two places at once, whereas a professional IT support company can.

It all seems to be part of a general trend towards commoditisation.

When IT was new and novel, IT individuals were considered to be experts and were paid accordingly. Now salaries are starting to fall and companies are taking the support in-house or using sole-traders on a pay-as-you-go arrangement. We don’t have a problem with this, but unless you want your IT to continue to support your business, you have to ensure that your arrangements provide the time and attention your IT needs.

If in doubt, speak to a reputable IT support provider or read our guide to Types of Support Available or watch this video.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Changes in the IT Maintenance and Computer Support Market

IT Maintenance Contracts Guarantee Response Times
IT Maintenance Contracts
Guarantee Response Times
Back in 2008, when the current economic downturn was first experienced, we noticed a change in the market for IT maintenance and computer support. Many organisations understandably wanted to cut back on their IT maintenance costs so moved away from a maintenance contract approach, to using pay-as-you-go.

Now, however, we’re starting to detect a switch from some larger organisations back to maintenance contracts. But we don’t think it’s anything to do with economic changes, we think it’s actually because organisations are starting to experience some of the disadvantages of pay-as-you-go.

With a maintenance contract, the IT support company should be providing a proactive support and maintenance service involving regular healthchecks, back-ups, ongoing advice, etc. None of this is provided with pay-as-you-go unless specifically paid for, which it generally isn’t. In addition, Antivirus software may not get updated or data storage may become inefficient because it is not being proactively maintained and considered.

The net effect of this is that the quality of an IT system will deteriorate over time. Then, when the system goes horribly wrong and needs major attention, another disadvantage of pay-as-you-go may become apparent.

Lower cost pay-as-you-go IT providers are often single engineers or sole-traders. This means that the speed of response may not be as required, emergency access or ‘quick-fix’ helpdesk support may be limited, and the level of expertise or resource availability may not meet requirements.

We see the value of both sole-traders and pay-as-you-go. They are ideal for new starters, small organisations or those where the IT need is limited. But it’s interesting that larger organisations who have tried pay-as-you-go are starting to find that it doesn’t meet their needs.

We provide both maintenance contracts and pay-as-you-go. If you’re wondering what level of IT support would be best for you, this video and guide to Types of Support Available might be useful for you.