Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice for Businesses

As the number of reported cases of the virus increases, organisations are worrying about their work force and business continuity. This article is advice and practical steps you can take in your business on how you can best work and use IT for members of staff who need to self-isolate.

What is Coronavirus

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

The advice given by the NHS is stay at home for 7 days if you have either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

How will this affect your Business?

If your business has employees who shows signs of the symptoms, the advice given at the time of writing this article is to self-isolate for 7-days. This means to stay at home and isolate yourself from contact with people, this could mean businesses loose key personnel from work. So how can you use technology to provide business continuity with your office staff?

What You Can Do?

  • Consider reducing the amount of contact with your customers, use email more efficiently
  • Consider using VoIP services to communicate to customers, by doing so, customers can still contact the company and calls will be diverted to key sales and technical advisors even though they are working from home.
  • Review your Work from Home Policy and make sure you are covered under GDPR and the DPA 2018
  • Consider implementing remote working by using cloud services like Azure and Office 365, staff can work from home and access files and documents and collaborate with others.
  • Use communication tools like Skype and Microsoft Teams to have branch meetings, training sessions, discussions.
  • Setup VPN access so that your staff can access on-premise servers and resources
  • Use social media more effectively for advertising and updating customers on your own COVID-19 procedures.
  • Use social media to speak to your customers by using Live Streaming services on Facebook and YouTube.
  • Smartphones can be used to connect with the back office and customers with tools like SharePoint, Teams and Skype.

Conclusion

Companies should consider what technology can be employed to support those who must work from home during the crises and self-isolation. Using readily available IT resources like Office 365, Skype and social media can all be used to guarantee continuity in your business.

Further Information

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Admin Roles on Social Media

There has been a recent post about an alleged local sex offender and want to point out that although this is an appalling crime, one that I hope the police are fully investigating, it is actually a criminal offence (amongst other acts, under the Communications Act of 2003) to post information about these crimes regardless of whether they are true or false.

I am actually not going to discuss this ongoing investigation or the laws. Instead, the purpose of my post is to educate people of the role of an admin on these social media pages and the importance of managing them correctly and professionally and within the confines of rules set down by the platform providers.

Using Facebook as an example, they have a whole section on community standards and how users should post respectfully and take into consideration all those using the same platform. For example, Facebook have a section 13 titled “Hate Speech” that defines what is the rationale behind this policy and therefore admins must adhere to it explicitly. If an admin does not apply the Facebook rules and policies set down, in managing a page to these standards the page could be taken down and an admin could actually be held accountable (albeit partially) for the content and not complying.

I appreciate this makes an admin job very difficult where they have to weigh up the difference between what is socially acceptable and what can be seen as personal feelings or opinions. However, the admins role is a matter of fact and must be taken very seriously indeed. it also means that admins are put under extreme pressure by these social media platforms to manage and make sure that the page and posts are all fair and run within the rules with no exceptions.

The last point I want to make is about how admins are treated managing these pages. I get calls and emails from people all over asking for my advice in regard to this matter and my advice is clear. Using the same rules laid down by these social media platforms that the admins have rights too, they shouldn’t be abused, there should be no hate crimes against them for managing these pages within the guidelines set out by the provider and those people who make crimes against admins face prosecution under Hate Crimes. The Crown Prosecution Service defines a hate crime as a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards victims disability race religion sex or sexual orientation or transgender identity, furthermore a hate crime can include verbal abuse intimidation threats harassment assault and bullying as well as damage to property.

So, to conclude if you are going to admin a page then you do so within the confines of the rules set up by that platform provider. furthermore, those who choose to publish posts on these pages must also comply with the rules set out with the provider and the laws within the UK.

References

Facebook Community standards: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/objectionable_content

Crown Prosecution Service: https://www.cps.gov.uk/hate-crime

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Windows 7, Windows 2008 Server and Office 2010 End of Support

If your business is still using Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 (Inc. Small Business Server 2008), then now is the time to consider your options on upgrading.

Microsoft is officially dropping extended support for all of these on January 14th 2020. So you need to get a action plan in place in plenty of time so your business is prepared and to reduce downtime in your business workflow.

We would also like to add that Microsoft Office 2010 is also End of Life come October 13th 2020, this not only has the same outcome as the Operating Systems but also new features are now available in Office 365 upgrades.

Does this mean my Windows computers & servers will stop working?

Solutions

When Windows Operating System reaches end of support, your computers and servers will still work. However, Microsoft will no longer provide security patches and updates. Whilst you could continue to use your unsupported computers and servers, this puts your business at a greater risk of viruses, vulnerabilities and compliance.

The answer is simple, upgrade to Windows 10 Pro and Windows Server 2019. There are many paths to this solution, one of which includes being under our Enterprise Managed Services and let us roll-out your upgrade. Move some of your infrastructure to the “Cloud” with Azure & SharePoint. We can move your legacy Exchange 2008 Server into the cloud and provide you a Managed Hosted Exchange platform including a migration plan so you will have little to no downtime, rather than investing in a new server.

Microsoft Office 365 subscription offers the latest version of the office suite and is updated on a regular basis. You still can purchase the office suite as a one-time purchase per licence however this limits you to that version.

Compare Office 365 subscription with Office 2019

Office 365 SubscriptionOffice 2019 One-Off Licence
Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint,
OneNote plus Publisher, Access
and other essential business tools
Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint,
OneNote
Free UpgradesNo Upgrades
Multiple Devices per UserOne Licence
1TB Cloud Storage per userN/A
SharePoint ServicesN/A
Managable Security ComplianceN/A

If you prefer, we can also provide new computing solutions and on-premise servers running the latest Windows OS from Fujitsu, that are energy efficient lowering the cost to run them and are cost effective. Or a combination of both, it really depends on your needs.

To learn more or arrange a evaluation of your IT, please contact Rob Lucas on 01553 776937 or email info@rlscomputers.co.uk.

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Data Retention Policies

What is a Backup Retention Policy?

A Backup Retention Policy governs the time that you keep backed up data, with it you would also consider the archive rules, format, method of storage, access policy and encryption. All of which must be documented for legal and privacy reasons under the DPA (including the new GDPR).

The most common retention policy used by most IT professionals is the Grandfather–Father–Son method for maintaining a period of tiered restore points. This method is a rotation scheme whereby a daily backup (the son), a weekly backup (the father) and a monthly backup (the grandfather) are created to maintain a good backup strategy.

Simply put, each week the backup from the last 7-days (daily backup) is aggregated into 1 backup called the son and is held as the weekly backup. Each 4-weekly is then aggregated from a son to a father and is held as the monthly backup and finally the last 6 months is then aggregated from a father into a grandfather and becomes the last 6-months backup. This process can vary depending on your retention policy, your legal requirements for completing data backups and how often you implement a backup (i.e. hourly vs. daily or monthly vs. 6-monthly).

For legal purposes in building your retention policy you need to consider what the impact would be if you needed to recover lost data and over what period. If for example your backup policy was:

  • Daily backups – 7 days
  • Weekly backups – 4 weeks
  • Monthly backups – 6 Months

This would mean that for an initial loss of data that was immediately recognised by a user you would resort back to the previous day, if however, the mistake wasn’t immediately acknowledged, and it was a couple of weeks later you would resort to looking through weekly logs for the missing file and if the issue didn’t manifest a good few months later you would have to restore to searching in the last 6-months log for the file. However, you now need to consider if this is both acceptable for your business and for the data subject. It could be that the impact on business might have a financial cost or it could be that a data subject has put in a SAR (Subject Access Request) which must be complied with within 30-days (under GDPR) and you don’t have the information at hand. Therefore, a policy needs to be clearly drafted considering all scenarios considering the worst-case scenario’s

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