We like to keep you updated with the latest news from the EdTech sector, including new technology and special offers.

We’ve had a number of enquiries from educational organisations recently about the G-Touch® Opal Range of touch screens, built to empower creativity and communication, so here’s some more information.

G-Touch – Touch the future
Discover the G-Touch® Opal Range, a screen that not only retains the features of its predecessors but also introduces enhanced connectivity with USB Type C, increased memory, expanded data storage, and seamless Bluetooth integration.

Equipped with Android 11 and the latest chipset technology, the Opal Range ensures swift and responsive performance with its user-friendly 3-touch rule, allowing users to access any function within just three touches. This intuitive design ensures a seamless and straightforward interaction with the G-Touch® screens.

The products are backed by a dedicated internal UK support team and include a comprehensive warranty, providing you with peace of mind and assurance in your investment.

G-TOUCH® OPAL FEATURES
With a commitment to user experience, the G-Touch® Opal transcends traditional screen functionalities, helping to foster an immersive environment where collaboration between a multitude of users becomes second nature, turning the workplace or classroom into a hub of creativity and synergy.

Multi-Touch: Experience seamless collaboration with advanced multi-touch technology, enabling multiple users to work simultaneously on the screen.

Dual Pen: The screen intuitively detects whether you’re using a pen or your finger, offering precise control and seamless switching between input methods for a fluid user experience.

OPS Slot: Elevate your experience with the optional built-in PC feature, integrated through an innovative ‘slide and secure’ fitting system. Upgrade with ease and efficiency to meet your evolving needs.

Gesture Control: Effortlessly execute complex commands with simple swipes, mirroring familiar smartphone gestures like pinch to zoom and image rotation, enhancing interaction on our touchscreens.

Blue Light Filter: Say goodbye to digital eye strain with advanced blue light filter technology. Reduce harmful blue light emission from the screen, minimising eye fatigue and ensuring comfort even during extended usage periods.

Glare-Free Clarity: Combined with the brilliance of LED panel, enjoy glare-free viewing experiences with uncompromised visual clarity in any lighting conditions.

CONNECTIVITY VARIOUS INPUTS AND OUTPUTS
Buttons and connection ports are now front facing for easy access, and side facing for a neater and more permanent option, allowing devices to be connected through a range of multiple inputs; this makes it ideal for a variation between permanent and visiting staff and guests.

Android Integration: Explore a world of possibilities with access to the Genee App Store, opening up a realm of applications.

Write with Precision, Lag-Free: The Opal’s short response time delivers a natural and fluid writing experience with virtually no lag. Unleash creativity with the included magnetic pen, ensuring precision in every stroke.

MDM Integration: Take control with the Opal’s integrated Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution. Experience centralised control through a user-friendly cloud platform, allowing you to efficiently manage multiple screens, share messages, and effortlessly perform software updates for a streamlined and connected experience.

USB Type C: With just one cable, transmit data, audio, video, Ethernet, touch input, and power. Declutter your classroom or workspace with this advanced USB connectivity.

GENEE WIRELESS DISPLAY MIRRORING
The Opal has built-in wireless display mirroring. This allows everyone in the room to cast their Apple, Google, Android or PC device directly to the screen, allowing the option for immediate feedback. Simply, press screen mirroring on your device, enter the code which is displayed on the screen and you will be connected.

GENEE APP STORE
The Gem Series comes with the Genee App Store pre-installed. The store provides quick and easy access to a range of applications. The Genee App store has hundreds of apps with over 80% being free of charge.

GEM Series is compatible with:

• GENEE APP STORE

• Microsoft Teams

• Microsoft Office

• Onedrive

• Zoom

• Google Workspace

• Dropbox

• Google Meet

If you’d like to find out more about these screens, please contact us.

Organisations often assume that their Microsoft 365 data is safe, either that it gets dealt with as part of other backup processes, or that Microsoft looks after it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case!

Microsoft 365 data usually isn’t covered by general backups. Whilst Microsoft ensures your data stays safe whilst in the data centre, it is unable to protect you from any data loss due to errors within your company, such as an employee accidentally or deliberately deleting files and folders, or from a malicious action like hacking, ransomware or other such problems.

This is why a third-party backup and restore solution is required, to help protect your organisation from loss of data and downtime, and provide accurate and reliable data restore options.

At First Class Technologies, we offer a low-cost solution to provide the security you need.

Benefits include:

• Retention and archiving of critical data for compliance purposes

• Protection against data loss

• Provision of automated and on-demand back-up to give you ultimate control

• Easily managed Microsoft Exchange, OneDrive and SharePoint backups.

• Preservation of email data for former employees

• Back ups taken multiple times a day

• Data retained for between 1 and 7 years, depending on your system

To find out more, just contact us.

»

Did you know that it’s around 9 years since the release of Windows 10? And that the end of life for Windows 10 is scheduled for next year, 2025?

Windows 10 is probably one of the most used operating systems throughout the world, but as of 14th October 2025, Microsoft will stop its general release of important security updates and new features.

However, because of how popular the operating system is, Microsoft has announced that it is going to offer existing Windows 10 users the chance to purchase Extended Security Updates (ESU), in order to continue to receive critical and important security updates, in exchange for an annual subscription.

Subscription information and enrollment conditions should be available about 12 months before the end of the support date (approximately late 2024), but it’s not clear yet how much the annual subscription will be, or how the price will increase over subsequent years. However, Microsoft has stated that ESU will be free for all Windows 365 customers.

Although this move seems to offer a lifeline to those still running Windows 10, the security updates will only be available for a maximum of three years after the end of support for Windows 10, and there is also no technical support included in the ESU program.

Whilst Windows 10 PCs will continue to work, Microsoft recommends that customers upgrade eligible PCs to Windows 11 before the deadline.

If now seems a good time to start looking at upgrading your systems to Windows 11 and replacing PCs that are too old to upgrade, please get in touch with our friendly team who will help you evaluate all the options.

»

First Class Technologies partners with a specialist UK based education sector solution house, providing filtering and monitoring systems and firewalls for schools and colleges.

Fully compliant with the UK Safer Internet Centre’s Appropriate Filtering” programme. Supporting both the IWF and CTIRU counter-terrorism filtering categories.

The solution is well established, field proven, developed and supported in the UK.

In 2024, it is one of the most important educational tools, evident that the systems required to keep pupils safe in the modern world would have to be able to grow with one of the most rapidly changing systems on the planet. The UK Government guidelines now demand more than the traditional URL lists and simple filters. From the very beginning the system pioneered real-time content analysis, believing this to be the best way to rapidly adjust to an ever-changing landscape.


OFFERING
• Comprehensive reporting
• Ensure the establishment is protecting your pupils with a powerful array of customisable reports.
• Built for Education
• Designed, built and supported in the UK for schools implementing the recommendations from the UK Safer Internet Centre and the new DFE “Filtering and monitoring standards” document.
• Deep Content Inspection
• Instant real-time filtering and categorisation of web content
• Local and remote control
• The ability to instantly update filters from anywhere on campus, vital for the smooth running of lessons.
• Support team comprises engineers with comprehensive networking experience and an excellent understanding of both the UK Government’s safeguarding guidelines and the technical realities of complying with these guidelines. Cost effective protection, with multiple support levels.


Whatever your size and requirements, the solution is scalable to suit. For more information, contact First Class Technologies.

»

Have you seen the new G-Touch® Tables that inspire fun learning with subject specific content yet?


Pre-loaded with a diverse arrange of software to help with numeracy, literacy, creative, music, art and many other subjects, these tables have multi-touch capability that allows several children to interact with the screen simultaneously, cultivating social skills like teamwork and communication.


In addition to functioning as traditional horizontal tables, they can also be tilted at a 75-degree angle for comfortable seated use. And as the tables are equipped with wheels, they can even be transported between rooms.


Each G-Touch tables includes 22 pre-installed educational apps, and comes with an accompanying App Store, to provide an easy and convenient way to access further educational content. The store has over 80 different apps categorised by key-stage, plus there’s a robust search function to help find the right solution via keywords.


Other key features include:
• Tilting and lockable screen
• Screen can be adjusted through a 75-degree angle
• Comfortable viewing experience that optimises touch interaction
• Available to purchase in a number of different colours
• Screens are made with anti-bacterial paint, for hygiene and easy cleaning
• Integrates with the Google Play Store
• Equipped with built-in Windows PC, to transform it into a fully functional desktop computer
• Includes a variety of ports to allow other devices to be connected
• Crystal-clear sound with 15W speakers to deliver dynamic and immersive audio
• Stunning visuals with full 1080P resolution
• Equipped with an Intel i5 Processor and Windows 10
• Built-In Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities giving seamless integration with other devices and networks
• 240GB Hard Disk Storage providing plenty of space for storing content


To find out more about the full range, please get in touch.

»

First Class Technologies is delighted to continue for a third year to help The Community Foundation for Staffordshire with the Donate IT Digital scheme.

First Class assists the Foundation by examining the donated PCs, laptops and tablets to establish whether they can be successfully factory reset, reformatted and repurposed to extend their life from our Lichfield office.

As of February 2024, the company has invested in excess of 243 man-hours to review and repurpose over 300 redundant computers, laptops and tablets, giving them a new lease of life in the process.

For most of us, being online is an everyday part of life. However, there are a significant number of people who don’t have access to modern technology. As a result, some of the everyday tasks that most of us take for granted, like online shopping and internet banking, are unavailable to those without the necessary technology.

For those who are able to live their lives using the internet, the ever-changing improvement in the technological capabilities of such equipment provides a temptation to keep upgrading to the latest and greatest device, leaving a plethora of unloved electronic units that could end up in landfill if they can’t be rehomed.

It’s for this reason that a number of recycling centres have been set up around Staffordshire by the County Council for people to donate pre-loved equipment so it can be refurbished and offered to someone in need.

If you would like further information or wish to donate some equipment, please email office@staffordshire.foundation for more details.

»

Over £4000 has been raised for We Love Lichfield by supporters of a classic car tour.

Over 100 vehicles joined the Cannock Chase Classic Car Tour, travelling over 100 miles across Staffordshire, from Lichfield before finishing in Rugeley on Sunday 25th June. Organisers and sponsors First Class Technologies have handed over a cheque for £4000 to We Love Lichfield patron Simon Price.

107 vehicles were waved off from Lichfield Rugby Club with all cars welcomed to Bishton Hall near Rugeley for afternoon tea. Drivers entered from across the UK with a wide range of vehicles, including some historic and modern classics and a couple of American muscle cars. Many famous British marques were represented including Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Jensen, Lotus, Bristol, Rover, Triumph, MG to specials like Mini Moke and a great selection of foreign makes such as Porsche, BMW, Opel, Lancia, Renault, Citroen, Fiat, Mazda, including a rare German Borgward and Lancia Stratos replica.

Richard Hinton of First Class Technologies and main sponsor said: “I’m delighted to hand over the money on behalf of drivers, passengers, timekeepers, and spectators with special thanks to Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire Car Club who helped in the organisation. We were delighted to sponsor the event for the second year running, to raise money for a very worthwhile local charity.

A huge thanks to so many people for giving up their time including race starter Jonathan Oates, Roy Hatfield of RWH Rally Sport Photos for capturing the event, Four Counties Spice, Grangewood Tennis Centre and Richard and Alice Ryman of Lichfield Maize Maize.”

Simon Price of We Love Lichfield said: “A huge thank you to all involved who have raised vital funds that will help voluntary groups across Lichfield, Burntwood and the surrounding villages. Particular thanks to Richard Hinton of First Class Technologies for coming up with the idea back in 2021, sponsoring the inaugural event, also this one in 2023 and assisting organisers.

“Richard’s event is a perfect example of how local businesses can help We Love Lichfield. If anyone wants to organise a fundraising event or simply donate, please visit www.welovelichfield.com.”

A spokesperson for Wolverhampton & Staffordshire Car Club, who organised the event said: “We’re delighted by the response to this second Staffordshire event and to have over 100 entries. We ran our first event in 2021 and raised £1000 so we’re delighted to beat that target and we look forward to running another fundraising event soon.”

»

First Class Technologies, based on Britannia Enterprise Park in Lichfield, is sponsoring the Cannock Chase Classic Car Tour for a second year.

Over 100 vehicles will be taking to the roads on Sunday 25th June 2023 to help raise money for The Community Foundation for Staffordshire, organised by Wolverhampton & Staffordshire Car Club.

The informal convoy (touring assembly) will enjoy a 100-mile route, starting in Lichfield, visiting places of historical and local interest around the greater area of Cannock Chase.

Drivers have entered from across the UK with a wide range of vehicles, including some historic and modern classics and a couple of American muscle cars. Many famous British marques are represented including Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Jensen, Lotus, Bristol, Rover, Triumph, MG to specials like Mini Moke and a great selection of foreign makes such as Porsche, BMW, Opel, Lancia, Renault, Citroen, Fiat, Mazda, including a rare German Borgward and Lancia Stratos replica.

Crews run with associated interest groups, culminating at the finish Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Rugeley where notes can be compared between crews whilst spectators can view the fabulous cars on show. A static display of cars will be on view from midday onwards with the convoy of tour vehicles arriving after 1:30 pm. Public entry is £2 per car.

A spokesperson for Wolverhampton & Staffordshire Car Club says: “It’s a chance to get cherished vehicles out of the garage for a day and enjoy an organised drive around the greater Chase. We’ve been delighted by the response from classic car owners, as we’ve had over 100 cars enter so far! It will be a great day out. In 2021 the car tour had 70 entrants and raised over £1,000 for the Staffordshire charity.”

Based in Stafford, The Community Foundation for Staffordshire is an organisation which creates and administers benevolent funds and grant giving schemes for philanthropists, business, central Government, and local authorities, which gives away over £1m every year to voluntary organisations and charities.

Faye Williams of the Community Foundation for Staffordshire said: “It was an amazing spectacle to see so many beautiful cars entered in 2021. We’re grateful to Richard Hinton of First Class Technologies for coming up with the idea, sponsoring and organising this and other events for us.”

Richard Hinton says: “We’re delighted to sponsor the event for the second year running, to raise money for a very worthwhile local charity.”

»

In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever to keep your online accounts secure. With so many websites and services requiring passwords, it can be difficult to remember them all. This is where password managers come in handy, as they can securely store your passwords so you don’t have to remember them all.


A popular password manager is LastPass, which offers a range of features to keep your passwords secure, and there are both free and premium versions available.


Although online password managers offer a convenient solution for managing multiple passwords across various websites and applications., there are some pros and cons to consider when using them, see below:

Advantages of Using A Password Manager
Security: Password managers often encrypt and secure your passwords with advanced encryption algorithms, plus may offer multi-factor authentication options for added security.
Convenience: When using a password manager, you only need to remember one master password to access all your other passwords.
Automatic filling: Password managers often automatically fill in your login details, saving you time and effort.
Easy password generation: Password managers can generate strong, unique passwords for all your accounts, to reduce the risk of password breaches.
Syncing across devices: Password managers may help sync your passwords across all your devices, making it easy to access them from anywhere.

Disadvantages of Using A Password Manager
Dependency: You become reliant on the password manager, which can be problematic if you don’t have access to the Internet or if your chosen password manager experiences any unexpected downtime.
Risk of hacking: If hackers gain access to your password manager account, they can access all your passwords at once!
Privacy concerns: Password managers often collect your data, which could be a concern for some users.
Cost: While there are free versions available, there may be a cost associated with the extra benefits on offer with a premium version.


Hopefully this has given you some food for thought around using a password manager. If you decide to take this route, be sure to choose one that fits your needs and budget, and always keep your passwords secure to protect your online accounts.


If you need any help choosing a password manager, or more general advice about data or cyber security, just get in touch.

Password manager
»

Have you tried ChatGPT yet?

ChatGPT, the new AI (artificial intelligence) platform is a hot topic of conversation at the moment, as people debate how the new technology will affect our future, and the future of our children and their education.

However, there are warnings for users to be careful when logging into ChatGPT, due to a number of fake ChatGPT websites which have similar URLs, but that have been purposely built with malicious intent.

These fake sites may often be very similar to the genuine ChatGPT site, with the same logo, layout, and design. They may offer users the opportunity to login to their ChatGPT account, but unfortunately, these sites are scams and may be used to steal user information, install malware on the user’s device or carry out other fraudulent activities.

To stay safe, make sure you only use the official ChatGPT website, and never provide personal information or login details on any other site.

It is also recommended to use strong and unique passwords for all online accounts and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.

If you suspect that you have fallen victim to a ChatGPT scam site, you should immediately change your password and contact an experienced IT support team, such as First Class Technologies for advice.

Staying vigilant and informed is the key to protecting yourself from online scams and frauds. If you have any queries about any aspect of cyber or data security, please just get in touch.

»

A report from cyber-security experts, Secureworks claims that ransomware is no longer the number one method of cyber-attack for hackers looking solely for profit.

From analysing more than 500 real-world security incidents that took place in 2022, Secureworks research has discovered that cyber-thieves now prefer to use Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks.

According to the report, the number of BEC incidents doubled, making it the most common type of attack. Phishing (a form of social engineering where attackers deceive people into revealing sensitive information or installing malware such as ransomware) now accounts for 33% of cyber incidents where an initial access vector could be established, up from just 13% in 2021.

Although Secureworks noted that ransomware incidents reduced by 57% last year, they are still a concerning threat. The researchers speculate the change could be that law enforcement agencies are getting better at stopping them, or it might just be a change in tactics. BEC attacks might be easier to run, because they can phish multiple organisations at once, looking for potential victims without needing any advanced skills or tactics.

There are a number of actions that organisations can take to stay safe from BEC attacks, including educating employees about cyber awareness and keeping passwords secure, as well as setting up a strong email security system, including using multi-factor authentication where possible.

You should also check out Cyber Essentials, a UK certification scheme designed to show whether an organisation has cyber security protection in place. Find out more about Cyber Essentials, and how First Class can help you protect your business from cyber attacks here.


Cyber security
»

Microsoft has announced that it is going to be taking steps to align the pricing of Microsoft Cloud products globally, giving customers consistent pricing that reflects the exchange of the local currency to the US dollar.

From 1st April 2023, pricing for Microsoft cloud products will be adjusted upwards by 9% on the UK (GBP) price.

Microsoft has also stated that, in the future, the company will assess pricing in the local currency as part of a regular twice-yearly review.

If you’d like to read more about this, please click here.

If you have any questions regarding pricing, or any other query about Microsoft products, speak to one of our friendly staff at First Class.

Contract clients will be contacted once the new costs are published.

»

First Class Technologies is delighted to continue to help The Community Foundation for Staffordshire with the Donate IT Digital scheme for a third year.

First Class assists the foundation by examining the donated PCs, laptops and tablets to establish whether they can be successfully factory reset, reformatted and repurposed to extend their life, before undertaking the process in our Lichfield office.

As at March 2023, the company has invested in excess of 175-man hours to review and repurpose just shy of 250 redundant computers, laptops and tablets to give them a new lease of life.

For many of us, being online is an everyday part of life. However, there are a significant number of people who don’t have access to modern technology. As a result, some of the everyday tasks that most of us take for granted, like online shopping and internet banking, are unavailable to those without the necessary technology.

For those who are able to live their lives using the internet, the ever-changing improvement in the technological capabilities of such equipment provides a temptation to keep upgrading to the latest and greatest device, leaving a plethora of unloved electronic units that could end up in landfill if they can’t be rehomed.

It’s for this reason that a number of recycling centres have been set up around Staffordshire by the County Council, for people to donate pre-loved equipment so it can be refurbished and offered to someone in need.

If you would like further information or wish to donate some equipment, please email office@staffordshire.foundation for more details.

»

Fully certified under the UK Safer Internet Centre’s “Appropriate Filtering” programme, First Class Technologies partners with a specialist UK based education sector solution house, providing filtering systems and firewalls for schools and colleges.

The solution is well established, field proven, developed and supported in the UK. In 2022, it is one of the most important educational tools, evident that the systems required to keep pupils safe in the modern world would have to be able to grow with one of the most rapidly changing systems on the planet. The UK Government guidelines now demand more than the traditional URL lists and simple filters.

From the very beginning the system pioneered real-time content analysis, believing this to be the best way to rapidly adjust to an ever-changing landscape.

OFFERING

Comprehensive reporting
Ensure the establishment is protecting your pupils with a powerful array of customisable reports.

Built for Education
Designed, built and supported in the UK for schools implementing “The Safer Internet & Prevention guidelines”

Deep Content Inspection
Instant real-time filtering and categorisation of web content

Local control
The ability to instantly update filters from anywhere on campus, vital for the smooth running of lessons.

Knowledgeable support
Support team comprises engineers with comprehensive networking experience.

Cost effective protection
Whatever your size and requirements, the solution is scalable to suit.

»

Schools, universities, and further education providers might not seem an obvious target for cybercriminals. There are far more lucrative and high-profile targets out in the wider economy, so why attack a school or college? Unfortunately, education providers’ lower profile doesn’t protect them from cybercrime. In May 2020, Microsoft Security Intelligence found that 61% of nearly 7.7 million malware encounters came from those in the education sector. There has also been a rapid rise in the number of cyberattacks on schools, universities and colleges. September 2020 and February 2021 saw a spike in ransomware attacks on the sector, prompting the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to urge the education providers to take action to better protect themselves.

It’s not hard to understand the NCSC’s concern. For those education providers who do suffer a breach, the consequences can be severe. For example, the government’s 2021 cybersecurity breaches survey found that a third of schools that suffered a breach lost control of their systems, data, or money. For institutions with already stretched budgets, being required to pay a ransom for the return of sensitive data spells potential disaster. Meanwhile, any systems outages caused by a successful attack could prove detrimental to students’ education – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when most teaching has been virtual.

Studies show the education sector is one of the least well-protected. Last year, a hacker simulation test proved 100% successful in breaching 50 universities across the country. The test was able to access student and staff personal data, financial systems, and valuable research networks. It’s not just that schools, colleges and universities often lack sufficient defences to repel attacks, they’re also filled with hundreds or even thousands of staff all using the internet. It only takes one miss key depression on a phishing email or bogus website to give cyber criminals access to a trove of sensitive data. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Cyber Essentials’ mentioned, but what is it?


Cyber Essentials is a government-backed certification scheme that covers the essential actions every organisation should take to ensure its digital security and protection from cyberattacks. Think of it as ‘cyber hygiene’ – a bit like washing your hands, brushing your teeth or wearing a face mask.

Is your internet connection secure?
Are the most secure settings switched on for every company device?
Do you have full control over who is accessing your data and services?
Do you have adequate protection against viruses and malware?
Are devices and software updated with the latest versions?

Once you understand these basic controls and have them in place, Cyber Essentials requires you to fill out a self-assessment questionnaire confirming your organisation’s devices and systems meet the criteria. You then sign and submit for review by a certification body. If all goes well, your organisation is passed and can consider itself secured to the UK government standard. This is renewed year on year.

Cyber Essentials Plus is an independently assured assessment of the school’s compliance with the Scheme. Government departments including the ESFA are already using Cyber Essentials Plus as a more rigorous due diligence requirement. This certification process includes vulnerability scans on the inside and outside of the school or trust IT network.

First Class offer expert guidance to ensure you pass first time. Contact us on 01543 414152.

First Class reduces the Cyber Essentials certification time from months to a matter of days.

Cyber Essentials for Education
»


First Class partners with TrilbyTV to create the perfect solution to broadcast information and news around your campus.

Unlimited screens
The unlimited screen subscription enables any educational establishment to connect as many screens as required, perhaps starting with a simple one or two screen subscription, then grow as required.

Your content on your screens
As you already create loads of content in the classroom and beyond, TrilbyTV gives you a great place to share it alongside messages and school information. Upload from any device via the web app or with dedicated iPad app.

Manage and schedule
TrilbyTV automatically refreshes your screens with the latest content you add, keeping your signage up to date. For more control, create playlists and set schedules so content displays where and when you need it to.

Familiar hardware
TrilbyTV can playback your content on all common devices. If you already have a TV screen, you probably already have a suitable player device.

First Class takes away the strain, by delivering a digital signage solution, incorporating TrilbyTV with the screens you already have on site. We can help network the system together, to create a manageable solution that you can operate internally.


School Announcements, News and Events
Getting a message quickly on all signage screens with TrilbyTV is easy. When the snow rolls in, or there’s a last-minute change to assembly time, grab the TrilbyTV Announce app and in a couple of taps you can broadcast your critical/important message around your school, college or campus.


Call First Class on 01543 414152 for advice on the next step to create your bespoke solution.

School digital signage
»

First Class Technologies collects and stores redundant IT equipment for contract clients.

Periodically, EEE4D who are based in Stoke on Trent and part of the nationwide Community Recycling Consortium, visits to collect the defunct kit including PCs, laptops, servers, monitors and other redundant WEEE equipment.

First Class Technologies has been pleased to use their services for over seven years. EEE4Disadvantaged CIO is a registered charity number 1198183. They recycle redundant IT equipment to fund training and employment for people with mental health issues or physical disabilities. Following collection, a certificate is emailed to clients that lists items received, with serial numbers and dates. Hard disk drives are removed and rendered inoperable, before recycling the components. Equipment is recycled in a secure, legal, environmentally friendly and ethical way.

As part of its community focus, EEE4D collects, dismantles and recycles redundant computers, laptops, tablets, iPads, servers and other electronic goods from schools, colleges and SME businesses across Staffordshire, West Midlands, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

If you have a particularly large volume of equipment to dispose of, we can arrange a special visit by EEE4D to your premises.

Following collections, EEE4D provides a disposal log with serial numbers of all items disposed of. When HDDs have been removed and disposed of, EEE4D certificate the work, issuing a report of serial numbers and dates of HDD disposal.

Contact us to arrange a time and date to drop off your redundant unwanted equipment to us or book a direct collection from EEE4D.

»

Since the pandemic, some companies are taking the decision to move to alternative premises as their working practices have changed.

Moving office is no simple task! But with the right planning and professional support, the stress of an office relocation can be reduced, and everything can be moved from place A to place B seamlessly, with no downtime.

First Class Technologies has helped many clients move premises, without losing any connectivity or customer contact. So, if you are planning an office move, here are 7 tips to help you move your office, and your IT infrastructure, without a glitch.

Tip 1: Make a plan. Check the plan. Then plan a bit more!

You can’t do enough planning when it comes to an office relocation! It’s always useful to have a number of people involved in planning the move, to share out some of the tasks and evaluate decisions.

Make sure to visit the new premises regularly, so you become familiar with it before moving day. Whilst you’re there, map out the location of important facilities such as power sockets, telephone ports etc. to help you plan your new office layout.

Devise an idea of what equipment will go where, and get that signed off and agreed in advance.

Be sure to involve your IT support team. Invite them to visit the site with you, so they can check data cabling requirements, Wi-Fi, networks, connectivity and other important aspects.

Tip 2. Evaluate what equipment you need to take, dispose of or upgrade.

Office moves are a great time to review what you have, think about what you need to invest in, and decide what needs to be upgraded or disposed of.

Do a thorough review of all existing equipment before you move. After all, there’s no point paying to have something relocated if it’s no longer fit for purpose, or if you’re going to replace it shortly anyway.

See what options there are to recycle any unwanted equipment to help other people or businesses. For example, First Class Technologies works with a local charitable initiative in Staffordshire that recycles IT equipment to help people who don’t have access to technology. If this might be useful for your office move, please get in touch and we’ll supply you with details.

As well as reviewing equipment, an office move is the perfect time to de-clutter other areas of the office – from paper documents to the office stationery cupboard – as it’s amazing what gets stored away for years yet is no longer required. Moving premises is a great opportunity for a good clear out, to help save money on your office move and save space in your new place. Just don’t forget to recycle any wastepaper wherever possible, and to securely shred any confidential information.

Tip 3. Future Proof Your Plans

Once you have an idea of the layout of the new office, take some time to review it in light of any future changes.

Might you be taking on any more staff so need to incorporate more desks further down the line?

Could there be any organisational structure changes that might affect how each area is laid out?

We know you don’t have a crystal ball and can’t foresee the future, but if you can try to think ahead it might help you to build in some contingencies and future proof your business going forward.

Consult your IT team when you’re putting your plans together. If, like First Class, they are experienced in office moves, they’ll be able to add value with their thoughts and ideas.

Tip 4. Get your move in the diary, and keep everyone informed.

You’ll no doubt need the help of other businesses to complete your move, so be sure to contact these suppliers as early as possible, to get your project booked in. For example, it can take time to get services connected at a new venue, so that might impact your move date.

Be sure to keep all your suppliers up to date with any changes that might affect the work they’re doing for you, so you’re all working to the same project dates and deadlines. It’s a difficult job trying to co-ordinate different aspects of a project to make sure everyone you need is available when you need them!

And don’t forget to keep all your business colleagues in the loop too, through internal chats, newsletters or the company intranet!

Ensure you involve your IT support team in the move, and see if there is any help or advice they can provide before the move date to make the relocation easier. For example, they might suggest you start to label all the IT and communications equipment, so it arrives in the right location in the new office. Similarly, finding a way to match the right cables and peripherals with the right devices can save a lot of hassle when everything is getting re-connected.

Make sure to give your IT team as much notice as possible, to ensure they have the resources to help you in advance of the move, and on moving day itself.

Tip 5. Protect your data!

To protect all your digital data, make sure everything is backed-up before you move. Your IT support team will be able to help you with this, to ensure there are sufficient back-ups in place to ensure no data losses should anything unexpected happen to any equipment during the move.

In terms of paper records, make sure any files and archive boxes are clearly labelled and securely sealed. You may wish to consider converting paper files into electronic documents using a professional document scanning company before the move, to save taking lots of paper files to your new premises.

Tip 6. Consider timing!

As well as considering the timing regarding co-ordinating all the move suppliers, think about your move date from your business perspective. After all, an office relocation is stressful enough, without doing it during a busy period!

If possible, try to arrange some cross-over time between leaving one office and moving into another to give you some breathing space, and the option to move the business in stages if required.

Don’t forget to inform all your clients, customers and suppliers in advance of your move – and update all your address information in all the places it is listed, including your website, Google and social media.

Tip 7. Ensure you use professionals to help you relocate and re-connect all your IT equipment safely.

It goes without saying that there is a lot of expensive equipment involved in an IT relocation and office move, and also lots of important data being moved too, either stored within your technology or in hard copy form, so make sure you use professionals who not only have the knowledge and experience to help you, but also the right insurance cover should anything go wrong!

Use a trusted IT partner to help.

There are lots of pitfalls to avoid with an office move, but with the right planning and IT support to help you, it can all go smoothly.

Any IT relocation issues that cause a problem to the smooth running of your business, such as lack of internet or telephony services, computer downtime or network failures, can cost you money and affect the quality of your customer service, which may have a knock-on effect for your reputation.

Put your office move and IT equipment in safe hands by contacting First Class Technologies.

Office Move
Office Move
»


4 reasons to go with Pro!


One of the things we strongly recommend when looking for a new laptop or desktop for your business is to ensure it has Windows Pro rather than Windows Home.

So why do we make the recommendation?

Home edition will work perfectly well for a business and there is no legal reason why you can’t use home edition in a business.

However, Windows Home, as its name suggests, is designed for the home user. This means a single computer and a printer and data that is not commercially sensitive, and it works fantastically well in that environment.

Windows Pro is what we recommend for businesses. This is because it gives increased security and system management.

Pro is a little more expensive, but there are some important features that you get in Windows Pro that you don’t get in Home. We’ve listed the 4 main reasons we recommend Windows Pro below, and why these features can be beneficial to your business.


4 reasons to upgrade to Microsoft Windows Pro rather than use Windows Home


Reason 1: Microsoft Update for Business
One of the most useful features of Windows Pro is the ability to control updates.

You’ve all experienced the frustration of an ill-timed Windows reboot as an update is installed, but even more serious than an inconvenient reboot is the fact that some Windows updates can cause massive issues, especially if people are using older software.

The ability to delay installation means that thorough testing can be carried out to ensure compatibility before rolling the update out.

With Windows Home you can only delay installation by a few hours. However, with Pro you can delay features updates for up to 365 days, and quality updates for 30 days.

Reason 2: BitLocker
Microsoft’s encryption software, BitLocker will protect your files from being accessed if your PC is lost or stolen.

Locking down your data isn’t 100% fool-proof, but it’s a layer of security that you really should be using in your business, especially for remote workers and those who travel for work.

There are free third-party tools that you can use instead of BitLocker, but these are not as well integrated as Microsoft’s offering. With BitLocker, your decryption key is deployed seamlessly when you enter your Windows laptop.


Reason 3: Domain Join & Group Policy
Our third reason for recommending Windows Pro is that you cannot join a Windows Home PC to your business domain.

A Windows domain is essentially a network of controlled computers used in a business. At least one server, called a domain controller, is in charge of the other devices. This lets the network administrators (usually IT staff or your external IT support) control the computers on the domain.

Unlike a personal machine, a domain-connected PC doesn’t use local account logins. Instead, the domain controller manages the logins. Using Microsoft’s Active Directory, which is user management software, the network administrators can easily create new users and disable old ones.

This is important for businesses, as it means whoever is in control of the systems can delete any users who are a potential security risk. If these users try to log in with their old password, they’ll see a message advising of the denied access. System controllers can also add users to specific groups to allow access to private server folders.

A domain allows the control of several computers at the same time. Without it, IT staff would have to individually manage each computer, which is obviously not scalable, so is only really practical for very small companies. It could also mean an increase in IT support costs because of the amount of work involved in every change.

A domain also allows the use of Group Policy, which allows administrators to configure all sorts of security and use policies for all computers.

Reason 4: Remote Desktop Connection
Both Home and Pro machines can start a Remote Desktop Connection. This allows the primary machine to control the secondary machine and all of its resources. However, a home machine cannot be remotely controlled. That’s only available on Pro machines.

Windows Home machines can be remotely assisted. This means that the Windows primary machine controls the secondary machine, and the secondary-display mirrors the primary-display. Remote Assistance is useful as an educational tool, for example, a remote technician can show someone how to adjust the graphics settings, by moving their mouse.

The upshot is that work machines can be accessed from home. But home machines can be controlled only from work. If you run a small business, Remote Desktop Connection is another reason to consider Windows Pro.

Should your business upgrade from Windows Home to Windows Pro?
As with any business decision, you need to weigh up risk and reward. If you’ve got sensitive data and you spend a lot of time out of the office then BitLocker alone could be worth the upgrade price. Similarly, if you’re looking to grow and get a domain then getting existing machines on the correct operating system now would make sense.

If the price difference between a new laptop with Home and Pro is just a few pounds then it makes sense to get the Pro version.

The tools within Windows Pro will provide greater security, regardless of the size of your business. It will also make you much easier to support for a professional IT support company. The likelihood is that a provider will insist on the upgrade when taking over your IT support.

If you are running Windows Home in your business and you want to upgrade to Windows Pro then you’re looking at a cost of £119.99 from the Microsoft Store or contact First Class Technologies. First Class Technologies cost as of December 2022 is £75 +VAT (£90 including VAT).

For more information about Windows Home vs Windows Pro, please contact our friendly team at First Class.

»

We’re often asked at First Class Technologies whether company servers should be located in the cloud or on-premise.

Choosing the right hosting environment is essential in positioning a business for successful growth, so the team at First Class must consider how each business operates, to be able to suggest the most effective way forward, as it differs from company to company.

In this blog, we’ll discuss what the various server terms mean, along with some of the features of each option.

Features of a Physical (On-Premise) Server
A physical server means a tangible device located on the premises of the business, hence it’s also known as an ‘on-premise’ server.

The term ‘server’ refers to a dedicated computer tasked with managing network resources. In simple terms, a server is a computer running a specialised operating system geared towards accepting and responding to requests made by other programs in the network, also known as clients.

Physical servers can often be more powerful and efficient than cloud servers, as they’re not having to rely on factors like internet connections.

Features of a Cloud Based Server
When the terminology ‘cloud’ is used, it refers to the internet. ‘The cloud’ is a pool of shared computing resources that are virtually available to users on demand, through web-based tools via the internet. Cloud based options have been around since 2006, and the number of cloud users and providers has increased exponentially since then.

The benefit of cloud computing is that a user can access data remotely. In today’s world of mobile working, storing data in the cloud allows businesspeople to access important documents from wherever they are (as long as they’ve got access to the internet). It’s a very convenient and efficient way to access, process, and store data.

Whilst there are clearly many benefits to hosting data in the cloud, access to the data relies heavily on a good internet connection speed. Even if you have a fast, reliable, and secure internet connection in a physical office location, you may still experience latency challenges when accessing your cloud server due to several possible issues, for example your business may not have a dedicated service and instead be sharing cloud resources with other companies who are taking up bandwidth. These are the types of scenarios that need to be considered when deciding which is the best server route to take for a business.

There are also some other terms you may hear used – server-based and cloud-based, which we’ll explain below.


What’s the difference between Cloud-Based and Server-Based?

Server-based computing refers to the services running on a physical machine. As the name suggests, the foundation for a server-based network or system is the device itself. It’s sometimes referred to as the centralised server.

The term ‘server-based computing’ refers to how data and other resources are hosted on the central server, and how ‘clients’, such as desktop computers and laptops connect to the server to share its resources.

Cloud-based computing refers to services hosted on the internet, and how they can manage servers and network infrastructure administration. The term ‘cloud-based’ refers to applications, resources or services that are made available to users on demand through web-based tools, via the internet, as opposed to a direct connection to a physical server.

With ‘cloud computing’, everything like applications, data centres and services are hosted remotely in the cloud. Conversely, with server-based computing, services get implemented, controlled, and operated from the physical server.

If you have any further questions, please contact us. First Class Technologies would be happy to help you compare a cloud server to a physical server to determine your best hosting environment – just get in touch for more information.

»


Many business owners aren’t aware that Microsoft 365 data often isn’t covered by general backups, as it doesn’t usually get included with other backup processes.

Although Microsoft ensures your data is looked after whilst in the data centre, that doesn’t protect your business from any data loss due to errors in your company, such as a hacking or ransomware attempt, any other kind of malicious action, someone deleting a file accidentally or other similar scenarios.

As a result, third-party restore and backup solutions are required, to help protect a company from any potential data loss and downtime, whilst also offering complete and secure data restore options.

At First Class Technologies, we’re delighted to offer our clients a solution to this challenge.

We’re proud to be working with Axcient, to help our clients back up their Microsoft 365 accounts and protect their data from ransomware and other attacks, at an affordable price of only £2.50+vat per user per month.

That way, should any data be lost for whatever reason, the back-up would allow the information to be restored in a matter of clicks.

If you’d like to know more, or investigate whether your Microsoft 365 data is being backed-up correctly, please get in touch.

One phone call now can put your mind at rest, or give you chance to save your business a whole lot of hassle should there ever be an issue.

To find out more, contact us.

Microsoft 365
»

First Class Technologies (FCT) is delighted to be continuing to help The Community Foundation for Staffordshire with its Donate IT Digital Scheme.


First Class is helping The Community Foundation for Staffordshire by reviewing the donated PCs, laptops and tablets to establish whether they can be successfully factory reset and reformatted to extend the life of each device, before undertaking the process in our Lichfield premises.


So far, the company has invested over 150 man hours to review and refurbish over 200 redundant computers, laptops and tablets.


For most of us, being online is an everyday part of life. However, there are still a significant number of people who don’t have access to such technology. As a result, some of the everyday tasks that most of us take for granted, like online shopping and internet banking, are unavailable to those without access.
For those who are able to live their lives using the internet, the ever-changing improvement in the technological capabilities of such equipment provides a temptation to keep upgrading to the latest and greatest device, leaving a plethora of unloved electronic units that could end up in landfill if they can’t be rehomed.


It’s for this reason that a number of recycling centres have been set up around Staffordshire for people to donate pre-loved equipment so it can be refurbished and offered to someone in need.


If you would like further information or wish to donate some equipment, please email office@staffordshire.foundation for more details.

»

Have you heard about Cyber Essentials?

It’s a UK certification scheme designed to show whether an organisation has cyber security protection in place.

This Government-backed scheme can help protect organisations of all sizes against some of the most basic, common cyber-attacks.

There are many benefits of getting a Cyber Essentials certification, including:

• The ability to show customers and prospective clients that you are cyber-aware and working to protect your IT systems against cyber-attacks.

• The chance to use the Cyber Essentials certification as part of your marketing efforts to attract new customers, by showing that you’re a professional organisation that takes cyber-security seriously.

• The peace-of-mind of having a clear vision of your organisation’s cyber security status.

• The chance to tender for any Government or other contracts that may involve handling sensitive or personal information, as many may require a Cyber Essentials certification in the future.

Cyber Essentials helps organisations put controls in place that can prevent some of the most common attacks. Quite often, cyber thieves are opportunists looking for easy targets, such as those organisations who aren’t cyber aware and don’t have even the minimum level of protection in place. It’s a bit like a passing thief trying your front door, just in case you left it unlocked!

It’s possible that, going forward, insurance companies and other such providers may start to ask for proof of cyber-security awareness, such as a valid Cyber Essentials certificate.

There are 2 levels of certification – Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus. The main difference is that Cyber Essentials Plus involves a hands-on technical verification.

First Class Technologies offers a consultancy service to help organisations with Cyber Essentials, by running a necessary audit across a company’s IT network to review the current set-up and then advise and support any remedial action required. For more information contact us.

»

Heard of 3CX phone systems, but not sure whether the technology is relevant to you and your business?


3CX is a robust, fully equipped communications system that allows you to communicate with your clients, customers and colleagues anywhere, at any time.


It’s a software based VoIP (Voice over IP) system that works with a range of hardware and offers many business benefits.


One of the benefits is that it can be hosted either on-premise on a local server, remotely in the cloud, or even both for extra belt-and-braces security!


It’s popular with growing businesses because of its cost-efficiency, as it helps save on phone bills, add-ons and hardware.


It’s also flexible, as it offers the ability to choose phones and provider. It also integrates with Microsoft 365 and CRM (customer relationship management) systems, so helps business departments manage their communication needs, giving access to important numbers and contacts.


A 3CX system includes many benefits over and above just the traditional telephone services. For example:


• The telephone services include web client and mobile apps to help with remote working.
• Video chat options are included in the system.
• Live Chat is available, giving you the chance to talk to your customers in real time via your website or social media
• And there’s the ability to SMS, so customers can interact with you instantly.

In today’s world of flexible working, the ability to be able to make and take calls from anywhere, call from your browser or smartphone, video conference at the touch of a button, launch calls direct from your CRM, integrate your telephone system seamlessly with Microsoft 365, view the work-status of your colleagues and answer customer queries from Facebook, live chat and SMS is a real game-changer.


If you’d like to know more about 3CX, or even try out a fully equipped 3CX system, just contact us.

3CX phone system
»

Do you know what data is being viewed and used in your organisation?

Are you aware who is accessing any sensitive files, and performing what action on them?

Every business has a responsibility to protect its data. And if your business is ISO 27001 certified, keeping sensitive data secure is a core area for compliance.

The problem is, manually monitoring and auditing file access and access attempts can be complicated and time-consuming. However, there is a fast, smart and efficient way to do this, by using a piece of software called FileAudit, which provides a bird’s eye view of all the file activity in your business, both on-premise and in the cloud.

FileAudit monitors all data in real-time, to identify all access, access attempts and usage of files, folders and file shares, and then pinpoints the IP address and machine name to know exactly where the user has accessed the file from.

It can provide a data audit to help keep your sensitive data safe and assist with compliance with any of your industry regulations. Even more importantly, it helps keep your data safe because the real-time insights give you the opportunity to immediately react with an automated response to help protect your information.

Using FileAudit provides the following benefits:

i) Reduces the manual workload involved in monitoring access to data folders.
ii) Helps to secure your information against theft or improper access that could lead to potential alteration or deletion of data.
iii) Automatically responds to emergency situations.
iv) Protects files stored on-premise and in the cloud.
v) Performs accurate IT forensics, as FileAudit offers a centralised audit trail, with interactive access reports about the audited data.
vi) Helps your business meet compliance regulations like GDPR, FISMA, HIPAA and SOX.

FileAudit is easy to install and configure, so if you’d like more information, please contact a member of our friendly team on 01543 414152.

FileAudit
»

First Class Technologies is pleased to announce that we are partnering with Worldpay to enable clients to purchase tech solutions by card.


Worldpay is the UK’s number one payments provider chosen by over 250,000 UK SME businesses. Similar to First Class, the business has 25 years experience, which gives us the confidence that they are the right partner for us.


If you’d like to know more, please get in touch with us on 01543 414152.

»

You may have heard that Microsoft is increasing the price of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 subscriptions in March 2022.

Microsoft has invested in these products over the last decade, with the addition of apps such as Teams, OneDrive, Planner and Power Apps. The business has also made general improvements in security and compliance, communication, collaboration, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

This change will go into effect on 1st March 2022 and the increases are expected to be around 20% (in addition to the monthly rolling 20% price rise) but exact figures are yet to be confirmed.

How First Class can help.
We may be able to extend the current pricing further, to help you beat the price increase if you renew before 1st March 2022.


If you take no action, the price of your Microsoft and Office 365 will increase.


If you’d like to discuss this, just get in touch with the First Class team at 01543 414152.

»

In today’s world of data breaches and cyber security concerns, we all want to build in extra layers of security when it comes to protecting our data.

And that’s where Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) comes in.

So what exactly is MFA?

In simple terms, MFA adds an extra layer of security onto your passwords, which is useful when you log into different online accounts.

It’s an essential element that can be utilised to help keep your data safe from cyberattack.

MFA works by requesting extra layers of verification during sign in, including information you know (like a password), information you have (like One-Time Passwords (OTP) generated by smartphone apps) and information that is unique to you, such as biometrics including face or fingerprint scans.

There are three types of MFA that can be used.

The first is 2-Factor Authentication (2FA). 2FA requests 2 forms of verification credentials, for example a password and an OTP.

Second is Location-based Authentication. This looks at where you are and reviews your IP address. For example, when you access your account from a different location than usual, you will be prompted to add extra verification.

And last is Risk-based Authentication (RBA). This works by looking at additional factors like context and behaviour, and then uses these values to assess the risk. For example, logging on to your banking app abroad may prompt extra security questions.

The various forms of MFA are regularly used by individuals, for example, your internet banking app may require MFA, as sometimes does Facebook.

More and more companies are starting to incorporate MFA into their login procedures. For example, there’s an option to use MFA with Microsoft365 (formerly known as Office365). Microsoft has its own authenticator app (Microsoft Authenticator App) which can be downloaded to a smartphone. The code that is required to complete the MFA is auto generated and changes every 30 seconds.

Using MFA with your Microsoft 365 account can provide extra security and peace of mind, however, think carefully before you install it to ensure it won’t cause you any problems operationally.

Before you activate anything, it’s wise to give First Class Technologies a call, so we can help you understand the pros and cons of setting up MFA with your Microsoft365 account. Just call 01543 414152 for a chat and more information.

Multi Form Authentication
»

At First Class Technologies, we like to make life as easy as possible for our clients.

We pride ourselves on not baffling clients with jargon, as the IT industry has a lot of terminology that doesn’t mean much to the average business owner!

That’s why we’ve put together this handy cloud computing glossary, to provide you with a useful resource to refer to, should you ever need more clarification about cloud computing. But don’t forget we’re always on the end of the phone should you prefer to ask us something directly!

Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS)

The provider handles the tasks that are needed in order to have uninterrupted web or mobile applications. These typically include Data management, APIs, databases, file storage, login authentication, social media integration, infrastructure, email and push notifications.

Data Migration

The process of moving data from a source to a destination system.

Database

An organised collection of data.

Elasticity

A host system will automatically scale up or down to meet your workload to ensure you always have enough resource.

Enterprise Application

A large software system designed for use by a large scale organisation.

Infrastructure

The combined components needed to operate and manage a business’s computing environment.

Managed Service Provider (MSP)

A third-party IT service provider hired to maintain and manage your IT systems on your behalf.

Platform

The host all software/applications run from.

Vertical Cloud

A cloud computing system built for the needs of a specific business sector, for example the compliance and security needs of governments.

Virtual Machine (VM)

A software based computer that runs on a shared hardware platform. A VM provides a full server / client experience but at a lower cost as multiple VM’s can be run on a single host platform.

Applications

Often shortened these days to apps, applications are essentially pieces of software. There are desktop applications we use on our computers/laptops that are used only on that device (like Microsoft Word) or there are cloud based apps (like OneDrive) that can operate through the internet.

Archiving

Long term data storage solution. You can free up space in your drives by ‘archiving’ old information securely.

AWS (Amazon Web Services)

AWS is part of the Amazon group. They provide on demand cloud computing services. Services include storage, databases, analytics and networking.

Backup

Backing up your data/information helps keep it secure and available in case of data loss. Backups stored in the cloud are held in data-centres off site.

Big Data

Extremely large amounts of data that, when analysed provide more accurate answers because there is more information to base the decisions on.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

When employees use their own devices for business purposes, for example using their own laptops or mobile phones as opposed the devices the companies provide.

Caching

A temporary storage area. For example if you return to a web page you have previously viewed, the browser can retrieve content such as images from the cache rather than the original server, allowing the page to load much more quickly.

Cloud

A collection of servers which store data and are accessed over the internet. The servers are located globally allowing users to access information from anywhere.

CaaS (Cloud as a Service)

The combined offerings of companies such as Microsoft (Azure) and Amazon (Amazon Web Services) where cloud based platform, software and Infrastructure services can be purchased to host your IT needs.

CaaS (Containers as a Service)

A cloud-based service which allows software developers to upload, organise, run, scale, manage and stop containers by using container-based virtualisation.

Cloud Computing

The delivery of services (e.g. networking, software and databases) through the internet.

Cloud Hosting

Where applications and websites are hosted through the cloud via a network of servers and accessed through the internet.

Cloud Platform

The operating system and hardware of a server in an Internet-based data centre.

Cloud Backup

The process of backing up data to a remote, cloud-based server.

Cloud Migration

The process of transferring data from on-site hardware to the cloud.

DaaS (Desktop as a Service)

Gives the end user the functionality of a desktop computer via virtual desktops over the internet using the cloud

Data Centre

A facility that houses IT equipment such as a large network of servers.

Data Redundancy

When the same piece of data is stored in two or more separate places.

DR (Disaster Recovery)

A plan that a business has in the event of a disaster to aid in business continuity.

DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service)

A service that backs up all your data up to protect it in case of disaster.

Enterprise Cloud Hosting

Where a business accesses its virtualised IT resources remotely over the internet. Resources include Servers, Processing Power (CPU), networking infrastructure and data storage. Services are purchased from a public or private cloud service provider on a pay per use basis. Benefits include a move from capex to opex finance model where money is no longer spent on hardware and the business only pays for what it uses.

Google Cloud Platform

Cloud service hosted by Google.  See Cloud as a Service (CaaS)

Hybrid Cloud

A service that uses both public and private clouds to create optimum workflow.
Hybrid cloud allows a business to host some services in the cloud to leverage cost savings but also host other services, which may need a more secure operating environment or greater governance to be hosted in private, dedicated data-centres.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

Provides on-demand cloud computer services. Companies can rent a server and run operating systems on it without costing them to maintain or operate it.

When purchasing Iaas the vendor is responsible for the hardware and infrastructure that the operating system runs on. The customer is responsible for the operating system and everything that sits on it, e.g. applications, patching, antivirus etc.

MaaS (Monitoring as a Service)

A cloud based service that monitors other services and applications in the cloud to ensure performance.

Managed DRaaS

Managed DRaaS replicates the hosting of virtual servers in the cloud to provide failover in the event of a disaster, allowing data to be replicated onto another cloud-based server to prevent any information loss.

Managed Cloud Hosting

When a cloud is managed by a 3rd party provider.

MSP (Managed Service Provider)

An IT service provider that can manage your network, applications and system services across a network.

Microsoft365

The latest subscription service offered by Microsoft, which includes Microsoft Office products such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint.  This is an example of Software as a Service (SaaS).

Microsoft Azure

A cloud-based platform that offers products and services.  See Cloud as a Service (CaaS)

MDM (Mobile Device Management)

Software to securely monitor and manage both corporate and BYOD (bring your own devices) such as laptops and mobiles that are used by employees.

MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching)

Forwarding technology for your data which increases the speed and controls the flow of network traffic.

Multicloud

Multiple clouds which can be from more than 1 cloud service provider – either public or private.

Offsite storage

Where your data is stored on a remote server at another premises, to ensure easy recovery and create data redundancy.

On-Premise

All IT infrastructure housed in the same building as a business operates from.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

Where a third party provider hosts a platform designed to support the whole website application cycle, for example building/testing/deploying. This leaves the customer to focus on development.

POD (Platform On-Demand)

An on-demand service that allows the user to create its own virtual server.

Private Cloud

A cloud computing service that is only available to those within the organisation and not the general public. Private clouds allow for greater control over system security.

Public Cloud

A cloud computing service that is offered by alternative service providers over the internet and become available to users on a pay-as-you-go basis.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

A cloud based service where you access applications through a browser and not desktop.

SmartStac

SmartStac™ Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is Synextra’s public cloud platform designed for low-cost, agile, application and cloud hosting.

Virtual Desktop

Where all the parts of the desktop that is usually stored on your computer is solely stored in the cloud.

VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)

Allows your usual desktop to be stored in the cloud. It hosts the desktop on a server and sends them to users as and when they are requested. This is done securely and efficiently.

Veeam

A private software company that offers backup, recovery and data management solutions that deliver Modern Data Protection.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

Software that allows you to make calls over the internet rather than use the regular/analogue phone line system.

XaaS (Anything as a Service)

A general service which would include the vast number of products and service that are available across the industry.

Zerto

A private company that strives to provide uninterrupted technology services, particularly for industries like healthcare and airline travel which helps with disaster recovery, backup and data mobility.

if you are looking for a clear and transparent IT service that won’t get you tied up in industry jargon then contact First Class Technologies today. Just call 01543 414152 or email sales@firstclass.tech

»

Business owners sometimes assume that their Microsoft 365 data is safe, either that it gets dealt with as part of other backup processes, or that Microsoft looks after it.


Unfortunately, that’s not the case!


Microsoft 365 data often isn’t covered by general backups, and, whilst Microsoft ensures your data stays safe when it is in the data centre, it is unable to protect you from any data loss due to errors in your company, such as an employee accidentally deleting a file, a malicious action, hacking, ransomware or other such issues.


This is why third-party backup and restore solutions are required, to help protect your business from loss of data and downtime, and provide accurate and reliable data restore options.


At First Class Technologies, we’re able to offer a solution to help you:

• Retain and archive critical data for compliance purposes
• Protect against data loss
• Provide automated and on-demand back-up to give you ultimate control
• Easily manage Microsoft Exchange, One-Drive and SharePoint backups.
• Preserve email data of former employees
• Back up multiple times a day
• Keep data for between 1 and 7 years, depending on your system.


To find out more, just call 01543 414152 or email sales@firstclass.tech

»

A warranty for your server is worth every penny when it comes to protecting the productivity and integrity of your business. It goes without saying that, if your business server is not covered under warranty, then the manufacturer is not obliged to repair or replace any part of the server in the event of failure.

Whilst warranty cover is undoubtedly an extra cost to your business, you need to consider it as an investment in your business continuity. And when you think of it in these terms, server warranty is priceless.

In today’s modern business environment, a server is a critical component, as it’s the backbone of your computer network.

A server failure could mean that a company may no longer have access to some or all of its IT functions and business data. This downtime could result in hours of lost productivity, where staff may be unable to help with client enquiries, potentially affecting customer satisfaction levels and putting a company’s credibility and reputation at risk.

Plus, without warranty, it may be necessary to try to source the required parts, causing a delay to the server repair and extending the downtime, or even requiring the purchase of a new server if the parts prove to be unavailable.

It’s important to understand the big picture around server warranty, to enable the right decision to be made for each business.

The good news is that First Class is able to offer affordable, extended cover to take over once the manufacturer’s support has elapsed.

To find out more, just get in touch for a no-obligation chat by emailing sales@firstclass.tech or calling 01543 414152.

»

If you’re running an old version of Outlook, you may wish to investigate what version you’re using, as Microsoft has recently confirmed new minimum Outlook requirements for Microsoft 365.


After 1st November 2021, only Outlook 2013 Service Pack 1 (with latest fixes) and later will be able to connect to Microsoft 365 services.


So, if you’re still running Outlook 2007, 2010 or an earlier version of Office 2013 then you need to start making a plan!


If you’re still running older versions, or if you aren’t sure what version you’re running, feel free to give First Class Technologies a call on 01543 414152 or email sales@firstclass.tech and we’ll help you understand your options.

»

First Class Technologies was proud to be the main sponsor for a Classic Car Tour organised by Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire Car Club, which raised over £1000 for The Community Foundation for Staffordshire.

Over 70 vehicles joined the inaugural Cannock Chase Classic Car Tour, travelling over 80 miles across Staffordshire, through Cannock Chase and the Black Country from Lichfield before finishing via Stafford in Rugeley on Sunday 13th June. Organisers have handed over a cheque for £1,000 to the Community Foundation to help support voluntary groups across the county.

Guests at the start of the tour, including (from left) Richard Hinton (First Class Technologies), Charles Hanson (TV celebrity & auctioneer), Simon Price (Trustee We Love Lichfield), Mike Broad (former World Rally Championship co-driver) and Faye Williams (Community Foundation).

TV celebrity and auctioneer Charles Hanson flagged off every single vehicle from the Bowling Green Pub in Lichfield and then welcomed drivers back to his new Staffordshire auction house in Rugeley for afternoon tea.

The Community Foundation for Staffordshire is a team of professional local community fund and grant managers. Non-profit making, they create and administer benevolent funds and grant giving schemes for philanthropists, business, central Government, and local authorities. They give away over £1m every year to voluntary organisations and charities. Based in Stafford they are ideally placed to manage funds and grants across county.

Before the pandemic scores of organisations held events across the county to raise money for the Community Foundation to distribute to voluntary groups. This important source of income was lost due to Covid and as restrictions are eased, individuals and companies are encouraged to raise money through safe events, within coronavirus guidelines.

Richard Hinton of First Class Technologies and main sponsor said: “Last year, in the depths of the pandemic I had the idea of a car rally across Staffordshire. The event was literally stop start for many months due to Covid, but what a way to celebrate the easing of restrictions. I’m delighted to hand over the money on behalf of drivers, passengers, time-keepers and spectators with special thanks to Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire Car Club who helped in the organisation of the inaugural Cannock Chase Classic Car Tour…yes, the first of many.”

Richard Hinton, MD of First Class Technologies handing over the cheque to Faye Williams of The Community Foundation for Staffordshire.

Faye Williams of the Community Foundation for Staffordshire said: “It was an amazing spectacle to see so many beautiful cars leave Lichfield in bright sunshine, then passing the finish line in the amazing surroundings of Bishton Hall. A memorable day, great fun and a huge thank you to all involved who have raised vital funds that will help voluntary groups across the county. Particular thanks to Richard Hinton of First Class Technologies for coming up with the idea, sponsoring and organising the event. Also, to Charles Hanson for his kind hospitality at Bishton Hall.”

»

Nearly six years on from the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has unveiled the Windows 11 operating system.


Windows 11 features a fresh, more modern design and some new features, including new ways to connect to your favourite news, games and content. Users of Windows 11 will need to get used to having the START menu centrally situated, after it has lived in the bottom left-hand corner for so many years.


Microsoft reported that Windows 11 will be available as a free download for existing Windows users. At the launch on Thursday 24th June 2021, Microsoft stated that the upgrade will begin to roll out to eligible Windows 10 PCs later this year and will continue into 2022. No specific dates have yet been announced.


First Class Technologies is in the process of evaluating the system and will be helping clients transition to Windows 11. The hardware specification is not demanding, but careful consideration needs to be taken before deploying it, to ensure a smooth roll out.


First Class Technologies will be able to run a check on your PCs, to make sure they have the correct requirements to run Windows 11, as machines must have a trusted platform module (TPM) installed for the new operating system to work.

If you are interested in this next generation of Windows, or if you haven’t yet updated to Windows 10 and would like to make the switch to prepare your machines for the Windows 11 upgrade, please get in touch with First Class Technologies.

If you’d like a sneak peek, visit Microsoft Windows 11 introductory video.

Windows 11
»

Whether you are working from home or a busy office, it is easy to feel under pressure when taking telephone calls.

There is something about a telephone conversation that can put you on the spot. Perhaps it is the lack of visual input because you can’t see each other’s faces or body language.

In a face to face conversation, you can frown or look up to show that you are thinking about your response. On the telephone, there is just silence, so there can be a tendency to keep talking to bridge the gap.

It is important to keep a clear head in a telephone conversation. Give yourself time to think, especially if you are being asked to give out any personal data, even to confirm or deny information that relates to clients, customers or colleagues.

A useful tip to get a minute or two to think is to say that you need to check the situation with a colleague or manager. Another good tip, if you are in doubt as to whether or not you should pass on information, is not to do it. Ask the caller to put their request in writing, on headed notepaper if it is an organisation rather than an individual.

Trust your instincts. You will know the routine data disclosures that are made as part of your job. So, if a request is out of the ordinary, that is enough to warn you that you should take extra care in your responses.

Article courtesy of Mandy P Webster, Data Protection Consulting Limited

»

Interactive electronic whiteboards offer many benefits to teachers and pupils in today’s smart classroom environment, but in the current climate, with COVID-19, self-isolation and online learning affecting day-to-day classroom activities, digital whiteboard technology can really come into its own. 

Interactive whiteboards with touchscreen displays can make a huge difference to education, allowing teachers and lecturers to connect with students whether they’re in class or at home, helping to increase student performance and comprehension.

One of the greatest benefits of this smart classroom technology is that it offers the ability to save, re-play and share entire lessons on screen. Not only does this allow teachers to pre-plan lesson content, including any corresponding videos, images and tasks, but also allows any self-isolating students access to the recording. This offers a relatively simple solution for what is becoming an ever-increasing occurrence. Smart whiteboard technology allows those children who can’t come into the classroom the chance to still learn and engage with the same materials as their attending classmates.

A digital whiteboard also offers the ability for students to engage with their learning much more deeply than they would ever be able to if they just had access to notes. These days, interactive whiteboards are an essential tool for delivering online e-lessons, offering a seamless presenting solution to deliver smooth, organised lessons to keep students engaged.

In the digital classroom, with internet connectivity allowing access to endless online resources and technology, there are now countless ways to collaborate with students in schools, colleges and universities. Smart, interactive whiteboards can help bring lessons to life no matter what the circumstances, or where the students are viewing from.

To learn more about the types and ranges of smart, digital whiteboards available, just get in touch with First Class Technologies on 01543 414152.

»

It’s happened to all of us at some point. Your Wi-Fi signal is strong but there’s no internet connectivity.

Frustrating as it is, it’s also explainable – because Wi-Fi and the internet are two different things, and understanding the difference can help you troubleshoot future network problems.

Internet WiFi

How is Wi-Fi different from the internet?
Wi-Fi is a registered trade name for a group of technologies that allow a device, such as a computer, smartphone or game console, to wirelessly connect to a local area network (LAN) using a radio link. Wi-Fi replaces the need for a physical cable between a networked device and a router – a device that manages connections between all of the devices on the LAN.

The internet is a general name for hundreds of millions of smaller networks, such as LANs, linked together and within these smaller networks are billions of connected devices. These computers can be linked together using physical wires, optical cabling and radio links.

So, when your device has a Wi-Fi connection, you are connected to a LAN. But…the LAN you’re connected to may not necessarily be connected to the internet. That’s where the problem lies. Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding the connection problem
Your device is linked to a router via Wi-Fi, forming a local network, and, when all goes well, your local network is successfully connected to the internet.

Sometimes, the link between your local network (managed by a router, hub or modem) and the internet goes down. There could be a temporary problem with your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) equipment, physical damage to cables that link you to the ISP’s network or some other issue. In that case, you are still connected to the local network but your local network is not connected to the internet, in which case your device may show a strong Wi-Fi connection or signal but you have no internet connectivity.

What to do when your internet connection is down
When you have internet connection problems, first try restarting your device. If that doesn’t work, you can reboot your router. Some devices have a power switch, but the unplug-and-plug-back-in method applies to all routers. Whilst you’re waiting for it to power back up again, take the opportunity to verify all the cables are securely connected. Also, check for overheating as, like any other device, routers can fall prey. If the vents are blocked or you have it in a hot location, overheating can cause instability.

If all else fails, call your ISP and report the problem. Or, if you’re struggling with the above, give us a call at First Class Technologies! We’ll be happy to try to help.

»

Using your voice to control Windows can be a helpful option if you physically can’t or don’t want to use your mouse and keyboard. You can dictate texts to create emails, documents and more.

Windows has long provided its own Speech Recognition tool to set up and use dictation. Windows 10 adds to the mix with its own speech settings. The trick is to get Windows to understand you clearly enough so the process is worth the effort. Learn the best way to set up and use voice recognition in Windows.

Setup in Control Panel
In any supported version in Windows, including Windows 10, you can set up voice dictation in Windows through Control Panel. To do this, open Control Panel in icon view and click the icon for Speech Recognition. At the Speech Recognition screen, click the link to Start Speech Recognition.

Choose the type of microphone you’re using, and then dictate the displayed words to teach Windows your voice. After you’re finished, the Speech Recognition bar pops up at the top of the screen. You can immediately begin dictating text.

Open a document, email or other file in which you want to dictate. Click the microphone icon on the Speech Recognition bar to start listening mode. Dictate your text. You can dictate punctuation, symbols, and other parts of speech as well as specific actions such as ‘new line’ and ‘new paragraph’. To find out what you can say, right-click the Speech Recognition bar and select Open Speech Reference Card. When you’re finished, click the microphone icon again to turn off listening mode.


If Windows is having trouble understanding your words, right-click the Speech Recognition bar, move to Configuration, and select Improve Voice Recognition. Windows takes you through a lengthy series of screens where you dictate certain sentences to help it better pick up your speech.

»

Whilst the desktop is a convenient place to store files and program shortcuts, it can get messy very quickly.

Here’s how to tidy up your desktop so you can quickly find everything you’re looking for.

Please remember to take into consideration data back-ups when you’re deciding where to store files. Whilst storing documents on your desktop might make them easy to find, always check that files stored on your desktop are covered by your regular back-up process.

Hide all your desktop icons
If you don’t use your desktop much but programs keep dropping shortcuts on it, a rapid solution is to hide everything to get a perfectly clean desktop.

To toggle desktop icons on and off, right-click on your desktop and select View>Show Desktop Icons and your desktop will appear empty.

To see your desktop icons again, click the Show Desktop Icons option again. Or you can open a Windows Explorer window and click the ‘Desktop’ folder to view the contents of your desktop in a standard file browser window.

That’s the draconian option, of course, but if you like storing files and program shortcuts on your desktop, you won’t want to hide them all.

Quickly sort your desktop icons

For a quick re-organisation, you can right-click your desktop and select an option in the ‘Sort By’ menu. For example, select ‘Name’ to sort them alphabetically or ‘Date Modified’ to sort them chronologically which makes it easier to find what you’re looking for if your desktop is very busy.

You can also use the options under the ‘View’ menu to choose the size of your desktop icons and decide whether they’re aligned to a grid. If you uncheck ‘Auto Arrange Icons’, you can drag and drop icons anywhere you want. If this option is enabled, icons will always be grouped.

Organise your files and shortcuts into folders

Consider using folders to keep your desktop organised. To create a folder, right-click the desktop, select New > Folder, and give the folder a name. Drag and drop items from your desktop into the folder. You can double-click a folder on your desktop to open it, so it takes a few more clicks to open your files—but they’re still easy to find.

For example, you could have separate folders for your photos and documents, or keep files related to a single project in their own folder. And yes, you can drag and drop program shortcuts into folders too.

If you’d like to clean up your desktop quickly, you can select everything on your desktop and then drag and drop them into a folder. You can then move items back onto your desktop as you need them.

Use the desktop as a temporary working area

The desktop works well as a workspace, giving you a convenient place to store files on which you’re currently working. For example, you might store spreadsheets you’re working on, documents you’ve scanned, photos you’ve just taken or things you’ve just downloaded on your desktop.

To keep the desktop useful for this task and prevent it from getting too cluttered, try only storing files on your desktop for as long as you need them. When you’re finished with a project, move the associated files to another folder like your main Documents or Pictures folder.

In other words, treat the desktop like you would treat a physical desktop or counter – place things on it while you’re using them and clear them away afterwards.

The caveat, of course, in relation to the above is that, on your work PC, files should not be kept on the desktop, as this places them on the local machine which is not automatically backed up. You should keep all your folders, documents, pictures, etc. on the server, since this is backed up (provided your company has a robust backup solution in place) and can be recovered in the event of a mishap.

»

The pandemic isn’t stopping First Class Technologies help its customers get ready for when the world returns to normal.

In what should usually have been half term, we’ve been busy working at a Cannock high school, getting things ready for when the students can safely return.

First Class Technologies received a call from the headteacher last week, asking for advice about upgrading the school’s current systems.

The team was able to quickly survey the situation, recommend the most suitable solution, confirm investment costs and book the job in.

This project involved expanding the school’s structured cable plant, to make sure every classroom had enough Wi-Fi coverage to enable pupils to use electronic devices throughout the whole school.

Whilst on-site, our IT engineers also replaced 32 old access points with 90 new, state-of-the-art Ubiquiti UniFi Wireless Access Points. The new UniFi Nano HD technology APs utilise 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology to communicate with numerous clients at the same time.

The improvements made will help increase multi-user throughput to ensure the whole system operates more efficiently, giving an improved experience for teachers and pupils.

Now is an ideal time for educational establishments and businesses to upgrade and add new technology, whilst premises aren’t fully occupied.

If your school, campus or business needs to refresh its wireless solutions, or upgrade any existing technology, First Class Technologies would love to help.

»

As we begin to consider how to move forward, returning to the office doesn’t necessarily mean you will be abandoning all of your work-from-home set-ups.

In fact, your workforce will likely consist of remote workers for some time to come. Workstations in the office, however, may have been sitting idle while everyone worked remotely and you will need to give some thought to ensuring your employees have what they need to do their jobs effectively.

Evaluate any new technology deployed during the crisis

The tools your employees used to work remotely may or may not be required when you return to the office. Create a list, including any new devices, and decide if they stay or go. Evaluate how the new tech was implemented, determine what worked and what fell short, and if you still need all of the licences your purchased. Examples include new Office 365 licences, Zoom, new laptops, etc.

Evaluate any service providers you use to run your business

Identify any vendor that was not able to achieve their SLAs and determine the cause. Pay particularly close attention to those critical vendors and how they performed during the crisis.

Does everything still work?

Take the appropriate precautions. Is everything still in good working order? What about computers and networks? Have things been switched off for a long time? Do they need to be restarted by a professional?

Run an audit on any workstations in the office

An audit will help you determine if the workstations are properly patched with the latest Operating System and other critical updates.

Conduct a gap analysis

Document the technology gaps that were exposed during the crisis and create a plan on how to address them.

Catalogue items that were removed from the office

Protect your business and intellectual property by ensuring any devices, technology, files, folders, contracts, customer lists and documents, etc are properly returned to the office. This list may include electronic files left on the employee’s personal workstation or device.

Document a list of those employees who used their personal computers to work from home

Develop an appropriate action plan to ensure the ongoing use of personal computers or devices complies with your company’s security standards. Consider requiring your employees to change the passwords on any personal devices.

For any employee who will continue to work from home, audit the tech they will be using

Determine if the tech is appropriate, secure, and sufficient to enable optimal productivity.

Schedule a review of your Disaster Recovery and/or Business Continuity plan

What can be improved upon? What worked well? Were you able to easily transform from the office to work from home? How was your business impacted during this crisis? Update your Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plan accordingly?

Schedule regular Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity testing

This should be a routine part of your business but, given this recent crisis, regular Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity testing will be even more crucial moving forward. Don’t be caught unprepared.

Try new ways of operating

If it turns out, for example, most of your people work well from home, perhaps you can restructure your business to lower your overhead costs? Remember, it’s possible we may see a second spike in Covid-19 cases and businesses that have adapted to life under lockdown are more likely to ride out future distancing rules.

»

Teams is more than just a video chat offering, it comes with a built-in communications app to facilitate working together with other people on files and documents.

It features VoIP, text and video chat as well as integration with Microsoft Office and SharePoint that anyone can use, although it is beneficial to people already using Office 365.

Teams will eventually become the built-in workplace communications app for Windows and Office, replacing Skype for Business.

If you’re using Teams to keep in touch with colleagues and clients, we thought you’d find this list of hotkeys useful, for when using Teams on Windows desktop.

Messaging
• Go to compose box: C
• Expand compose box: Ctrl+Shift+X
• Send: Ctrl+Enter
• Attach file: Ctrl+O
• Start new line: Shift+Enter
• Reply to thread: R
• Mark as important: Ctrl+Shift+I

Meetings and Calls
• Accept video call: Ctrl+Shift+A
• Accept audio call: Ctrl+Shift+S
• Decline call: Ctrl+Shift+D
• Start audio call: Ctrl+Shift+C
• Start video call: Ctrl+Shift+U
• Toggle mute: Ctrl+Shift+M
• Toggle video: Ctrl+Shift+O
• Toggle fullscreen: Ctrl+Shift+F
• Go to sharing toolbar: Ctrl+Shift+Space

Navigation
• Open Activity: Ctrl+1
• Open Chat: Ctrl+2
• Open Teams: Ctrl+3
• Open Calendar: Ctrl+4
• Open Calls: Ctrl+5
• Open Files: Ctrl+6
• Go to previous list item: Left Alt+Down Arrow key
• Move selected team up: Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow key
• Move selected team down: Ctrl+Shift+Down Arrow key
• Go to previous section: Ctrl+Shift+F6
• Go to next section: Ctrl+F6

General
• Show keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl+Full Stop (.)
• Go to Search: Ctrl+E
• Show commands: Ctrl+Slash (/)
• Goto: Ctrl+G
• Start a new chat: Ctrl+N
• Open Settings: Ctrl+Comma (,)
• Open Help: F1
• Close: Esc
• Zoom in: Ctrl+Equals (=)
• Zoom out: Ctrl+Minus (-)
• Invoke Cortana: Left+Alt+C

»

As video meetings increase in popularity, we’ve put together a brief guide to some of the hotkeys for Zoom on Windows which we hope you’ll find useful.

Navigation
• Switch Zoom windows: F6
• Go to meeting controls: Ctrl+Alt+Shift
• Go to previous video stream in Gallery: Page Up
• Go to next video stream in Gallery: Page Down
• Go to Invite menu: Alt+I
• Go to next tab (right): Ctrl+Tab
• Go to previous tab (left): Ctrl+Shift+Tab
• Go to previous chat: Ctrl+Up
• Go to next chat: Ctrl+Down
• Jump to chat: Ctrl+T
• Close current chat: Ctrl+W

Interface
• Toggle full screen On/Off: Alt+F
• Toggle “Always Show Meeting Control Toolbar” On/Off: Alt
• Toggle In-Meeting chat panel: Alt+H
• Toggle Participants panel: Alt+U
• Switch to Active Speaker view: Alt+F1
• Switch to Gallery video view: Alt+F2
• Close front window: Alt+F4

Controls
• Toggle video On/Off: Alt+V
• Toggle audio On/Off: Alt+A
• Toggle audio On/Off for all except host: Alt+M
• Toggle Screen Share On/Off: Alt+Shift+S (only works when the meeting control toolbar is onscreen).
• Stop current Screen Share and launch a new one: Alt+S (only works when the meeting control toolbar is onscreen).
• Pause/Resume Screen Share: Alt+T (only works when the meeting control toolbar is onscreen).
• Switch camera: Alt+N
• Toggle floating meeting controls: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H
• Raise/Lower hand: Alt+Y
• Start remote control: Alt+Shift+R
• Stop remote control: Alt+Shift+G

Documentation
• Start/Stop local recording: Alt+R
• Start/Stop cloud recording: Alt+C
• Pause/Resume recording: Alt+P
• Take a screenshot: Alt+Shift+T
• Search: Ctrl+F

»

Two ways you can help to keep yourself and the company you work for safe from cyber-attacks (on top of having a good antivirus solution), is to have a strong password / passphrase and to make sure you know the scams that are happening or always be wary of emails that you are not expecting.

Arming yourself with the know-how to avoid risky behaviours can make a substantial impact on your employer’s ability to reduce the risk to their business associated with email.

Strong passwords
Having a strong password / passphrase is a great way to keep your personal information private. Here are some quick tips for a strong password:

• Make sure your password is at least 15 characters long.
• Use a unique phrase instead of just one word.
• Use a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and other characters. It only has to make sense to you!
• Always use a different password for each account.
• Don’t choose a password with personal information as this can be easily guessed.
• Change your passwords regularly.

Keep up to date with current scams and ALWAYS be wary of ‘unbelievable’ offers
Always be suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, even if it’s just a stranger or business that has sent you an email with a link. If you are concerned, delete it or call your IT person.

A good rule of thumb is, if an email is real and important and you have deleted it, whoever sent it will be in touch again, so don’t be afraid to delete it if you are worried.

Here are a few extra tips to help protect yourself online:
• Never open attachments or click on links in email messages from unknown senders.
• Change passwords often and use best practices for creating strong passwords.
• Never share passwords with anyone, including co-workers.
• Try to send as little sensitive information as possible via email, and send sensitive information only to recipients who require it.
• Use spam filters and anti-virus software.
• When working remotely or on a personal device, use VPN software to access corporate email.
• Avoid accessing company email from public Wi-Fi connections.

Because technology and social sharing is such a huge part of our daily lives these days, it’s very important to be aware of how vulnerable you may be when surfing the Internet.

By applying some of these tips to your online accounts, you will drastically improve your online safety, but if you have any queries at all about your online safety, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your IT team.

Material provided by our friends at Data Protection Consulting www.dataprotection.me.uk

»

Learning Point: Check out the security of your home-working environment.

Many people are now working from home and for some people this is a new experience. Even if you are already used to working from home, you may now have additional people in your household sharing your workspace which can add to the challenges, especially if you have school age children.

It is easy to overlook the boundaries between work and home, when you are working from home. To keep a professional image, we need to work at keeping a virtual distinction as much as possible between the two, and dedicate specific time and space for work in your home environment.

Many companies are understanding of intrusions from family members during this difficult period; however, you should still make sure you know what your employer expects from employees working from home by checking the company Remote Working policy. With common sense from employees and understanding from employers, we will all get through this challenging period.

Here are some tips to bear in mind when home working:

  • Before taking part in a video meeting, prepare ahead, checking out a suitable location in which to place your laptop. Test out the video and microphone settings, to ensure you can be seen and heard if needed, or muted and not seen according to your requirements. Remember to check your background.
  • Consider whether you need to secure any company paperwork containing personal information or confidential company data in a lockable cabinet or drawer. If this is not possible, discuss the situation with your line manager.
  • When making work telephone calls, ensure that other household members are not able to overhear the content of confidential conversations.
  • When using email to send or receive work related content use the company VPN (virtual private network). If your company does not have one, then ensure you password protect documents which contain personal data and double-check the recipients of your emails before you send them.
  • Office wastepaper should not be disposed of in domestic dustbins. Wastepaper should be stored securely until it can be taken to company premises for disposal. Ensure that all confidential wastepaper is shredded.Material provided by our friends at Data Protection Consulting www.dataprotection.me.uk
»

IT management can be one of the most costly and time-consuming aspects of running a business, yet having sophisticated and efficient systems in place is often crucial to the long-term success and growth of any operation.

Depending on the infrastructure of your business, it sometimes pays to call in some additional IT support, whether to implement new software and systems, to manage upgrades or for ongoing IT management.

Deciding to outsource IT support is sometimes a no-brainer. It could be, for example, that you have decided to move your business to the cloud, but currently don’t have the expertise in-house to make the change. You could be looking for a partner who specialises in Microsoft Cloud solutions, such as Microsoft Office 365.

Other times, deciding if, and when, to outsource IT can be less clear-cut and needs to be weighed up against the practical and financial benefits.

First Class Technologies has been providing award-winning managed IT support in Lichfield for 20 years so we understand the factors involved in the decision-making process.

Immediate access to the best technology

In this digital age, software and hardware rapidly becomes obsolete and it can be difficult to keep abreast of the latest developments. Outsourcing gives you immediate access to the most recent technology and software, and often at a more affordable price.

Team of experts at your fingertips

Outsourcing can give you access to a whole team of experts with advanced technical skills and experience in a range of areas. This could open up new possibilities and solutions that were previously unavailable to you due to the training and implementation costs.

Boost your competitiveness

The larger competitors in your field often have extensive in-house IT departments, software and skills that you just don’t have the budget for. Buying in that support through a third party can level the playing field and even help give you the edge.

Cost savings

When using the services of a third partner, there’s the obvious savings associated with hiring a member of staff. You will also get more bang for your buck, both in terms of the expert advice you can access and the reduced costs that usually result from the bulk purchasing and leasing of hardware and software that IT support specialists can secure. For example, we have partnerships with Microsoft, Dell, Sophos and other vendors.

Flexibility

At First Class Technologies, for example, we have a managed IT support package to suit everyone. This includes simple break/fix support, third-line support to complement your in-house IT team, or fully managed support systems. Our services are tailored to give you exactly what you need.

Super-fast support

Outsourcing often means tapping in to a larger team with greater capacity than you currently have in-house, so that help is always available. First Class Technologies has invested in the latest helpdesk, monitoring and remote support technology to provide the fastest and quickest IT support possible. It also allows us to remotely connect to your computer for extra fast responses. Plus, our monitoring system constantly checks your services so that problems can be identified and solved before you even know there’s anything wrong.

Free up internal resources

Trusting the external experts with IT support can help free up the valuable time of managers and other people in the business who could be doing other things, rather than getting bogged down in IT. Improved IT systems, as well as more time to focus on the big picture, could help boost overall business growth.

Our team are happy to talk if you need any further help or information about IT Support Lichfield, Microsoft Office 365, or any other aspects of IT management.

»

In today’s fast paced economy, decisions need to be made faster than ever before.  It’s easy to jump into an agreement without proper due diligence – with potentially dire consequences.

 

The ‘Black Art’ of Cloud Computing is not immune from this challenge. I recently saw an article published in Computer Weekly and written by Mark Weston, Principal at UK law firm Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP, which I thought was worth posting up as a useful guide.  As with most areas of business, all that glitters is not gold and having read the article, I have to say I agree with Mark. It’s important to ensure you know what you are entering into before you sign any agreement.  There are a simple set of questions you can ask that will help you avoid some of the potential pitfalls.  You can read the article and the checklist Mark recommends by Clicking here.

 

Needless to say, if you would like to talk to First Class about taking the first steps into a Cloud environment such Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft Azure, we’d be pleased to share our responses to the checklist. Feel free to call us on 01543 414152. We’d love to talk to you.

»

Cyber Attack Crime

Machine learning is not a new-fangled security technology, but it is poised to be a crucial element in battling known and unknown ransomware threats and exploit kit attacks, among others. Machine learning is deployed through a layered system with human- and computer-provided inputs running through mathematical algorithms.

This model is then pitted against network traffic, allowing a machine to make quick and accurate decisions about whether the network content—files and behaviours—are malicious or not.

Enterprises must also ready themselves with proven protection against the anti-evasion techniques that threat actors will introduce in 2017. This challenge calls for a combination (versus a silver-bullet type approach) of different security technologies that should be available across the network to form a connected threat defence.

Technologies like:
• Advanced anti-malware (beyond blacklisting)
• Antispam and antiphishing at the Web and messaging gateways
• Web reputation
• Breach detection systems
• Application control (whitelisting)
• Content filtering
• Vulnerability shielding
• Mobile app reputation
• Host- and network-based intrusion prevention
• Host-based firewall protection

A majority of today’s threats can be detected by the aforementioned techniques working together, but in order to catch zero-day and “unknown” threats, enterprises must use behaviour and integrity monitoring as well as sandboxing.

IoT affords both risks and conveniences. Smart device users should learn to secure their routers before allowing any smart device to access the Internet through them. They should then include security as a consideration when buying a new smart device.

Does it provide for authentication or allow password changes? Can it be updated? Can it encrypt network communications? Does it have open ports? Does its vendor provide firmware updates?

Enterprises that collect data from EU citizens should expect a bump in administrative expenses as they grapple with major process changes and hire DPOs to comply with the GDPR. A thorough review of a company’s data protection strategy will also help in passing audits.
These new challenges require a new take on endpoint security, a cross-generational security approach combining proven threat-detection techniques for known and unknown threats with advanced protection techniques such as application control, exploit prevention and behavioural analysis, sandbox detection, and high-fidelity machine learning.

Training employees against social engineering attacks and about the latest threats like BEC will complete the security culture needed to fortify an enterprise’s defences for 2017 and beyond.

If you interested in knowing more about making your network as secure as possible then please get in touch with us. We have a number of great products that can help to either protect your network or quickly recover your data in the event of an attack

»

It’s often said that there is nothing more frustrating than a loss of email communication when running a business.

Not only does it disrupt productivity, cause expensive downtime and damage customer relationships, but it usually requires the business owner (probably yourself) to choose between becoming an overnight I.T. expert to troubleshoot the issue or pay for outside help to restore email functionality.

This is especially true if your business uses in-house email servers. These power-hungry machines demand continual maintenance and expensive upgrades to manage backups, increase storage and combat cyber threats.

So, when it comes to choosing a reliable option for email services, many businesses, from new start-ups to larger established organisations are choosing the headache free option of professional business email hosting.

Why Choose Business Email Hosting Services

As a business email user, your maximum involvement with emails should really be limited to writing, sending and receiving them – not troubleshooting downtime.

That’s why a business email hosting service is an ideal option for the majority of businesses. Because all that is required is an internet connection, and the complexities of emails and exchange servers are all taking care of; including maintenance, security and upgrades.

You see, email hosting services utilise cloud storage, this means that business emails and data can be stored in highly secure locations and accessed only by the business and its email users.

Managed completely by professional email hosting providers, cloud-based business email hosting services offer a liberating number of solutions for businesses, such as:

  • A reduction in total costs and I.T. resources
  • Fully managed email infrastructure
  • Strong security and regularly updated virus protection
  • No requirements for maintenance or upgrading
  • Guaranteed uptime
  • Simple to use features
  • Regular backups to protect against data loss
  • A reduction of energy costs for a greener, cleaner business
  • Options to scale-up and grow with your business

However, it’s important to choose a business email provider that suits your business needs and offers an email hosting service that you can rely on.

That’s why, as managed IT and cloud specialists, we have identified what we feel is an ideal option for the majority of businesses looking for affordable, reliable and hassle-free business email hosting services.

Your Recommended Business Email Provider

For a complete package that is designed to suit the needs of a professional business, you’ll find Microsoft Office 365 business hosted email to be an ideal option.

Starting from as little as £2.50 per user, per month – Office 365 hosted email provides you with everything you should expect for a reliable and hassle-free business email infrastructure including:

  • Anywhere access to emails, calendars and contacts on desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets
  • Anti-malware and anti-spam protected mailboxes
  • Data loss prevention to prevent sensitive data being sent by mistake
  • 24-hour monitoring and security to safeguard your data
  • 9% guaranteed email uptime
  • Complete backups for emails in case of accidental deletion
  • On premise access to emails, contacts, calendar through Outlook
  • 50 GB of email storage per user and unlimited storage options
  • Affordable pricing compared to many other business email providers

In addition to these valuable features, First Class Technologies will make the transition over to Office 365 email hosting so streamlined that staff and employees won’t even notice the difference; you can even have the same user interface that you used with your previous in-house server.

With Microsoft Office so established in the business world, migrating over to Office 365 email hosting services is a great choice for businesses already familiar with the Microsoft user experience and who want to take advantage of their powerful, web-based collaboration tools.

And let’s face it, Microsoft won’t be packing-up shop anytime soon, so you also have the extra reassurance of a business email hosting provider that will be delivering expert services well in to the future of your business.

Making Office 365 Email Hosting Work for Your Business

As far as hosted email services go, Office 365 is an ideal email hosting service that meets the needs of many businesses with its added value package, affordable cost and robust security.

So why struggle with complex in-house server maintenance, expensive email hosting providers and limited email storage? With email infrastructure and high security a critical part of all successful businesses, it’s important to get it right.

You can find out today if Office 365 emailing hosting services is right for your business and your budget – all you need to do is call our team who are waiting to provide you with expert advice on getting emails working for your business.

First Class Technologies: 01543 414 152

»

Whether you’re setting up a new business, or looking to update outdated office software – you’ll no doubt be considering the option to use Microsoft Office 365.

With its already familiar applications of Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, Microsoft 365 is a popular choice for businesses like yours in helping to boost productivity and access the very best, and latest word processing, spreadsheet, email and presentation software to suit your business needs.

But what makes Microsoft Office 365 different, and is it right for your business needs? To find out the answers, we first need to consider the basics; exactly what is Microsoft 365 and what are the benefits of purchasing Microsoft 365?

What is Microsoft 365? 

Microsoft Office 365 is a subscription service that allows users to work in office applications anywhere, at any time and on any device, including smartphones and tablets.

Office 365 users can now install a number of great office applications, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access on to their computers and devices. Microsoft 365 cloud based services then allows users to store a massive 1TB of data online (per user), with freedom to create, edit and share documents with anyone and in real time.

In addition to the valuable anytime access (online or offline) for office applications, Microsoft 365 users will be provided with the very latest versions of software available, built-in security as well as email hosting services and synchronised calendar access.

There are a number of Microsoft 365 plans for personal use, students and businesses; but today we’re going to focus on how Office 365 Business can help increase productivity for you.

Is Office 365 Business Right for My Needs? 

When deciding on the best office applications for your business, it’s important to consider the costs involved as well as usability and reliability.

Thankfully Office 365 Business packages are designed to meet these requirements, with surprisingly affordable monthly costs for a variety of packages to boost productivity and help deliver ROI.

Each Office 365 Business package comes with the following features as a minimum:

  • Online versions of the latest Microsoft Office applications, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint so that you can work wherever you are, on whichever device you prefer.
  • 1 TB of data storage per user for a generous amount of space to save and securely save your projects using Microsoft office cloud.
  • Guaranteed 99.9% uptime and financially backed service level agreement to provide you with complete peace of mind that you can access vital details when you need them
  • Easy management of user credentials and permissions for increased security
  • World class security and encryption to keep your data safe and secure.

In addition to these, Office 365 Business premium packages are provided at affordable prices to include:

  • Fully installed Office applications up to 5 PC’s/Macs, 5 tablets and 5 smartphones so that your team can be completely in sync wherever they are working
  • Business class email that reflects your company name, all with 50GB of storage per user; perfect for company start-ups
  • Unlimited online meetings, instant messaging, corporate social network and work management tools for streamlined collaboration and communication
  • SharePoint access, used for sharing, storing and backing up vital company data

As you can see, Office 365 Business provides a compelling package of benefits for businesses.

Rather than the usual practice of making a one-time purchase of Microsoft Office for use on a single PC or Mac, Office 365 Business can be fully installed on a number of computers and devices, and always with the latest versions.

The Benefits of Office 365 Business Packages

Of course, it all sounds very appealing, but how does Office 365 help improve your business, and what makes it different from purchasing the one-off, non-subscription software?

Well, Office 365 Business packages save on additional costs and hassle that are associated with updating IT software and managing data storage, for example:

  • You can save on that expensive initial outlay purchasing individual software licenses for every individual (and then the time involved installing them to each computer)
  • Compatibility problems will no longer be a worry when you always have access to the latest versions and easy sharing options
  • Additional server equipment for storage won’t be necessary when using Microsoft 365 cloud services to store data, nor will reaching the limit of storage suddenly cause your whole system to slow down as the case with older / full servers.
  • With costs starting as low as £2.50 per month, new business start-up costs can be kept as low as possible
  • Out-of-date software will be a thing of the past with FREE updates to latest versions
  • High uptime of 99.9% along with anytime access will minimise delay and time wasting, which in itself will increase productivity and help boost that bottom line
  • You can be sure of safe and secure data storage away from prying eyes when using Microsoft Office 365 Cloud

How Secure is Microsoft Office 365 Cloud?

Concerned about the risks of storing data on the internet with office 365 cloud?

So was Microsoft. That’s why they’ve spent massive amounts of time and money making sure their office 365 cloud services have the best online security available.

To make sure that Microsoft 365 cloud services are completely secure, all data used, whether it’s at rest or being transmitted is completely encrypted. Microsoft even guarantee that none of your content will ever be accessed by them, or used for advertising so that there is no chance of data being released inadvertently.

Office 365 cloud also ensures data is not just secure, but safe from loss with unbelievably regular back-up processes so that it can be restored quickly in the event of accidental deletion – also handy if you forget to renew your subscription as Microsoft allow a timeframe to recover your data.

On the user end of Microsoft office cloud services, you are able to completely manage your privacy settings so that you can control who is able to see certain information, and who cannot; perfect for keeping those HR documents confidential.

How do I find reliable Office 365 Microsoft Partners?

While the idea of using Microsoft Office 365 Business package sounds great in principle; we understand that migrating all your email and information over to this new cloud-based system can be a daunting prospect (especially if your business is large or has already been trading for quite a while).

However, here at First Class Technologies, we can make the process completely hassle free and reliable. As Microsoft Partners (for Silver Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions) we are trained and experienced in getting you started and supporting you in getting the best from Office 365 Business packages.

With the latest migration technology available, we ensure the process of transferring your systems over to Office 365 is streamlined and avoids loss of data or downtime, so that you can focus on running your business without frustrating waiting times.

Because we are Microsoft Partners, we have been authorised to provide the best training and support to help you get your money’s worth from Office 365 products. So applications that may be new to you, such as SharePoint, OneDrive for Business or Skype for Business will become a fundamental part of your everyday office use and help increase efficiency.

Any problems or concerns with email or Office 365 Business packages? With our support as Microsoft Partners, you can get straight through to our technicians and access immediate advice on email or phone, saving you time and hassle going direct to Microsoft’s busy helpline.

So now you can access the benefits and cost savings of Microsoft Office 365 Business packages and Office 365 cloud services without fear of losing data, risking downtime or spending hours reading how-to help guides.

For an effortless transition from your current office system to Microsoft Office 365 Business package, contact First Class Technologies on 01543 414152, or email us your request today.

»

Datto Family

Could your business survive after a critical loss of data?

Accidental deletions, fire, hardware failures, disasters, ransomware viruses and malicious activity are genuine threats facing every business, every day.

Datto backup systems protect against all these factors with the ultimate business continuity system.

Designed for rapid data recovery, Datto not only protects your business data but eliminates costly downtime, safeguards your professional reputation and ensures your business can operate again quickly and efficiently.

What is Datto Backup System?

Datto systems provide the ultimate business continuity solution for the backup, protection and recovery of your business data.

With Datto backup solutions, your most vital and valuable business data is kept safe and secure with both onsite and offsite hybrid-cloud solutions. This allows for data to be restored quickly in the event of data loss or disaster; providing an easy, hassle-free solution and complete peace of mind.

How Do Datto Systems Protect Your Business Data?

Datto systems are much more than the traditional data backup process you may be using now. Using innovative solutions, Datto utilises a hybrid-cloud backup to create an encrypted copy of your data files for storage at a secure location on-site as well as being replicated off-site in the cloud.

This means that should your files be deleted for any reason, you can guarantee a rapid recovery, even if your Datto device is damaged or destroyed thanks to secure off-site storage.

With Datto backup solutions, a new device can be shipped to your location overnight with restored data so you can avoid the internet transfer times that can take weeks, even months to restore.

Why Do You Need Datto Backup and Disaster Recovery? 

Datto data backup is a business continuity system designed to ensure the survival of your business in the event of data loss.

This means that even if your server hardware fails, your onsite storage is destroyed or your online data is threatened through ransomware, there is always a way to get your business operating again quickly and efficiently.

With downtime now estimated at an average of £5,306 per hour for small companies to £133,266 per hour for larger companies, Datto backup system will not only save you loss of earnings and associated costs, but complete reassurance that your data, operating system, preferences and settings are protected and easily restored.

 Will it Suit Your Business?

There are a number of Datto systems available to suit your needs, from smaller operating enterprises to large businesses.

For small businesses without dedicated IT staff, maintaining current data backup with off-site storage is often overlooked due to time or even budget restrictions. With Datto’s built-from the ground up systems, small businesses can benefit from a range of devices that are specifically designed for small businesses and based on demand. Now with field upgrades available, Datto backup grows alongside the business to always provide the best protection at the right budget.

For large businesses with an extensive need for data storage, Datto provides high performance data backup solutions offering multi-site disaster recovery. With the latest technology, Datto backup systems for large businesses enables whole infrastructures to be recovered quickly and effortlessly.

 How to Purchase and Install a Datto Continuity System

As a Premier Plus Datto partner, First Class Technologies supply, install and maintain Datto business continuity systems within the U.K.

We understand that protecting your business data is always urgent, so for a quick response and identification of the best Datto solution for your business complete the contact form or call today on: 01543 414152.

»

1. DO NOT OPEN any attachments you are not expecting to receive (especially filenames ending with ‘.exe’).

2. DO N OT DOWNLOAD anything suspicious without checking with your IT department.

3. DO NOT CLICK on links in emails or give away personal details unless you know the sender. Your bank will never ask for details via email.

4. UPDATE YOUR ANTIVIRUS which will help identify and stop emails containing viruses.

5. IF YOU SUSPECT AN ISSUE, unplug every cable from your computer (or switch off your laptop) and contact your IT support immediately.

6. USE YOUR COMMON SENSE with all of the above!

»

Archive in Outlook 2016 for Windows

Applies To: Outlook 2016
Outlook 2016 includes a quick archive feature on the Home tab of the ribbon. Office 365 for business customers also have access to an Online Archive.

Archive messages with a single action

You can use the Archive button in the Delete group on the Home tab to move one or more messages to an archive folder without deleting them. There are several benefits to using Archive.

  • Archived items remain easy to find from the search box or by navigating to your Archive folder
  • Items are still available on your phone or other devices via the Archive folder

Moving messages to your Archive folder won’t reduce your mailbox size. Messages are still stored in your mailbox, but they’re in another folder.

  1. Choose one or more messages in your folder to archive.
  2. On the Home tab, in the Delete group, choose Archive.One Click ArchivingNOTES:
    • If you haven’t previously set up an archive folder, you’ll get this prompt:Set up One-Click Archive
    • If you’ve used Archive on another Outlook client like Outlook.com, you won’t see the prompt and items will be moved to your existing Archive folder.
  3. Choose one of the following:
    • Create archive folder
    • Choose existing folder

    NOTE: Your message(s) will be moved to the Archive folder you’ve specified. If you archive a message by mistake, go to the Archive folder and move the message back to your Inbox.

How does this relate to Online Archive?

Online Archive is a feature for Office 365 enterprise customers who have uncommonly large mailboxes. These customers can use an Online Archive to avoid deleting old mail. A user’s Online Archive acts somewhat like a second account in Outlook with its own folder structure. As a result, it isn’t included in searches performed from the Inbox.

If an Online Archive is enabled, administrators and users can set up their mailbox to automatically move old messages to the Online Archive using Archive Policies.

Recommendations for using Archive and Online Archive

We recommend using the new Archive feature to keep your Inbox clean of messages you’ve already answered or acted on. You can also delete messages or move them to specific folders if that’s more your style.

For users with large mailboxes in an Office 365 Enterprise organization, we recommend administrators set an Archive Policy that moves items to an Online Archive after one year, or less if users are reaching their mailbox quota faster. This ensures users don’t have to delete old mail to make room for new mail. Mail older than the specified time can be moved from both the Inbox folder and the local Archive folder.

»

From Skykicks website…

The Cloud is an exciting market, but today it just got even more exciting on the news that Microsoft is acquiring LinkedIn.  (Overview deck from Microsoft here)

Even though the news is still breaking,  I’ve gotten a number of questions already, so I wanted to share some initial thoughts on how I think this acquisition could benefit partners.

Accelerating Your Office 365 Business

I think the biggest benefit for IT solution providers and partners will be to help accelerate the sales of Office 365.

We’ve been thinking a lot recently about the huge opportunity for partners to move and manage their customers to the cloud with our State of the Office 365 SMB cloud study. In it, we shared that according to our research, 92% of US SMBs with under 250 employees are yet to adopt Office 365.

This news reinforces what we’re seeing. Office 365 is the leading cloud productivity app, but Microsoft is constantly innovating, investing, and opening up even more ways to help partners drive Office 365 adoption. This acquisition is another ($26B) proof point.

Initially, I expect partners to see inbound interest from customers who have been sitting on the fence waiting to buy, or are curious as to what this means for them longer-term. Either way, these are incredible opportunities to start to build a relationship with customers that are considering the move to Office 365 and get your take on how this benefits them.

Second, this will significantly bolster the Office 365 value prop, making sales faster and easier. Who wouldn’t want to tell a customer the reason you should buy Office 365 is because it’s the leading product activity in the world with LinkedIn directly integrated.   Imagine your customer’s LinkedIn network coming alive within Outlook, giving them more information, more power and easier ways to engage with theircustomers. Plus, this acquisition brings in a number of new feature assets, such as e-learning with Lynda.com, also expanding the range of prospects exposed to Office 365. “Business has always been a social activity – this acquisition confirms it”.

Finally, from a brand perspective, this is another huge example of how Microsoft is investing to make their cloud the best cloud on the planet.

In the channel, partners have been grappling with the transformations necessary to succeed in the cloud, and two key areas of challenge are building smart sales and marketing plans, as well as creating the right go-to-market strategy that creates maximum differentiation. Partners who are currently focusing on evolving their sales and marketing strategies for the cloud will want to ensure that they become great at infusing a host of new LinkedIn related opportunities into their plans. There’s an excellent presentation on some ways Microsoft is thinking about it here.

Making Office 365 More Useful For Customers

Not only do partners win with this deal, but their customers will too.  Microsoft has shared plans to find a range of ways to integrate the LinkedIn graph and Microsoft’s own B2B user graph within Office 365. There will be a ton written in the next few days, but here’s a few product ideas I’ve always wished they’d have with Office; hopefully we’ll get some of these soon.

  • Unified Business Identity – I think deeper integration of a person’s LinkedIn network, as well as other key professional history, skills, articles, education and more directly into Outlook contact store, would be awesome. Imagine if you could right-click an email address in Outlook and see the connections you have in common, and other business essential information. This would take my business communication to a whole new level.
  • Groups – Merging and morphing of Office 365 new group feature. Having external groups with LinkedIn groups would be very useful and relevant.
  • Collaboration – Easier ways to real-time Skype, email, share and collaborate within your professional network could be super helpful. Liking and commenting is great, but imagine true collaboration where you can get the right information to the right people with just a couple clicks.
  • More visibility and management of the News Feed – Making the News Feed more accessible, searchable, and consumable would be appreciated. I don’t live in LinkedIn all day, so integrating it into the Outlook and SharePoint experiences I work with and making it more usable would be a big win.
  • Integration of the LinkedIn Mail system – If you’re like me you probably don’t like managing multiple inboxes outside of Outlook. It’s a total pain to remember to go out there and then have to manage them in a basic web interface.  Imagine having your LinkedIn network mails integrated directly into a common Outlook interface with its rich functionality such as threads, reply all, attachments, Skype meeting integration and more. This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while – can’t wait.

Of course all of this is from LinkedIn to O365, but perhaps more importantly is the network effect of bringing 1.2B office users into the network. Making the data richer, more meaningful and more useful will not only enhance Office but also the LinkedIn network itself

»

Two thirds of large British businesses have experienced a cyber-attack or breach in the last 12 months, research has revealed. Findings from the Cyber Security Breaches Survey, undertaken by Ipsos Mori for the Government, show a quarter of large firms experiencing a cyber breach did so at least once a month.

Results from the survey have been released alongside the Government’s Cyber Governance Health Check, which was launched following the TalkTalk cyber-attack in October last year.

In light of the findings, businesses are now being urged to better protect themselves. Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The UK is a world-leading digital economy and this Government has made cyber security a top priority.

“Too many firms are losing money, data and consumer confidence with the vast number of cyber attacks. It’s absolutely crucial businesses are secure and can protect data. As a minimum, companies should take action by adopting the Cyber Essentials scheme which will help them protect themselves.”

Findings show that in some cases the cost of cyber breaches and attacks on businesses reached millions, and that almost half of the top FTSE 350 businesses regarded this as the biggest threat. It was also revealed that seven out of 10 attacks on all firms involved viruses, spyware or malware, and could have been prevented, while only a fifth of businesses have a clear view of the dangers of sharing information with third parties.

Over the next five years the Government has pledged to invest £1.9 billion to tackle and prevent the crime, as well as a new National Cyber Security Centre which will offer security support. A new national cyber security strategy will also be published later this year, setting out proposals to improve virtual safety across the Government, businesses and consumers.

Firms are also being encouraged to take action using the 10 Steps to Cyber Security which recommends measures such as malware protection, network security and monitoring.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/two-thirds-of-british-businesses-hit-by-cyber-attacks-in-the-past-year-a7018716.html

If you want to talk about cyber-security and business continuity get in touch with us. We can help!

»

You know you want to move to the cloud, but you don’t know where to begin or how to budget for it. The good news is that you’re not alone.

The move is on. According to the 2015 Computerworld CIO study, cloud computing was the second fastest-growing IT budget item in 2015 behind only security. Cloud projects also topped the list of the most important IT priorities CIOs identified for this year.

A separate cloud computing study conducted by IDG Enterprise found, however, that a majority of IT organisations are still trying to figure out which operations are good candidates for cloud hosting. Unless you’re all in on cloud, choose the options that offer the easiest migration, least risk and fastest payoff. Here are four guidelines for getting the most bang for your buck:

1. Start with the new stuff

Any new project should be viewed with a “cloud-first” bias. If a service provider can offer comparable or superior functionality to that which you can get from a packaged solution, then that’s an ideal candidate. Deploying or upgrading user-facing applications such as sales force automation and collaboration are naturals for hosting. And there is no legacy data to migrate.

2. Focus on moves to lower OpEX

Operational spending is the bane of many IT organisations. Talented IT staff spend far too much time on operational issues, and too little time on IT strategy and app development. Cloud can offload much of the operational chores that are keeping IT staff from making the business better.

3. Identify lonely servers

Admit it, some of your servers are getting sub-10% utilisation levels. Everyone’s got a few. That hardware is wasting power and floor space. You could virtualise them yourself, but why not migrate the data and apps to a cloud infrastructure provider? If you know what your operating costs are for the servers, you can easily calculate the ROI of hosting elsewhere.

4. Be a hero

The IDG Enterprise study also identified speed of deployment as the number one objective driving cloud investments. Look for projects on your to-do list that can be deployed using a software-as-a-service provider to deliver dazzling turnaround times, delighted constituents and further support for your cloud ambitions.

 

»

First Class Technologies, as an established and time served IT Solutions partner, continually reviews security matters and cyber threats such as Spear phishing.

Please ensure that your staff are vigilant about not publishing information on Social Media that will mean they can be profiled.

Here is a short news article shown on local East Midlands BBC evening news where David Benford, who has worked for a number of FCT clients, starts to highlight the issues…

Please take care out there, it can be a dangerous place if you are careless!

If you want any advice or assistance to maintain and improve your business security, please telephone or email our team.

»

‘Insider spoofing’ or faking the CEO’s email address to trick the CFO into transferring millions to criminal bank accounts is big business. Now Microsoft is using big data and reputation filters to try and squish the threat.

According to the FBI, between October 2013 and August 2015, 7,066 US businesses have fallen prey to ‘business email compromise’, netting criminals an estimated $747m.

Non-US victims lost a further $51m over the period, with the FBI estimating a 270 percent increase in identified victims since January 2015, when it first released figures about the threat category.

As Microsoft notes, when a corporate email domain is spoofed, it makes it hard for existing filters to identify the bogus email as malicious.

However, Microsoft reckons it has achieved a 500 percent improvement in counterfeit detection using a blend of big data, strong authentication checks, and reputation filters in Exchange Online Protection for Office 365.

It’s also rolling out new phishing and trust notifications to indicate whether an email is from a known sender or if a message is from an untrusted source, and therefore could be a phishing email.

The company is also promising a faster email experience as it vets attachments for malware and new tools to auto-correct messages that are mis-classified as spam. The aim is to boost defences without impairing end-user productivity.

Malicious email attachments remain a popular way for attackers to gain a foothold in an organization and, as RSA’s disastrous SecurID breach in 2011 showed, a little social engineering can go a long way to ensuring someone opens it.

Microsoft’s new attachment scanner, called Dynamic Delivery of Safe Attachments, looks to reduce delays as it checks attachments for potential threats.

Currently it captures suspicious looking attachments in a sandbox with a ‘detonation chamber’ where it analyses it for malware in a process takes five to seven minutes.

Microsoft hasn’t figured out a faster way to analyse the attachment, but instead of holding up the email as it conducts the scan, it will send the body of the email with a placeholder attachment. If the attachment is deemed safe, it will replace the placeholder and if not, the admin can filter out the attachment.

The feature is part of Microsoft’s Office 365 Exchange Online Protection and Advanced Threat Protection services.

The company is also tackling false-positive spam, or legitimate messages that are mis-identified as spam, and vice versa, with a new feature called Zero-hour Auto Purge, which allows admins to “change that verdict”.

“If a message is delivered to your inbox and later found to be spam, Zero-hour Auto Purge moves that message from the inbox to the spam folder; the reverse is true for messages misclassified as spam,” Microsoft notes.

Microsoft is testing this approach with 50 customers and says it will be rolled out for all Exchange Online Protection global clients in the first quarter of 2016.

If you’re based in the West or East Midlands, Birmingham, Tamworth, Lichfield, Nottingham, Leicester or Derby then we can help implement Office 365 for your organisation. Please fill out our contact form for more information.

»

Last month, Microsoft chief executive officer, Satya Nadella, announced that Microsoft Philanthropies will donate $1 billion USD in Microsoft Azure cloud computing resources over the next three years to 70,000 nonprofits and NGOs worldwide. Three initiatives are part of this commitment: serving the broad computing, storage, and software needs of the nonprofit community; expanding access to cloud resources for faculty research in universities; and reaching new communities with last-mile connectivity and cloud services. For more information, be sure to read the blog post from Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer.

»

IMG_9256

Great news for Small to Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) in the Midlands has arrived in the shape of a merger between two specialist IT Managed Service companies, First Class Technologies based in Lichfield and Red Cloud IT Solutions of Castle Donington.  The result is a company with an unrivalled portfolio of services specifically aimed at the SMB community. The beginning of February marked the completion of the merger.

Richard Hinton, MD of First Class Technologies said “This new partnership strengthens our portfolio of IT Managed services with the addition of Red Cloud’s specialist Cloud knowledge.  This means we can now offer our clients an enhanced level and range of services, including in-house, hybrid and cloud solutions”.

Tim Rookes, MD of Red Cloud IT Solutions said “I believe that our proposition to the market place is one of the strongest in the area and I’m really looking forward to working with the First Class team.  We both have ambitious plans for growth throughout the Midlands.  By focusing on local businesses, we believe we can bring a much needed range of advanced support services to this sector, often ignored by the bigger players in the region”.

The company will continue to trade as First Class Technologies, with the Head Office in Lichfield, along with the addition of an East Midlands office in Castle Donington.  Richard Hinton said “First Class Technologies has a successful heritage stretching back over 19 years and has always prided itself on providing excellent customer service and building long term relationships.  This merger makes perfect sense for us and our clients, so I and the management team couldn’t be happier”.

Tim Rookes commented “We’ve already started work on streamlining our support service to ensure we continue to provide an excellent customer support experience.  We have also invested in a new cutting edge monitoring and help desk system to enhance our customers’ experience, as well as rebranding the company and launching a new website. This will focus on our strong partnerships with Microsoft and their cloud solutions, such as Office 365 and Azure, and also with Datto, one of the industry’s leading hybrid cloud backup and business continuity systems.

The Company will continue to focus on small to medium-sized businesses and not for profit organisations located within the East and West Midlands.  The managed IT market is growing at a rapid rate due to the adoption of cloud technologies and less reliance on in-house IT teams.  With the excellent team we have at First Class, we aim to be the region’s leading managed IT provider, adding significant value to our clients.”

»