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All posts tagged Essex and suffolk it support

Maybe you don’t, but maybe you just don’t realise that you do as you are coping OK, but coping isn’t managing, it is more a survival rather than a preparation; read through our guide below, it will help you ask questions and get the most out of your IT support, either the company you are with, or the one that you will choose.  

How did you, historically, select your IT Partner?

Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay“>Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay

So – How did you? Did you ask at the school gates, to see if a mum or a dad could help you out; Did you choose the person who supports the other small businesses in the village or in the high street, hoping they would get how a school works; Did you do a little research first, but are still not happy?

However you chose in the past, maybe this year, you can look at it a little differently.  Use our guide below, so you can whittle out the ‘Half Job Harry’s’ or the’ Know it All, Do Little Albert’s’ or the ‘Promise the World – but can’t fit you in Wilbur’s’.  Find someone who understands how a school works; Who can work with legacy equipment; Who knows that a classroom can’t get by unless that interactive screen is doing all it can to support the teacher; Who understands that SIMS isn’t just a computer game about virtual people…

A general IT Support Partner may have a good grasp on how a business operates, and how a computer is built and maintained, and for an office environment would be second to none, but for a school you need an IT Support Partner – Plus.  They need to understand how the school works – what happens at 9am and 3.15 and why being available through those hours is the most important part of the service you provide.   

Preparation is key – Start looking well before your renewal date is up (if you are in a contract), give yourself time.

Strategise

Set up a strategy if you haven’t already.  It can be a year’s plan, a 5-year plan, or even longer if you want.  This should work alongside your school business plan – where will you be next year, are your staff and pupils all going to be back in the school, are you working on a contingency in case your pupils have to work from home again?

Whatever your needs, make sure you look at what is working well now, and what isn’t, have a look at all the changes that had to be made during the Pandemic.  Are you now able to transition from office/school base to home bases without worrying? How did your telephony system work when we all had to work from home – or didn’t it?  Could the teachers and TA’s get things printed when they needed to?  Ask your staffthey know what they struggle with, and what would make their daily working routine work better in the school or at home.

So, what are the top 8 reasons that people want to make the switch?

1. Are you seeing tangible, understandable results?

Return on investment is everything. Especially right now. You need to be able to see at a glance exactly how hard your IT partner is working for you. And what benefit that work is bringing to your school.

Tech talk can be tricky, but your support service should be able to make sure you understand what they are talking about without using every abbreviation under the sun – your specialism is teaching our young people. Ours is to keep that teaching machine running!

Everything presented should be relevant to your school, should be reflected in your plan and be easy to understand.  You should be able to see what has happened throughout the year in relation to your IT support, be it regular site visits, back up checks, ticket times, etc.

2. Do you have good communication with your IT Partner?

When you are working with an IT Support Partner, they will be able to help you identify the right hardware and software to help the school operate. They will make recommendations based on the way you work, and the vision that you have for the school’s future.

How do they communicate with you? Are you receiving regular emails giving you information about potential security issues, about products going end of life that will need to be scheduled in, do they give you notice of when your maintenance is due?  Are you receiving communications about new innovations, about things that will make your day easier? 

Do you know who works for you, do you know the names of the support team?  What would you improve with a new team? Make sure you put it into your plan.

3. Do they take data security seriously – are they training you to keep your school safe?

OK, so we’re not expecting your IT support partner to teach you their job. You don’t need to be an expert in IT – that’s what you’re paying someone to do for you. However, there should be a certain element of learning when you partner with an IT company.

For example, you need to learn about cyber-security; how to avoid scams; and how to protect your data.  Your support team needs to educate you on the ways you can reduce the school’s vulnerability to external attack.

Today, data security is of the utmost importance, since Covid, hackers and chancers are trying to look for more ways into systems, to cause havoc, or to tie up a school so that they have to pay a ransom to release the data.  If your IT Support Company does not see this as a priority, they will not be able to ensure your data is safe

The National Cyber Security centre’s website gives good support for schools 1 – so when you ask your IT provider how they ensure your data is held safe, and if it is in compliance with the NCSC’s guidance, you can ask this with confidence and knowledge.

Research from Marsh, Wavestone and law firm CMS2, highlights the number of cyber insurance claims growing 83% by 2020.  Whilst this report is all industry wide, the threat to schools is increasing, we, just this year, know of three separate attacks that have crippled local education providers. (see Ref. list for citations3).

4. Do you sometimes need support ‘outside’ of your contract?

A reputable IT Support Partner for schools will never shy away from something that is outside of their agreed business, that is not to say that they should be walked over, however, they should be flexible, have a clear pricing strategy, and be able to manage the odd deviance to contract.  

“Sorry, we don’t cover that.”

Ever heard that from your IT support provider? Lots of schools do.

“We don’t cover that” suggests a real lack of concern for your school’s operation. And that is not what a partner is about.

Being a partner for a school, means that you need a lot of hats to cover a lot of IT roles.  A school needs their IT equipment to last – you need to be able to fix it if you can.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

‘A partner actively spends time looking at new ways to improve your network; your data security; and your infrastructure. They won’t be working rigidly to a one-size fits all contract.’

5. Are you kept in the loop?

Understandably, many IT problems can’t always be fixed immediately. Some issues take a while to get to the bottom of. Other problems are rare and may take a little more diagnostic work.  However, whatever happens, you should always be kept in the loop. 

Being left in a void is frustrating and can cause mistrust. So ensure that there is a way to communicate with your IT Support Partner to follow up items awaiting resolution.

6. Taking ownership

How many times have you been told by your IT company that it was a third parties’ device that has caused the problem and you need to contact them to resolve the issue – Stop right there… The device is related to the IT? Then your IT company need to help resolve it for you.

Whilst it is imperative to make sure Warranties are valid (and this needs to be done by the school if they have purchased the tech), your IT Support Company should be able to help sort out the dismantling, sending off and re-instating when returns. 

7. Do we really need new hardware?

It’s nice to have the very latest technology in your school, but it’s certainly not vital. There are lots of other things to consider before upgrading equipment and devices. Especially today when value for money and return on investment are critical.

Most schools will have plenty of legacy tech, setting up a rolling renewal will ensure that new tech is constantly coming in as old tech reaches end of life, ensuring that the children can learn off the same operating systems and using the same updated software.   By rolling your renewal of kit, you are not looking at a huge spend to replace, but a more planned approach which is easier to manage.

For most schools it is important to get the infrastructure right before considering additional hardware.  Do a stock take of what you currently have and see if it is all used/useable, redistribute, recycle or re-purpose items that are no longer need, and then set up a schedule to replace.

A good IT Support Partner will help you to create an IT roadmap, which should detail at which points in the years ahead you need to budget for upgrades or additional devices.

8. Have you outgrown your IT Company?

Now, this last one isn’t necessarily a bad reason to switch IT support partners.

Sometimes, your school has simply grown too big for a smaller IT company to deal with, a school may have joined with an academy group, so need an IT support company that can aid multiple sites over a larger geographic area.

The difficult part can be knowing when to make the switch.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

If you’ve noticed you need more support, your IT support partner has probably noticed too. In fact, if they’re good partners, they may even discuss this with you first. Trust me when I say there will be no hard feelings. No company wants to be out of its depth with clients. If you’ve ever felt any of these gripes, perhaps now is the right time for you to make the switch too?

When you place your technology at the heart of your School’s growth strategy, you see why it is important to have a partner you can trust.

man at PC with exclamation marks

As IT professionals in the education arena, we’ve seen some things.

Things that would horrify you.

Things you would never want to encounter in your own establishment.

We’re talking security breaches, data theft and file corruption. That have brought entire schools to their knees.

This is something that you – as the Headteacher, IT or Office Manager – really don’t want to happen.

Because it only takes one click from a well-meaning member of your team on one bad link. And that could mean the difference between a thriving school or office, and disruption so severe, it makes teaching impossible.

You don’t need us to tell you that data loss can lead to a huge loss of confidence from your suppliers and staff.

And often the cost of rectifying a situation such as this can be phenomenal.

So, we at Cablers want to share the secret behind keeping your business data safe

Of course you should have an IT partner protecting you with a blended security package (blended means getting the right mix of security products that protect you and your staff, without inconveniencing you while you’re trying to work. It’s a balancing act).

But there’s something else, that in our view every business should invest in, every year.

Cyber security training

Though it may sound simple, you’d be surprised to learn how many schools and businesses underestimate the importance of campus or company-wide security awareness.

And yes, we really do mean company-wide.

Your whole school, academy, trust or business, from the new entry level person to the Headteacher or CEO, should take part in formal data security training, regularly.

A strong cyber security culture is one of the best ways to keep your school or business safe from the increasingly sophisticated threats out there.

Because hackers use automated tools to look for vulnerabilities in every establishment, all the time.

And yes this includes yours. Remember, it only takes one click from a well-meaning member of your team on one bad link. And that can unwittingly let hackers into your system.

“But my people are savvy professionals. They’re not going to fall for a scam”

We hear this often.

And yes, your people are savvy, but so are cyber criminals.

Cyber-crime is evolving. And there is always another scammer or hacker around the corner waiting to take advantage of a technology flaw or stressful situation (hello, global pandemic).

Your business or school can never be too prepared.

Take a look at phishing for example. You’ve heard of that, right?

But do you and your team actually know what it is?

Phishing is a common tool used to extract information such as login credentials or credit card details by email, telephone or even text message.

You may think that your team are above falling for an email from their ‘long lost uncle abroad’. But phishing scams have come a long way since those days.

Today, phishing emails are far more convincing. They often claim to come from someone credible, such as your bank, a client or supplier, or someone else you know.

They’ll ask you to click a link to update your details, or change a password. But instead of being taken to a legitimate website, you’ll be taken to a very convincing duplicate.

And once your details have been entered, you’ve given them away.

For more advise on how to spot a phishing email, and how to report them, visit this Government website: www.gov.uk/report-suspicious-emails-websites-phishing

Other times, you’re sent an attachment – again, seemingly from someone you know – which, when opened, will install malware on your device (or across your whole network)

This can then allow criminals to steal data, or deny you access to your own information (that’s called crypto locking).

The Government’s National Cyber Security Centre has a lot of information on how to deal with this type of cyber attack and what to look out for to make sure you are not caught out.

www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/mitigating-malware-and-ransomware-attacks

Then we have spear fishing. Instead of phishing, which is aimed at anyone, this is targeted at specific individuals.

Typically the attacker has spent time learning a lot of information about you (your name, role, company information, etc). And then uses this to their advantage.

If they target someone at the top, this is called whaling (also known as CEO fraud).

They’re targeting people at the top as they have access to the most sensitive data.

Whaling attacks are often planned for a long period of time. And when they work, give huge financial gain to the cyber criminals.

Then there’s pharming, which asks you to take an action on what looks like a familiar website.

Except if you look very carefully, the website address is slightly different to normal. It’s a scam site, and any information you enter will go to the criminals.

There is a scarier version of pharming where the criminals manage to divert traffic going to the real website. These are really hard to detect.

To ensure websites are secure and not as easily accessible to hackers, make sure they are certified by the small padlock symbol on the side of the URL bar. (To view the sites security credentials, click on the padlock symbol).

Often there are tiny little clues that give the fake sites away, if you know what to look for.

Spoofing is the term for when you receive an email pretending to be from someone you know – such as your accounts department. And it’s asking you to go to a link to reconfirm your details.

This type of scam is often used to download malware or ransomware rather than to steal your credentials.

Then we have smishing, which is phishing with text messages (SMS). And vishing, which is phishing on the phone, or voice phishing.

You receive a phone call from a blocked or unusual number. The caller will pretend to be from somewhere familiar and ask you to carry out actions, or make a payment.

These are pretty common. So if you or your team are ever unsure, make sure to hang up, then call the company back on the number you have for them (and never the number the caller gives you).

Can your school, academy or business really afford to underestimate the importance of good cyber security training?

As you can see, it really does take just one action to open up your school or business to this kind of threat.

This is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other ways that cyber criminals will attack your establishment.

You many think your people are pretty hot on cyber security. And hopefully you’ve got the latest security software protection across your whole network.

However, it’s always a great idea to add another level of human protection. Because schools and businesses like yours really are prime targets for cyber criminals.

If you’ve never implemented security training before, now is the perfect time to start creating new habits. After all, your team will have seen enough change this year to be open to just about anything!

Employee education is one of the best business tools you can invest in. And it could end up saving your organisation from disaster.

But the benefits of regular training don’t end there. It’s a great motivational tool, too. Your people will feel invested in when they have relevant training, increasing engagement all round.

Remember to make sure that everyone, from bottom to top, undertakes regular training. Because a cyber-criminal really isn’t fussy about who clicks that link… just as long as someone does.

If you don’t currently have an IT partner who can deliver appropriate data security training to your school, academy or business, contact Cablers today on 01787 221166.

Our team of experts would love to help keep you informed and protected.

About Us: Established in 1997 in Earls Colne, Essex, Cablers provides IT services to both the Education and Business market sectors in Essex, Suffolk, North & East London.

Murray Thorpe, Managing Director saw that many schools had legacy IT equipment that had been slowly going out of date, network security was patchy, and protocols were tired. Training school staff on usage of equipment was also under-utilised, so often investment had been made in equipment, but a lot of the staff didn’t know how to use them to their fullest potential.

Cablers was created to be a central solution for education and business. Our main ethos is to increase efficiency and minimise costs for our clients, by being a single port of call for support, software, hardware, cabling and training.

 
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