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Helping you become leaner, greener and more profitable

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Should business owners embrace Nick Clegg’s call for Flexible Working?

This week Nick Clegg announced that by 2014 all workers will have the right to request flexible working; regardless of whether they have children or not.  This announcement has been met with a mixed reaction from both employers and employees alike but why is this and what are the real benefits of flexible working.

 

Flexible working can take on many different guises and can be referred to as part-time working, term-time working, job-sharing, Flexi-time, Compressed hours, Annual hours or mobile working.  All of these are a form of flexible working and negate the need for the employee to be at their desk from 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

 

DTI research as far back as 2000 showed that small businesses saved up to £250,000 through reduced staff turnover, simply by using flexible working.  As early as next year there will be a 249% increase in the number of personal devices used to support flexible working and 83% of business polled believed that they would see an increase in productivity.

 

In an Economy where businesses are struggling to make a profit and need to look to new and novel ways to increase their turnover flexible working make sense as it offers a number of key benefits to all companies.

 

Firstly it allows Companies to cut their costs; due to a reduction in office space, a fall in absenteeism and sickness rates, and a reduction in computer hardware.  Secondly it allows companies to increase their productivity by allowing employees to work when they are at their most resourceful and also an increase in customer satisfaction as their needs are met around the clock.  Thirdly it also leads to less paper being produced, as your remote workers require access to data in a digital format. This in itself leads to increased productivity, reduced printing, storage and travel, which was covered in a recent blog here http://ecobytesblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/can-your-office-become-paperless/ Finally it allows employees to have a better work-life balance; they will feel more in control of their lives and will become one of the main drivers of success for a Company.

 

So why are all businesses not offering flexible working as the norm? Well in part this is due to a lack of the technology that is needed to implement flexible working.  Only 34% of UK businesses provide basic technologies such as laptops and remote connection to the company network to enable more flexible work styles.  To be able to become a truly flexible workforce companies need to equip their employees with mobile computer devices or allow employees to bring their own devices and connect them to the companies servers, this is commonly referred to as BYOD and will be covered in future blogs.  Secondly they need to move over to cloud based applications to allow employees anywhere anytime access to emails, documents and company information.  To a lesser extent companies also need to look at video conferencing options and even social media to provide a truly joined-up and flexible workforce.

 

This is where EcoBytes comes in we are a new type of IT Support consultancy. Our passion is enabling technology to meet your business needs, and making sure it delivers what you want both now and for the future. We’re proactive in helping you get the best return from your existing server solution and when ready, can help you migrate to a better solution for your business, whether traditional, cloud-based or hybrid. We’re also very green focused and can work with you to implement smart and flexible working practices that not only increase productivity, but also reduce your operational costs and your impact on the environment.

 

To find out more or to book a free no-obligation consultation please visit our website www.ecobytes.co.uk

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Engaging Remote Workers

Imagine never having to get up, get ready and be out of the house in time to make the train into the office or getting stuck in the traffic jam outside the town centre.  Imagine never having to sit at your desk from 9am until 5:30pm with an hour for lunch, those constant interruptions of phone calls or people shouting over the desk to ask you a question.  Just think of all the work that you could get done if you were able to work from home and just concentrate on the tasks of the day.

 

Working remotely appeals for a vast number of employers for a number of reasons, including increased productivity, a reduction in travel, energy use and requirements for office space.  But what about for the worker themselves; they may go a whole day without speaking to another person, they may not even leave the house from one day to the next.  They would miss the conversation on the new order that has just come in or the anecdotal conversation about how to handle a prospective client.   Sometimes working from home can be a lonely and isolating experience that needs to be addressed when implementing a flexible working approach.

 

When you start to work remotely suddenly your days become not about the hours you spend at your desk to achieve your pay packet at the end of the month, but about the number of tasks that you complete in that month and the outcomes that your employer can see for your work hours; no matter when those hours have been achieved.  One comment we hear from remote workers time and time again is that they don’t feel part of the team; they feel forgotten and not as valued as staff that have a physical presence in the office.

 

This loneliness and remoteness of working from home can in part be solved by implementing the right technology to allow for quick and easy communication, integration of remote workers in teams and sharing of calendars and tasks lists with all staff.  Microsoft Office 365 is one such package that allows Companies to do all this for a fraction of the cost of employing someone in the office full time.

 

Microsoft Office 365 includes all the tools needed to allow a remote worker to fully integrate and become a member of the team including Microsoft Lync that allows you to see when your co-workers are online allowing you to start an instant message, voice or video call. You can also schedule online team meetings and share desktop presentations with your remote workers.  These videos allow for High Definition and enterprise quality video experience which really is the closest you will get to actually being there in person!

 

Microsoft SharePoint allows remote workers to keep up-to-date with the latest company announcements, take part in discussion boards and collaborate on team projects. .  They can also set up alerts and workflows to automatically update them on selected information.

 

Microsoft Exchange is a powerful tool that allows teams to share calendars, contacts and tasks. Remote workers can be added to email distribution lists ensuring that they do not miss out on emails and information that is being disseminated within the office environment.

 

If you would like more information on remote working with Microsoft Office 365 then please contact EcoBytes. Our consultants can work with your team to ensure your entire remote working needs are met, achieved and exceeded.  EcoBytes are also able to offer remote support via Lync meaning that your remote workers can initiate an online meeting with one of technical staff and share their desktop to trouble shoot any IT problems that they may be experiencing.  To find out more about EcoBytes cloud offering follow this link http://www.ecobytes.co.uk/Pages/CloudComputing.aspx

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Pros and Cons of a Private Cloud

In last weeks blog we looked at what a Public Cloud is and the pros and cons of moving your IT into the cloud.  However a public cloud may not suit everyone; some companies would like the flexibility that cloud offers without having to move their data offsite, this is where a private cloud may be the answer.

 

A Private Cloud refers to a virtualized infrastructure that is operated solely for a single organization.  This can be managed internally by the Company or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally.

 

Benefits of a Private Cloud 

  • You are able to offer your employees the flexibility that cloud computing affords with anywhere working, logging in securely to virtual desktops wherever they wish to work at a time that suits them and the needs of the business.
  • You are in control of your own data, which can provide piece of mind to Companies with highly sensitive information or compliance issues.
  • You are not so reliant on your Internet connection as you are with a Public cloud.
  • You can replace power hungry desktop PCs with thin or Zero clients that require minimum maintenance or support.
  • By reducing your IT Infrastructure you will be able to save hardware and energy costs, which will reduce your impact on the environment.

 

Disadvantages of a Private Cloud 

However a private cloud solution is not without its drawbacks and for the reasons listed below may not be suitable for all organisations:

  • To move to a private cloud may involve a large cost up front to purchase or lease the equipment needed for virtualization, including new servers and software
  • You will need to ensure that you have the appropriate expert resources to deploy and manage your virtualization server.
  • You will need a solid back up and disaster recovery plan.

 

EcoBytes are able to work with you to determine which Cloud solution would be best for your Organisation and can help you to migrate to a public or private cloud and can even manage your private cloud infrastructure with full support.  To find out more about our cloud services please follow the link below http://www.ecobytes.co.uk/Pages/CloudComputing.aspx

 

There is of course one more type of cloud that we are yet to discuss, next weeks blog will focus on a Hybrid Cloud solution.

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What is a Public Cloud?

Cloud Computing is the biggest thing in Information Technology at the moment, but how many of us can say honestly, hand on heart, we know what Cloud Computing is let alone what a private, public or even a hybrid cloud really consists of and the benefits that they can bring to a Company.

So lets take this right back to the beginning and explain what Cloud Computing is and how many of us may well be using cloud computing without even realising it.  Cloud Computing is the use of computing resources (both hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network which is normally the Internet.    For example, Hotmail or Gmail email accounts are run through the Cloud; sending, receiving and storing data on a huge public server that you access your personal information by logging in through the internet.

Public Cloud

Public Cloud relates to the standard “cloud” offering and is the most obvious cloud computing model, where a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet.  These services can either be free for example Hotmail or offered on a pay-per-usage model as with hosted desktops or Microsoft Office 365.

There are many advantages to a public cloud whether free or paid for, including:

  • There is no need for you to store your data on-site on an expensive server that takes up space, uses energy and costs time and money to maintain.  You can simply save and store off-site on large data centers that are safe and secure without the worry of back-ups and servers going down.
  • Public Cloud gives you the opportunity to work anywhere on any device, as the information and data are not saved on your computer hard drive you can access these from any device that allows a connection the Internet, for example a computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet computer.
  • A public cloud is also ideal if you do not have much IT knowledge as you purchase your cloud services online and then configure and deploy online from a set standard of features through your providers website.

As with everything there are also some disadvantages to a public cloud, which has bought about the emergence of both a private and hybrid cloud solutions.  Some of the disadvantages include:

  • As mentioned previously a public cloud stores your information on a large data center with everyone else’s information that also uses that service.  This can be a worry for some companies who do not wish to store their data on a shared server or need to know exactly where their data is being stored for compliance. However all cloud service providers do sign up to protect your data and have a security agreement with you when your take out your service, helping to secure your data.
  • In some cases Public Cloud subscription services can work out to be quite costly for a small business relative to the cost of maintaining your own server which can sometimes take Cloud out of the reach for some organisations that would then have to opt for more traditional methods of data storage.
  • Once you move to the Cloud with a provider it can be difficult to break away and move your data back to an on-premise mode or to another cloud provider.

So what if you wanted all the  flexible working benefits of a Public Cloud but wanted to keep your data on site? Next week we’ll be investigating a private cloud and the advantages and disadvantages that this can offer a company.

If you’re interested moving your business to a Public Cloud then we can provide you with a free trial of hosted desktops or Microsoft Office 365 with support. To take advantage of this offer please follow this link and talk to one our skilled Technical Advisors.  http://www.ecobytes.co.uk/Pages/CloudComputing.aspx

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Goodbye Microsoft SBS, Hello….?

If you are a small business the chances are your server is a Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS), promoted by Microsoft as the affordable all-in-one solution offering important business tools such as Exchange and SharePoint.  However with Microsoft announcing the end of SBS on the 31st December 2013, your business is going to face some difficult IT decisions.

Microsoft will want you to move across to their Windows Sever 2012 Essential offering, but it is clear from initial research that this is not going to be the perfect fit that SBS once was.  For starters Windows Server 2012 does not include Exchange or SharePoint.

Clearly with Windows Server 2012 Microsoft want you to migrate all your email and Intranet into the cloud with their subscription based Office 365. Some business owners will see this as a great opportunity. However others will see moving their data to the cloud as a risk they are not willing to take.

So if Cloud is not the right move for you, what are the alternatives and more importantly how much will this cost you?  In a time when businesses cannot afford to spend large amounts, is this announcement from Microsoft ill timed? Definitely not! Here at EcoBytes we have several options for small businesses to chose from to secure their IT future.

One alternative is virtualisation.  With virtualisation, your Company can run multiple servers and desktop PCs concurrently as ‘virtual machines’ on a single high-performance physical server.  To add Exchange, SharePoint or an application server you will only have to pay for the cost of the software.

Once you have gone virtual you can then opt to host your own Private Cloud by setting up virtual desktops and thin clients, which are maintenance free and use a fraction of the power of traditional desktop PCs..  This is a popular option with many organisations due the long term cost savings available.

All options are designed to save you money, reduce your impact on the environment and help to create a flexible, smarter way of working which in turn will help you create a happy content workforce.  We will be looking at in each one in more detail over the next few blog posts.

To find out which option is right for your business please give us a call to arrange a free no obligation consultation with one of our highly trained consultants and say Hello to the future of your companies IT.

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Can your office become Paperless?

Before you read this blog think about how many pieces of paper you have printed off in this last week and how many times you have looked at each one of them.  The average office worker generates 2 pounds of paper products each day, culminating in a global demand in 2012 to exceed 400 million tons of paper for the 1st time.    Even after recycling this equates to the loss of 4 billion trees covering the size of a small country like Croatia.

The earliest citing of a paperless office dates back to 1964 and the emergence of video display computer terminals like the IBM 2260.   In the 70’s and early 80’s people expected offices to become paperless as our use of PC’s increased.  However the improvement in printing technology had the opposite affect, in fact our use of paper in offices more than doubled between 1980 and 2000.  One the main contributing factors to this increase was in fact electronic communications and people feeling the need to print off copies of documents that people sent them via email.  Today our use and reliance on paper copies is thankfully decreasing but we have a long way to go.

There is no way an office, no matter how small, can become paperless overnight, but with small steps and a few simple tweaks to the way that you currently operate, you could make a real difference to our reliance on paper whilst also reducing your overheads.   Perhaps it would be easier and more achievable to ask companies to become “less paper” rather than paperless.

In its simplest form if you were to implement a team portal with an electronic document management system, allowing employees to access the document wherever they are whenever they needed to your costs for paper and printing will fall as will the need to find the room in the office for the filing cabinets and large printers and photocopiers.  An electronic document management system will allow your organisation to create secure electronic document libraries, control access, editing and sharing of documents, quickly scan multiple documents to store as PDFs and integrate systems to automatically process information

Your organisation will become an environmentally friendly, highly efficient, more profitable organisation that stores information securely.  Your ability to be able to control version history, access levels and project collaboration documents will be more secure and easier to manage in electronic form.  No longer will you be able to misplace that important document for your 10am meeting or leave confidential papers on a train where they could fall into the wrong hands.  Never again turn up to a meeting with incorrect documents, as they will all be there in a touch of a button or a click of a mouse.

As we discussed last week, giving your employees the opportunity to work flexibly and remotely makes them more efficient and by adopting an electronic document management system you are adding to that flexibility by enabling them to access the documents that they need when they need them no matter where they happen to be working.

To find out how much time, space and money you could save by going paperless give us a call on 01634 505100 to arrange a free one hour consultation with our highly trained Consultants who will guide you through the process of using less paper within your Organisation.

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Green Business Solutions

Twenty years ago I visited the “Green Show” at Birmingham’s NEC and during my visit I was told and shown by a number of different exhibitors how I could improve my green credentials at home; including turning the tap off when I brushed my teeth and not leaving my TV on standby when I went to bed.  These are all things that the majority of us now do without thinking about them, however business organisations do not always understand how they can become greener businesses and what this could mean to their profit at the end of the year.

A green business is one that takes measures to reduce its impact on the environment and this can be achieved through a number of different initiatives.  Some can be as simple as adapting a policy where the last person out of the office at night turns all the lights and printers which can save a business 20% in energy bills cost; which when you consider the combined annual energy bill for the small business sector in the UK is £3.5bn, the savings will soon start to add up.  It is anticipated that the average small business could save approximately £7,000 if they improved their energy efficiency.

There are of course more strategic methods of working and production that a business can look into and adapt that can make them considerably greener.  With the right technology, installed in the right way and used in the way in which it was intended will provide you with the greatest benefit whereby you can streamline your processes and the way you staff work to make you more efficient and avoid some of the repetition that currently takes place in a number of organisations.

By implementing systems like Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 and a cloud computing capability, for example Office 365 or Google Apps, you can reduce the impact on the environment and make for a more flexible and motivated workforce as these IT infrastructures allow you to:

  • Share documents, tasks, calendars and contacts
  • Quickly search and retrieve information
  • Collaborate online instantly with team specific portals
  • Use online forms to electronically capture data
  • Create personalised data views suited to needs and workspaces with customers and clients
  • Extend Intranet function to share information and workspaces with customers and clients
  • Create automated workflows, alerts, surveys and discussions.

Once you have implemented these simple packages and enabled the benefits above you are automatically giving your staff the opportunity to work flexibly; which will in turn increase business productivity, reduce the need for travel to face-to-face meetings which in turn will free up time and make your business far more efficient whilst reducing the impact on the environment.

In this current climate your staff are probably one of your biggest assets and by keeping them happy, motivated and able to work when and how they feel most productive; at a time that fits in with the demands of modern family life will only strengthen your Company.  A recent quote I read in a newspaper stated “A team that wins together, stays together” and one of the fastest and easiest wins that your Company can achieve is the ability for all staff to work flexibly.

To find out how easy this is to achieve please visit our website or give us a call on 01634 505100 to arrange a free one hour consultation to discuss your green business solutions in more detail.

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