According to a survey conducted by Gartner at the end of 2020, nearly one in five workers consider themselves to be digital technology ‘experts’ since COVID-19 – and over half consider themselves proficient.
Researchers suggest the increase in confidence (or overconfidence) is perhaps due to the increased reliance on collaboration tools such as Teams and Zoom and a lack of in-person IT support while working remotely – but found more than half (55%) of those surveyed were using personal devices for access to work systems/data, or privately obtained ‘shadow IT’ applications not sanctioned by their employer, at least some of the time.
The sample group, spread across US, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions among around 10,000 full-time employees at organisations with 100 or more employees in November and December 2020, analysed workers’ technological and workplace experiences.
Whit Andrews, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, argued: “Workers seized on the crisis” adopting “a wide range of technologies and applications in the space of a few months.”
The findings also showed a rise in the number of workers using personal technology for work purposes. Over half of respondents reported that they use applications or web services that they personally obtained – most of which are not employer-sanctioned – for collaborating with other workers. The same proportion (55%) are using personally owned devices for their work at least some of the time.
“When organisations were forced to go remote in early 2020, workers started to rely on their own devices or programs they discovered themselves to make up for their employers’ technology shortcomings,” said Mr. Andrews. “In 2021, organisations can embrace this trend by expanding the choice of devices and software programs that workers can use with little or no friction.”
Flexible Work Supports Increased Productivity
One of the main questions lingering among executives regarding the impacts of the last year is remote work’s effect on productivity.
According to the Gartner survey, among employees whose work-from-home time increased since January 2020, 36% reported an increase in productivity, while 35% reported no change. Flexibility in working hours was the most cited factor enabling greater productivity, selected by 43% of respondents.
A quarter of workers surveyed did report that their productivity fell. Connectivity issues and technology changes were among the top reasons cited for decreased productivity.
“Digital proficiency becomes even more essential for productivity when working remotely,” said Mr. Andrews. “CIOs should extend worker-to-worker lateral mentoring and training to ensure that no employees are left behind as technology mastery becomes the expectation.”
For IT Support expertise, please contact Lineal today.
Password managers help users remember all their passwords – but can be a much more powerful tool for dramatically limiting the damage in the event of a single account being compromised.
Criminals increasingly use credential-stuffing attacks where automated tools use previously-breached account details to gain access to the user’s other accounts.
A good password manager ensures you can use a strong, randomly generated and distinct password across each of your accounts to prevent any single breach putting other data at risk.
Keeper can also notify users when breached passwords are identified online, integrate with single sign on tools such as Active Directory, and enforce multi-factor authentication – all important considerations for organisations needing to maintain cybersecurity standards across large teams.
For added convenience, Keeper is available via the web, Windows/MacOS desktop clients, browser extension and Android/iOS mobile app.
For Cybersecurity advice and expertise, please contact our team today.
From December 2021 UK mobile networks will be forbidden from selling network locked mobile handsets.
Communications industry regulator Ofcom believe locked-handsets is anticompetitive, and prevents customers switching mobile providers easily.
Network providers have claimed locked handsets are a deterrent to phone theft, although Three mobile, O2, Sky mobile and Virgin mobile have already ended the practice.
Mobile providers also argue locked handsets help justify better promotional rates (blocking customers exploiting the cheapest handsets deals and then swapping networks) although consumers often claim it is an attempt to hold onto customers who would otherwise have switched provider anyway, such as after the end of their contract.
Unlocking a phone typically costs around £10, but customers must normally find a third-party provider to assist, and face a delay or technical problem during switching – which Ofcom believes is unfairly difficult.
The change to consumer law brings the UK into line with the rest of the EU, although the UK changes have been under consideration since before recent EU rulings on the mobile market.
In addition a number of other changes are planned or June 2022, including more accessibility provisions for disabled customers and greater exit-rights where contract terms change unexpectedly.
Facing an income shortfall of around £2m due to falling visitor numbers during lockdown, the Bletchley Park Trust, which is a registered charity, was facing extensive redundancies – some of which will now be avoided.
In a statement, Facebook said the heritage site was a ‘birthplace of modern computing’, and acknowledged the important strategic role the wartime location played in shortening the war.
Bletchley was home to a number of famous mathematicians, linguists and other intellectuals working in secret on behalf of the war effort, including Alan Turing – now considered the father of modern computing – Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and others. At its peak, almost 10,000 personnel, around 75% of which were women, worked as part of Bletchley’s operation, who remained bound by the Official Secrets Act until at least the 1970s.
Google have re-branded GSuite as Google Workspace, in an effort to consolidate the Google software brand for business users.
The re-designed platform brings Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs apps, Google Meet and more all under one banner more officially, and follows other recently announced updates to the platform including new file deletion rules for Google Drive.
Existing Gsuite customers will not face contract changes for at least 12 months, although redesigned app icons and extra features will begin appearing during October 2020, and new Google Workspace customers will be expected to choose from the new licensing packages immediately.
More information for both existing and new customers is available on the officially rebranded Google Workspaces Blog here.
For knowledge of cloud services and excellent IT expertise, please contact our team today.
The original source code to Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 has leaked online – nearly two decades after their original release.
Official support for Windows XP ended back in 2014, and the final security patch was a one-off release in 2017 released in response to the WannaCry ransomware attack that temporarily crippled large parts of the NHS.
According to NetMarketShare, Windows XP still accounts for at least 1% of all PCs that generate web traffic worldwide (around 25 million PCs) although may actually include many air-gapped factory PCs and similar in practice.
The 43gb data dump has been available to Government agencies and similar for a while, although it’s unusual that the public at large have the opportunity to discover zero-day exploits for an entire operating system. Microsoft urges that users should not still be using XP, and the outdated platform is insecure even for the oldest legacy services.
For IT expertise and guidance, contact our IT team today.
Google Drive trash will soon impose a new 30-day automatic deletion deadline on trashed files.
At present users may delete files, but these are retained indefinitely in their Google Drive trash until deleted manually – causing a loss of storage space, encouraging hoarding of files, and convincing users that they need not worry about file retention limits.
The change, which begins on October 13th, brings Google Drive more into line with Gmail and other free Google Services – as well as rivals such as Microsoft OneDrive and Dropox – which also auto-empty trashed files after set periods. New warnings inside Google Drive will notify all users.
You can learn more on the GSuite updates blog, published here. As before, G-Suite admins will have the ability to recover post-trash deletion for a further 25 days, although this is a hard limit and only available for active users.
AI lent a helping hand to one of our technical support teams last week to help Lineal save a local business from an email hack.
At 07:40 GMT on a seemingly normal week day, Barracuda Sentinel issued an alert to Lineal to say an account had been accessed from a suspicious location. It seemed a malicious actor, appearing to be from Nigeria, compromised one of a client’s finance department email accounts, and created a forwarding/delete rule in the inbox.
Barracuda Sentinel’s AI email protection caught the account takeover attempt, and as a result, we were able to mitigate and resolve a significant threat to one of our customers. Barracuda Sentinel detects both account takeover attempts and attacks launched from compromised accounts.
Corporate account takeover presents a significant new threat to business. Hackers gain access to email accounts and use them as tools to launch subsequent targeted attacks, internally and against external targets – who themselves fall victim.
Account takeover or attacks that originate from these accounts are almost impossible to detect as they don’t use the usual impersonation techniques—they come from a legitimate account and appear to be from a trusted source, allowing the attacker to initiate sophisticated financial scams.
Lineal automatically picked up the alert & create an incident in Barracuda Sentinel. Sentinel remediated the issue with an immediate password reset, disconnecting all active logon sessions for the user and deletion of any rules created during the incident time. Within 40 minutes this potentially disastrous event was avoided.
Barracuda’s worldwide threat protection network automatically gathers intelligence from inboxes around the world to deliver award-winning security, checking both inbound and outbound email to stop the spread of cyber-threats and malicious communications. To find out more visit our Barracuda Email Security page on our website.
This risk could have easily been mitigated by using any of Lineal’s services, such as:
Using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on the account,
Barracuda Sentinel-type tools to alert/remediate on compromise,
Having Azure P1/P2 licensing to allow the use of conditional access to prevent sign-ins from risky locations, untrusted countries, etc.
If you would like to find out more about Cybersecurity and how Lineal can help protect your business please contact us.
This year’s Lineal Client Survey 2020 saw hugely positive feedback, and record customer satisfaction results for our staff – thank you to all who took part.
2020 has been a turbulent year so far, but our positive improvement in the quality of our technical services continues from similar results during recent years. (Past Client Survey Results: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016)
A record high number of you (76%) felt we “understand your questions and/or problems” “Extremely Well”. This is the most people who have ever awarded us the top grade, and represents long-term progress: over double the quality score we received back in 2015.
We asked an important supplementary question this year: how did you feel our IT Teams supported you during the Covid-19 lockdown specifically? Respondents graded us strongly, with a mean average of 4.45 stars out of 5.
For the first time, more than 70% of respondents considered our overall customer support “Great” – also the highest grade available, and twice our score from five years ago.
We also continued to make steady progress on our speed of responsiveness: more than 50% of you now feel we respond ‘Quicker’ than expected, and for the first time more than 20% of you considered us to be “Much Quicker” than expected – again: a rating we’ve doubled in recent years.
Lineal’s Net Promoter Score – an industry wide metric for good customer service which asks whether respondents with consider referring our services to a friend or colleague, rose to +56 this year, our best score to date.
Your feedback helps us identify areas of weakness where we still have room to improve: and to focus training and other resources on ensuring our clients receive the best service possible. In this coming year, we’ll be looking at ways to track our progress more steadily over time.
“Staff show an understanding of the issues and are dedicated to resolving them and formulating a constructive outcome cost effectively. It is not so much about a quick response and service, it’s more the fact that the staff take ownership of the problems.’
“We love Lineal. So helpful and understanding of our needs. No other company matches up to the efficiency of them. Big thanks to Paul and Hugo!”
“When we moved from Outlook 365 Home to Business we could not have had more support.”
“Fantastic service! They helped me find a replacement iMac when mine died, and the service they give is exemplary! Highly recommended! 10/10.”
For expert IT Support and technical services, please contact us today.
Users are advised to update to 5.4.1 to avoid the issue, although this will not restore lost photos. As always: please, please, please maintain an independent backup of all data you can’t afford to lose.
For IT Support and business continuity assistance, please contact our team today.
Qualifying businesses in many rural parts of the UK are eligible for a Voucher worth up to £3,500 to help get new leased-line fibre broadband installed under the UK Gigabit Voucher scheme.
The Government recently urged SMEs to apply, with Digital Minister Matt Warman MP arguing the £70m pot is “still there for the taking.”
But what is the Gigabit voucher scheme, and how does it work?
How fast is gigabit?
Gigabit broadband is 1,000 megabits/per second (around twenty-times the download speed of a normal domestic FTTC connection) and unlike conventional broadband, supports a ‘symmetrical’ upload rate that is equally as fast as the download.
In most cases however, SMEs will deliberately opt for a more limited connection speed on a gigabit ‘bearer’ (eg: 200Mbit/s up and down) to keep costs manageable, while retaining the capacity and option of regrading up to a maximum of 1,000 Mbit/s at a later date if needed.
What does the voucher get used for?
Most connectivity providers charge an installation cost on new Leased Line installations – normally based on the length of fibre cabling that must be ‘dug in’ to connect the business. The voucher is a refund to help offset this upfront cost. Businesses must pay the ongoing monthly connectivity charges as normal, but the voucher is intended to help firms overcome the initial barrier-to-entry.
I’d like £3,500 please.
Quite! Although the the voucher is paid direct to your chosen supplier. Once your business has applied and been deemed eligible, your supplier will submit your voucher with your details when you place the initial order for your leased line. After your fibre is dug-in and connected, the scheme will check that your service is live before paying your supplier the due amount.
If your install is less than £3,500 you are likely to only be awarded the relevant cost, rather than the full amount. In most cases businesses will be signing a leased-line term with their provider for the ongoing cost of connectivity – normally between one and five years.
Can I use my voucher via Lineal?
Yes! We use Gamma Telecom Ltd for fibre leased-line connectivity, who are an approved supplier under the Gigabit Voucher Scheme.
Why is this funding being offered?
Successive Governments have reasoned that investing in better broadband is good for UK business growth, but the logistics of physically digging in fibre cabling is left to third-parties such as Openreach. Those providers insist ‘hard-to-reach’ properties are not economic to connect under the regional FTTC and FTTP broadband roll-outs because of the upfront cost of this installation work, or that gigabit fibre to the entire country is only achievable over the long term. For the best return on investment, the Government wants to prioritise upgrading businesses that already suffer slow speeds.
Gigabit fibre installations to commercial properties are also a capital project – the physical fibre, once ‘dug-in’ to a business premises, may end up being used for years to come by future businesses who take over the site, allowing more companies to benefit from widespread upgrades to the existing infrastructure.
What are other businesses doing?
To date around £90m worth of vouchers have been awarded so far, and around 29,000 connections have already gone live. The Government’s election pledge during 2019 was for gigabit fibre for the whole of the UK by 2025, a target which is widely expected to be missed.
This leaves rural businesses dependant on inclusion in their regional fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband roll-out as a stopgap, hoping to be included in an early tranche of Openreach’s future FTTP roll-out, or looking to fund the upgrade to a leased lined themselves.
Help! We really are out in the sticks!
If the cost of your install is still too large, there are other options: such as pooling your vouchers with neighbouring eligible businesses, accessing faster connections via 4G or point-to-point link. Speak to us to learn more.
Lineal’s Mike Matthews and Huma Mahmood-Khan recently featured on the Tech South West Podcast (‘Tribe Tech’) – to discuss the post-lockdown recovery, women in tech, and Lineal’s new SQLWorks MRP software.
Tech South West exists to champion the area’s growing number of technology businesses, showcase innovation and suport STEM skills across the wider South West region – partnering with a number of more local Tech Business Groups to advocate for the sector.
July 14th: as Microsoft flag a ‘Critical’ Level-10 DNS vulnerability on Domain Name System (DNS) servers worldwide, Lineal engineers rush to patch the infrastructure of dozens of organisations overnight.
The Microsoft Security Response Center recently released details of CVE-2020-135, a ‘Critical Remote Code Execution’ weakness deemed ‘wormable’ (potentially spreading between devices automatically) affecting all Windows Server versions.
A grade of 10.0 is the highest possible severity level that can be assigned under the Common Vulnerability Scoring System Calculator. For comparison the WannaCry attack, which temporarily crippled the NHS in 2017, had a CVSS rating of 8.5.
Lineal staff use remote monitoring software to administer large numbers of client servers and devices, monitor hardware health and deploy patches more rapidly – and were quickly on the case overnight to patch the vulnerability as a special emergency.
Within 8 hours we’d patched a large number of DNS servers – applying both an initial fix and further scheduled updates.
DNS is a naming technology which translates the identities of computers, servers and other networked devices into the IP addresses used for connecting on private and public IT networks.
For this reason, DNS servers often have massive reach, and must be carefully protected to mitigate the risk of compromising an organisation’s technology on a huge scale – even across the globe.
Israeli IT security firm Checkpoint Software Technologies, who discovered the 17-year old hidden bug and reported it to Microsoft, argue ‘this is not just another vulnerability’ and risks handing an attacker ‘complete control of your IT’ if IT admins fail to address the issue urgently.
For IT expertise and support, please contact our team today.
UK mobile networks have been instructed not to buy Huawei 5G equipment for their infrastructure by the Government, and must remove all existing Huawei equipment by 2027.
The landmark ruling came following an overturning of last year’s half-way decision to ban Huawei from the ‘Core’ UK network only – decided as a result of the UK National Cyber Security Centre’s 2019 findings that due to US sanctions affecting Google Android products, any Huawei chip manufacture removed from (Japanese-owned and UK-based) ARM could ‘increase the risk’ to the UK.
Huawei itself argues the criticism is a politically-motivated attack by Washington to hit the Chinese economy. The tech company is the World’s biggest provider of this kind of technology, as well as one of China’s most successful exporters.
China itself has undoubtedly faced more scrutiny from the international community in recent months, following news stories about the Chinese Government’s handling of Coronavirus, Hong Kong protests, the detention of Uighur Muslims in ‘reeducation’ camps, and the close connections between Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party.
All four of the UK’s big mobile providers (BT EE, Vodafone, Three and O2) all use Huawei equipment in their core networks, albeit to different extents. The decision also affects major broadband infrastructure providers, such as BT Openreach, and related ISPs.
In practice, this means 5G providers will be forced to look at alternatives from either Finnish-provider Nokia or Swedish provider Ericsson.
For IT expertise and support, please contact our team today.
macOS 11.0 Big Sur, unveiled in June 2020 at WWDC, is the newest version of macOS, set to be released this Autumn.
macOS Big Sur elevates the most advanced desktop operating system in the world to a new level of power and beauty. Delivering their biggest design upgrade since the introduction of Mac OS X. Experience and enjoy Mac to the fullest, with a refined new design and the biggest Safari update ever. Discover new features for Maps and Messages and get even more transparent around your privacy.
Mac OS X is finally finished, with Apple confirming that it’s officially moving to macOS 11 after almost 20 years of OS X (or macOS 10). This fall, users will finally be upgrading from the 10.X versions that Apple has been using for nearly two decades to version 11.0. It’s ‘MacOS’ from now on, much like ‘iOS’ and ‘iPadOS’.
Safari is packed with new features, including a customisable start page, elegantly designed and more powerful tabs, quick and easy translation, and a new Privacy Report. A new weekly Privacy Report on your start page shows how Safari protects your browsing across all the websites you visit. Users can choose when and which websites a Safari extension can work with, and tools like data breach password monitoring never reveal your password information — not even to Apple.
In the biggest update to Safari since its original launch in 2003, the world’s fastest browser is even faster, providing industry-leading speed and battery life. Tabs have been entirely redesigned to make navigating with Safari faster and more powerful by showing more tabs onscreen. Displaying favicons by default to easily identify open tabs, and giving users a quick preview of a page by simply hovering over the tab.
Other newly Updated features
The updated Messages app lets Mac users send and receive more personal and expressive messages, and easily keep track of and interact within group messages. Maps also offers an all-new experience with immersive features for exploring and navigating the world.
macOS Big Sur delivers a spacious new design that makes navigation easier, while putting more controls at users’ fingertips. Overhauling everything from the curvature of window corners to colours and dock icon designs. A refreshed Dock displays thoughtfully designed icons that are both uniform and consistent in shape to match others in the Apple ecosystem. Buttons and controls for apps appear when needed, and disappear when not in use. The entire experience feels more focused, fresh, and familiar, reducing visual complexity and bringing users’ content front and centre.
The customisable menu bar features a new Control Centre, delivering instant access to the controls used most, from the desktop. And a new design for core apps brings more organisation to multiple open windows and makes interacting with apps even easier.
macOS Big Sur is available to developers, with Apple planning to make a public beta available to public beta testers next month. When it launches in the fall, macOS Big Sur will be a free update for all compatible Mac models.
For Apple device expertise and IT Support, please contact our team today.
Free public Wi-Fi is a popular service for retail, events and hospitality providers to offer, and increasingly becoming an expected service among the public.
This needs careful thought: not least technical considerations like how to keep public networks isolated from work networks, and providing strong enough connectivity to support the user environment.
But most importantly: how should a businesses or organisation to gain value back from providing free Wi-Fi? We take a closer look at some of the best techniques.
Authentication & Audience Participation
Most public Wi-Fi networks expect connecting users to ‘authenticate’ by providing details such as their email address or name, and often accepting some terms and conditions of use.
This can be a fantastic marketing opportunity to gather email subscribers, demographic data, survey product popularity, or simply count customers.
Alternatively, commercial quality systems like Cisco Meraki also offer hidden gems like Facebook Authentication – in which the user has to ‘Like’ the business brand or page to gain access. This kind of authentication is superb way of increasing your visibility online by leveraging value from public Wi-Fi – effectively asking the public to become your marketeers via social media.
Physical signage and other real-world marketing can also encourage visitors to share their experience of your venue or event online while their complimentary connectivity is available.
‘Splash’ Pages loaded on the User’s device when they first connect are customisable on many business Wi-Fi platforms, and this creates a perfect opportunity to brand the experience.
Treating this like a regular webpage offers the chance to advertise offers that are time-sensitive, updated seasonally, or promoting key products.
Alternatively, if your audience is large or targeted enough, then this space can be treated like digital real-estate, and sold on as advertising space to others looking to reach an audience.
By combining signal strengths from different access points and triangulating the direction, enterprise systems like Meraki are able to produce animated ‘heatmaps’ of footfall around a site or venue over time.
This is valuable information it itself for public-spaces and retail centres – who rely on being able to control or exploit human travel to maximise sales, minimise costs or optimise the flow of people.
Prompt for Reviews
You’ll never get a more geographically targeted audience than this – so why not ask the key question when it counts?
To online brands in particular, digital reviews are worth serious investment, and smartphone connections direct with the customer is a perfect opportunity to prompt via the web for useful feedback or survey customer satisfaction.
Alternatively ask publicly: and gather Google Reviews, Facebook Ratings, Trustpilot Stars, or any other feedback that is of value to your organisation en masse.
For Wi-Fi guidance and networking expertise, please contact our team today
Flash is being retired for cybersecurity reasons: the same technology which can easily load web-based games or other client-side content is especially vulnerable to exploitation by hackers to run malicious scripts on a user’s device.
Adobe state in an update on their website that all security updates, and the availability of all version downloads, will cease from this date.
Flash-based content will also cease working – leading technical experts to suggest Adobe have recently programmed a ‘time-bomb’ into the code of Flash Player to render it useless after the supported date. This should help prevent users seeking out third-party versions, and represents one of the strictest policies towards end-of-life enacted by a major software developer.
For Cybersecurity and IT expertise, contact our team today.
To complete the challenge, he must run at least six kilometres every day throughout June, to exceed his one-marathon-a-week target.
Kevin decided to raise money for his chosen charities after wife Debbie, a nurse, was diagnosed with cancer herself twice during the past decade – and praised the support provided by FORCE cancer support centres across Devon.
The couple benefitted from counselling sessions, a breast-reconstruction support group, a course on life after cancer, pampering sessions and even travel insurance advice.
Debbie explained: “At the time I was first diagnosed there was nothing like this in North Devon. I found FORCE very helpful. At times it can feel like you are in the middle of nowhere not knowing where to turn. FORCE helped me to put things into perspective.”
Kevin has returned to running himself as part of a recovery: shedding five stone in weight since 2018. His fundraising target for the June challenge is £250 – but he hopes to exceed this at a time when many local charities will be struggling to fundraise.
On behalf of the whole team at Lineal: well done Kevin – keep going!
Two years ago ASUS first previewed an experimental dual-screen laptop. Dubbed ‘ProjectPrCog’, the unusual concept creation effectively doubled the available screen size to both the top and bottom case of the laptop.
In 2020, ASUS have (sort-of) finally taken the plunge with the ZenBook Duo. An intriguing new design, this ‘one-and-a-half-screen’, $1499 version includes a secondary rectangular monitor in the lower half of the case for extra display room.
Among the theoretical advantages of a dual-screen laptop are the ability to hold communications apps like email or instant messaging on the lower screen while working on the upper, and the ability to stream video from the top while controlling the stream itself lower down. A powerful Intel i7 processor included as standard ensures the extra screen space isn’t wasted, and it’s easy to imagine the Duo becoming a cult-hit with graphic designers and similar.
The overall design is not quite as futuristic as ProjectPrCog – ASUS have shied away from a full touchscreen keyboard, favouring a cut-down version of conventional laptop keys, and a touchpad mouse/numberpad combination.
Conceptually though a dual-screen laptop still poses some challenges: a cramped keyboard close to the edge makes it quite difficult to type on top of er… one’s lap. At 1.5kg the model sits around average for laptop weight, but dual displays is likely to impact the battery life considerably compared with single-screen models.
A highly commendable effort from ASUS and undoubtedly interesting. World-changing? Probably not yet.
For IT Support and expertise, please contact out team today.
Cloud storage giant Dropbox is beta-testing a new password manager app – ‘Dropbox Passwords’ – by invitation only.
Password managers allow the user to generate and store encrypted, complex passwords for many user accounts inside a single piece of locked software and autofill them into websites and applications – making it easier to use diverse, complex passwords across all of your IT.
Password managers are measure increasingly recommended by respected cybersecurity authorities – including the UK National Cyber Security Centre. Options like 1Password, Lastpass and others are already well established, although Dropbox is likely to have significant reach to business customers considering using a password manager for the first time.
Unlike bigger rivals such as Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G-suite, Dropbox do not offer workplace document editing apps – leading the company to explore new avenues for branching out beyond file-sharing and cloud-storage.
These plans have included Dropbox Paper (a collaboration and project management tool), integrations to other growing challenger-platforms such as Slack and Zoom, and now password management.
Principally a cloud-storage company that helped establish file-sharing in the minds of those who had never used it before, only time will tell if Dropbox can establish a broader brand for securing a cloud-first IT business world.
The combined NHS Digital Taskforce, NHSX, recently beta tested the new UK Covid-19 contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight, and have released code to the cyber security community to review.
The app logs interactions with other bluetooth-enabled smartphones each day, and allows the NHS to notify users who have been in contact with self-reporting Covid-19 cases that they should re-enter isolation as a precaution.
A recent blog post by the UK National Cyber Security Centre identified a number of areas for improvement, with the contact tracing app itself expected to be officially released in June 2020.
The Pairing Problem
NHS servers ping the app every 8 seconds to confirm active connections, and the app itself records received signal strength indicators (RSSI) via Bluetooth to gauge where users have been in contact with each other. Users then upload their records if they experience symptoms.
Any attacker with access to this upload traffic, (which does not include the user ID but is unencrypted) could begin comparing submissions via start/end times and signal strength readings, and would theoretically be able to pair these users together.
This problem of uniquely identifiable pairs potentially compromises the identity of the individuals using the app, as well as their location history relative to each other.
The NCSC have confirmed that in the release version, even ‘anonymised’ RSSI data will itself be encrypted, to stop any third-parties attempting to ‘re-identify’ either or both of the users.
Intercepting the Public Key
In beta testing, the Authority’s Public Key was not transferred to the user’s phone via TLS encryption (like a secured web-page) raising the possibility that although the app could be downloaded successfully, this important piece of information used for submitting data could be compromised.
This would be akin to a kind of ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack, where a user’s encrypted uploads could be (even if not unencrypted) sabotaged or withheld during transmission back to NHS systems.
Security researchers have suggested that since this key is not secret, it should be wrapped into the installation of the app itself.
The NCSC have since confirmed that intermediate certificate pinning has been used to reduce the risk of this happening, and that this limitation will be fixed once the Isle of Wight trial ends.
Bluetooth Broadcast Values
The app operates via broadcast values with change every 24 hours to prevent a device being tracked by Bluetooth over longer periods of time. This is significantly longer than the industry standard 15 minutes.
However, more controversially, a predictable ‘KeepAlive’ counter is used to connect old and new broadcast values, raising the potential for an attacker to re-identify the user beyond the 24-hour limit.
The NCSC defends the longer-term tracing as necessary to establish social interactions more accurately, but has resolved to randomise the counter to stop broadcast values being easily matched or the user re-identified endlessly.
Under beta testing, the app’s original policy documentation contained the line: “You may not publicly disclose any details of the vulnerability [that you’re reporting] without consent from NHSX.”
This would have run counter to the NCSC’s own vulnerability disclosure policy, which suggests that members of the technology community should be encouraged to highlight system weaknesses (particularly during public consultation beta-tests) for correction.
This line is to be removed from the public release version.
For cybersecurity support & IT expertise, please contact our team today.
No need for a backup if it’s safely in the cloud, right? Wrong – here’s three reasons your team still needs to independently backup cloud data.
1. Retention Time
Popular cloud-storage platforms like Microsoft Office 365, Google G-Suite and Dropbox only retain deleted items in trash/deleted items for 30-days, with the longest ‘from beyond trash’ recovery being 90-days in some cases. Dropbox Pro and Business accounts may optionally extend this to 180 days, but this is still a limited window for many businesses.
Three months is not a long time – and users are often horrified to discover they can’t simply salvage a deleted file under any circumstances beyond this event horizon.
Astonishingly, this misunderstanding helps contributes to top cause of business data loss being… human error. Delete (an un-backed up) file in haste, and repent at leisure.
Advisable cloud-backup platforms such as Veeam Backup for Office 365 and Barracuda Cloud to Cloud Backup can be used to keep a fully automated and distinct backup of cloud-based data, well beyond the default retention limit.
2. Single File Recovery
Some cloud storage platforms only allow the user to recover one file at a time – designed as they are to be used by large numbers of users interacting with individual files. This feels very practical, until it comes to a situation where an organisation needs to restore larger quantities of data in one go – such as cases of widespread malicious deletion by an employee or hacker.
Even on a relatively serviceable 50Mb/s broadband download connection, 1TB of data would take more than five and half-hours to restore centrally – and some platforms even require each file to be restored individually via manual control. In the short term, this might put significant pressure on a business or organisation’s ability to function.
This is something often ignored in Business Continuity planning – not just whether recovery is possible, but how long will it take. More comprehensive backup options normally allow a full, automated restore, either to the existing platform or an entirely new environment.
3. The Email Problem
Despite premature claims of email’s demise, many users still keep their entire working life in their inbox – including not only communication, but attachments.
Having moved traditional Exchange servers to the cloud, businesses often don’t have a backup for these (even in text form) beyond that of files. Why should email be any different?
A much better solution, and one that guarantees better sleep, is to put in place a backup service that includes your email estate, that is fully indexed, searchable and restorable for when you need it most.
For IT Support and backup expertise, please contact our team today.
In a statement, easyJet says that a “highly sophisticated cyber-attack” discovered in January 2020 compromised email addresses and travel details of roughly nine million travellers. For 2,208 customers, credit card information was also accessed.
No further detail has yet been publicised as to the nature of the breach, although the company stated that it had “closed off unauthorised access”.
The bad news comes at a difficult time for airlines, as air-travel has declined dramatically in the wake of Covid-19 restrictions. When faced with a similar situation in 2018, British Airways received a large financial penalty of £183m from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The airline are making contact with all affected customers warning extra vigilance towards ‘unsolicited communications’, due to the heightened risk of phishing attempts from criminals masquerading as easyJet who may have gained access to customers’ personal details.
Under new GDPR guidelines introduced in 2019, it is mandatory that breached organisations report to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), who are currently investigating.
For cybersecurity and IT Support expertise, please contact Lineal today.
Gamma Communications have officially launched Teams Direct Routing, allowing organisations which use Microsoft 365 to make Microsoft Teams your phone system.
Teams Direct Routing is a simple monthly bolt-on to Teams-enabled Microsoft 365 licenses, that allows the user to make or accept normal voice calls via the UK phone network.
But what about the actual… phone? Yes, end users can use either the Teams mobile app for their smartphone on iOS/Android, or their PC/Mac – however hardware manufacturers are surprisingly close behind: with Poly and others announcing hardware officially approved to operate a Microsoft Teams based phone system.
Poly CCX Series Teams Phone Handsets
This makes Microsoft Teams a compelling choice as a full-business phone system, with call-routing, voicemail and many the other features commonly associated with work phones – available ‘through’ Teams.
Each user’s overall license package comprises three parts: two Microsoft elements including the user’s Microsoft 365 license that includes Teams, the ‘Phone system’ (PBX) bolt-on, and one from Gamma – the Teams Direct Routing Bolt-on itself.
All this is backed by the remote-working flexibility of Microsoft 365’s cloud infrastructure and Trust Centre – better yet, the monthly cost of extending Teams in this way is a tiny fraction of the upfront cost of buying a traditional business phone system and unifies the user’s other key work communication tool (email) under a single account, calendar, and set of security permissions.
With a user-base of over 70 million daily active Teams users, Teams itself is a workplace juggernaut given extra momentum by the important need for home-working driven by Covid-19. Although Microsoft themselves also offer direct routing call plans that integrate with Microsoft Teams, these do not include the numerous extra functions extensively supported by telecommunications suppliers, such as flexible number porting, extra control over redundancy and business continuity plans, and other related considerations needed to better ‘manage’ an organisation’s communications.
Microsoft have announced Reply All email storm protection for Exchange Online – designed to prevent crushing organisational reply all email chains.
By default, the feature will detect ten reply all emails to over 5,000 recipients within 60 minutes, (what IT admins jokingly call a ‘reply-allpocalypse’) and will block further sending to prevent the problem escalating.
A particular problem in large organisations, email storms begin when large numbers of recipients click ‘reply-all’ either to respond or ask to be removed from the chain – massively multiplying the overall number of emails passing through Exchange servers.
If you find yourself stuck in a big reply all email storm, the guidance is simple: Do nothing. Do not reply to the email. Replying only makes the problem worse for everyone in the email chain, including you.
Reply all email storms have plagued large organisations. The NHS was infamously struck by a server-crushing 500 million emails in less than two hours on 14th November 2016, after an IT contractor accidentally sent a test email to everyone with an NHSmail email address – approximately 840,000 people.
Microsoft itself became one of the first test cases during the “Bedlam DL3” incident of 1997, when a user emailed 13,000 company addresses. Other users unaware of how many replies they were sending asked to be removed, and by the time the storm had subsided a terrifying 15 million emails had been sent – far beyond the capacity of late-90s email servers.
The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) are officially removing the technical terms ‘Whitelist’ and ‘Blacklist’ from their organisation in an effort to be more inclusive.
The terms ‘Whitelist’ and ‘Blacklist’, which refer to lists of permitted and not-permitted things in the cybersecurity world, will be replaced with the more literal and accurate ‘Allow List’ and ‘Deny List’.
Prolific spam email domains for example are often ‘Blacklisted’ by system administrators – a negative association the NCSC feels should not, even inadvertently, imply a connection to skin colour.
The organisation, a more public extension of GCHQ, acknowledged in a statement on their website that whilst “…it’s not the biggest issue in the world…”, the organisation is acting positively in response to requests from the public, is making an effort to be more inclusive, and that using such terms might otherwise have impaired the recruitment of valued “future colleagues.”
‘Blacklisting’ also has an unfortunate connotation with an illegal practice of barring whistle-blowing employees and trade union members from working across certain sectors, which has a history within the construction industry among others.
Microsoft Teams will soon gain the ability to display video-call participants in a 3×3 (9-person) grid, among other new Teams features.
The new teams features improve on the current limit of a 2×2 (4-person) grid – one notable limitation when compared with popular rivals such as Zoom.
Other features being added include custom-backgrounds, a ‘raise-hand’ feature similar to that used in Citrix GoToMeeting webinars, audio-sharing and call recording for 1-1 direct calls. The iOS version on mobile/tablet will also gain Teams’ background blur feature used to obscure the caller’s surroundings.
Recognising perhaps that Teams is still new to many workplace settings there has been a revised focus on hardware for new teams features: ‘Teams Certified’ audio/conferencing devices are now available, and the new Teams push-to-talk ‘walkie-talkie’ mode designed for field workers is currently in preview.
Playing catchup with Teams’ dramatic surge in popularity – to over 44m daily users and 1000% more calls during lockdown across the globe – Microsoft are also overhauling the Teams Admin centre to give admin users more visibility and control over meetings, usage and group policies.
Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner. Learn more about Microsoft Teams, or contact us today.
Common scams include pretending to represent Government, law enforcement or medical authorities to obtain information or financial payment, blackmailing users with threat of infection, donation requests for fake organisations, and malware distribution – including one new ransomware even dubbed ‘Coronavirus.’
In a joint statement published in April, the UK National Crime Cyber Security Centre and US CISA (Dept. of Homeland Security) notes the sudden rise in Covid-19 scams, and even highlight instances of SMS text-messaging phishing attempts mimicking UK Government text alerts.
In the example cited, a fake compensation payment is offered to entice the user to hand over details via an imitation UK Government website.
There has also been a growth in online hackers and trolls targeting Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. Users unfamiliar with this kind of software in particular may prove an easy target for cyber criminals.
Phishing scams are part of a larger trend of online Covid-19 themed fraud. In March, the NCSC removed around 500 fake online shops claiming to be selling fraudulent virus-related items over the internet.
Google currently estimate that Gmail filtering is blocking over 100 million phishing emails each day, and that almost 20% of online email scams now refer to Coronavirus (around 18 million) – likely to be the largest phishing ‘theme’ in history.
For cybersecurity expertise and assistance, please contact Lineal today.
As businesses and their staff begin to adapt to the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown, we take a closer look at how IT Support requirements have shifted.
After two weeks of IT Support call volumes to Lineal rising significantly, queries have begun stabilising as the organisations and companies we support, and their employees, become more accustomed to working from home.
In parallel, the nature of IT tickets we commonly address has also altered, with a majority of support queries involving either virtual private network (VPN) or remote access assistance – even overtaking email in the short term.
“…Diamedica (UK) Ltd confirmed today they are playing a critical role in the Government’s efforts to accelerate production of ventilators to support the fight against COVID-19. Diamedica’s ventilator designs were shared with the Cabinet Office team leading the challenge, who have been able to match the plans with specialist manufacturers who are able to start ramping up production quickly, and at scale.
Diamedica are now providing consulting services to the matched specialist manufacturers who are contracted to produce ventilators.
Robert Neighbour, Managing Director, commented “We are exceptionally proud to be a part of the effort to deliver ventilators for the NHS. Our product is already the leader within emerging markets and has now been selected to support the UK’s fight against COVID-19. I want to thank our team here at Diamedica for their dedication and efforts thus far, and all the manufacturing partners who are critical to this effort.”
For further information please contact Charlotte Green, Head of Sales and Marketing at Diamedica (UK) Ltd.”
The world is on lockdown, but not all is doom and gloom – as people unite during a period that can only be described as one of the most challenging times we have faced in decades. Our ways of life have been put on pause, travel and holidays are no more; our freedom of movement halted.
But this is only temporary and there will be an end to this crisis. There is a global rise of togetherness and tough times don’t last – but tough companies do.
What good can come out of this chaos and uncertainty? There is hope: here’s some good news stories you might have missed:
Social media users sharing details of home schooling ideas, new hobbies, fitness programmes, baking tips, and virtual tours streaming of galleries, museums, and zoos.
Remote working, although daunting and perhaps challenging at first isn’t too bad after all, no travelling, productivity levels high with less distractions, contact is still possible and chat on Microsoft Teams or Zoom is the new normal.
Time is the greatest healer and as we have the time to reflect, appreciate the smaller things in life. Spend time with your children, your pets, your significant other – you may be with just them, for a little while. Take some time out to look out the window, if you go for a walk notice how spring is arriving.
One thing we don’t know is how long this will all last, all we do know is there will be an end – we’ll get through this and Lineal’s team are here for you when you need us.
Mozilla have released an urgent patch to version 74.0 of Firefox, notifying browser users around the world that it’s time to patch Firefox again.
The timing of the new patch, which also affects the ‘Extended Support Release’ (version 68.6) suggests that the latest update fixes a vulnerability which (at worst) may have been live in the browser since July 2019.
Mozilla’s official announcement from 3rd April categorises the impact as ‘Critical’, and states that ‘we are are of targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw’.
The precise details of the security flaw have not yet been published, although we know that the issue refers to a ‘use-after-free’ function by which the browser frees up previously occupied memory back to the device – with online cybersecurity blogs speculating that any new contents of the relinquished memory may still have some level of access to the browser.
Community-led Mozilla, whose popular Firefox browser is still the World’s second-most popular desktop browser, suffered other critical security flaws as recently as January – when the US Department of Homeland security took the unusual step of instructing users to urgently update their browsers following the discovery of a vulnerability which granted potential access to the operating system.
Automated Zoom conference meeting finder ‘zWarDial’ discovers ~100 meetings per hour that aren’t protected by passwords. The tool also has prompted Zoom to investigate whether its password-by-default approach might be malfunctioning https://t.co/dXNq6KUYb3pic.twitter.com/h0vB1Cp9Tb
Cyber security experts have also highlighted the availability of automated Zoom-call hacking tools in the darker corners of the web – able to seek out conference calls without passwords for trolls to exploit.
Most experts believe Zoombombing intruders can be avoided with routine security precautions which should be taken by the host (and co-hosts) of any Zoom meeting.
In particular Zoom meeting hosts have been cautioned to:
Set a unique, complex password for every Zoom meeting
Google have released aggregated smartphone location data which shows the UK under lockdown.
According to the newly published ‘Community Mobility Report’, in which Google GPS data from the location settings of Android phones is broken down by country, the UK has seen a dramatic drop in those going outside during March, as people stay in lockdown for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.
‘Retail and Recreation’ visits, which includes restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, theme parks, museums, libraries and cinemas are down 85% against normal rates, and ‘Parks’ show a 53% decrease.
‘Transit Stations’ including public transport hubs are down an astonishing 75% as people remain at home rather than travelling.
‘Grocery & Pharmacy’ visits show a smaller decrease, at 46%, as people continue to shop sparingly for essentials.
However, Google GPS data varies across the UK – with Google warning readers not to compare rural and urban areas. Remoter parts of Scotland and Wales are less consistent both in lockdown severity but also available data to measure.
Data for Devon suggests the lockdown is being observed slightly more strictly, with even lower rates of shopping and leisure trips being made compared to the UK average, but marginally higher attendance at workplaces and at public transport hubs.
The UK’s biggest telecoms providers have agreed to remove data caps from Home broadband packages during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Although most UK home broadband packages now come with an ‘unlimited’ data allowance (subject to fair usage), many legacy products still enforce a data limit which may incur financial penalties if exceeded. Much like mobile data contracts, historically these were usually set at a specific monthly data usage, eg: 200GB.
The move follows discussions with the Government and telecoms regulator Ofcom, who are seeking to support vulnerable customers during the Coronavirus lockdown.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has also stated that the measure will be ‘effective immediately’ and help ‘people to stay connected whilst they stay at home.’
As more and more of us are starting to accept remote working as the new norm, it may still feel unnatural and difficult for those who have not experienced this before. Keep calm and carry on – Lineal are here to help.
Remote working out of the office or from home has increased by nearly a quarter of a million over a decade, according to the office of National Statistics.
We may have lost the face-to-face daily contact with our colleagues and friends, but this does not mean we cannot stay in touch easily and efficiently;
Through phone calls
Business platforms such as Teams
With the current global crisis, for most of us we may feel like we are in uncharted waters. A lot of people have had to adapt to working from home, with no planning and little time to prepare for the change. There are many questions:
How do you set up a space where you can focus?
How do you stay connected when you can’t meet face-to-face?
Why does it feel like it’s never the right moment to take a break?
It’s inevitable that some employees will have questions and may struggle adapt.
So what have we learnt so far?
Microsoft’s article – Making the switch to remote work – is an interesting read, with 5 lessons on how they have approached working from home, and ideas of how best to overcome common hurdles. The current situation has compelled Microsoft to take a new look at everything from scheduling meetings to the way teams are managed.
In particular, protecting your employers and employees mental health is very important:
OK – don’t panic: try and make a quick list of everything you commonly need to work in the office. Then contact our IT support teams via [email protected] and 01271 375999
Cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365, G-suite and Dropbox should still work via your web browser as normal (but please ask if you run into difficulties.) However, if you have systems that are based at your workplace, you might need to ask Lineal for a VPN in order to gain remote access (see below.)
Check out our tips for happy remote-working here, and some great deals for remote workers here.
If you have a Gamma Horizon phone system, we’re offering several months of free Gamma Collaborate licensing to extend your phone system to mobile/desktop devices – to support remote working. Please let us know here.
Can you help me set up a VPN?
Yes – as you might expect, this is currently our most requested support ticket type! Please speak to your support team via [email protected] or 01271375999.
How do I access ___[system]___ or line-of-business applications.
The answer to this will vary depending on the system, the security permissions at your company, and where it’s hosted – please speak to your support team via [email protected] or 01271375999.
Are Lineal extra busy?
Yes – our call and support ticket volumes have increased around 30% over the past two weeks, however these are still at perfectly manageable levels.
How do I set up my desktop PC at home?
We can walk you through ‘which-cable-goes-where’ if you’re unsure, but if your work-now-home-PC isn’t configured how it normally is in the office, please just speak to our support teams for remote assistance: [email protected] or 01271 375999.
Why might I need a ‘VPN’?
A Virtual Private Network gives direct access to your workplace network from home. If you have technology which is only available in the office (eg: an accounting database or CRM system based on your own server) these won’t be accessible outside without first connecting via a VPN.
If you have cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, G-suite, webmail, Salesforce or other online services, these should be available through your browser as normal.
Help! I can’t buy ___[hardware item]___ anywhere!
You’re not alone: we’ve seen stocks of laptops, convertibles, power cables and others run low from many UK suppliers. If you’re having trouble sourcing something, please contact us via [email protected] for a quote, and we’ll do our best to find your request direct via distributors.
I think ____[service]____ is down, but maybe I’m just confused. How do I tell?
It’s first worth heading over to DownDetector.com to see if there are issues reported with major UK providers, such as mobile networks, cloud services and broadband ISPs. If you’re unsure, please speak to our support teams.
Will the internet/service_x fail due to high demand?
No, but we do all need to act responsibly. Much like with supply chains and emergency hotlines, capacity needs to be used sensibly by everyone.
Please don’t stream 4K or High Definition video unless it’s really necessary, and expect some of the bigger cloud computing providers, like Microsoft and Google, to dial down the responsiveness of some connectivity-intensive bonus features to help accommodate the extra computing demand around the world.
How do I use my work phone system remotely/from home?
Depending on who maintains your phone system, you might need to speak with your provider for either remote access or call re-directs.
If you have a Gamma Horizon phone system provided by Lineal, we’re offering several months of free Gamma Collaborate licensing to extend your phone system to mobile/desktop devices – to support remote working. Please let us know here
For IT Support & technical expertise, please contact our team today.
With growing numbers of employees out of the office in response to Coronavirus, we’ve assembled some great deals, discounts and freebies available online for home-workers, remote-workers, and many others.
Discounted ESET Antivirus
You’ve started using your home laptop or PC for work so you can keep away from the office? You’re not alone.
For companies that don’t have Office 365 collaboration software already, Microsoft are offering a 6-month free trial of the freemium version of Microsoft Teams – permitting audio/video conferencing, document sharing, instant message and more across PC/Mac, tablet and smartphone.
Perfect for working from home, the freemium version does include low data limits (10GB shared, 2GB personal) but Microsoft have temporarily lifted the user-limits to accommodate more businesses.
Discounted MacBook Air
This past week Apple have cut the price of their ultra-portable, highly popular MacBook Air model to £999 inc VAT.
Famously small enough to fit inside a Manila envelope and perfect for taking home, the latest lightweight model is made from 100% recycled aluminium, comes with a 13-inch Retina display, and boasts a 256GB solid-state hard-drive – twice the previous storage capacity. Extra discount is also now available for Education customers.
Free Gamma Collaborate
For businesses and organisations using Gamma Horizon phone systems with us, Lineal are offering a minimum of two-months free trial of Gamma Collaborate for all users.
Gamma Collaborate extends your deskphone to the Horizon app on your mobile, PC or Mac, and includes instant-message, audio/video conferencing, screenshare, presence notification, extension dialling and more. If you have call-handling settings like hunt groups or number presentation set up, this will work automatically from the new devices.
As of last Thursday, audiobook giant Audible.com have launched a free service called ‘Stories’ to introduce free audiobooks to children (and indeed, re-introduce much-loved classics to adults.)
Available in multiple languages, you can discover Audible stories here.
Adobe Creative Cloud for Students
Adobe are making Adobe Creative Cloud apps available to all existing higher education students and educators users free of charge, until at least 31st May 2020. Registered institutions must enrol for access beyond their existing campus desktop apps, but you can learn more about the opportunity here.
For the restless, exercise app company Peloton has extended its free trial to 90-days – the infamously expensive Peloton bike itself is not required, and classes incorporate yoga and other kinds of work-outs to take advantage of throughout the shutdown.
For technology assistance and IT support: please contact Lineal’s team today.
Members of Lineal’s Software Development Team were recently invited to join the Omnis Software Engineering Team for a special 2-day visit focusing on development work regarding web features within SQLWorks.
Software engineers from both companies focused the dedicated day on the implementation and deployment of Lineal’s recent online work including business-to-business (B2B) trade ordering portals and online user survey systems.
The SQLWorks Team at Lineal wanted to thank the staff at Omnis for being excellent hosts and helping to craft an extremely useful and informative visit.
Omnis technology has underpinned Lineal’s SQLWorks Business Management Software (integrating accounting, stock control, CRM and manufacturing) since the early 1980s. Lineal’s Managing Director Mike Matthews is a part of the international Omnis Technical Committee, and Lineal staff regularly help coordinate and take part in EurOmnis, the international Omnis software developer conference.
For Software development advice and expertise today, please contact our team today.
We recently attended the 2020 Gamma Communications Roadshow at Stamford Bridge – hearing the latest business telecoms and technology trends from across the UK. But what do businesses need to be aware of?
Clock Ticking for ISDN
BT will officially turn off all ISDN services by 2025, with the ‘stop-sell’ order coming as early as 2023.
With UK businesses just getting used to putting ‘2020’ on paperwork, this is no longer a drill – if your phone system uses ISDN, your business needs to begin preparing to switch to a digital services such as SIP or better still, a hosted VOIP platform.
There are perhaps as many as 1.5 million ISDN channels still in use by businesses across the UK. Gulp.
Ultrafast Fibre Rollout Gathers Pace
Superfast broadband (‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ or FTTC) prices are falling all the time, but the big story of the decade is likely to be the steady roll-out of ultrafast ‘Fibre to the Premise’ to many more businesses – to around 40% availability over the next few years.
Interested in fibre for your area? Perhaps you should speak to your friendly neighbourhood IT provider…
Not all 5G is born equal
We’ve known for a while how the smallest of the UK’s four mobile networks (Three Mobile) is arguably in the best position to deliver data, although it’s now becoming clear Three has an enviable technical advantage over some of the other major providers – and is even using the cheeky marketing slogan: ‘If it’s Not Three, It’s Not Real 5G’.
The reserved spectrum range favours Three to such an extent that EE/BT, O2 and Vodafone have all submitted strongly worded complaints over preferential access. Gulp.
Microsoft Teams Telecoms Emerges
Among Gamma’s most exciting news was the announcement of a Direct Call Routing service for Microsoft Teams – which effectively plugs into the back of Teams and Microsoft’s ‘Phone System’ PBX add-on, to turn your Microsoft Teams software into a fully fledged business phone system.
Until now Microsoft’s Teams platform has been a strong option for video/audio conferencing, screenshare, instant messaging and collaboration – but have always lacked the more robust business call-handling feature-set of true phone systems, or suffered from a shortage of physical handsets. With both of those challenges solved by Gamma and the Teams app available on a variety of devices, it’s easy to imagine Teams phones appearing on desks.
Direct Routing for Teams is expected from April 2020. The final pricing is likely to be somewhere in the region of between £15-25 a month per user (including Microsoft Office licensing) – finally unifying telecoms under the same single user account as Microsoft Office 365 hosted email, files storage, office apps and collaboration software. Watch this space.
For communications services and expertise, please contact our team today.
Edit: This article was originally published a few weeks before the first national UK COVID lockdown, 2020 – and has been left in its original form.
“All Staff Meeting” it said in the diary, and that was unusual. While both Lineal’s technical and non-technical teams meet regularly, it is rare that they are all required to gather at once on a Monday. Something was up.
“Tomorrow…” announced Mike, “… you’re all going to work from home. Lockdown: you have two hours to prepare.”
Tuesday 10th March would be a complete quarantine drill day. Staff would attempt to replicate everything Lineal does while working remotely – from home in most cases, but in physical isolation from each other. The scenario would be a practice run for either a coronavirus isolation scenario, or a catastrophic on-site evacuation incident such as severe flooding.
We would be permitted to visit clients if required, make preparations for home working, and to remove any equipment we might need from Commercial House in advance – providing we did so within the 2 hour advance warning period.
The business operations of our clients would remain critical throughout, so everything would need to operate as normal, with the quarantine remaining effectively ‘secret’.
(Lineal staff first begin finding out about the quarantine drill. Approx. 1430hrs Monday.)
The problem with working in a technology business is that you rely on a lot of technology. Two hours isn’t a long time to coordinate twenty-six people, so putting Lineal’s Business Continuity Plan into practice isn’t as easy as asking if everyone has memorised the document.
First: untether from the desk. Staff without laptops would need to be issued them quickly, and everyone remove their device from the building. Fears of a burgeoning black market in charging cables proved unfounded, and by late afternoon everybody had what they needed.
“.. those who have had close contact will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case ..”
(Gov.uk, “COVID-19 Guidance for Employers and Businesses”)
Web-based and other cloud services such as Microsoft Office 365 would be accessed over home broadband connections, with the same security controls as staff normally use while remote working.
Good luck everyone!
As always, IT Support engineers would depend on remote assistance software to help end-users, and need to ensure good communication at all times. Throughout the process, staff were encouraged to note their experience of the experiment and highlight issues for review.
Secure access to Lineal’s internal networks, and all the systems that sit behind it, would be granted to our team via a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Top tip #1: Familiarise yourself with the mobile hotspot on your smartphone, because the 4G connection is a useful way to test that your VPN will connect successfully, before actually leaving your place of work.
Everyone was connected remotely to all our business continuity systems, which granted access to Lineal’s in-house telephony, shared workspaces in Microsoft Teams, and SQLWorks business management software.
Without a physical desk phone at home, staff would instead use a desktop softphone on their PC, continuing to handle and transfer calls exactly as before – relying on status indicators to gauge each other’s availability, similar to how they would with their existing desk phone.
Microsoft Teams would permit instant message and document sharing – and facilitate video conference calls and screen-sharing with clients who were often otherwise unaware that Lineal’s offices had gone dark for the day. Teams rapidly became the preferred method of quick communication between individuals or small groups – with a rapid problem-solving chatter sitting below the level of email.
Incoming and outbound call volumes were actually slightly higher than usual, as staff continued not just taking customer calls, but calling each other more regularly due to the lack of physical proximity. The relative ease through which individuals would usually interact was replaced through Teams, and more conference calls, later reflected in higher Teams user activity.
Lineal Microsoft Teams User Activity: 3rd – 10th March
Top Tip #2: To enable full home-working, you need not just a unified communications tool, but more call volume ‘capacity’ than normal.
Full remote-working is an interesting exercise because it forces your team to reconsider elements of the operation everyone takes for granted. For example, our teams regularly make use of meeting rooms and spaces at the Lineal office in order to work on projects and meet with customers.
In a geographically distributed “virtual” world, these meetings need to take place in different ways. Generally, tools like Teams make an excellent substitute and the result is a far more focussed experience which achieves the shared aims of the meeting, but with slightly less social interaction than you would expect when meeting face to face.
(Business as usual, with rising call volumes)
Although the practice of full home-working is dramatically easier than it once was, and potentially hugely cost-saving, several staff reported feeling a little isolated. We’ll be incorporating all our staff’s feedback into our Business Continuity planning, and continue to make improvements.
How to Plan:
Have a Plan Saved in your email drafts – detailing what needs to happen in the event that a significant number of staff need to be sent home. Worry about things in this order:
1. Basic Connectivity & Communication
How will your staff connect to your IT remotely, and how will they communicate with each other. The checklist runs as follows: hardware, cables, broadband and communications tools. These are the most fundamental tools for both work, and circumventing any other problems your team encounters.
2. Access to Work Files
In the short term, staff otherwise isolated from systems can still process documents productively – If you’ve moved to Office 365, G-suite or cloud-storage platforms like OneDrive or Dropbox, this should be easiest workplace task to provide access for.
3. Access to Databases
Operating cloud-based? That will help. However, remotely connecting to non-cloud, ‘on-site’ systems such as accounting, stock control and other vital software will rely on external access to your network – for example via VPN.
This is likely to be unfamiliar to many end users used to working from the office – start with the users that most need it for the continued operation of the business, such as mission-critical staff or more senior accounting managers.
4. External Permissions
What systems do you need access to that are operated by third-parties. Remote equipment? Agency resources? Supplier portals? If these are web-based they may be accessible from anywhere, but make sure this is the case. To dramatically simplify this one, don’t run an IT company!
5. Support Structure
If you’ve never worked entirely from home before, it can feel strangely isolating. Guidance from NHS England currently states coronavirus self-isolation should last as long as two weeks, so check regularly that your team are coping OK. Encouraging emails, chat channels, funny gifs, team calls and the like are more important than you might think.
***This page will be updated with links to new guidance, as required.***
For business continuity technology and expertise, please contact Lineal today.
Lineal’s Managing Director Mike Matthews recently spoke to more than a hundred business leaders who gathered in Tiverton and at Haldon racecourse near Exeter for ‘Purple’ disability employer conferences.
Organised by Be Ready Employer Hub, the event focused on the business benefits of employing hidden talents staff and those with disabilities or long-term health conditions.
Lineal benefits from the contribution of our hidden talents staff and were asked to talk about their work, our experience of both mistakes and successes, and the importance of building a supportive working environment.
Invited as a guest-speaker, Mike’s case study included the story of Lineal Software Developer Reuben Winsor, who won the 2016 Pluss SouthWest ‘Achiever of the Year’ award for his progress.
Ready Devon is supported by Devon County Council and the Department for Work & Pensions – providing disability awareness training, guidance for employers, networking and access to partnership organisations.
Microsoft have combined the mobile versions of its Office programs into a single new Office app, uniting Word, Excel and Powerpoint under a single banner.
It’s true that Microsoft would prefer you use their whole Office 365 suite of apps, but the combination isn’t just strategic – the new mobile Office includes a whole toolkit of new abilities better optimised for mobile.
A number of typical tasks people might tackle when using a smartphone, such as PDF signing, reading QR codes, photo-to-document conversion or scanning PDFs with Microsoft Lens, are all ‘baked in’ to the new mobile Office version, with Microsoft clearly trying to maximise awareness of these lesser-known extras.
Such tools are activated from a new ‘Actions’ menu aimed at simplifying the controls users have to input to complete common tasks, as part of Microsoft’s Fluent design scheme.
Microsoft Word comes with a new dictation ability (which may be familiar to those using the desktop app) that supports speech to text. It’s hard to imagine users writing lengthy documents this way unless forced not to type, although assembling plain text into a OneDrive file for others to collate, or editing changes into an existing project might be more practical.
Excel is, of course, not a natural fit on mobile – where individual cells remain a bit fiddly on a touchscreen. Even so, there are improvements here too: Excel ‘cards’ simplify wide Excel rows into a simple summary, which ensures the user doesn’t have to open an unwieldy spreadsheet to find information.
Again, there’s an awareness here – that very few users will seriously attempt heavy editing via mobile, but access and convenience is critical for a workforce that increasingly operates on the move. Powerpoint presentations can also be created from a bullet-point list: not a work-of-art perhaps, but potentially a lifesaver at short notice.
Outlook, Teams, OneNote and the other Office 365 apps remain independent (for now) although it’s easy to imagine some of these also being merged into the combined app in future, as Microsoft seeks to build a seamless experience between the different productivity apps of the popular Office package.
In a diplomatic move, Office also includes support for popular third-party storage apps including Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud and Box.
Google have released the new developer preview of Android 11, with technology ready for 5G and support for virtual-reality overlay options within apps.
Developer previews are designed to encourage 3rd-party app developers to stay ahead of the curve, and test the compatibility of new features, prior to the release of Android 11 during the Summer.
This time around, the much-hyped release of 5G requires Android handsets and app developers to adapt to the new technology: including operating-system to assess whether connections are metered or unmetered, and unlock boosted computing options if data speeds are sufficiently high.
Some of the improvements are also being driven by hardware trends among the big manufacturers – including new support for folding-screens and the ‘pin-hole’ style cameras that sit within the screen extent of the phone.
An ‘Only this time’ choice will be added to security preferences which allows for a one-time exemption to default security options. This is already the case with standard apps (such as your default browser) but will now apply to system tools such as the phone’s GPS, microphone or camera.
On the flip side of this, more of the phone’s intrinsic features (such as phone/messaging apps) will begin behaving more like their popular 3rd-party app counterparts – allowing persistent notification ‘bubbles’ that can be re-positioned on screen for a more fluid experience.
At present Android 11 will only operate on Google’s own flagship ‘Pixel’ range of smartphones, but expect the OS to begin appearing on other handsets from June 2020.
For Business Mobile expertise, please contact our team today.
At time of writing, around 83 million trees have been planted worldwide across at least 16 countries – and assuming you don’t clear your browser settings, Ecosia also keeps a total count of your personal searches. Supported by Microsoft Bing, Ecosia’s searching is encrypted, results are not stored, and data is not sold to any third-party advertisers.
Around 45 searches equates to one new tree – so get searching!
Video Conference, Don’t Travel
Business travel, especially air travel, isn’t as necessary as it used to be, and it’s increasingly difficult to justify time spent sat in traffic.
Video conferencing was once a bit of a standing joke, but with responsive video quality, devices with in-built microphones/cameras/speakers, and better internet connectivity, the technology is much more practical than was once the case.
For an easy way to gauge the costs involved, add up mileage expenses for a week, month or year, and ask which meetings really had to be conducted by travelling. If that expense could be saved, so could the planet.
Use an Eco Button (Or Don’t)
There are a number of gadgets available that prompt office workers to turn off their screens, most famously the ‘Eco-button’ – a bright green light-up USB button which you hit to switch your PC into sleep mode. On startup, a small application praises your efforts by displaying your CO2 and cost saving to date.
Unfortunately this is arguably an example of greenwashing. The plastic device (probably shipped from China) isn’t actually necessary to enable device sleep settings – Windows 10 already has handy power-saving options available, so aside from the software recording your savings, the button mainly serves only to raise awareness and act as a fun reminder.
Hopefully each eco-button might one day have saved enough CO2 to justify its own manufacture… maybe. But with a little vigilance, this ought to be achievable without quite so much plastic.
Return your old Router
Switching broadband services often means a new router, which isn’t ideal for cutting plastic waste.
Some ISP’s allow users to voluntarily return a redundant router for recycling, in an effort to cut down on routers being piled up in cupboards, and ensure fewer of their devices ultimately end up in landfill.
BT recently announced this scheme will soon be compulsory, and new customers who fail to return their BT router for recycling at the end of the contract using a pre-paid return envelope will face an extra charge of up to £50.
Alternatively, many local councils now allow the recycling small electrical items with household recycling, so there’s little excuse for throwing out this kind of equipment.
Entry-level Broadband routers from many major providers are locked to a single Internet Service Provider (ISP), which often causes spare routers to pile up in cupboards when customers switch broadband supplier.
The move follows a pattern of UK companies trying to bolster their green credentials, in the wake of Extinction Rebellion and other environmental movements gathering increased public support.
As subsidiaries, the BBC reports that the scheme will also ‘eventually’ apply to EE and Plusnet broadband customers.
Increasing numbers of local councils in the UK now offer direct recycling of small electrical items, reflecting a noticeable rise in the value of copper and other useful materials – giving home users few excuses not to attempt to recycle their old router.
For IT support & expertise – please contact our team today.
Now it’s 2020, and in a world dominated by Google Chrome and mobile web browsing, Microsoft is trying again. Edge was re-launched this month, having been completely re-structured on Google’s open-source Chromium source-code.
Possibly the most frustrating thing for Microsoft is that there’s actually little wrong with Edge – at least as far as most users will recognise. But, beyond the snazzy new logo, is 2020’s new Edge worth your attention?
Some of Edge feels painfully similar – upon downloading, you’ll be immediately (and repeatedly) prompted to import favourites from your other browser (just in case your current browser is an organised place you inexplicably wanted to move away from to win a bet/to fulfil an ancient prophecy/because you work for Microsoft.)
However, Microsoft has clearly learnt some lessons – the choice of layouts (‘Focused’, ‘Inspirational’ or ‘Informational’) are worth investigating to dodge the msn.com-style assault on the senses, and make Edge feel more like a clean, distraction-free tool for daily use. The toolbar design also feels much closer to rivals like Chrome and Firefox: simple and easy to use.
Edge is quick too – performing well in tests and supposedly ‘optimised for Windows 10.’ Although hard to verify in true laboratory conditions, it’s easy to picture Edge delivering Office 365, Outlook.com and other Microsoft web-based services in an efficient manner, and it feels smooth. More importantly, by adopting Chromium, Microsoft have banished one of 2015 Edge’s demons: the lack of available app extensions that eventually finished Windows phone.
‘Immersive Reader’ Mode (similar to that in Office 365) can now be activated from the address bar and strips out on-page distractions, adverts and on-screen formatting for enabled web-pages. This is a simply brilliant and calming addition for reading through articles, and is sure to win plaudits from those concerned about accessibility.
Microsoft also appear to have given a little extra attention to business users – perhaps aware that although Google Chrome dominates Android’s mobile world, workplace computing remains a key area where people still use conventional Windows 10 devices in overwhelming numbers. Sharing preferences between devices is a repeated boast by rival browsers like Safari and Firefox, but Edge can now do this too.
Edge uses Bing search by default, but once signed into your Microsoft account can do some clever extras, such as amend your search results to define acronyms according to your organisation or industry. ‘Inking’ abilities that exist in Office 365 (eg: for taking notes in OneNote) are also extended to Edge for overwriting PDFs in-browser – allowing some simple tasks like signing a contract or filling in a form in legible handwriting.
If your system admin tinkers with Group Policy, it’s possible to turn on an ‘Internet Explorer Mode’ that renders legacy web-pages more accurately, without the pesky security holes that plagued Internet Explorer installations years beyond their supported date.
Sharing a code-base with Chromium allows Edge to borrow some of Chrome’s best media features – including screen-casting to Chromecast devices on display screens and similar. Edge is also allegedly the only browser on Windows 10 to support 4k Netflix – the kind of popular feature it’s hard to imagine Internet Explorer’s developers ever even considering.
In market share terms, Edge languishes with Firefox around 10%, hugely outgunned by the behemoth of Google Chrome at around 70% of all internet usage globally. Will that change? The next few months may reveal whether Edge can establish itself as something with more appeal.
Microsoft Edge (2020) stable-version is now available for PC, macOS, Android and iOS online here.
For IT Support and technical expertise, please contact Lineal’s IT Support Team today.
Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. recently welcomed Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid MP to Lineal’s Barnstaple Offices to tour our operations and see our technical work.
Visiting with North Devon’s new MP Selaine Saxby, Mr Javid toured Lineal’s different departments and had chance to meet technical staff in a number of different roles (and enjoy a cream tea!)
Considered one of the most senior Cabinet positions, the Chancellor is responsible for financial and economic matters at the Treasury. A former Managing Director at Deutsche Bank, MP for Bromsgrove, Culture Secretary and then Business Secretary, Javid is the first British Asian to hold one of the Great Offices of State.
For IT Support and technical expertise, please contact our team today.
The US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have advised all Mozilla Firefox users to urgently update their browser versions, following discovery of a vulnerability that grants potential access to the operating system.
The unusual warning comes after Mozilla itself admitted being aware of ‘targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw.’
Google Chrome 79 will contain a Chrome hacked password alarm to notify at-risk users.
‘Password Checker’, which first appeared in October, will regularly compare user passwords saved in-browser against publicly-known data breaches.
The service will feel familiar to those who’ve tried the (often terrifying) but essential https://haveibeenpwned.com/ – which shows visitors where their email addresses have been compromised.
Chrome’s update is being gradually rolled out to new users, and is available within Settings > People > Sync and Google Services > Other Google Services, and is named ‘Warn you if passwords are exposed in a data breach.’
The alert mechanism is just the latest in a series of attempts to push users to safer browsing: 2019 also saw Google Chrome actively warn users of websites without valid security certificate, and penalise such websites in Google search rankings.
Chrome 79’s new hacked password alarm mechanism should prompt systematically when account credentials need password updates, and allow users to keep their accounts secure.
For IT support and cybersecurity expertise, contact Lineal today.
Thousands of devices were left with broken browsers this week, after a Google Chrome experiment rolled out a hidden change to the world’s most-used browser.
Launched exclusively on ‘stable’ versions, the update left IT admins around the world puzzled at blank tabs that refused to load.
The test initiated a new WebContents Occlusion feature, designed to reduce Chrome’s device resource use for tabs while not currently being viewed – no doubt part of Google’s effort to address Chrome’s reputation for heavy resource usage and the ever-increasing pattern of users deploying more and more tabs during the shift to cloud services.
Online forums were suddenly filled with complaints from system admins fielding complaints from users and businesses all over the world – including US wholesaling giant Costco, who claimed their entire call centre environment was unavailable.
Larger organisations typically use device control to specify applications such as which browser an employer uses – which left System Admins at large enterprise businesses unable to simply direct users to an alternative browser, and furious that Google can roll-out unexpected changes to the platform.
Google has now issued an apology:
“After the rollout, we received reports that in some virtual environments, Chrome on Windows displays a blank page, which may be because Chrome mistakenly believes it’s covered by another window. As soon as we confirmed the reports, the feature was disabled.
“If Chrome on Windows is displaying blank pages, restart Chrome. On the next start, this feature will be disabled.
We also want to provide an explanation of how this change was rolled out. For some features, Chrome uses a gradual rollout process that happens more slowly than the main rollout. This allows us to quickly revert a change if we discover a bug that wasn’t uncovered in prior testing.
Once we received reports of the problem, we were able to revert it immediately. We sincerely apologize for the disruption this caused.”
For IT Support and expertise, contact Lineal today.
An online crowdfunding campaign has been launched to pay the mobile roaming bill of migrating eagles being tracked the Russian Wild Animal Rehabilitation Team at the Siberian Environmental Centre.
The thirteen tagged Steppe Eagles, being tracked via bi-hourly SMS messages containing GPS coordinates, ran up a hefty data roaming bill after migrating across countries as far afield as Egypt, Georgia and India.
One eagle, named ‘Min’ by researchers, unexpectedly flew from Kazakhstan via Iran, initially losing signal but then sending a backlog of messages at high rates, before crossing into Saudi Arabia and reaching as far South as the Yemen.
At a cost of 7,000 roubles (£85 per day), Min quickly used up the programme’s entire budget for tracking all 13 Eagles, forcing the Russian team of environmentalists to turn to social media for financial support.
Considered endangered by the IUCN, the Steppe Eagle once commonly reached as far afield the Ukraine, but researchers were unprepared for expensive data charges across the Middle East, which can be three-times higher than those in the Russian Federation.
The centre’s crowdfunding campaign has raised more than 250,000 roubles (roughly £3,000), although Russian telecoms provider MegaFon has since agreed to write-off the wayward Eagles’ data roaming bill debt as a gesture of goodwill.
Local businesses recently gathered at Barnstaple Library for a special cybersecurity workshop organised by the South West Police Regional Cyber Crime Unit and Lineal Software Solutions Ltd.
Thirty participants from firms across the South West took part in a series of lego-based group exercises highlighting key concepts in cybersecurity, as they sought to protect a fictional utilities company from attack by common real-world cyber crime.
The winning team defended their company by spending their budget on the correct countermeasures at each stage of the exercise, and strategically limiting the damage from any breaches in security.
The South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) is one of nine regional units across England and Wales that delivers specialist capabilities to target and disrupt serious and organised crime. Designed to raise awareness of coordinated digital threats, the cybersecurity workshop session is part of a new educational initiative being run by the Police right across the region.
Group exercises were followed by a short Q&A including advice for businesses on related topics including network best-practice, password policy, physical security, and the Government’s new Cyber Essentials certification.
Lineal’s Head of Technical Services, Matt Norris, explained: “We were to delighted to be able to organise the Cyber Crime Unit to run this very special workshop for local companies: we see cyber attacks becoming ever more sophisticated, and the SWRCCU takes a really positive and constructive approach to educating business owners about how to protect their organisations and employees.”
“Many businesses struggle to grapple with cybersecurity, but help and expertise is accessible.”
You can learn more about the South West Police Regional Cyber Crime Unit’s and their educational work across the South West online here.
For IT support and cybersecurity expertise, please contact Lineal today.
Email remains a, if not the, key threat vector for protecting organisations from cyber crime – with around 90% of cyber attacks beginning by compromising an unsuspecting user via email.
Today we take a closer look at some of the clever tricks of Barracuda’s email filtering & security service, and why the small investment to protect your inbox is worth it:
In addition to profiling every email which passes through its live email filtering service in seconds, Barracuda scans each email attachment for signs that the contents might be malicious.
As cyber criminals begin to use more sophisticated means, it’s worth implementing this to prevent macro-enabled office documents, infected PDFs and similar file download tricks from catching out users who might be curious to open a dangerous attachment.
Barracuda email filtering scans not just incoming, but outgoing emails from your hosted mail service or mail server, ensuring not only that your clients are protected from suspect emails, but that staff cannot circulate threats further within your organisation.
Anybody familiar with being caught in a reply-all ’email storm’ knows how quickly bad email can spread internally – be part of the solution yourself, not the problem.
In the event that your email service falters, clients quickly begin receiving bounce-backs, which leave a poor impression of customer service.
This is avoidable – routing via Barracuda’s email servers, emails will temporarily ‘spool’ like planes stacking over an airport, ensuring onward delivery later when the service comes back online. This ensures any unfortunate interruption to communications is not immediately visible to your clients.
Long Term Recovery
Hosting your email in the cloud with Microsoft Office 365? Everything is backed up in the cloud, correct? Not quite – even Office 365 has a 30-day recovery period on deleted email, and emails can ultimately only be restored individually.
This retention period can be longer, or even unlimited, with Barracuda email backups, making sure that emails can be recovered long after staff have deleted them, accidentally or otherwise.
This extra silo of automated email backup protects not just against employee negligence or malpractice, but also common digital breaches such as compromised accounts.
For cyber-security and IT expertise – please contact our team today.
Apple have released MacOS Catalina, 2019’s update to the Mac’s leading operating system.
Catalina introduces a number of new features, including ’Sidecar’ dual display, new media systems, Mac Catalyst for developers and Screen Time activity monitoring.
Although we say it every year, the endless march towards a unified Mac/iPad operating system feels another step closer: macOS Catalina introduces ‘Sidecar’ – which allows an iPad to be the secondary monitor for your MacBook. In addition to being a smart productivity trick for those needing extra screen space, the iPad is able to perform new functions such as an extra high-resolution display for those with impaired vision.
MacOS Catalyst, released in the latest version, also makes it easier for app developers to publish their apps across both MacOS and iPadOS operating systems, with the implication being that Apple see the devices as very much part of the same software universe.
Apple have shuffled their media services options around this year – replacing iTunes with new services named Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. In addition, the new Apple Arcade gaming subscription service has been launched, with a fixed-subscription service for an unlimited package of games.
Screen Time introduces activity monitoring, with either productivity or parental control clearly in Apple’s sights. Downtime allows users to share time away from the screen, categories or individual apps, and includes shared visibility across multiple apple devices.
As always, it’s worth waiting a short time for others to discover any early release-bugs in the new operating system update, before updating promptly.
For Apple device expertise and IT Support, please contact our team today.
Microsoft are offering an initial ten free Charity Microsoft 365 licenses for Nonprofit organisations.
Microsoft 365 allows users across an organisation to work more flexibly, collaborate on shared work and maintain an ‘always-up-to-date’ software base across a charitable organisation.
The flagship ‘Microsoft 365 Business’ cloud IT bundle, which normally retails at £15.10+VAT per user per month (Or £3.80+VAT per month for NonProfits) includes everyone’s favourite Microsoft Office 365 apps such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and more. 50GB of Exchange Online email hosting per user is also included as standard, with 1TB of cloud OneDrive storage, and Windows 10 Pro licensing for each user’s device, packaged with a host of organisational security features.
Lineal’s Head of Technical Services Matt Norris explained: “This is a super offer which we’re expecting to do some real good in the Charitable sector especially – and hopefully nonprofits will snap up their free Charity Microsoft 365 licensing while it’s available. Office 365 makes flexible working and collaborative projects much easier, advantages that we know are a key concern for many in the voluntary sector.”
Mike Matthews, Lineal’s Managing Director explained: “We’re delighted to be shortlisted for the Tech South West awards – it’s a real recognition of our team’s hard work, creativity and dedication to be ranked among the best in the region.”
“2018-19 has been really quite something for Lineal. We’ve opened new premises, taken on bigger projects than ever before, expanded our product offering to new areas, and signed a diverse range of new clients.”
“It’s fantastic to make it through to the final round of this prestigious award.”
Tech South West exists to champion excellence among tech companies, and make the South West a hub for technology and innovation.
The awards will be presented in a special ceremony at Exeter Castle on Wednesday 27th November – a full shortlist of nominees and categories has been published on Tech South West’s website, here.
Apple have made headlines this week with the release of new iPhone 11 models at their annual Autumn hardware release event.
New models include the mid-range iPhone 11 ($699), and flagship iPhone 11 ‘Pro’ ($999) and ‘Pro Max’ (6.5” larger form factor) options.
The latest design has divided opinion – with the irregular hole design of the extremely powerful triple-camera on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max models in particular unsettling those with trypophobia.
On paper however, some truly impressive camera features have been included as a result: including wide-angle and night-mode photography that is finely optimised for low light levels, as well as 4K and even 120fps slow-motion video recording.
Apple have heavily doubled-down on photography and videography for the selfie-generation this year. The cluster of three telephoto lenses even theoretically allow the user to shoot different shots simultaneously from the same iPhone, although it’s hard to imagine anyone but the keenest of photography nerds making use of such a feature.
At $50, the standard dual-camera iPhone 11 more affordable than last year’s iPhone XR, and there’s a hint that Apple are calibrating for the sweet-spot of what consumers will accept at a time when Apple’s critical new hardware sales are actually declining. However, as numerous publications have noticed, the lower value of the pound is likely to make the current generation of iPhones still feel more expensive for UK customers.
Other headlines are as expected: Apple have extended battery life once again, offered a new range of colours, the ‘toughest glass ever‘ and stated a revised focus on device privacy, one of the remaining key strengths of Apple devices over Google Android rivals.
In a throwaway line, it was also confirmed that iPhone 11 will be ready for Wi-Fi 6, but not 5G – a subtle suggestion perhaps that Apple believes 5G may be an innovation still slightly over-hyped by the tech industry. Perish the thought.
Apple have issued a silent update for video conferencing software Zoom, following discovery of a major webcam security vulnerability affecting Mac users.
Zoom issued an emergency patch for the problem two days ago – in a rapid response Apple was still concerned might not reach enough users.
The controversial web server installation – originally designed to save Mac-based Safari web browser users from additional clicks and make video conferencing easier to use, was shown to create a potentially serious vulnerability whereby Zoom calls could be launched from any website with the camera turned on.
Believed to put at risk more than 4 million webcams globally, the zero-day exploit was discovered by security researcher Jonathan Leitschuh – who originally gave Zoom 90-days to resolve the issue prior to publication.
Leitschuh has since praised Zoom’s willingness to do a public ‘about face’ with the emergency patch, and Zoom’s CEO taking direct video calls to discuss the problem.
Nevertheless, Apple’s decision to step in to protect Mac users remains an embarrassment for the previously very successful video conferencing solution.
Additional problems include Mac versions of video conferencing software which use Zoom’s underlying services for white-labeled video calling – such as Ringcentral.
Instead of patching the problem, Zoom’s permission to turn on the webcam can also be disabled manually, via Settings > Video > ‘Turn Off My Video When Joining a Meeting.’
For software expertise and support, please contact Lineal today.
Due out this Autumn (2019) is macOS Catalina – Apple’s latest new operating system for the Mac range.
MacOS Catalina is currently in Beta, so it’s unclear exactly how the final update will look. However it appears once again that Apple are increasingly blurring the boundary between Mac and iPad, as well as doubling-down on a rich media experience:
“…MacOS Catalina gives you more of everything you love about Mac. Experience music, TV and podcasts in three all-new Mac apps. Enjoy your favourite iPad apps now on your Mac. Extend your workspace and expand your creativity with iPad and Apple Pencil. Discover smart new features in the apps you use every day. You can now take everything you do above and beyond.With macOS Catalina, the apps you love are now more beautiful and intelligent making your everyday tasks easier than ever.”
Apple’s decision to replace iTunes also receives its own sales pitch as part of the new operating system’s roll-out:
“… iTunes forever changed the way people experienced music, films, TV programmes and podcasts. It all changes again with three all-new, dedicated apps — Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts — each designed from the ground up to be the best way to enjoy entertainment on your Mac. And rest assured: everything you had in your iTunes library is still accessible in each app. iCloud seamlessly syncs everything across your devices — or you can back up, restore and sync by connecting the device directly to your Mac.”
“… macOS Catalina brings all your favourite Screen Time features to Mac, giving you greater insight into how you’re spending your time. Monitor usage, schedule downtime, and set limits for both apps and websites across all your devices. Enhanced security features better protect macOS against tampering, helping to ensure that the apps you use are safe, giving you greater control over access to your data, and it’s even easier to find your Mac if it’s lost or stolen.”
Apple is expected to release macOS Catalina free of charge to all users, and is currently in a testing phase. We do not recommend Apple users seek to move to Catalina just yet, as final version bugs may still be identified during the public beta.
For Apple hardware, expertise and support, contact Lineal today
Communications giant Poly (nee ‘Polycom’) have launched their new VVX450 series phone handsets – and our team at Lineal have taken it for a test drive.
On first impression, the new handset is exceptionally eye-catching – the square design certainly feels modern and cutting-edge, if a little serious. All the controls will feel very familiar to users of the very successful VVX410 and VVX411 handsets, but the phone’s 4.3″ full colour screen is the most dramatic improvement – with a wider display and higher definition that appear much sharper.
Much like the VVX411, the menus and buttons are simple and intuitive – continuing the same focus on ease-of-use that has seen Poly sell VVX phones in the hundreds of thousands across the UK, into a very diverse array of business sectors.
We were particularly impressed by the speakerphone. Polycom have cranked the in-built speaker up to eleven, and the Polycom VVX450 could easily be used as a capable conference phone for a typical meeting room.
Someone may have been slightly over-ambitious with the phone’s size: desks may include less paper these days, but the handset feels large and space might be an issue in more traditional working environments. As before, the VVX450 supports single-cable (‘POE’) network and power, PC pass-through, headsets and more, but is noticeably larger than the VVX411 predecessor, itself a substantial handset. Overall, the impression is that the new model may look more naturally at-home on the desk of an executive, rather than an occasional phone user.
Bitdefender have released a free decryption tool rescuing those affected by recent versions of GandCrab ransomware.
The free tool enables stricken users to recover data encrypted by various versions of GandCrab without paying a ransom to cybercriminals.
In a joint announcement with Europol, Romanian Police and other law-enforcement agencies, the cybersecurity provider detailed how a team of experts were recently able to gain access to the GandCrab control server, and access decryption keys for the ransomware that would allow safe recovery of data.
GandCrab became the latest nasty ransomware threat in January 2018 – following a disturbing trend of businesses and organisations worldwide struck by malicious encryption software.
Bitdefender’s previous attempts to quash the ransomware resulted in new versions being released by cyber criminals, but the latest recovery of private keys resulted in GandCrab’s developers announcing their ‘retirement’ – allegedly having exploited more than $150m in personal profit over five major versions of the ransomware.
Bitdefender’s recovery tool and instructions for use is available for download from the Bitdefender Labs here. In order to use the tool successfully, affected users must have a working internet connection and at least one copy of the ‘ransom note’ file present on the affected device.
For cybersecurity expertise and support, contact our team today.
WhatsApp users have been asked to update their app version urgently following a major Whatsapp security breach.
The exploit is believed to be possible via a missed WhatsApp voice call, made possible by a software loophole recently introduced to limit message forwarding. Affected users would be unaware that their device might be compromised.
The Financial Times’ exclusive report links the breach to NSO Group, an Israeli private cybersecurity company whose private customer list is likely to include military, security and law enforcement clients.
Analysts believe the technique has probably so far only been used to ‘eavesdrop’ on high-profile targets with especially security-sensitive information, although today’s announcement raises the possibility that criminal third-parties may attempt to exploit the same vulnerability against ‘ordinary’ WhatsApp users such as civilians.
WhatsApp has utilised end-to-end encryption since 2016 across both Apple and Android smartphone devices, making it a common communication medium for personal use, but also for organised crime. There are more than 1.5 billion users worldwide, making WhatsApp security a truly global concern.
Smartphone users are being advised to update their copy of the App to the latest version – 2.19.134 on Android and 2.19.51 on iOS or newer.
For Mobile technology assistance and expertise – contact Lineal today.
The current Mac Pro computer debuted back in June 2013 with an upgrade consequently in the winds. Reports suggest that a fresh model may finally see the light of day in the first week of June. According to sources, Apple will be revealing its new Mac Pro at the World Wide Developers Conference.
Given that the Pro targets demanding pro-users, like Architects and Developers, it makes sense for the new Mac to be revealed here.With super fast processors, more maximum RAM, better GPUs, and a slew of other improvements, almost certainly make this the most powerful and capable Mac Pro Apple have ever launched.
The new design will better accommodate future upgrades and higher-end hardware. Apple says the design of the current high-end device has restricted the company’s ability to upgrade it, necessitating a total redesign.Internal expansion and dual-processor options are key aspects on the wish list of improvements. The actual capabilities of the most recent creation are however still a mystery.
Aside from a revised Pro, there are rumours that Apple is developing a high-end high-throughput modular system. This will facilitate regular upgrades to meet the needs of Apple’s pro user base. It will ship alongside an upcoming Apple-branded pro display, which rumours suggest will be 31.6 inches with a 6K resolution. With “outstanding picture quality” enabled through a new Mini LED-like backlighting design.
Online rumours about the release of iOS 13 have suggested Apple may be about to add a number of ‘Mac’ style features to their touchscreen-based operating system.
Among the improvements hinted at exclusively by 9to5Mac for release at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June, iOS 13 looks set to include system-wide dark-mode and high-contract display versions, a less intrusive volume control, new font management, desktop-version website priority and new ‘Undo’ controls.
Most importantly, iOS 13 is rumoured to include a kind of panel-based app container system, allowing users to more easily control screen space and switch between applications smoothly.
If true, the move will be seen by many as the first confirmation of a long suspected plan by Apple to begin merging their two main operating systems, iOS (for iPhone and iPad) and MacOS (for MacBook, iMac and Mac mini ranges) for a more common experience across Apple’s range of devices.
Numerous concept images of what the proposed iOS might to look like have appeared online, although Apple aficionados may note that dark-mode would display very differently on OLED devices to non-OLED ones.
Recent iPad Pro advertising, which asks ‘What’s a computer?’ suggests that much like Microsoft, Apple is preparing for more capable tablets to increasingly replace traditional laptops for work computing.
For Apple equipment and expertise, contact our team today.
Microsoft’s Windows Team have previewed a new optional Light Theme to be released in May 2019’s Windows 10 update.
The glossy, bright look is currently available to those on the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build (a kind of test program for volunteer guinea-pigs of future Windows versions – accessed through Windows Update.)
Both Apple and Microsoft have introduced ‘Dark Modes’ more eye-sensitive for night-time use in recent years, either in popular software such as Outlook, or as part of the main operating system itself, as in the case of Apple’s Mojave update.
Windows Light Theme introduces a brighter feel for Microsoft’s signature operating system, likely to prove a hit among companies with certain in-house ‘styles’ favouring brighter tones, or to provide more options to those with visual impairments.
As of March 2019, Windows 10 is now in use across more than 800 million devices worldwide, running on just a smidge under half of all PCs in existence (49.9%.)
May’s Windows update (build 18362.30) also features numerous minor fixes, including improvements to printing processes, splitting Cortana from Windows Search, and extending dark mode within OneDrive.
Light theme will be available within the ‘Personalisation’ settings available by right-clicking on the Windows desktop, once the new update lands in May.
For Microsoft expertise and support – contact our team today
Staff and volunteers from Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. and TM Fitness have raised £500 for North Devon Hospice’s Pitch-in-a-Pound day.
The annual Pitch-in-a-Pound Day, supported by businesses and fundraisers across North Devon, raises funds for the vital work of the former Charity of the Year, which cares for more than 3,000 people affected by life-limiting illnesses each year.
With help from TM Fitness gym in Barnstaple, Lineal staff ran, walked and rowed a total of 100 miles in relay, and raffled-off healthy fruit basket prizes to raise funds.
Lineal’s Managing Director Mike Matthews thanked all those who donated, volunteered or helped:
“This important charity has cared for somebody from so many local families, across more than 800 square miles. The organisation and its staff rightly hold a special place in the heart of the local community for its good work.”
“That’s why, for the second year running, we decided to match whatever Lineal staff raised on the day, bringing the total tom £500. Well done team!”
Thank you to everyone who volunteered, donated or helped with pitch-in-a-pound this year! You can still sponsor our appeal via our JustGiving by clicking here or learn more about North Devon Hospice by clicking here.
Samsung have unveiled Galaxy Fold – a folding smartphone with a large (7.3” 2152×1536) internal display.
Designing a folding phone presents challenges, not least how close to exact the fold can run without breaking the internal display.
The benefits? A larger screen inside looks a smart choice for certain app formats – such as Google Maps, or split-screen use between apps. Samsung have cleverly ensured the display switches as the hinge is opened, seamlessly connecting the ‘outside’ display to the ‘inside’ without a delay that might interrupt use of the phone.
But there are some quirks too – the impressive internal screen is 6% less bright than the external, and drains the battery significant faster than the external 4.58 inch display that acts as the more traditional phone keypad.
The South Korean electronics conglomerate is not the first to trial a folding smartphone, nor even the first to announce – with Chinese rivals Huawei and Xiaomi both previewing rival models with different folding styles.
The Galaxy Fold will cost a wallet-emptying $2000 – but does at least demonstrate a level of innovation that has been sorely lacking in the smartphone market in recent years. Studies suggest gadget-lovers are increasingly holding on to their devices for longer, with risk-averse manufacturers adding only incremental changes.
Folding smartphones have disrupted the market before, so perhaps if the design can be perfected, there may be new use cases that soon demand folding technology.
For IT support and expertise, contact Lineal today.
Phishing emails that attempt to steal sensitive information or defraud funds are a growing threat to small businesses – and the root cause of roughly 90% of business cyber attacks.
Educating your staff to be wary of clicking on a suspicious email is arguably one of the simplest and most effective cyber-security practices for small businesses. But how should you approach this?
Nobody is Immune
There’s no telling when or where a phishing email will arrive at your business, and any single compromised computer might be a cyber-criminals ‘way-in’ to the company – so a good place to start is the idea that it is everyone’s responsibility to watch out for suspicious emails.
Phishing email traffic is estimated to have increased by around 65% last year, and approximately 30% of those phishing emails get opened by IT users.
You’re the CEO of a global multi-national conglomerate? Then you’re MORE, not less likely to be targeted. Such ’Spear Phishing’ attacks are often highly specific to key individuals, aiming squarely at users with privileged information, responsibility over finances or higher levels of access.
Email awareness applies to anyone and everyone with access to email, so training efforts to make your company secure need to apply up and down the hierarchy.
Getting hands-on with real examples of phishing emails is the single best way to immunise your team against being caught out. Cybersecurity companies increasingly recognise the ‘human’ factor as the most critical ’threat vector’ – put simply, there’s (ultimately) no substitute for human intuition about what might be suspicious.
Show your team key warning signs to look out for – suspicious email addresses in the email header, bad grammar, or links to dodgy URLs that display when you hover your mouse pointer over them.Fortunately ‘Fake bank’ or ’Nigerian Oil Minister’ type scams have become quite notorious over the last decade, so even the least tech-savvy user will soon catch on to the idea that if an email seems odd, it’s worth checking before clicking or typing-in any sensitive details.
Studies suggest many IT users increasingly feel that cyber-security breaches are inevitable, and that there’s ‘nothing they can do.’ This security ‘fatigue’ is partly the fault of cybersecurity providers, who have bombarded companies with this idea.
Avoid this mindset. Yes, 76% of companies reported being the victim of a phishing attack in 2017, but 24% did not. Those exemplary organisations will (at least partly) be making their own luck with good working practices, cybersecurity training for users, and strong IT security.
Defeatism also ignores that not all cybersecurity breaches are created equal – a breach could result in a negligible cost to recover a single PC, or cripple a major organisation worldwide, as NotPetya ransomware did to Maersk Shipping in 2017. Under GDPR, the scale of the fines issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office are directly related to the severity of the breach.
The lesson is clear: limiting your organisation’s exposure to attack also limits the potential ‘scale’ of the damage. Never surrender!
Do Your Part
It’s helpful to be able to show you’re also investing in your users’ safety at work – that you’re leading by example. Fortunately, there are many ways to reinforce end-user security when using email:
Facebook has announced plans to merge WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram’s messaging capabilities.
The social media technology giant plans for interoperable communication between each platform, although the development is stated to be the start of a “long process” and the apps will remain independent.
The consolidation may be good news for consumer-facing businesses, as dramatically more of the world’s smartphone chat users are centralised under a common standard for instant messaging.
WhatsApp released a Business version in 2018, suggesting that the chat software provider believes the public will increasingly seek to engage with businesses directly via such chat apps in preference to traditional methods such as email or phone call.
Whatsapp (over 1.5 billion active users globally), Facebook Messenger (1.3 billion) and Instagram (1 billion) will easily represent the largest collective chat application user base in the world, and the most popular across Europe, Africa, North America and South America.
The coagulated mass of (WhatsMessengerGram?) will also allow Facebook to better compete with Google’s unified Messenger App, and Apple’s iMessage platforms, as well as further challenge regionally strong chat applications with tertiary functions – such as payment transferring WeChat, preeminent among Chinese smartphone users.
Facebook’s project is set to be completed later during 2019.
For IT and communications expertise, contact Lineal today.
Official Government guidance is for businesses to purchase .co.uk, .com and/or .uk versions of important domains, and re-direct traffic in case of a ’No Deal’. Such action is likely to be more challenging for domain-linked services such as email.
This is also a difficult prospect for the unprepared: .com domains alone outnumber their .eu counterparts almost 40-1, so UK businesses may find themselves in a race to grab vital digital real-estate. Web developers and marketing teams might also have built significant reputational presence for the .EU versions of their company websites, and won’t relish the prospect of having to start over.
UK Mobile users abroad currently benefit from EU roaming regulations that limit mobile operators to a default data usage cost of €50, with alerts generated as the mobile user approaches the roaming limit.
Official Government guidance states that in the event of a Deal this limit would continue during the ‘implementation period’ so mobile workers abroad would temporarily be protected against high roaming costs after 1st April.
The Government states UK networks will soon be bound by new UK laws upholding the same financial penalties for their roamers abroad – although these UK-based networks are ultimately responsible for whether roaming services are available via foreign networks. Mobile users working internationally need to be wary when consuming mobile data abroad after 1st April 2019.
Whether UK businesses can access customers’ (or any) personal data from the EU will be determined by an ‘Adequacy Decision’ taken by the European Commission; deciding whether UK data protection rules are sufficiently close to those of the EU for data transfers to be permitted.
The UK formally adopted the EU’s ‘General Data Protection Regulation’ (GDPR) during 2018 and will retain this beyond April 2019, suggesting that a common framework for a company’s ‘Legal Basis’ to process personal data is likely. However, the EC have stated this decision will not be taken until the UK leaves the EU.
Government guidance suggests companies dealing with any personal data from the EU, or with operations abroad, proactively seek legal advice to ensure they continue to be legally watertight when transferring data internationally after 1st April.
This affects many online retailers: for example those who deliver goods ordered online, online services (such as streaming or cloud hosting) or take bookings for services at physical locations (such as ticketing.)
UK businesses trading to the EU will still be expected to uphold EU rules – for example offering the same service to both French or German customers.
However, the lifting of Geo-blocking restrictions effectively opens the door for UK-based online retailers to offer different services to different UK customers, or UK customers when compared to EU customers. Businesses are still advised to seek independent legal guidance for any variations to their service.
Early feedback from users was positive (despite recurring jokes that the Microsoft Office user-interface may also need a similar makeover from designers.)
That makeover has already begun with Office 365’s new fluent menus: specifically, streamlined menu bar options for both the web and desktop client versions of the major Office apps, which load faster during general use. The existing option-heavy menus will also remain optionally available, as might be expected for a product being used by more than a billion knowledge-workers worldwide.
Licensed Office 365 customers receive ongoing updates throughout the lifetime of their subscription, including security updates and all new visual improvements. However, revised icons for gradually retiring apps, such as Yammer and Skype for Business, might imply these products have greater independent lifespan than is actually expected by Microsoft support.
Lineal’s Ian Meredith has been awarded DrayTek Certified Network Admin Certificate, adding an additional qualification to Lineal’s networking experience.
DrayTek’s ‘Dray School’ requires network engineers to pass a series of advanced network and security configuration tests using DrayTek devices, routers and access points, including best practice for firewall settings, fault-finding and other detailed network tasks.
DrayTek’s business-grade Router range have won praise from across the IT Support sector recent years, with the provider winning a PC PRO Technology Excellence Award for five successive years (2014-18). DrayTek router models have proved highly popular with businesses, with intelligent features such as 4G fail-over increasingly in demand for business continuity requirements.
As a part of the 2-day examination procedure, each engineer’s router is attached to a testing network which judges whether the engineer has managed the device correctly, and automatically passes or fails based on a series of security checks.
Well done Ian!
For Networking and Security Expertise, contact Lineal today.
Setting your email out of office is something most people do only occasionally, and therefore can be unfamiliar to many. However, an auto-reply helps present a professional face for your business or organisation while you’re away enjoying the holiday season, and provides reassurance to those trying to contact you.
Here are our handy guides for setting up your auto-reply:
1. Open Outlook from your Office 365 Apps, and click the ‘Settings’ cog icon in the top right of your browser. Click ‘Automatic Replies’.
(If using Microsoft’s Outlook.live.com free personal service, you may need to click ‘View All Outlook Settings’ in your Settings tab for Automatic replies to be visible.)
2. Outlook will open your Autoreply settings. To turn on your Automatic replies, tick the top box labelled ’Send Automatic Replies’, and enter the text for your auto reply in the text box.
Choose the date and time period you wish your Out Of Office to remain active for, and when ready, click ‘OK’
Outlook 2019 (for Mac)
1. Open Outlook from your Applications, click ’Tools’ from the Menu Bar and select ‘Out Of Office’.
2. Outlook will open your Autoreply settings. To turn on your Automatic replies, tick the top box labelled ’Send Automatic Replies’, and enter the text for your auto reply in the top box.
Choose the date and time period you wish your Out Of Office to remain active for, and when ready, click ‘OK’.
Outlook 2019 (for PC)
1. Open Outlook and click to the ‘File’ Menu from the top toolbar.
2. From the ‘Info’ Tab click the ‘Automatic Replies/Out Of Office’ Button to open the Automatic Replies Window.
3. Click ’Send Automatic Replies’ at the top – choose the date and time period you wish your Out Of Office to remain active for, enter the message you wish to use for your Autoreply in the ‘Outside My Organisation’ text field, and click ’OK’.
1. Open Mac Mail
2. Right click on the left hand navigation panel and select get Account Info.
OR – If you right click on a file stored in your own mailbox you will have a direct link to your Out of Office
3. Click ’Send Out of Office Replies’ – choose the date and time period you wish your Out of Office to remain active for, enter the message you wish to use for your Autoreply in the ‘Internal Reply and External reply’ text fields, and click the red close icon in the top left.
1. Open Gmail in your web browser, and click the cog icon in the top right.
2. Open ’Settings’, click ‘See All Settings’ and scroll down to the section named ‘Vacation Responder’.
3. Switch Vacation Responder to ‘On’. Choose the date and time period you wish your Out Of Office to remain active for, enter the message you wish to use for your Autoreply in the text field, and click ‘Save Changes’.
1. Sign in to Kerio Webmail, and click your email name in the top right of the browser window. Choose ‘Out Of Office’ from the dropdown Menu.
2. Tick ’Send Out Of Office Message’, choose the date and time period you wish your Out Of Office to remain active for, enter the message you wish to use for your Autoreply in the text field, and click ’Save’.
1. Sign in to Yahoo! Mail and click the cog icon in the top right corner of your browser to access your settings. Click ‘More Settings’
2. Click ‘Out Of Office’ Response from the left hand menu. Toggle the ‘Turn On Out-Of-Office Response’ Switch to ON.
3. Enter the to and from dates you wish your out of office to remain on for, enter the auto-response in the text box, and click ‘Save’.
Windows 10 Mail App
Open Mail and click the settings cog in the bottom right of the menu.
2. Select ‘Automatic Replies’ from the settings menu
3. Select your email account, toggle Automatic replies to ‘ON’ and enter text for your automatic reply for internal and/or external contacts.
For IT support advice and guidance, contact Lineal today.
Microsoft have re-released October 2018’s Windows 10 update, after pausing the upgrade for technical fixes last month.
Some users complained of missing files and other update issues due to a bug with folder re-direction, with Microsoft eventually halting the availability of the download globally.
The move sees a more cautious Microsoft seek to evade criticism with a new ‘focus on quality’. The revised update has taken a month to re-issue and was released to ‘Windows Insiders’ (a kind of Beta-testing pool) several weeks ago for initial vetting, prior to re-release for the general public.
Since 2015, Windows 10 has been updated incrementally (much like rival Apple MacOS) with each iteration upgrading Windows 10 itself rather than seeking to replace the platform.
For businesses, updates may be managed centrally to avoid stumbling into first-day mishaps, such that home users were most likely to suffer from the results of October’s upgrade false-start. As always, Lineal’s advice is to delay major operating system upgrades for at least 24 hours, to ensure release-bugs have been identified.
In Microsoft’s defence, Windows 10 is now running on 700 million devices, and shows healthily declining customer incident rates – in addition to high public satisfaction, allegedly receiving the best Net Promoter Score (NPS) of any version of Windows to date.
The October Windows 10 update remains the only one of its kind to be pulled, and then re-released, and the pressure will be on Microsoft to ensure it remains unique.
For Windows expertise and support, please contact our team today.
Apple have announced three new Apple products in their Autumn Keynote product release – including a new Mac Mini, MacBook Air and iPad Pro.
The new devices eliminate creeping gaps in the Apple product range, finally replacing legacy devices long overdue a refresh. The Air (released in 2011) and Mac Mini (2013) both receive a significant upgrade in design and more powerful technical specifications.
The new Mac Mini has been upgraded to to 3.6Ghz processor, 8GB of memory and 128gb all-flash storage. For power users, the specifications inside the new Space Grey casing can be pushed higher – up to 4.6Ghz 6-core i7, 2TB SSD and a staggering 64GB of memory likely to please even the most demanding of photo-editors.
Speaking from New York, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed rumours from earlier this year, and pitched the releases as a move to assist ‘creatives’, acknowledging that customers from Apple’s most loyal business sector would be anticipating convenience and more powerful hardware from the upgraded models to support their creative work.
The new MacBook air is an astonishing work of portability, at just 15.6mm thick (around 10% thinner even than the 2011 version) and incorporates a retina screen, Thunderbolt 3 Ports, Touch Sensor and many other recent staples of the current MacBook and MacBook Pro range.
A 100% recycled aluminium shell on both devices also demonstrates Apple’s increasing environmental awareness, and serious efforts have been made to decrease plastic consumption to manufacture the inner workings of the device.
iPad Pro receives updates handed down from the more successful iPhone range, including FaceID, edge-to-edge screens and a thinner shell (equating to 25% less volume than previous models) charged by USB-C and including the A12X chip.
Apple claim the increase in core-count equates to a huge jump in processing speed – making the Pro technically faster than 92% of all portable PCs, and even able to generate complex Autodesk objects or run games at 120 frames per second. If true, this represents an enormous leap in capability, positioning the iPad Pro as a true competitor to performance laptops.
2018’s Macbook Air will be priced from around $1,199, and Mac Mini/iPad Pro from around $799, at time of writing, and will be available almost immediately.
For Apple hardware and expertise, contact Lineal today.
Dell have released details of a new ultrawide monitor format: the super-sized Ultrasharp U49 – a curved mega-monitor that measures a desk dominating 49-inches, corner to corner.
Monitor sizes have escalated steadily over the years, with evidence that greater on-screen real estate improves worker productivity; as users can multitask and cross-reference information on screen more easily on a larger desktop space. Accordingly, all the major operating systems have also added support for easier double-app screen sharing, if multi-taskers know where to look.
At ultrawide sizes however, monitors include content outside the user’s peripheral vision (and desk-space) forcing manufacturers to look at a curved chassis design instead. In practice, a curved monitor screen makes significantly more sense than a curved television – since the viewing distance of the observer can be more accurately estimated.
Increasingly popular for financial services and the creative sector, curved ultrawide formats can sometimes feel a little silly: able to open a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet into the B(A-Z) columns without any user scrolling.
Don’t expect to see U49s very often – Dell will be selling the prestige ultrawide monitor in the US for (a bank-account punishing) $1,700 from the end of October.
The smarter development may be the less publicised: Dell also announced smaller Ultrasharp models with USB-C single cable input – allowing users to incorporate all the traditional device charging and compatibility features of a laptop dock neatly into the back of their screen.
This allows users to instantly connect a portable device (laptop, tablet or convertible) to their desktop monitor with only a single cable, and simply walk away from the desk with their device when needing to work elsewhere.
Take note: this kind of flexible working is coming sooner than you think.
For IT assistance and expertise, please contact Lineal today.
Google Plus is to be shut down, following a data leak which put almost half a million user accounts at risk.
The tech giant announced on Monday that the consumer social media platform would be retired by the end of August 2019.
Launched in 2011, Google Plus has had a rocky history – spawning a comedic sub-genre focused around it’s slow adoption, weirdly vocal support from Google employees, and failure to compete with larger social media rivals such as Facebook.
Google’s own statement acknowledges this in harsh terms:
More controversial however have been recent security problems. This month the Wall Street Journal published details of a bug in the Google+ API which had allowed app developers to access user data without permission via their friends, (an almost identical vulnerability to that underlying 2018’s Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal which resulted in Facebook executives testifying before Congress – in Google’s case potentially exposing 496,951 Google+ user accounts.) Google estimate around 400 application developers would have had access to private profile data as a result of the bug.
First discovered in March shortly prior to GDPR coming into effect in the EU, Google was not legally bound to report the breach to all European users, but would now be required to do so within 72 hours from discovery under ICO rules, if a similar breach were to re-occur.
News outlets have linked Google’s failure to disclose the leak with the final decision to close the platform, despite Google’s insistence that widely known low user-engagement is behind the move. Existing Google+ users may choose to restrict security permissions or remove content, although the platform’s lack of success suggests many will allow ‘phantom’ accounts to be disregarded.
In overlapping new coverage, Google is expected to launch the newest version of its flagship android Pixel smartphone in just a few hours time.
For IT and security expertise, contact Lineal today.
Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. has become the only current VMware Enterprise Partner across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
Enterprise Partners can both provide and implement the most advanced and specialised VMware solutions to the market – including cloud infrastructure and mobile device management solutions alongside datacentre products.
Previously one of the South West’s few VMware Professional Solution Providers, Lineal achieved the coveted status of Enterprise Solution Partner after engineers and other staff successfully passed an extensive series of examinations to qualify for the highly sought-after industry accreditation. VMware Partners are expected to maintain current subject knowledge and the 2018 series of assessments are particularly challenging, requiring considerable experience and understanding to achieve the high standards set by VMware.
Lineal’s Managing Director Mike Matthews explained: “VMware’s virtualisation solutions are renowned as some of the world’s most sophisticated, most demanded, and most secure technology.”
“The ability to manage virtualised computing, network infrastructure, storage and more has made VMware the worldwide market-leader for cloud-based computing and software-defined data centres.”
“In particular, we’re very excited to be offering VMware Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions built on the latest Workspace ONE platform to organisations that need device security and compliance assurance measures in place.”
“This is an emerging requirement for more and more organisations of all sizes, and as a VMware partner in Devon, we look forward to delivering real innovation using VMWare to build the next generation of datacentre, MDM and application delivery platforms for our clients.”
For VMWare expertise and support, contact our IT Support team today.
Due out this Autumn (2018) is macOS Mojave – Apple’s latest new operating system for the Mac range.
Named after the arid desert in the Western United States made famous by movies of the same genre, macOS Mojave has been widely pitched as a usability update with a range of new features designed to make it easier for users to stay ‘focused’.
Headlining Mojave will be the new system-wide ‘dark mode’, allowing users to swap between lighter or darker macOS theme to make their Mac less sleep-disruptive and easier on the eye, particularly at night-time.
Far from just being a black background however, Mojave rather artfully adjusts the entire theme and default background through a gentle ‘morning/day/evening/night’ cycle.
There are plenty of new tools too: the desktop can now sort files by type using ‘stakcs’, search by image, and quick edit PDFs and screenshots via Preview.
The tech giant, which recently became the world’s first trillion-dollar company, has also been rumored to be planning new MacBook Air, and Mac Mini devices for release later this year, both of which would coincide neatly with a fresh operating system with the theme of keeping macOS a highly ‘convenient’ system for all settings.
The MacBook Air hasn’t been fully refreshed since its launch in 2010, and the Mac Mini since 2014. While the former occupies a crowded space of various other MacBook and iPad sizes, the latter is long overdue for a replacement.
In a possible nod to the limited physical space where such devices might be used, Mojave can also detect photos automatically from your iPhone and insert the image on your desktop app, into a document or file.
However, an additional update, which Apple initially suggested would allow FaceTime video conversations expand to include up to 32 participants, has been bumped back to a later release.
Apple’s ninth Mojave beta was recently released for public testing, indicating that the full autumn release to the wider public is now not far away.
For Apple hardware, expertise and support, contact Lineal today
Yes, it’s that time of year again – the time when we ask our clients how our team has been doing, and what we can do to raise our quality of service even further.
In 2018, a record 96% of you feel we understand your IT needs either ‘Extremely Well’ or ‘Very Well’, and 90% of you felt we met Lineal’s IT support mission statement either ‘Very Well’ or ‘Well’.
In three years, the percentage of you who feel we resolve queries ‘Much Quicker’ than expected has doubled, and a high 82% feel we’ve either met or exceeded their expectations for time taken to resolve technical queries.
Your Client Survey 2018 feedback also suggests Lineal is being used for a wider range of IT expertise than ever before – with more of respondents recognising our capacity to deliver phone systems, broadband, leased lines, Wi-Fi networks, SQLWorks business software and a whole range of Cloud IT services.
There were also areas for improvement: a small minority of you (14%) still felt our customer service had been ‘OK’ – a rating we’ll be working hard to exceed with some new processes for sharper communication, monitoring task completion, and ensuring timely confirmation.
Lineal moved into new offices in central Barnstaple this year, and we want this to help deliver a better service for our customers.
As always, thank you to everyone who responded to our Client Survey 2018 – a wide variety of constructive feedback helps us immensely to focus on key areas of improvement.
Kind and constructive comments are always helpful – here were some of our favourites.
– Always helpful, would recommend the Company to others. Thank You.
– Good team of people and we now use Lineal for most if not all our IT, software, phones and support. It’s good to have in one place and generally we are very happy with the overall service.
– All seems OK, call outs prompt and service great.
– Generally resolve issue promptly and friendly team.
For Lineal IT Support expertise and advice, please contact our team today.
This year Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. was an official Sponsor of the 51st North Devon Show, and launched (maybe) the show’s first ever Space Invaders Championship.
The retro arcade pub-classic, in which the player holds out against descending ranks of tiny pixelated aliens was first released in 1978, making the game 40 years old this year (yes, really.)
Mike Matthews, Lineal’s managing director explained: “We wanted to make this year’s show fun with something both young people (and the young at heart) would recognise instantly and enjoy.”
“For those of us er… more advanced in years… the memories flooding back! Lineal was first founded in the 1980s, and it’s astonishing to think how far technology has developed.”
Fortunately so has Lineal, and visitors to our stall could learn more about Lineal IT support, cybersecurity, business software, cloud services, phone systems and much, much more.”
Lineal, which recently moved to new premises in central Barnstaple, was also an official Sponsor for this year’s North Devon Show, and presented the prizes to winners of the ‘Hacks and Riding Horses’ class.
However, much like IT support, battling aliens also seems to be a matter of experience – with parents often achieving much higher scores than children on our Space Invaders High Scores board.
After 2017’s Show was unfortunately cancelled due to poor weather, 2018 was a huge success and a fantastic day out for locals and visitors alike. Next year? We’ll be planning something even bigger…
Mike explained: “The North Devon Show is always a highlight of the calendar, and the array of businesses, charities, livestock, rural groups, crafts and all-round entertainment is a showcase for the community in this part of the world. We’re always proud to be able to support it.”
See you next year!
For IT Support and expertise, contact Lineal today.
Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. has welcomed VIPs to officially open our new offices in central Barnstaple, celebrating our 30th year anniversary in business.
We’ve expanded our operation, moving into Commercial House on Barnstaple’s Strand. The building will be home to Lineal’s team of over twenty IT support and software development staff, including three apprentices from PETROC.
Lineal’s new offices were officially opened in a short ceremony by North Devon’s MP, Peter Heaton-Jones, Vice President of PETROC, Bill Blythe and Marise Mackie of Pluss.
Mike Matthews, Lineal’s Managing Director, explained: “We’ve grown steadily in recent years, and for the businesses and organisations whose technology we support every day, the additional space will help us deliver improved connectivity and an even stronger service.”
Click for a Virtual Tour of Commercial House, now officially open:
“We’ve invested in infrastructure that will help future-proof Lineal’s new home for the 2020s: including high speed gigabit fibre-optic cabling throughout, solar panels, new training facilities, conference rooms and an enlarged hardware workshop.”
“This was a year in planning, and I want to thank all our staff, who worked tirelessly around the clock to make the move a reality.”
Peter Heaton-Jones MP congratulated Lineal: “I was delighted to be asked to cut the ribbon on Lineal’s impressive new offices. I first met Lineal’s founder, Mike Matthews, four years ago when he was operating from a converted barn in his back garden. The expansion since then has been incredible. The fact that this growing business is moving into the centre of Barnstaple is excellent news for the town, and shows how robust our local economy really is. Their close ties with Petroc, allowing young people to get their first taste of the world of work, is something I particularly support. I wish Lineal many more years of success and growth in their excellent new home.”
For IT support and expertise, please contact our team today.
The European Commission has issued Google with a €4.34 billion fine for Android anti-competition practices, after ruling the popular operating system unfairly cemented the dominance of Google Search.
The EC found Google had, via ’significant’ payments to smartphone manufacturers, ensured exclusive installation of Google’s own search application, and bundled Google apps such that selectively omitting services was impossible on the mobile platform prior to release.
More than 95% of all searches on European Android devices are made via Google search, testifying to the search giant’s unprecedented reach via pre-installation.
Many users (as Microsoft’s Bing search engine can surely attest) never change their system defaults, and although many rival search and browser providers are available for Android, these must be installed separately, often via Google Play.
Many will remember similar court battles fought between the US Government and Microsoft, resulting in the former’s eventual ruling that the latter had unfairly influenced the market via pre-installation of Internet Explorer, and creating the convention of an initial default browser choice on all new Windows PCs.
Microsoft eventually paid $561 million, but also continued losing ground to rival web browsers, including Google Chrome, among those using the internet on their operating system. Since 2013, the number of affected devices (particularly handhelds operating various versions of Android) has increased hugely. In future, new Android devices may be forced to include a similar initial search/browser selection, to help maintain consumer choice.
Google has defended its actions throughout, and has already announced it will appeal the decision, with the case expected to continue for some years.
For technology expertise and support, contact Lineal today.
Support and security updates for Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 operating systems will end in January 2020.
Customers operating Windows Server 2008 will then cease to receive security patches and other important system updates.
Around 70% of the world’s server operating systems are Windows based, with Server 2008 one of the most successful versions, still representing more than half of these installations as recently as 2016.
Users of Server 2008 and 2008 R2 have just over 6 months to decide whether to upgrade to a newer version of Windows Server (such as the long-awaited Server 2019, hardware permitting), replace servers with newer models, or migrate those server-based processes to a cloud-based platform, such as Microsoft Azure.
‘Mainstream’ Support for Server 2008 is unlikely to be extended – having already been granted temporary extensions, once from July 2013 to January 2015, and again to the final deadline next year.
As with previous operating systems, enterprise customers will have the option of purchasing ‘Premium Assurance’ support packages of different levels, to extend support as late as 2026 – but as with other legacy Windows products, for increasingly high associated costs.
Businesses will need to weigh up for how long they can afford to delay upgrading, or depending on the physical server hardware, whether it makes more sense to spurn the licensing costs of upgrading the Windows Server version and go directly to either the cloud, or a new server.
For IT infrastructure support and expertise, please contact our team today.
Microsoft has announced the release of a new Surface Go tablet, adding to it’s acclaimed Surface lineup.
The new addition to the touchscreen range is designed to be an entry-level offering, offering more basic specifications but far greater portability at just 1.15 lbs and 8.3mm thin.
At around $399, it’s difficult to say exactly what Microsoft is trying to achieve: the new model is less consistent with Surface’s more ‘premium’ brand, and doesn’t stack up particularly well on price against Apple’s entry-level iPad, or against cheaper Windows laptops on technical specification. Limited to Windows 10 S and an Intel Pentium Gold processor, the additional elements which makes the Surface range more interesting, like the keyboard and stylus controls for touchscreen artwork, are also optional extras.
Instead it’s widely believed the tech giant is attempting to win over customers in the education sector, where a budget offering from a reputable manufacturer is likely to appeal to departments looking to provision sets of devices.
As always, Microsoft may also be hoping that the Surface Go owners of today will be the Surface ‘Pro’ owners of tomorrow.
While a 9 hour maximum battery life and a 10-inch screen is likely to prove limiting for business use, Chief Product Officer Panos Panay noted it was the ‘perfect device’ for his youngest daughters – and the internet seems to agree, noting the release timing is suspiciously good for the new term.
Lineal are a Microsoft Gold Partner – IT assistance and expertise, contact us today.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has formally announced the introduction of the WPA3 security protocol, the next generation of wireless security to protect routers and networks.
The new security standard follows hot on the heels of last year’s breach of the existing WPA2 standard, which has been in use since 2004.
WPA3, released in both ‘personal’ and ‘enterprise’ with extra protections, is expected to fix a number of deficiencies in the older WiFi protocol, including:
Captured encrypted data cannot be decrypted by a later breach of the password – in order to access data, a hacker must have both the password and data at point of transmission.
Encryption of data will be individualised, such that snooping on other devices across less secure Wi-Fi networks will be made more difficult.
Extra protections against password brute-forcing and ‘dictionary’ style attacks, dramatically increasingly the time cost of bulk guessing a password successfully.
Smart devices with no screen, including many Internet-of-things (IoT) technologies, will be administered via a smartphone screen during Wi-Fi setup.
To most end-users, the experience of entering a Wi-Fi key will feel virtually identical. WPA3 isn’t expected to actually be implemented until 2019, and is predicted to gradually replace the existing WPA2 standard on all Wi-Fi certified devices. WPA2 will continue to function, but will be steadily phased out.
Nevertheless, expect to see major manufacturers rushing to ensure their own products are stamped with the very latest security ‘WPA3 Ready’ branding.
For networking and cybersecurity expertise, please contact Lineal today.
Conference phones have traditionally had image problem. Costly, serious pieces of equipment, which often retail north of £350 for even a basic model, they feel inconvenient. Used infrequently, they’re sometimes more complicated than a telephone should be.
Worst of all, for all but the most established of businesses, a conference phone is a little… heavy-duty. Wired-in, with a large footprint, tangle of cables and strange satellite microphones – conference phones are an invasive species in the meeting room.
Enter Plantronics’ Calisto series – a curious pocket-sized invention (pictured) designed to bridge the gap between speakerphone and a true conference phone setup.
Four directional microphones (which can focus on sound from whomever is speaking) give 360 degree meeting-room coverage and efficient noise-cancellation to the Calisto range, which in a novel twist: is battery powered.
There’s a pleasing practicality to the Plantronics Calisto range: both USB wired and bluetooth connections are available to connect to either laptop, PC, tablet or your smartphone (in addition to USB wireless on other models.)
At only 270g, and just 11cm square, it’s small enough to be truly portable – tidied away into a desk drawer or moved to ‘create’ new meeting room spaces whenever needed. In the real world, where meeting rooms need to be swapped at a moment’s notice, why not just pick your conference phone up and carry it down the corridor?
For smaller and medium sized businesses where workspace might be limited, the Calisto’s ease-of-use helps present both a professional image, and finally makes conference calling into something within reach of everyone.
Previous models of Plantronics Calisto (including the 600 series) have been well received, and Plantronics has judged the small business market well. Expect great things.
For communications and IT expertise, contact Lineal today.
Microsoft have successfully submerged their first underwater datacentre, in a test expected to trial the viability of the technology.
The shipping-container sized server array was lowered to the sea bed near the Scottish Islands, as part of a flagship test for the concept of underwater IT infrastructure.
Project Natick, which is powered entirely by renewable energy via the European Marine Energy Centre’s wave and tidal power generators, will test whether largely autonomous data centres might be deployable in areas where sea-water cooling can be used to manage excess heat.
This kind of cutting edge research and development (described by one Microsoft Vice-President as ‘Crazy’) represents a significant engineering challenge: in addition to surviving water pressure, the datacentre’s server arrays must connect via undersea cable and function for five years without physical maintenance before the capsule is recovered.
Undersea communications cables have been in use since the 1850s, although maintaining complex fixed underwater infrastructure is a feat so far only managed by the oil & gas sector.
Microsoft also notes that almost half the world’s population lives near large bodies of water (a legacy of a previous millennium), and that in future the underwater datacentre may prove a solution to the issue of secure delivery of cloud services closer to point of use.
Lineal are a Microsoft Gold Partner – for expertise and support: contact us today.
Two new models of ASUS dual-screen laptops have been previewed at the computing company’s annual Computex convention.
The Zenbook Pro 15 (released this month) includes a secondary ‘ScreenPad’ in place of the touchpad, which acts as an additional HD touchscreen for controlling basic functions on popular apps, or can be turned off to function as on other laptops.
‘ProjectPrCog’ is ASUS’ more experimental offering: a promising futuristic laptop where the keyboard is replaced entirely by a second touchscreen which can be software driven for both typing and alternative displays, depending on whether typing is required.
The idea of dual-screen laptops has a troubled history, having spawned some curious inventions that never quite caught on. Some of these have been low-key, smartly implemented, but a little underwhelming (think Apple’s MacBook Pro Touch Bar) or very obvious, completely whacky and unpopular – like Lenovo’s W700ds monstrosity.
Firstly, it’s not entirely clear what the purpose of a second screen is: a segregated extra screen-space simply isn’t as useful as extra shared space on the main screen. If 15.6” is not sufficient, why not purchase a 17” laptop? On MacOS, Android and Windows, smart screen clipping tools are available for more efficiently dual-running apps side by side, making the actual re-arrangement of windows less necessary.
Secondly, if pressing a keyboard shortcut (F6) is required to activate the ASUS ScreenPad, many users will surely leave it off permanently, rendering the eyebrow-raising $2299 price tag of the Pro 15 largely unjustified.
However, ASUS’ second suggestion probably carries better longer-term potential, and is not the first attempt at a touchscreen keyboard from a mainstream PC provider – Lenovo have attempted to float something similar as a primarily creative tool with their Yogabook range. Successfully reclaiming the lower half of the laptop for additional screen-space would allow ASUS to be first in developing a huge variety of innovative potential uses.
The notion of software keyboards on a variable display have failed in the past because of a lack of keyboard ‘feedback’. Users do not experience the true sensation of a key being ‘pressed’ – the same problem that makes typing feel less intuitive on tablets and mobiles to all but the most habitual device users.
Whether the unreleased ASUS ‘ProjectPreCog’ will finally solve this control problem is likely to determine the dual-screen laptops true viability.
For hardware provisioning, IT advice and support, contact Lineal’s team today.
At time of writing, Lineal technical support staff are currently updating DrayTek Vigor firmware for all clients with known DrayTek equipment.
Enterprise Router provider DrayTek has called for urgent firmware updates, following discovery of a security vulnerability.
20 different business router models from DrayTek’s Vigor range are known to be affected by the security flaw, known as DNS hijacking, which may allow a third-party to alter DNS settings by issuing commands to a dormant session of the web-based DrayTek router control interface.
The unwelcome news marks the first major security flaw to befall the acclaimed networking equipment brand for some time – and comes less than a year since DrayTek won PC PRO’s ‘Best Router Brand Award’ for 2017.
A Vigor router showing IP number 18.104.22.168 is reported to be a likely indicator of compromise, and affected routers may exhibit unusual network behaviours.
DrayTek’s official guidance warns that this is likely to be only a preparatory ‘phase 1’ of any like cyber-attack by criminals, preparing re-direction of web traffic to compromised web pages which might capture unsuspecting users’ passwords or other sensitive information.
As a general security precaution, it’s always worth logging out of web-portals and other accounts not being used (including your email, social media, bank account and device itself… or indeed your router’s configuration panel.)
If you have a DrayTek Vigor router not covered by a Lineal Support Agreement with us, please get in touch for guidance.
Google looks set to replace Google Drive with Google One, a broader ranging storage service designed to incorporate storage across a whole range of Google services.
Google One will be available with up to 15GB storage for free (as with Google Drive now), $1.99 a month for 100GB, $2.99 for 200GB, 2TB for $9.99. It’s not yet clear whether these prices will be adjusted for UK users.
Drive users will be migrated to the new service over the ‘coming months’ and can stay updated by email by subscribing with Google here.
Google Drive has been able to handle direct sync from Android’s photos app, and more advanced tasks like full PC backup, or on-demand file sync on the business version, for a while now – but the new platform unifies the offering under a shared storage allowance.
There are also other nods to a more ‘iCloud like’ service – including shared plans for families, a support service, and promotional customer benefits like discounts for other products.
For now, the new app appears to be a unifying ‘personal’ platform (rather than a more formal ‘work’ platform like Microsoft Office 365.) Google are hoping to centralise your personal life such that desktop PC files, data and media generated by a whole pantheon of Android apps all will are share a central storage plan. The tech giant’s target of making ‘life simpler and less cluttered’ with Google One is being kept at arms-length from G-Suite business customers.
One simple way to get more out of Google? If you’re using Android, this could make a lot of sense.
For assistance and advice in adopting cloud-based technologies: contact Lineal today.
A Lineal engineer has climbed to the world-famous Southern ‘base camp’ of Mount Everest, to a height of 17,598 feet (28°0′26″N 86°51′34″E).
Lineal’s Martyn Kay, a senior support engineer, reached base camp (via Kathmandu) as part of a team of 6 intrepid explorers, flying to Lukla (in what appeared to be a modified rickshaw) before a climb of more than 5,300 feet to base camp itself. On the way they crossed one of the worlds highest mountain passes and summited 3 Himalayan peaks above 16,000 feet.
Affected by the thin atmosphere at an altitude in excess of 18,000 feet, Martyn described the symptoms of altitude sickness as constantly fighting to catch your breath accompanied by pounding headaches.
Following in the footsteps of Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1953, the team reached the Southern base camp on 18/4/18 under snowy, sub-zero weather conditions.
Despite encountering other teams in difficulty, Martyn and team completed their 100 mile expedition and returned safely from the life-changing experience – bringing home local Nepalese delicacies for the Lineal team.
Scale new heights with Lineal! Contact our team today.
Many of the big names in software, including Microsoft’s Office 365, Google’s G-Suite and other popular products such as ESET’s antivirus range, have been offered with significant discounts for the education sector through partner resellers, in the hope of capturing the next generation of technology users early, and contributing to wider learning.
In each case, the gesture is undoubtedly a worthy public relations boost, with Adobe also pledging to support workshop schemes to show educators how to teach with Adobe’s suite of creative apps in the classroom.
In both cases early access is especially important for Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign and many other leading creative apps, because of the very high high barrier to entry: both creatively and by cost – despite the software brand being simply unrivaled across the creative sector.
Adobe clearly hopes the dramatically reduced Adobe discount pricing will wet the appetite of larger organisations, and introduce high quality design apps to a much wider audience at an earlier age.
Google have made public their plans to release a comprehensive Android Chat app, comprising of both SMS and a new rich communication standard (RCS.)
In an exclusive with the Verge, Android announced the new app, which looks distinctly like the direct challenge to Apple’s iMessage fans Android have been hoping for, and which will be able to centralise messaging under a single platform.
Unlike Apple users, content with the excellent iMessage, Android users have long been split among a variety of messaging apps. They must suffer SMS run via Android’s ageing ‘Messages’ app, and direct messaging spread out among video/IM hybrid Google Hangouts, world domination software WhatsApp, various invasive species of Facebook Messenger, the re-branded Microsoft Skype app, and Google’s own doomed chat app: Google Allo. It’s all a bit of a mess.
In addition to overhauling this, Android Chat will also be available from a desktop client with SMS abilities (much like iMessage) and include new rich communication standard style messaging familiar to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp users.
A single ‘feed’ encompassing rich content abilities also tracks the trend in the commercial sector: with firms looking to adapt from email to group-managed, millenial-friendly, cross platform communication apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
However, in addition to trying to build a fan-base for individual use, Google is presenting fresh opportunities for businesses. RCS has already been trialled by the tech giant in partnership with a number of companies (pictured), who plan to evolve currently SMS-based messaging services into RCS based customer service that integrates more complex tasks, such as calendar bookings and imagery.
Google Allo ran out of steam around 50 million installations. Whether, like iOS, Android can finally centralise disparate systems under a kingmaker will soon be tested.
***Latest Update to the Hall of Shame – 8th February 2019***
At Lineal our IT team review a lot of dodgy emails. The criminal scam known as phishing (sending fraudulent emails to trick end users into divulging sensitive information or downloading dangerous files) is a widespread threat, and we’re constantly on the lookout for dangerous new scams appearing on the internet.
It’s estimated that around 90% of organisational security threats are caused by a mistaken click in an email, making it by far the most common way businesses are breached by ransomware, viruses or individuals with malicious intent.
However, some human intuition and alertness is always required. With this in mind, we take a look at some examples of the most devious phishing scams we’ve ever seen:
The ‘Delivery Note’
Phishing emails are from fake ‘banks’ or enterprising Nigerian oil ministers, right? Wrong. This fairly innocuous email is the digital form of one of those ‘sorry we missed you’ cards you might receive through the letterbox for undelivered packages.
If you didn’t notice the suspicious sending address, accurate branding could lead you to believe this was really from a major logistics company, and divulge various personal details before realising there isn’t really a package to collect.
The Card-Payment Conundrum
Oh dear! My recurring card-payment for my TV license has expired – time to key my new card details into a dodgy website.
The growth of recurring payment systems for everyday things (like TV licensing) has meant users are familiar with being prompted to update card details, but stay alert: just because the request is mundane doesn’t mean it’s innocent. This is a nasty phishing email which scammed viewers out of thousands of pounds – even hitting national headlines.
The ‘File Share’
A proliferation of easy file-sharing platforms mean that we’re all more familiar with receiving large files via sharing links.
Curiosity about what this file is, and why your contact is emailing it to you (via a pretend ‘Dropbox’ email) might cause you actually to hand over your email address details. This trick is very simple, and persuasive – only the vaguely mail-merged ‘Hi info’ should suggest this is not really something you want in your inbox.
The (Convincing) ‘Fake Bank’
Forget semi-literate Russian hackers and the like, the quality of this fake Natwest email is in a different class. Spelling corrections, clumsy phrasing or dodgy branding can often give away an email scam, but criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated at imitation. Anyone who falls for this email would be handing over their online banking login details.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and for the unwary email user, likely to be the most expensive.
The Government Request
Uh Oh. An official demand from Companies House. Better respond quickly. Bad luck – you’ve been scammed.
Don’t let the impeccable branding or the dull subject matter catch you out: look at the email address and the link. .ink is not a normal public-sector domain, so that should ring alarm bells.
The Domain Scam
Much like the delivery note scam above, this clever phishing scam we recently witnessed is based on the user not realising there’s anything sensitive about their domain details.
Hovering your mouse over the buttons reveal URLs that are not from this organisation, and should not be trusted.
The ‘Email Recovery’
This crafty scam invites you to ‘Recover (email) Messages’ that your email service held back due to a sync error – which should be your first clue that this is suspicious. Genuine email filtering tools (such as the excellent Barracuda) are very transparent about exactly what has been quarantined, or (as with Microsoft Office 365) expects an admin user to review the email separately.
Suffice to say you should NOT click ‘Recover Messages’.
The Fake Order
A sales enquiry from a University for a high value item – how promising! Except no, ‘Daniel’ isn’t a Procurement Manager, and if dispatched on credit terms, you’ll never see this item again. Worst of all, when you invoice the real University of Nottingham, they’ll think you’re an email scammer trying their luck. How ironic.
As before, the email address should give this away: real universities use valid .ac.uk (academic) domains, not free gmail accounts with a ‘.ac’ dumped somewhere in the address by a criminal.
For IT Security expertise and support – contact Lineal today.
Be honest, you’ve read some truly useless things online about GDPR. We all have.
The problem isn’t one of enthusiasm: more and more companies are recognising the impending deadline of the new data protection regulations and acting to implement best practice.
There is, of course, a growing industry of consulting firms and data protection advisers trading on businesses’ lack of expertise and frequently, fear of being left behind. Most organisations begin preparing with a spot of Googling, some light reading, and a bit of browsing online GDPR help articles written by experts.
However, the real experts can’t divulge too much free advice (otherwise why contract their services?) thus much of the available articles and blog posts are deliberately vague. The conundrum has already spawned some unfortunate attempts at humour, but doesn’t really help companies attempting to put in place GDPR compliant policy.
All is not lost: there really is some genuinely useful guidance out there – here are our pick for some of the best GDPR resources:
ICO: Eight Practical Steps
The Information Commissioner’s Office original ‘eight practical steps’ presentation is a series of slides that are exceptionally clear, and can be worked through in stages. A more recent, formal ’12-step’ version also exists, for a more conceptual understanding of the new regulations.
GDPR Readiness Assessment from Microsoft
A little technical at times, this quick quiz is a useful way of thinking further about protection policy, particularly around access control. For further information on how Microsoft can assist with GDPR in the cloud, look for the blue button in the top right hand corner.
The ICO has a little known helpline via which small businesses and charities can consult a member of ICO staff for extra advice – details of which can be found above.
IT Governance Compliance Gap Assessment Tool
Always a strong source of IT expertise and policy, IT Governance have developed a range of ‘Toolkits’ to assist data protection officers and those implementing GDPR within their organisations. These range from the simple £60 compliance gap assessment tool (a handy Excel Spreadsheet you can work through) to more expensive implementation packs and data flow mapping tools.
The award was presented by VP of Finance and Resources, Bill Blythe, in a ceremony at the Barnstaple Hotel to congratulate prize winners from across the Higher Education college’s student body.
Lewis is one of Petroc’s few Degree Apprentices, studying for University undergraduate degree level qualifications whilst also working as part of Lineal’s frontline IT support team. Lewis takes a keen interest in cybersecurity, and has demonstrated advanced security skills in addition to educating employees of Lineal clients on how to use technology safely.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Blythe praised all the winners, many of whom are beginning careers training with some of Devon’s best known companies across diverse sectors including accounting, computing, construction and engineering.
Lineal’s Head of Technical Services Matt Norris congratulated Lewis on his professional development:
“Lewis’ progress and contribution as part of our team has been fantastic – we expect this won’t be the last time Lewis wins an award. Training in partnership with Petroc helps us add important skills, and some exemplary individuals, to our team”
Team Lineal have raised £250 for North Devon Hospice, after hosting a fundraising buffet for staff and visitors.
The donations were collected by the IT Support firm as part of the local charity’s ‘Pitch in a Pound’ day, held each year in support of the hospice by North Devon businesses, schools and community groups.
Managing Director Mike Matthews explained: “It’s hard to find anyone in North Devon who doesn’t have a friend or family member who has been cared for by this terrific local charity, and it’s important every business does its bit for worthy causes.”
“That’s why I agreed I would match whatever my team raised on the day. Well done to all involved!”
North Devon hospice, which covers more than 800 sq. miles of Northern Devon, supports and cares for more than 3000 patients with life-limiting illness each year.
Lineal staff cooked, baked and sold a variety of sweet and savory food, including curry, pastries, chilli, samosas, dips, and a whole variety of different cakes and sweet treats.
Learn more about ‘Pitch in a Pound’ day on North Devon Hospice’s website by clicking here.
North Devon IT support and software company, Lineal Software Solutions Ltd, has celebrated 30 years’ success in business.
First founded in 1988, our company, which supports businesses and organisations across the UK and beyond with a range of IT services, are preparing to move to larger offices in central Barnstaple in the Spring.
Managing Director Mike Matthews thanked staff past and present for all their hard work over the last 30 years:
“Technology (and hairstyles) have changed considerably since 1988, but for us the best is yet to come. I’m proud that during that time, we’ve played a role in the success of some of North Devon’s best-known companies.”
We have doubled in size in the last two years, now employing over 20 locally-based staff who work in IT support and software development on behalf of other businesses and organisations across the UK and, increasingly, overseas.
Lineal also now includes staff from disability social enterprise Pluss, apprentices and degree apprentices, training in cooperation with Petroc.
The company has been recognised as one of the South West’s few Microsoft Gold Partners, helped to launch the Barnstaple Town Centre Wi-Fi project, and is part of DigitalND – a new group designed to promote digital connectivity and skills in North Devon.
Mike added: “The South West still has important connectivity and IT skills challenges to address, but public internet access didn’t even exist thirty years ago. Now the small company we originally started in my back room supports trusted clients as far afield as Australia. Ten Years from now? Watch this space.”
For IT Support and expertise, get in touch with our team today.
Microsoft is seeking student UK technology developers to enter the 2018 Imagine Cup – with a chance to win $100,000.
The prestigious technology trophy, awarded every year to a team of three young people who develop a groundbreaking technology idea, are currently accepting entries for 2018’s Imagine Cup UK finals.
UK finalists are expected to be chosen in March (top prize $5000) with global finalists travelling to Redmond, Virginia (the home of Microsoft) for 2018’s worldwide finals, and a chance at a grand prize of $100,000.
The winning entry must be an original technology project, created from an initial idea to implementation and run from the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Entries can be on any theme, although recent competitions have been dominated by inventions designed to not only demonstrate innovation, but contribute to human well-being.
Entries from the UK will be judged by an expert panel, including Clare Barclay Chief Operating Office of Microsoft UK; Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research; Michael Wignall, National Technology Office at Microsoft UK; and Rob Fraser, Commercial Software Engineering Lead at Microsoft UK.
Microsoft’s insistence on the final solution operating via Microsoft Azure no doubt reflects their ‘cloud-first’ business approach, in addition to a recognition that the ‘global’ finalist’s winning idea should be a truly global possibility.
Winning Imagine Cup entries from previous years include a solution to help those with diabetes manage symptoms, a charity donation app that embeds into news articles, and the ‘Emma Watch’ – recently featured on the BBC for assisting those with Parkinson’s in reducing limb tremors.
Teams can learn more, and enter the competition, here.
Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner – learn more.
Lineal Software Solutions have won the prize for ‘The Most Unusually Decorated Tree’ in the Arlington Church Christmas tree decorating contest 2017.
Lineal’s tree decoration, an eclectic mix of technology, gold and glitter, took the prize for ‘Most Unusually Decorated Tree’ against, tough competition from more than 30 other trees decorated by other local organisations.
The annual Arlington competition is held to raise funds for community’s Church Roof Fund, using trees kindly donated by Mole Valley Farmers, and is judged by vicar of the Parish, Rosie Austin.
Executive Tree Decorator and little elf, Sarah Allsobrook explained: “We were absolutely delighted with our prize and we think it’s important Lineal does its bit for local charitable causes.”
John Lewis, M&S and Harrods have not yet to confirmed whether the highly-exclusive, prize-winning IT-themed decorations will be available to the public in time for Christmas 2018.
The success of Lineal’s imaginative arboreal design department was announced by Managing Director Mike Matthews, at Lineal’s annual Christmas Dinner, along with the formal presentation of the winners’ certificate.
Congratulations to Sarah and Huma on their award-winning decorations!
Net Neutrality looks set to end in the USA, following a landmark 3-2 decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC.)
The ruling will permit American internet providers to cease treating all internet traffic equally, and permit the blocking or throttling of certain types of internet traffic or charging for access non-uniformly – providing the restrictions are released publicly.
Opponents of Net Neutrality fear the lifting of restrictions will pave the way for anti-competitive behavior in the US and ultimately around the world – with internet service providers (ISPs) deliberately impairing services provided by competitors to make their own offering appear superior. Imagine ISPs degrading each other’s parent-company video streaming services, and you get the picture.
This latest ruling u-turns on the 2015 decision to guard against anti-competitive practices, and will be politically controversial – passed strictly down party lines with the committee’s three Republicans, including Trump-appointed Chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai voting in favour, and two Democrats voting against.
Consumer protection has, if anything, become slightly stricter in the UK following recent Ofcom decisions, whilst across the pond, 2017 is expected to go down in internet history as a year of dramatic internet deregulation. Internet usage crosses national borders of course, with the international affect of the FCC’s decision being ours to speculate on.
The end of Net Neutrality won’t kill the internet, but it’s likely some intelligent individuals will be developing discretely advantageous ways for their own business interests to benefit financially from preferential treatment online, or profit from those who wish to do so.
Long term, any introduction of ‘toll-road’ style access is likely to act as a barrier to entry to newer technology companies, to the benefit of more established providers.
Apple have issued a fix for yesterday’s severe security alert, after it emerged the tech giant’s High Sierra operating system would allow access to many users’ MacOS Root User without entering a password.
The story caused alarm around the world, as Mac users discovered full administrator control of their device was available to anyone within reach of the keyboard.
Discovered by a Turkish developer who tweeted it to Apple Support, Lemi Ergin, the widely publicised fault is believed to affect all Apple MacOS devices (such as the iMac and MacBook ranges) running version 10.13.1 or newer.
Mr Ergin has since published an article on Medium defending his decision to flag the vulnerability publicly, arguing that despite the security flaw being public knowledge on the Apple Developer Forum since 13th November, Apple had failed for resolve the issue.
Yesterday Lineal published guidance to all our Mac clients, advising caution over the physical security of Apple hardware, and explaining the need for users to set a new root password to temporarily secure their Mac while Apple worked on a security fix.
The failure to set a random default MacOS root password (a fundamental technical security feature) once again calls into question the recent competence of Apple’s historically excellent quality control and product testing, and may slow the adoption of the firm’s latest flagship operating system. The widespread media publicity surrounding the story is also likely to undermine Apple’s long-held reputation for security on Mac devices.
Apple issued an apology, stating ‘We greatly regret this error and apologise to all Mac users.”
Firefox Quantum has been released to the world, in Mozilla’s biggest browser release since 2004.
Mozilla’s newest version of their flagship open-source browser project is by far the fastest ever version, with a visibly quicker, crisp style and 30% less memory usage than Chrome. In a subtle nod to Microsoft Edge’s fading promise, the project claims the new Browser will be fast ‘For Good.’
Lineal’s team have been impressed by how jaw-dropingly quick the new browser is. Strip back the home screen to nothing but a search bar and jumping to your first optimised web-page is like turning the page of a book – the kind of responsiveness Google say they want to one day achieve with Chrome.
And Firefox must stand up to Chrome. Google’s own web-browser has become the closest thing to an internet standard since competition rules finally punctured Internet Explorer’s dominance in the mid 2000s.
Not comprehensively challenged, sadly: Firefox Quantum moves Mozilla from using Yahoo! search by default, to using Google, where the search giant is even further ahead. Mozilla will also inevitably fall far behind Google on mobile, where it runs on under 1% of devices thanks in part to Google’s own development of the Android platform.
Nevertheless a super-fast, community-driven browser for the future of the Internet (even on desktop) really is a breath of fresh air.
Communications regulator Ofcom has ruled that automatic compensation for broadband faults will be available to customers experiencing service faults.
Customers of BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen internet (roughly 90% of UK customers) will be able to claim £8 per day for disconnections not fixed after 2 days, £5 for delayed repairs, and £25 for scheduled engineer visits which do not happen.
Ofcom estimates automatic pay-outs could exceed £142m annually, considerably more than the estimated 15% of claims currently paid out by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) each year.
Customers will be expected to follow a complaints procedure to receive compensation – revised guidance will be published in advance of the changes coming into effect in 2019. Existing rules detailing what types of faults should currently be referred to your ISP are available here.
Lineal Software Solutions have become a Triple Gold Microsoft Partner, after having been awarded a third Microsoft Gold competency.
Our IT team was formerly awarded Microsoft’s Gold ‘Windows and Devices’ certification by Microsoft’s Partner Centre earlier this week.
“We were thrilled to qualify as one of the South West’s few Microsoft Gold Partners back in 2016” explained Head of Technical Services Matt Norris, “but for our team to show sufficient expertise and skill to obtain three Gold competencies is a truly groundbreaking achievement.”
The additional gold certification is added to Lineal’s existing double-status, ‘Gold Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions’ and ‘Gold Hosting’, in addition to ‘Silver Application Integration.’
To achieve the additional gold certification, several members of Lineal’s team were required to pass a series of challenging exams demonstrating a high level of knowledge in larger scale Windows device roll-outs, and ongoing device management best practice.
“Lineal greatly value staff training and development, for the invaluable extra skills Triple Gold Microsoft Partner know-how delivers to our IT support helpdesk. Our clients can be confident that a Lineal engineer will have excellent Microsoft system knowledge when resolving technical queries and assisting with longer-term IT strategy..
“Well done to our IT support team for all their hard work.”
For Microsoft expertise and support, please contact our team today.
Microsoft Teams, a super-smooth instant messaging and group sharing app for business, will go head to head with rapidly expanding collaboration app rivals like Slack and Basecamp, but will incorporate the enterprise business telephony and conferencing abilities (including PSTN calling, video conferencing and group screen sharing) from the hugely popular Skype for Business.
On the Messaging side all new planned features (for example contact groups, chat between the two apps and Skype for Business contact import) will be available by the end of Q1 2018, although Meeting and Calling additions are more gradual.
Certain Meetings features, such as browser-based meetings via teams and audio conference calls will be available by Q4 of 2017, although power uses will need to wait until Q2 of 2018 for more advanced features such as recording, powerpoint share and PSTN fallback.
Call queues, out of office support and transfer to PSTN call tools will be running by next Summer, with call park and shared line appearance delayed until Q4 of 2018.
Users can already run both Skype for Business and Teams side by side, although Microsoft will increasingly push users in the direction of the latter. Extra help materials for organisations making the transition can be found here.
Both Teams and Skype for Business are already included at no extra charge to Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium customers, although many do not even realise the leading communication apps are available to use.
While the combined product is likely to be an extremely powerful and flexible business tool, Microsoft’s challenge for the Teams roadmap will be to make Microsoft Teams as much of a household name as the Skype brand.
Lineal are a Microsoft Gold partner – contact us today for Office 365 support.
This year Lineal’s SQLWorks Team traveled to Arnhem, The Netherlands, for the 4-day European Omnis Developers Conference – EurOmnis 2017.
Conference workshops offer the opportunity for developers from more than a dozen countries to exhibit their latest work, seek advice from other programmers and share best practice. A primarily educational event, EurOmnis brings together the brightest and best to further develop software projects and draw on a wider pool of knowledge.
Members of the Omnis Executive Team also attended to discuss the very latest developments of the platform, explain new features (such as remote debugging technology working live from the developer console) and gather valuable feedback from the wider Omnis developer community.
Managing Director of Lineal Software Solutions, Mike Matthews explained: “Over the many years during which we’ve helped organise EurOmnis, both the software itself and the Omnis Developers Group (ODEV) have gone from strength the strength.”
“This year’s conference studied some exciting breakthroughs in web development, mobile/tablet-friendly user interfaces, internet-of-things (IOT) examples, future API technology, and much, much more.”
“SQLWorks is designed to be a highly flexible business management software, and we greatly value contributions from the extraordinarily diverse range of industry sectors, creative skills and technical knowledge represented each year at EurOmnis.”
In addition to coding, EurOmnis 2017 attendees had the chance to visit and dine at the Kasteel Doorwerth, a medieval chateaux dating from before the 13th Century, and literary home of the Beaulieu restaurant, where Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema wrote Soldier of Orange.
See you next year!
Lineal are Omnis and business software development specialists – learn more here.
Technology firms are urgently issuing fixes for the WPA2 KRACK (Key Reinstallation Attack) thought to compromise the WPA2 encryption used in most WiFi routers and other wirelessly enabled devices.
The exploit, discovered and published by Mathy Vanhoef, a Belgian security expert for Imec-Distrinet, Ku Leuven, has caused serious alarm amongst cybersecurity professionals due to the widespread use of WPA2 across millions of items of networked hardware around the World.
Security guidance remains to continue using WPA2 (rather than reverting to an older encryption standard) and to install the latest WPA2 KRACK security updates from manufacturers as soon as they are available.
A number of key technology vendors were notified in August, giving them some time to prepare. Microsoft are reported to have adjusted “how Windows verifies windows group key handshakes” to fix the issue. Apple and Android are yet to specify exactly when patches will be available, although both are understood to be working on a secure fix to be made available in coming weeks. The more responsive hardware developers, including Cisco and Ubiquiti, yesterday began issuing guidance and new firmware for their wireless equipment.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, the international organisation dedicated to developing Wi-Fi technology, have essentially argued that there is no need to panic. There is no evidence of the extremely serious hack being deployed outside test conditions (yet) – although it’s probably only a matter of time before someone attempts to do so. Because Wi-Fi relies on physical range, it’s likely this could target public Wi-Fi and other easily accessible networks. For this reason, users are (as always) reminded not to use public networks for sensitive tasks, such as online banking.
It’s clear from the increased publicity surrounding the discovery that major vendors of network equipment will be under pressure to issue the required WPA2 KRACK security patches.
However, the underlying vulnerability also threatens a wide range of wirelessly connected internet-of-things (IOT) devices – including everything from CCTV to smart-fridges – such that it’s unclear just how widespread this latest security flaw will actually prove.
For IT support and cybersecurity expertise: get in touch with Lineal today.
A public consultation on broadband speed and delivery is being conducted by Ofcom until 10th November, as the regulator seeks to hold Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to account.
Ofcom currently requires ISPs to provide an estimated download speed the end user will receive in product advertising.
Providers typically advertise possible broadband speed with the phase ‘up to’, rather than guarantee a deliverable lesser service level (very difficult) although under new rules may be asked to express this as a form of average to more accurately reflect the broadband speeds experienced by the majority of customers.
The consultation is part of a trend in recent years for regulators to tighten up broadband speed advertising rules, and eliminate the more misleading claims sometimes used by ISPs to imply a better quality internet service – as Virgin Media found out to its cost, when a series of adverts featuring Jamaican Sprinter Usain Bolt and several unsubstantiated phrases such as “bye-bye to buffering” were blocked by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Subject to the findings of the consultation, new rules are expected to give consumers the right to terminate their broadband contracts without penalty should their provider not be able to guarantee the minimum standard of service on which the contract was sold.
Exactly what that ‘minimum standard’ should be in future hasn’t yet been made clear. Very few users will receive the perfect 80Mbps download speed theoretically granted to them from super-fast fibre in 80:20 enabled-areas, but to what extent the service will be degraded largely depends on copper-wired distance from the nearest fibre-enabled BT cabinet to each customer’s router.
Businesses seeking a required level of connectivity may opt for a dedicated leased line with higher data allowances – although these carry waiting periods for installation, and are not a cost-effective option for an individual domestic consumer.
Yahoo has disclosed that all 3 billion Yahoo accounts were compromised in 2013, rather than the 1 billion previously reported.
The once powerful search engine, which was breached in 2013, only reported the impact on its security failure in 2016. Now under the ultimate ownership of Verizon Communications, the company believes that anyone with a yahoo email address, Flikr credentials or other account details for a Yahoo service pre-dating 2013 was put at risk.
Fresh evidence of the scale of the breach was unearthed by Oath, Verizon’s subsidiary which recently merged Yahoo and AOL into a media battalion it hopes can help combat the ever consolidated global power of Google, and bigger second-tier competitors Bing and Baidu.
Compromised user data includes names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and in some cases passwords or private security questions/answers. Financial data, such as card or bank information, held on separate systems, were not affected.
Users are strongly advised to change passwords, including those of accounts on other platforms which may use similar credentials.
Although Yahoo took decisive action to secure the breached accounts – forcing all users to changes their passwords, Yahoo’s very late disclosure of the data breach itself was widely condemned by the technology community, and was ultimately responsible for it’s $350m discounted valuation upon acquisition by Verizon. The Guardian reports that Yahoo itself is also currently facing 43 class action lawsuits over the security failing.
Under new UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, set to come into force next year, all UK companies (or those dealing with personal data from the EEA) must notify users within 72 hours of being made aware of a data breach – with strict penalties expected to be levied against breached companies which fail their statutory data protection duties.
For cybersecurity assistance and IT Support, please contact Lineal today.
Recently released in beta, Veeam Backup for Office 365 is a curious idea. Remember the old days of email? A physical server in a backroom somewhere sorting your business mail like a private sorting office?
It’s not really hard to see why that setup became redundant: that trusty piece of hardware, with its installed copy of email handling software like Microsoft Exchange or Kerio, was doomed to fail eventually, whether it be from an office disaster or the finite lifespan of hardware.
Then cloud-based services came along and ensured your email was suddenly resilient to real-world dangers. A cloud backup for your Exchange Onsite was dependable, and if backing up into the cloud wasn’t enough, why not just move there entirely? No service has exemplified this virtual shift more than Microsoft Office 365 – placing your entire Exchange (and operating your inbox client too if your prefer) off-site in the cloud, and letting Microsoft worry about the data centre infrastructure, has frequently been the smart choice for both IT strategy and budgets.
For many, the cloud was backup enough, but in larger organisations or those with special regulatory demands on email retention or availability, users are increasingly wary of certain dangers from a wholesale move to the cloud.
Because internet outages aside, the offline copy you have control over is only as reliable as the client laptop of smartphone it’s stored on, and client devices are frequently even more at risk than your old server. Break your device on the same day as your office loses connectivity for any reason, and your email history is suddenly hundreds of miles away.
Enter Veeam’s newest backup product: Veeam Backup for Office 365 – which turns the concept of a hybrid backup upside down to provide something new, in the form of a local backup for Exchange Online.
Backup for Office 365 replicates a backup of your Microsoft cloud-based email and calendars to a server of your choice (a physical piece of hardware if you wish) on specific backup terms. Users can continue operating Office 365’s wonderfully tactile email service from the cloud, knowing that Veeam will provide you an up-to-date local copy your IT team can immediately seize in event of an emergency.
The actual server architecture holding the backup can be physical or virtual (which potentially makes the entire notion of ‘localised’ hybrid backup a bit abstract, but bear with us) so Veeam’s solution is adaptable in the extreme – re-saving your emails wherever you prefer, to any machine with a Microsoft operating system.
The curious thing is that this hybrid inversion actually makes a lot of practical sense, and re-introduces a critical fail-safe role for a traditional ‘on-hand’ server. Veeam’s mission statement, to always provide ‘availability for the always-on enterprise‘ (a focus on constant, utterly uncompromising uptime of IT services and data for businesses that can’t afford any downtime) is demonstrated with a technical obsession to fulfill even the most demanding business continuity planning.
For business continuity and IT contingency planning, contact Lineal today about Veeam Backup for Office 365
iOS 11 users who updated their iPhones and iPads this week have been given a nasty shock, upon discovering Microsoft email services will no longer function correctly.
Apple are reported to be ‘working closely’ with Microsoft to resolve the issues – affecting compatibility with Microsoft Exchange 2016, Office 365 and Outlook.com – which display an error message informing users that their mail account “Cannot send mail. The message was rejected by the server.”
One week on from Apple’s flagship iPhone X launch, the problem leaves the tech giant with a public relations headache, as early adopters of the newest touchscreen operating system rush to complain online.
Rubbing salt in the wound, Microsoft also published an official support warning on Tuesday, rather mischievously entitled: “You can’t send or reply from Outlook.com, Office 365, or Exchange 2016 in iOS 11 Mail.app”. According to MacRumors, beta testers (including engineers at Lineal) were raising the Microsoft email service problem as early as July, although it appears to be unresolved by Apple’s developers.
Users urgently needing email are advised to download the Outlook for iOS app from the App Store as a lifesaving alternative, suffer a more Microsoft branded email experience, and await rescue from Apple bug fixers.
Google Drive client will be replaced with separate Personal and Business applications from March 2018 – here’s what you need to know.
Officially deprecated already according to Google, the existing Google Drive desktop folder (an automatic excuse for an argument among team Lineal) will instead be led-by its existing backup and sync facility in the personal edition of the new software, becoming Google ‘Backup and Sync’.
New users will already be prompted to install the inelegantly named ‘Backup and Sync’ when downloading Google Drive’s old desktop client.
Functionally similar once you become familiar with where the application resides and make a desktop shortcut for the file, backup and sync computer backup can be denied if you’d prefer to configure your Google Drive client to run like the old version.
Attentive Google Drive users will note the software itself has only changed emphasis – Google Drive has had the ability to backup an entire PC or Mac’s designated folders for some time, but the new client prioritises this such that users are encouraged to work this way by default, and put ever more of their data into the cloud automatically.
Cloud-based files will be available if you are connected to the internet, but won’t automatically sync a local copy unless prompted to – helping larger organisations cut down on both the amount of both network traffic and unnecessary storage use on user devices. Your laptop just became a kind of Chromebook: very efficient for space and allowing much better use of high-performing SSD storage on ultra-portable devices.
Team Lineal are particularly impressed by Drive File Stream, but can’t help but feel the distinction will be confusing to less-technical users. Where Google Drive shines is in it’s simplicity: and this might become a little tarnished from next year.
This year’s new iPhone X and iPhone 8 have been released by Apple at 2017’s keynote address at the new Steve Jobs Theatre in California.
The future is here, albeit a week after the rest of us found out of course – large parts of Apple’s keynote address leaked to a number of technology news outlets just a few days ago, somewhat undercutting the surprise.
Rumours had been circulating of a full screen, super-expensive iPhone model without a home button – and Apple delivered it artfully in the form of a new iPhone generation and new flagship model, where the “device disappears into the experience.”
While the iPhone 8 (and Plus model) appear visibly similar to previous models, the eye-wateringly expensive iPhone X ($999 or £999, available for pre-order from the deck of your yacht from October 27th) if anything, begins to look less like an iPhone in pursuit of screen space.
All the usual tweaks have been repeated – the new models are slimmer, more powerful and boast longer battery life, a fresh outer-case and in particular, dramatically sharper OLED screens that squeeze the most from the stunning new design. So far so Apple.
On the iPhone X the removal of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor from the front face necessitates the introduction of a new Face ID authentication tool using the 7 mega-pixel front-facing camera, which ‘sees’ whether the user is the correct person to unlock the phone.
A spin-off of the Face ID authentication is the ability to track users faces for other purposes – such as customised animal emojis copying your facial expression, henceforth known as Animojis.
Updated Apple Watch ‘Series 3’ and 4K HDR Apple TV models were also announced, bringing those ranges back up-to-date again. Apple’s new wireless charging station will be able to charge several devices simultaneously, and the glass outer shell of the new iPhone models has been chosen to help optimise this inductive charging.
Apple’s share price has been on a roller-coaster ride since yesterday: a decline during the keynote address itself, which media outlets enjoyed blaming on an unfortunate technical glitch which left Apple exec Craig Federighi temporarily unable to unlock the screen of the iPhone X whilst on stage, was in fact more likely to reflect the announcement that new model won’t actually be sold until Q3.
This leaves a few more months until the iPhone (and almost solely the iPhone) gives Apple the accolade of becoming the World’s very first trillion dollar company.
Are Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business about to merge?
Teams and Skype for Business – Microsoft’s two key communication applications may be about to merge, following a series of leaked hints from the Office 365 message centre.
Microsoft Teams – Redmond’s answer to easy-use messaging and group sharing apps for business (think Slack, or Basecamp) that have seen massive growth in popularity, already looks visibly similar to the Skype for Business client on Mac, and it’s easy to imagine the two becoming a single, powerful unified communications product.
Quite whether Skype for Business or Teams would be cut is an interesting dilemma. Despite a slow start, Skype for Business has proved very successful in the telecoms world – expanding to cover video conferencing, Outlook calendar integration and other established business functions, whilst Teams is still in its early stages.
Microsoft Teams though is clearly closer in concept and execution to the ‘appy’, casual platforms that, quite frankly, Microsoft wishes it was as cool as. This is also where the unified communications industry is heading generally: mobile friendly, cross channel communication apps with unimaginable technical wizardry happening unseen in the cloud.
Believe it or not, Slack has been around since 2013. Basecamp even longer. ShoreTel recently announced the new ShoreTel app, replacing their old mobility client with a mobile friendly, cross-platform, cloud-based, messaging and VOIP collaboration platform. Microsoft (traditionally very slow to any new party) must surely arrive eventually.
This is in part because the generation that have grown up with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger simply don’t see messaging and audio as separate realms, and are noticeably more open to the idea of a business application with something of the ‘look and feel’ of social media.
Merging the two makes excellent commercial sense for the unstoppable business behemoth that is Microsoft, and would park the tanks on several lawns at once.
Contact the IT and communications specialists – speak to Lineal today: 01271 375999
Microsoft’s Azure Cloud platform has taken the business world by storm, adding a record 120 thousand customers every month last year, 6 million total users, and holding an estimated 1.4 million SQL databases.
If you’re not technical, you could be forgiven for being unsure of what it actually is or how it works. We can’t hope to cover the over six hundred potential applications, but here’s a crash course guide to understanding Azure.
What is it?
Microsoft Azure is a business ‘cloud computing’ service created by Microsoft for operating IT applications and services from the cloud.
Everything run, tested, built, shared, stored (and more) from Azure exists in one or more of a number of secure Microsoft data centres around the World (or via a local service if you prefer.)
OK, but what is it actually?
Think servers. Lots and lots of servers. Locked down, climate controlled warehouses full of servers humming away running every computing process imaginable from email to databases, virtual desktops to machine learning, file storage to phone apps.
Customers who purchase Microsoft Azure services get access, via the internet, to a tiny fraction of this worldwide supercomputing infrastructure, with the option to run a huge variety of potential services in the cloud.
Azure itself has no-upfront charges, and is instead billed by the minute based on usage and the computing demands of the service purchased.
Why is that good?
This is instant access computing. Need 50 extra virtual servers by this afternoon? Tap a few buttons and they’re available.
The staggering economies of scale means Microsoft always has practically unlimited scalable computing power available, on demand, at subscription pricing.
The ability to spin up temporary services (impossibly impractical if you tried to resort to urgently buying physical hardware) and remove them again, allows businesses to react instantly and cost-effectively to even the most wildly fluctuating IT demands.
Even more mundane computing processes – such as large numbers of hosted desktop sessions can be delivered from Azure, without being such a logistical challenge.
OK, but what if it goes wrong?
Azure is reliable. Crazily reliable. Microsoft’s uptime statistics are as dependable as you would expect from their leading enterprise cloud service – in 2015 achieving a remarkable 99.9936% of annual uptime.
Much as with other Microsoft Cloud services (like Office 365’s OneDrive) an array of backup procedures ensures copies of data stored are protected and duplicates available for recovery. Virtualisation, where everything runs in an isolated software environment kept independent of the physical hardware, means individual drives and servers are expendable – your IT lives on, supported by the rest of the hundreds of remaining server racks.
Microsoft are discrete about their security, but in a data centre empire where every email is tested through a minimum of 3 independent antivirus services, it’s safe to say both physical and digital security is extremely tight. Centralised infrastructure also gives Azure (and every Azure customer) the kind of specialist professional and cybersecurity defences unavailable to all but the very largest enterprise corporations.
Need access to the remaining 0.0064% of the year? Remember that for at least half of the World’s inhabitants, it’s likely these 29 minutes of annual downtime will fall whilst you’re asleep.
Do I need a computing PHD to use it?
Yes and no. Anyone can, in theory, get started with a free account (and $150 of free credits) today from Azure’s website, and test out the service.
The interface is relatively intuitive and, like all Microsoft’s cloud services, works consistently across tablet and mobile devices if you wish to play about with Microsoft’s cloud until your free credits have expired.
However, in reality what you demand of the infrastructure is likely to require a more complex setup. Unless you’re a true enthusiast with some special requirements, Azure’s cloud infrastructure is like a private helicopter: not really optimal for personal use (and there are far more sensible options available)
Cost by the minute also means that, when choosing from the bewildering array of virtual machine specs and other services available, it would be easy to overspend if you’re not careful. Indeed part of Azure’s business model is based on ambitious, technology-hungry companies biting off slightly more than they can chew.
To make sure your Azure deployment is both effective and proportional to your budget, call the experts.
Lineal are a Gold Microsoft Partner – contact us today: 01271 375999
Appledore’s intrepid U14 pilot gig crew have won the coveted 2017 Lineal Shield.
Sponsored by Lineal, the annual youth competition is just one race among the men’s, women’s and youth events held between local gig clubs as part of the annual North Devon Pilot Gig Club Regatta in Barnstaple.
This year’s winning youth team had to contend with the hot sunshine of an August Bank holiday on the river Taw, completing the traditional 1-mile sprint race which finishes by Barnstaple’s Longbridge, just outside Lineal’s riverfront offices, at a record pace.
Fans and supporters lined the Barnstaple quayside to cheer on the local gig races, including the winning Appledore boat, the Whitford.
Signalling from the quarterdeck of his event camera-boat the ‘Red Baron’, Lineal’s naval correspondent and Managing Director Mike Matthews congratulated the young team on their success:
“This is the second year of the Lineal Shield competition, and it was fantastic to see the Appledore team win the trophy in spectacular fashion. It’s important we do everything we can to support youth sport.”
“Congratulations to all the excellent local teams who took part in this year’s brilliant community event. I’m off to the pub.”
The most visually compelling changes are the partial screen management of apps – in particular Android’s new ‘notification dots’ which launch a floating speech bubble-style notification from the app icon itself, and ‘picture-in-picture’ app-minimisation into a small corner screen allowing app-multitasking.
The defining test for this will be whether users increasingly see their smartphones as even more powerful workhorse devices, capable of running a computer-style ‘desktop’ of apps all at once, or find the extra content on screen overwhelming.
In hardware terms, Google claims Android Oreo will bring significant advantages behind the scenes improving app security from Google Play, battery life, and system performance. This last benefit has been achieved, Google adds, by the way Oreo will limit the computing demands of background apps not being displayed.
There are also nods to the latest trends – fresh emojis for the newest standard of Unicode, richer screen colours (subject to device) and, in a move likely to be welcome amongst recovering smartphone addicts: intrusive notification ‘snoozing’.
At the time of writing, Android Oreo is currently only available in Beta, with Google’s own Pixel and Nexus handsets widely expected to be the first to receive the new update. Third-party developers (prolific in the open-source universe of Android) are likely to be spoilt too: with early availability and various development tweaks, such as tooltip functionality and new API tools for Oreo apps.
Timescales from the other Android smartphone manufacturers are unclear – although speaking to TechCrunch: LG, Huawei, HTC, Blackberry and OnePlus statements suggested a willingness to offer Android Oreo to customers sooner rather than later, with Motorola and Samsung sounding slightly more cautious.
Perhaps no industry moves faster than the world of telecoms, with traditional business PBX phone systems looking increasingly ancient on the wall.
At Lineal we’ve been impressed at just how quickly technology has advanced to support far greater user mobility, more flexible deployments, wider integration and dramatically lower costs.
Businesses (and other organisations) have more choices open to them than ever before – we look at 3 of our favourite options that make much more sense than struggling on indefinitely with prehistoric communications.
ShoreTel’s on-site phone systems have been some of the best for years, and their Connect platform continues to impress.
Connect is available as either a feature-rich and scalable ‘on-site’ system (more familiar to a normal enterprise workplace), or in the cloud (an option increasingly popular with the sub-25 user smaller business market looking to avoid heavier upfront expense or where users are split across multiple offices.)
The Californian company’s handsets are simply the best we’ve ever seen, durable and well-built with clear and effective controls. The noise cancellation built into every handset is so effective it has to be experienced to be believed.
Yet it is ShoreTel’s software (intellectual property so well regarded that telecoms behemoth Mitel has spent several years manoeuvring to purchase the entire company) where the real innovation lies.
A cross-platform, smartphone friendly, cloud-based collaboration and instant messaging unified solution more akin to Slack, Basecamp or Microsoft Teams, ShoreTel takes everything to a whole new level of integration. The onscreen client for Windows/Mac is already a superbly intuitive piece of design, but is increasingly becoming part of a bigger software offering that feels identical across lots of devices and screen sizes.
For maximum flexibility and features at competitive pricing, look no further than one of the UK’s fastest growing business telecoms providers.
Gamma Horizon replaces your boxy on-site PBX with subscriptions to a virtual equivalent in a UK data centre, with VOIP handsets that operate over the internet. 4000 minutes a month are included as standard per phone, sufficient for even the most talkative callers using the cloud-based system.
This brings some major advantages: the phones themselves should work anywhere with an internet connection and power supply (router permitting) allowing one cohesive ‘system’ to cover multiple sites or home offices. The number of subscriptions can be increased or decreased to balance requirements against cost, or to fit with seasonal businesses. More complex features such as advanced call-routing, auto-attendant, smart-phone apps and scheduling are also available, and all the phones in a system will obey the configuration set in the online web portal, wherever they’re located.
Handsets connected to Horizon look and feel like any traditional phone systems in use, with Polycom’s business-like HD Voice hardware our recommendation (portable DECT and conference phones are also available.)
Calls between Gamma phones are free of charge, with other special deals available to Gamma broadband customers. The UK small/medium business sector appears to love the flexibility of Gamma Horizon, so it’s little wonder there are already more than a quarter of a million endpoints out there.
Skype for Business
Why pay for a phone on your desk? Sure, we all find something very reassuring about the heft of a piece of well-manufactured plastic, but when we so many people use laptops and carry smartphones anyway, many businesses will correctly reason that the extra expense is not *actually* mandatory.
Internal calls between users and instant messaging are free, and integration with Microsoft Exchange allows your Outlook calendar meetings to sync up with the on-screen client. Video conferencing is (surprisingly) smooth and reliable, even on low bandwidth connections, and with handy options for screen sharing and group meetings also available – again at no extra cost.
Add PSTN licensing however (for a fraction of a normal call plan), and Skype’s business version allows you to dial outside Skype for Business to any phone, becoming a fully fledged unified communications solutions and replacement for traditional phone systems.
Skype for Business is brilliant for dispersed teams, mobile-workers and anyone seeking a low cost collaboration solution. More advanced call-routing and auto-attendant options are still being developed, leaving Skype for Business still some way short of an enterprise phone system in the cloud for now, but for businesses looking for a cost-effective next-generation digital transformation, such an option could be ground-breaking.
… and for those who still find a soft-phone a step too far, Skype for Business can still be ‘plugged-in’ to many SIP desk phones or conference phones, for a more familiar call experience.
Each year we ask you what we can do to improve, and your feedback helps us make positive changes to the quality of our IT services and support. Here’s how we did in our Client Feedback Survey 2017:
As ever, thank you to everyone who responded to our request for your opinions in Lineal’s Client Feedback Survey 2017 – praise is very encouraging, and constructive criticism extremely useful in improving how we deliver a quality service to a wide range of organisations and businesses.
Overall, an all-time record 96% of you believed we understood your IT queries either ‘Extremely Well’ or ‘Well’, and 88% of you rated the work of Lineal’s IT Support helpdesk service either ‘Good’ or ‘Great.’
Most encouragingly we’re resolving more of your IT queries than ever, more efficiently. More than 56% of you now feel we solve your problems either “Quicker” or “Much Quicker” than expected. This figure has more than doubled during the last 2 years, and we want to develop it further.
There are still areas we need to work on: we’ll be focusing on improving our communication (particularly the speed of call-backs) and ensuring the valued relationship you have with your account managers is maintained as our team grows further.
Your comments also help us get a better sense of how you feel about the human side of business support and adjust accordingly – here were a few of our favourites:
You guys are BRILLIANT! 🙂
Always quick to respond to issues or queries and all staff are extremely knowledgable
Great IT support and team. Perhaps just a little more communication internally is needed. It is sometimes the case that we are told someone will get back to us and they do not. But overall, the problem is usually resolved with friendly people.
We find Joe very helpful sorting out any problems we have in a very short time
The lines of communication with Lineal have been very good. We have had worthwhile conversations around additional services which Lineal could provide in the future.
Thank you once again to everyone who sent us their feedback this year.
Intel technologies has released it’s newest generation of storage products, including new drives and a curious intel ruler format solid state drive (SSD)
The futuristic M.2 format storage ‘stick’ is a lengthy SSD designed to add jaw-dropping storage density to servers: a single 1U server space (approximately 1.75 inches high) will be able to hold 1 Petabyte (that’s 1,000 TB of storage, or the equivalent of more than 500,000 free Dropbox accounts, if you prefer.)
Intel’s design allows each unit to use significantly less space on holding, connecting to and cooling large numbers of traditionally shaped drives. The solid state format, increasingly the standard in laptops but now also in many servers, holds no moving parts making them increasingly durable. Flash-only storage allows far greater performance, less weight and more efficient power use. Smaller DC S4500 and S4600 formats are also available for a variety of storage sizes, if you prefer the more conventional design.
It’s unclear how manageable the new intel ruler drives will be if a server suffers a drive failure, although expect these to be ordered by the hundred in the world’s most futuristic data-centres, where data replication and forward planning are a science in their own right.
Intel also insist that like the miniaturised version fitted to laptops to improve performance, the new format helps cut power consumption, although here the details are a valuable and closely guarded technology secret.
For IT advice and consultancy, please get in touch with our IT support team today.
Microsoft have announced the introduction of eye-tracking cursor and typing controls, as part of the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build.
‘Eye control’ is due to become a new accessibility feature (think those unable to use conventional physical controls), which uses a dedicated camera to track the tiny movements of your eyeball and triangulate where the user is focused on screen.
The technology itself is brought to you by Swedish eye-tracking software developer and camera company Tobii – working in partnership with Microsoft, and various health groups, for example Motor-Neuron Disease patient communities. Specialist cameras can be designed into special devices, retrofitted to the base of a device screen as a peripheral, or fitted into the user’s glasses.
Tobii’s ‘Eye Tracker 4C’ is the very first to support Windows 10, and the company clearly sees widespread roll-out as part of a mainstream operating system to be their best route to widespread adoption and awareness of the assistive technology among a broader user-base. Sight-based control has already been used successfully in gaming and other consumer fields, but introduction as a ‘baked-in’ part of Windows 10 would be setting a new standard for usability in business IT.
Independent research suggests that users may initially find eye-tracking controls tiring after long periods of use, such that their PC usage time may need to be moderated. In addition, recent studies have suggested that although eye-tracking data is not considered by legally classed as ‘biometric’, it is possible to identify users by their eye-tracking data from PC use, in much the same way that a key-logger might record unique typing data.
However, with Windows 10 now running on over 270 million devices, eye-tracking abilities may be seen on a PC near you sooner than expected.
Lineal’s IT Support team are certified as a Microsoft Gold Partner – for advice and support, contact us today: 01271 375999
Police believe the risks of organised criminal gangs being caught transporting imitation IT hardware are lower than for drugs or firearms, and that only technically-trained specialists would be able to distinguish counterfeit technology from the real thing.
Although no evidence of cyber-security intrusions have so far been found, engineers from Cisco stressed that small items like these could easily find their way into a business or public-sector supply chain, become mixed up with genuine network hardware, or fail due to low-quality manufacture.
Customers who suspect they may have encountered counterfeit items should isolate the hardware in question from other devices and report their suspicions to IT staff.
Lineal are a Cisco Select Partner – for hardware advice and support, please contact our team today: 01271 375999
Update 25.07.17 – Following public pressure, Microsoft have announced MS Paint will still remain available as an optional free download via the Windows Store.
Microsoft Paint may be about to be killed off by Microsoft, following an announcement of feature changes in Windows 10.
The Windows 10 Fall [Sic] Creators Update has been published with a list of existing Windows 10 features to become ‘deprecated’ (whereby Microsoft will not continue updates and development) or ‘removed’ (scrubbed from the updated operating system entirely.)
In addition to Paint, other casualties of this year’s biggest Windows 10 update include 3D Builder App and Windows Powershell 2.0 (both replaced), Outlook Express (now outdated), and Microsoft Reader App (no, we’ve no idea either) which will be incorporated into Microsoft’s Edge browser.
There’s a problem though – most of these are bland or outdated business IT tools with limited appeal, but Paint is an app we have an emotional connection with. For many people, Microsoft Paint was the very first Windows computer program they became familiar with as schoolchildren.
Paint is comedic shorthand for bad-image editing because it’s been around since 1985 and Windows 1.0. We’ve enjoyed 32 years of stick figures, badly coloured-in drawings of pets, a hilariously naff default pallet, dodgy re-sizing and eye-sight destroying colour fill tools that orangewash more of the canvass than we were expecting.
We can only hope that Microsoft’s new Paint 3D becomes the future of quick and easy image editing on the platform – providing the same initial enjoyment of computing to the generation that will grow up with tablets and 3d-printing.
Intel have caused widespread confusion amongst expectant Apple iMac Pro customers, following an announcement that their new processors won’t actually be powerful enough for the new iMac Pro.
Apple’s upcoming new flagship iMac is set to be high-powered in the extreme, supposedly boasting up to 18 cores running at 4.5Ghz, up to 16GB RAM and 4TB of SSD storage.
Unfortunately, Intel’s new server-grade Xeon ‘Purley’ processor chips and specifically the fastest Intel Xeon Gold 6144 which will soon be available, can only reach a turbo-boosted 4.2Ghz at best.
This leaves Apple either falsely advertising the specifications of their upcoming new iMac Pro, or unable to build the device pending further developments. It’s unclear whether this was simply a miscommunication between Intel and Apple, or whether Intel have embarrassingly fallen short of some previous agreement during research and development.
The new iMac Pro isn’t actually due to be released until December 2017, so there’s still time for Apple to manoeuvre on the exact details of the Pro’s staggering specification.
The ‘Most Advanced Graphics ever’ includes the new Radeon Pro Vega GPU: able to handle all the next-generation 3D-rendering, virtual reality and machine learning tasks one would expect from a ground-breaking Apple device which will need to last several years of technological advancement – and justify a $4,999 (starting) price!
It appears that rather than replacing the existing cylindrical Mac Pro, the new ‘most powerful’ device in Apple’s range will simply combine the 5k retina display as part of the iMac Pro package, perhaps correctly reasoning that the space-grey behemoth will already be the reserve of premium customers.
Apple remains particularly strong within the creative sector, and the new iMac Pro almost looks like a gauntlet, thrown down in challenge to the most processor-demanding architects, animators or video-editors to do their worst.
Once it can actually be assembled that is.
For Apple hardware, expertise and support: contact Lineal’s IT Support team today.
Lineal are proud of our role investing in skills and people, and our growing office now includes two talented new apprentices looking to develop their technical know-how.
Apprenticeships provide a vital way for trainee staff to develop specialist industry skills, highly-sought after by employers, at an early age.
In the second of our recent ‘new faces’ features, we welcome these two new valuable members of our IT Support team:
Lewis joins our IT support team from Petroc as our first ‘Degree Apprentice’, pursuing education and training in tandem. He’ll join our main IT support team on the frontline to help resolve customers’ IT queries and help improve their system security.
Focused on security in particular, Lewis has even demonstrated Lineal’s ability track email fraudsters, and aims to become a cyber-security specialist.
Luke joins us an Apprentice to support Lineal’s workshop – expanding our ability to turn around repairs more quickly, and deliver more ambitious hardware and cabling projects, both in-house and on-site.
Always hands-on with technology, Luke previously worked for one of North Devon’s best known retail companies before pursuing a new career with Lineal.
Microsoft Forms has launched in initial preview to commercial customers – adding data gathering, surveys, opinion polls and quizzes to Office 365’s list of abilities.
Originally released to Microsoft Education customers for classroom use, the commercial release is likely to interest those gathering client or staff feedback, or doing market research.
The delay in launch has been worth it though: entirely cloud-based Microsoft Forms boasts some more advanced features than free alternatives, including branching surveys which alter question paths as the subject answers, and more extensive visual customisation – helping companies match each survey to their branding.
By swapping from the ‘Questions’ Tab to the ‘Reponses’ tab form-builders can view data collection in real-time and Forms integrates nicely with other popular business applications in Office 365, including Excel and even SharePoint. As with others, form-builders can also use a range of link-based permissions sharing to make surveys open to exact security groups.
It’s not yet been made clear which Office 365 packages will grow to include Forms as standard, although it looks intuitive, clear, responsive across a wide array of screen-sizes, and powerful enough to become a firm-favourite.
Lineal are a Microsoft Gold Partner and Authorised Education Gold Partner: for Office 365 support and advice – contact our team today.
Apple’s second beta of macOS High Sierra has been made available to testers, following initial unveiling at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference.
Early indications point to High Sierra being a heavily-media themed update to Apple’s most recent operating system. In addition to the new Apple File System (APFS) already in use on your iPhone’s media-heavy storage, a new ‘High Efficiency Video Codec’ and compatibility with Virtual Reality technology is being introduced.
All the additions have been made with the dominance of flash-based SSD storage in mind, and the mind-boggling files sizes now generated by visual media. HEVC in particular will compress high-quality video more than 40% more than previous codecs, helping save space on your ever-slimmer MacBook.
Metal 2 adds new under-the-hood abilities to each Mac’s GPU to support machine learning and VR, as well as external device GPUs for the peripherals required to support these mediums.
The ‘elevated’ generation of updates to macOS software also includes speed and privacy additions to various default apps, including Safari. Developers have tinkered with the controls and abilities of Apple photos to make it more intuitive, and users can look forward to a little more humanity from Siri.
Several major PC manufacturers have disclosed a new rental PC payment model to dramatically slash the cost of upgrading your PC.
Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft have all recently announced new ‘PC-as-a-service’ schemes whereby rental PCs will be available to businesses entirely under a pay-monthly model rather than an upfront purchase.
Software services, particularly popular cloud-based offerings like Microsoft’s Office 365, have been increasingly moving to a subscription model for some time, offering both consistent cash flow for software developers and all the advantages of low-entry costs to their user base.
A rental PC arrangement obviously poses a risk to the technology giants – accepting that the dominant future model for sales may be one where they still carry significant financial risk for devices already ‘in-use’ across the business market.
Microsoft in particular took a big step in this direction with their ‘Surface-as-a-Service’ last year – offering subscription based premium touchscreen devices to business customers in the US (although these are subject to credit checks and other lending precautions.)
For Dell, HP and Lenovo, by far the world’s three biggest PC manufacturers, to take the same step represents a huge volume increase in this kind of approach, significantly cutting upfront costs for businesses investing in physical hardware.
Your PC won’t be the last you pay for, but it could be the last you ever ‘buy’ in the sense we now understand it.
Lineal’s been growing recently, and we’re pleased to be able to welcome some new faces onto our team to help better support our customers:
Sarah joined Lineal earlier this year from a well-known North Devon electronic engineering company, and has quickly become an invaluable member of our team.
Her responsibilities include managing communication with our customers, coordinating our engineers’ busy schedules, and ensuring that Lineal’s offices run smoothly.
Kieran became part of Lineal’s SQLWorks team a few weeks ago for work experience. So far, he has been assisting with more complex data tasks, and helps maintain our IT Support Team’s Lineal Active Monitoring Process (LAMP): a proactive series of hardware maintenance checks performed every day on our clients servers- a job that favours a methodical approach and a keen eye for the early warning signs of server problems.
The average cost of a cyber security breach is reported to be £1,570, although larger businesses (of which 68% reported falling victim) show figures of £20,000 or higher.
The polling, conducted by research institute Ipsos Mori, suggests businesses are increasingly seeking external IT or security advice as insurance against potential losses – particularly basic training for non-specialist staff and information on specific threats to their industry.
Certain positives jump out: basic technical standards laid out in the Government’s ‘Cyber Essentials’ scheme have been rolled out by half of all firms (although this was always a low bar, and the report admits that fewer than one in twenty firms have referred to public sector sources for security advice)
More encouragingly, the most common cyber breaches all involve an element of preventable human error: those reporting a breach in cyber security cited the most common cause as staff clicking links in fraudulent emails (72%) with other typical risks including viruses, spyware & ransomware (33%) and impersonation (27%.)
Specific dangers identified included:
Less than 40% of businesses have segregated WiFi networks, or any rules for encrypting personal data.
More than 70% do not have any input from someone responsible for IT security at a senior level.
Only 20% have run any kind of cyber security training in the last 12 months.
With the planned changes next year brought about by the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), the potential costs associated with a data breach could be set to rise. Having measures in place to mitigate this risk well in advance is sound advice.
For IT Security support and advice, contact Lineal today: 01271 375999
If you let your iPhone download Apple’s iOS 10.3 update this week, you downloaded the most advanced version of iOS ever.
But you probably noticed that it took a long time to finish updating. A really…. long…………. time. Android updates appear to complete inside 5-10 minutes, so surely a quick software patch shouldn’t take this long?
Never fear, there’s nothing wrong with your iPhone (necessarily). iOS 10.3 introduced an unusually extensive, 600 MB worth of changes which don’t just tinker at the edges of what Apple’s most popular operating system can do, but pull it apart and re-build it.
First and foremost, iOS 10.3 introduces a new file structure known as APFS. It take a long time for your phone to re-write its entire file structure but those with patience will receive a phone that’s better optimised for Flash and SSD storage, offering space sharing for some data which frees up GBs of space, and theoretically provides stronger encryption security.
In practice it is the extra capacity which will be most welcomed by smartphone addicts, and may simply help extend the practical life of an iPhone user’s device.
At least 60 patches for known iPhone security exploits are also included in the iOS.10 update, including preventative measures for full-screen adverts that would once have effectively locked you into a browser session.
The update also fixes various wireless connection and Bluetooth issues, for example improving the connection to a pair of Apple AirPods. A handy ‘Find My AirPods’ feature enables you to seek out those pesky wireless earpieces, which could so easily get lost.
As always it’s sensible to let someone else take the update plunge first, and back up your files before moving: but iOS 10.3 has been a largely successful update, and it’s worth persevering with.
Lineal Software have been certified as a Bitdefender Partner for Bitdefender security software.
Bitdefender’s range of security products are used on millions of devices worldwide and the provider ranks highly in independent Virus Bulleton’s VB100 tests, as well as winning numerous quality awards for software innovation.
A wide variety of both Bitdefender Home and Business security products are available, across platforms including Windows, Mac and Android and more.
Lineal’s Head of Technical Services Matt Norris explained: ‘We’re very pleased to qualify as Bronze Bitdefender partners – this qualification only expands the range of IT security options which Lineal can offer to our customers and we look forward to delivering a high quality service for those interested in using Bitdefender.’
‘There are only a handful of Bitdefender partners in the South West, and Lineal are delighted to be one of them.’
Continuing our recent series on email phishing trickery including fake invoices and Apple ID theft, this week we discovered a new scam involving a fake communication claiming to be from the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
You haven’t sent them your vehicle details: but never fear, enter them below and avoid a hefty ‘1000 GBP’ fine. Never mind that your garage should have organised a V5 document for you, just click the link and type in your details. This couldn’t be a scam? Right?
We set Lineal’s security trainee Lewis on the fake DVLA emails case – who found that the email links to a private (non Gov.uk) web-page with a extensive bit of PHP code running in the background. A classic Trojan, this webpage invited you to download your casefile – and likely something dangerous along with it.
Despite poor grammar, the format matched a GOV.UK page quite closely and the ‘official’ nature of the styling might easily have tricked unsuspecting motorists.
Avoiding the page itself, Lewis completed an HTTPS lookup on the domain hosting the fake web page – but found two servers running the same scam. The email itself appeared to be routed via the USA, in an effort to mask the attacker(s) identity.
Tracing both IPs seperately led back to the same address in Germany, registered under two different names which could either be part of an organisation (or more likely) both assumed identities stolen from others fallen victim to the scam.
German privacy law prevents Google StreetView from being completed across most of the country, so an aerial view of an unknown industrial building on the outskirts of Lippstadt was a close as we could get to sourcing the suspicious email itself.
Clearly a sophisticated operation, fake DVLA emails like this highlight the growing technical ability of online scammers and the need for solid IT security precautions.
For IT Security advice and support, contact Lineal today: 01271 375999
Last week our security trainee from Petroc, Lewis, received a fairly typical ‘Phishing’ email – designed to look like an official request for information in order to trick recipients into handing over personal details. Keyboard at the ready, he decided to go on an investigation – hunting down email scammers.
‘Your Apple ID has been suspended’ read the headline, but never fear, you can reset your account by typing in your private details via ‘Appl.e.com’. It may sound like an obvious scam, but the written quality of the email was high, and Verizon estimates that more than 25% of Phishing emails are not only opened, but clicked on by unsuspecting victims.
The email link itself looked suspicious so Lewis stripped the exact page link back to it’s original domain as our first clue. A quick HTTP lookup found the IP address of a Linux based Server with several open ports.
The scammers themselves were careful – expanding the email header shows an encrypted code in place of an email reference.
Online tools like GeoTool suggested the server sending the email had been French (although mapping this an imprecise science – suggesting the Parisian machine was sat at the bottom of the river Seine.) Nevertheless this gave us a country of origin and also a more accurate address.
Here we hit a problem: the address listed related to a French cloud hosting provider’s company office building in Roubaix, near the city of Lille on the border between France and Belgium. The company itself appears entirely legitimate, so it’s likely a server there has been hijacked or otherwise used inappropriately by a customer of the provider.
A reverse DNS lookup via an online US Security tool suggested the hosted domain name’s registered contact person was based in an apartment building in district 56121, Thessaloniki, Greece, and even listed a gmail address and phone number for the named contact (redacted.)
Had we wanted to, there’s an opportunity here for mischief, but here we decided to end our search – with sufficiently detailed information to report to customer services of the French hosting provider whose server had been misused to distribute the email.
Although it’s likely the original source had been found, it’s possible the Greek client registering the domain name was themselves a victim of the Phishing email or a similar scam.
As a case study, Lewis’ virtual chase across Europe hunting down email scammers highlights how every business is at risk from a globalised world of threats – anyone can be struck by a dangerous email from anywhere, and even the most local businesses need to take precautions.
Who’s watching you? The nagging feeling that your webcam might be spying on you is not paranoia: someone may be.
For plugin webcams and microphones, it’s best to unplug when not in use, as once hacked these can become a dangerous weapon in the hands of cyber criminals.
‘Built in’ integrated webcams, like those found on laptops and other portable devices are more difficult to secure, as many do not even include a safety light displaying when the camera is recording, and there’s no guarantee this will indeed light if your webcam is hacked anyway.
The obvious solution (if you don’t intend to use your webcam or microphone) is to place a small piece of electrical tape over it (Mark Zuckerberg Style) and block the view of any potential snoopers. For a slightly neater solution, Ebay will sell you a correctly sized Webcam Sticker for around £3.
However if you actually need to use your webcam, this will quickly become inconvenient and messy.
If you instead wish to Monitor your webcam against intrusion, ESET security sofware for Windows is a smart purchase. Newer versions, such as the excellent ESET Internet Security, include webcam security, allow you to set rules for when your webcam can be accessed and notifying you if a program attempts to access it.
For Mac Users, a free webcam and microphone monitoring tool named Oversight can be a useful free addition. This handy software is one of Objective-See’s set of Mac security products aimed at giving users visibility over what processes their Mac is running.
As we’ve noted before, smartphones bring a huge number of security risks, including both a personal microphone which is constantly listening on Android and iOS, GPS tracking of your location, frequent connection to public WiFi networks and often both front and rear-facing cameras.
The safest bets here are the obvious ones: invest in a smartphone antivirus software, keep your phone’s contents locked behind a PIN code, don’t install unknown apps and don’t connect to any unknown WiFi networks which might give hackers an access route for your microphone or camera(s.)
On Android you can also review your phone’s audio recordings and GPS tracking of your location for Google via Google My Activity and Google Location History.
With data security making national news headlines, 2017 is only likely to put increasing pressure on businesses of all sizes to take sensible precautions.
But with IT moving so fast, what innovations are likely to lead the way through 2017? Exactly what sensible precautions will most tech-savvy companies be taking?
Cloud is good…
The worldwide push for ever more cloud-based systems appears to be unstoppable. A recent report from Synergy Research Group has suggested the global market for cloud computing grew by 25% to September 2016, reaching a staggering $148 billion in value.
It’s hard to see this not continuing, with companies relying on the convenience and automation of stashing growing quantities off-site backups in the cloud – using services like Office 365 as their private vault. As we’ve covered before: holding assets like email in the cloud actually gives you better protection than most people’s private server.
…..But Hybrid Cloud is better still.
But 2017’s smartest will be looking further ahead to Hybrid Cloud systems. As IT Pro recently noted, many companies report using more than 5 backup systems, but have no planning for speed of recovery should that data actually be needed urgently during 2017.
Getting all that data back may present a problem if your organisation is large, meaning hybrid on-site/cloud services like Lineal’s Disaster Recovery Service are likely to become the most flexible middle option. Keeping both a synchronised backup on-site, and a copy with a relatively local cloud service, leaves even the most vulnerable business with the maximum number of options.
Change your passwords
If you don’t already change passwords regularly, the security benefits cannot be overstated. Stolen data can often be circulated on the internet many times, so changing passwords regularly keeps not only your business secure, but helps prevent repeat data theft from being profitable.
Whilst everyone still has a ‘New Year’ mindset and are prepared to accept a little change, it’s worth updating those passwords company wide. Remember to use a variety of different characters and choose something only you would ever guess.
Have a 2017 Plan A…. and a Plan B
Ransomware increasingly appears to be the organised criminal world’s cyber-weapon of choice and shows no sign of abating; expect to see more big UK high-street names get compromised this year by malicious emails.
Antivirus companies may include ever more sophisticated heuristics to intercept malicious downloads before they begin encrypting your files, but ultimately only safe backups will ensure you can always restore to a clean set of data. Every firm should have a ‘Plan B’ for how to carry this out.
It’s all about Recovery Time
Expect to see Disaster Recovery (not just back-up and contingency) become a by-word for preparedness, with companies and organisations in every sector being judged not just by their number of backups, but by their costly hours of down-time.
So if nothing else, start 2017 with an old piece of technology: a pen and paper. Work out what your business’ data recovery plan actually is, and how long it will take – should the very worst happen.
Skype is probably the only brand name in video calling successful enough to have become synonymous with its purpose (try offering ‘Citrix’ to somebody and you’ll get confused looks.) It’s perhaps unsurprising therefore that Microsoft have taken their former Lync communications platform, and given it both an upgrade, new features, and a name with a better pedigree.
Enter Skype for Business, Microsoft’s newest unified communications offering for Windows, Mac and Android – available as a downloadable client or via a web browser. On the face of it, the potential in Skype for Business is enormous: calls, group meetings, directory lookups and instant messages between Skype for Business users are free-of-charge, making it a perfect internal communications platform in the cloud.
Skype for Business is already available to those using Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium as a free download. Users can connect, make audio/video calls and collaborate from anywhere in the world. VOIP packages are also available to allow calling ‘out’ to conventional phone numbers, presenting an affordable alternative to your old phone system.
We’ve found the video and sound quality to be exceptional (even on some poorer broadband connections.) For those on the move, a designated app is also available for your smartphone and tablet which, operating over your Wi-Fi or 4G connection, also extends the platform into the wider world.
Most reassuringly, Skype for Business need not just be a ‘soft-phone’ on screen but can connected to a traditional, physical, AudioCodes or Polycom VOIP handset on your desk.
That’s not to say that there are no shortcomings. Calling outside Skype requires the additional PSTN licensing which is likely to confuse those unfamiliar with Microsoft licensing. Skype’s website is not particularly helpful in this respect, with it sometimes being unclear when links refer to Skype, or Skype for Business.
Certain features that Microsoft originally advertised (such as the ability to take polls in group meetings) are also still in testing on some platforms at the time of writing, although screen sharing and scheduled meetings already work smoothly and are very intuitive. Focusing on collaboration, these are sure to be fixed as Microsoft reviews Skype for Business.
The minimalist design is smarter and more formal than the original Skype and, whilst a little unfamiliar to begin with, the general ‘look’ of the platform is a noticeable improvement on both Lync and traditional Skype.
Skype for Business is not quite ready to take over the world just yet, but it’s certainly one to watch for 2017.
At Lineal we’ve found the most commented upon feature of Microsoft’s Office 365 email has been the reduction of spam – but why does running your email from the cloud make Outlook 2016 so much better at blocking these annoying spam emails?
On your old in-house email server, Outlook stops spam emails being delivered based on whatever policies and protection you’ve put there and maintained (or not…,) whilst Office 365 is managed all year round as a remote service, with up-to-the-hour security updates in Microsoft data centres. Moving your business email to the cloud ensures your inboxes are not just company compliant, but physically and virtually safer.
Firstly, Office 365 checks your email for known suspicious attachments or malicious links. If neither are found, your email is screened through three independent Anti-virus engines, before being delivered safely to your inbox.
But what if something suspicious is found? Malicious links are re-written where possible, and suspicious attachments are removed to a sandboxed (isolated in software) ‘detonation chamber’, where they are opened safely to check for harmful code. Any attachments still deemed to be dangerous are removed from the email before being processed further.
Due to sheer volume of email processed through Office 365, Microsoft are also able to use information about all threats seen worldwide, and protect your inbox from even brand new ‘zero-day’ dangers seen elsewhere online.
Microsoft Access is making a return to Microsoft Office, and will soon be offered as a free extra to many cloud customers.
In a recent announcement from Microsoft, the ‘Access Team’ confirmed that the popular business database tool would be making a return as a part of the standard package available to all Office 365 Business Premium customers.
Officially the move continues Microsoft’s commitment to keep expanding Office 365’s cloud service to make more features available (including the new Slack-style Microsoft ‘Teams’) giving Office 365 subscribers ever more for their money.
Unofficially, we wonder whether omitting Microsoft Access from the well-known ‘suite’ of Microsoft Apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint and others) has seen Microsoft lose it’s 1990s database dominance to other platforms or CRM systems. Reintroducing the app may be timely for modern businesses that are increasingly interested in studying their data, and help encourage a wider audience to take a second look at the powerful program.
Recent iterations of the popular database management system have expanded on the traditional database store and report tools, allowing power users to use Access to develop web apps and other software, or act as the practical visual ‘front-end’ for more complex ‘back end’ database systems like Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle.
In addition, Access will be available with a set of enterprise data connector allowing Office 365 users to integrate their databases with Dynamics CRM, Salesforce and others.
Microsoft have announced the release of the Microsoft Surface Studio, a premium 28-inch easel-style desktop PC which turns into a large tabletop tablet: aimed squarely at designers and the business market.
At only 12.5mm thin, Microsoft claims the impressive LCD touchscreen to be the thinnest ever built, with a visually stunning 13.5 million pixels even the most ardent iMac fan will grudgingly approve of.
True innovation comes in the form of the Surface Dial, a mystery metallic cylinder which can be placed on the screen to enable extra radial controls such as a designer’s colour wheel, arguably bridging the gap between the conventional mouse and greasy-fingered touchscreen controls.
Indeed the drawing and stylus controls position the Microsoft Surface Studio as a clear rival to both the iPad Pro and iMac range, and will include a variety of design, animation and 3D tools similar to those teased in the release of the new Microsoft Paint just last week.
At Lineal we’ve found both Apple devices, and their Surface equivalents, to be increasingly popular choices in sectors which need to demonstrate work visually to help win business – architects, photographers, designers and other creative professions in particular.
US prices are quoted as starting at $2,999, but with this specification only providing a very basic Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, most users will need to upgrade to either the mid or higher end models i7 models ($3,499 – $4,199 respectively) to get the most from such a large, graphically demanding screen.
In addition to the new flagship Surface Studio, Microsoft also released a revised i7 version of last year’s Surface Book which includes significantly better battery life – doubling down on their focus on premium business devices.
With Apple’s latest OS, Sierra, now available for download and already receiving it’s first update (10.12.1) what do our team think of the latest version – and what are our favourite additions? If El-Capitan’s endless prompt messages haven’t already tempted you, we review some of the best below.
Siri makes her (or his? Different voices are available in your mac’s system preferences case this is the kind of thing that bothers you…) debut on Apple’s machines, with all the normal features available on iOS iPhones and iPads: web searches, booking diary appointments, starting calls, messages and more, all by asking Siri.
It’s surprisingly innovative too. We can launch our SQLWorks software by instructing Siri to do so, although it requires us to enunciate S-Q-L Works quite carefully.
Many applications can now be run in a tabbed view much like a web browser. This is very useful if you need multiple documents, maps, virtual machines or remote access windows running at once, without constantly moving things around to free up screen space.
Copy from your Mac, paste on your iPhone or vice versa. If you own multiple Apple devices signed in to your iCloud account, this can be really useful. This feature is overdue on Apple devices, so it’s good to see it introduced in Sierra.
iCloud will now look through your files to check for files that are used very infrequently and will archive them automatically to prevent them taking up space. If you use iCloud a lot, this will help do some essential housekeeping for you.
Despite all these features, the usual warnings apply of course: no one can guarantee that older versions of software will be compatible on Sierra (indeed Microsoft Exchange bugs involving non-syncing email were hurredly fixed in Sierra’s first update) so it’s best to let someone else take the risk first, and wait a little while for any bugs to be fixed – before updating from El Capitan to the best MacOS yet.
Pity the traditional tower PC, it doesn’t get much love these days. How can fixed hardware continue long into the future, when all consumers seem interested in is impossibly thin laptops and ever more powerful smartphones?
HP may be offering one solution: making the desktop PC part of the furniture. The Pavilion Wave (pictured) is their latest experiment: a curious triangular desktop PC with a fabric surround, resembling a speaker.
In addition to 6th Generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processors, up to 2TB of storage and up to 16GB of memory, the Wave can support two 4K displays and is therfore, by normal standards: a desktop PC. Yet the large central speaker, deflecting sound off the triangular lid also maintains the illusion that your HP device is nothing so dull as a desktop PC, but part of a household sound system.
For a more unusual re-imagining, look to Acer, who continue to develop the magnetically attached small-form modular ‘Revo Build’, built from any number of optional blocks that add storage, extra graphics performance and more. HP have attempted something similar with the ‘Elite Slice Desktop’ – an artistic small form desktop workstation which can connect optional modules for extra storage or more powerful audio.
Both show a recognition of the way desktops have had to adapt: giving users more flexibility, and including a wireless charging loop for your smartphone on the top of the external casing, so that your phone can be charged whilst you sit at your desk.
Will the traditional desktop PC live on? If it does, it may look quite different.
“As a local business, Lineal are always pleased to be able to attend the North Devon Show” explained Lineal’s managing director Mike Matthews: “the huge variety of enthusiastic local firms and organisations exhibiting here always make the day a success, and there’s always something new to see.”
Two days of rain beforehand didn’t dampen spirits, and the show itself was sunny and well attended by thousands of both North Devon locals and tourists to the area.
It’s that time of year again – when we ask you how we’ve been doing, and what Lineal can do to improve the quality of our technical support.
Firstly, a big thank you to those of you with kind words to say about members of our IT help desk. Our team found your kind comments to be enormously supportive and it’s good to know that so many of our customers value the contribution of their account manager so highly.
83% of you felt we met the technology needs of small to medium size businesses ‘Well’ or ‘Very Well’, and 89% felt we understood your IT queries ‘Very Well’ or ‘Extremely Well.’ Overall, 85% of you rated our customer support ‘Good’ or ‘Great.’
We weren’t perfect however – some of you felt we’d been slower to respond to certain emails and call-backs recently, and we’re putting in place new measures to address this: we’ll be adding to our team in coming weeks to help manage our responsibilities to our ever-growing number of IT support clients, and to ensure clearer communication between our team and customers during ongoing project work.
Your comments included an insightful mix of both praise and constructive criticism which we’re reviewing carefully – but here were a few of our favourites:
“A good “local” company. Always on hand.”
“As a small organisation of mainly non IT literate users Lineal staff always respond to queries in language we understand and without making us feel stupid!”
“Would like to thank Martyn especially, and dealing with mostly one person simplifies things.”
Thank you to everyone who gave us their feedback, it will inform our future decision making and help us provide a high quality of customer support.
Nearly 1 in 5 Windows Server users are still running Windows Server 2003 at great risk, more than a year after Microsoft announced end of security support for the product, new findings have shown.
Research by Spiceworks and Cloudphysics both found that 18% of Windows Server licensing market share is still taken up by Windows Server 2003, based on data recorded in June 2016. More than 53% of those surveyed also still ran one or more instances of Windows Server 2003 somewhere in their organisation.
Anyone still using the old software risks becoming vulnerable to security threats, which Microsoft will no longer address, with many organisations potentially being in violation of their compliance, insurance or regulatory obligations for data protection.
The continuation of Windows Server 2003 (which Tech Radar last year touted as potentially “the biggest security threat of 2015”) has been left unresolved within many companies, many of whom believe they lack a clear decision, expertise, or funds to replace the now unsupported operating system.
In the short term the best measure is risk mitigation: isolate any Windows Server 2003 systems as much as possible to prevent access by outside security threats.
But sooner or later, all companies will need to upgrade important systems, and those that do make the move are less likely to invest in the capital expense of physical hardware as they were over a decade ago – with increasing numbers likely to utilise an outside IT provider to migrate to a managed virtualised solution, for example business cloud services.
For Windows licensing support or guidance, please contact Lineal today – 01271 375999 or click here.
We hope that the juniors’ contest for the new shield will become a regular feature of the annual regatta, and that the competitions will grow to get more young people involved in local sport.
In addition to sponsoring the shield, Lineal’s Managing Director and resident sports reporter Mike Matthews provided live action photography of the men’s, women’s and junior races from aboard Lineal’s mobile camera boat: ‘The Red Baron!’
Congratulations to all the teams on a fantastic event.
Longstanding Apple fans will note that the re-branded name, ‘macOS’ returns Apple’s OS X operating system to it’s original desktop computing name.
One major shift will be the release of the new ‘Apple File System’, which Apple have advertised through developer preview will permit multiple file systems to share a storage block, and includes a cloning system which writes changes to file copies to limit demanding data synchronisation.
Evidence has also surfaced that iOS will soon include a ‘dark mode’ optimised for night-time use – a feature so far restricted to Apple Maps used when driving – but potentially extended to overall iPhone/iPad use.
As always, Lineal advises Apple users to wait for early operating system issues to be ironed out this Autumn, before making the jump to macOS Sierra themselves.
For Apple expertise and IT support: please contact Lineal today – [email protected] or 01271 375999
Lineal has been certified as a Gold Microsoft Partner with immediate effect, becoming the only such Gold Partner in the North of the region.
Our official Microsoft Partner status was upgraded from Silver to Gold after Lineal’s team qualified for Microsoft’s Gold Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency – the result of several month’s efforts by the team comprising training, outstanding performance in our deployments and a large number of highly satisfied customers.
Head of Technical Services, Matt Norris, praised the team on all their hard work: “Lineal’s Gold award shows our commitment to providing our customers with only the highest quality Microsoft Cloud Services and Support – and to the continued development of our team’s expertise. I cannot be more proud of our team and the dedication to excellence they have shown which has been recognised in this award.”
Microsoft certified partners must undergo a rigorous program of technical assessments and examinations via the Microsoft Partner University, as well as demonstrating real-world proficiency in undertaking complex Microsoft deployments for customers, in order to qualify for the prestigious ‘Gold’ status.
In addition, and pivotal to Lineal’s commitment to exceptional knowledge and expertise in the South West region, each Gold Partner must employ a number of Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) whose skills match the requirements of each award. MCP is the global standard for measuring expertise in Microsoft products and technologies with each of our team being required to hold multiple MCP Certifications which are regularly renewed. MCP examinations are widely recognised to be among the hardest professional qualifications to attain in the IT industry.
Lineal’s team are now working towards additional Microsoft Gold awards covering new Microsoft specialisms and products.
For expert Microsoft Services and Support, contact Lineal today by clicking here
If you haven’t already upgraded to Windows 10, Lineal highly recommend doing so before the free upgrade period ends on 29th July 2016. The free upgrade is available to PC users currently running a valid copy of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1.
Step 1 – Visit Microsoft’s Windows 10 Downloads page by clicking here, and select your current version of Windows from the dropdown menu, and click ‘Confirm’.
Step 2 – When prompted, select ‘Upgrade this PC now’.
Step 3 – Windows 10 will begin downloading, showing a progress report on screen. This can take 15 minutes to an hour, depending on your PC and internet connection speed.
Step 4 – When Windows 10 has downloaded, click to install Windows 10 and your PC will reboot – beginning the installation of the new operating system, and copying across all your existing files/settings.
Step 5 – When your PC has completed the installation and launched your desktop – enjoy Windows 10!
For extra help or advice in upgrading to Windows 10 for free, please contact Lineal’s IT support team today – 01271 375999
Edit – 14:15 25.05.16: Following customer feedback, Microsoft have now added an additional pop-up which confirms update scheduling time to give users an additional chance to opt-out of the update.
A Microsoft ‘trick’ which prompts an automatic upgrade to Windows 10 has been condemned as misleading by PC users.
Microsoft’s Windows 10 update prompt was recently changed so that the ‘X’ close button, instead of closing the prompt, schedules an automatic update. PC World declared the change a ‘trick’ and Windows users who preferred older operating systems took to social media to complain.
Instead, users must specify to cancel the scheduled upgrade by clicking a small link in the fourth line of text which reads “Click here to change upgrade schedule or cancel scheduled upgrade.”
Escalating measures to push users towards upgrading demonstrate Microsoft’s drive to reach its stated target of one billion users running Windows 10 by the start of its 2018 fiscal year (beginning around October 2017).
The controversy surrounding a automatic Windows 10 upgrade is likely to only draw more attention to Microsoft’s Windows 10 upcoming upgrade deadline – the free Windows 10 upgrade will cease to be available to PC users after the 29th of July.
Chromebooks will soon run Android apps, after Google announced their Chrome and Android operating systems are to become fully compatible.
The minimal hardware, low cost, web-access laptops will now mirror existing Android smartphones and tablets. Apps available through Google Play on Android will operate fully on Chrome OS, granting many third-party software developers access to the rapidly growing numbers of Chromebook users out there.
The announcement itself comes at a fascinating time for Chromebooks, which with over 2 million devices purchased according to data from IDC analysts, outsold Macs in the United States for the first time during Q1 of 2016.
The popularity of Chromebooks, especially in sectors where cost-effective, limited capability devices are favoured (such as in education, or to equip remote workers) have been a surprise hit – which could have some interesting consequences for the industry.
Will the new capabilities spook Microsoft and Apple? Entirely possible: with most of the big brand hardware manufacturers releasing Chromebook models of their own, it’s clear that both the hardware has become widely available and the concept itself has taken flight.
Local IT company Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. has been awarded a Silver Microsoft Authorised Education Partner (AEP) award, demonstrating its ability to specialise in Microsoft services for customers in the education sector.
To earn a Microsoft AEP authorisation, local IT partners must undergo extensive testing to prove their level of expertise meeting the IT needs of, and support for, academic institutions.
Managing Director of Lineal Mike Matthews thanked Microsoft: “We’re delighted to be awarded this special accolade from Microsoft in recognition of our commitment to IT in the education sector.”
“By becoming AEPs, partners show themselves to be committed and trained in providing discounted Microsoft academic products to the education market,” said Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Education for Microsoft Corp.’s Worldwide Public Sector.
“This authorisation, along with our other education partner initiatives, gives our partners recognition of their areas of expertise and our academic customers the confidence that they are buying from academic IT specialists.”
The Barnstaple-based IT firm serves a large number of businesses, schools and other organisations across the wider North Devon area and beyond.
Learn more about Lineal IT Support for the education sector by clicking here, or call us on 01271 375999.
Apple’s Macbook will now be available in rose-gold, in a move sure to be welcomed by fans of Apple’s pink(ish) iPhones.
Behind the headline, Apple are also updating the specifications of their Macbook range, to include the latest Intel Core M processors, faster graphics chips and an estimated 10% longer battery life.
Although we’ve been impressed with the portability of the MacBook range, this normally comes at a performance cost. Fortunately, as Lineal have long recommended to customers, 8GB of memory will also officially become Apple’s new baseline memory (including for the ultra-portable but typically less powerful Macbook Air.)
The new colour sees Apple attempting to offer similar product options for their laptops as their incredibly successful iPhone range, which represents more than 60% of Apple’s total revenue.
How about a rose gold Macbook Pro? or a rose gold iMac? Go on Apple – you know you want to.
Lifecycle support for Microsoft’s Exchange Server 2007 email will end in April 2017, Microsoft has confirmed.
Existing email servers will continue to work past this date initially, but will receive no further patching without purchasing ‘custom support’ at an unknown extra cost. Each version of Exchange is predicted to last only around 10 years, with the 2016 edition lasting until 2025.
Exchange 2007 was included as part of Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 which went end of mainstream support last year. With the challenges of ensuring systems are secure, upgrading from SBS 2008 sooner rather than later will be the order of the day for many businesses.
Unfortunately, upgrading old copies of Exchange Server 2007 to Microsoft’s latest version of Exchange Server (2016) may be more challenging than many organisations will expect, as a direct migration is not available.
This forces users to stepping-stone via the 2010 or 2013 versions, a restriction that will be familiar to any business that has tried to upgrade a legacy Windows XP system to Windows 10, who must buy a redundant Windows 7 license just to make the transition.
Lineal can offer consultancy services for upgrade and migration planning in addition to being a certified Microsoft Partner. We specialise in Office 365 and hybrid deployments across the entire Microsoft product set.
Please get in touch to find out how easy and cost effective it can be to move your email to the cloud with Lineal.
Congratulations to Lineal’s George Ward, who has won a Petroc award, in recognition of his improvement over the past year.
Apprentice George will become 2014-15 academic year’s proud recipient of the local higher education college’s ‘Most Improved Student’ award from the Department of Leadership and Higher Technical Skills Awards Evening, sponsored by North Devon Orthodontic Centre.
The prize-giving ceremony was held on Wednesday 23rd March at the Barnstaple Hotel.
Lineal recently rescued a London-based business from its own private cabling nightmare, with a complete network overhaul.
In a 48-hour marathon rebuild, network engineers from Lineal replaced dozens of faulty cables, analysed every area of the network, adding new switches and other network equipment.
The picture above shows just one of several cabinets, before (left) and after (right) Lineal’s rebuild. The equipment had previously been patched and re-patched over ten years without clear planning, resulting in slower internet access and overheating rooms.
Network engineer Martyn Kay explained: “This company rightly realised that they had to address the problem rather than ignore it – and fortunately we were able to overhaul the entire system.”
The team quickly discovered other unexpected problems, including mystery fibre-optic cables that led nowhere, stray power cables, long-dead switches and improvised cabling ‘borrowing’ internet access from neighbouring departments.
Lineal reconnected every cabinet, replaced every cable with new lines, standardised the colour scheme for data and phones, and added reliable backup switches to improve network resilience and business continuity.
For expert network, cabling and IT infrastructure support, click here.
Lineal Software Solutions recently merged with another local IT company, Active Computing & Telecoms Ltd, based in South Molton.
Active Computing formally joined with Lineal as of December, and will continue to offer quality business IT services across Devon as part of Lineal’s IT support division.
Nick Hews, Managing Director of Active explained: “I’m very pleased to see Active joining with Lineal: like Active, Lineal began right here in North Devon, and places a very special importance on listening to their customers’ needs – which was very important to us before moving ahead.”
Managing Director of Lineal and former branch chairman of the North Devon FSB, Mike Matthews said: “We’re delighted to be taking on Active Computing. Between us we can now offer the widest possible range of business IT & telephone systems, technical support and business accounting software.”
Following the Lineal Active merger, the two partners have recently launched their new website (www.lineal.co.uk) for 2016.
Former staff members from Active now work at the premises of Lineal, and added together the two companies have more than 50 years’ experience trading across the wider North Devon area and beyond.
Apple have finally announced that iOS 9.3 will included special support for schools and colleges.
Using iOS 9.3, each student can be given a unique Apple ID that is compatible with any iPad in a classroom, allowing for the use of any device from a pool of shared school iPads. The Apple education package ID’s themselves are maintained through Apple School Manager, a web based control panel giving admins control over the system.
Apple’s new ‘Classroom’ App allows teachers to launch any app on every shared device in a room at once, and guide students through educational materials. A ‘Screen View’ function keeps an eye on what’s on every student’s screen, allowing teachers to prevent distractions from learning.
For students assigned the same tablet each day, a caching system holds work and resources, and gives a photo login procedure so that each child can find their usual device easily.
More than 70% of UK primary and secondary schools now use tablet computers as part of their ICT tools – including ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) schemes. So far however, schools have had to find a good reason to justify the extra expense for Apple’s high-quality iPad devices over cheaper rivals.
By offering cleverly designed software support for the classroom environment, Apple may have just provided that justification.
Learn more about IT support for the education sector – contact Lineal today: 01271 375999.
Apple’s iPhone 6S pressure sensitive 3D Touch screen can even be used to weigh small quantities of materials using a third-party application, users have discovered.
An iPhone 6S screen can be used to hold a measuring container, re-calibrated to zero with a tare function via a web app, and set to display the mass of ingredients placed in the container by measuring the downforce they exert on the 3D Touch screen.
With ‘Windows 10.1’ now barely a month old, and the Microsoft operating system already running on over 12 million business PCs, how fares Microsoft’s free updates strategy?
Windows 10.1 update was released with relatively little fanfare (be honest, you didn’t notice) adds features that, understandably with hindsight, might have been a distraction at the main Windows 10 release back in July.
Packaged within were mainly performance and security upgrades – Windows 10.1 will now boot almost 30% faster than an old Windows 7 system on the same device, the Cortana virtual assistant has some new handwriting recognition skills and there are new enterprise tools for mobile devices. Microsoft Edge runs smoother too, offering previews of tabs before viewing and syncing favourites across devices.
Most importantly, after recent corporate data breaches in the news, Microsoft have added a range of new security safeguards. These including ‘Windows Hello’, supporting enterprise grade biometrics including fingerprint and facial recognition – sadly currently only available for US users.
Aside from controversy surrounding user privacy then (if you didn’t notice your Windows 10.1 update, that’s maybe because Microsoft installed it automatically on your device without asking you) the first free update went ahead with relevant additions and limited fuss.
Starting free updates officially moves Microsoft into line with Apple’s OS X business model that has become the industry standard. Yet limited promotion of Windows 10’s ongoing development risks downplaying Microsoft’s progress.
Which would be unfair, because Microsoft is plainly taking extra care to develop the business security of their product range, including the excellent Office365, Microsoft Azure and now Windows 10.1. Microsoft is clearly listening to business’ fears, and businesses should welcome it.
Here at Lineal some of our most popular services are cloud-based, but this invaluable business tool doesn’t come entirely without pitfalls.
Cloud computing, storing your data and performing other IT functions over a shared ‘Cloud’ hosted by a third party, provides a wealth of possibilities. Accessible over an internet connection, storing files in the cloud means that a safe record of your data is kept on a remote servers should anything happen to your PC’s hard drive. For smaller businesses the small monthly investment in cloud computing avoids a huge capital expense for hardware, and gives a quicker return on investment.
Securing documents in the cloud also mean they can be easily accessed by team members in different locations or from different devices. Cloud-based services like Microsoft’s Office 365 even allow teams of users to collaboratively edit said shared files in real time from different places.
Yet Cloud computing has drawbacks too: for anyone dealing with very large data sizes (graphic design work, 3D modelling, video files and similar) most cloud systems will not be practical given long upload times. If your business is located somewhere with less reliable internet, over-reliance on cloud services may even hinder your business continuity if something fails.
If you’re storing confidential personal information, financial or medical details abroad, will your provider comply with UK data protection laws? How about your organisation’s own security procedures?
Above all – just how ‘remote’ should remote backup be? This is both the strength and weakness of cloud services – an unknown, distant server provides a safe backup vault for data until you need to manually access it. Storing your data in Germany, the United States or even further afield may be a cheap fix, until you need to book flights to access the hardware!
Our Verdict? Cloud computing is at its strongest when business users plan for contingencies. Never choose a provider so distant you can’t speak to a real person, or will have difficulty physically recovering backups if the very worst happens. Here at Lineal we know that we can always courier a physical backup to your business in the event that your IT suffers an unlikely disaster.
Here at Lineal we’re seeing more and more users ask for upgrades to Solid State Drives (SSDs) in our Repairs & Upgrades Shop. What is this best kept secret?
Solid State Drives are the modern replacement for your old computer hard disk, superceding the traditional magnetically-written hard disk with an integrated flash-based system more like a memory stick. Without fragile moving pieces any laptop equipped with an SSD is much more durable in the real world, where computers receive frequent accidental knocks, scrapes and shocks which could damage a traditional hard disk. No laptop is invincible, and for businesses looking to avoid expensive hardware repairs, upgrading to an SSD can be a shrewd investment.
Operating through intricate circuitry rather than a spinning mechanism, SSDs run silently and are much more power efficient, more environmentally friendly, and offer users extended battery life.
“No moving parts means an SSD is much more practical than your old computer hard disk.” explained Ian Meredith, Network Analyst at Lineal: “SSDs are more advanced, reading and writing data quicker, running cooler and less likely to need maintenance.”
Manufacturers are already pushing boundaries: Samsung recently announced the world’s fastest SSD ever. Weighing in at just 10 grams, the Samsung 950 Pro is a 1 TB monster SSD boasting read speeds of 2.5Gb per second, and write speeds of 1.5Gb per second.
“It’s straightforward for us to replace the drives on both MAC and Windows Devices” added Ian: “SSD prices have plummeted recently and in our Repairs & Upgrades shop we can move all a client’s existing data across to the new drive once we’ve built it into their laptop.”
“With a routine SSD upgrade we can provide improved performance to users who need it, or peace-of-mind to those clients who fear their indispensible laptop’s hard-drive may be reaching the end of its life.”
Contact Lineal about upgrading your organisation’s IT with a Solid State Drive (SSD) today – call us: 01271 375999.
Lineal recently offered our photographic services to the 2015 Barnstaple Pilot Gig Regatta, hosted on the river Taw.
Managing Director Mike Matthews said: “It was fantastic for us to see such a popular event right here on Lineal’s doorstep at Castle Quay, Barnstaple. Crews came from every corner of North Devon and beyond, with spectators crowding onto the Strand and waterfront to get a good view. We were delighted to be able to photograph the spectacle for all of the participating rowers.”
“Capturing a large event like this can be a challenge because of the weather conditions and distances/obstacles involved – you need the right technology to get up close to the action as each race widens out. Being in the start boat allowed me to get up close, and sometimes very friendly, to the crews, with some of the exertion pictures not looking out of place at a gurning competition!”
The regatta drew in eight pilot gig crews from right across the wider North Devon and North Cornwall areas, with Ilfracombe Pilot Gig Club winning the regatta overall. North Devon’s beloved 22 Squadron’s Search & Rescue Helicopter from RMB Chivenor also performed a farewell flypast on the final day of its operations.
For help with all your IT needs, get in touch with Lineal today via: 01271 375999
Here at Lineal some of our most popular services are cloud-based, but this invaluable business tool doesn’t come entirely without pitfalls.
Cloud computing, storing your data and performing other IT functions over a shared ‘Cloud’ hosted by a third party, provides a wealth of possibilities. Accessible over an internet connection, storing files in the cloud means that a safe record of your data is kept on a remote servers should anything happen to your PC’s hard drive. For smaller businesses the small monthly investment in cloud computing avoids a huge capital expense for hardware, and gives a quicker return on investment.
Securing documents in the cloud also mean they can be easily accessed by team members in different locations or from different devices. Cloud-based services like Microsoft’s Office 365 even allow teams of users to collaboratively edit said shared files in real time from different places.
Yet Cloud computing has drawbacks too: for anyone dealing with very large data sizes (graphic design work, 3D modelling, video files and similar) most cloud systems will not be practical given long upload times. If your business is located somewhere with less reliable internet, over-reliance on cloud services may even hinder your business continuity if something fails.
If you’re storing confidential personal information, financial or medical details abroad, will your provider comply with UK data protection laws? How about your organisation’s own security procedures?
Above all – just how ‘remote’ should remote backup be? This is both the strength and weakness of cloud services – an unknown, distant server provides a safe backup vault for data until you need to manually access it. Storing your data in Germany, the United States or even further afield may be a cheap fix, until you need to book flights to access the hardware!
Our Verdict? Cloud computing is at its strongest when business users plan for contingencies. Never choose a provider so distant you can’t speak to a real person, or will have difficulty physically recovering backups if the very worst happens. Here at Lineal we know that we can always courier a physical backup to your business in the event that your IT suffers an unlikely disaster.
Some of our own staff experienced printing problems for the Mac version of Microsoft Office 2016 – these have fortunately already been rectified in update version 10.11.1 by a humbly apologetic Apple.
One of the most notable surprises however was the outright removal of functionality that long-time Mac users have had from the earlier days of personal computing.
Apple’s Disk Utility app update has removed the ability to verify and repair disk permissions on your Mac, leaving users with no way to verify incorrectly installed programs with the correct disk permissions to read/write to their hard drive.
At Lineal we’ve always advised users to verify and repair disk permissions after major updates, and even some Apple software regularly flags up as in need of verification.
Apple has made two sweeping generalisations: firstly, that Mac users only need to run software that immediately cooperates with their hardware (a big assumption) and secondly that users will be content to let Apple worry about the details of their computer maintenance.
Personal computing today feels a little less personal. Mac users have become used to the idea that Mac updates are very reliable, and worthwhile installing promptly – yet the sudden removal of longstanding features puts this in doubt for the first time.
Should we all trust manufacturers? A question for Volkswagen.
Lineal can offer Tech Support for a range of Apple devices: get in touch with us today via 01271 375999 or contact us online.
A cloud-based phone system allows users to cleverly route incoming calls to the right place, by any method you choose – service level, skill matching, customer identity, caller location or simple priority. By deploying a smart call routing system to direct calls to the right person you can ensure that the customer spends as little time as possible holding on the line and gets their query answered.
In order to better serve customers when they call, ShoreTel’s unified communications platform can be configured to give members of your team the relevant details at their fingertips – such as simple screen pop-up containing a customer’s information. This helps your customer service team deal with queries faster, and in a more informed manner.
Being away from the phone need not be a barrier to SMBs either: voicemail and fax can also be routed onwards into transcribed email, so mobile working won’t hold you back from interacting with customers promptly. ShoreTel’s data also integrates with common CRM systems, seamlessly stitching the different strands of your business’ existing work flow together. Operating a business with a small staff, on the move, or across multiple locations? ShoreTel is made for you.
ShoreTel Connect’s Contact Centre is based around a monthly subscription service rather than a big hardware investment – a much more cost effective option for smaller businesses and ensuring a faster return on investment (ROI). Yet the true investment is in your reputation as a company – as a trusted business that is efficient and responsive to your customers’ needs.
Don’t get stuck holding: explore ShoreTel today.
To learn more, speak to somebody from Lineal today – call us on 01271 375999
Cyber crime is finally set to become the UK’s most common crime type, following inclusion in the latest crime figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This re-classification comes only days after news headlines emerged that an Eastern European crime group successfully used ‘Dridex’ malware to steal over £20m from UK bank accounts via thousands of infected PCs in the UK.
The 2015 National Strategic Assessment from the National Crime Agency estimates that losses due to cyber crime in the UK now amount to a staggering £16 billion annually. The NCA also asserted that the theft of large amounts of private companies’ data still faces ‘considerable under reporting.’
Nowhere is this more threatening than for those in the financial services industry, where both reputations for reliability and access to funds make IT security of paramount importance, requiring compliance with the strictest procedures for identity validation, network safety and fraud detection.
All businesses need to be prepared for the future, where cyber crime is likely to become more sophisticated and UK companies may be expected to demonstrate greater data protection measures. This week Microsoft promoted it’s Financial Services Compliance program in connection with Office 365 – making assurances (aimed squarely at businesses in the financial sector) of direct access to staff and resources to ensure that Microsoft Office cloud services comply with financial security regulations.
Greater awareness of cyber crime amongst Government figures, the media and the public can only be a good thing, but ultimately it still remains very much up to the individual to ensure their IT systems are secure – before the worst happens.
More than 70% of businesses fail after significant data loss. Lineal can install a range of security measures to safeguard your business IT systems and data – enquire today via: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/
Apple launched the new OS X 10.11 El Capitan to Mac users yesterday, in the latest free update of its trademark operating system.
The new offering is not a revolution, but an evolution of Apple’s OS X Yosemite released last year, with the newest version including a host of tweaks to improve performance and ease of use.
Having test-driven the software, Lineal staff had the following initial verdicts on El Capitan:
Immediate downloads are for die hard fans – even with 60+ Mbps download speeds, it took us several hours to download the full version today, less than one day after release. Conversely, some of our team managed to download it hours after release in under 20 minutes. Early download performance seems very inconsistent, presumably due to global load on Apple’s servers. For a more user-friendly experience, be patient and download over the weekend.
We liked the new multitasking tools, including the Split View window management system highly reminiscent of Microsoft Windows 10, but even more useful on Apple’s smaller screen MacBooks.
El Capitan improves performance behind the scenes, loading a test PDF file around 50% faster, and improving battery life in the process. Finder also shows a greater initiative, intelligently understanding ‘edited yesterday’ and similar phrases to speed up searching for your files.
Safari finally gets a refresh that includes pinned tabs, allowing for a more efficient way to keep persistent information open. This has been possible in Chrome and Firefox for some time so it’s good to see improvements to Safari to complete the user experience compared to the rivals.
Several of Apple’s most basic apps have received an overdue refresh – for example Notes, where users will find they can now add hitherto excluded images and video if needed, along with a few basic formatting options. Shake your mouse cursor and it will swell in size so that you can find it easily. Apple hasn’t changed – these are thoughtful touches.
Overall OS X El Capitan is a solid, if somewhat modest, revision to Apple’s software range, which clearly has not been rushed to release. The new features have been developed with care and the real draw is increased performance. Both are worth waiting a day or two for though, giving other users time to test the new system, and yourself a less stressful update.
Microsoft Office 2016 is here: the staple of word processing, spreadsheets and presentation work everywhere is now available for single purchase on Windows 10 and Mac OS X.
Office 2016’s apps will look very familiar to existing customers – but Office 2016 is undoubtedly ‘smarter’ than any previous version of Office, with its most impressive new features aimed at boosting productivity for both home and business customers.
Take Microsoft’s new ‘Smart Lookup’ function for example – click a single word in a document and Office will web search that term (via Bing) within the window, allowing instant research.
Cleverly, Office 2016 will even infer from the context of the surrounding paragraph the exact meaning of the word being searched for, preventing irrelevant homonyms clouding your search results. A neat trick certainly, but also an important one for certain sectors – for instance helping children do school work with protection against loading inappropriate search results based on words with double-meanings.
It is a similar case with 2016’s new ‘Tell me’ function. Gone are the clunky help menus or cartoon paperclips – ‘Tell’ Word for a tool like ‘mail merge’ or ‘footnotes’ and the Office 2016 apps will not load search results, but immediately take you to the exact menu and function needed.
The latest version allows for collaborative working (finally catching up with rival Google Drive) with multiple users able to edit documents in real time with a visible tracked changes function, from remote locations if needed. As an added bonus, Office is integrated with Skype, aimed at making the process of collaborative working more easily communicated.
Part of productivity is personal though, so Office 2016 also introduces ‘Office 365 Planner’, an app aimed at time and project management. Even Outlook will attempt to shave a few minutes off your day by linking attachments from cloud-based OneDrive and introducing ‘Clutter’, an automated email filtering service which avoids distractions by pushing less relevant emails into a separate folder, helping you to best utilise your time. Office 2016 knows that time is worth money, and for some may be a very smart investment indeed.
Need advice on software for your business, or help migrating to Microsoft Office 365 services? Lineal can help – contact us today: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/
Intel have announced the release of their new Skylake processors – their sixth generation of processor chips using multiple cores to combine greater processing power with lower energy consumption.
The new chips will boast around a 60% performance increase for a standard PC, with overclocking capabilities and other features clearly aimed at capturing the higher end of the gaming market and similar. There are also more rudimentary improvements behind the scenes: for example supporting multiple 4k displays, and optimising for new connections expected on the next generation of laptops, including USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3.
Skylake’s greatest asset however will be remarkably more efficient power-use. Intel believe superior energy efficiency (and less overheating) will allow more devices to operate without the need for internal fans, saving device weight, size, manufacturing costs, environmental costs, maintenance on moving parts, and prices for consumers. Their smaller models, Core m3, m5 and m7, will also help corner the market on more portable devices, saving weight and critical battery life in the tablets and smartphones of the future.
Intel must realise their market is changing and that it will be harder to keep selling new processors. Both Microsoft and Apple now offer constant upgrades to their Windows 10 and OS X Yosemite operating systems via free downloads – such that users are no longer forced to buy a new computer or package when they wish to upgrade. The IDC estimated last Novemberthat new tablet sales were also slower than the industry expected, as users hold on to older, well-built devices longer than expected rather than purchasing newer models. Hard drive capacities, in devices of all sizes, will only increase.
This all leaves Intel with a sales challenge – how to sell computer hardware to a world that doesn’t necessarily need or covet new devices as regularly? Skylake must provide new opportunities to manufacturers to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with a better chip to drive fresh sales across the industry.
Expect to see Skylake processors become available by the end of 2015, with the PC market picking up the range fully in the New Year.