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Technology Stuff

Microsoft License Cost Increase on April 1st

Microsoft has recently confirmed that on 1st April they will be increasing the GBP cost of all Microsoft Cloud Services by 9%.

The reason, as described by Microsoft, is to align pricing to reflect the changes to the exchange rate of the local US currency.

We are not expecting Microsoft to confirm the exact GBP pricing for each service until after 1st March 2023 at which point we will communicate this as well.

To read the full announcement you can view it here: Consistent global pricing for the Microsoft Cloud – Microsoft News Centre Europe

This is not ideal news but there are ways to mitigate against this 9% increase for another year.

Pricing for existing subscriptions for seat-based cloud services offers in legacy CSP and NCE (New Commerce Experience) are protected during the term of the subscription at the original billing price.

Additional CSP seats added to an existing subscription (subscription active before April 1st, 2023) will be at the original billing price.

Licenses under the NCE Monthly commitment terms will be subject to price increases after the 1st of April, for example, a customer transacting business standard on a monthly NCE commit in March will pay the normal price then on the monthly renew in April, will then pay 9% extra and so on for the rest of the year.

If you have any questions as to how this will impact your license cost or for a review of your current licensing consumption please contact us on 01209 613660.

I don’t get the incessant drive for inhuman support

Well, I do, kind of.

The support options available are able to answer some of the more basic and mundane questions which makes sense, but the world seems to have lost its humanity in the process.

In the last few years working in the technology industry has become increasingly frustrating when the need to reach out to vendors and third parties for support arises.

It just feels like companies don’t care, or even want to speak to people any more.

More and more often we are directed to an automated chat bot that does its best to pull from a list of predefined responses to your questions.

Other times you have to submit an email which goes into a queue, and you wait your turn with no idea when you will receive a response.

There are even some vendors who rely on their own community forums where users work with other users to resolve problems. I am all for collaboration but what a cop out.

Many websites are stripped of support phone numbers or direct contact details and when you call the main number you are directed to one of the already mentioned, less than desirable alternatives.

Often when you do get through to a human you are directed to a knowledgebase article and end up having to fix it yourself, if the solution you have been presented does not work you have to start all over again.

All of this boils down to frustrated customers and endless time spent going round in circles when a quick conversation would provide a better service and often a quicker solution.

Today I had an enjoyable support session with a human being, to be fair I did chase an emailed request and the person I spoke to was excellent. We screen shared the computer with the problem, worked through it together as he found he had other tickets with similar issues. After 20 minutes of discussion, banter and conversation we found that the issue was with another piece of software interfering with the process. It was the best of support, chat, knowledge, collaboration, banter and two people feeling like they had achieved a result.

I actually hung up the phone and said to my colleague that it was one of the most enjoyable support calls I have had in while. Vendors and people like that are remembered.

At Focus Technology we value our relationships with our customers and with our team. Yes, we operate a ticketing system, we could not do this job without one but, we will always have people at the end of the phone to support our customer when they need us.

As a consequence of this ethic, we partner with vendors and suppliers who hold the same values we do. We build relationships between our business and theirs to enable us to provide the absolute best service to our clients.

With good communication, good relationships and good support we all succeed.

To any vendors who may be reading this, please, offer the human touch, break down these barriers and talk to your customers, you will find the rewards worth it.

COVID19 – Top Tops for working from home

Top Tips for Working from Home

After the government has announcement that the lockdown is likely to continue for another 3 weeks, I thought I would put together an essential survival guide to working from home.

As someone who works in an industry where working from home is second nature it is quite easy to be productive. For many the concept of working from home has not been something to consider until now so here are some handy hints on how to get the most out of your working day.

Top Tips:

1)      Stay in a routine:

Get up, do your workout, have a shower, get dressed, have that coffee and get ready for work. Whatever your morning routine was when going to the office, keep it up. OK, so maybe you can sacrifice high heels for a comfy pair of slippers, or the suit for jogging bottoms and a t-shirt. The important thing is to maintain a routine.

2)      Establish a place to work:

Working is always better when you establish a space in which to work; some jobs require a lot of space, you may need to lay out drawings or paperwork, other jobs only require space for a phone or laptop. If you are with family, draw up boundaries around your working environment to ensure you are not interrupted during a telephone call or when you need to concentrate. There have been a few high profile blunders recently involving interrupted meetings! Always consider the nature of the documentation or data you are working with; is it personal information governed by GDPR? If so then you may need to use a separate private room to maintain compliance. Whichever situation applies to you, ensure you have a comfortable working environment and that those around you respect it.

3)      Take regular breaks: DESKERCISE

As when in the office and especially when working with computers, it is important to take regular breaks, whether that is to make a cuppa or check in with your family. You may like to take a longer break at lunch and stretch your legs. The outdoors is great for keeping you fit and healthy and great for mental wellbeing. Again, try and maintain the routine you would normally have in your work life. What is very important is that you decide on a time to “switch off” and return to family life or, if you are on your own, doing things that are not work centric like exercise, keeping in touch with friends and family. From personal experience I know how easy it is to keep working even when you shouldn’t be.

You can find some useful exercises here.

4)      Don’t try and multitask:

It may be tempting to start painting that wall or rehanging that door in between work tasks but this will distract you from your job and invariable take longer than anticipated. This will lead to frustration when you complete neither task by the end of the day. When you should be working; focus on work. Leave the chores and DIY for the evenings and weekends when you would normally do it.

5)      Do some training:

If you find you do not have enough time to completely fill a workday then look at taking on some training. There is a wealth of resources online where you can learn new skills or improve existing skills. Have a conversation with your employer as it may count towards your personal development plan or personal work goals. Completing training will be rewarding and give you an additional sense of achievement.

6)      If you have kids, prepare for interruptions:

It is inevitable; and the age of your children will determine how best to handle this one. Can someone look after them for you? Are they old enough to understand your explanation that you need to work and be left alone to do so? Can you manage your time differently; spending more time with them during the day and maybe catch up on work later when they are in bed? There is no single answer to this, but communication is key to ensure interruptions are kept to a minimum.

I have found some interruptions are positive during these strange times, the happy background noises of my 6 month old has somewhat lightened the mood of frustration while customers and I are fighting with remote desktops and troublesome VPN’S.

7)      Switch off from social media (and other distractions):

It is important to remain focused otherwise your productivity will suffer. Don’t be tempted to spend time cruising on social media, unless it IS your job, or hunting for bargains online. Any distraction will detract from your ability to concentrate and work and nothing is worse than realising the day has passed and you have achieved nothing.

The key thing is to maintain a routine as close to your normal working life as possible, this ensures you remain productive and will make it easier to return to a normal working lifestyle when all this is over.

Windows 7 End Of Life January 2020 – Act Now

Since its launch on 22nd July 2009 Windows 7 has been the operating system of choice of many businesses, with a visual refresh and a host of new features it soon became favoured, and loved, by many.

Holding a number of records, including the highest grossing pre order in Amazon’s history, surpassing the previous record holder of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Two weeks after its release it surpassed the market share of Apples Snow Leopard and by July 2012 it had sold over 630 million licenses.

Sadly, as with all things support for Windows 7 is coming to an end. Microsoft will be ending support for this popular operating system on the 14th January 2020.

For your business this means that any device running Windows 7 will stop receiving security patches and updates, computers running Windows 7 will also be deemed non compliant by   security audits and be unsupported by software vendors.

It is likely that hackers will take this opportunity to write     malware and viruses to take advantage of unpatched vulnerabilities in the unsupported operating system and wreak havoc.

It is time to migrate to Windows 10.

The transition to Windows 10 requires analysis of your existing devices, some will be capable of being upgraded, others will need to be replaced.

The deployment of Windows 10 may be an opportunity to leverage the cloud benefits of Azure Active Directory and InTune to provide a suite of tools for complete device management.

The key steps to deployment are:

1) Planning.

2) Inventory your existing devices.

3) Audit your applications and check compatibility.

4) Build a cost case for upgrade or replacement.

5) Inform and train staff on the changes they will see.

6) Monitor performance as you migrate.

7) Identify and resolve problems.

8) Review and project closedown.

With a successful migration to Windows 10 you will maintain high levels of security and compliance. You will also be able to leverage new tools and features in the new operating system and in the cloud.

Act now, call Focus on 01209 613660 to plan your migration.

Eden Project news

Cornwall’s Future Economy – Young People’s Consultation

Focus’s MD Andrew Davenport recently took part in the Cornwall’s Future Economy – Young People’s Consultation. The event which was organised by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership took place at the iconic Eden Project, and saw 40 students – all from various schools within Cornwall, come together to share what they thought a successful Cornwall might look like in the future, and what they believe a better Cornwall could look like – i.e. expansion on career sectors, better wages and diversity of jobs available in Cornwall.

7 different businesses (including Focus Technology Europe Ltd) took to the mic to speak to the students about what was great about being a local business – and also what challenges they face.

Andrew Davenport had this to say following the event – “it was really refreshing to see so many young people care so passionately about the Cornish economy and their future careers, their presentations were fantastic – we have many, many talented young people here in Cornwall who can, and will make a difference”.

You can watch a recap on the day’s events here Cornwall’s Future Economy – Young People’s Consultation

A contact lens that records everything you see?

Other smart contact lenses are focused on improving vision or providing an augmented reality HUD, but Sony wants to look outwards rather than in. A new patent, awarded to the company in April, describes a contact lens that can be controlled by the user’s deliberate blinks, recording video on request.

Sensors embedded in the lens are able to detect the difference between voluntary and involuntary blinks. The image capture and storage technology would all be embedded in the lens around the iris, and piezoelectric sensors would convert the movements of the eye into energy to power the lens.

Of course, at this point, this technology isn’t small enough to be comfortably embedded in a contact lens, so it’s only theoretical. However, with Google seemingly pursuing a contact lens camera after Glass failed so spectacularly, it’s not surprising that other tech giants are getting on board.

Time is ticking for free Windows 10 upgrade

Can you believe that it has been almost a year since Windows started rolling out Windows 10 as a phased release?

Windows 10 has currently been available as a free upgrade to anyone running Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 (consumer addition) – but should you not upgrade by July the 29th you will have to fork out £100 +

If you are yet to upgrade, but are still unsure as to whether Windows 10 is for you, why not get in touch with our tech team? We can answer any questions you may have, and give you free, honest advice.

Call us Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm 01209 613660

Phone notifications cause ‘ADHD-like symptoms’

Hyperactivity and a lack of attention span are often traits ascribed to millennials unable to put down their phones. Now a study from the University of Virginia claims these stereotypes may not be totally inaccurate, with smartphone notifications apparently causing “ADHD-like symptoms even among the general population”.

The research, which has been presented at the Human-Computer Interaction conference in California, examined how 221 college students used their smartphones over a two-week period.

They found that when students had notifications turned on – by having their phone on ring or vibrate, for example – they reported “more symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity” than when their phones were on silent.

“We found the first experimental evidence that smartphone interruptions can cause greater inattention and hyperactivity – symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – even in people drawn from a nonclinical population,” said Kostadin Kushlev, lead author of the study.

Server 2003, the end of an era!

With just over 60 days remaining before Microsoft withdraws support for Windows Server 2003 many businesses are wondering where to go next or if to move at all.

When I first started working with Windows Server 2003 it was like a breath of fresh air, feature rich, a wealth of administrative tools, adaptable, scalable and much improved reliability over the versions before it. Much like Windows XP to the desktop PC, Microsoft Windows Server 2003 was fantastic and has stood the test of time which is why many people have decided to stick with it. It was Microsoft first really successful server operating system.

The retirement of Windows Server 2003 however does spell trouble ahead for business who have not moved on.

The end of support (EOS) means that Microsoft will no longer be releasing product updates, bug fixes, patches and security updates for businesses still running Windows Server 2003. At the same time many other vendors such as Anti Virus companies, hardware manufacturers and software development companies will phase out or altogether stop writing applications for the operating system.

The reality is that the longer businesses delay moving to a newer server operating system the greater their businesses are exposed to risk but the migration can be a painful process unless correctly planned and managed. The software running on the servers will need to be identified and checked to see if they will run on the newer server operating systems which in many cases means a shift from 32bit to 64bit capability. If they won’t run then they may need to be updated too. Custom or bespoke applications may need to be updated and specialist hardware many also need to be replaced.

For those businesses that are regulated by the Payment Card Industry or need to be PCI Compliant then the chances are that you will fail the required PCI Compliance Audit in very short order.

The arguments for migration to a new server operating system far outweigh the perceived benefits of staying with Windows Server 2003.

If you are still running Windows Server 2003 in your business, you need to take steps now to plan and execute a migration strategy to protect your infrastructure.

By migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft Azure or Office 365, you can achieve tangible benefits, including improved performance, reduced maintenance requirements, and increased agility and speed of response to the business.

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