IT for Donuts is our regular feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.
This time round, we reveal the secrets of the shift key. If you only ever use it to add UPPER CASE LETTERS to your text then you’re missing out on its full power. Read on to learn more.
Keyboard shortcuts are a powerful way to be more efficient with your computer.
We’ve covered many of the most common and useful keyboard shortcuts before, and would highly recommend you start using them:
Once you get the hang of keyboard shortcuts, they become second nature and really speed up your work.
The shift key is a common ‘modifier’ for keyboard shortcuts. That means that if you hold it down while using a common shortcut, that shortcut will behave in a different way.
Most often, the shift key reverses an action on the screen. Here are some ways you can use it.
These shortcuts all work with recent versions of Windows. Most of them will work on Macs, too:
Next time you’re messing around with your keyboard, try the shift key. It has more powers than you might have thought.
When the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in a £450 navy ‘Naomi’ shift dress made by Madderson London this year, yet another small British business fell victim to the ‘Kate effect’.
Madderson was totally unprepared for the resulting rush of visitors to its website. As a result, it went offline.
As a UK provider of web hosting services, this is frustrating to hear. There’s no excuse for websites being unable to handle traffic.
Cloud computing was designed for just this kind of scenario: the ability to scale resources up and down based on demand.
Although it would have been risky for Madderson to bring in extra stock just in case the Duchess wore the dress in public, it could have capitalised on the interest if the website had stayed available. Visitors would have been able to explore the company’s range and order products from it.
If you want to avoid the ‘Kate effect’, here are six things to look for in a hosting package.
More than ever, the location of your web host is important to the performance and security of your website.
You want people to find you, and choosing a UK hosting provider may make your website more likely to rank well when people search on Google’s UK website.
Find a genuine British company that does not outsource its servers or staff.
When you’re running a small business, money can be tight. It’s easy to choose the cheapest hosting package, but do you really know what you’ll get for your money?
Check all the usual things: customer support, apps and resources, reliability and uptime — and the location of the web host. You want a solid all-round package.
Be wary of being persuaded to spend a lot on the off-chance the ‘Kate effect’ might happen to your business. There’s no point wasting money on resources you don’t need or use.
With cloud hosting you pay just for the resources you use. When you no longer need them, you are no longer charged for them.
When things do go wrong you want to be able to speak with trained professionals, and you want to be able to get hold of them.
You can’t put enough value on being able to access great technical support at any time.
Choose a web host that is upfront about its support level. Check its service level agreement (SLA) for guaranteed uptime and search social media for reviews and opinions of that provider.
Some web hosting providers (including Memset, the company I work for) offer services to monitor the availability and performance of your website.
This helps to identify and address issues - like a spike in traffic – quickly.
One of the main advantages of cloud hosting is its scalability. Unlike other hosting, cloud hosting is designed to scale up instantly when demand peaks.
This can save you a lot of stress. It can even bring you extra customers, because there isn’t a moment when your site is unavailable.
Every business should be performing regular website backups and have a disaster recovery plan.
As cloud storage is cheap, you can probably afford to hold a separate, mirrored copy of your website with another provider. If disaster strikes, you can switch over and carry on as normal.
The ‘Kate effect’ is very real. But if you choose sensibly, you can protect your business from without spending a fortune on your web hosting.
Big data is the idea that businesses can start combining and mining the data they own in order to identify new opportunities and make decisions. It’s, well, big at the moment.
But there’s a problem. According to research by Rosslyn Analytics, only 23% of UK decision-makers closely align business strategy to data. And just 44% of business leaders consider their data a strategic asset. You can download the whole report here.
Respondents said that the biggest challenge to using their data effectively was that there are too many types of data and that data comes from too many sources.
And they have a point. Big data is intimidating, especially if you run a smaller company that isn’t able to employ a data analyst or bring in a consultant.
In that case, maybe you should start smaller.
With that in mind, here are four practical ways your business can collect and use data on a smaller scale. You don’t need a degree in maths or statistics to get started.
How often do you check your website statistics? No, really, when was the last time you logged in to Google Analytics? (If you don’t collect data on your website usage, you really should and it’s fairly easy to get started.)
Website statistics packages accumulate a lot of data. If you’re looking for easy ways to improve your website, you could start in these areas:
If you use accounting software — particularly modern packages like QuickBooks Online — you’ll find you have easy access to a range of reports that can delve deep into your figures.
It’s not uncommon for these reports to stay unused. But if you want to understand your financials, playing around in these reports can be much more enlightening than wading through pages of figures.
Here are some ideas:
If you’re not already using accounting software in your business, it’s a powerful way to save time and get your head round your finances. Learn more about accounting software.
Market research doesn’t have to involve masses of survey questions, months of work and a chunky report that tries to define your business strategy for years to come. You can learn a lot by running short, snappy surveys. For instance:
Quick-fire surveys are an excellent way to gain a better understanding of what people do or don’t like about your business.
You can learn things from even the smallest surveys, but be wary of using single pieces of feedback to justify big changes. It’s best to act only when you can see a clear pattern to the comments you’re receiving.
IT for Donuts is our regular feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.
Inspired by the recent failure of my own broadband connection, today, we take a look at how to cope if your internet goes down.
Have you ever been in an open plan office when that company’s internet connection has failed?
It usually starts quietly. Someone will ask a simple question of a colleague: “Is your internet working?”
In minutes, it spreads across the office. People stop what they’re doing, just to see if they can load the BBC website. And then it’s all they talk about.
Quite simply, when your internet goes down, your business suffers – no matter whether you have one employee or 100. So, if yours fails, what can you do to keep working while you wait for it to get fixed?
When your internet connection goes down, public Wi-Fi is your friend. If your own premises are covered by a public network then you have a ready-made backup for your own connection.
Sometimes you can pick up Wi-Fi via a service like Fon, which allows you to piggyback on a local internet connection for a small charge.
Alternatively, think about decamping to a local café or pub that offers Wi-Fi. You don’t have to stay there for hours, but it’s a good chance to catch up on email and take care of important tasks.
The emergence of 4G mobile internet means that – as long as you’re in an area with good coverage – these days using a mobile internet connection is less likely to be an exercise in frustration. In fact, access speeds can rival those of standard broadband connections.
These connect to the internet via a mobile phone network, then share that connection through a wireless network. You can get several devices online through a single 4G Wi-Fi device.
Pay-as-you-go tariffs are great for occasional use. Consider a contract if you think you’ll use the device regularly.
Are your company’s neighbours friendly? If so, ask if you can share their internet connection if you run into a problem.
It’s only fair to afford them the same opportunity, but that way you’ll both have a backup for when something goes wrong.
Just make sure you get your internet services from different providers – otherwise you could both be stuck without a connection.
Having your internet fail for a short period of time can be a blessing in disguise. Sure, there might be emails piling up in your inbox, but they can wait.
Take a long lunch. Go for a walk. Or get everyone together and discuss where you really want to take the business in the months ahead.
Who knows, maybe an internet outage will spark your next great idea.
If you get your flexible work arrangements right, employees who work from home can be just as productive as those in the office — if not more so.
People who work the regular nine-to-five can find this hard to believe. But as the rise of cloud computing – also sometimes called ‘cloudware’ – has continued, the traditional office setup is starting to look old-fashioned.
Workers can now access all their company resources from almost anywhere in the world, making it easier than ever to agree flexible working arrangements.
Are you scared to shake up your business without being sure changes will benefit your company rather than hinder it? If so, read on to learn how cloud services can help your flexible working arrangements and enable staff to achieve their full potential.
In the UK, workers have the right to request flexible working – including the chance to work from home – if they have been with the same employer for at least 26 weeks.
If the company refuses to make flexible working arrangements without giving sufficient reason, the employee can take the business to a tribunal.
This is a scary thought for any employer, especially those running smaller businesses. But what if it’s just not feasible to let a critical member of staff work away from the office?
Well, employers are encouraged to find a compromise that suits both parties. But you can reject the application for a good business reason.
For example, if you can prove proven that the absence of a particular member of staff will disrupt operations and have a detrimental effect on the business, you can refuse the request.
It’s clear that many desirable employees would prefer to work flexibly, rather that being in an office.
Family commitments, expensive commutes and more contribute to an increased desire to work from home.
As the person in charge, it’s important you don’t allow great candidates to slip through your fingers because of concerns about meeting demands for flexible work arrangements.
Cloudware can help employers make flexible working arrangements without compromising on staff productivity and efficiency.
Depending on which product(s) you use, your workers can be just a click away from everything they need to work from anywhere, including the comfort of their own home.
Cloudware enables employees to access data from several different devices, so workers are no longer limited to their office desktops. They can also stay connected via email or communications tools and access all their business applications, wherever they are.
Flexible workers are not necessarily lazier or less productive than their office-bound colleagues.
The evolving sophistication of mobile devices allows us to work from anywhere, but cloudware ensures staff can access what they need to get the job done.
In fact, some studies have shown that an employee’s output can be higher when they have a flexible working arrangement they’re happy with.
This resulted in considerable benefits for the business and its employees.
Ctrip saved $1,900(US) per employee on furniture and office space during this time. That’s a significant saving for businesses working to a tight budget.
What’s more, staff completed 13.5% more calls than normal — that’s getting on for an extra working day, every week. They also enjoy far higher job satisfaction.
Similar studies into flexible working arrangements have produced similar results.
Dell’s Global Evolving Workforce study (PDF link) found that, thanks to the increased use of mobile devices, 52% of workers believe they are as productive or more productive when working at home.
Crucially, workers are less stressed and can sleep longer and better when they don’t have to worry about getting up for a lengthy commute.
These results are backed by a flexible working trial at mobile phone giant O2. This followed 3,000 employees as they spent a month working from home.
During this time, staff collectively worked 1,000 extra hours and also spent 1,000 extra hours sleeping or relaxing. They also saved large amounts of money by not travelling.
In any case, there are signs to suggest the traditional office arrangement is becoming extinct.
Many employees tend to communicate with colleagues and clients via email or instant messaging instead of talking, even when they’re located in the same building.
These communication platforms are easily accessible from home thanks to cloud services, so workers don’t have to miss out just because they’re not physically present.
Instead, they can work from home just as productively, saving money for themselves and the business — and enjoying a better work/life balance.
Copyright © 2015 Compare Cloudware Ltd
The first sign of an attack?
Every one and a half seconds, another organisation is hit by a cyber attack. There’s one now. And there. And there.
Are you prepared to defend your business?
Even a minor security breach can hit your business hard. And if you’re unlucky, it could cost you up to £65,000 to recover.
If you’ve not considered how you might cope in a crisis, your business and your data could be at risk.
The bad news? It’s easy for a hacker to launch a sneak attack. The good? Nearly all attacks are preventable.
To protect your company from a security breach, you need to understand the four stages of a typical attack. Then you can make sure you have the right security protocols in place.
To keep this from happening, make sure your employees have a grounding in basic security. Anything coming in to your company should only be accepted if employees know and trust the source.
If the crack in the wall has already appeared, delete any suspect files, disconnect any affected computers from your network and sweep the computer for any traces the file may have left behind.
Removing some malware can be notoriously tricky, so it’s a good idea to bring in your IT support company. A small amount of money spent now can help limit your future losses.
Once a hacker has gained access to your systems, they’re likely to start gathering valuable information.
For instance, that bad attachment could have installed keylogging software that can record every keystroke. This can give the hacker access to usernames and passwords, email addresses, credit card details and more.
As a preventative measure, make sure every computer in your business is running up-to-date anti-virus and security software.
If keylogging software is detected, reset all passwords in your business – even if you think they haven’t been compromised.
Once a hacker has begun collecting your passwords, they can use them to get much deeper into your systems.
To prevent one stolen password giving the hacker an all-access pass to your data, set up permissions and controls so each person in your business can only access the resources they need.
For instance, there’s probably no need for your sales team to have access to the full company accounts.
Once hackers have access to your company’s servers, your data is at their mercy. They can easily steal sensitive information and even wipe it completely, causing irreparable damage.
To prevent disaster, you can use real-time audit reporting to detect suspicious activity. Your policy should be to disconnect first and ask questions later.
If your data does get wiped, be prepared with off-site backups that are updated regularly. Having your data stolen is terrible, but losing it altogether could kill your business.
Most cyber attacks are easily preventable, and common intrusions usually take several days to complete.
By putting these simple security measures in place and knowing how to prevent hackers from seizing control of your data at every stage in the process, you can sleep more easily at