Author Archives: Flip

How does Virtualisation Keep the FTSE Secure?

Did you know that over 90% of the FTSE100 uses virtualisation to keep their online data and transaction processing safe? In this article we discuss how virtualisation’s security measures play a pivotal role in keeping the interests of the global finance industry secure.

virtualisationA Matter of Personal Privacy

Virtualisation is transforming the financial industry at a time when tightening of security and data compliance are hot topics. Instead of relying on internal IT departments to elevate technology and cut costs, many blue-chip companies are utilising hosted IT environments to better service a global customer base and support staff.

In a global marketplace, the challenge for business – especially those in the FTSE100 – is to maximise server consolidation around data compliance and specifically payment card industry (PCI) regulations surrounding personal privacy. To do so, companies are increasingly looking to integrate 3rd party virtualisation hosting to securely run IT operations.

Security has become the critical requirement for application integrity and task management in today’s IT infrastructure. In large part because mobile technology and cloud computing is evolving so rapidly that we are faced with many challenges to website architecture, database management, point of sale (POS) mobility and payment transaction processing. In 2013, enhanced customer experience is everything, but it must be secure.

Virtualisation meets the demands of optimised network segmentation, systems security and intrusion prevention that eases the transition of services and transaction of payments via self-defending, virtual machines that self-regulate and load balance on demand.

Keeping it Simple
The tightening of data compliance makes virtualisation the perfect low cost solution for your IT needs. It significantly reduces performance bottlenecks, securely meets transaction standards and simplifies management of services.

Businesses need incredible flexibility from their IT to cater for growing customer demands, performance optimisation and maintain availability of service. Virtualisation provides all of the above with simplicity at scale.

As businesses expand operations they must meet growing technology demands, coupled with increased pressures to meet PCI compliance, all while trying to support cost-effective server consolidation. They must do so whilst maintaining the identity of their business from a technical and tactical perspective. Here, virtualisation integrates perfectly, preserving performance through hosted maintenance of server structures while meeting the needs of customers and information laws.

Companies must meet the strictest security regulations in a cloud-led era of technology enablement. To combat emerging security threats and manage huge volumes for data it is increasingly cost prohibitive to host and manage IT infrastructure in-house. Organisations of all shapes and sizes should be looking to take advantage of virtualisation to protect service integrity, customer privacy and staff retention.

Maintaining Compliance
Major corporations such as those in the FTSE100 are integrating virtualisation technology to increase scalability of services and better meet the challenges of compliance. Outsourcing IT operations creates flexibility and confidence in an IT stack that is the nucleus for corporate innovation. Hosted virtualisation makes this possible through resilience of service, intrusion defence, file management and PCI compliance that is yielding significant benefits for many of the world’s leading companies.

From financial transaction processing to preservation of privacy, degradation of services through downtime and security breaches can be extremely damaging. Today’s business leaders are increasingly looking to invest in lightweight IT with no physical footprint and virtual hosting  that maximises ROI, by utilising flexible architecture. In doing so businesses must implement strict controls or face huge financial penalties. They must manage data centre performance and network capacity with simplicity, security and scalability.

Today, virtualisation offers the best solution for delivery of high quality client-care, improved staff experience and regulatory compliance when personal data integrity is of paramount importance. Ensuring mission critical operations run smoothly and securely with a virtualisation platform not only drives down costs but significantly increases operational efficiency.

The Middle East: a rising region for business

When it comes to the Middle East, stereotypes about wealth based on oil alone are well and truly dead in the water. In fact the region is among the fastest growing for a wide range of international business, from aviation to business banking, and all the signs are that this trend will continue.

A 2012 report by Ernst and Young outlined the reasons for this. As a location for foreign direct investment, the Middle East has a strong basic infrastructure, a growing population, and governments largely positive about encouraging investment.  Arguably the second of these is the single biggest factor.

middle east business

Particularly attractive for overseas entrepreneurs, the Emirates have also been benefiting greatly from the expanding trade with the biggest economies in the world: trade with China alone increased sixteenfold since 2002, reaching $40.4 bn. As a result, global banks such as HSBC have been expanding steadily their range of business banking accounts in the region, making it easier for international businessmen to operate here.

Business in the Middle East has also been boosted by an expanding young population with far greater wealth and a more global outlook than their parents’ generation, which offers a huge potential new client base. This is shown by the success of several companies in different fields. In retail, the success of a US-based chain of frozen yoghurt cafes is a good case study. Freshberry, only established in Oklahoma in 2008, already has twenty units selling their products across Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This rapid growth has been possible due to the strong consumer appetite in these three Gulf states who share a number of similarities and have grouped together as the Gulf Co-operation Council.

Many young Middle Eastern people – male and female – now go abroad for their education, and generally travel more both around the region and around the world. This has made the region one of the fastest growing for airline passenger numbers, and while the regional carriers such as Emirates and Etihad have been first to benefit, other carriers are now seeking to gain a share of the spoils through partnership agreements. A partnership between Emirates and Australia’s Quantas is due to take effect this March, while British Airways and Air France-KLM already have deals with other Middle Eastern operators in place.

Political instability has traditionally been a source of concern for investors in the Middle East. However the Arab Spring uprisings, and continued instability in countries such as Egypt and Libya, have not halted investment in the way that doom-mongers might have predicted. In fact some commentators have pointed to the way the uprisings were sparked by a young, technology aware population, as evidence for future optimism. For example E-commerce start-ups have thrived in Egypt, which has 20 per cent of all internet users in Africa. The same technology which allowed young people to organise street protests is allowing them to create business opportunities, using the latest ideas such as crowdsourcing. This culture of local tech-entrepreneurs creates major openings for international companies providing the infrastructure for them to thrive. Hardware, software and communications technology are all in big demand, and better secure online payment services could be the next major growth tech-industry in the region.

All in all then, plenty of reasons for international business leaders to keep their eye on the Middle East when it comes to expansion. The market is a growing one, certainly more so than the economically troubled Eurozone, and looks set to become increasingly open to foreign investment in the coming years.   More info about entrepreneurial ideas can be found here.

How to grow your small business

If you’re keen to get a small business venture off the ground, there are a number of ways you can go about it. Depending on your field of work, you could find that utilising mentor services, expanding your office space and networking are all options worth considering – keep reading to find out more.

Expand your business space

Whether you work in an office or make use of warehouses for your trade, if your business is taking up all the space you currently have, it might be a good idea to expand. Perhaps your office has taken on lots of new staff members and can’t grow without having the room for more workers, or maybe you don’t have enough space to invest in more stock – whatever your situation, give some serious thought to increasing the physical space you use.

If you can afford to, take a look at suitable office premises you could move to, or find out whether you can remove partition walls to increase your floor area. This will mean you can take on more staff or benefit from extra room for equipment.

Meanwhile, if you need space for stock, consider renting a warehouse so you’ll have room for storage like racking, which you can browse by clicking here.

business mentor

Use the services of a business mentor

If you dedicate most of your time to your business, you might not have had the chance to give much thought to how you can grow your firm, so consider using the services of a business mentor who has plenty of experience in helping companies progress.

The Creative Business Mentor Network is a scheme that provides support for firms in creative industries, offering advice, workshops, coaching and one-to-one mentoring from a group of professionals who have achieved success in their areas. Mentors from established companies like BBC Worldwide, Working Title Films, Sega Europe and Freemantle Media UK are all listed on the network, which aims to hep emerging businesses improve their planning, communication and financial management.

Meanwhile, the government has also set up an initiative called The Business in You that offers mentoring services, advice and inspiration for small firms.

Start networking

Essentially building relationships, networking is important if you want to grow your business. There is a range of networking strategies you can employ to increase awareness of your business and meet people who can influence your future, from attending events where you’ll meet others in your field to arranging speaking engagements to help build your reputation.

When you meet people, it’s important to take an interest – networking is more than pushing your product or service, it can help expand your awareness and knowledge of all the factors influencing your industry, including how your business can help solve problems or fill a gap in the market. Once you meet people you find especially interesting, it’s a good idea to follow up your meeting by dropping them an email or arranging to get together, rather than simply exchanging business cards.

You can also get networking online – if you haven’t already set up a LinkedIn profile or joined Twitter, it’s well worth doing so, while Facebook is another useful tool for self-promotion. Social networks allow you to connect with influencers in your field, check out the competition, capitalise on selling and marketing opportunities and engage with your audience.

3 keys to management success

Much has been written about management tips and techniques over the decades, but the truth is that there’s no real secret as such to uncover – you simply have to apply a bit of common sense and transparency to how you operate. Read on for what I think are the three main things to consider if you want to see success as a manager.

management success1) Good communication

Communication skills are crucial when it comes to management, from the emails you send out to clients to the day-to-day interaction you have with the people you work with. This means not only keeping the relevant parties up to date with what you’re doing, but also making sure your colleagues and partners know how to get in touch with you, wherever you are during the working day.

I’ve had to manage quite a few remote workers during my time as a manager, as well as interact with contacts located around the country, and have found that it’s a two-way street when it comes to keeping in touch with people you manage who don’t work in the same building as you. While it’s reasonable to expect to be kept in the loop about everything you’re involved with, you should also make it as easy as possible for this to happen.

So, I’ve done everything from set up a public contacts list so that everyone on my team can clearly see how to contact other remote workers via various means, to making regular use of audio conferencing services to set up group meetings. Try not to rely on email communication alone; I’ve found the quickest way to get things sorted is by speaking to people directly!

2) Block out distractions

It’s easy to get distracted by countless emails and requests from colleagues when it comes to doing your day-to-day work. As a manager, you probably feel like it’s your duty to deal with everything straight away, regardless of what you might be working on yourself. However, it’s vital that you learn how to tune out these distractions when needed so you can get your own projects done.

One thing I’ve found useful is blocking out a few hours a week just for my own work by going to a nearby cafe or a quiet room in the office, turning off my emails/instant messenger/phone and simply doing what needs to be done. At first, I spent half of the time worrying about all the emails piling up in my inbox! But, you eventually realise that you save much time and energy by allocating your working hours in this way, leaving you in a better position to deal with all those emails and requests when your own tasks are done.

3) Be respectful

One thing I’ve learnt from working under others is that being a manager doesn’t mean you’re entitled to adopt an aggressive attitude and simply order people around without listening to them. Treating the workers around you with respect is the best way to cultivate trust, motivate your staff, make sure things get done to a high standard and ultimately expand your business.

A good business is founded and grows on the ideas and hard work of many people, not just one, so always be prepared to take on board the suggestions of others and admit when you’re in the wrong! Set a good example in this regard and this ethos should spread throughout your own team – and eventually the company.

A guide to accidental damage insurance for landlords

Although landlords will find their property is covered for most eventualities by specialist building and contents insurance policies, there is an additional type of insurance that is well worth considering. Read on to find out more about accidental damage cover.

accidental damage insuranceWhat is accidental damage insurance?

Accidental damage insurance offers protection against one-off mishaps that may occur in your property and cause significant damage, either to the contents or the building itself. Such mishaps may occur as a result of your tenants’ behaviour, or be caused by you directly. This type of cover is sometimes included as standard in landlord insurance policies or it may be offered as an optional extra.

Used in conjunction with other policies, it can make life easier for landlords by providing them with comprehensive cover for their rental properties. Incidents that an accidental damage policy will cover range from minor accidents like a dented ceiling or a wine spillage on the carpet, to more serious DIY disasters.

For example, if you’re carrying out some basic maintenance tasks in the property and end up damaging a water pipe by hammering a nail into the wall, this will be covered under your accidental damage policy.

These policies cover both accidental damage to both buildings and contents. For this reason, they should give you peace of mind about the floors, walls and roof of your property, as well as the windows and doors. If you allow some of your possessions to be used by the tenants, such as furniture and a television, then these items should also be covered. However, contents of the property that belong to the tenants will not be insured.

The fine print

Remember that accidental damage cover does not apply to general wear and tear around the property. This is because damage that occurs as the result of sustained usage is not considered accidental. So you would not be able to claim for a chair that falls apart after several years of being sat on, or for a mechanical fault with an old washing machine or dishwasher.

You will also struggle to claim for any damage caused by domestic animals or the work of contractors such as plumbers, roofers and painters on an accidental damage policy, as this will be deemed bad workmanship.

With this in mind, it is important that any landlord is aware of exactly how specific damage has occurred within their property before going ahead with an insurance claim.

Another form of cover sometimes available as an optional extra for landlords is malicious damage insurance. This protects against the more serious destruction of your property and can be useful if you are unfortunate enough to have tenants who set fire to furniture or trash entire rooms in the property by throwing wild parties.

Although you’re unlikely to encounter this kind of tenant if you’re diligent about who you let the property to, having insurance against malicious damage can offer an extra level of protection for your investment.

If you did end up with a badly damaged property and did not have adequate insurance in place, you could struggle to afford the repairs. This would make it very difficult to get new tenants into the house, leading to further loss of income.

Bike Commuting On The Rise: What Should You Know About It?

bikesIn the last decade, it is reported that the number of people taking to the roads on bikes has risen by over 100%.

Subsequently bike storage has become an essential consideration for any cyclist.

Bike theft has also increased especially in inner urban city areas where bikes are virtually on every corner you turn.

Cycles are not safe to leave anywhere; not your garden, driveway, porch or even padlocked to a street lamp. Without secure storage, your valuable bike is not safe.

Another factor to the demand and increase in desire for users to have ‘suitable’ and secure cycle storage is the development and increase in designs and styles available to bike users. It’s not only security that is sort after or considered when one seeks bicycle storage; suitability now also plays a very important factor.

So it goes without saying, unless you have a very affluent and secure storage space on your drive way, porch, garage, garden or office car park; then you will have to bring a bike inside, your home or office, which presents a new problem in itself. Firstly bringing your bike inside your home or office presents space issues, secondly décor issues; will it fit in or be inconveniently out of place.

bike handling

This has led to a number of designers developing new and somewhat quirky cycle storage solutions for the inside. These come in various designs, styles and materials that can be custom made to uniquely accommodate your space and interior décor. Conclusively nowadays it is very clear that storage solutions for bikes have to offer a combination of high security with aesthetic, design and cost accordingly.

Doctors detail the candidates perfect for LASIK based on their Job Description

Corrective Laser eye surgery is quickly becoming a popular solution for those with defective vision across the globe and the quick pace at which the procedure has been accepted showcases both its many advantages as well as the success rate that it promises.

laser eye surgerySurgical procedures like the LASIK, that correct vision defects have advanced considerably in the last few years thanks to both proficient surgeons who are becoming better acquainted with the procedure, but also technological advances that are making it suitable for greater number of people with vision problems.

While a vision corrective surgery is something that most of us using glasses or contact lenses could benefit with, doctors and surgeons have identified people with particular job descriptions and profession who could benefit from it a lot more than others.

According to the experts, a good candidate for a Laser eye surgery generally performs excessive reading, working on the computer, exercising or physical labor and working in dry environments.

If your job and lifestyle demands one or more of these activities on a regular basis, then a procedure like the LASIK is the perfect solution for you.

The list obviously includes the likes of software professionals, those who spend countless hours in front of their PCs, people who read voraciously like lawyers, sportsmen involved in heavy physical activities and the likes of firefighters who work in demanding conditions that are also hot and dry. Doctors who have been performing the surgery for years now say that people with such job descriptions would benefit the most as not having to deal with the distraction of glasses or the dryness of contact lenses gives them a better chance to concentrate and get the job done without straining themselves.

While Laser eye surgery treatments benefit almost everyone with defective vision, these guidelines definitely help prospective patients in deciding if they really need to go in for the surgery. With the procedure being, quick, pain free and having short recovery time, it is no wonder that many who wish to have perfect natural vision are now opting for it.

Advice for businesses looking to attract customer feedback

Whatever industry you operate in, you should always look to get feedback from your customers. Encouraging customers to give feedback – whether it’s on your product range or the standard of service provided by customer-facing staff like call centre operatives or sales reps – will help customers feel valued and they should see your organisation in a better light. Asking customers for their opinions is a great way to show you appreciate their thoughts and can give your company a personal touch.

Of course, offering customers the chance to provide feedback is a good way for them to highlight any issues, be they positive or critical, that they have with your firm. If it’s something fairly trivial – perhaps they preferred the design of an old logo compared to a new one – or more substantial, offering a platform where people can state their views can help you review various aspects of your organisation and plan for the future.

Email customers who have just made a purchase for their opinions on their experience of dealing with your organisation. Whether you ask them to submit a review that you place on your own website or a third party website like Trip Advisor, you should find that by emailing customers for their opinion it will prompt them to get in touch.

Alternatively, you could make a follow-up phone call. Although this will be more time-consuming than sending an email, it does make for a more personal touch, something that customers are likely to appreciate.

A great way to solicit feedback from your customers is by offering incentives such as free gifts. People love to receive presents – after all, telling you their views will cost them nothing but a little of their spare time – so pointing out your organisation will send them a physical ‘thank you’ is sure to encourage them to fill out a survey or submit a product review.

If you’re hoping to gain customer feedback quickly, you might want to run a promotion stating your gifts will only be offered for a limited time or given to a specific number of people who get in contact with you first.

You’ll need to think carefully about what items you are going offer as a way of encouraging customer feedback. It makes sense to provide gifts with universal appeal among your key target demographic and that will be used on a regular basis, and this is something that can be achieved by handing out branded mugs or pens.

Virtually everyone uses mugs and pens on a day-to-day basis, which means your customers should not only be happy to receive them but will get plenty of use out of them. Mugs and pens also offer a great chance for you to promote your organisation because you can have them branded with your logo and call to action – so recipients will be exposed to your brand every time they use their gift.

It’s also a good idea to print your organisation’s contact details, such as your telephone number, email address and Twitter handle, on your promotional gifts so people know how to get in touch in the event they want to give more feedback or make some other enquiry about your services.

What steps are you taking to attract feedback from customers? Leave a comment and let us know!

How the right equipment can help expand your small business

Starting up and running a small business can be challenging, yet infinitely rewarding if sales and profits eventually rise. While you can maintain this state for a little while, you’re generally better off expanding to boost revenues further. Having the right equipment in place can be crucial to your growth in a number of ways – read on to find out more.

1) Manufacturing

If you want to enhance sales by increasing production, you will need to ensure your manufacturing processes can stand up to this. If you already invested in machinery with a larger capacity than you initially required, you may not need to do much.

However, some business owners will need to look at either buying new equipment to boost output and efficiency – such as an automatic labelling machine to avoid having to label goods by hand – or outsourcing some or all production to another firm.

Just be wary of overreaching yourself by purchasing machinery with a much bigger capacity than you currently need. While it’s good to keep one eye on the future, you may end up wasting money if sales trends change and you never get to use those extra production capabilities.

2) IT

It’s difficult to avoid using computers if you run your own business. They make life much easier all round, whether they’re used for bookkeeping and stock records or online tax returns and internet advertising. As the technology that powers your PC or laptop is constantly changing, it’s a good idea to ensure you always have the best machine for your needs.

What may have been top of the range just five years ago is likely to be near obsolete by now. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should replace your computer every few months; many systems can happily tick along for years without any issues, as long as you keep the operating system up to date. You could simply make sure your other software is also fully updated and therefore not have to buy another computer for a long time.

Having said that, times of growth may well mean you will need a machine with increased processing power to deal with any new applications you might have to use. You could also have to buy extra computers if you take on new staff. While this can seem like a large expense to begin with, you should see the benefits in the form of increased efficiency and, hopefully, higher sales and profits in the long term.

3) Transport

You might not think that your car or van counts as company equipment, but it certainly does if you regularly rely on your vehicle for certain business operations. Ensuring your van is in top condition and fit for purpose when it comes to picking up supplies and/or delivering goods is crucial however successful your venture has been so far.

When it comes to actually expanding your business, you may need to consider either replacing your existing set of wheels or investing in some additions to form a ‘fleet’ if, say, you hire extra staff. Of course, if you usually use your van for delivery, you might want to use the services of an outside logistics company instead of continuing to deliver yourself, but it’s worth considering all of the options available to you to see what would be most cost-effective.

Is virtualisation a cost-effective choice for my company?

With a recent IDC poll of chief information officers (CIOs) revealing that virtualisation is their top priority for 2012, many businesses that might not have previously considered the technology are now doing so.

This is especially the case for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which, through virtualisation, can enjoy an array of benefits that until now only their larger counterparts could take advantage of.

Rather than being tied to one server per single application, SMEs can now enjoy having several virtual machines based on the same physical server. Servers have been getting increasingly powerful with larger amounts of capacity, but when just one application is run on them, this means a lot of computing power simply goes to waste.

In addition, it also means that when a new application is required, companies have to fork out for the initial outlay of new IT infrastructure. On the other hand, server virtualisation negates the need to pay for new servers, which is a financial saving that firms with minimal resources will no doubt welcome.

Likewise, larger organisations will constantly strive to save money during the current economic climate, so virtualisation is a technology that can be a cost-effective option for a wide range of companies.

However, the financial benefits will particularly be seen for those businesses that have approximately half a dozen servers or more, so smaller firms might want to wait until they have a grown a little before committing to virtualisation. Despite this, there are still plenty of pros to the technology, so it will depend on what your IT priorities are as a company.

One advantage already mentioned is that you can get the full potential out of your computing power, rather than large percentages of a server not being required, as if often the case with traditional technology. Furthermore, with servers fully used when virtualised, many companies find they can reduce the number of servers they require. This can not only save data centre space, but also reduce the strain placed on resources in order to keep the servers running and up to date.

Staff and time are often limited at SMEs, so freeing up resources will no doubt be welcomed and help provide increased flexibility. Another benefit to virtualisation is that because high availability and fault tolerance are built into the technology from the beginning, this eliminates weak points, slashing the potential for downtime.

Downtime is costly to businesses both large and small, but SMEs will especially feel the consequences of lost sales, a diminished reputation and consumer frustration caused by a website crashing and operations coming to a halt. They will not have the money, wide customer base and PR machines that their larger counterparts have, so are unlikely to bounce back as quickly from downtime.

Virtualisation can also open the door for ageing software to be removed. This can often be a problem at larger companies that have been set in their IT ways for several years and have perhaps been unsure of how to overhaul their infrastructure due to their size.

One thing smaller firms should consider is whether they have the technical expertise to cope with the move to virtualisation. This is where choosing a hosting partner can prove effective, as such a company will have the time, knowledge and resources to oversee and manage the deployment of virtual servers.

5 awesome benefits offered by Hosted PBX for savvy business firms

Businesses in the current competitive market are finding every way possible to cut costs and to ensure greater efficiency on the back of systems and infrastructure that is relatively trouble-free and largely reliable.

Hosted PBX or Virtual PBX providers are offering companies these quality services that enable them to concentrate on their own processes without having to worry about supporting infrastructure.

This along with many more benefits makes Virtual PBX a vital tool in creating cash-savvy and performance-centric corporate houses that expect only the very best.

  • The first and most important advantage that Virtual PBX brings is the low cost of ownership. Since companies need not invest in a supporting infrastructure and hardware, there are simply no installation or purchase costs. Maintenance costs are also kept to an absolute bare minimum as often a top quality Virtual PBX service provider takes care of it.
  • Most current businesses rely very heavily on staying in touch with clients via the telephone and with voice calls being transferred over the IP; one can expect a great reduction in costs thanks to Virtual PBX services.
  • Many find Virtual PBX especially useful when it comes to the great number of additional features that it provides for voice call users. Not only are calls way cheaper as discussed above, but a quality provider offers add-ons like ACD (Automatic Call Distribution), integrated auto attendant, virtual receptionist, call queue management, voice mail transcription and priority call services among many more.
  • Hosted PBX services offer you peace of mind by providing the necessary security features that are up-to-date and highly effective. Since the provider is dedicated to offering the specific services, their encryption methods and firewalls are far more current, often updated and bring greater data security.

Virtual PBX has an in-built feature of flexibility and hence you can change from a small company to a larger firm that requires more phone lines without changing the basic system at anytime. You can even downsize at any point and all this is done with almost no change to the existing lines.