10 Excellent Cloud Applications for Small Businesses

1. Sales Force – Customer Relationship Management – https://www.salesforce.com

2. Google Analytics – Website Intelligence – http://www.google.com/analytics/

3. Rypple – Workforce Development – http://rypple.com/

4. Base Camp – Project Management – http://basecamp.com/

5. Microsoft 356 – Productivity and Collaboration – http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/office365/free-office365-trial.aspx

6. Google Apps – Productivity and Collaboration – http://www.google.com/apps

7. Freshbooks – Accounting and invoicing – http://www.freshbooks.com

8. Drop Box – File Storage and Sharing – https://www.dropbox.com

9. Zen Desk – Customer Service – http://www.zendesk.com/g

10. Tribe HR – Human Resource Management – http://tribehr.com/

For more information about how the cloud can revolutionise the way you do business go our Cloud Solutions page or call us on Supreme Systems 0800 001 5942 for more advice.

Stabilising Your IT Environment in 6 Weeks! – A view from an IT Company in Birmingham

Not possible I hear you say! Yes it is say the Supreme team….. We believe that IT shouldn’t slow you down, stop you from working or stress you out. In this day and age – your IT environment should allow you to work to the best of your ability and actually increase productivity.

The problem is, many businesses have left their IT unattended or poorly managed for too long and it is now littered with issues, clogged with viruses and burned out. This has led to slow running PCs, broken equipment, unprotected workstations and urgently needed updates or upgrades.

Are you tired of your staff reporting IT issues to you? Maybe there are legacy issues which have never been resolved? Well did you know if your environment is stabilised effectively (to the Supreme standard), then these problems will become a thing of the past. Having a stable IT environment will actually increase staff productivity which in turn leads to better efficiency, increased profitability and, not to forget, a happier team.

At Supreme we aim to completely stabilise your environment IN THE FIRST 6 WEEKS that we take you on board as a client. We work our socks off to ensure that we get to know your business inside out, implement protective software for your data and emails, resolve legacy issues and monitor, audit and evaluate your entire infrastructure so we can recommend and implement tailored solutions. Meaning you can do what you do best – run your business.

If you would like to find out more please feel free to call the Supreme office on 0800 001 5942

4 Things You Should Definitely Consider Doing This Year

Made your New Year’s Resolutions? Here are 4 more you may want to include in your list:

1. Upgrade We blogged recently about the impending retirement of Windows XP – the grand doyenne of operating systems. What still amazes us is that with just over 12 months before this momentous event occurs many UK businesses are yet to make any plans to upgrade.

So what’s the fuss about upgrading anyway? Surely it is just another money-making scheme by Microsoft to get businesses to spend money on unnecessary OS when XP works fine? Well…not quite. Come April 8 2014, Microsoft will stop supporting XP. This means you will no longer receive important security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information. When you consider that the vast the majority of viruses and malware that are designed today are specifically for Windows XP – upgrading may not seem like such a bad idea!

However operating system upgrades require a lot of planning and preparation. You need to decide what version to upgrade to (Windows 7 or 8?); consider the impact of the upgrade on legacy applications which may only run on XP (you can overcome this by running a virtual XP machine on Windows 7); cost implications (spread the cost or consider cloud options); and time limitations

During the next few months, Client Services will be speaking to those of you who are still running XP to get the ball rolling on upgrading. If you want to speak to someone about upgrading before then call Angela Hart on 0800 001 5942.

2. Laptops and Notebooks The old adage “Prevention is Better than Cure” is one which we hold dear to our hearts at Supreme and when it comes to protecting your data and ensuring your business is able to continue functioning after a “disaster” there is nothing better than having a disaster recovery plan in place.

Theft, employee sabotage, fire, flooding, snow or even volcanic ash can impact work massively– so what failsafe’s do you have in place to ensure that your business operates as normal if a disaster occurs? A disaster recovery plan is a documented process to recover and protect a business’ IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster. We give you a free Disaster Recovery Plan Template (worth £299) when you purchase any one of our DR solutions – our Client Services Team can help you complete the plan for free if you are pressed for time.

Greg Markwardt our Technical Liaison Manager will be speaking to those of you who do not yet have a DR solution in place during February and March. You can call him on 0800 001 5942 if you would like to discuss your requirements earlier.

3. Cloud Technology The New Kid on the Blog – but one that will completely revolutionise the way we all work. The main benefit of the Cloud is that it allows you to work from wherever you are. Plus it is very cost effective.

This video by Suzie Evans Business Development Director at Supreme Systems introduces you to “the cloud” and gives you some ideas on how you can use Cloud Technology in your business.

During 2013 we will be holding several workshops that will help you better understand the cloud plus showcase some of the latest cloud technology. Dates will be published in our monthly newsletter and on our blog so look out for those

4. Going Green We are still surprised about how much paper businesses still use – the biggest culprits are accounts departments who still send out paper invoices, statements and remittances. Not only is this bad for the environment but because the cost of postage continues to rise, this practice is also very experience. We have worked with most of the leading accounting packages and all can (or can be customised to) send invoices, quotes and the like via email.

Another area where businesses can earn their “green” stripes is by cutting down on unnecessary travel costs. Applications such as Microsoft Lync or GoToMeeting allow you to conduct and attend meetings from wherever you are. You can share documents, share your computer screen and even have a video conference from the comfort of your office or home (a great failsafe to include in your Disaster Recovery Plan).

In March we will have a “Green Technology” feature that will give you more ideas on how you can use IT to make your business more green so look out for this.

What other IT Resolutions Do You Have? Share yours below or on our Facebook Page

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IT Support You Can Trust – A Letter to Business Owners in Birmingham & the West Midlands

Dear Business Owner,

Running and growing your own business can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life….it can also be one of the most frustrating and challenging accomplishments you embark on.

You need solutions that enable you to run your business the way you want without putting a strain on your two most valuable resources – time and money. That’s why we started Supreme Systems.

Our entire focus is on helping businesses get ahead by using technology effectively to help make their businesses more productive and in turn more profitable. We believe that IT should be the least of your worries which is why we promise that if you choose Supreme as your trusted IT partner your team will have fewer IT issues and when they do we will strive to resolve them as fast as we can.

I would like to highlight three things that set us apart from other technical support companies:

  • We guarantee a 1 hour response time to your network emergencies to minimize downtime
  • We don’t work 9-5, we work 9-fixed! Our highly qualified engineers will always strive to resolve your issues as quickly as possible and we will continue working on your problem until it is fixed.
  • Our stock answer is YES! Even if your query falls outside our remit, we will always do our best to help so just ask.

Every company is different and faces different challenges. Before recommending our services it’s important we listen to the unique requirements of each individual client, find out what the legacy issues and current challenges are and discuss goals for the future. I would welcome the opportunity to have a discussion like this with you.

If you are looking for an IT company to come alongside your business as a trusted IT partner and would like to discuss this further please call the Supreme office on 0800 001 5942 and speak to myself or a member of the technical team. Or you can email me suzie@www.supremesystems.co.uk

I look forward to hearing from you!

Kind regards,

Suzannah Evans
Business Development Director
Supreme Systems

Microsoft, Google, RIM, Apple, Twitter , Facebook – We Thank You!

This post is really a letter of gratitude to the movers and shakers of the technology world – to say thank you for how they have truly revolutionised the way we live and work.

Last week my colleague Suzie hit a brick wall when trying to find some information on behalf of our client. “Why don’t you try Google” said Sim – Client Services Manager. Within 10 minutes of conducting a search on Google she had found the information she required. “Where would we be without Google!” she shrieked and clapped her hands in glee!

Where exactly! And not just Google, in fact – where would we be without the technological advances of brought to us by Microsoft, Apple, RIM, Facebook and Twitter. Most PCs and Laptops that we use both at home and at work are powered by software developed by Microsoft; Smartphones such as RIM’s BlackBerry are a business person’s best friend and Apple’s iPad has revolutionised the way we use computers. Where will Facebook and Twitter users be without their daily updates, retweets and the like?

The effect these tech giants now have on our day to day lives became more evident to me on a recent holiday trip.

After strong arming “workaholic hubby” to take some time off we agreed on a 12 night cruise to the Mediterranean taking in ports such as Madeira, Lisbon, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. Although I was glad for the time off there was a sense of dread that I would be unreachable in case of emergencies especially as we had just kicked off a new marketing drive. What if I was urgently needed to redraft a piece of literature? What about new leads that came in? Would I be able to respond accordingly or at least instruct the team on how to respond? What if I was unreachable? I noticed there were two sea days on the itinerary (when you are on the sea far from land and far from any form of communication). This meant that I would be completely out of reach during those days!

I needn’t have worried.

My trusted Blackberry ensured that I received every email message sent to me even during sea days because although we were stuck at sea the ship was fully equipped with its own telecommunication mast that allowed us to receive email messages. Because we were on an American ship, our mobile phones assumed we were in America and adapted its frequencies accordingly. Communicating with the team back in England was also simple and using Blackberry’s Messenger service all messages sent to the team was free. Bonus!

I had planned to finish an article which formed part of the marketing campaign but on reaching the ship I discovered that I had left the usb stick with the article at home – along with some material which I had planned to use as a resource. I remembered that I had emailed the document to myself prior to leaving for the holiday so I knew I could simply download the document from my email account which could be easily accessed using OWA (Outlook Web Access). Once the document was downloaded, I quickly located the missing resources using Google and I was able to complete my article as planned.
Imagine what would have happened if I did not have the tools mentioned above to hand? The cynical amongst you may well say “you would have had more of a holiday” but I disagree. In all honesty, I was able to enjoy my holiday more because my mind was at rest knowing that a) I could be contactable in case of any emergency and b) if I needed to do any urgent work it could be done without hassle.

I am sure you all have your own stories about how Technology saved the day. I for one will never stop singing the praises of the technology giants that have made my life easier. So once again thank you!

Windows XP Upgrade…Time is running out!

We recently received a new business call from the Financial Director of an insurance company based in Birmingham with approx. 150 desktops. He had been hearing constant talk of end-of-support for Microsoft XP, and as most of his desktops were still running XP he wanted to find out exactly what end-of-support meant and how that would affect his business. We seem to be getting more and more of this type of query – and not just for XP but also regarding other end-of-life Microsoft OS including Windows Small Business Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003. It seems like not all businesses have quite got the message (or understand) the significance of end-of-life support. The article seeks to address this knowledge gap. To keep things simple we have focused on the impact on XP users but the same applies for other end-of-life OS.So some background info…XP – the grand doyenne of operating systems was released in October 2001 and provided a significant boost in stability. Arguably Microsoft’s best desktop OS, it has been a highly popular choice for businesses since then. But all good things must come to an end and in line with Microsoft’s standard policy of offering a minimum 10 years support for business products, Microsoft stopped issuing XP patches on April 8, 2014.

Why is this a big deal for your business? One word – Security! If hackers for example find an exploit in the operating system, it will no longer be “patched” (fixed) by Microsoft. You are on your own and that means your systems are open to potential attacks from unscrupulous types. Despite this, according to a recent study conducted by research house Forrester, 38 per cent of business PCs were still running XP, and 16 per cent of companies were still deploying XP on new machines, ignoring the warnings from Microsoft and industry experts.

So why are companies still hanging on to XP?

There are a number of reasons why businesses continue to run XP. Some organizations, particularly smaller ones, can’t afford to buy new PCs to run Win 7/8. Others don’t think they require a modern OS. The most touted reason for not upgrading is the old adage “if it ain’t broke why fix it?” XP like I mentioned earlier is still considered they most trusted desktop OS and can be relied on to simply work, so many believe that as long as XP is running service pack 3 and has the latest updates and patches and is using any browser higher than Internet Explorer 6, all will be fine.

Well not quite…

When Microsoft ends support, there’s a risk applications developed for the OS won’t work well because third party developers will also stop their support. In addition, companies that make peripheral devices, like printers and mice, will stop their driver support for XP.

Despite its huge following in reality there has never been a month when Microsoft hasn’t issued a key patch for XP – it is a favourite target for shady types so if you’re a likely target for hackers (these days any business can be deemed a “likely target”) by not moving away from XP you are really laying out an open invitation for your systems to be compromised.

Enterprise organizations (500+ desktops) seem to have got the message and have been migrating to other OS for some time – it is the SMEs (less than 500 desktops) that cause most concern. The reason for the hesitancy to upgrade is a) because of the potential costs to upgrade and b) making time to upgrade.

Tackling the cost issue

Chances are if you are still running XP (or indeed Windows 2003 or SBS 2003) the hardware it currently sits on will also be due an upgrade. Most PCs now come bundled with the latest operating system. For servers you can consider hosted versions instead of on-premise. If you must have an on-premise solution Widows Server 2012 retails for less than £500 and CAL licences for circa 20 users retail for pretty much the same (so not that much of a stretch financially – call us if you require quotes for more seats or if you want to discuss having a hosted server instead)

Planning a Migration

A migration to Windows 7 from XP can take up to 6 weeks to complete and a proper migration plan is called for. With less than five months to go before support ceases for XP it is essential that businesses start acting now to ensure the security of their systems.

Making a migration plan

If you haven’t started on an XP migration project yet, here are some tips on what to do:

  • Decide what platform you’re moving to: Few businesses are opting for Windows 8 – not only does the new OS have a few glitches it needs to tackle but its interface is so different from what staff are used to.
  • Do a hardware and application assessment. Can existing PCs run the new platform? Are your apps compatible with it? Once that’s done, decide if apps need to be migrated. You may want to start with one business-critical app as a test.
  • Do you have the resources to do the migration yourself? Migrations can be time consuming and also prone to errors if not done properly. If you do not have the in-house resource to manage this process it is time to start looking for partners that can help.
  • Build a Win7/8 reference image to test applications against;
  • Develop a project plan and a communications plan. Departments have to know what’s coming – you don’t want to delay a product launch because there’s a PC migration. Every staff member getting a new PC has to know when to expect it. Do they need to avoid travelling at a particular time? Will the company have to give some people PCs temporarily?
  • Perform the migration on test groups to tackle issues systematically
  • Planning a desktop migration is also a great time to think about alternatives, like virtual desktop infrastructure and thin clients. It is also a great opportunity to think about implementing a bring-your-own device (BYOD) policy especially if the cost of purchasing new hardware will be an issue. However remember BYOD comes with it’s on headaches…
  • If you find that you will still require XP to run some legacy applications you may want to consider running XP on virtual machines.

If you are planning an OS migration or want advice on where to start – why not give our Technical Team a call on 0800 001 5942 or email vip@www.supremesystems.co.uk? We will be happy to help and the consultation is FREE!

Time is running out. Upgrade to Windows 7 Soon!

As you may know Windows XP, the Grand Doyenne of Operating Systems will soon be retired by Microsoft. Support for Windows XP SP2 ended on July 13, 2010 and by 2014 support for the entire OS will be redundant.

So what does this mean for my business?

Don’t worry if you are not currently running the latest version of Windows. Your PCs should continue to start and run as normal.
The only concern for your business is that when Microsoft withdraws support for an Operating System (OS—i.e. XP, Vista and Windows 7. An OS is like the petrol in your car—it powers your PC) it stops producing critical security updates to protect your PCs from viruses, spyware and other malicious software.

What should I do to protect my network?

If you are currently running XP SP2 (32 Bit) you will need to upgrade to XP SP3 to ensure your PCs remain protected. XP SP3 will continue to be supported through to April 2014. If you are an SS customer we will have programmed your PCs to automatically upgrade to SP3.

You should also consider upgrading to the latest Microsoft Operating System – Windows 7…

Windows 7 you say? Tell me more!

I am glad you asked. Windows 7 is the new kid on the block as far as Microsoft OS is concerned and has been acclaimed by many as the best OS by Microsoft to date achieving what the much derided Vista attempted to do but failed miserably.

You may have seen the adverts on TV about the new OS (”I am a PC and Windows 7 is my idea”) which demonstrated some of the key features of Windows 7.

Let me outline some of these features and tell you why they will benefit your business if you upgrade.

1. Security. Windows 7 is more secure than XP and offers better user controls

2. Greater compatibility. Unlike Windows Vista, most hardware and software is readily compatible with Windows 7 and will work right out of the box, with no need to download and install additional drivers

3. Lower system requirements. Windows 7 does not need as much resource to run in comparison to Vista so you can pretty much run 7 on your current hardware.

4. Simpler Navigation. Features such as Aero-shake and Aero-Peek make navigation so much easier in Windows 7

5. Better Multi-Tasking. Windows 7 now offers a more aesthetically pleasing, icon-based taskbar that lets you permanently pin and organize favourite programs on it. You can additionally point to icons to get thumbnail previews of open files and windows associated with each program, all accessible with a click

6. Simpler File Organisation. Libraries, which serve as all-purpose containers, allow you to conveniently catalogue photos, music, video and files in single locations, no matter where they live on your hard drive. Because of this, it’s a breeze to keep all materials related to the same work project organized in one readily retrievable location.

7. Better overall performance. Enjoy faster boot times improved desktop responsiveness, more reliable desktop search functions, simpler document retrieval. Making it infinitely simpler to organize, store and navigate both your desktop and supported applications.

To find out more about upgrading to Windows 7, get in touch now – 0800 001 5942