ITS helps keep the lights on at Lyco with new data recovery products

Retailer Lyco was established in 1995 and has grown to become the UK’s premier lighting company. It sells over 4,500 lighting products, for commercial and domestic use, within the EU, and is currently planning an expansion to a second warehouse. The company differentiates itself by providing the latest products from around the world at competitive prices, coupled with award-winning customer service. ITS provides helpdesk, onsite IT support, and manages software licenses and business continuity through its BlackVault and BlackCloud solutions.

Challenge

As a Managed Services customer of ITS since 2009, Lyco had built up a significant amount of trust in its IT partner. Rapid expansion, increasing stock and product lines, and a growing customer base contributed to an exponential growth in business data. Lyco turned to ITS when a solution was required to store this increased amount of data, both onsite and offsite.

Protecting the data as well as having confidence in the ability to recover data in a timely fashion was a key business objective, as was the need to provide a constant online service to customers. By securely locating data across multiple sites, the business could continue to run regardless of circumstances. In any disaster situation, customer facing and internal systems, applications and data needed to be recoverable in a secure alternate environment.

Lyco required data to be vaulted securely over the internet to a third-party location that met and/or exceeded its due diligence and privacy requirements, as well as an appliance onsite for rapid local recovery, and 24/7 support with a one hour response time. The company also targeted a reduction in recovery times from less than eight hours to less than two hours over a stable secure connection, significantly minimising the potential risk of data loss, as well as operational downtime.

Although an existing backup solution and USB discs had served Lyco well previously, the IT team was not confident that the solution in place was backing up business critical systems correctly and consistently. The inability to back up data to a secure third-party location was leaving the retailer at risk, and there were constant service drop outs due to a poor connection between Lyco and the existing data storage facility. In spite of a recovery time reduction to five hours with the existing solution, Lyco wanted the ability to recover data within one hour or less.

Solution

ITS provided Lyco with a robust recovery solution for any disaster situation through the implementation of two new IT services, BlackCloud and BlackVault.

BlackCloud offered a fully managed private cloud that enabled Lyco to replicate data to an offsite location. While BlackVault provided a comprehensive onsite disaster recovery platform that created a secure virtual environment, giving Lyco quick and easy access to servers as necessary.

As the solutions were brand new to the market, although successfully tried and tested in the US, an expert team from ITS’ US parent company Rentsys travelled to the UK to assist the implementation and train Lyco’s team.

ITS ensured that the correct IT and networking infrastructure, documentation, procedures and processes were in place. As the US team was instrumental to the implementation, it worked to FEIEC regulatory standards, which ensured that data is handled according to stringent guidelines used by US financial institutions.

BlackCloud provided data de-duplication, and encryption in transit and at rest, so storage space is not wasted on duplicated data nor transferred in an insecure manner. It also reduced the risk of data loss and enabled rapid data vaulting and recovery from any location with a suitable secure Internet connection. Vaults are fully automated, and Lyco is now able to quickly restore its IT systems held within BlackCloud onto standby servers.

Data vaults are now securely and consistently stored offsite, and there is no need for Lyco to use an external hard drive or USBs, and remove these offsite as an additional backup method. As ITS provided a fully managed service, restoration of data and monitoring of the vaulting jobs are automatically in place with the ITS team ready to assist regardless of minor vaulting failure or full disaster scenarios.

For onsite storage, the Black Vault Managed Recovery Platform provided Lyco with peace of mind and consisted of core service components: BlackVault Vaulting, BlackVault Recovery and BlackVault Archive.

Mark Staffiere, IT Director, Lyco: “Now that we have onsite and remote back up, we are confident that our data can be recovered quickly, while our IT team can focus on core business and strategic projects. ITS really is helping us to keep the lights on 24/7 – they managed the whole process, they understand our business requirements and ensured these were met.”

Benefits
  • Lyco was able to outsource disaster recovery, vaulting and archiving of data in its entirety to a single, trusted partner
  • Peace of mind – insurance policy protecting a growing business
  • Recovery time according to SLA – BlackVault recovery service provided 1.5tb data less than four hour local recovery, less than eight hour cloud recovery – in working hours (30 day retention period)
  • Consolidated, secure vaulting
  • Access to global expertise with over 10 years’ experience in Disaster Recovery
  • A fully monitored and manned solution
  • 24/7 356 days support
  • Ability to have key workers working from home if disaster strikes

http://www.itspecialists.uk.com/

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Conference calling – don’t make the wrong call

With public sector finances subject to increasing scrutiny and cuts, cost-effective procurement of good and services has never been more important. Yet many procurement managers in charge of purchasing conference call services – a key tool for meetings – may be completely unaware of new charges affecting the amount of money spent on these calls.

Kieron James, founder of free conference call service WHYPAY? and board member of the Federation of Communications Services (FCS) outlines these charges and explains how they could lead to unexpectedly high bills and can be done to avoid them.

In 2013/14, the UK public sector spent a total of £242 billion on procurement of goods and services – 33 per cent of total public sector spending. As the public purse tightens, there is a greater need than ever to avoid unnecessary spending.

Average spend

Conference calling remains a popular method of holding meetings for public sector organisations, allowing several participants to dial into a call from different locations and save the expense of travelling to meetings.

While precise figures on the amount of money spent on conference calling will differ according to the organisation, Freedom of Information Requests offer an illustration of the average spend of some of the UK’s most important public sector organisations:

British Transport Police

The average monthly spend in 2014 was £1,696 per month, with an average 55,000 minutes per month of call time. The organisation also paid an annual charge of £34,560 for an online web meetings service.

Ministry of Defence

The average monthly spend in 2014 was £13,000, with an average of 600,000 minutes of call time per month.

New call charges

On 1st July 2015, Ofcom introduced charges for service numbers (numbers starting 084, 087, 09 or 118). Many of these numbers are used to dial in to popular conference call services and, since the changes, calls are now costing businesses and public sector organisations up to 95 per cent more. Despite this increase, there is little awareness of the change and its potential impact on budgets.

The average service charge for calling the 08 numbers provided by six UK conferencing services is now an additional 6.64p per minute. Since Ofcom made its announcement, some mobile providers have also significantly increased their access rates – 02 has raised its access charge from 25p per minute to 45p per minute with other mobile phone operators charging a similar rate.

Research into conference call service providers using service numbers shows that the average charge for a 40 minute call will now cost £11.31 from a mobile or £6.16 from a landline.

The lack of awareness of these new call charges, means public sector organisations, who are under increasing pressure to keep costs down, may face an unexpected bill when dialling into a conference call and, as a result, be over-spending by thousands of pounds per year.

Looking at alternatives

With service charges rising for conference call numbers from some of the UK’s most popular providers, many organisations may wish to consider other options. In the digital age, there are more efficient and cheaper services available to public sector organisations looking to change provider, many of which are run by smaller technology SMEs rather than larger corporations.

In March 2011, the government set out a target of 25 per cent of public sector procurement spend to be awarded to SMEs either directly or indirectly. In August 2015, Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock announced that target was being increased to 33 per cent.

However, while more has been done to bring SMEs on board, many technology SMEs are calling for a better understanding of what they offer.

A recent survey by leading technology association TechUK looked into the issues holding back government from building a strong and rich ecosystem of technology excellence in the UK. It found that 96 per cent of those surveyed thought that Government should be doing more to improve SME’s supply chain experience along with a widespread concern that public sector commissioners are not making sufficient use of all the tools at their disposal. 86 per cent of SMEs said that civil servants need to make more of the Digital Marketplace and there was a lack of awareness.

While the government’s efforts to engage with SMEs should be applauded, more must be done to make it easier for smaller firms to do business with the public sector as ultimately more choice will help with cost savings.

Improving awareness and choice

Conference calls remain an ideal way to conduct meetings and save money on travel expenses. However, there is an opportunity to save even more money and greater awareness of the new call charges is needed so that public sector executives can make a more informed decision about the services they use.

An improved understanding of the ever expanding range of services offered by technology SMEs in this area is also fundamental in order to increase choice and facilitate cost efficiency.

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How clean is your desk?

Your desk home away from home, you spend up to 75% of your working week sitting at it, you may even eat your meals there, but is it clean? According to Professor Charles Gerba the answer is no. (You can go and wash your hands before reading the rest of this if you like…)

Desk equipment that isn’t regularly cleaned harbour millions of potentially harmful bacteria.   According to Gerba’s study the main offender is the phone; this seemingly innocent device can be home to more than 25,127 microbes per square inch – which get transferred to your face every time you use it. (To give some perspective, the average toilet seat harbours 49 microbes per square inch…)

How does this happen?

Food crumbs, hair and unseen debris like skin cells build up at your workstation which support mini eco-systems, encouraging bacteria to thrive.

The warmth that electronic devices generate provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, meaning without regular and thorough disinfecting, these surfaces can encourage growth of bacteria such as MRSA, Listeria, Salmonella and E-Coli.

Gerba’s study concluded that viruses had a 40-90% chance of infecting another person in an office environment due to the ease in which bacteria is transferred in communal areas.

See our infographic below for some facts based on Gerba’s study:How-clean-is-your-desk-infographic

Can’t get the thought of breeding bacteria out of your head, never fear; Gerba’s study also concluded that proper and regular sanitising of all IT equipment reduced the levels of bacteria by 99%!

MAR Services offer specialist IT equipment cleaning as an add on to their daily cleaning service. Read more about how they can help banish that bacteria here!

 

 

 

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Don’t take your eye off the ball over the festive season…

As a number of businesses lock up their premises ready for a nice break over the Christmas season, the festive holidays bring a whole host of challenges for facilities managers which should be addressed in advance. Whether your business stays open or shuts over the Christmas period, there are several simple measures that can be put in place to ensure your employees and employer remain happy and business assets are protected during the holiday.

Nigel Crunden at Office Depot provides a key checklist for FMs over Christmas and discusses the role of the facilities manager during the festive season.

 If you’re closed

 When shutting down for Christmas, FMs need to be thinking ahead about a list of priorities to ensure business assets remain safe and the break goes as smoothly as possible. For FMs preparing for shutdown, contingency is the most pertinent factor.

For companies that close over the holidays, security is often the main issue for FMs as unguarded vacant premises pave the way for opportunist intruders. This is especially true if the necessary precautions haven’t been taken and as the festive season kicks in, it is only natural for employees to unwind. However, by organising priorities well in advance, this will avoid potential complacency creeping in.

Begin asking yourself key questions such as, has the intruder alarm system been tested recently? What is the access policy to the premises during the holiday period? What are the arrangements for your heating and water systems?

In the event of an alarm activation or emergency over Christmas, ensure your call to action procedures are up-to-date and employees that have a responsibility to act are kept informed about their roles. For larger businesses, it’s the FMs job to appoint a number of designated key holders if you or an operations manager is unable to attend the premises in the event of an emergency.

It may seem obvious, but as the winter months are much colder, you must ensure that the heating system is kept on a low temperature when offices are vacant to help prevent freezing pipes in sub-zero temperatures.

In terms of security, budgets might allow some businesses to have attendant’s onsite but for those firms that rely on a security system and CCTV to deter intruders, a rota may need to be put in place for regular premise checks. However, FMs and operations managers may work together to put forward a case for outsourcing security services in order to take extra precautions. This is especially true if it would be detrimental for a business where high-value stock or assets were lost.

If you’re open

For companies that are open, the facilities manager must consider the general health & safety of all employees. During adverse weather conditions, FMs need to be prepared to advise senior management on the best course of action to take. For example, for those businesses where working remotely is an option, it might be safer for employees not to travel to the workplace and work from home.

For companies where it’s business as usual over Christmas, particularly those where employees are largely office-based, initiatives such as shrinking orders for general office supplies is one measure that can be taken to reduce waste. No doubt many staff members will choose to take their annual leave over the Christmas period, so FMs may put on hold some orders so that stock isn’t wasted.

Preparing for the Christmas period largely doesn’t differ from normal business operations for those companies that are open. All the usual workplace rules apply for FMs in terms of keeping employees safe. For example, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that workplace room temperature should not fall below 16 degrees, but the rules that apply require interpretation from the FM in order to decide what’s most efficient for employees.

FMs must address priorities in advance of the Christmas period by consulting with different departments within a business in order to discuss their individual requirements and ensure the business is well prepared for this year’s festive season.

A checklist for FMs
  1. Plan ahead and always have a contingency plan in place
  2. Ensure regular alarm security system checks are planned throughout the year and especially before the Christmas period
  3. Appoint designated key holders
  4. Consider outsourcing security services where extra precautions are required
  5. Consult with senior management and operations managers well in advance of the holidays to discuss plans and additional requirements
  6. Ensure that everything is in hand with the business premises and/or buildings such as heating systems

www.officedepot.eu

 

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Why FM must utilise IT to drive strategic change

asta2-Michael-McCullen-Exec-ChairmanBy Michael McCullen, Executive Chairman, Asta Development

We are told that UK business is experiencing ‘economic recovery,’ however, while confidence is rising, the business community shows no sign of returning to its pre-crash complacency. Economies of scale are the aim of expansion, efficiencies are the goal of restructuring, and there seems general acceptance that future uncertainty and rising energy costs are the only things that business can really count on. A new business culture is emerging within which constant cost minimisation is the norm and is becoming as central to business strategy as the pursuit of sustainability and social responsibility.

As businesses continue to streamline operations and plan investments around efficiencies, one spotlight will always fall on the cost of real estate and its management, which forms a significant proportion of operational costs. Despite the fact that FM has enjoyed an increased profile in recent years, individual FMs and FM organisations alike must increasingly demonstrate their value and contribution to driving efficiency and performance — or risk becoming the target of efficiency drives. FMs face a choice of whether to step up to become a true strategic business partner or remain as a service — a challenge acknowledged repeatedly in major FM reports by organisations such as RICS[1] and the BIFM.

FM is in a strong position to add strategic value; it is in possession of detailed and valuable information about the very environment in which the business operates. When information is power, information technology is an inevitable and critical component. With the right tools, data can be turned into FM business assets. IT has always been a factor, but project planning has often been spreadsheet-centric, facility cost management often divorced from core financials, building control systems rarely integrated into other IT, and even Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) systems are often only used as glorified records filing systems. FM has had a piecemeal approach to IT adoption.

FM’s role as one of the stakeholders in Building Information Modelling (BIM) is beginning to change this. For the first time, facilities will be commissioned with a full 3D modelling history linked to their planning and construction project schedules. FMs will be expected to put these valuable assets to work: link them to building management and evolution, manage and plan the maintenance of assets in a 3D environment and exploit stored information about building infrastructure and services from this rich data resource. BIM-enabled systems will go further than standard CAFM: not only to collect and automate aspects of building data, but to utilise rich, dimensional data and sophisticated planning and scheduling capabilities to:

  • Work smarter to schedule and plan activities and resources, projecting potential scenarios and creating flexible plans
  • Demonstrate strong and appropriate utilisation of people and equipment – supporting and justifying resource investment and replacement
  • Build powerful, useful and business-aligned performance measures as well as track traditional FM measures
  • Schedule work aided by intelligence about infrastructure and services inside the very fabric of buildings — without the potential delays and cost of surveys
  • Deliver repair-and-replace services more predictably and with the ability to demonstrate cost effectiveness and business value
  • Show how FM actively prevents issues and interruptions with forward analysis of costs and dependencies
  • Take control of the energy and waste reduction agenda – embracing, creating and driving sustainability programmes
  • Partner with functions such as IT, to build the business case for the right technical programmes, or with HR to show how environment enhances productivity and wellbeing
  • Influence building design as part of a design review team: to create buildings that are easier and cheaper to maintain without compromising design objectives

Going forward, FM must actively embrace 3D planning: not only inheriting BIM-enabled plans and models, but becoming directly involved far earlier in the development timeframe and delivering expert insight pre-construction to create better buildings and avoid costly mistakes which could cause future maintenance and FM issues. A  new generation of tools is already emerging which is bringing modelling and planning together using common data formats like the IFC standard, which is being adopted by an increasing number of software vendors. Whichever way FM chooses to approach IT, it must do so more rapidly than before in order to evolve as a business function. If it isn’t a clear part of the cost efficiency solution there is a risk it will be seen as part of the problem, but with stronger IT engagement and the right tools, it can show its readiness to contribute to improved business and design processes, as well as long-term building sustainability and efficiency. It can demonstrate that it is not just a management function for buildings but a true part of the constant drive for greater business efficiencies.

Michael McCullen, Executive Chairman, Asta Development

Michael McCullen was one of the founders of Asta Development, which was formed in 1988, and he has played a key role in driving the profitable growth of the company, which was acquired by Eleco plc in 2006. Michael is Executive Chairman of Asta and sits on the main board of Eleco. He holds a Computer Science degree (Manchester) and an MBA (Warwick).

[1] http://www.rics.org/Global/Raising_the_Bar_II_29_01_14_dwl_pc.pdf

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More than 1000 businesses recognise the benefits of edoc

Just two months after the launch of edoc – an innovative new online system for recording waste transfers, over 1000 businesses across the UK have recognised its benefits and started making the switch (www.edoconline.co.uk).

The innovative new system which is designed to save businesses across the UK both time and money has been adopted by a number of the large waste management companies including Grundon Waste Management Ltd as well as businesses such as Helistrat, B&M waste services and CIWM.

Toni Robinson, Compliance Manager at Grundon said, “We are currently in the process of switching over to edoc and are committed to encouraging all our clients to enrol and be actively using the new online system by the end of this year.

“We issue around 2000 waste transfer notes each month so being able to use the new online system in order to issue them is much more efficient, simpler and easier than through the old paper system. It is also much easier for our customers to edit, sign and share the notes and we are able to review and accept any changes made at the touch of button. The whole process is just greener, cheaper and trouble-free, as well as helping us meet our environmental goals by reducing the amount of paper we use.”

Tina Benfield, Senior Technical Advisor at CIWM said, “Like many small waste producers, we were glad to see the introduction of an online system for recording waste transfers but we didn’t feel that it would have a huge impact on our business. However, we have experienced some positive and unexpected benefits.

“We switched over to edoc as soon as it launched in January this year and since then, because we have had to weigh the amount of waste we produce each week for our collections, we have started to  monitor more closely what we have been throwing away. As a result we have noticed that using edoc has made us all even more mindful of our waste and our overall waste production each week has decreased.”

Developed by the Environment Agency in partnership with the waste sector and government bodies from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, edoc (short for electronic duty of care) provides a modern and efficient alternative to completing and keeping paper waste transfer notes (WTNs.

Chris Deed, edoc programme manager at the Environment Agency, said “We are delighted with the response we’ve had on edoc so far.  It’s not a mandatory system, but it is free to use.

“The level of interest we have had from businesses and organisations from a cross-section of sectors indicates that people understand, accept and embrace the system and the wide range of benefits it can offer.”

Edoc provides businesses with an easy, simple and cheap alternative to paper Waste Transfer Notes and enables them to comply with their legal duty of care efficiently and quickly.

Businesses interested in using edoc can find out more now at www.edoconline.co.uk

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