While we commend any business for pushing through all of the struggles of operating in 2021, the fact is that more challenges will be coming your way next year!
From securing your data (and how it travels from A to B) to finding smart ways to save your team’s time, there’s a lot for you to consider as 2022 rolls around…
On this page, we’ll go through:
- Protecting your business against ransomware and other cyberattacks
- Preparing for the 2025 switch-off
- Save money and increase efficiency with a Managed Services Provider
- Embracing automation for more agile communication
- Secure data transfer solutions
- Leveraging automation to cut costs
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of your considerations, and you may have already solved some of them, there’s a broad range of tips and advice within this page. So, let’s start with a subject that has been front and centre in the news over the past 18 months – cyber security – especially after a couple of high-profile attacks have made the news recently.
Protecting your business against ransomware and other cyberattacks
With worldwide damages from cybercrime reportedly expected to top $6 trillion in 2021 (up from $3 trillion in 2015), organisations need to do everything they can to protect themselves against the dangers that ransomware and other types of cyberattacks pose.
Even the likes of Apple can suffer from the hands of ransomware, with one of their major suppliers recently suffering a breach, and receiving a demand for $50 million to return the confidential product information that was effectively stolen.
And for those in the Public Sector, this presents a unique set of challenges – especially with the recent proliferation of remote working and the increasing number of partner organisations, broadening the network edge and therefore the number of vulnerabilities that could be exploited.
Allowing staff to access your internal systems from their own devices outside of the office, has the potential to cause huge security concerns if adequate precautions aren’t taken. So, how do these hackers gain entry, and what can you do to stop it happening to your organisation?
How Do Ransomware Attacks Happen?
The most common strategy for hackers to gain entry to a system is through a phishing attack, where an employee receives an email that looks like it’s from a reputable source – a bank for example – and asks the reader to click a link and verify their information.
Obviously, the link does not go to the bank’s actual website, but a near-perfect copy that the hacker has made themselves, from which any data submitted can be used for nefarious purposes.
Often, they will simply use a strategy like this to simply steal an employee’s personal or financial information for profit. But, if they gain the right credentials or the same email/password is used across personal and business accounts, a hacker could use the information to install a small program across the network that completely halts operations and locks-out everyone’s access until a ransom is paid – hence the term ‘ransomware’ (a portmanteau of ‘ransom’ and ‘software’).
Then there’s good old ‘brute force’.
If a hacker has found a valid username for an internal system, through simple research or a phishing attack for example, they have the option of trying to guess your password to gain access. And with a combination of sub-par cyber safeguards, a powerful enough computer and the right code, it’s just a matter of time before a machine trying thousands of permutations every minute, finds the right password to gain entry.
That’s why anyone ‘in the know’ will highly recommend that you look to work with a company that offers security solutions that extend the protections of your office network to your staffs’ home devices. Therefore, minimising your exposure and reducing the chance of a hacker either making a successful phishing attack in the first place, or preventing them from accessing the system, even when they have the right credentials.
What to look for in a cyber security partner
No matter the size of your operation – large or small – there are reasons to safeguard your data. The average cost to rectify a breach for SMBs in 2020 was over £4,500! So, even for small businesses, the cost of working with a partner like BDR is far more attractive than risking the cost of a breach – let alone the effects on brand credibility and customer trust!
Primarily, you need a partner that has the expertise that your team doesn’t, whether that’s across encryption, network management and firewalls, or any other aspect of your infrastructure. And the right partner should know it all as experts in their field, owning those responsibilities that leave you free to focus on the wider operation.
Encryption is a major aspect of any IT operation, ensuring that data sent across your network cannot be intercepted and read without your knowledge. In fact, if you use messaging services like WhatsApp or iMessage, you’re already using encryption, you just never realised it!
Though, when it comes to business encryption, things get a little more complicated, with encryption keys and validations to ensure only the right people have access to your data.
Keep on scrolling down to our ‘Secure data transfer solutions’ section to learn more about encryption!
Network Management and Firewalls
Having someone keep an eye on your network ensures that any unexpected behaviour gets investigated immediately, allowing you to be proactive in keeping your data secure by stopping attacks before they get access in the first place.
In combination with strong network management, a robust firewall shields your network from dangerous threats and prevents unauthorised access or infiltration, by inspecting incoming traffic for known attack methods and ensure that these do not inflict costly damage to your digital environment.
Employee Best Practice
Sadly, human error – especially in the forms of phishing emails and easy-to-guess passwords – are two of the most common methods of entry for hackers. Which is why many consumer services now use multi-factor authentication (where 2 or more methods are used to verify an identity). This has quickly become one of the most important security features around today, helping to reduce the threat of stolen credentials and phishing scams.
All told, the right cybersecurity partner will help train your team to prevent breaches, while keeping one eye on your network for any unusual behaviour. BDR’s range of solutions are compliant with all data protection regulations, including GDPR, with services hosted in ISO 27001 certified data centres. We can even help train your teams to catch attacks like phishing before they become a major issue. So, why look elsewhere?
No matter your needs, BDR has the expertise, manpower and technology to safeguard your confidential data and operational systems to keep you running. Even when hackers are using every weapon in their arsenal to gain access to your network.
Preparing for the 2025 switch-off
By December 2025, the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) better known as the ‘landline’ is being turned off for good. This means that everyone, whether at home or in the office, will need to use an internet-based phone service.
Though not due to be fully phased out until December 2025, Openreach has already begun phasing out some legacy analogue services and has announced plans to further stop selling to areas covering 3.4m premises across the UK, by August next year – and more similar announcements are expected to follow. In simple terms, your current analogue phone system will not work in a few years.
Many organisations have already made the leap to cloud-based VoIP systems, but for those that haven’t, now is the time to start looking at new future-proofing technologies.
If this seems like a scary, time-consuming prospect, don’t worry. Help is at hand from BDR’s team of IT and telephony experts.
BDR has a range of replacement PSTN products, including state of the art VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) products you can take the headache out of the transition process, along with an expert team ready to make you get the best solution for your business.
Products include cloud-based voice, contact centre, video, mobile and unified communications, all powered by world-class solutions.
With a proven average global core uptime of 99.9996% for the past 12 months, BDR’s solution offers a 99.99% SLA guaranteeing end-to-end service uptime, reliability, and call quality over any broadband network that customers use – public internet or an MPLS network.
In addition, VoIP offers a 99.99% SLA guaranteeing end-to-end service uptime, reliability, and call quality over any broadband network that customers use – public internet or an MPLS network.
VoIP delivers a global reach approach by means of 15 distributed data centres around the world, while customers enjoy a complete, reliable and secure solution with business continuity wherever they are located.
Available products include:
- Cloud Communications
Providing a unified platform that combines communications, collaboration, and contact centre into a single system of engagement to reduce complexity and expense.
- Virtual Office
A comprehensive unified communications application that integrates a business softphone with visual voicemail, corporate directory, instant messaging, presence, video calling, fax, call recording, audio, web and video conferencing.
- Contact Centre
Take advantage of omnichannel routing of voice, email, web chat, SMS and social channels, and integration with CRMs. Contact Centre applications offer customer journey analytics, native quality management and speech analytics. This is all provided in a single unified platform, enabling businesses to handle all customer needs on any channel of communication at a fraction of the price.
In addition, hybrid solutions include mixing and matching user license bundles so, you only pay for features that each user needs when they need them versus over-paying with a “one size fits all” model.
And this is one of the greatest features of a new, cloud-based system – features can be added further down the line – which would be far harder to do with physical legacy equipment such as PBX servers and desk phones.
All our products are supported by powerful analytics that provide unified insights into call and quality detail. Expanded system and caller analytics are available within the contact centre environment, to track the customer’s journey end-to-end as well.
Translated into plain English, this means that we (or any other telecoms partner worth their salt) will ultimately provide your business with a better calling solution with far more functionality, offering an increased level of flexibility and efficiency – both in terms of cost and the productivity of staff.
So, with 2025 coming sooner than you may think, now is the perfect time to start deciding how you’ll future-proof your communications, before it’s too late!
Save money and increase efficiency with a Managed Services Provider
Now that we have weathered the most disruptive factors of the pandemic, businesses are re-evaluating aspects of their operations that were previously thought essential. Even physical office space itself could be on the chopping board, to help businesses save money and increase operational efficiencies!
And as so many more functionalities have moved to the cloud, the size and scope of an operation’s online presence has increased dramatically. However, this also broadens the range of attack vectors and increases the possibility of experiencing some form of attack in general.
Thankfully, there’s an answer. Partnering with an experienced Managed Services Provider (MSP) can help you save money, protect your business-critical data and increase efficiency, to ultimately develop a more agile and profitable business. Here’s how.
An MSP saves your business money in multiple ways – first of all, it frees-up your team’s time. Instead of scouring report logs or investigating suspicious activity, offloading those tasks to an MSP allows them to focus on more pressing matters than are a priority for the day-to-day running of the operation. Even if you don’t have an IT team, the cost of securing an MSP is far lower than hiring an IT Manager in itself!
Then there are hypothetical costs that an MSP can save you from experiencing, like the financial impact of a cyber breach. A recent report from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport put the average cost of a cyber security breach at approximately £10,000! So, if you don’t want the added headache of lost customer data, GDPR investigations and costly data recovery, partnering with a cyber security expert is certainly a wise move.
Finally, the right MSP will help you find ways to optimise your systems and enable your team to do more with their time – explained further in the section below – meaning a better ROI from your staff and IT systems.
Get in touch to see how much BDR Group could save your organisation!
If you’ve moved systems to the cloud during the pandemic, there’s a good chance your new services aren’t talking to one another. An MSP could possibly help create bespoke APIs that help your systems all work together, or recommend a new solution that could bridge the gap between your other software services.
With teams now accessing internet-based services more frequently, and many requiring constant connections (Teams, Adobe, Salesforce.com etc.), sub-par connectivity or traffic management could cause bottlenecks in your connection and grind workers to a halt. With one eye constantly assessing your network performance, MSPs can adjust priorities to prevent slowdown, or recommend the future-proof connectivity required for you to scale confidently.
With your team working from home, you still need to know how they’re working. While the occasional ‘catch-up’ works, especially from a wellbeing perspective, you need cold, hard data to evaluate employee performance. Alongside network reports, MSPs can provide deeper insights into how your staff work, when and how productively, leveraging operational metrics to highlight where extra focus is required.
BDR’s MSP offering
While we don’t like to ‘toot our own horn’ on these educational pages, it’s worth showing you the level of support we provide our clients, so that you can compare that with what’s being offered to you.
With over 300 staff spread across five locations nationally, we’re always ready to support your business growth. And our approach makes sure we don’t leave anything to chance…
Our experts will carry out a thorough and precise check, identifying issues and areas that can be worked on, providing the guidance you need to know how to get there.
With our simple process, you’ll get a fully documented plan of your infrastructure, which allows us to effectively support your business by building from this plan and tweaking strategies where necessary.
Our protection suite keeps your digital services secure, providing safety from viruses, spyware and other threats. For increased security we also offer firewall services that are penetration tested each month.
Optimise & Report
We regularly run reports to prove the efficacy of our security solutions and suggest ways we can optimise the experience and enhance the safeguards offered.
Whether you require 24/7 help at a moment’s notice or access to occasional advice, BDR provides a package that fits your budget while offering experienced engineers and technicians for all your needs.
All told, if businesses are to embrace this new world of hybrid working, collaboration from anywhere and cloud services, they need an experienced guide. Not only to highlight the vulnerabilities that could derail the organisation and ensure a future-proof, efficient operation, but to also keep one eye on network behaviour at all times, preventing unwanted access and bottlenecks from derailing the business.
Working with BDR Group means working with an award-winning telecoms partner, having won the CBA’s 2021 ‘Reseller of the Year’ award as well as the CNA ‘Keeping Britain Working’ award in 2020!
So, if you want to work with the best, Get in touch with us today…
Embracing automation for more agile communication
Even without the added challenges of Covid-19, many businesses (or individual staff) have been strained and stretched, with ‘not enough time in the day’. But with teams having so much on their plates now that we’re getting back to ‘Business as usual’, how can your organisation become more agile while they juggle all their daily tasks?
The key is taking the monotonous, repetitive tasks out of their hands and giving them to a computer to perform. While the concept of automation isn’t new, the underlying technology and applications have advanced considerably in recent years and are becoming increasingly viable from a financial perspective.
So, what kinds of tasks can you automate? How can these solutions increase agility and improve communication? Keep on reading to find out!
What is automation?
Robotic Process Automation (or RPA for short) is a shorthand for software that follows a strict set of rules to interpret and process data and trigger the desired outcome. This removes boring, everyday tasks from staff, so that they can focus on delivering the best possible service to customers.
For example, one solution we’re currently developing with serval NHS Trusts is a vastly streamlined referrals system.
The number of process and touchpoints between a clinician making an initial referral request to the service user receiving their appointment is far lengthier than you might imagine.
But this way of thinking is equally as appropriate for any business or industry. Even using the example above, you can see how this could be quickly adapted for any procurement or 3rd party ordering workflows to save time.
Or, if focused on improving customer satisfaction scores, businesses could automate quarterly requests for feedback for new customers and automatically run reports and flag low-scoring results for further investigation.
In summary, ANY repeatable administrative task can be automated – it just depends on your imagination and the potential of your IT partner to create bespoke workflows and APIs to ensure all your systems can share data and insight. And we can make that happen.
How does automation increase agility?
Through automation, processes that take days or weeks (especially when information has to be shared across different office or departments) can happen in a matter of minutes. All while guaranteeing accurate information by reducing the chances of human error and instantly sharing information, rather than waiting for it to get to the top of an employee’s ‘to-do’ list.
In these trials, we’re leveraging Microsoft’s Power BI platform to provide a “single source of truth” where data records can be accessed and reported on across disparate systems in real-time for up-to-date visibility on team productivity and efficiency.
But this is only one use-case, and we’re exploring many others where automation can transform the experience for customers, staff or even commercial partners. Automation can free immense amounts of time for staff to then spend on other tasks, or foster better relationships through longer, more in-depth conversations with customers, colleagues and commercial partners.
What do organisations need to consider?
Firstly, what process would you like to automate? A good rule of thumb is ‘If This, then That’. In other words, if your tasks have a repeatable outcome based on a decision, the likelihood is that the process can be automated. Multiple conditions can be set, so that for example, the system checks for missing information and adds it from previous records before completing the next step.
In total, there may be hundreds of steps in the entire automation process and the more decisions or steps in the process, the more potential there is for acceleration!
Secondly, there’s capabilities. Depending on the size, talent and experience within your IT team, there’s a good chance that current responsibilities, skill-gaps and budget would prevent you from deploying a solution like this in-house. And that’s where we come in!
Need help in identifying your repeatable processes, or choosing the right software and infrastructure to make it a reality?
Get in touch and let’s explore automation together!
Secure data transfer solutions
Now that businesses have embraced the internet whole-heartedly, sharing information across public internet connection is inherently risky, as there’s always a chance that a nefarious hacker could intercept the information and glean your business-critical confidential information!
Thankfully, as the technology that allows us to connect over long distances has evolved, so have the methods that protect that information from being read, even if it is intercepted!
So, if you’ve ever had a leak, hack – or just want to keep your information yours – keep on reading and we’ll go through some of the more common methods of securing your data transfers.
In a nutshell, encryption simply means translating a message into an unreadable code, which can then be deciphered when the information reaches its destination, using a ‘decryption key’ that matches the ‘encryption key’ that was used originally.
To make it super-clear, here’s a step-by-step of the process:
Let’s say we wanted to securely transfer the sentence ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’…
In this example, we’ll use a simple encryption key, also known as a cypher, that will alter each letter of the message to the next (A becomes B, B becomes C etc.).
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog = Uif rvjdl cspxo gpy kvfs uif mbaz eph
We’d also need to make sure the person receiving the code knew the code too, so they could decipher it once received. And as you can see, the encrypted text is now unrecognisable and unreadable. Or is it?
While this may be fine for swapping messages at primary school, any cryptographic program or cryptographer worth their salt could break such a simple code in seconds!
Thankfully, our computers can handle much more complex algorithms, encrypted several times over, to mask the initial data. This type of encryption is regularly used in the working world to securely transfer data with one of the most widely used called AES, or Advanced Encryption Standard.
Encrypting our previous example using AES, we would need a password that would be shared between sender and recipient, as the password affects the resulting message. If we choose ‘BDR’ as our password; the original message becomes:
Now this is unreadable… Not only to humans, but depending on the specific algorithm used, AES encryption could take millions of years for even the most advanced computers to decode!
Even within AES encryption, there are variations in the complexity of the encryption. AES 128, which is the specific key we used above, re-encrypts the data 10 times before producing the end result – even the US Government use AES-128 for Classified information up to ‘Secret’ level! For even more sensitive information, there are 192-bit and 256-bit keys that process the data 12 or 14 times for increased protection.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a software solution that also increases the security of your data transfers.
It works by creating an encrypted data tunnel between your local network and an exit node at the server that you’re connecting to. Just like above, where we encrypted the file itself, a VPN encrypts the data within the file alongside all the other internet traffic that travels from A to B, with the VPN’s server acting as a middleman.
Because of the encryption and routing through the VPN’s servers, your internet service provider can’t see what you’re doing online, your IP address or your actual location!
However, it’s not as simple as downloading one of the many VPNs that have been heavily promoted over the last couple of years. VPNs also change your IP address – which may be useful if you want to see what’s different on the American version of Netflix – but it’s not so great when you’re using it for business.
While this may not seem a huge issue, many operations will already prevent external access from IP addresses that they don’t recognise. This means that if an employee creates their own VPN and tries to connect to the central file server, there’s a good chance that an existing security platform would prevent access and alert a member of the IT team to a ‘suspected attack’.
The effects of this are obvious – time wasted investigating the issue that could be better spent on real threats. But there are other benefits. VPNs are great at blocking annoying pop-ups and website trackers, which means less chance of employees falling foul of a fraudulent advert that’s actually a phishing scam!
That’s why we’d only recommend a VPN if it’s owned by the business and managed by a central team, either internally or outsourced to 3rd party experts.
Managed File Transfer (MFT)
Our next acronym stands for Managed File Transfer, and MFTs were created from the ground-up specifically for this challenge… Hallelujah!
Just like VPNs, there are many competing services and technologies but in essence, these platforms reliably exchange electronic data between systems in a more secure way. And because MFT platforms were designed specifically for secure data transfers, most include far more functionality and oversight than our previous solutions.
Admins can check on the status of transfers in near-real-time and can quickly limit or approve the types, locations and sizes of files that staff want to move. Depending on the specific platform, the experience can be incredibly simple for staff too, with easy-to-use apps and simple drag-and-drop functionality.
If the business is regularly moving critically important files and needs the highest levels of compliance, we’d certainly recommend exploring the companies that provide MFT platforms, or speaking to an expert like BDR, to quickly uncover the right system for your needs!
If you’re working with other businesses and need a level of security that guarantees files won’t get intercepted, then a decent VPN will do the job nicely. As would an encrypted file – as long as people on both ends of the transfer know the decryption key!
And we haven’t spoken about physical data transfers like back-up tapes, which are a great way to secure data, given it’s on physical media that can be siloed from internet connections.
No matter the technology you’re exploring, there’s no point investing in a solution until you know it works! BDR Group has supported thousands of businesses since it was founded in 1991, with the experience to recommend, deploy and manage the right solution for your specific operation. So, get in touch on 0800 975 3000 to start on your journey to a more secure future!
Want to learn more about encryption, or do you need support in
transferring some important data? Talk to our friendly team today!
Leveraging automation to cut costs
While ‘automation’ brings with it the idea of rigid, inflexible robots moving boxes from A to B, the truth couldn’t be more opposite.
Thanks to the incredible computational power that businesses have at their fingertips, we now work in a world where automation can enhance our conversations, optimise operations and ultimately save money that could be better spent enhancing other areas of the business.
In a nutshell, automation is perfect for any task that can be boiled down to ‘If this happens, then do that’. These sorts of tasks are easy to translate into workflows that a computer can follow and manage, enabling lightning-fast reactions that a human counterpart could never match, while freeing up employee’s time for more nuanced tasks.
So, here are three use-cases where you can embrace automation:
One of the easiest and quickest ways to see results from automation is by folding it into your utility usage. We’ve all seen adverts for smart maters for home, and is basically just as useful for businesses, if not more, as it can be taken much further.
At home, we hate to see lights on, or the heating with no one to enjoy the results, so we turn them off to save money and the same could be done for your business. You can typically save 20% from your electricity and gas bills by letting your automation platform decide when devices should be on, or off!
And depending on the size and scope of your premises, this can be almost infinitely tailored to your specific needs. Lights could be triggered by specific timings or when people enter the premises. Heating could be optimised to only be turned on during cold snaps, or only in areas where people are currently working, again helping you save money.
Or, if your business sources gas on a much larger scale, your automation platform could even be customised to only purchase when prices are below your set limit.
Sales & Marketing
Your employees’ time is one of the most precious resources you have, so anything you can do to optimise their projects is a boon, and automation can certainly help there, by removing repetitive tasks that your marketers would usually be responsible for and offloading them to a computer!
Many CRM systems these days have the ability to create automated marketing workflows that can fork down different roads, depending on the behaviour of the reader…
Take for example a legal firm with multiple disciplines – If the original outreach explains all the different services available, and a reader clicks on an article about property law…
That behaviour is recognised, moving the contact into a different workflow, continuing to nurture the lead by sending regular updates on their property services, without any input from your marketing team!
Time is also one of the greatest factors when it comes to getting the sale. After all, the longer you leave a prospect to think, the more time you give your competitors to jump in and take your place! Which means getting your prospect to start building a relationship with your business as soon as possible.
This is where automation can also help, with the ability to automatically check availability in your sales team’s dairies and book a call within a couple of clicks of receiving an email. They could even flag prospects that have exhibited specific SQL behaviours like downloading a case study for example, prompting a salesperson to reach out and gauge their interest.
Staffing your customer services department is a careful balancing act between ensuring short answer times and a cost-effective number of employees. Automation can again help here by reducing the amount of time advisors spend with callers, and while you may think this would harm the customer experience, it actually enhances it!
Natural Language Processing (or NLP for short) is the fancy term for Siri, Alexa and a whole host of other speech recognition services. NLP can significantly improve customer satisfaction scores by reducing the time taken for callers to speak to the person or department they need to.
For example, rather than having to press 1 to do this, then 2 and so on, you could simply be asked ‘What’s the reason for your call?’, and after answering the question, being routed to the exact department required.
This isn’t new technology, and you’ve probably been in a scenario like this before, but it’s quickly being adopted by more and more companies looking to reduce customer frustrations and wait times.
And we’ve had that experience when we’ve tried answering ‘the question’ as slowly and well-pronounced as possible, before being asked to repeat our request and fighting the urge to throw our phones. This is where more recent advances in the underlying technology and design can greatly influence the end-product. Having the right partner can make a massive difference too!
When customer data, or any sort of information must pass between several departments, emails can get lost and, considering we’re all human, people can forget to pass on information at the right pace. Automation can again help here by removing the need for people to get involved altogether.
Say a telecoms company has just won a new sale…
A salesperson dots the I’s and crosses the T’s before passing on to the installation team. The automation platform could check for missing information (and possibly fill in the gaps) before alerting the most qualified engineer to validate the proposal, sending a reminder if it hasn’t been completed within a specified timeframe.
Then the platform could order any necessary hardware to ensure stock delays don’t affect the deployment and automatically schedule the installation in employee diaries and send a reminder email to the new customer. All with hardly any input from staff!
All told, automation is one of the most powerful optimisation and cost-cutting tools available to businesses right now. But, to create a truly seamless solution, custom code and technical knowledge is required, which means partnering with an automation expert.
BDR Group has been deploying automation services for its customers for decades, and is exploring new ways to serve the public and private sectors with NLP services that will greatly accelerate service delivery across the NHS and business world.
If you think that automation could help accelerate your business’ leapfrogging of the competition, don’t hesitate to get in touch – our team are only ever one phone call away and can help you embrace a faster, more cost-effective and, most importantly, automated future!
Now, if you’ve gotten this far, I’m sure you’re thinking ‘there’s a lot to think about’ … but don’t worry – that’s why we’re here! Book a time to speak to a member of our team and we can start our journey together, to find a faster, more secure, future-proof solution for your needs.