Food for thought at Advantage IT Wales

Posted in Spectrum Internet, Tewdric, nsuk on December 12th, 2013 by Tewdric_Marketing – 96 Comments

On 6th December Tewdric brands Net Support UK and Spectrum Internet held the Advantage IT Wales event, supported by Microsoft and Cardiff and Newport Council, in the historic Pierhead Building Cardiff Bay to unveil the latest technology trends SMEs can take advantage of in 2014 and into the future.

Advantage IT Wales, sponsored by Nick Ramsay AM, was aimed at IT Managers, Managing Directors and Finance Directors wanting to find out more, trial the latest products and devices from Microsoft and get the best advice on their IT strategy for 2014.

Guest speaker, Microsoft’s Stuart Ball, provided an overview of the changing dynamics of the business world, not just in Wales but throughout the UK, and attendees had the opportunity to speak with knowledgeable IT specialists as well as being provided with information and demonstrations on Microsoft products such as Office 365, Lync and Yammer.

Also speaking at the event was Cardiff Council’s Jim Smart, leading the Super Connected Cities Scheme for Cardiff, who detailed how important superfast broadband is for businesses to maintain their competitive advantage and create opportunities.

For a summary of Advantage IT Wales click here to check out the storyboard on Storify

Giles Phelps, Managing Director of Spectrum Internet and Kevin Herbert, Operations Director at Net Support UK, spoke about how efficient IT systems and connectivity can increase productivity, reduce business costs and bring greater flexibility to operations; which is essential for all SMEs. Net Support UK celebrated its 15th birthday this year and wanted to encourage delegates to embrace change in their business and to support the youth of today in having a keen interest in digital technology.

With the New Year approaching we advise Welsh SMEs to speak to specialists at Net Support UK and Spectrum Internet regarding their current IT infrastructure and connectivity to find out how they can best take advantage of the technology and services available in 2014.



Free town and city Wi-Fi – is there any point at having broadband at home anymore?

Posted in Tewdric on May 14th, 2013 by TewdricBlogger – Comments Off

It seems more towns and city councils are rolling out a form of free WiFi as a public service to its citizens and visitors. Today’s news that Arqiva will be rolling out a service in Camden and offering the first 30 minutes for free shows strong intent by the operator who recently bought the WiFi provider Spectrum Interactive to hunt down some of the mobile broadband business. 

Our own experience of providing WiFi to Monmouth town centre has demonstrated that there is certainly a need. Uptake within the MonmouthPedia area is increasing weekly  – however, unlike Arqiva, our focus isn’t in the major urban areas where 3G mobile signals are strong and plentiful.

As the first Wiki town in the world, Monmouth leads the way  and Monmouthshire County Council wanted to fill the gap where mobile connectivity was poor in order to encourage and enable businesses, visitors, residents and school pupils to engage digitally with both the council and the outside world.

Spectrum Internet is also now an active broadband provider in Monmouth  and new customers seem to be happily moving across from the larger providers. Providing free WiFi in the town doesn’t seem to be a substitute. Instead, customers use this as an additional service  – the ability to tap in to broadband ‘on the go’ and can be more effective than using the 3G on your mobile phone.

So, mobile network operators currently rolling out their 4G service (now that they have secured their OfCom licences) will need to be keeping one eye on broadband and wifi providers, like us, who can offer data services outside of the home as well as in….

Through the Looking Glass – Windows 8 – Part 1

Posted in Tewdric on October 17th, 2012 by TewdricBlogger – Comments Off

“Rather than words comes the thought of high windows: The sun-comprehending glass, And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless” Philip Larkin ​

With the release of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, due out October 26th, I have decided to finally bite the bullet and roll it out on my own environment at home. A lot of tech guys in the office have been testing the Betas and Release Candidates, but as a Microsoft Partner we have access to the full commercial release of Windows 8 Enterprise and so I thought it was time to try out the actual product that the public are going get their hands on in a real world scenario. To really put the new OS through its paces I decided on two different exercises:

1 – Upgrade my ‘Office’ Laptop – a standard Windows 7 Enterprise PC attached to our corporate domain and running a pretty typical suite of applications including SSL VPN software, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Lync Client

2 – (The really brave move) Do a ‘clean’ install on my wife’s laptop, a 2 year old Dell Duo with touch screen running Windows 7 Home Premium. I may go though the detailed experiences another time but here I wanted to just give a few quick first impressions: Installation: The main impression from the installation process for both systems was “Oh, that wasn’t so bad”. Now, I’m an IT professional with a few years (and doughnuts) under my belt and so this shouldn’t be a difficult task for me. But even so, once I had satisfied myself that I wouldn’t lose anything vital if it all went wrong, the actual process was pretty seamless. The ‘Upgrade’ installation even told me which apps it knew weren’t going to work (only two and there were good reasons for those). The hardest thing I had to do was choose a colour scheme! I will go into how hardware was detected in another post but the bottom line was that in both cases I was up and running on the new OS and actually doing productive work, in around 45 minutes. In contrast, when I upgraded that same work Laptop from Windoxs XP to Windows 7 about a year or so ago it took nearly 2 hours of restarts, updates and hunting around for drivers before I could work. All told, a lot smoother process. Compatability: On my better half’s laptop, it was a clean install so there were no apps to transfer over, although it did pick up that I previously had a printer installed and thougtfully shifted that over to the new OS! On my laptop, all my old apps were there straight away – it had even helpfully placed shortcuts for my most used programs straight on to the new ‘don’t call it Metro’ interface. I had to reinstall a couple of SSL VPN clients which took about 15 minutes in total but other than that I have yet to find an application that didn’t just work. Interface: The BIG change in Windows 8 is the interface. Conceptually I now have two separate userinterfaces, the Metro Interface, which I would best describe as a cross between my Windows Phone 7 interface and an iPad, and then my regular desktop. And when I say my regular desktop, that is pretty much the case. Apart from a few visual tweaks it is pretty much like before with the major exception of no start button. Some people may find this a big change, but I quite like it. I like the fact that the huge lst of applications I frequently use is actually only a couple of clicks away. I’ve never been one for cluttered ‘desktop’ but the Metro Interface keeps things neat and tidy while giving you almost limitless Start Menu real-estate. The most dramtic difference was on the touch-screen Dell Duo. Here the Metro Interface came into it’s own. It doesn’t feel as ‘intuitive’ as the iPad, but I suspect a lot of that is down to either me just expecting it to behave the same way as an iPad, or because the ‘intuitive’ stuff has been patented so Microsoft can’t use it. That being said, there a few things, like the live-tile content that I think are superior to Apple’s offering. Issues: I’ve often held that Microsoft’s OS releases are like Russian leaders, every alternate one is a bit hairy, and after the relative success of Windows 7 I was half-expecting trouble. If I am completely honest I haven’t found that many issues at all and most that I have found were expected. OK, so I had to reload a couple of small apps, Dell haven’t released a driver for the Duo’s accelerometer yet and not all the usual apple vulcan nerve pinches work in the same way on the touch interface, but hey!. I think the biggest issue will be people getting over the hurdle of the new interface, particularly on Desktops where they may ask ‘what’s the point?’. However after using it for a few days now, I think the pros and cons of this split personality interface pretty much balance out, and having a consistent interface across platforms (desktop, laptop, tablet and phone) is likely to be a good thing going forward. Raindrops on Roses… Now onto a quick list of things I really quite like about this new OS – in no particular order.

•Faster Startup – both machines now startup significantly quicker than before (20 seconds or less) – I expected it on the clean build Duo, but the old workhorse Laptop now seems like a new machine. And that is wothout Solid State disks.

•More Responsive Touch – Whatever Microsoft have done with the drivers has worked wonders on the Duo’s touch screen which now responds pretty much as well as my iPad

•Information Integration – One thing I love about my Windows Phone is the easy integration of things like my Microsoft Live account, my corporate email and messaging and my Linked In account. I now have that on my PC, built straight in to the OS. (Facebook and Flickr integration is there too – and skype will follow!)

•Live Tiles – There is something reassuring about seeing all those corporate headshots flipping and scrolling on my Contacts Icon, and getting New Mail and New Message alerts popping up – even before I have logged on pretty handy too. •Using Microsoft Live Account to Logon – On the non-domain attached Dell Duo I am just using my Windows Live account as my logon credentials. This links me straigt in to all my services immediately. And because I had already linked my other social networks etc on my previous PC setup, as soon as I logged on the Dell Duo all those live tile apps were already populated and my Sky Drive content synched.

•Windows Task Manager – I am channeling my inner-geek here but the ‘temperature sensitive’ display of process resource usage is inspired. Couple that with per user usage charts, historical data and a quick view of startup apps and this is a much improved tool

•Windows Explorer – With the new Office style Ribbon interface and a host of new tools, suddenly managing files is fun again…well not really, but it is a lot easier!

•File Transfers – not just easier to manage with the ability to pause and restart large transfers as if you were playing a DVD, but prettier too – with file transfer progress and trasnfer rates presented in neat mini graphs and a progress bar dropped on to the taskbar icon so you can see how thing are going without having to actually check.

•Context sensitive features – The Setting item from the main side bar, the pinch to zoom feature – both change behaviour to suit the application or environment you are in- a bit confusing at first but once you get used to it, it all makes sense. •Reset to Factory Defaults – you want to recycle the PC or just start from scratch – fine, use Factory Reset. Or you can just clear away the chaff with a PC Refresh – remove all but the basic apps and leave your data intact.

•Picture Passwords – just scribble on a picture in your own secret way – an excellent alternative to general passwords for users with touch screen devices. That’s probably enough for this post, but if I had to give a summary first impression it would be: I’m glad I switched and I will be putting a Windows Surface RT on my list for Santa. It is not necessarily an iPad killer, but I there is more innovation here than has been seen in this market for a while and Microsoft might just be on to something. Two successful OS launches in succession? Surely not…

By operations director, Kevin Herbert

First hand experience of poor broadband

Posted in Spectrum Internet, Tewdric on June 15th, 2012 by Tewdric_Marketing – Comments Off

Tweet Having spent the past 18 months talking to communities about the issues and frustrations of receiving less than 1Meg of broadband, some readers may find it amusing that I should find myself holidaying in Devon in an area that suffers from these issues. Plus it seems to be the case that where broadband runs at snail’s pace, there is also little mobile coverage so downloading emails or just calling the office for an update was a no-go. Claire Brown, Marketing Manager The real irony is that the main reason for me checking and responding to emails whilst on holiday (apart from the fact that is seemed to rain non-stop for 2 days) was that I was checking on progress of a few of the community projects that are in crucial stages. I have never doubted the reports from the exasperated users I’ve spoken to who struggle everyday but there is nothing like experiencing something for yourself to really empathise and understand it. So whilst my encounter is brief, standing with your laptop outside a shop with ‘BT Openzone’ and diving into every café that advertises that they have ‘Wi-Fi available’ (and ending up with the caffeine shakes after one too many Americanos), I can truly say that my everyday life requires broadband. I couldn’t wait to get home to my 5Mb and to continue helping communities fight for better broadband!

Are most organisations ready for the cloud?

Posted in Spectrum Internet, Tewdric, nsuk on May 11th, 2012 by TewdricBlogger – Comments Off

Tweet As I’ve been answering a journalist’s questions this week, I’ve also been thinking about the articles, blogs and presentations that I’ve given over the past three years on the subject of cloud based services. Ironically, three years ago we were calling them managed hosted services – which we had been doing for about seven years! So has anything actually changed or is it just PR spin? NSUK began offering remote back-up services to a number of companies who required storage and proper back-up processes that they couldn’t do themselves. Over time we began hosting other services too, like Microsoft Exchange. Now, it’s not uncommon for a customer to hold all the IT services with us. But one thing has definitely risen in popularity – the accessibility to these services. The likes of Google Apps and Microsoft 365 have brought low cost cloud services to the masses. Whilst it doesn’t offer the same flexibility as our private cloud services can, it could reduce the IT costs for a SME significantly. Plus as Internet connectivity (even broadband!) is improving in many places, connecting has become far more efficient than when we started ten years ago. So if you haven’t looked at hosting any of your services yet, you might be missing out and being left behind your competitors. Isn’t it worth a call to find out a bit more about it?